There are three main racial grouping amongst the martian peoples.

High Martians

High Martian

It is believe that the Hig Martians are the bestial rootstock, from which the Hill and Canal Martians descended, the High Martians are savage and primitive by comparison and rre the terror of Canal Martians, Hill Martians, and humans alike.

In their physical appearance as in their behavior, High Martians are quite repulsive. They are short, standing about six feet tall, compared to the other Martians, and have a stooped, apelike posture. Their coloration is much darker than the other two Martian races. Like other Martians, hands and feet both are comprised of three digits and an opposable thumb and each can be used to grasp and manipulate tools or weapons.

Several High Martian family groups form a clan, under a single sky leader. A number of clans will band togæther under a king. The monarchy is usually hereditary in the more "advanced" tribes, but the most primitive High Martians are ruled by whoever can best all comers in single combat. The advanced tribes (such as those in the Astusapes Highlands) use lowland slaves to tend their liftwood groves (which, with brigandage, are their main source of income).

Of the three types of Martian, High Martians are least affected by civilization; they live in remote kraags and mountaintops, venturing out from time to time to capture slaves or to loot passing caravans. High Martians are like intelligent apes when compared to the Canal Martians, but with a difference: they can fly. High Martians (so called for their "altitude" rather than their accomplishments) never lost their lifting gland or its abiltity to carry them through the skies of Mars. Their behavior is bestial and barbaric in the extreme.

Although they can work in wood when they need to, the High Martians prefer to buy their ships from the Canal Martians, paying in liftwood. Their ships are exclusively screw galleys, and their turncranks are exclusively slaves, captured form caravans or from nomadic Hill Martian clans. Humans are often put to the crank when they cannot be ransomed.

High Martian dress consists of a loincloth. Warriors wear a leather harness to carry their equipment and often wear items taken forcibly from their enemies as records of the combats. Bracelets, anklets, rings and necklaces of crudely beaten gold set with gemstones, silk ribbons, animal bones, teeth and hair, spent brass cartridge cases, scissors and other booty have all been seen as decoration.

High Martians have retained a special gland within their bodies that process the same anti-gravity chemicals seen in the Liftwood that grows within their domains. This gland, coupled with the skin-flaps beneath their arms, allows the High Martian the ability of unassisted flight.

Illustration and text (adapted) from the Space: 1889 rule book.

Hill Martians

Hill Martians

Nomadic by nature and less civilized than the Canal Martians (but more civilized than the High Martians), Hill Martians prefer the simple life of roaming the vast Martian deserts. Traders in spice, hand-made goods and livestock, the Hill Martians’ culture resembles the American Indians of the early 19th century. Averaging six feet tall with dark complexions, they possess the characteristic three fingers and toes of the Martian races. While evolution has removed the special Lifting gland that High Martians possess, it is not uncommon for a Hill Martian to be born with vestigial webbing beneath their armpits (which, incidentally, is seen as a bad omen unless the child also possesses black hair).

Illustration and text (adapted) from the Space: 1889 rule book.

Canal Martians

Canal Martians

The Canal Martians are the most advanced of the three Martian races, but their culture, though responsible for Mars' highest cultural and scientific achievements, has been in decline for millenia.

The Canal Martians general appearance is similar to that of humans, but they average a foot taller and are quite slender. They have fine hair and pale ocher skin, and some humans feel their large, pointed ears give them a faint resemblance to the elves of human myth. Their hands are similar to a humans except for having only three fingers. They have three-toed feet that bear a vestigal thumb located on what would be called the heel on a human foot. The High Martians still have this thumb and grasp a weapon with their feet nearly as well as with their hands. Humans and Martians can eat the same sort of fare, although Martian cuisine is too spicy for most human palates, and Martians find most human dishes unpalatably bland. Canal Martian dress is too varied to be easily described, but it strikes many observers as reminiscent of the garb of the ancient Egyptians.

The Canal Martians have been civilized for at least 35,000 years and are still consumate farmers, accomplished builders and skilled artisans. But they are obviously a culture in decline, as demonstrated by their inability to maintain the ancient technology of their forebears such as the canal pumping stations. The culture of the Canal Martians is stagnant and unchanging, their arts have become incomprehensibly baroque and degenerate, and their science is without the innovative spark that characterizes human intellectual activity.

The details of government vary from city to city, but most are ruled by hereditary monarchs, called canal princes. Many cities have governing councils of nobles, also hereditary, in addition to the prince. Powerful mercantile families in the larger city-states are often at odds with the nobles. A complex bureaucracy handles the day to day government in the larger city-states. The civil servants are either appointed by the prince or win their positions through competitive tests, as in ancient China. In all cases, the higher levels of government are unalterably corrupt and it is nearly impossible to do anything without multiple payments to officials, inspectors, and bureaucrats.

While they are the most developed of the Martian races, they have lost so much that they are still beneath human civilization in most ways. They fancy themselves still as the Martian elite, and look at the other two races as primitive second-class citizens in a world ruled by them. Physically they stand six feet tall and possess the characteristic three fingers and toes of the Martian races. Evolution has removed the special Lifting gland that the High Martians possess and it is virtually unheard of for a Canal Martian to be born with vestigial webbing.

Illustration and text (adapted) from the Space: 1889 rule book.


Science-Fiction Role Playing in a More Civilized Time.

Space: 1889 is Frank Chadwick's registered trademark for his game of Victorian Era Space-faring.