Friday, July 25, 2014

Meeting Over the Column

November, 1889

A squadron of Oenotrian screw galleys was dispatched to raid a convoy of merchant cloudships supplying the Western Column of the British Martian Army. The convoy's British steam-powered escort was known to have retired to Avenel for coaling. The warships were spotted and identified by scouts on the ground while still 30 miles south west of the column. A call for help was heliographed back along the British line of march. The convoy was warned and began to make its way heavily back to the North as the Oenotrians churned on to the kill.

SS High Rhodes

The High Rhodes is a small privateer operating on Mars, which was one of the centers of Space Vermin's Space: 1889 campaign. The hull of the ship is a highly modified Swiftwood class Oenotrian kite (she was repaired and auctioned as a prize vessel). The kite was selected because:
  • they are, generally, faster than a crank vessel if one needs to run away.
  • it is much cheaper to operate and requires a smaller maneuver crew (even if one buys marshie slaves as crankers, you still need to feed them, wot?) - additionally, slaves won't fight for you, and freemen need to be paid...
  • steam vessels are quite rare on Mars, since the boilers and engines must be shipped from Earth, which makes them triply expensive outside governmental circles.
  • there is no need to waste cargo or supply space for coal.
This same rarity works against the availability of modern equipment and artillery available to British subjects (although American arms merchants make this less of a problem).
During the ship's outfitting, the captain was able to obtain a Letter of Marque, and used his contacts in the Royal Navy to obtain two 5-barrell Nordenfelts (replacing the sweepers) for the High Rhodes.
SS Rhodes chart
click image for a PDF of the chart

The nearest available help was a Royal Syrtan kite squadron and a British auxiliary (privateer). The Syrtan squadron flew south swift as the wind, arriving briefly before the Oenotrians could close with the convoy.

Oenotrian Squadron
3 Hullcutter screw-galleys
1 Clearsight screw-galley

Syrtan Squadron (British ally)
2 Whisperdeath kites
1 Bloodrunner kite
1 SS High Rhodes

Syrtan (British) Marines armed with rifles.
Oenotrian Marines armed with rifled muskets.
All crews are Trained.

Set up

Use either board, ignoring terrain. The encounter takes place over the flat desert west of the canal. Wind is from the north.

The Oenotrians enter from the southwest corner of the board. The Syrtans enter from the eastern half of the north edge of the board. The convoy is off the northeast edge of the board.

Option: For a smaller number of players, delete the Bloodrunner kite and the Clearsight galley.

Game Length

12 turns

Victory Conditions

Ships may exit off any edge, but once exited, they may not return to the battle. Oenotrians exiting to the northeast are attacking the convoy.

  • 10 points for every Whisperdeath kite destroyed.
  • 20 points for every Whisperdeath kite captured.
  • 10 points for every Hullcutter exited within 3 hexes of the northeast corner able to reach medium altitude (these can raid the supply convoy).
Syrtans (British):
  • 10 points for every Hullcutter destroyed.
  • 15 points for every Hullcutter captured.
  • 5 points for every Hullcutter exited south or west edges of the board.
Total the Victory points. High score wins.

Notes on the Royal Syrtan Navy

When the British Government established a Regency over Syrtis Major and its possessions in 1882, it needed an aerial navy. While it eventually began to build its own units, and in 1889 has few enough of those, it needed to start somewhere and even today needs units to fill gaps in its patrol areas. The navies of Syrtis Major and its allied cities were added into a combined service, the Royal Syrtan Navy. They fly a Syrtan pennant, with a quadrant showing the banner for the city the vessel originated in and a quadrant showing a Martian version of the Union Jack.
S.S. Rhodes
The Swiftwood-class kite S.S. Rhodes

The native vessels are under native commanders with native crews, though usually an English officer serves as mate or observer. The native vessels are slowly being replaced by British steel vessels, but the replacement process is slow - and the British cannot quickly replace the native Martian's expertise and knowledge of the local areas.

The continued native service provides natives with an honorable way to end their service to the Syrtan native crown, and eases tensions about British dominance, providing a point of pride for the native population. Compared to British aerial vessels, the Syrtan Navy is poorly funded and given few modern weapons, but its requirements are lower and additional funding is provided by the city governments as a point of pride and through merchants, usually as mild baksheesh.

Scenario and ship stats courtesy of Mitchell K. Schwartz ©1996

A View From the Bridge

First things first...I imagine that your initial question will be "what is this web site?"  That is a long story that starts back in 1995, when I found myself in a class where we were being taught HTML coding.  I distinctly remember the instructor telling us to pick a subject, for our first design project, that was interesting to us -- because we were going to be spending a lot of time working on the site, and she felt if we created a site we were interested in, we were more likely to follow through and "finish" it up.
I was actually taking this class for work and came up with several ideas about work related pages, but in the end I decided to focus on one of my favourite games, Sky Galleons of Mars.  The instructor was right about one thing, the subject kept me interested.  But she was wrong about finishing up the website -- websites are never really finished (even static content websites can always have more content added).
For about 6 years, I merrily went along adding to the website, branched out into a couple of different games/subjects, but like many people real life had a way of rearing its head and messing with my well laid plans. A child was born, a dog joined the family, a river flood destroyed computers, books, files and basements. Another child joined the family, several work related moves, and a separation/divorce followed.  So from 2001-2006 the web site slowly faded into obscurity. When Apple, Inc. pulled the plug on its web page hosting, the site was lost, but not entirely.  There were back-ups (on various old machines and disks).  Then there is/was the Internet Archive's "Wayback" Machine with archived copies of the pages.  And there was always my love (and desire) to "finish" what I started.
I planned a new website, did layout work began creating CSS code for a more modern website design. But somehow real life always intervened and the project got side tracked. Then, over the past year or two, the original Victorian Science Fiction game to which Sky Galleons of Mars belonged, Space: 1889, started to make a comeback.  A new German version led to a successful Kickstarter campaign for a new English version. The game's author, Frank Chadwick, published his own Space: 1889 novel, The Forever Engine, which followed a series of Space: 1889 e-novels from Untreed Reads Publishing.  Life it seems, began to return to the Space: 1889 world.
Then, a few weeks ago, I was cleaning the garage and stumbled upon some of my old GameTech and Houston's Ship models, and I thought again about redesigning the website.  But I still didn't have much time between real life responsibilities to give the website the complete makeover I had planned. I was just about to tuck away the ships when it struck me, why not recreate the website as a blog! If I could find a good template (I hope you like the one I found: "old paper") to use, recoding the old pages to be used as blog posts was certainly a lot less time consuming than building a new site...
So here we are, my plans aren't too ambitious right now (just in case real life intervenes again)...
  1. Re-code the 60 or so pages from the original website into the new blog format.
  2. Customize the CSS for the blog template to make it work as expected.
  3. Find (or write), and publish, some new VSF content (e.g., for Wessex Games' Land Ironclads or Oozlum Games' Martian Empires).
  4. Complete 1-3 by Christmas 2014.
After that I have many ideas, but having bitten off more than I can chew in the past, I think the above list is good for a start!
For anyone reading this far, I would like to invite you to join me in this little endeavor. I'd love to read and see your comments on thees posts, as well as feature your Sky Galleons of Mars belonged, Space: 1889 writing, art, etc... on the blog itself.  Please drop me a note and let me know what you are thinking about.  In the meantime, happy gaming!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ætheric Signalling

COLONEL HOZIER gave a lecture to the officers of the Woolwich garrison at the Royal Artillery Institution, Woolwich, last week, 'upon a subject which may be of very great importance to the Naval and Military services. The subject was the science of communication over considerable distances without the intervention of telegraph wires or cables.
The desire to communicate ideas to a distance has been prevalent probably since history began. In the times of the Napoleonic wars long lines of semaphores were erected between the naval ports and London to keep up communication between the fleets and the Admiralty. Signalling by flags was in vogue long before Nelson flew his famous signal at Trafalgar. Early in this century the commercial code of flag signalling was adopted for the mercantile marine, and more lately a system of signalling, technically known as "flag-wagging," is constantly utilized in all manœuvres. Towards the middle of the century the electric telegraph was developed, and now by means of a conducting wire millions of messages are flashed every day between different continents and under various oceans. In various cases it is impossible or inconvenient to use a conducting wire for this purpose. For instance, if an island be separated from the mainland by a rocky channel where a tide runs strong, it is impossible to maintain a telegraph cable, and in other cases the cost of laying a cable could not be compensated for by the amount of traffic which would be secured, and this would prevent the postal authorities establishing telegraphic communication, especially in this country, where a careful Treasury watches so jealously over the public purse-strings. In such cases it must be of great importance to establish, if possible, communication of ideas between two distant points without the cost of laying a cable. This is still more the case with regard to communication between the shore and ships. A ship, which is moving, cannot possibly be connected by cable with the mainland, hence the only means by which communication of this sort beyond the range of vision can be maintained between a ship and the shore must be by some mode of wireless telegraphy or ætheric signalling. Nor is this the only advantage of ætheric signalling if it can be carried out. Experience has shown us that by means of ætheric signalling work can be done at a distance without any conducting medium for the transmission of energy. For instance, by means of ætheric signalling, it is possible, at a distance, without any actual contact, to fire mines, to ring bells, or to light an incandescent lamp.
It is hardly necessary to point out that if we have the power of doing work at a distance, say, of 20 or 30 miles, by means of ætheric signalling, this system must be of advantage in war. If an enemy were advancing to attack a position, it might be possible to blow up a bridge even when his troops are upon it, and thus considerably hamper his advance. In the same way it might be possible to much inconvenience the enemy by blowing up buildings in which his troops were billeted. It is possible that if his divisions arrived after dark in a village, there would not be very much care taken to search the church towers and see that there was no small piece of wire running down one of them. Yet the existence of that wire, properly arranged by the defending army before it marched out of the village, might cause considerable injury to the invader. Nor need we limit our benevolent intentions towards our enemy to land. At present torpedoes and submarine mines are fired by electricity, by means of conducting wires, but in some cases it might be difficult, if not impossible, to lay the necessary cables. In these cases it is possible that the mines might be exploded and the torpedoes fired by ætheric signalling. For instance, although a cable could not be laid, it might be possible by placing the necessary apparatus on a buoy anchored out at sea beforehand, to secure the firing of a mine or torpedo, as I shall endeavor to show by a miniature experiment.
Ætheric signalling also might be useful in communicating between advance posts at a considerable distance and the main body of an army, or between the main body and the advanced posts. By touching a button in the headquarter office a bell might be rung at the advanced posts, or the same energy which could be utilized to ring a bell might by proper manipulation be also utilized for printing a message, as we shall be able to show at the conclusion of the lecture, and indeed, in some cases, a gun might be placed in position, and when an enemy approached shrouded by rifle fire, it might be possible to fire the gun by ætheric signalling without exposing the gunners to infantry bullets.
ætheric signal engineers
Ætheric signalling and wireless telegraphy are much confounded in popular descriptions, but there is a considerable difference between them. There are two systems of wireless telegraphy, which have proved successful. The first of these is that which has been introduced by that great electrical authority, Sir William Preece. Sir William Preece, whose name is received with respect in every scientific meeting in the world, on account of original research which has made him famous, was for many years the head of the telegraph department of the Post Office, and now is the consulting electrical engineer to the Post Office. Hence, he is the greatest living authority on telegraphy. He has devised a system of wireless telephony. The principle of this system is, that suppose it were desired to effect communication without the medium of a conducting wire between the island the mainland, it would be achieved by stretching along the island and along the mainland two parallel telegraph wires, the ends of which would be sunk either in the sea or in the earth. It has been proved by Sir William Preece that if an electrical current be set up in one of these wires, a corresponding current is induced in the other wire, and that hence the signals transmitted through the first wire are repeated in the second wire. In this case it seems that the electrical effects are transmitted not only by induction between the two wires, but by conduction through the earth in which the terminal plates of the wires are embedded. This system has been established at the island of Flatholm, in the Bristol Channel, where Lloyds' signal station is now connected by wireless telephony with the mainland, over a distance of three miles by sea. Sir William Preece has also established his system at the Skerries Islands off the coast of Anglesea, where communication is effected over two miles of sea, and the Post Office is now establishing this system on behalf of Lloyds' to connect Lloyds' signal station at Rathlin Island, on the north coast of Ireland, with the mainland, over a distance of about seven miles. The experiments which have been made, as Sir William Preece states prove conclusively that communication, both telegraphic and telephonic, has been readily maintained by these means, and that wireless telegraphy across the sea by this method is now a practical and commercial system. He also believes that it would be simple to speak by telephone between ship and shore or between shore and ship at a considerable distance by means of a circuit formed of copper wire passing over the topmasts and terminating at each end of the ship in the sea, using simply telephones.
Another system of wireless telegraphy was proposed by Charles A. Stevenson, brother of the engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board of Scotland. This system, which has been subsequently developed by Professor Oliver Lodge and other engineers, owes its origin, like that of Sir William Preece, to a physical fact discovered by the celebrated philosopher Faraday. Faraday showed that the approach or recession of a current might induce a current in a closed circuit near it. This I will endeavor to show by the apparatus before me, which is a miniature of Mr. Stevenson's coil system. For the purpose of experiment a coil of insulated wire is connected to a battery of two or three cells, with a key to turn the current on or off. A second coil entirely unconnected with the first is joined by wires to a galvanometer. We know that a coil of wire in which a current is circulating acts like a magnet. We find that if, while the current is flowing in one coil, the coil is suddenly moved up towards the other, a momentary current will be induced in the second coil. If the first coil is suddenly moved away from the second another momentary current will be observed in the second circuit. In a similar way if a circuit be made or broken, it has the same effect as suddenly moving the coils. It is evident that if sufficient force can be exerted in the coil by these means to move a galvanometer, the same force can be utilized to move a telegraph needle or any desired means of communication, This system has, I believe, been used, the coils, of course, being much larger and the batteries much stronger, by Mr. Stevenson, in Scotland, and has been fairly successful, but when it was proposed to utilize this system in connecting a lighthouse on an island lying to the north of the Shetland Isles, it was considered that it would have been necessary to place on the lighthouse rock a coil of 40 ft. in diameter and on the shore of the mainland a coil of 200 ft. in diameter. The rock coil would have required about 120 ft. of wire, and the mainland coil about 630 ft. of wire.
The objections to wireless telegraphy appear to be that the length of wire required to transmit messages across a channel is large, and hence inconvenient, and not capable of being adopted where communication must be made from a small space, such as a rock lighthouse. The lecturer prefers to trust to the system of ætheric signalling so called, because the means by which the signals are transmitted depend upon the undulation of the waves of that ether, which we know, exists everywhere throughout the universe, and which is undoubtedly the means of propagation of light and radiant heat. The application of radiant heat to the transmission of signals is more interesting as a scientific experiment than capable of practical use. For practical, useful signalling, we must probably rely on ætheric signalling properly so called.
clockwork ætheric signalling devices
clockwork ætheric signalling devices
It is well known that if the positive and negative poles of a voltaic cell or a voltaic battery be connected by a conducting wire, an electric current flows from the positive to the negative pole. If the battery is strong enough, that current may be made to work–that is to say, it may move a motor, it may ring bells, light incandescent lamps, or be turned into any form of energy required. If the conducting wire be cut and the circuit thus opened, the electrical current immediately ceases to flow and the work that was being done instantly stops. It is perfectly easy for any person standing by a battery to connect by a conductor the two poles and cause the current to flow. The problem to be solved for ætheric signalling is how at a distance of some 10 or 20 or more miles to close the electric current of a battery at will and to open it at will so as to cause work or stoppage of work. This is done in all systems of ætheric signalling which employ the Hertzian waves by means of "a resonator" or what is called a "coherer." Resonators are better adapted for scientific investigations by savants in laboratories than for rough and practical work in the field.
The system of coherers was originally formulated by Branley, Professor of Physics at the Institute of Paris, in 1890, who first discovered that electrical sparks caused undulations in the luminiferous ether, which acted upon a coherer. Since that time the system originally formulated by Branley has been improved upon and amended by Popoff, Bose, D'Arco, Oliver Lodge, Maskelyne and other electricians. It remained for Marconi to draw public attention to the possible commercial value of this system, but there seems nothing in Marconi's patents, which is new except the patent of a special form of coherer, which he employs. A coherer consists essentially of metallic springs or metallic filings. Experience has taught us that when the waves in ether–the Hertzian waves as they are termed–propagated by electric sparks, properly manipulated, even from a considerable distance, impinge on these metallic springs or metallic filings, they cause the springs or filings to cohere, and thus form a conductor for the passage of the electric current. The best coherer as yet brought to public notice appears to be the coherer invented and patented by Mr. Maskelyne. A simple experiment shows that if a coherer be placed in the circuit of a voltaic battery, it does not matter at how great a distance off the Hertzian waves impinge upon it, the electrical current immediately flows and is available to do work such as ringing a bell.
It cannot be too carefully borne in mind that the Hertzian waves do not ring the bell, nor does the coherer do any work. The work done is by the electric current of the local battery at the distant station conducted through the coherer. All that the coherer does is to close the circuit of the local battery. All that the Hertzian waves do is to cohere the coherer, and thus to cause the electric current at the distant station to flow and to do work. It is evident that so long as the Hertzian waves impinge upon the coherer the coherer will be cohered, and the electric current will pass. The next point, therefore, that is necessary to establish, is how to stop the circuit when we do not want the current to pass, or when we want work to be suspended.
Experience has shown that if a coherer is sharply tapped or shaken, the metallic particles fall asunder. There is after shaking, no longer a conduction of electricity through the coherer the electric current of the local battery consequently ceases, and work stops. One of the problems, therefore, of ætheric signalling is to devise a means by which the coherer can be decohered automatically after the receipt of an impulse. This is done by various methods in various systems; Marconi employs a tapper, Ducretet also employs a tapper, and most other systems do the same. In the receiver invented by Mr. Maskelyne, the coherer is not decohered by a tapper but by an armature.
To carry out this decoberence various subsidiary arrangements have to be introduced at the receiving station in the coherer circuit. It is hardly necessary to complicate a simple discussion of broad principles by details of subsidiary machinery, which at the best must be somewhat involved. Much of the success of Mr. Maskelyne's invention depends upon the perfection of the certainty and simplicity of the decohering device. The Maskelyne coherer is so simple that ordinary signalmen can use it and send messages and signals by it. Its action, too, is so certain that for many months the same coherer can be used without the necessity of alteration or regulation. At present it is necessary to have a tolerably high mast in order to secure communication, but it is believed that before long it will be possible to considerably reduce the height of the mast. It is also believed that before long by means of metallic telescopes it will be possible to direct the Hertzian waves, so that they will only impinge upon the particular target to which it may be desired to direct them, and there can be no doubt that experiments will suggest various improvements which will allow for the betterment of the system.
A system of ætheric signalling, which has been tried between Sheerness and Shoeburyness, across the mouth of the Thames, with the Maskelyne coherer, is found to answer very satisfactorily across that distance, which is over five miles. It is probable that great improvements will shortly be made in this system, but in the meantime it is quite sufficiently developed for all practical purposes up to probably 30 miles, and it is not often that, so far as a ship signalling is concerned, a distance of more than 12 miles is required. In some instances the distance across channels over which communication is to be established between islands and the mainland is not nearly so much as 12 miles.
It is apparently established that if a coherer be placed in the circuit of a local battery and by any means that coherer can be made to cohere at will from a distance, so as to allow the electrical current to flow, and can be similarly decohered from a distance, so as to stop the electrical current flowing through the local battery, that local battery will practically do any work that is required. The next question is as to the means by which the coherer can be cohered. This is effected by means of what is called the "Hozier transmitter," which emits sparks across the spark gap between two points. It is well known that if a coil of wire be wound round a piece of iron and a finer coil of wire wound a again around the first coil, an induced current of electricity from the battery with which the coil is connected is sent through the secondary coil at a very high tension. This fact is made use of and the current from these batteries passed through this coil comes out of secondary coil at a high tension and emits sparks across the spark gap. These sparks have the property of causing undulations in the ether, and these undulations are waves which are very similar to the waves of light or of radiant heat. These Hertzian waves, propagated by the oscillating spark across the spark gap, can, like the waves of light when they strike upon a plane surface, be either absorbed, or reflected, or transmitted. If a piece of ebonite, which is an insulator, be placed between the waves and the coherer, the waves will pass through the insulator. If, on the other band, a conductor, such as a piece of copper, be placed in the way, the waves are stopped, and you will see that the coherer has no effect. Ordinary ironwork will act in the same manner. If anybody would wish to study these Hertzian waves (and they form an interesting subject of study) they should refer to the work of Professor Hertz, translated into English for those who do not read German by Professor Jones, with a very valuable preface by Lord Kelvin.
It is not unnatural that those who advocate ætheric signalling may be asked to what extent ætheric signalling will be of practical value. It seems that some damage has been done to ætheric signalling by the exaggerated claims that have been made for its utility. It appears that where it is impossible to make use of a conducting wire, such as a land wire or electric cable, this system of ætheric signalling may be of immense use; for instance, in bridging over those channels where a cable cannot be laid, in communicating between ships and shore, or between shore and ships, where it is impossible that a ship can be connected by cable, and in war where time will not allow a cable to be laid, or when circumstances intervene, such as the presence of an enemy, which prevent cable connection. But it seems that ætheric signalling at present can only be of great practical use where conductors of electricity cannot be utilized. Of course, we do not know what developments science may produce, but at present it is difficult to perceive how this system can be superior to the system of conductive telegraphy. The subject, however, is one of great interest, and no doubt capable of great developments; and it is one well worth the study of those who have an inclination to scientific research.
It is evident that for the purposes of Lloyds, and for the purposes of the mercantile marine, any system by which vessels that require assistance, or aid from the shore, may be able to communicate with the shore is most advantageous. It is evident that a vessel, being a moving body, cannot be connected by telegraph cable with the shore. Therefore, when she is beyond the range of vision so that flag signalling cannot be utilized, it is much to be desired that some system of communication between ship and shore should be established. Flag signalling is always precarious. Manifestly, it cannot be utilized at night. In thick weather, in snow, and sometimes in rain, the signals are obscured and cannot be distinguished. For this reason Col. Hozier and those who have worked with him have done their best to develop some practical system of ætheric signalling which may be the means of every year saving from the perils of the seas thousands of pounds' worth of property and hundreds of human lives
About the Author
Sir Henry Montague Hozier (1838-1907), was a British army officer and pioneer in military intelligence. Like his son-in-law, Winston S. Churchill, Hozier was also a military correspondent: he covered the Austrian-Prussian War for The Times and wrote the official history of the 1867-68 Abyssinian Expedition. Hozier left the army to become the Secretary of Lloyd's of London, in 1874 (a position he held until 1906). One of his most significant innovations was setting up wireless stations to monitor sea traffic, a system which in 1911 put Lloyd's in touch with First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill. Shipping information from Lloyd's network was routinely passed to the Admiralty, where it played a vital intelligence role during the First World War.

This article originally appeared in the March 1901 issue of the Journal of the Military Service Institution (vol. XXVIII, No. 110 pp. 256-264) as a reprint from the Army and Navy Gazette.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Fuelless Flyers

Could new technology make the steam engine obsolete? In a scenario to 'GDW's Space 1889' our reporter investigates some daring new concepts in flyer design.

ONE of the major limiting factors in flight is the need for such heavy equipment as a power plant and coal bunkers, sails, or galley cranksmen. The fact that such mechanisms might one-day be discarded has received remarkably little attention.

One of Lilienthal's 19th C. gliders.
While liftwood can be used to build so-called perpetual motion machines (such as the Great Wheel of Garyaan, described in Canal Priests of Mars), they obtain their power from gravity and the interaction of liftwood with the ether, and must be firmly anchored to the ground. They are not suitable for use in an aerial conveyance. It should be obvious, however, that flyers themselves take advantage of this 'free' power whenever they ascend.

Recent experiments with winged heavier-than-air gliders have established that it is possible to build a craft capable of attaining respectable speeds by trading height for velocity. It may even be possible to take advantage of 'thermals' and other upwards air currents, familiar to anyone who has ever traveled by flyer, to regain height. Naturally, such craft must eventually land, but some remarkable results have been achieved, most notably by the late Sir George Caley and more recently by the German engineer Otto Lilienthal.
Lilienthal Glider chart
click image for a PDF of the chart

Level: 10 knots*
Powerplant: Liftwood-assisted glider with man powered airscrew.
Crew: 2 (pilot and observer)
Armament: none
Armor: none
Cost: £350
*Add 10 knots if the occupants are pedaling.

Liftwood panels would allow gliders to maintain their speed while gaining height, and thus stay aloft indefinitely. Headway would only be lost if the craft attempted to maintain constant altitude, and it might be possible to use a foot-pedaled airscrew for this eventuality. Such a craft would look radically different from our current flyers, much more like the winged aircraft envisioned by Da Vinci. It has the potential to be as fast as any steam flyer in service today.

It would be wrong to suggest that there are no drawbacks to this idea. A craft that must constantly change altitude might induce nausea in its passengers. The degree of such sickness would, of course, relate to the frequency of such altitude changes; it has seldom been reported by users of conventional gliders, who rarely experience anything other than a slow descent, and occasional broken limbs. More seriously, constant altitude changes and the need for extensive streamlining would make gliders a poor mount for artillery and other weapons, and it might cause stresses, which would limit their cargo capacity.

Putting these facts together, the most likely use for such a craft would be as a courier or as a fast, maneuverable and almost completely silent scout, possibly launched from a larger vessel, capable of carrying a helmsman (who also operates the trim controls) and one or two observers. The amount of liftwood built into the craft could be remarkably small compared too that needed for a normal flyer; once it is moving at any speed, air flowing over the wings should provide considerable upthrust. In flight the liftwood would mainly provide the extra impetus need to gain height after each descent, a relatively small amount of the force. Since the liftwood would not be the sole support of the craft, trim errors would be considerably less important than in a conventional flyer, giving the helmsman ample time to compensate before they become critical.

In the long term, it is possible to envisage a hybrid craft combinine the best features of the liftwood flyer and the glider, capable of high speeds and perhaps carrying several tons of cargo. But perhaps such wild speculation is best left to the writers of scientific romances and their readers…

About the Author

Marcus Rowland is a London based laboratory technician and the author of Canal Priests of Mars and other material for Space 1889. He has also written numerous other adventures and articles, as well as the role-playing game Forgotten Futures, a series on disk that is distributed as computer shareware.

by Marcus L. Rowland, ©1990. Fuelless Flyers originally appeared in a British game shop newsletter. It is used here with the permission of the author.

Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896)

Otto Lilienthal stamp
To invent an airplane is nothing. To build one is something. But to fly is everything. ~Otto Lilienthal
The noted aviation historian, Sir Charles Gibbs-Smith, divided flyer inventors into two categories. The first he termed "Chauffeurs of the Air," because "they act as though flying is like driving a carriage." Maxim is perhaps the best example of this large category. In contrast, Gibbs-Smith said that "Airmen" are those who understand that the fluid medium of air makes flight a quite different proposition than land/water-based maneuvering.
Gibbs-Smith continued, that the chauffeur-type tends to be concerned with obtaining sufficient propulsion, without worrying overmuch about factors like lift or control. While the airmen often work on gliders before tackling the problem of powered, dynamic-lift flight. Of all of the aviation pioneers who fall into Gibbs-Smith's prototypical "Airman" category, the German, Otto Lilienthal, best exemplifies those characteristics.
Before 1881, attempts to develop dynamic-lift flyers were occasional and sporadic. Lilienthal changed all that. His efforts broke the 'respectability barrier' that haunted serious efforts to develop dynamic-lift flyers. During the late 1880s, Lilienthal developed eighteen different models of gliders. His efforts received worldwide publicity, and his successes lent others the courage to follow in his footsteps.
Perhaps, Lilienthal's most influential work is his paper Practical Experiments for the Development of Human Flight. This seminal work continued to influence dynamic-lift research for years. Before Lilienthal, building a heavier-than-air, dynamic-lift craft was widely considered to be the province of dreamers and fools; after it seemed possible to fly without the aid of liftwood or hydrogen.
Scientist/Inventor (Green NPC)
Fisticuffs: 1, Throwing: 1
Stealth: 2, Mechanics: 2 (machinist)
Wilderness Travel: 1
Observation: 6, Science: 5 (physics), Engineering 3 (naval engineering)
Eloquence: 3
Riding: 3 (horse), Linguistics 2 (English), Piloting: 2 (aerial flyers)
Motives: Driven, Knowledge, Loyal
Apperance: Lilienthal is a distinguished man, slightly above average in both build and looks. He is well spoken and is able to persuade people to his point of view due in large part to his intelligence and command of the subject matter. His primary language is German, but he speaks English as well. His passion is aeronautics and in particular that dynamic-lift flight models are superior to static-lift (hydrogen and liftwood) models. His research has been focused on replicating flight models based on the study of bird flight.

Monday, July 14, 2014

USS Eagle, Revised

USS Eagle on patrol over the coast.
The aerial rocket sloop USS Eagle is an unusual class of vessel, easily recognizable by its large outrigger-like racks of rocket batteries. Normally a small vessel of this type would be unable to accommodate more than a quarter of the rockets carried on the Eagle, but the ingenious design (and a 50% inflation of the vessel's basic cost) enables it to carry an intimidating ordinance load.

The principal disadvantage of the design is the likelihood that an explosion will set off a chain reaction of detonating rocket batteries.

Technical Specifications
Armor: 2
USS Eagle ship chart
click image for a PDF version
Hull: 4
Speed: 6
Engine: 6
Tonnage: 400
Cost: 67,410 pounds
Endurance: 10 days
2x 3lb (fore and aft)
2x 6lbHRC (front left and right)
4x 1" Gatlings 2 each side
2&#160 bomb racks with 1 reload each
12 downward firing hales batteries
4&#160 upward firing hales batteries
Captain, Helmsman, Trimsman, Signalman, Extra Officer
5 deckhands (1 is petty officer)
4 engineers
10 gunners
20 marines
Note: the above stats are reworked from the GDW original to correct any mistakes in the design rules and use up any spare space.

The Hale's Rocket Battery hit rules have also been re-written to actually increase the likelihood of the Eagle's experimental nature to cause a catastrophic break-up, and/or give it a chance to survive, during a pitched battle.

Determine any gun/mag hit location on the Eagle as follows:

Magazine Critical Hits:
Hit Location
Hit Location
1: port boom
2-5: hull
6: starboard boom
broadside 1-2: nearest boom
3-6: hull

If Eagle-class ship takes a magazine critical hit on a boom battery there is a 1-2 on 1d6 chance that an adjacent battery will go up:
  • Include diagonal batteries as adjacent.
  • All adjacent batteries that go up, will roll again for surviving batteries. 
  • Hull batteries and batteries on the opposite boom do not count as adjacent.
Roll for damage effects as normal i.e. roll 1d6 for number of hits and then resolve damage for each hit. Resolve damage as follows:
  • Hull hits caused by these magazine explosions ignore the armor.
  • Gun hits cause a hull hit instead.
  • Critical and crew hits are resolved normally.
After all damage is calculated if the hull damage is greater than 4 the boom is considered to have blown off. The effect of losing a boom is:

There is an immediate trim critical hit, resolved as one roll with a damage level equal to the number of batteries that fired off.

If the Eagle survives that the her speed is halved for the rest of the game, all future trim critical hits will be treated as double the damage and all remaining rocket batteries on the boom will be lost.

This revision of the Eagle's stats is courtesy of Thomas C. Harris, ©1994.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The "Hall" Type-Writer

Price £8 8s. - Weight, 8 lb. - Size, 14 by 7 by 2½ in.


The "Hall" Type-Writer


The "Times" referred to this Machine on March 11, 1881, as follows: "Messrs. Witherby may claim the credit of having introduced from America a NEW TYPE-WRITER, which is both cheap and portable... The principle of this beautiful little machine... It may be used in any position, on a desk or in a railway-carriage... A practiced hand can achieve from thirty to forty words a minute, which is a good deal more than most people can write...The plate is fitted with capitals and small letters, stops, numerals, &e."


WITHERBY and CO., High Holborn; and 74, Cornhill, London

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