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Wonders Of Science:

New Inventions for Space: 1889

by James L. Cambias

The following are new inventions for Space: 1889. Some are suitable for player-character inventors to create, others will probably be the products of evil mad scientist NPCs. The devices are grouped by Research Area, and the required minimum knowledge level and experimental success numbers are listed in parentheses after the name of the device. Referees may find some of these inventions useful points of departure for adventures. Portions of this article appeared in Challenge magazine #41 under the title "Science Marches On."


Horseless Carriage (2, 1): Some of these can already be seen on the streets of London and Paris. A horseless carriage is simply an internal-combustion engine mounted on a chassis, with a transmission. Its speed in miles per hour is equal to twice its reliability. Horseless carriages burn about one pound of petroleum for every mile travelled, and have a 20-pound fuel supply. They have room for three passengers or 500 pounds of cargo, and require a crew of one. Weight: 2 tons. Price: 400.

Clockwork Skates (5, -1): Perfect for short trips along city sidewalks, these clever devices use a powerful spring to drive the wearer along at a brisk walking pace. A clutch lever disconnects the clockwork to allow normal skating. Speed in miles per hour equals the Reliability. Weight: 2 pounds each. Price: 2.

Bathysphere (15, 2): A very sturdy steel sphere equipped with air tanks and thick windows, which is lowered into the deep ocean by cable. It can reach a depth in miles equal to its reliability, and can stay down for six hours. A bathysphere has room for four passengers. Weight: 10 tons. Price: 1000.

Motor-Bicycle (18, 2): A two-wheeled motorized vehicle, powered by a small internal-combustion engine. It requires a successful Routine Agility task to learn how to ride one without falling over. They have a speed in miles per hour equal to twice their Reliability, and consume a gallon of petroleum every ten miles travelled. Motor-bicycles require one driver, and can accomodate one passenger or 100 pounds of cargo. Weight: 200 pounds. Price: 250.

Ice-Breaking Ship (20, 2): Ships venturing into polar waters are in danger of being crushed by the heavy pack ice. A suitably strong design made to ride up on the ice and crush it, with a reinforced ramming bow allows passage into ice-covered water. Weight: adds 50 percent to the mass of the ship's structure. Price: Doubles the cost of the ship.

Pneumatic Armor (26, 5): Resembling a medieval knight's steel suit, this amazing machine has muscles powered by compressed air, amplifying the wearer's strength. The suit's steel plating has an armor value of 3, and increases the wearer's strength by 3. It can operate a number of hours equal to its Reliability. Some suits have firearms or other weapons built into the forearms and shoulders; add their cost to the base price of the suit. Weight: 300 lbs. Price: 2000.

Steam Colossus (30, 5): A man-shaped steam giant propelled by steam, the Steam Colossus is capable of performing great feats of construction and labor -- or of being a terrifying weapon of war. The Colossus can move at 3 times its Reliability in miles per hour, can lift and carry up to its Reliability in tons, and can operate for 12 hours with a full load of coal. Its skin has an armor value of 1. It can be equipped with a variety of weapons; the most common armament is a Hotchkiss 1-lb. cannon mounted in the head and .50-caliber Gatlings in the arms. Weight: 30 tons. Price: 10,000.

Steam Sleigh (30, 5): Designed for travel across the snowfields of the Arctic or the Dark Side of Mercury, the Steam Sleigh uses caterpillar tracks to drive it forward, and steel skis to slide across the surface. It has room for 10 people in a sealed artificial environment inside. Range is 1000 miles on a full load of coal, and speed equals twice Reliability in miles per hour. Weight: 50 tons. Price: 18,000.

Free Diving Suit (32, 3): Using highly-compressed air and an ingenious pressure-sensitive valve, this suit allows divers to operate under the sea without an air hose to the surface. The air reserve lasts a number of hours equal to the Reliability divided by 2, and can function down to 100 feet below the surface of the sea. Weight: 50 lbs. Price: 20.


Electrified Fence (12, 1): While ordinary fences of wood or barbed wire can keep cattle and horses penned, more dangerous beasts like rhinocerouses or Venusian dinosaurs require something more effective. An Electrified Fence carries a powerful current in its exposed wires, and anything touching the fence takes 1 point of damage from shock. The owner may increase the voltage to more destructive levels; the maximum damage from a fence is equal to its Reliability. Weight: 1 lb. per 5 yards, plus posts. Price: 1 per 500 yards of fencing, plus the cost of the dynamo.

Magnetic Levitation (23, 3): A method of suspending objects above a special magnetic track. This can be used to create wheel-less railways and similar fantastic vehicles. A Magnetic Levitation device can support a ton of cargo times its Reliability, and can propel vehicles at a speed of 60 miles per hour. Weight: 1 ton (in addition to the track, which weighs 10 tons per mile of length). Price: 500 per power level, plus 100 per mile of track. Power: 1 per ton of cargo.

Magnetic Projector (38, 5): This device uses a powerful electromagnetic coil to project a beam of magnetic force. The beam can draw in metal objects, halt vehicles, pull airships from the sky, and snatch guns from the hands of enemies. Range equals ten times the Reliability in yards; the maximum weight the device can pull is given on the following table:

Reliability Weight
1 2 lb.
2 20 lbs.
3 200 lbs.
4 1 ton
5 10 tons
6 100 tons


Animal Repellant (18, 3): A strong-smelling liquid which, when applied to the skin, repels a given type of animal. In general, each sort of Animal Repellant affects a single Class of living creatures (i.e. fish, reptiles, mammals, etc.). The duration of a dose in hours is equal to the Reliability. Weight: A dose sufficient to coat a person weighs 4 ounces. Price: 1 per dose.

Regeneration Drug (23, 3): This amazing substance quickly repairs damage to the body. Each dose restores a number of Wounds equal to the Reliability number. The drug takes 15 minutes to take effect, during which time the patient must be resting quietly The healing is permanent. The drug must be injected into the subject's veins. Weight: 5 doses per ounce. Price: 15 per dose.

Accelerator (30, 3): This drug speeds up the body's metabolism and nerve impulses drastically. The user essentially lives several times faster than the rest of the world. There are some limits -- things become harder to move for an accelerated individual, and the boosted metabolic rate means the user must consume huge amounts of food. The user's time rate is boosted by an amount equal to the Reliability, so someone using a dose of Reliability 5 Accelerator drug can do everything five times as fast. The drug's effect lasts one hour of internal time for the user, so for someone living three times faster than normal the drug wears off after 20 minutes. Weight: 1 dose per ounce. Price: 12 per dose.

Disembodied Brain (33, 5): When a person's body dies there is no reason for the brain to perish if it can be nourished and supported by artificial means. A disembodied brain exists in a tank filled with special nutrients, with a pump to circulate oxygen and delicate wires connected to nerves, allowing the brain to hear and speak. The system requires a Reliability roll every week; on a failed roll the brain dies. Weight: The entire system weighs 300 lbs. Price: 200.

Growth Serum (34, 3): This strange chemical produces amazing temporary growth in organisms. A dose makes the user double in height, and gain eight times their initial weight. It requires two days to take effect, during which time the subject has an amazing appetite. The effect lasts a number of days equal to the Reliability, at which point the subject returns to normal over a period of two days. At full size the individual's Strength and Endurance are doubled, while Agility is halved. The effect of two doses doubles the being's size yet again, but further doses merely prolong the effect. If it is given to a growing infant, the growth will be permanent. Users must make a successful Reliability roll to avoid suffering 1 die of damage. Weight: 1 dose per ounce. Price: 10 per dose.

Pseudo-Death Drug (36, 4): This mysterious substance causes living things to sink into a deathlike state. There is no heartbeat, no respiration, and the victim's body temperature drops. The patient needs no food, and is unconscious. Physicians may notice that there is no rigor mortis or other sign of decay. The trance lasts for a number of days equal to Reliability, and takes effect instantly upon injection. Persons using the drug must roll equal to or below the Reliability to revive successfully -- otherwise the pseudo-death becomes the genuine article. Weight: 8 doses per ounce. Price: 6 per dose.

Cerebral Amplifier (36, 5): This complex machine consists of a chair topped by a dome of crystal and copper, festooned with wires and insulators. It is connected to a large bank of electrical machinery. When switched on, the Amplifier stimulates the tissues of the brain, increasing the user's Intellect by 1D6. The effect lasts for a month at a time. The user must roll the machine's Reliability each time it is used, and any attempt to boost an already-increased Intellect is at a -2 Reliability penalty. On a failed Reliability roll, consult the following table; roll 1D6 minus the modified Reliability:

0 or less: No effect. Intellect remains unchanged.
1: Brain damage. Intellect permanently reduced by 1D6.
2: Amnesia. Intellect raised as usual, but all memory is erased.
3: Injury. Intellect is increased but user suffers 1D6 wounds.
4: Insanity. Intellect is raised but the patient is permanently insane.
5+: Serious Injury. Intellect is increased but user suffers 2D6 wounds.

Weight: 500 lbs. Price: 2000

De-Evolution Drug (36, 4): This fiendish compound can actually regress a living organism back along the path of its evolutionary development -- each dose taken will lower an individual one level on following scale:

Level 1: Protoplasm, one-celled creatures
Level 2: Plants
Level 3: Invertebrates (insects, molluscs, worms, etc.)
Level 4: Reptiles and Amphibians
Level 5: Avians or Mammals
Level 6: Intelligent Beings
Level 7: Superhuman Intelligences.

The subject must roll less than the Reliability to avoid an unpleasant death. It may be injected, or taken orally -- it has a strong and unpleasant taste which is difficult to disguise. Weight: 10 doses per ounce. Price: 4 per dose.

Evolution Serum (37, 5): This fantastic potion has the amazing effect of advancing the user along the evolutionary scale. Each dose moves the creature one level higher on the scale shown above. For each dose taken, the subject must roll under the Reliability of the serum or expire horribly. Creatures will retain some of their original features as they are transformed; a turtle raised to human level would still have a shell and recognizable turtle features. It is possible to raise a being beyond Level 7, but the results are left to the Referee to determine. The Serum must be injected directly. Weight: 10 doses per ounce. Price: 5 per dose.

Universal Solvent (39, 5): The Universal Solvent is very dangerous, for it can dissolve through any substance, given enough time. This makes it extremely difficult to keep for extended periods, as it must be continually transferred to new containers. A pint of Universal Solvent applied to a surface will dissolve holes as if it were an explosive with a power equal to the Reliability of the Solvent. Weight: 1 pint weighs a pound. Price: 5 per pint.

Lift Hormone (40, 5): This synthetic drug duplicates the effects of a complex hormone present in High Martians, which stimulates the action of the lifting gland. One dose given to a Canal or Hill Martian will allow them to fly as easily as a High Martian. There are potential side effects -- if a Martian using the drug fails the Reliability roll, he suffers 1 wound and his lifting gland is permanently destroyed. The drug has no effect on Terrans or Lizard-Men. Weight: 5 doses per ounce. Price: 20 per dose.

Reanimation (40, 5): Science has even begun to probe the boundary of Death itself. Using complex mixtures of chemicals and great gouts of electricity, it is possible to restore life to a dead body. Those reanimated are often changed, exhibiting signs of madness. The process cannot restore life completely; reanimated patients must have repeat treatments every week, and cannot withstand warm temperatures. On a failed Reliability roll the Reanimation process fails and leaves only a charred corpse. Weight: The apparatus for Reanimation weighs at least a ton, not counting all the medical and scientific equipment used. Price: Reanimation is shockingly expensive, at least 20,000.

Water Catalyst (42, 5): Armageddon in a bottle. The Water Catalyst is a diabolical chemical which permits water to burn as energetically as petroleum. While it is useful to convert water to fuel, releasing the Catalyst into large bodies of water could easily turn the entire world into an inferno. (Note to Gamemasters: the Water Catalyst should be reserved for Mad Scientists only.) Weight: Just a drop of Catalyst can make 200 gallons of water flammable; a pint bottle could set a lake on fire. Price: 5000 per pint.

The Ether

Miniaturizer (37, 5): The Miniaturizer can reduce the size of any object by a factor of 2 for each level of Reliability. Thus, a Miniaturizer of Reliability 3 would reduce objects to one-eighth of their original size. The effect lasts 12 hours. While Miniaturized, individuals' Strength, Endurance, and Hit Points are reduced by the level of their Miniaturization (keeping all fractions). Weight: 1 ton. Price: 20,000.

Matter Interpenetrator (39, 4): The Matter Interpenetrator creates a field which polarizes the atoms of matter within it. Polarized atoms can pass through ordinary matter as easily as through air. The plane of polarization is important: matter polarized horizontally can move freely on the ground, but encounters normal resistance going up or down. Matter polarized vertically can sink down into the ground because the surface no longer supports it. Weight: 1 ton per 10 foot radius of the field. Price: 200 per ton.

Mind Transfer Device (41, 5): The Mind Transfer Device uses unknown principles of Etheric Science to transpose the electrical pattern of one brain inton another. It is a bulky mass of wires, coils and fuses, with a helmet for one subject to wear and a pair of parabolic beams to aim at the second person. A successful Gunnery skill roll is required if the target is not cooperating. It has a range of 10 yards. The machine's Reliability must be rolled each time it is used, with the following modifiers: Minds of opposite sexes, -1; different species of mammals, -2; different classes (reptiles, insects or Martians), -3. On a failed Reliability roll, make a second unmodified roll to see if anything happens to the subjects. If the second roll fails, then each subject loses 1D6 points of Intellect. Weight: 1 ton. Price: 12,000.

Teleportation Device (43, 5): The Teleportation Machine consists of two booths. Objects placed in one booth can be instantaneously transported to the other, no matter what distance separates them. The device's range is based on the Reliability, as given in the following table:

Reliability Range
1 150 yards
2 1 mile
3 100 miles
4 10,000 miles
5 1 million miles
6 100 million miles

To operate, the transmitting booth must be supplied with 1 power factor for each level of distance to the receiver. It can send 500 pounds of material. Weight: Each booth weighs 1000 pounds. Price: 10,000 per booth.

Superluminal Propellor (44, 5): The Superluminal Propellor is a type of Ether Propellor capable of driving an ether-flyer at speeds above that of light, making it possible to reach other stars. A Superluminal Propellor is similar in most respects to an ordinary Ether Propellor, with a Power Level equal to Reliability, and an Efficiency equal to 20+(3 x Reliability). The only difference is that the speed value (Power Level times Efficiency, divided by Lifted Mass) squared gives the speed in multiples of the speed of light. So if the vessel's speed value is 2, it can achieve 4 times the speed of light. Superluminal Propellors cannot work within 10 million miles of a planet. This means that a vessel must still have an ordinary Ether Propellor in addition to the Superluminal drive. Weight: 4 tons per power level. Price: 10,000 per power value.

Time Machine (44, 5): This device allows travel into the past and the future. Its range is equal to ten to the power of its Reliability, so one with Reliability 2 can go 100 years into the past or future, while one with Reliability 6 can go a million years. Multiple "hops" are possible, but the machine only has power for about 200 jumps. It is vaguely sleigh-shaped and can hold up to five people. Weight: 400 lbs. Price: 15,000.


Night Photographic Plates(27, 3): Night Photographic Plates are sensitive to infrared light, rather than visible light, allowing the operator to take photographs in darkness. Of course, the plates must be developed in a darkroom before the images can be seen. Weight: 8 plates weigh 1 pound. Price: Each plate costs 1.

Optic Fibers (30, 2): Optic Fibers are curious filaments which transmit light, thus allowing players to see around corners or down long shafts. Other useful applications of Optic Fibers are left to the players and Referees. Weight: Three feet of 1/4-inch Optic Fiber weighs 1 pound. Price: Optic Fibers cost 1 per pound.

Polarizing Ray (40, 4): The Polarizing Ray creates a field which polarizes light. This is fairly harmless by itself, but two intersecting Polarizing Ray beams can create a canopy of darkness, blotting out the Sun. The maximum width of a Polarizing Ray beam is equal to Reliability in miles, so a pair of Reliability 6 beams could cover an entire city in darkness. Weight: 1 ton each. Price: 4000 each.

Geology And Metallurgy

Refined Aluminum (10, 2): Aluminum is a very useful metal which is extremely difficult to extract from its ore. Recently scientists have learned to use electricity to refine aluminum, greatly reducing its cost. In game terms, the chief utility of refined aluminum is that the royalties on the process bring in 10 times the Reliability of the process every month.

Non-Adhesive Surface (24, 1): An amazing substance with the extremely useful property that nothing can stick to it. Possible applications include cookware, and vehicles for use in the muddy regions of Venus. Weight: negligible. Price: Covering an object with Non-Adhesive Surface adds 10 percent to the price of the item.

Monofilament (30, 2): Monofilament is an extremely thin cable with a variety of uses and some associated dangers. A single strand of Monofilament has a tensile strength of 100 pounds; additional fibers add their capacity. Because of its thinness, Monofilament can seriously injure persons handling it. A strand of Monofilament is a perfect blade, capable of cutting through almost any substance like a wire through cheese. Weight: 100 feet of Monofilament weighs half a pound. Price: 1 per foot.

Earthquake Predictor (36, 3): This extremely useful device detects the minute tremors which precede a major earthquake. It can predict a quake a number of days in advance equal to its Reliability. Weight: 100 lbs. Price: 200.

Volcanic Inducer (38, 4): Using carefully-timed harmonic impulses, the Volcanic Inducer can turn a dormant volcano active. Three Inducers are needed to set off a volcano, and the devices must be allowed to operate for at least a week before the eruption occurs. An Earthquake Predictor can detect a Volcanic Inducer in operation. Weight: 1000 lbs. per unit. Price: 100 per unit.


Rigid Airship (10, 2): Non-rigid airships cannot be larger than 20 tons total lift (Hull Size 2). However, rigid airships can be built up to Hull Size 10, or 100 tons. At present only the Zeppelin works in Germany has the technique perfected, but others are working to duplicate their research.

Aereon Flyer (17, 5): Invented by Dr. Solomon Andrews of New Jersey, the Aereon is a weird hybrid of glider and balloon which can fly without motors. Aereons are built like ordinary airships, except that the gasbag is confined within a framework that makes it into a gliding wing. The craft flies by dumping ballast, then shooting off on a flat trajectory as it rises. Once the Aereon reaches its maximum height, the pilot valves gas and the craft glides downward. This can be repeated as long as the ballast holds out. Speed (in Sky Galleons movement points) is equal to Reliability.

Giant Airship (20, 3): Giant Airships are rigid craft with a volume of up to 6 million cubic feet. They can have Hull Size 20, and mass up to 200 tons. At present nobody can build Giant Airships.

Ornithopter (27, 5): An Ornithopter is a flying machine that mimics the flight of birds. An Ornithopter is thus capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and can fly at a speed of 40 miles per hour plus 10 times the Reliability of the device. Ornithopters can carry a pilot and either one passenger or 200 pounds of cargo. Weight: 1000 pounds. Price: 100. Fuel: 20 pounds of gasoline per hour; normal fuel capacity is 100 pounds.

Super Airship (30, 4): The biggest airships possible, up to 10 million cubic feet of gas volume, Super Airships can have Hull Sizes up to 30, and mass up to 300 tons. (This is about the size of the Hindenburg from our history.)

Rocket Pack (42, 5): The dream of individual flight is realized with the personal Rocket Pack. Using compact but powerful rocket motors, a Rocket Pack allows the wearer to fly at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. The fuel supply lasts 10 minutes times the Reliability, and a Rocket Pack wearer should be very careful not to run out of fuel high in the air. Weight: 40 lbs. Price: 500.

Precision Machinery

Grapple-Gun (2, 1): This useful invention fires a streamlined grappling-hook trailing a thin but strong metal cable 100 yards long, capable of supporting 300 lbs. Range is 1 yard times Reliability straight up, or 10 yards times Reliability fired horizontally. A hit from a Grapple-gun does 1 point of damage. Weight: 6 lbs. Price: 5.

Repeating Firearm (11, 2): So-called "automatic" guns use the mechanical energy released by firing a shot to eject the spent cartridge, chamber a new round and cock the hammer. The gun can fire a number of shots per round equal to its Reliability; the maximum number of rounds in the magazine is generally 10. Each different type of repeating firearm is a separate invention; an inventor who has created an automatic pistol must go through the whole process again if he wants to make an automatic rifle. Price: 100 plus twice the cost of a comparable non-repeating weapon.

Kinetographic Camera (17,2): A fascinating device which records movement on long reels of celluloid film. When the films are developed and run at the proper speed, moving images can be seen. The device must be cranked by hand. Weight: 25 lbs. A reel of film weighs 2 pounds per 15 minutes of running time. Price: A camera costs 20, and film costs 5d. per minute of running time.

Mechanical Limb (20, 3): Using clockwork motors for power and extremely delicate rods and cables for control, a mechanical limb allows those who have lost an arm or leg to regain some ability. A Mechanical Hand has a Strength of 4 for gripping and crushing, but otherwise use the character's Strength for lifting and pulling. Agility is 1 for all tasks involving manual dexterity. Mechanical Legs can only be used for walking; running is impossible. Characters cannot have two mechanical legs. Weight: 3 lbs. for a mechanical hand, 10 lbs. for a mechanical arm, and 20 lbs. for a mechanical leg. Price: 20 for a hand, 25 for an arm, 20 for a leg.

Air-Gun (23, 3): A firearm similar to an ordinary rifle, which uses compressed air rather than powder to propel the bullets. This makes the Air-Gun utterly silent and smokeless. The disadvantage is that the weapon's air tank must be filled using a large compressor, making it unsuitable for field use. An Air-Gun has the firing characteristics of a Lever-Action Carbine in all respects. It can hold enough compressed air to fire a complete magazine of 6 shots. Weight: 10 lbs. Price: 150.


Flash-Bomb (10, -1): A simple grenade filled with flash powder, flash-bombs emit a dazzling flash of light and a cloud of dense smoke. Anyone who is not expecting the detonation is unable to see for a round afterwards. Weight: 1 lb. Price: 1 each.

Rocket Rifle (27,2): This weapon is particularly useful for low-gravity environments, where the recoil from an ordinary weapon would be troublesome. A Rocket Rifle fires small solid-fuel rockets, thus eliminating recoil and the need for a heavy barrel. Its rate of fire is 1, and it must be reloaded after every shot. It inflicts a wound of 1, and has no required Strength. The range is 100 yards. Weight: 5 lbs. Price: 3. The ammunition costs 10/- for each shot.

Incendiary Bullets (17, 2): These are bullets impregnated with phosphorus or some similar chemical, and are especially effective against highly inflammable targets (such as Zeppelins). Objects hit by Incendiary bullets have a chance of catching fire equal to the Reliability of the bullets. The effect on living targets is normal. Price: 1 per 50 rounds.

Fire Projector (26, 1): This terrifying weapon emits a blast of flaming liquid, setting targets aflame and searing exposed flesh. Range is equal to twice the Reliability in yards, and damage is 2 plus 1 point per round until the fire is extinguished. The Fire Projector is very fragile, a single hit from a bullet or melee weapon can rupture its tanks and hoses, setting the wearer on fire. Weight: 20 lbs. Price: 10.

Rocket Pack (40, 5): See the description under Flight.

Water Catalyst (42, 5): See the description under Biochemistry.

Posted Monday, 04-May-2009 19:54:21 EDT

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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. Deadlands, Weird West, The Great Rail Wars, the Deadlands Weird West logo, and the Weird West sub logo are Trademarks of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc. Copyright 1996-2000 Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Castle Falkenstein is a trademark of R. Talsorian Games, Inc. Copyright 1994. All rights reserved. Risus is a trademark of S. John Ross. Feng Shui is a trademark of Robin D. Laws. All rights reserved. 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.