Background Notes

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Campaign Overview

My purpose in starting a Traveller campaign is to play old-style, little-black book Classic Traveller. I've been re-reading a lot of older sci-fi such as Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, Andrae Norton, A. Bertram Chandler and the like and want to play in their worlds for a while.

For me, these authors means that the focus of the campaign is on trade and exploration. I expect the basic form of a session will be one of two types:

  • jump in-system, sell the current cargo, have an advantage in finding a new cargo, jump out of the system, or
  • jump in-system, have an adventure in selling the current cargo, buy a new cargo and jump out of the system.

As a group, you should think about becoming the crew of a tramp freighter, a small merchant ship with limited cargo capacity that makes its money by taking the jobs that the big transport corporations wouldn't touch. So, people with skills in piloting, navigating, looking after engines and stuff, trading, looking after passengers, etc, are useful.

Staying one step ahead of creditors is also a concern.

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What's In, What's Out

For those who have played other incarnations of Traveller, here's a few things that won't be appearing:

  • Emperor Strephon has not been assassinated,
  • There is no Civil War,
  • There is no Virus,
  • There are no 'life' sensors,
  • There is no faster-than-light communication -- communication is limited to the speed of travel.
  • Other human races, lost colony types and Vargr (an star faring race originally bred by the Ancients from canine stock from Earth in the same way they bred humans from early primates) are the only aliens which may be encountered.

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    Traveller Game Philosophy

    The one thing that they never tell you in the Traveller rule books is that this game system is about handling a character's mid-life crisis. An average Traveller character spends 3-4 four year terms in a career gaining skills each term until he or she leaves to go back-packing around the galaxy, turning his or her hand at whatever job will pay enough to buy passage on the next leg of the trip.

    For this reason, I'd like to use the random character generation method that was all the rage way back in 1977 when the rules were first published. It doesn't matter that you don't like you previous job or that it wasn't what you wanted for your character because you left it to go a-wandering.

    I accept that many people today can't handle this way of creating characters so I've come up with a compromise. We'll use the random method but you can modify the die rolls by spending cash from the retrenchment pay from the career you eventually leave. See the section House Rules for more information.

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    Background Briefing

    All character know this stuff. Any unfamiliar terms found in the text can be looked up from the Library Data page.

    The Third Empire contains roughly 11000 star systems and has existed for about 1100 years. As the name suggests, it is the third incarnation of a large scale political entity in this region. The second empire collapsed into a period of barbarism and technological backwardness called The Long Night which lasted for 1500 years. There were many causes for the collapse that are only of interest to academics. The Third Empire grew out of this period and former colonies are still being re-contacted today.

    Within the Empire there are two major human races. The Vilani discovered the secret of jump-drive and built the first empire about 6000 years ago. The Solomani (people from Earth), soon after first contact with the Vilani, launched a war of conquest. The ruled the second empire for around 500 years before it collapsed into the Long Night.

    The other major human race is the Zhodani. They maintain their own political entity of roughly comparable size and scope known as the Zhodani Consulate. The main difference between the two societies is that the Zhodani have embraced psychic ability as a method of population control. Every imperial schoolchild knows that telepathic Zhodani nobles use their powers to keep the majority serf population under control and that they'd willing turn their devious minds to enslaving the Empire if they were allowed the chance.

    Three hundred years ago, the equivalent of the Salem witch trials swept the Empire. Any one with demonstrated psychic ability was lynched, burned at the stake or subjected to bizarre forms of electro-therapy to 'cure' them. Today, psychic ability is still mistrusted at best. Some world still believe in the old punishments. The Zhodani threat keeps this attitude alive.

    The area of the Empire you are in is known as the Spinward Marches. It is spinward and coreward (ie: further in the direction of galactic spin and further toward the centre of the galaxy) than Capital, the seat of Empire. Because all communication is limited to the speed of travel, it takes about a year for news to reach the Marches from Capital and to travel there yourself takes at least as long.

    The Zhodani Consulate shares the spinward border of the Marches. The Vargr shares the Marches' coreward border.

    About 300,000 years before the human races gained control of this region of space, it was inhabited by a race known only as The Ancients. They were capable of all sorts of technological marvels -- instantaneous matter transportation, creating rosette systems (three of six worlds equally spaced, equi-distant from their sun), etc. Their technology was sufficiently advanced to be indistinguishable from magic. Then, they destroyed themselves in a 2000 year long war which left the region with many more asteroid belts than it previously had. No one knows why. Occasionally today, Ancient artifacts are found and sold for huge profits.

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