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Generating Australian Characters

by Peter Schutze

This article is intended to provide the same sort of detail for generating Space: 1889 Australian (and New Zealander) characters as the article in Challenge 43 did for Americans. Many of the rules apply equally to any British colony or Dominion such as Canada and the African colonies. Note that in most cases the term Australasia is used as administratively Australia and New Zealand were treated as one by the British government.

Australasia And The World

As a group of colonies of the British Empire, Australia and New Zealand were regarded as suppliers of raw materials for the factories of the mother country. What industry the colonies possessed was devoted mainly to producing goods for local consumption (i.e. clothing, transport and agricultural equipment). It is for this reason that even as late as the 1950s economists exclaimed that "Australia rode on the sheep's back" due to our reliance on wool exports. To a large extent this applied equally to New Zealand as late as the mid 1970s. The other major function of the colonies was as an outlet for malcontents and military retirees.

The only major effect Australia had on British foreign policy was in South Pacific affairs. The colony of Queensland annexed the territory of New Guinea in 1884 (partly to prevent the German colony of Papua extending south), forcing the British to take over the claim in February 1885. There were moves
afoot to have Australasia extended to include the administrative control of such places as Fiji and Tonga. This, along with the annexation of New Guinea, failed due to the British view that 'a Colony can not have Colonies'. Queensland (and from 1901 to 1975 Australia) did keep control of New Guinea, but Australia never again tried to 'colonize' a territory.

The Australasian colonies (locally referred to on occasion as States) each had their own parliaments and self-government but were willingly under the British thumb as far as relations with the rest of the world were concerned. In fact, Australians, excepting the New South Welshmen, were very patriotic toward the mother country, often seeing themselves as Britons first and Australians second. Remember, the notion of a unified nation of Australia had only been around for about a decade. Of course, the defense of the Empire was considered very important indeed.

Australian Society

There was no Social Class 5 or 6 in Australasia (representing either a European landed nobility or the American wealthy classes). However, there was a very large middle class. It is recommended that in campaigns where dice rolls are used to determine attributes, all Social Class rolls of 5 and 6 be re-rolled.

Naturally, there were a few people in Australasia who could claim to be of the Aristocracy or Wealthy Gentry social classes. However, these were all Britons serving in Australia, such as the governor of each colony and the Commander of the Australasian Naval Squadron. Due to their positions, they are obviously not eligible as Player Characters.


It was quite common for Australasians to make their fortune in the colonies and move back to the mother country. Therefore, it is quite acceptable for an Australian character to have a second career according to the standard British character generation rules. Many Britons in government (usually military) service would finish their time and 'retire' to the colonies. These retirees, if they had not saved enough to buy a large farming property, often started a mercantile or professional career in the capital cities. A British character may have a specifically Australasian second career. However, these individuals would be rare and should be restricted to NPC's actually in Australia or New Zealand.

Government Careers

The highest rank that an Australian could hold in the colonial military was that of Lieutenant, as the Staff and higher Command positions always went to an ex-British officer (treat as an Army officer on secondment to a Native Regiment) of the appropriate service, under a 3 to 5 year contract. The branch tables should be modified to reflect the changed ranks as per the Light Horse branch. Special considerations apply to the Navy. Those serving on colonial naval vessels
should use the Mercantile seaman career, those wishing to join the Royal Navy will need permission from the Referee.

As a colony (or group of colonies) Australasia has no Foreign Office or Colonial Office.

Not In Our Navy!

It was not until August 1891 that the anti-pressgang laws were modified, allowing direct enlistment to the Royal Navy from a British colony and then only on a trial basis. You could travel to England and enlist, if you were lucky and hid your accent, but you could not join the Imperial Australian Squadron (and presumably the permanent squadrons of the Royal Navy based in other colonies) directly. Of course, once you are in the navy, who knows where you would be posted?

Australian/NZ Army Characters

The Australian and New Zealand armed forces in 1889 had no real Artillery or Cavalry branches, instead they relied on 'Light Horse' and 'Australian Fortress Corps' units (of varying titles) which use the following branch tables in conjunction with the normal army tables. There are no fashionable regiments and the technical services almost nonexistent.

Light Horse branch skills

Soc 1: Private: Fieldcraft-1; Riding(horse)-1; Tracking-1

Soc 2: Junior NCO: Fieldcraft-1; Riding(horse)-1; Tracking-1

Soc 3 or 4: Sergeant or Lieutenant: Riding-1; Observation-1; Fieldcraft-1

Note: For the base skills of Soc 3-4 reduce Leadership to 1 and add Wilderness Travel(Mapping)-1

Fortress Corps branch skills

Soc 1-2: Gunnery(MLC or BLC)-1; Mechanic(Machinist)-1; Observation-1

Soc 3-4: Gunnery(MLC or BLC)-1; Fieldcraft-1; Observation-1

Exotic Careers

The Big Game Hunter career is inappropriate for Australia which lacks large or dangerous game. However, the premise for this British character (i.e. rich and travels to where the game is) works well enough for the occasional NPC. The Dilettante traveler is not allowed due to its Soc requirements.

Service Careers

All careers remain the same, except that groundskeeper (of which there were possibly 50 throughout Australia) is replaced by the Swagman career, which is a cross between the American cowboy and an itinerant laborer.

Personal Servants should be fairly rare in Australia, both because of the egalitarian culture and the lack of very wealthy employers, although if there is a valid roleplaying reason behind it (such as being the servant of another PC) there should be no problem.

Swagman (Soc 2- Str 3+): Riding(Horse) 1, Wilderness Travel 2, Close Combat (Edged weapon) 1, Tracking 1, Marksmanship (rifle) 1, Crime (pickpocket) 1

Mercantile And Professional Careers

These careers are identical, however, the Inventor career should replace the Naval Architecture skill
with Structural Engineering as Australasia had no real ship design and building industry. The Seaman career should be used for those serving on the colonial navy vessels.

Criminal Careers

These careers are identical except that the Poacher is removed and the Bushranger and Rustler (from Challenge 43) careers are added.

The Australian bushranger was in many ways similar to the British highwayman and American outlaw. However, due to the small size of widely-scattered inland settlements and the concentration of populations in the state capitals (which still characterizes Australia) they were as much reliant on their survival skills as their criminal abilities. By 1889 bushrangers were nearly gone due to the police and citizens 'hunting them down like dogs', so they should be first careers only.

One of the few bushrangers still alive by 1889 was the infamous Harry Redford, alias 'Captain Starlight', the Robin Hood of Australian Bushrangers. He was acquitted by a sympathetic jury in the Queensland town of Roma in 1870. Later, he adopted the name Major Patrick Reilly and moved to Western Australia, working as an explorer and guide for the Mines department. It is quite likely, given the opportunity, he would have moved on to Mars to continue working as a guide and explorer there.

Bushranger (Soc 3- Agil 3+, First career only): Fisticuffs 1; Stealth 1; Marksmanship 1; Fieldcraft 1; Tracking 1; Riding (horse) 1; Wilderness Travel (foraging) 1

Rustler (Soc 2-): Riding (horse) 2, Wilderness Travel (foraging) 2, Tracking 2, Marksmanship (pistol) 1



In most cases, the Australian Aboriginal has lived separate from the rest of Australian society, although there were several attempts throughout the 1800s to assimilate them into the lower strata of society. On the east coast of Australia there was a justified concern that the Aboriginal was in grave danger of extinction due to the treatment they received. This was in many ways worse than anything dealt out to the American Indians. Many Aboriginals near the larger European settlements were treated as criminals (largely due to prejudices that still exist), but this was highly exaggerated. There were very few Aboriginal career criminals, although most free males could be regarded as Rustlers due to their nomadic lifestyle. The only careers open to Aboriginals were as Native Police, Bushranger, Rustler and Swagman. Due to the prejudices and inequality of Australian society, Aboriginals are restricted to Soc 1 and have a maximum Education of 3 (2 if Bushranger or Rustler careers are desired).


This is the generic name applied to the various groups of Pacific Islanders (mainly Papua New Guineans and Solomon Islanders) that were brought primarily to Queensland to work in the sugar cane fields. Continued access to these virtual slaves was a major reason for the annexation of New Guinea in 1884 by Queensland.
Kanakas are under the same restrictions as Aboriginals except that Rustlers would be uncommon.


During the 1880s and 1890s the Chinese Australians were subject to various forms of racism and overt discrimination, even on an official level. They were the only group subjected to an annual Poll Tax, while killing a 'Chinaman' was considered slightly more serious than killing an Aboriginal and offenders were sometimes actually punished.

The 1887 population figures for Chinese were: New South Wales 10,000; Victoria 11,000; Adelaide (in South Australia) 200; and what later became the Northern Territory had about 10. No figure for Western Australia was given; however, it is probable that there were several dozen Chinese in such remote towns as Broome. Broome had a largely non-European population at this time and had closer ties to the Dutch East Indies than it did with the rest of Australia. This is not surprising considering its isolated location on the northern coast of Western Australia and that its main industry was pearling.

Chinese are restricted to a Soc of 1 or 2 and are not allowed in government service.

Non-British Europeans

In the major cities of Australia non-British Europeans (Germans, Dutch, French, etc.) were frowned upon but were rarely subject to overt discrimination. They are under no restriction, although a higher percentage of these are from Soc 2 and 3 than is normal for British characters.

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:50:31 EDT

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