Last week, I decided to create a sub-sector using just the original Traveller little black books from the original 1977 edition of the game.
Again, I want to link to this amazing series of blog posts by Christopher Kubasik where he examines how differently the game plays when one understands and embraces the intent of those original LBBs.
What I’m creating here is a small region of space with a bunch of planets, randomly generated by the tables in Book 3: Worlds and Adventures. My intent is provide a bunch of adventure ideas—not necessarily for each world, but certainly for each cluster of worlds in the sub-sector.
And when I’m done, I’m going to post it here as a download that people can use for their own games.
One of the big elements of my sector is that it won’t resemble that of the Third Imperium, the official setting of Traveller that was published a few years after the game first came out. Instead, I’m going to try to capture the feel of the literature that inspired Mark Miller to create the game in the first place.
It’s going to be pulp sci-fi all the way.
Last week, I generated the Universal World Profiles of all forty worlds in my region of space and I speculated on a couple of options for the first two worlds. This week, I’m going to outline the three major clusters of worlds in my sub-sector and the primary relationships among them.
One thing of note: I do not feel fully beholden to the random numbers that I used to generate the world statistics. If I have an idea that requires I adjust one (or more) numbers for a given world, then that’s what I am doing. In fact, Miller writes in the rulebook, “Finally, the referee should always feel free to impose worlds which have been deliberately (rather than randomly) generated.” The random numbers are to help break me out of my normal thought patterns and give me reasons to rationalize unusual combinations, but if something doesn’t work right, I reserve the right to alter it.
What’s “Back That Way?”
The expectation in the first edition of Traveller was that the PCs were not based in the middle of a well-settled and heavily-patrolled area of space. They were supposed to be on the frontier, out where they could actually make something of themselves. So what is “back that way?”
Rather than some kind of empire—that was already done in the published Traveller setting—I’m going to go in a bit of a different direction. So here are the key points of the setting from which the PCs originally came:
- Humans settled a large number of worlds, which then developed their own cultures and values.
- Eventually, explorers made contact with at least a dozen or more alien races. Most of the aliens were humanoid or similar, but there is some truly strange sentient alien life out there.
- Many of the human planets and a handful of alien planets formed a Federation of Worlds. However, membership was voluntary, and there were many worlds that did not choose to join.
- The Federation allowed individual worlds to maintain their own laws, customs, etc. However, they were expected to contribute funds into a space navy. Otherwise, it was primarily aimed at encouraging trade and peaceful exchange of ideas.
- The navy was more like a coast guard than a real navy, primarily engaged in fighting piracy and helping those ships that encountered difficulty.
- The region of space where the Federation is based is very well explored and heavily settled. There are not many opportunities for someone to make his/her own way—the best option in the Federation is to get a job working for someone else. People who end up becoming PCs find that region of space to be stifling and impossible to get ahead.
Those are all the details I need at this point. The focus isn’t on what the PCs have left behind, but where they are now. The key points above give me a rough sketch and that provides a basis for the PCs past, but I haven’t spent time on details that will never matter to them in the game.
The Planetary Clusters
Here are the three clusters of planets and their basic description. Feel free to refer to the map as you read the following.
Cluster #1: The Investment
This cluster of worlds sits near the bottom left of the star map. It starts with hex 0207 and includes all worlds within 1 hex of it.
Voluntara (hex 0207) is a corporate world, owned by the Stellar Systems Corporation (SSC). The settlement there was originally established due to the presence of various ores that could be mined. Since then, opportunities on the neighboring worlds provided justification to expand their presence, and even establish a naval base (which serves the SSC space navy only).
The SSC quickly discovered Zeno’s Paradox (hex 0108) and set up another mining operation there. The Scout Service had already established a base on the planet from which they occasionally launch expeditions into the unknown neighboring sub-sector. The SSC generally ignores the Scout Service base.
Encransia (hex 0109) was originally settled by a group of humans led by a woman who promised them a better life if they followed her out to the fringe of the Federation. She was a environmentalist and extremely critical of corporate activities. Her administration was recently rocked by scandal, as evidence emerged that she had been stealing from the settlers and was planning on fleeing Encransia with her ill-gotten gains. Some people say that the evidence was faked and she was framed, but she is currently in prison awaiting trial and the planet is transitioning to a new government in preparation for their first free election. Rumors are the top candidate is in the pocket of the Stellar Systems Corp.
Dust’s End (hex 0110) is a dead end. There is nothing there worth exploring, nothing worth taking. Everyone knows that—it’s been common knowledge for as long as anyone can remember. If there was anything there, I’m sure someone would have recorded a space lane between Dust’s End and Encransia, right?
Echo (hex 0208) is not a single settlement, but a series of stations attached to the largest of the asteroids that circle the star in this system. More than ten thousand people work and live here among the floating rocks, mining for precious metals. This system was established long before Voluntara was settled by SSC, and the corporation is happy to purchase the miners’ ore. They’ve got a great relationship with SSC—what could possibly go wrong?
Cluster #2: The Rivalry
This is a rather large cluster that sits at the bottom right of the star map. There are three primary factions in this cluster, based in hexes 0407, 0507, and 0610: two rival noble houses and a religious movement, respectively. While they appear to get along on the surface, various shady and underhanded dealings are going on in order to undermine their rivals.
The first faction is based on the planet Quarlsbury (hex 0407). This settlement was originally established by a noble family, but as the people have come to demand more rights, the Quarlsbury family has become little more than figureheads. Still, they have great wealth and enjoy their popularity with the common people.
Quarlsbury is somewhat cut off from their closest allies due to lack of direct space lanes. Their faction includes the asteroid settlements of Allandros (hex 0509) and the world of Nautoloci (hex 0609), both run by the same bureaucratic government.
The second faction is based on the planet Rynbury (hex 0507). This is another noble family, but they believe in keeping power in their hands of their own people and not sharing it with anyone else. They maintain an alliance with: Stallus (hex 0406), controlled by a member of their extended family; Wembly (hex 0606), ruled by a family that acquired their wealth and power through criminal activities rather than noble blood but who otherwise agree with the Rynbury method of ruling; Yavolin (hex 0608), run by a wealthy merchant who enjoys the admiration of his people, but who worries about the strict religious systems nearby; and Koujatut (hex 0707), a former pirate who founded a settlement with his ill-gotten wealth and now rules the world by controlling citizens’ access to technology.
Rynbury has also recently invaded and has taken over Julliett (hex 0508), an action that has Quarlsbury and its allies demanding the removal of Rynbury forces from the planet. But Quarlsbury is not quite prepared to declare war on their close neighbor, and Rynbury knows it. The people of Julliett are nervous, but not in a position to fight back against their new rulers.
The last faction is based on the planet Galahad (hex 0607), run by a religious organization—the Found People of God—that strictly controls its populace. Strangely, despite the harshness of the religious doctrine, citizens of other planets are starting to embrace the Found People’s teachings. At the moment, the leaders of the other nearby worlds do not see them as a threat (except for the leader of Yavolin), but the Found People movement is growing. The planet of Greenwood (hex 0610) recently overthrew its government to embrace the religious leaders of the Found People.
Less happy are the people of Brandon’s Star (hex 0709), who recently saw their leaders imprisoned by the Found People for “crimes against God.” Precisely what these “degenerate acts” were, no one is saying. But the government is currently under the control of Galahad and tensions are running high in the single settlement on the planet.
The other planets that are connected as part of this cluster—Mindava (hex 0710), Ishtara (hex 0806), Everlong (hex 0807), Quixote (hex 0809), and Hethgra (0810)—are waiting to see which faction comes out on top, embroiled in their own troubles, not worth the effort to bring them into the fold, or all three.
Cluster #3: The Aliens
This is the most spread-out of the three clusters, starting with hex 0604 and involving all the worlds connected by the space lanes on the upper portion of the map.
Newhome (hex 0604) was settled by a group of humans from an overpopulated planet in the Federated Worlds and has been fairly successful. What they didn’t expect was that many of the worlds near them were populated by alien races.
The Kabbulu (hex 0603) live on a world of the same name, and are strange, plantlike creatures that find humor in almost everything humans do. Otiluke (hex 0504) is the home planet of the primitive Wisps—which is the human name for them as their own name is incomprehensible—a race that resembles floating balls of energy that communicate telepathically. Winter (hex 0703) is a frozen planet with a small human settlement of scientists who are studying a non-random pattern of signals being emitted from the planet as waves of radiation. Hantash (hex 0704) is the homeworld of the Tash, highly-intelligent, humanoid aliens that have many traits of birds of prey. Unhallow (hex 0802) is a hot, hellish world that the human settlers are convinced is haunted by ghosts of humans from a destroyed settlement in the distant past. And Trollsden (hex 0403) is a dangerous world inhabited by fierce beasts (nicknamed “Trolls”) that are a bad-tempered mixture of prehistoric ground sloth and grizzly bear, with just enough sentience to have led to a development of a primitive language.
Space Lanes, Not Communications Routes
Players of later versions of Traveller will notice that I am not using Communications Routes. That was a Third Imperium element, and it doesn’t appear here. Rather, the lines that connect the various worlds are space lanes. As noted in Book 3: Worlds and Adventure (1977), “The worlds of a subsector are connected by the charted space lanes, which mark the regular routes travelled by commercial starships. While it is possible for starships to travel without regard to the lanes charted, individuals who do not own or control starships are generally restricted to commercial travel on ships which ply the routes which are mapped.”
What this means for players in this sub-sector is that PCs who do not own a starship can only purchase passage to worlds connected by the space lanes. That means hexes 0110, 0804, and 0807 are not reachable unless the PCs manage to hire or convince a ship captain to take them there. And it won’t be cheap.
Even if PCs do own a starship, unless they have a Generate program on their ship—and starting PCs certainly won’t be able to afford that program—then they can only purchase jump route coordinates in self-erasing cassettes between worlds connected by the space lanes.
And at best, starting PCs who do own a ship will not have a jump drive capable of more than 1 hex at a time. That means, for example, that PCs who get hired on Quarlsbury (hex 0407) to do a job on Greenwood (hex 0610) must travel for a week to hex 0508, refuel (or find a job that gives them the money to pay for the refueling), then another week to hex 0509 (with the same possibility for adventure there), then a third week to hex 0609 (again with a possible adventure) and then to hex 0610. So a trip between four worlds could take a couple of months before they arrive at their destination.
All this means that travel is slow, difficult, expensive, and takes a lot of time. How that translates into the game is that PCs who want to travel wherever they want in the sub-sector need to amass some wealth, get their own ship, and upgrade it with a Generate program. All these things are great motivators to engage in adventures!
This is, of course, exactly as it should be.
So What about the Adventures?
The “Patron Encounters” Table in Book 3: Worlds and Adventures provides the structure I’d like to use for my adventure ideas. This table is used whenever the PCs are hungry for money (which they should be most of the time). When the PCs search out a job, they are actually looking for a “Patron.” And if the dice give the chance to meet a patron, the referee rolls on the “Patron Encounters” table (reproduced below).
As you can see, there are a lot of different possibilities there. Not all of these people are necessarily going to be out to hire the PCs. In some cases, they will be the antagonists—the actual Patron may be someone else entirely. But I’ll provide a series of adventure hooks/ideas that cover some of the options on this table.
So What Do I Get?
Next week, I’m going to post planet record sheets for a number of planets in the sub-sector. Here are the original sheets I did for Bitan and Pirnath, the two planets I discussed last week. (I know the adventure hooks are not done in the format of Patrons. These were the first two that I did and hadn’t decided on that format yet.)
As an aside, my friend Jonathan came up with a great suggestion as to why the Pirnath aren’t trying to annex Bitan—they are xenophobes—and that led to my idea that they are all empaths who feel actual pain when they experience human emotions.
Along with the standard UWP data, there will be a short description of the world, and its major allies and enemies. Then the rest of the sheet will be possible Patron Encounters.
Note that I plan to reuse some encounters on multiple, related worlds. For example, a couple of the same encounters for the world in hex 0207 will probably show up on the encounters list for the worlds in hexes 0107 and 0208, because those worlds are close together and there could be multiple ways for PCs to get involved in a particular adventure.
Anyway, come back next week for what is likely the conclusion of this series on Classic Traveller.