Buy | Submit | TRMGS1 | TRMGS2 | TRMGS3 | TRMGS4 |TRMGS Main | Heliograph Main


The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars is now available!

The original publication of Canal Priests Of Mars cut slightly over a third of author Marcus L. Rowland's manuscript to fit GDW's adventure format. The Complete Canal Priests Of Mars restores the cut material, features all new artwork by Paul Daly, and adds many useful player handouts. Enjoy the "author's cut" of a classic Space 1889 adventure, or experience it for the first time!

See our Buy It! page for more information!

Old news is still available on the News Page.

Some Notes On The Ether:

Clarifications and New Rules for Ether Flyers

by Jim Cambias

Thomas Edison's invention of the ether propellor has opened up the Solar System to exploration and trade. In the past two decades, the ether propellor has become as essential a part of civilization as the steam engine or gas lighting. Yet it is surprising how few people actually understand how one works.

Ether Propellor Theory

Given the enormous speeds which ether flyers achieve, it is obvious that the energy which drives them is not furnished by the ship's solar boiler. The astonishing fact is that the energy which accelerates an ether flyer comes from the ether itself. The ether propellor extracts energy from the ether, and uses it to accelerate the ship. The electricity generated by the boiler is used only to trigger the release of etheric energy.

Ether flyers are still subject to Newton's laws of motion. Therefore the ether propellor accelerates the ship, but once the vessel has reached a suitable speed, the Propellor can be shut off and the ship continues to move. Alert readers may wonder why, then, do ether flyers have a maximum speed? Why can they not simply accelerate indefinitely, reaching very high velocities?

The answer lies in the nature of the propellor's interaction with the ether. The amount of energy extracted varies inversely with the propellor's velocity relative to the ether. As an ether flyer approaches
its maximum speed, the energy released from the ether rapidly drops to nothing, making it impossible for the ship to accelerate further. This is why ships with more powerful ether propellors can reach higher speeds: they can extract energy from the ether at higher velocities.

The acceleration produced by an ether propellor is chiefly limited by the strength of the ether flyer's hull and by what the passengers can withstand. Most commercial ether flyers do not accelerate at more than one gravity, but military craft occasionally accelerate at up to two gravities. At an acceleration of one gravity, it takes about half an hour to reach Ether Speed 1.

Ether Flyer Operation

One constraint with which all ether flyers must cope is the escape velocity of the planets. Flyers must be able to reach escape velocity for any planet they visit. Fortunately, the Earth is the largest of the inner planets, so any ship which can reach Earth orbit can do so at any other planet as well. Earth's escape velocity is the equivalent of an Ether Speed of 0.6, so all ships must be able to reach that speed to leave the Earth.

But ether flyers must also be able to match speeds with the planets as they move in their orbits. The swiftest planet is Mercury, which orbits the Sun with a velocity equivalent to Ether Speed 2.6. Only very fast ships can reach Mercury,

which explains why that planet has remained largely unexplored.

Venus has an orbital speed equal to Ether Speed 2, placing it within reach of most commercial ether flyers. Note that the low-powered Zeppelin Propellor is of little use for ships traveling to Venus. German military and commercial ships on the Venus run generally use Edison Propellors, manufactured under license by the Siemens company.

Earth moves in orbit around the Sun with an Ether Speed of 1.6 This should be considered the absolute minimum speed for any Ether flyer. (Note that this means that the British Ether Battleship Duke of York is unable to leave Earth as currently designed.) Ether flyers with an Ether Speed less than 1.6 can only travel to and from Earth orbit.

Finally, Mars has an orbital
speed equal to Ether Speed 1.3. Many of the commercial vessels plying the ether between Earth and Mars are unable to reach any of the inner planets.

Combat In The Ether

Because ships in space move in accordance with Newton's Laws, the high speeds at which they travel have no effect on combat. It doesn't matter if two ether flyers are whizzing along as fast as a cannon-shell, so long as their relative motion is nil. Instead, the real limit on combat in space is range.

Modern fire-control and aiming devices are all designed for action on the surface of the Earth. Consequently, they are only of use in combats taking place at relatively close range. In space, Ether flyers are almost always separated by vast distances, far greater than gunfire range. Only when they are in orbit around a planet is combat possible.

Combat Determination

Because evasive maneuvers can easily take an ether flyer out of range in combat, a battle in space can only occur if the commander of the more Agile of the two ships wishes it. Agility is defined as the sum of a ship's Ether Speed and the Pilot Ether Flyer skill level of the helmsman. If the ship has an Analytical Engine aboard, its Reliability is added to the Agility rating. The more Agile ship always determines whether or not combat will occur. (Note that events in battle can change a ship's Agility, making it possible to break off combat.)

The initial range between ships in combat is 10 Sky Galleons hexes (or cables from Ironclads and Ether Flyers ). The more Agile ship starts in front of its opponent, due to the peculiarities of orbital mechanics. Altitudes are ignored. The combatants begin at rest, facing in the same direction.

Turn Sequence

Ether flyers in combat follow the normal Sky Galleons turn sequence, with some additions. The turn progresses as follows:

1. Check Agility. The more Agile ship may choose to break off and end the engagement.

2. Initiative. Roll a die to see which ship has the Initiative this turn, as in Sky Galleons.

3. First Player moves (see the Movement rules below).

4. First Player fires; Second Player may fire simultaneously.

5. Second Player moves.

6. Second Player fires; First Player may fire any weapons not
used previously.


Because an ether propellor can give a ship enormous acceleration, it requires a very careful hand at the controls to move the ship in orbit using tiny bursts of power. An ether flyer's movement in combat is determined by the skill of the pilot. An ether flyer has a number of Movement Points equal to the pilot's skill level. A Movement Point may be used to either accelerate 1 hex per turn, or change facing by 1 hexside.

Movement is Newtonian: ships accelerate or decelerate using their engines, but velocity is conserved. Ships can build up speed over several turns. Players should use a sheet of hex paper to keep track of their accelerations, since the addition of vectors can become quite complicated. For example: if a ship accelerates 2 hexes in direction 1, then changes facing 1 hexside to direction 2, and accelerates an additional hex in direction 2, in subsequent turns that ship will continue to move 2 hexes in direction 1 and 1 hex in direction 2, regardless of facing. The only way to stop moving in one direction is to accelerate in the opposite direction.

During a player's Movement Phase, the residual motion from previous turns' maneuvering occurs first, then any Movement Points are expended.

Weapon Fire

Only cannon and rockets may be used in space. Liftwood devices like Smutts Torpedoes or Tether Mines don't work, nor do dropped weapons. Because Ether flyers are entirely enclosed, machineguns and shrapnel are useless. Weapon ranges are normal, and altitude effects are ignored.

Damage Results

Roll a die and consult the following table:

1-2. Hull

3-4. Cabin

5. Gun

6. Critical

Hull: The ship takes damage to its hull. The hull is protected by armor. Check off a number of hull boxes equal to the gun's Damage Value. If the flyer has a hydrogen-lift hull, it is assumed that the gasbag is kept deflated in space, so damage may be patched before entering atmosphere.

Cabin: A shell hits the crew section of the ship. If it penetrates armor, a number of crewmen are hit equal to the damage value of the gun. On a roll of 6 on one die, the injured are officers or bridge crew. Player characters hit this way take 1 die of damage, and may make a save roll. It is assumed that all cabin hits can be swiftly sealed with meteor patches to avoid depressurizing the hull.

Gun: One gun is hit. The gun must face towards the firing vessel. If there are no guns which can be hit, this is a Hull hit.

Critical Hits: If the ship suffers a critical hit, consult the following table (roll 2D6):

Critical Hit Table

2. Spinning

3. Boiler Destroyed

4. Magazine

5. Bridge Hit

6. Greenhouse Hit

7. Solar Boiler Hit

8. Ether Propellor Hit

9. Atmospheric Propulsion Hit

10. Steering Jets Out

11. Ether Propellor Destroyed

12. Ship Spinning

Spinning: The force of the shot starts the ship rotating wildly. If the steering jets are intact, the crew can halt the spin quickly, leaving the ship facing in a random direction determined by a die roll. The ship cannot maneuver or fire weapons this turn. If the ship's steering jets are out, it continues to spin, and cannot maneuver or fire weapons until the spin is stopped. Agility is reduced to 0 while an ether flyer is spinning.

Solar Boiler Destroyed: The ship has no power, and cannot maneuver. Agility is automatically 0. The ship can fire each weapon once more, but they cannot reload. Steering jets may be used to change facing once only. If there are batteries on board for life support, the crew can survive, but without power they will quickly perish. The Solar Boiler is not protected by armor.

Magazine: Resolved following the standard rules in Sky Galleons of Mars.

Bridge Hit: Resolved using the standard rules.

Greenhouse Hit: The ship's greenhouse is destroyed. The ether flyer's life support system will only last another hour before the oxygen runs out. The Greenhouse is not protected by armor.

Solar Boiler Hit: The ship's boiler has been hit and knocked out of alignment with the Sun. There is no power available until the ship's Movement Phase in the following turn. The ether flyer may fire weapons and change facing, but cannot accelerate. Agility is reduced to 0. The Boiler is not protected by armor.

Ether Propellor Hit: The ship's ether propellor has been hit. Its Agility and Movement Points are reduced by the damage value of the gun which scored the hit. The Ether Propellor is covered by armor.

Atmospheric Propulsion Hit: The ether flyer's airscrew has been damaged. Speed in atmosphere will be reduced by the damage value of the firing gun. It may be possible to repair this damage before entering atmosphere. The airscrew is not protected by armor.

Steering Jets Out: The maneuvering jets are inoperable. The ship may not change facing until they are repaired. At the start of each turn, roll a die to see if repairs are successful. The jets are repaired on a roll of 1 or 2 on 1D6. They are protected by armor.

Ether Propellor Destroyed: The ether flyer's ether propellor is destroyed. The ship may not accelerate, and its Agility is 0. The ship may change facing and fire weapons. The ether propellor is covered by armor.

Ramming and Boarding

An ether flyer may ram another when both ships occupy the same hex. The base roll for a ram attempt is 4 or less on one die. The target ship may expend up to half its Movement Points to evade; subtract the expended points from the base

No ether flyers are equipped with rams, so both vessels suffer damage. Each ship rolls a die and suffers 1 hull hit if the result is less than the hull size of the other ship. If a ship's Hull Size is more than 6, the other ship automatically takes 1 hit and rolls for the Hull Size over 6 only. Both ships in a collision suffer the effects of a Spinning critical hit.

Boarding is only possible if the target ship has no ether propellor or steering jets in working order. The boarders must come from a ship in the same hex, which must be moving on the same vector as the target. Boarders must wear vacuum-suits, connected to their own ship by long hoses. The target ship's crew may resist by going out on the hull to fight, if they have a working life-support system. In combat between boarding parties and defenders in vacuum, all casualties are fatal.

Ether Wakes

Activating an ether propellor generates turbulence which can damage other ships. If a ship is in the hex directly behind another vessel whose propellor is in operation, the target ship may suffer damage. At a range of 1 hex, the target suffers damage on a roll of 3-6; at a range of 2 hexes, it is damaged on a 5-6. To determine the effect of turbulence, roll on the Turbulence/Meteor Damage table on page 132 of the Space: 1889 rulebook. A Minor Damage result means that 1 hit is rolled on the normal Damage Table above. A Major Damage result means that the ship suffers a Critical.

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:50:15 EDT

Return to Main Page

Comments to

The material on this page is Copyright 2000 under the author or artist's name unless noted otherwise, and cannot be used without permission. This presentation Copyright 2000 by Heliograph, Inc. Space:1889 is a registered trademark of Frank Chadwick, all rights reserved, and is used with his permission. Most other game, movie, or book names may be trademarks of their respective holders, and use of a trademark at this site should not be construed as implying the sponsorship of the trademark holder, nor, conversely, should use of the name of any product without mention of trademark status be construed as a challenge to such status. Heck no! We love those guys.