Back in the late 1980s or early 1990s, I often saw Space: 1889 books from GDW sitting on the shelf at one of our local game stores. The concept was simple… The Victorian Era with more Steampunk elements! I always thought it would be fun to stage a Georges Melies-inspired “Trip to the Moon” via a steam-powered rocket… But though I have always been a fan of the fictional exploits of visionaries such as Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle, somehow I never managed to pick up a copy of the game or find a group that was playing it at the time. And eventually the books disappeared and faded from memory.
But now Clockwork Publishing and Chronicle City are teaming up to come out with a brand new edition of the game and funding it via a Kickstarter campaign! In the first two weeks of the funding campaign, they managed to nearly double through their £15,000 goal with ease.
So I had to discover more about the project and the road that has Space: 1889 once again shooting for the moon! Thankfully Angus Abranson of Chronicle City and developer Patric Götz were kind enough to answer a few questions…
Patric: My name is Patric Götz, im 40 years old and from Germany. I’m working in the rpg business for over 15 years now and started my own company Uhrwerk Verlag / Clockwork Publishing 2009. I’m a fan of Space: 1889 since it was originally released in 1988. In 2008 or 2009 i approached Frank Chadwick with the idea of doing a new version of Space: 1889 in German with the option of maybe translating this version to English later on, if the quality was good enough to do so.
Angus: I’m Angus Abranson, owner of Chronicle City Ltd – a British based games publisher who works with other design studios and authors in helping get their games into print and distribution as well as designing, and licensing, our own titles. I previously co-founded Cubicle 7 Entertainment – another RPG publisher – back @ 2003 and worked in Britain’s biggest hobby games store for over 20 years. I’ve also in the past done freelance writing, magazine work (I helped launch Valkyrie magazine at Gen Con in 1994) and also ran the Dragonmeet convention in London for a decade.
I became involved with Space: 1889 when Patric asked me if I would be interested in helping with the release of the English language edition. As it was a game I really enjoyed when I played it back in the late 80’s, and I’m a fan of the genre, I was all too happy to become involved.
Q: Can you briefly describe what Space: 1889 is all about?
Angus: Space: 1889 is a Victorian science fiction game. It’s not Steampunk, although certainly has a lot of cross over appeal, but very much in the tradition of novels by the likes of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells and a number of Victorian science fiction writers. The setting holds many similarities to our own history but a major difference is that Thomas Edison invented the “Ether Propeller” which enabled man to travel between worlds. As such mankind now has settlements on a number of planets such as Mars and Venus and interacts with the native populations that we found on those planets – both friendly and hostile.
We’ve discovered a lot of mysteries on these planets as well as the Nations of Earth rushing to try and cement their leadership, trade agreements and “benefactor” status over the locals.
Q: What happened to rekindle the interest in the Space: 1889 game?
Patric: I never really lost interest in Space: 1889 over the years, but the rise of “Steampunk” probably gave me the idea that the time was right for a new edition.
Q: What are you most excited about with the revamped game and setting?
Patric: I’m quite excited about the new setting material we can do for the setting. There never was a Venus sourcebook before, and now we are doing one, for example. I’m also looking forward to let the characters go to worlds, no one has gone before – like the planets beyond the asteroid belt.
Q: What’s it like working with Frank Chadwick on the project? Who else is involved doing design work so far?
Patric: It’s very easy to work with Frank. He generally likes our ideas, when we ask him, if we are allowed to do something new
We have a very experienced German design team. Our line-editor is Stefan Küppers – also a fan of Space: 1889 for over 20 years, who was also a very experienced author and editor for Germany biggest rpg “Das Schwarze Auge.” The rest of the team also consists of veteran rpg-authors and/or Space: 1889 fans.
Angus: We also recruited a number of fantastic authors to write some of the Stretch Goal adventures for us. So far we’ve announced John Wick, Steve Long, Shane Ivey and Steve Kenson and hopefully, if the Kickstarter campaign does even better than it already is, we’ll be adding to that list.
Q: Which of the remaining stretch goals are you most excited about?
Patric: I’m very excited about our next two stretch goals. First that’s the Venus sourcebook, which new, never before seen information about the second planet of the solar system and it’s many secrets to be discovered. The other stretch goal are the miniatures. I LOVE miniatures and maybe being able to start a new line of Space: 1889 minis through the Kickstarter would just be awesome.
Angus: Certainly the Venus sourcebook as it’s the first time that Space: 1889 has really explored anywhere other than Mars in it’s universe.
Q: Have you been surprised by the surge in interest from the RPG community?
Patric: I was very glad, we reached our Pledge goal after just four days
Q: The sample art and maps you’ve provided on the Kickstarter page are gorgeous. Who’s working on the art for the project?
Patric: We work with a couple of artists that get the style „right“ in our opinion. The b&w artwork
for the rulebook is mainly done by Finnish artist Juha Makkonen. Additional b&w artwork is done by veteran artist Eric Lofgrn from Canada. The full-color archetypes are done by German artist Mia Steingräber. The maps are done by Geman artist Markus Holzum. Finally – the covers are done by two people – Slawomir Maniak did the cover for the rule book and Viktor Fetsch did two additional covers for an adventure and the Venus sourcebook. He is currently working on a third cover
Q: It seems that the setting is exploring the inner solar system with Venus being first and Mars and Mercury not far behind. Will there be exploration of the asteroid belt and beyond? Possibly even extra-solar expeditions?
Patric: We will quite certainly explore the planets beyond the asteroid belt. That’s such a big topic though, that we want to do this in a big campaign involving the characters instead of just describing what to find there in a sourcebook. After that – who knows. We will have a lot of years and publications left “just” to explore the solar system, so going beyond that lies in the far future, if at all.
Q: Was the conversion from the older Space: 1889 rules system to the Ubiquity system difficult? How hard will it be for fans of the older system to convert any old materials to the updated system?
Patric: We use the Ubiquity rules (with some modifications), because we think they fit the Space: 1889 setting very nicely. There are some things that are quite different with the two rule systems though. The Ubiquity system has rules for social status for example, but it’s not as important as it was in the old system. That’s because we wanted to open up the setting for more possible characters from all countries, planets and social levels. But converting your old character to the new system shouldn’t be a big problem, since the character generation is very flexible and you should be able to build any character or NPC you want or played with the old rules.
I have to offer a sincere thank you to Patric and Angus for answering my questions and I wish them all the best with the Kickstarter.
For more about Space: 1889…
- … check out the current Kickstarter.
- … stop by the Chronicle City website.
- … and the Chronicle City Facebook page.