HALLOS SUBSECTOR: Notes for a Setting for Classic Traveller

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The subsector I’m working up is part of an empire in decay. The empire’s power is slipping away, both politically and economically, as civil wars across different sections of the empire have drained its focus. The influence of the empire on the subsector as a political or social entity is non-existent.

Instead, three noble families which have rules potions of the subsector are now scrambling to exert influence and exploit resources of worlds not yet explored. The families see themselves as both standard-bearers for the rich tradition of the imperial past, but also cut off from its support and making their own way forward as best they can.

Trade has been limited and focused on about on third to one half of the worlds in the subesctor. There are many “fly over” worlds, with ships focused on wealthy and high population worlds. Mortgages are backed by the noble families, with fealty and history with the families being a primary consideration for getting a charter on a ship, trade route, or resource exploration rights. A-class spaceports are owned by the noble families. Industrial espionage and sabotage is on the rise between the noble houses, affecting both starships and spaceports.

Common Noble House Tech Level is 9. Average Noble House Tech Level is A-B. Exceptional Noble  Tech Level is C. This, of course, limits the practical size of starships to less than 5,000 dTons. Higher tech levels may well be scattered around the subsector for the PCs to discover, interact with, and puzzle out.

There are many worlds with indigenous, native aliens, as well as settlements of humans. Some of the humans are settlers from the empire either invited by the noble families or seeking better opportunities. Others are from times before a previous rise and fall of interstellar society cycle and thus cut off socially and culturally from each other. (Again, trade has been limited to and focused on a few key worlds. Space lanes, jump cassettes, and other limiting factors from early CT rules are in effect.)

There is an indigenous and ancient faith revolving around psionic powers that has been isolated and quiet. It existed from the time before the last rise and fall cycle of civilization in the subsector (centuries ago). As a power vacuum opens up in the subsector the cult begins to make itself known. It begins recruiting from both the common populace and tries to insinuate itself in the noble houses as well. The teachings promise peace (of course) and a chance to avoid the coming possible crisis of an all out war by uniting the worlds of the subsector under one banner. Obviously none of the noble houses want this. But how to use the faith to their own ends, or stamp it out completely, all the while not being influenced by it is part of the stress the rules class is under.

I haven’t decided yet if the Player Characters will be centered on worlds from one of the ruling houses or have arrived from beyond the subsector. If they have already have served in the noble house’ military or services and have easy access to patronage and get us going. (Whether they remain loyal to the noble house over time is their business.) On the other hand I am tempted to have all PCs arrive in the subsector fresh. This makes the entire environment open to exploration and allows them to find their own way in terms of loyalty. I think this will be something to bring up with the players and ask them what they want.

Adventures will be a mix of political conflict fought out over resources, cold-war espionage and sabotage, as well as expiation and adventure on backwater worlds where all sorts of aliens, alien civilizations, and cultures can be found. (I should note that each of the three noble houses also has their own specific cultures as well.)

Most worlds are politically isolated, with no law enforcement between the stars apart from the efforts of the three noble houses protecting they limited influence on several star systems each. PCs will have varying degrees of safety from the law in illegal activity, depending on where their activities take place and who is backing them and providing cover. (Noble patronage can be very helpful in some circumstances.)

The tone and feel is a softer SF than I think many people expect from Traveller, with the SF elements serving as a backdrop and as McGuffins for adventure rather than and end in and of itself. Think Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure and The Demon Princes books, E.C. Tubb’s Dumarest Books, Herbert’s Dune (just the first book), and a bit of Game of Thrones.

That’s the basic sketch I’m working from.

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Games to Pitch: Lamentation of the Flame Princess / Valkhon Rising

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“Lamentation of the Flame Princess” is part of the OSR school. It’s a cleaned up version of the Original Dungeons & Dragons. You can find a free (no-art) version of the rules here.

The setting I’m thinking of is something Nordic, non-Earth. Only humans. Magic is rare and strange. Clerics are the driven spokesman of rough gods. Lots of snow, islands and ships. A rough people, a simple culture, survivors.

There are the petty squabbles of clansman and dukes and princess. Enough of an “real” environment to give a mundane balance to the strangeness to come.

And here is the strangeness…

An earthquake occurs one night. Tidal waves wash up along the shoreline tearing away bits of  coastline. A time of growing war and strife is made more ominous by the arrival of something amazing…

An island the size of Australia has magically, mysteriously appeared out in the ocean. Did it rise? Or was it dropped? Or was it summoned by terrible, old powers? Strange portents lead adventurers to discover its secrets and bring back treasures. But what happens there begins to have an impact on what happens at home…

Games to Pitch: Traveller / Noble Houses at War

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A not-GDW-Third-Imperium setting for Traveller. (The Classic Traveller rules are available for free in the Starter Traveller edition from RPGNow until Dec. 31st, 2013.)

There will be noble houses, psionic-enhancing battle armor, armies marching across worlds and sailing across space, political intrigue, economic warfare with piracy, black ops, and more…

One thing I want to do is steal a couple of pages from King Arthur Pendragon along with the miniatures campaign roots that Traveller grew from and see if the following works:

Every Player Character will be part of a single noble house. Some might be family in the House, others will be soldiers, spies, and sailors within the House Militia. This gives focus for specific goals. “This week this needs to be done…” And how the Players choose to get it done is all on them.

Each Player will have a stable of Characters to draw from. Different characters can/will be parts of different units as we play out different kinds of missions during the larger conflict. When a character dies the Player moves a new Character into play. But this new Character is still part of the larger agenda (the Noble House) and continues and is already invested in the larger struggle.

The idea is to start the characters (much like a OD&D game) as somewhat blank slates — created in a quick and easy character generation process and let their personalities and history develop as the game develops. There is a large world in motion and in play, and how they conduct themselves and how they grow will lead to more options for their personal goals, growing into more politics, romance, empire building, whatever, as they go. But Traveller is rough on human flesh, and like OD&D death is always on the table as an option. The Players will have to be careful with their Characters if they want the to survive.

I’ve just purchased Power Projection: Fleets, which is space battle miniatures game tweaked from Full Thrust to handle Traveller ships (both escort class vessels (like scout ships and merchant vessels) as well as battle class ships). And I’ve downloaded the rules for Stargrunt II and Dirtside II to handle skirmishes and battalion sized battles, respectively. The idea is to switch to the miniatures battles when we get into fights.