Monday, April 25, 2011

Frank Chadwick's Space 1889 Blog

Regular readers of The Savage Troll know of our affection for the Victorian genre. The Kerberos Club ranks high in our favored Steam Punk settings but the first such game to capture our imagination was Space: 1889. The concept of colonial, Victorian England in space and Liftwood ships over Mars was too juicy to pass over.

I discovered the original book 25 years ago. Its blue cover  featured a Victorian Era British soldier on the cover fighting off gold-skinned ape men with fin ears. The logo had "SPACE" drawn as riveted metal with a stylized "1889" below it. I picked up the blue book and read the back cover.
Role-Playing In A More Civilized Time. Everything Jules Verne should have written. Everything H. G. Wells could have written. Everything A. Conan Doyle thought of, but never published because it was too fantastic. Everything you need for adventures of the century! The Space 1889 role-playing game covers the exciting background of Victorian science fiction: ether fliers and Martian cloud ships, the canals and ancient civilizations of the red planet, Venus' swamps and dinosaurs, the honeycombed interior of Luna, and the thrills of inventions and inventors; the driving force behind Victoria's multi-world empire!
I was hooked. Through Space: 1889 I discovered period of time which was as rich in history and change as it was in literature and invention. The War of 1812, The American Civil War, and the Crimean War changed forever the way nation fought nation while inventions like the railroad, telegraph, photography, gas light, cars and even aircraft changed the very fabric of society. Science grew into the discipline we know today with Universities and companies devoting ever increasing resources to new discoveries. Occultism and Secret Societies became popular as it seemed there was no limit to what man could understand and do and no mystery too deep to uncover.

But inventions and advancements weren't the time period's only gifts. The Victorian Era gave birth to the literary works forming the foundation for almost all modern the RPGs, Fantasy, and Science Fiction we enjoy today. Works like:
  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
  • Bram Stoker's Dracula
  • H. G. Well's The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, When the Sleeper Wakes, and The First Men in the Moon.
  • Jules Vern's A Journey to the Centre of the Earth , From the Earth to the Moon , Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Around the World in Eighty Days, and The Mysterious Island.
  • George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin
  • Andrew Lang's 12 "Coloured" Fairy Books
The 1800s saw the rise in power of the USA along with its breaking, remaking, and expansion from coast to coast. It was the era of the cowboy, the end of slavery, and the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk. In England, it was a century of overall peace and prosperity often referred to as Pax Britannia with England being the dominant sea power of the day.

In Space: 1889, Thomas Edison invented the Ether Propeller which allowed steam-powered ships to travel through space at amazing rates of speed. In the 19th century, Ether was believed to be light's medium like water for waves and air for sound. SPACE:1889 uses ether and other scientific theories from the 1800s to build a universe consistent with the mindset of the day.

Space: 1889 and its companion Sky Galleons of Mars ignited my imagination the way few settings ever have. While other science fiction RPGs sent characters to the far future, Frank Chadwick sent gamers into the past. The original work gave you atlases of Mars, Venus, the Moon, and Mercury along with the indigenous races for each planet. I fought the cursed Belgians from one end of Mars to the other and knew victory captaining the screw galley Texan's Pride. Now THAT was a setting!

But Space: 1889 went the way of many such games. Work on the product stopped but it had a huge fan base. Across the internet Space: 1889 sites continued providing content for gaming in a more civilized time. Recently, however, Pinnacle Entertainment Group released Space 1889: Red Sands, a setting book in my beloved Victorian SciFi setting.

And now the undisputed King of Steam, Frank Chadwick, started a new aptly titled blog Frank Chadwick - Space: 1889 containing news and reflections of the world of Space: 1889. News and content you'll find there include details of a new German version of Space: 1889, new histories for Germany and France, details of new Space: 1889 fiction, and Frank's concepts of steam punk world building.

Frank's latest post is about French adventuress Jane Dieulafoy. This larger than life, Victorian era woman followed her husband into battle by dressing as a man. Her choice of men's cloathing continued as she traveled the world on multiple expeditions across the globe. You can read more about this historial steampunker in Frank's latest installment.

This blog has made The Savage Troll's must follow list.

Related Space 1889 Links:

Space 1889 - Red Sands Review
Space 1889 Links Page
Space 1889 on The Savage Troll
Space 1889 Pregen Characters (The Savage Troll)
Space 1889 Pregen Character (Pinnacle)
The BIG Space 1889 Product Bundle - contains every Space 1889 product from GDW for $50.


  1. It is nice to see Space 1889 making a comeback. The setting was well ahead of the steampunk curve.

  2. I agree. It's a great setting and I really like what PEG is doing via Red Sands.

    Frank also snuck another article in today about reader's trance that's worth a look.