Well chaps, the highland Martians have us surrounded. After a quick spot of tea, we’ll have to deal with them if we are going to get this liftwood back to her majesty’s shipyards back home. Let’s fight the good fight gentlemen, for queen and country!
Somehow I managed to not get hooked by this game when it was released. Sure I have a hardcover copy from 1988, but I just never got into it. I gave it a read and put it away. I must have also picked up some other game that month that was stealing all my time. (That was actually around the time of my first sorties to GenCon & Origins, so I probably picked up 4 or 5 games at the same time).
The premise of Space:1889 is that there is ether between the worlds, not vacuum, and thus you can travel from planet to planet using neo-Victorian weird science gadgets. The first to prove this was Thomas Edison who landed on Mars in 1870. Now the various colonizing powers of Earth are trying to expand their empires to Mars and Venus, where the natives are sometimes friendly, sometimes hostile, but always looked down on as being primitives compared to her majesty’s noble citizens.
The game uses very simple mechanics which certainly encourage the kind of exploration play that it was written around, and manages to make Social Class an important ability score (far more so than Traveller did in most campaigns).
So let’s don our pith helmets and explore the Martian landscapes, in Space:1889
Since I don’t have any preconceived ideas for this character, I’m going to pull out the dice and use the random character creation method. This method has me rolling 1d6 for each of the six ability scores (Strength, Agility, Endurance, Intelligence, Charisma, Social Level) in order. At first it feels like the dice hate me, giving me a Strength of 2, Agility of 1, Endurance of 1, but then things pick up with an Intelligence of 6, Charisma of 5 and a Social Level of 6. Looks like a rich upper class twit to me – but a pleasant one at that!
Each stat has four skills beneath it. If purchasing a skill with general skill points, the level of the ability score determines how many skill points it costs to increase the skill. I immediately get a few skills at one level lower than the associated stat – Fisticuffs and Throwing under Strength, Stealth under Agility (which starts at level 0, since I have an Agility of 1), Wilderness Travel under Endurance, Observation under Intelligence, Eloquence under Charisma and Riding under Social Level.
Looking through the careers, the ones that catch my eye are the awesome “Master Criminal” (which has to be your second career) and… Adventuress. So we have a female adventuress who is also an arch-villain to some poor investigative sod back in Scottland Yard. Adventuress caught my eye because you get a “companion” as an adventuress – some upper class twit who you keep around as your excuse to go adventuring under the pretense that he is the real adventurer and the adventuress gets dragged along through it all. And of course, Master Criminal also gets a “companion” – in this case a henchman who handles some of the rougher aspects of the criminal life. And to top it off? As a Social Level 6 character I also get a manservant. I’ve got a full adventuring party already, and we’ve only rolled up one character!
As an Adventuress I get Close Combat 1, Marksmanship 1, Linguistics 2, Theatrics 2, Eloquence 1, Crime 1 and Leadership 1. Some of these have to be specialized and I effectively have half the skill level when using other uses of the skill. I’ll specialize Close Combat with Bashing Weapons (the classic vase, cookware, umbrella or fire poker); Marksmanship with pistols; Linguistics gives me one language per level, with the best of them at the highest level, and the rest at half level so I’ll learn French and German. And her criminal skill is in lockpicking.
As a Master Criminal she gets Crime 2, Science 1, Close Combat 1, Marksmanship 1, Theatrics 1, Linguistics 1, Leadership 2 and Medicine 1. The science specialty goes into Archaeology; Linguistics teaches her Russian. She then gets 2 General Skill Points to spend (she would have 6 if she only took one career). Bringing up a skill level in one of her three physical stats costs 2 skill points per level because those stats are so low. But they only cost 1/2 a skill point each for her three mental / social attributes. But she can’t bring any skill higher than her attribute level in this way – so she can’t boost her Eloquence. She can pick up two more levels of Linguistics (this isn’t her first time on Mars and she’s learned the language of the British Colony martians – so she leans Parhoonian Martian and Syrtis Major Martian). And she grabs two more levels of Archaeology.
Wealth is next… As a member of the Aristocracy (Social Level 6), she starts with 3d6x100 Pounds. As an Adventuress this is multiplied by 10. And as a Master Criminal, this is again multiplied by 50. So she starts with a meagre 650,000 Pounds. That’s a crap-load of money! As well as starting with a Manservant, a Gentleman Companion, and a Henchman. She can afford to start with not one, but a whole collection of airships! At this point I’m not going to actually equip her, because the reality is that whatever the adventure calls for, she can afford to outfit herself, her ship and a full crew for the job.
Lady Josephine Rasmussen
Adventuress & Master Criminal
Fisticuffs – 1
Throwing – 1
Close Combat (Bashing Weapons) – 2
Trimsman – 0
Stealth – 0
Crime (Lockpicking) – 3
Marksmanship (Pistols) – 2
Mechanic – 0
Wilderness Travel – 0
Fieldcraft – 0
Tracking – 0
Swimming – 0
Observation – 5
Engineering – 0
Science (Archaeology) – 3
Gunnery – 0
Eloquence – 5
Theatrics – 3
Bargaining – 0
Linguistics (French, German, Russian, Martian (Parhoonian and Syrtis Major)) – 5
Social Level: 6
Riding – 6
Piloting – 0
Leadership – 3
Medicine – 1