The Rules of Invention: Red Sands

Space1889CoreRulesI was thumbing through Space 1889: Red Sands last night – the Savage Worlds edition of the classic scientific romance game by Frank Chadwick.

I still have the complete edition that was originally published by GDW, plus three issues of the marvelous Transactions of the Royal Martian Society1.
I always loved Space:1889 – even if it was somewhat strange, for a roleplaying game.
I really hated that NPCs were described by different stats compared with player characters – something probably inherited from wargames.
Fact was, given the level of attrition in my games, the ability to promote a spear-carrier to the role of character would have been very useful.
And yes, the Earth was not developed at all – but after all, it was a planetary romance game.

qjpg1-e1334700483486The Savage Worlds edition is a huge, satisfactory campaign set on Mars, and comes with a fairly well developed set of background and setting rules and whatnot – 76 pages (out of 190) of two-columns text that cover basically the same terrain that the original basic handbook covered.
Nice and smooth.

The reason why I was thumbing through my as yet pristine copy of the Red Sands campaign book is quite simple: Space:1889 featured rules for inventions.
And because GreyWorld will feature characters that are makers and tinkerers, rules for creating new devices from scratch will be included in the handbook.
So, why not check out the competition?

Going back to the book confirmed some of my earlier impressions: Red Sands is a solid addition to a Savage Worlds shelf, even if it’s written too small on a dark-ish background.
But reading through it made me want to go back and set up a game in which my team could join a regiment of Martian pathans en route to some lost fort in the Martian uplands, there to conduct some archaeological excavations.

savagespace1889But what about the rules for inventions?
Well, they are there all-right, and in tone with the scientific romance style of the game, they are thorough and exhaustive.
But they are not what I’m looking for in my game.
Mind you, nothing wrong with the system in Red Sands: invention is broken down in separate conceptual phases (design, backing, testing etc) and there’s an impressive list of components, and a list of the things in which those components can be assembled.
It’s good, solid and very realistic.
It’s not very fast and it does not strike me as very furious either, but it can certainly be fun, if you are so inclined.
I’m planning something lighter and more flexible, that while using the same development tree for inventions, could allow the players to handle research and technical invention and tinkering in a more narrative, freeform way.

Indeed, the research/making/tinkering rules are, with the Scenario Generator, the more complicated part of the GreyWorld project.

Our steampunk will be different.
But Red Sands is still quite good, and a piece of my past.
It would be nice play it in the next months, as a way to gear my brain towards thinking in terms of steampunk Savage Worlds.

And you out there?
What steampunk game do you play, and how does it handle the problem of creating some new tech gadget in the game?


  1. I used to keep these on a shelf with my geology books and journals. It was nice watching the reaction of people browsing. 
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Categories: GreyWorld Design Musings, Savage Setting, Steampunk/Steampulp | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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