Monday, February 10, 2014

Space: 1889

A cover treatment for the Ubiquity Edition

This weekend, we read most of the the original Space: 1889 RPG, published by GDW in 1988. That was GM prep, because on Friday afternoon of this week, we are running two back-to-back Space: 1889 adventures at Con of the North. My original plan was to use Chronicle City's forthcoming Ubiquity-based Space: 1889 game, which is a translation from the German edition, but the release of the PDF has been delayed.

My Plan B for Friday is to use the Leagues of Adventure RPG (steampunk Victoriana powered by Ubiquity) as the game engine for the scenarios. The game's baseline assumptions (SF-based steampunk inspired by Wells and Verne) are close enough to Space: 1889's that this should be a pretty easy conversion. There are still four days before the game though, so if the new PDF arrives, we'll incorporate it!

One thing I will be carrying over from the German edition are the changes to France. About all I know is that in the German edition, France has a progressive republic based on a victorious Paris Commune. That's all I know, but that seems pretty cool. It has the potential to cut across the static Great Power rivalries in new and interesting ways. A French state with a relatively empowered working class could be out there making alliances with unions, and with anarchist federations and socialist parties in other states. That could really upset the apple cart a bit, in ways that the Russian Revolution did in our world a few decades later.

My impressions of the original Space: 1889 RPG are rather positive, after a careful reading. The system seems simple enough, at least for skills, and I'd imagine characters can be generated quite quickly. The combat system I'd have to really playtest a bit to have a strong opinion on; the way it handles a variable number of player actions per turn might bog things down, but maybe not. It certainly doesn't seem THAT top heavy for an 80s game system. I've heard people complain about the game system, but again it seems pretty straightforward to run. I don't see any reason why you couldn't run the setting with the original system out-of-the-box, and if I hadn't promised convention registrants that I'd be running Ubiquity, I probably would use the original system.

The content on the Victorian period is good, and accompanied by plenty of illustrations, particularly for period technology and weaponry. The descriptions of both Mars and Venus are interesting and look like places with plenty of room for adventure. I could have done without the references to "savages" and "savagery" in exposition when describing tribal peoples on Mars and Venus. If used at all, those terms would have been better placed using in-character or in-world quotes.

One surprise was the almost complete lack of any description of Martian religion, other than for a couple of Martian cults with anti-imperialist sentiments. I suppose that is reflective of the 80s, when there was little interest among SF gamers in the topic of religion/atheism, and when the domestic U.S. Right was itself busy courting religious fundamentalists at home and abroad, and playing a Great Game of its own in Afghanistan.


  1. I never played Space: 1889, but I've always thought it was a good concept.

    1. Looking forward to running it for the first time.

  2. I SO wanted to be in on your dino hunt game, but I won't be there Friday. I look forward to tales of big game "gets" in a future installment.

    1. For sure, Jay! We should game together some times when there is NOT a convention!