Thursday, September 29, 2011

Another Model

On Monday I discussed what the Mongoose Traveller tells us about the "Imperium."  Today I will discuss another setting possibility hinted at in the core rules.  It advises using the bases present in a system to define the various polities and states that exist in your sector.  This method obviously requires the GM to be a bit more flexible with his or her setting design.  One doesn't know what it'll look like until everything is generated.

While some might dislike this method, I think it relies on one of Traveller's greatest strengths: random generation. I'm a firm believer in oracular dice, and I've commented before on the fact that Traveller takes full advantage of that aspect of RPGs.  In the case of Mongoose Traveller, not only are there systems for random encounters, patrons, and worlds, but even character generation is based on this concept.  You build the story of your character by seeing the events he or she goes through throughout their prior career(s), as determined by the dice.

Since this is one of my favorite things about Traveller, I'm very tempted to use it to define my Traveller setting. Still, I do have some reservations.  I have a few ideas for the alien and human states in Terran Space, and I would like those to be preserved in the final product.  I have not squared this yet with my philosophical preference for random generation, but I'll continue to think it over.

It may ultimately depend on the star map I use.  If I use the one that is more concentrated in the upper right, I'll stick to my original plans for the Terran Imperium and its neighbors.  If I go with the second one, which was generated a bit more randomly, I'll use the dice to tell me where the borders are.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dissecting the Imperium

I have decided to adopt the term "Imperium," from the official Traveller setting, for use in my Terran Space setting.  In this incarnation, it will be more specifically refereed to as the Terran Imperium, but will resemble its more official cousin in a number of ways.  As Rob Conley notes in his post about the Imperium, there are numerous ways one can interpret it.  In this post I will seek to find out what I can about the Imperium from the Mongoose Traveller core book and attempt to bring these aspects together into a cohesive whole.

The first thing one notices about Traveller's setting assumptions is that the setting possesses forms of nobility.  One's social standing stat decides whether or not one is a member of the noble or working classes.  The titles, which are ones one would normally associate with European forms of nobility, hint at a roughly feudal structure.  It could be that this future state merely adopted them due to some form of cultural memory.  For the time being, I will leave the question of feudalism up in the air.

Second, we see by that the Imperium has a standing military, due to the fact that a character can have served in it before mustering out.  Such institutions are usually signs of highly nationalized groups.  It is quite difficult to maintain a standing army without some sense of common identity.  One would not expect to see a standing military in the feudal system hinted at above, but the two can be brought together as discussed below.

Now for two more subtle clues.  We can see from the world generation system that worlds within the Imperium can have a number of different forms of government.  A participating democracy is just as likely to have a Consulate present as a religious dictatorship.  One can assume then that these polities enjoy a large degree of autonomy.  It is worth noting that some of these worlds might be independent, since the subsector generation rules suggest that multiple states can exist within a single subsector.  Still, I think it's fair to assume that the Imperium usually lets a system decide its own internal forms of government.

The other subtle clue comes, once again, from character creation.  It appears that the Imperium was recently at war.  Events for naval characters reveal that they could have participated in a major battle, and similar hints may be found in other careers.  For my purposes, this war was with an external alien empire whose exact nature is still being determined.  Such a threat would be enough to cause some fairly dramatic social change within the Imperium.

For the sake of argument, let us say that the Imperium was formerly a more or less feudal organization.  Power filtered down from Terra, but due to the problems of ruling an interstellar state without FTL communication the Emperor (or perhaps the Senate) delegated administrative duties among a class of people loyal to him (it).  These independent servants of the Imperium were more or less allowed to govern as they wished, assuming they provided monetary and military support when needed.  Such a system would overcome some of the difficulties created by the large amounts of space between star systems, but would be too decentralized to respond to major threats to Imperial safety.

A major war with an alien civilization could have forced the Imperium's hand.  The ineffectiveness of certain barons may have necessitated the creation of a standing military to better respond to the alien threat.  While benefiting the general welfare of the citizens of the Imperium, this change would have come at the cost of some of the autonomy of the nobility and/or the various planets.

One might think of the Imperium as a society in the midst of change.  Nobles still exist and exert an immense amount of control on the governmental system, even as the methods of organization and mustering that once made them a necessity are now becoming obsolete.  The underclass is increasingly becoming important since the nobility no longer monopolizes the use of force.  Also the stability created by a standing military and scout patrol increases the opportunities for interstellar trade, increasing the power of the mercantile class further.

I'm not entirely sold on this version yet, especially in light of the core rulebooks suggestion to let the results of sector generation define the polities of the setting.  Still, I think this is a workable model and one I find extremely attractive.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Periphery

While Terran Space will act as the blanket term for my Traveller setting, most of the action will take place in a sector known as The Periphery.  This is a relative backward in the (Terran) Imperium that was fairly recently thrust into prominence during a war with an alien species.

I'll be providing more detail on it as I develop it.  Below are two very vague sector maps, only one of which I will use, for the Periphery:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

The first represents a sector on the edge of a rift, while the second is a bit more evenly spread out (if sparse). I'm not sure which one I will use yet, but there are advantages and disadvantages to both.

More later.

My Traveller Philosophy

I'm relatively new to Traveller, only having discovered it a few months ago.  As such, I don't really know that much about the Third Imperium other than that somebody made a cool map program for it.  I am somewhat dimly aware that it is fairly flexible, but I have also read that Traveller fans often get rapped up in the setting's minutiae.  Thus, I'll be ignoring the Third Imperium for the most part.

Instead I plan on looking at Traveller the same way I look at D&D.  It provides a number of tools and materials for me to build my own setting -- likely a sandbox -- using its assumptions.  The Terran Imperium will have scouts and marines and divide territory into subsectors, just like the Third Imperium.  To me, this is the equivalent of having magic users and beholders in a D&D game.  I do plan to change some things, it is my own setting after all, but the assumptions that undergird the two settings will be remarkably similar.

Ultimately Traveller is a system that I will use to run science fiction adventures of my design for my players.  Usually these adventures will include the usual set up, with players taking the roll of freebooters, smugglers, and other "honest" businessmen, in an empire too large to be authoritarian.  There may be some variance from that model, but I more or less view it the same way I do dungeon crawling in D&D.  It's part of the game, and if I wanted to do something else I'd pick a different game.

The ultimate advantage of Mongoose Traveller, aside from its truly kick ass character generation rules, is its flexibility in this regard.  The Imperium is only very lightly present in the core rulebook, and it clearly provides mechanisms for creating other milieus.  The aliens provided are only samples, and there are a plethora of suggested FTL travel options -- though I'll likely be sticking to jump travel for now.  Mongoose's version provides a framework that allows for a multitude of Science Fiction settings, as anyone can see by looking at the number of settings they offer themselves.  While I'll be sticking close to the assumptions of the Third Imperium, I do not feel bound by those assumptions in any way.

Welcome to Terran Space!

I've recently become smitten with Mongoose Publishing's version of Traveller.  I've decided to start this blog in order to catalog my thoughts on the system and the development of my personal setting.  I'm separating this blog from In Places Deep because its focus is more on OS D&D and like-minded fantasy systems.  This is more or less one side project in a sea of side projects, so do not expect it to be updated as regularly.

Terran Space is currently more of an ephemeral concept than a setting, but hopefully it'll become more develop as I move along.  I will be taking the setting assumptions present in the Traveller core book and using them to make my own space setting.  While some of the terminology will be similar to the Third Imperium, I don't really know a hell of a lot about that setting, so I won't be using it for any of my Traveller games.

I hope you enjoy Traveller: Terran Space!