Setting - What is Space 1889?   Posted by GM.Group: public
 GM, 11 posts
Wed 5 Sep 2018
at 23:19
Setting - What is Space 1889?
The year is 1889, it's the Victoria Era but probably not as you remember learning about it at school.

What if Victorian scientific theories had proven to be true?

Space 1889 is the answer to that question. For the most part Earth is still the same as in reality, Britain is still the preeminent power of the era, Imperialism is still rife, Benjamin Harrison is US president and so on. But space travel is possible and the make-up of our solar system is very different with life appearing on Mercury, Mars, Venus and even the Moon.

In this universe space is made up of something the Victorians called Ether which in essence acts like a giant ocean with currents generated by the movement of the Sun and the Planets. In 1870 Thomas Edison invented the first 'Ether Flyer' and voyaged to Mars, where he promptly crash landed on entry. Luckily for him it turned out Mars was inhabited by an ancient race of sentient locals, one that had clearly been far more technologically advanced than Humans in times past but was now long past it's nadir. Taking in Edison they repaired his ship with a powerful local resourced called liftwood, a timber that floats. With his ship repaired Edison returned to Earth and so began a new era.

With this new knowledge the great nations of Europe were quick to send out ether flyers of their own and soon Human's were present across the inner solar system. Venus was also found to be home to a primitive form of sentient life, but for now our adventures will focus on Mars.


The Martian culture is roughly 35,000 years old and spread across the planet but it also one in a long decline. Once their civilisation lived in gleaming skyscrapers, used powerful electric machines who's uses have long since been forgotten and built a massive network of canals across the globe. Now they are technologically stuck in something resembling the renaissance and stubbornly stick to the traditions they have followed for a hundred generations.

A long time ago the oceans of the planet dried out and now all it's water is contained in the icebergs of the two poles. But so great was the Martian technological power when this happened they built a massive network of life giving canals from pole to pole that crisscross the planet. They abandoned their old cities on the shores of an extinct sea and built new cities on the points where canals met. The old seabeds full of silt allowed life to expand far from the canals, whilst it simply exists along narrow strips in other places.

It's been 25,000 years since the time of the canal builders and the many of them lie in ruins, it's cities lost forever. The rest are ruled by petty cities-states and small empires.

It was in this time of slow stagnation that Edison arrived on Mars and in the 19 years since the 'red men', as Humans are known to the Martians, have quickly developed colonial holdings across the planet. There is great money and power to be hand in control of Mars resources and large parts of Mars is still to be explored and it's secrets revealed for the intrepid explorer, fortune hunter or scientist.

Game Rules

I will be using the GDW version of Space 1889 that uses only D6's. If you aren't familiar with the games system I can explain it via PM. I'm mostly going to be running it by the book but any house rules or deviations will be listed here:

  • For character generation I am using the system of having 21 points to assign how you wish among your attributes (to a max of 6).
  • Americans can't have a social ranking above 3 as they do not have an aristocracy. They however take social class 4 Army Officer not 3 as they do not have native troops.
  • Ammunition prices are taken from Savage Worlds edition as they are not listed in the GDW edition.
  • The Ubiquity edition will be in use for setting but not rules.

I avoid rolling dice where possible, an enjoyable game trumps rigidly following the rules. If you want to perform an action that you are sure will require a dice roll then feel free to roll for yourself but make it clear exactly what you are rolling for. Otherwise I will generally roll for you to keep the game moving.
 GM, 12 posts
Wed 5 Sep 2018
at 23:19
Setting - What is Space 1889?

 GM, 13 posts
Wed 5 Sep 2018
at 23:20
Setting - What is Space 1889?
The Martians

There are three types of Martian:

  • The Canal Martian - The one most humans have the most dealings with and by far the most numerous. These are the descendants of the canal builders and they live in the cities and villages alongside the canals. Standing well over six feet tall they are essentially humanoid in appearance but have a orange-yellow skin, large pointed ears and are fairly slender. Their cultures can be as drastically different as any on Earth.
  • The Hill Martian - These are the Martians who live away from the canals and cities. They exist in the sparse hills and plains that can just about support life. They are shorter and stockier than Canal Martians but otherwise essentially the same physiologically. These cultures can also vary but they are more primitive and tribal in nature, often resembling the indigenous peoples of Earth, and most have had few dealings with humans.
  • The High Martian - A bit like the missing link this is an older evolutionary form of the Martian who never lost the ability to fly. Savage in nature they are much shorter than other Martians, with a winged membrane like a bat, fanged teeth and a generally more bestial nature. They are still sentient though and live in mountain fortresses from which they conduct raids on the rest of Mars as well as watching other the incredibly valuable liftwood which only grows in their mountain valleys.

There are many Martian empires and city states but only a few worthy of note:

A rapidly expanding Empire who's designs on further northward expansion were haltered by the arrival of the British, who's colony now occupies the lands they covet. After initial cordial relations recent actions have put them at war with the British. This has had the knock-on effect of tying up most of Britain's limited military power on the planet in what is shaping up to be a long and bloody affair.

Aggressive and xenophobic Oenotrian society is ruled by a caste of fanatic warrior-priests.
Trade is strictly regulated and every deviation from the established traditions of proud Oenotria is punished brutally. Oenotrians may be humourless militarists, but their city league is almost free of corruption and delinquency a rare site on Mars.

The Boreosyrtis League is a loose mercantile confederation comprised of the cities of Umbra, Meroe, Coloe, and Saardaar. The league’s headquarters is presently in the city of Umbra, where the major mercantile houses and princes of the cities of the league send their representatives to the League’s grand council. Naturally, merchant interests dominate the governments of each city. The principal source of revenue in the League is bhutan spice, the production of which is a monopoly jealously guarded by its members. The League has signed trade agreements which give the British exclusive rights to purchase the spice in return for certain defensive guarantees.

The Tossians rule over the only major territorial state on Mars and are a conglomerate of several subcultures. They are unified by the belief that only the Tossian emperor and
his officials will save the Canal Martians from further decline – a misbelief, for the administrative staff as well as the emperor himself are highly corrupt. On the surface, the cities of the Tossian Empire appear to be cosmopolitan, but this hides a society dominated by rigidly traditionalist thinking, scared to the bone of any kind of change.

Currently the Empire is dealing with several rebel groups and is increasingly concerned with the expansionism of the Belgian-backed Association Internationale des Planètes, or AIP
from the Coprates valley to the north west. It is said that that traditionalist emperor is currently seeking allies among the Human powers as his empire teeters on the brink of collapse.

There are several colonial outposts on Mars

The British crown colony covers the entire basin of Syrtis Major and parts of the neighbouring highlands.  Most of this was not gained without bloodshed and whilst conditions are good for the locals there is still a some simmering resentment of their off-world overlords. The shipyards in Syrtis Major are the only ones on the planet capable of producing modern ships and the power they produce and has enabled them to stifle the efforts of other colonial powers to expand in the area.

The British have four main policies on Mars:
• Obtaining control over a major source of liftwood
• Fighting slavery, which is still widespread throughout cultures and cities of Mars
• Ensuring the continued stability of the Boreosyrtis League, maintaining its monopoly over the production of bhutan spice, and consolidating Great Britian’s position as sole purchaser of the League’s spice production
• Ensuring the resulting security and continued existence of the Crown Colony of Syrtis Lapis and – if possible – increasing its territorial holdings

Belgian Interests

The king of Belgium first sent an expedition to the Coprates Valley of Mars in 1876 and followed it with several more in short order. After discovering that the exploitation of the valley could be profitable, King Leopold founded the AIP. The AIP was to represent his personal interests on Mars, protected by mercenaries recruited from Earth as well as from Mars, rather than by Belgium’s small army.

What followed was a bloody conquest of the Valley by the ruthless AIP who have treated the Martians as nothing more the beasts. Having recently completed their conquest the AIP have enslaved the remaining locals and are using them to harvest the valuable Gumme a form of rubber. Indignation to the Belgian actions has been commonplace both among the other colonial powers and the Martian natives and seen a widespread outcry of anti-human sentiment among many Martians.


Confined to a trade outpost in Dioscuria the Germans have been thwarted by the British at every turn in their efforts to acquire access to the resources of Mars. Secretly working to topple the British colony in Syrtis Major their agents can be found across the basin stirring sedition in British colonial outposts or funding and arming those who actively appose the British.