Arcane Game Lore

Never split the party!

My Favorite RPG That I Never Played

As a kid I use to look at the ads in Dragon Magazine or Space Gamer magazine and wonder at all the interesting gaming materials that my local book store never carried. The Paranoia RPG was at the top of the list.

More than a few years later I discovered the world’s biggest yard sale, ebay. Ebay allowed me to satisfy my curiosity about games like Paranoia and Toon. Even though I have now spent money on some of these old games and realize that I will probably never play them. I don’t consider it a loss as I did derive satisfaction form getting my curiosity satisfied.

Somewhere, along the way I discovered a game I never encountered in a magazine ad as a kid or simply never stopped to consider. Frank Chadwick’s “Space 1889”. Ebay and internet locations with reprints have stood me in good stead collecting this gem of a game. It has officially become: “My Favorite RPG I Never Played”.

The worst criticisms I’ve heard of it is that its British centric and the published modules are extremely linear. These are valid criticisms but really any fantasy RPG is about stepping into another world so being “British centric” doesn’t strike me as much of a black mark.  As for linear modules, I like creating my own campaign so again I’m non pulsed over the criticisms.

Space 1889 has a lot it did right. The Victorian science fiction genre meant that there were massive lines of metal miniatures available for use with this game because the 1800’s is a popular period in war gaming. The rules are well written and the core rule book has good color illustrations throughout. Character creation is easy. There were rules for player character’s to create inventions and profit from them long before Everquest and World of Warcraft had crafting in their games. The setting source material was incredibly detailed and well done: Mars was heavily charted but Venus and the Moon were more of a blank slate which catered to both types of referees: those that like a sand box and those that desire more structure. Finally as a fan of war games the elements of the game that lent them to table top war games were a plus. The ability to run skyship vs. skyship combats as strictly a war game has great appeal.

I believe that about half of my Space 1889 materials are reprints and the other half are original and it seems there is some continuing support for the setting. There was a series of audio books set in the setting and recently one of the writers that worked on the audio book project convinced a publisher to license the setting from Frank Chadwick and produce a 6 novel series.  In addition the creator maintains a blog on the setting at .

The downside is that it’s also a little obscure and many role players I’ve encountered are a little hesitant to try something so far off the beaten path of their beloved Dungeons and Dragons. Also there seems to be a shift in attitude in steam punk culture to move away from the mores of British centric Victorian Culture. So while steam punk is increasingly popular its undergoing an evolution that moves in it in a direction away from Space 1889.

Thus to date I have not found local gamers to indulge in my favorite RPG that I never played but I have certainly enjoyed reading the game materials.

Categorised as: Review


  1. I seem to remember seeing that Pinnacle were going to produce their own line of books set in this universe. It does mean that it’ll be Savage Worlds rules throughout, but the setting looks interesting enough for me to take a look.

    • jedion357 says:

      That would be good news. I currently have the old rules so given the chance I would use those. However, I’m not married to them and might welcome the opportunity to learn the savage worlds rule set since its fairly widespread.

      I’m not that familiar with the Savage rules mechanic but from what I’ve heard it mirrors the mechanic in Ground Zero Games’ STar Grunt (table top skirmish war game rules) which I think is absolutely fabulous so actually need to get around to buying a copy of their core book and check out the system.

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