Space: 1889

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Space: 1889 is a Steampunk Tabletop Roleplaying Game by Frank Chadwick, and published first in 1988 by Game Designers Workshop, then by Heliograph Inc.

It is set in an Alternate Universe Victorian era, where the scientific theories of the day are true; a luminiferous aether fills the depths of space, which is what people use to travel from world to world in Cool Airships. Indeed, the game describes itself as Victorian era science fiction. This being an alternate-Victorian era, all the great powers have colonies on the other planets.

The game uses Ubiquity system with dice (d2) pool based resolution, D&D style 6 stats (in 1-6 range) plus secondary attributes and Style points.

It had at least two Tabletop Game semi-spinoff/semi-expansions; Sky Galleons of Mars, which provided detailed rules for ship-to-ship combat, and the Soldier's Companion, which provided rules for playing a minitures game.

There was also a 1989 Computer RPG, Mars: 1889, which is mostly forgotten today. Savage Worlds reedition is upcoming![when?]

There's a free quickstart. Heliograph's Space 1889 Resource Site has a list of 1889 and related releases.

Tropes used in Space: 1889 include:
  • All Planets Are Earthlike: Mercury, Venus and Mars can all support Human life quite easily, although only Mars has any sort of civilization on it- Mercury has only very basic life, such as trilobites, Venus has Sentient Lizardmen, although they are only at the Stone Age level. Mars has an ancient Civilization based around their canals, although they have lost the technology necessary to build new canals or even to maintain their cities. The Moon can also support life, although there is no atmosphere on the surface- it only exists nearer to the Moon's core.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Largely absent, except for Edison's Etheric Propeller, whose workings are not disclosed and Martian Liftwood, a Martian Tree whose specially treated wood can be used to make flying ships. Rest assured, all the Earthly Powers with influence on Mars are desperate to control more of this material which can create air born Dreadnoughts.
  • Cool Airship
  • Lost Technology: The Martians were once a highly advanced Space-faring civilization, but have heavily declined over the millennia, until they reached the state that we find them now- a decadent Renaissance level world. Mars is a vast desert, and life only exists around the canals that the Martians built hundreds of thousands of years ago. The pump stations and power stations which enable their culture to exist were built for extreme long-use, but the more complex systems have failed, and some canals have disappeared as the water which filled them dried up. Martian cities are enormous and filled with gigantic skyscrapers, but the smaller populations who now inhabit them only live on the first few floors in the towers closest to the canals- the cities are too big and too tall to transverse by foot, but there are rumours of unexplored rooms with ancient Martian devices....
  • Ragnarok Proofing: When the Ancient Martians built the Canal system and the Cities it supported, they already knew their world was declining. Hence, the cities were designing to be rather self-sustaining- Martian sewage is converted by bacteria deep under the city into gas for lighting and heating, the buildings were made to be incredibly sturdy and the Canals themselves leak-by design- into the surrounding countryside, which creates a water table to support agriculture all along the canals. Some of the pumping stations have failed, although the stations have been built to many different designs, so although some complex systems are irreparable, other, very hardy and simple pumps look like they will continue to work for the foreseeable future. In any case, Mars is very short on raw materials- there is little metal or fuel on Mars, except for renewable resources like trees and the only arable land exists in bands around the canals which vary in width from 10 to 50 miles. Mars has stagnated, and seems unable to pick itself back up
  • Steampunk
  • Stanley Steamer Spaceship: Quite Literally. All Spaceships are powered by Solar Boilers, which are heated by huge parabolic mirrors mounted to the outside of the Spacecraft. However, as the strength of the Sun's rays diminishes as the craft travels further from it, the light becomes insufficient to heat the Boiler. Until a better power system is developed, Humanity cannot travel beyond the Asteroid Belt.