Shifting Sands

Player Guide

Major Ideologies on Earth

European society is roiled by conflicting political ideologies in this period. Four major ideologies manifested themselves in different ways In different countries. These were powerful motivations for late 19th century Europeans, both personally and at the level of individual states. Every player character needs to have a strong connection to, or opinion about, one of these ideologies. Some ideologies are compatible with other ideologies, in which case a PC may have two. Players may also hold one or more secondary ideologies. So as players are developing their characters, they should work one of these belief systems into their character as something that motivates their character. 


Conservatives believed that states worked best with a strong monarch and a weak legislature. They favored the notion of a class hierarchy in which the higher classes received greater legal and political rights. They disliked the idea of a broad franchise. They championed the power of industrialists and the aristocracy, but some members of the Middle class also supported them. They also favored a state church and the principle of tradition. They opposed socialists, liberals, and often nationalists. Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia were conservative states.

Conservatives generally

  • Oppose to liberalism on most points
  • Encourage people to identify primarily as subjects of the monarch (rather than by class or nationality)
  • Favor a strong monarch with broad powers over weaker representative branch of government
  • Disagree with the principle of human equality and inherent rights; rights are inherited from ancestors or granted by the state
  • Comfortable with social hierarchy and inequality, because social divisions force compromise and slow the pace of change; change should only happen when there is a broad consensus to support it
  • Favor state church; religion forces people to think beyond the short term goal; atheism and spiritualism are threats to proper behavior
  • Feel that wealthy and upper classes deserve more legal rights and larger voice in government because they have more at risk
  • Favor religion and tradition over human reason as a guiding principle; artistic creativity is superior to reason as well
  • Favor semi-free market economics; the government has only limited right to intervene in the economy (government may pass occasional protective tariffs or grant monopolies, but should generally not regulate business)
  • Favor imperialism—colonies are good because they make us richer and we have an obligation to spread our religion
  • Oppose expansion of the franchise, because the lower class and women should not have a voice politically; those who have not inherited the franchise do not have a right to it
  • In Britain and Austria-Hungary, Conservatism opposes nationalism; neither is a single nation but many, so nationalism will pull Britain and Austria-Hungary apart. In Germany and Russia, Conservatism accepts nationalism because it strengthens the monarchy
  • Oppose socialism as threat to upper classes
  • Oppose public education as an unnecessary waste of money; those with wealth may educate their children if they wish it
  • Accept the superiority of human culture over non-humans



Liberals believed that humans were essentially equal in their political and legal rights, and that those rights were inherent, rather than granted by the state. They pressed for a broad franchise, a strong legislature, and a monarchy with defined and limited powers. They favored rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, and consequently were less comfortable with the idea of a state church. Liberals tended to be Middle class, although there were Upper class liberals. Liberals also generally embraced the value of education, science, and technology because they championed reason as a guiding principle. Liberals sharply opposed conservatives, but tended to find common cause with nationalists. They had an uncomfortable relationship with socialists. France, Belgium, and Italy were liberal states, although liberalism had considerable strength in Great Britain as well.

Liberals generally

  • Oppose conservativism on most points
  • Favor a strong representative branch over weak monarchy with specifically delineated powers
  • Believe in the principle of human equality and inherent rights
  • Were comfortable with some degree of social hierarchy
  • Oppose a state church because it limits freedom of religion
  • Favor free market Smithian economics, government has no right to intervene in the economy (government should not enact regulations on business or interfere in the relationship between employer and employee); humans make rational economic decisions and therefore the market works best when everyone is free to make choices in their own best interest; if this is allowed, the Invisible Hand of the Marketplace will maximize economic conditions for everyone
  • Favor reason, free speech and a free market of ideas
  • Celebrate scientific progress and great discoveries; spiritualism is nonsense
  • Want to expand the franchise, but sometimes disagree about who should get the franchise (the lower classes? Women?)
  • Generally favors imperialism—colonies are good because they make us richer and we have an obligation to elevate those uncivilized natives
  • Compatible with nationalism because both favor a wide franchise and freedom of speech and press, but for different reasons. However, British and Austrian liberals tend to dislike nationalism because it threatens to break up Great Britain and Austria-Hungary
  • Support public education because of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion require education to appreciate
  • Support the superiority of human culture over non-humans, although some extend the concept of equality to Martians



Nationalists maintained that people draw their primary identity from their nation, which was broadly conceived of as a group of people with a common ancestry, language, religion, and cultural practices (such as clothing and musical styles, cooking, and so on); 19th century nations are close to what modern Americans think of as ethnic groups, not a synonym for 'country'. Nationalists were adamant that their nation was culturally and morally superior to all other nations, and tended to see all nations in competition. Consequently, nations wanted to champion the great achievements of their nation in science, culture, warfare, archaeology, and so on. Politically, nationalists wanted their nation to possess its own nation-state, a political state whose geographic boundaries were roughly co-terminous with the geographic distribution of their nation. In other words, French nationalists wanted the state of France to include all parts of Europe that were dominated by French culture and language. Italy, Russia, and to a lesser extent France and Germany were all nation-states. Great Britain and Austria Hungary, being multi-national states, were vehemently opposed to nationalism, which threatened to dismember their empires. The Fenians were a Irish nationalist movement seeking national independence from Great Britain.

Nationalists generally

  • Oppose socialism; personal identity is drawn from nation, not class
  • Believe that people derive their primary identity from their nation
  • Believe that a nation (in the 19th century sense) is a collection of people who share a common ancestry, religion, language, and cultural values (styles of music, cooking, clothing, art, etc); do not confuse this with the idea of a 'country'
  • Believe that people of the same nationality have more in common with each other, regardless of class, than they have with people of other nationalities; for example, a rich German and a poor German have more in common with each other than either of them has with any French person
  • Believe that their own nation is morally and culturally superior to other nations; each nation has an undefinable 'national spirit' that makes them strong
  • Believes that each nation should seek a nation-state—a political state that includes all of its nation (all Germans should be part of Germany, for example)
  • Want national unification and national self-determination (independence from outside control)
  • Favor imperialism—colonies are good because they strengthen our nation
  • Favor expansion of the franchise, freedom of speech and freedom of the press because these help facilitate national unification and national self-determination
  • Favors a state church because it promotes national identity
  • Found nationalism compatible with conservatism except in Great Britain and Austria-Hungary
  • Found nationalism compatible with Liberalism
  • Support public education because it can be used to train children to embrace national identity—adopting a common language and patriotism, for example
  • Accept the superiority of human culture (especially their own nation) over non-human cultures



Socialists maintained that people draw their primary identities from their socio-economic class. They insisted that Working class Germans and French had more in common with each other than either of them did with the Middle and Upper classes of their own nations. Socialists did not have a common overarching ideology, but tended to hold to a few key principles, including the idea that governments had an obligation to improve the lives of workers through things like welfare projects, minimum wage laws, and workplace safety regulations. Socialists and nationalists were opposed to each other, because they had fundamentally different notions of what a person's primary identity was derived from. Many socialists believed that technology would solve many of the problems of the poor, and therefore embraced scientific knowledge and discovery. In 1871, the Franco-Prussian War resulted in the Socialists getting an upper hand in France, which became an official socialist state. Great Britain, whose political position was based to a considerable extent on the strength of its industry, was anti-socialist.

Socialists generally

  • Opposed to nationalism
  • Believe that people derive their primary identity from their social class, rather than national identity or loyalty to a monarch
  • Feel all lower class people have more in common with other lower class people than with middle and upper class people of their own nation
  • Believe that the state has an obligation to intervene in the economy and society to improve the lives of the lower class; this may involve unemployment insurance, public health insurance, minimum wage laws, public education for the poor, and so on
  • Believe in communalism—people coming together in large groups to benefit the group as a whole; labor unions, mutual aid societies, and societies to help the poor are all examples of this
  • Oppose imperialism as exploitative to lower classes
  • Favor expansion of the franchise, freedom of speech, freedom of the press because they empower the lower classes; in that sense socialism is compatible with liberalism
  • Favor rationalism and science as things that will benefit the poor; spiritualism is nonsense
  • Oppose a state church (except for Christian Socialists); Marxists feel that religion is a drug used by the upper class to manipulate the poor
  • Oppose conservatism because it privileges the upper class
  • Oppose free market Smithian economics as exploitative to lower classes; rather than the government staying out of the economy, the government ought to intervene in the economy by doing things like setting minimum wage laws, legalizing trade unions, and regulating working conditions; in that sense socialism is opposed to liberalism
  • Support public education because it improves the lives of the poor
  • Some socialists embrace full-out Marxism (the state should own all the means of industrial production and manage it on behalf of the workers)


Secondary Ideologies


At the height of its power the British Empire controlled one-quarter of the world’s population. Its scope was such that it was described as ‘the empire on which the sun never sets’. Those who were (white male) members of this empire could freely work and live in most of its colonies. Similarly, France has occupied significant parts of West Africa, Belgium has taken control of the Congo in Central Africa, and Germany is seeking colonial holdings in Africa as well. That these countries are empires is central and natural for most men and women of those countries, but there are those who believe that the colonies are a waste of energy, lives and resources - and possibly also morally wrong.

Colonialists generally

  • Believe that empires are a benefit to their home countries economically, culturally, militarily, and politically
  • Believe that the country with the largest colony will inevitably be the most powerful country; therefore the acquisition of colonies ought to be one of the country's highest priorities
  • Insist that their culture is superior to the 'uncivilized' peoples of Africa, Asia, and South America; many colonialists feel that it is their moral duty to help civilize colonized people or to Christianize them
  • Feel that Terran culture is superior to Martian or Venusian culture
  • Insist that their country's colonies are worth fighting for



18th century Europeans generally believed that men were inherently civilized and women were more animalistic; therefore men needed to control women and civilize them by restraining them. But French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau argued that this was backward; men were more like wild animals and women were inherently more civilized because they were more emotional and delicate; as he saw it, women helped men learn to control themselves, which enabled men to participate in civil society and democracy. As this idea spread through European society, most people embraced the idea that women are worthy of respect and are the "fairer sex"; because of this, women ought to be given a great deal of responsibility within the home.

However, as an alternative view, Feminism emerged around the period of the American and French Revolutions, and over the course of the 19th century, slowly growing numbers of women and men began to embrace the movement. They argued that women should not be put on a pedestal but rather be allowed to engage in many or even most of the things men are permitted to do. In 1872, Queen Victoria suddenly encouraged the British Parliament to legislate equality of men and women, which Parliament promptly did. Consequently, Great Britain is a formally feminist state. Outside of Great Britain, however, many considered feminists disreputable.

Feminists generally

  • Believe that women ought to have the same basic legal rights as men, including the right to own property, to divorce a husband, and to work and run businesses
  • Agree that women should have access to higher education and vocational training, although some feminists extend this to training in mechanical skills and labor while others do not
  • Debate whether men and women are fully equal, or equal but different; the latter believe that women have a unique function as nurturers and moral guides and that allowing women to pursue all the same opportunities as men will dilute their unique function to the detriment of society
  • Debate whether women ought to have the franchise and the right to participate in government
  • Feel that feminism should be restricted by matters of morality and proper decorum; a feminist woman should still behave like a lady
  • Accept that women have a natural duty to tend children and are better at this then men are



Christianity is the main religion of Western society. All European states other than France have a State Church, although different states follow different denominations. Belgium, Italy, and Austria-Hungary have a Catholic State Church. Russia's State Church is Eastern Orthodoxy. Britain's state Church is Protestant (called the Church o England). Germany has two State Churches, one Catholic and one Protestant; all Germans register with one or the other. Most people are at least passive members of their State Church, although many people follow minority branches of Christianity (such as Catholicism in England) and small numbers embrace atheism or agnosticism. Church activities are also highly intertwined with social life, and while some may harbor doubts in private (or among friends), it is still considered highly irregular not to go to church on at least a semi-regular basis. Not attending church weddings or burials is more or less unheard of, even among atheists.

However, the discovery of sentient life on Mars and Venus challenges traditional Christian thought. Do Martians and Venusians have souls, or are they highly developed animals? Do Martians and Venusians need to hear the Christian Gospel to be saved, or has God the Father provided them with their own pathway to eternal salvation?

Christians generally

  • Believe that Christianity is superior to all other religions, both Terran and off-world. Most Christians believe that their particular branch of Christianity is superior to all other branches. Protestants generally see Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy to be 'superstitious'.
  • Believe that Christians have a moral duty to help the poor and needy; many Christians distinguish between the deserving (hard-working, morally conservative) poor and the undeserving (lazy, immoral poor), and feel that only the deserving poor should receive assistance
  •  Believe that a State Church supported by taxes is socially acceptable
  • Debate whether the Bible is to be understood literally or metaphorically. The discovery of sentient life on Mars and Venus has strengthen the argument that the Genesis Creation narrative is allegorical rather than factual.
  • Believe that monogamous marriage is the only acceptable context for sexual activity. All other expressions of sexual desire are immoral and socially unacceptable, and should probably be illegal
  • Consider atheism to be scandalous and immoral



Spiritualism is a small but growing movement in many parts of Europe and the United States. Broadly speaking, spiritualists believe that communication with the dead is possible through those who have mediumistic talents. The large-scale death during the American Civil War and the Crimean War led many people to seek contact with the souls of dead loved ones. Spiritualism also offers an attractive alternative to the rapidly spreading scientific worldview that is threatening belief in an afterlife. The existence of ghosts and the ability to contact the beyond brings great comfort to many.

Spiritualists generally

  • Believe that humans (and perhaps other sentient beings) have a soul that survives after death and that can be communicated with in some manner; ghosts are understood to be the souls of the dead who remain on earth because of 'unfinished business' or because they are confused about being dead
  • Are uncertain how spiritualism relates to traditional Christian belief in salvation and damnation; most wish to believe in a positive afterlife; some believe in malevolent beings such as 'demons', who are capable of possessing humans or otherwise engaging in malicious behavior, while others believe that apparently evil spirits are simply confused or misunderstood
  • Have an interest in seances, mediums, talking boards (ouija boards), automatic writing, and other tools for communication with the dead
  • Debate whether the existence of the dead can be scientifically proven or not; those who believe the soul has measurable existence tend to speak of it as 'ectoplasm' or 'ectenic force'
  • Feel that human reason has limits


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