Monday, August 19, 2013

Souris - Sphere Fenix

The Crucis Margin Guidebook from Judges Guild gives us the following information on the polity known as Sphere Fenix:

"Sphere Fenix was original settled by a very diverse group of refugees from the collapsing First Imperium. During the Long Night, these fugitives flourished into a series of mini-states. About 500 Imperial dating, a series of small but bitter wars broke out. In 724, the three surviving states declared peace on each other and met to discuss unification. Though the precise details of governmental structure took over 28 years to develop, Sphere Fenix dates its birth from that meeting. Though internal unrest has occurred since, the overall prosperity has continued to increase. A mutual defense treaty was signed with Ramayan in the 8th century Imperial. Technical assistance is received from Imperium military services and Imperial security is rumored to have great influence. In spite of having fought in no major wars in centuries, military prowess is high and it has become traditional to serve a term or two as a mercenary in one of the surrounding sectors, especially the Marlan Primate."

Given this, it would be easy to see the Sphere Fenix (SF hereafter, or just 'the Sphere') as sort of an Imperium-lite... and honestly, I'm okay with that.  For Traveller players primarily used to  interacting with the setting of the Third Imperium, SF allows a degree of familiarity to rely upon while dealing with the politics and players of a new sector outside of the Third Imperium's borders.  The trick here is to remember that SF came out of the ashes of the First Imperium; they did not have the Solomani influence that came about due to the Rule Of Man, and that continued into the forming of the Third Imperium.  In many ways, SF is more Vilani in outlook than the Third Imperium is, very status-conscious and technologically conservative.  That said, the smaller size and influence of the Sphere is less conducive to arrogance and hubris than the First Imperium was, and out of necessity SF is more flexible in dealing with the realities of interstellar politics.  

The Sphere controls 80 systems in the Crucis Margin sector, spread out over five subsectors (Ark, Negoiul, Souris, Mandin, and Olsztyn).  The highest tech level obtained in her worlds is TL 14.  It maintains excellent relations with the Third Imperium; residents of the Sphere like to think of themselves and the Third Imperium as allies, while other polities in the Gateway quadrant tend to see SF as mere puppets of the Imperium.

Kaarin II, circa 991, while on shore leave
SF is ruled by a hierarchy of nobility, in a similar manner to the Third Imperium (although the ranks of Viscount and Archduke are not used).  The current Emperor is Kaarin II, who succeeded her father Aandiruu in 997*, after the latter abdicated the throne for health reasons (Aandiruu is still alive; his primary functions these days is the spoiling of his grandchildren).  Kaarin served five terms in the SF Navy, leaving military service with the rank of Captain. Had she chosen to stay in the Navy, most feel that she would have eventually obtained the rank of Admiral. Kaarin was originally third in line for the throne, her older sister Eleni (who had been groomed for the position for decades) died in a grav-race accident in 996, and her older brother Ishugi declined taking the throne, feeling that Kaarin was a better choice. Kaarin's younger brother Eneri is next in line to take the throne; many suspect that he is covetous of his sister's position as Emperor, but for the moment seems to be content with his own role at the royal court. Kaarin has no children, and has never married, although rumors of her secret romances abound through the Sphere.  Her rule has overall been well-regarded by her subjects, and she is generally deemed to be highly intelligent and capable.

*I'm using 1105 as my starting time for the setting

Music Monday: "In Thee"

Allen Lanier, founding member of Blue Öyster Cult, passed away last week at the age of 67. Besides being a guitarist and an excellent keyboardist, he also wrote several songs for the band.   Of these, "In Thee" is probably my favorite.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Souris - 1701/Palompi

And so we start off, not with a bang, but with something of a whimper.

The original UWP of Palompi, the first planet we see (from the hex-number order) is X100000-0.  Which, in Traveller-speak, is a lifeless, airless rock, perhaps only a thousand miles in diameter, with no one living on it.   Quite frankly, there's not much reason for any travellers to visit this system.  The updated 'canon' UWP data is only slightly more interesting, but that's only because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.  With a UWP of X101200-0, a PBG of 600, and stellar data of M2 V, we have the same airless rock (orbiting a red dwarf star), but now with some surface moisture (about 10%) on the small planet, in spite the fact that with no atmosphere and very little gravity the idea of any surface moisture somehow being retained seems rather unlikely.  Worse, we now have a population of about 600... despite the fact that this is a lifeless rock, and they have absolutely no technology worth mentioning.  Unless we assume the natives are some sort of energy beings that can survive in a vacuum and have no need whatsoever for technology, this can probably be safely ignored.

With no oceans, and no gas giants in the system, there's not currently any real reason why a ship might pass through the system, since it can't even do any fuel skimming to refuel for another jump.  Given that the Traveller world generation system defaults to crating the primary world of interest in a system, if there are any other planets in the system (and a type M star would have a fair chance of plenty of other worlds orbiting it, even if there are no asteroid listed belts in the system), then by default any other worlds in the system are even less of interest than Palompi is.

Still, there should be some reason why this system is on the maps, or at least, why it once was.  Let's run with the idea that there was once a mining colony here; at its peak it held about 600 inhabitants or so.  The operation was run by nearby Rickamil (and therefore, Sphere Fenix), the only hi-tech world within jump-1 range of Palompi (one parsec coreward of Palompi is Ambale, in the Induz subsector of the Maranantha-Alkahest sector, but Ambale is a pre-spaceflight world, and would be rather unlikely to run any off-world mining operations as a result).  As with many airless worlds, the working and living areas were mostly constructed underneath the surface as opposed top on it.  The primary element mined here was lanthanum, but various other rare ores and minerals were collected as well.

A little over a century ago, the lanthanum deposits were eventually depleted, and Rickamil eventually pulled its people out; the remaining other minerals and ores that were still available weren't enough to justify ongoing operations.  Eventually, due to internal political pressures, Sphere Fenix 'let go' of Palompi, not wishing to spend even token resources defending an otherwise pretty useless piece of rock.

Should anyone find their way in the Palompi system, there's only a slim (roll 12 on 2d) chance of another ship in the system. Such a ship would probably (1-5 on d6) be trying to mine for the remaining various ores and minerals available - what is insufficient for a government body might still prove profitable for an individual or small group. Non-miners might be exploring the underground facility that once housed those who lived here.  Most of the really valuable equipment was either taken backed to Rickamil or later stripped by those who came after, but the underground facility is decently large, and there's always the chance that there's something of interest and/or value might still remain, especially if one is willing to spend some time exploring past the initial entrance area.  In either case, only starships that have the fuel capacity for two jumps (one to Palompi, and the other to whatever nearby system that would like to go to) would willingly travel to this system.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Exploring the Souris subsector

Yeah, I haven't been posting much lately.

Haven't been gaming much, either, and the two are related.  While there's still stuff regarding the Gheron setting I could write about, with the C&C game on hiatus for the last few months, I'm not really feeling the drive to post stuff about a campaign I may or may not get to run again.

As has happened in the past, when I'm not running or playing anything, I found myself pulling out and looking at my classic Traveller books.  There's something about Traveller that's highly conducive to sparking the creative juices - I think it has to do with the 'bare bones' approach to many of the elements of play, which pretty much demand that you fill in the blanks yourself.  It's also easily adaptable to solo play.

The last time I ran a Traveller campaign, back in the early 2000's, it was envisioned as a big, sprawling thing that would see the PC's caught up in the sweep of a flashpoint of the 3rd Imperium's history, weaving elements of The Traveller Advanture, the Fifth Frontier War, and the Shadows/Research Station Gamma/Twilight's Peak/Secret Of The Ancients story arc.  These days, I'm much less interested in over-arching storylines, favoring a looser, sandbox approach.  I also wanted to get away from the Spinward Marches, a setting I've ran and played in for over two decades.

JG's Souris, click to enlarge (like you didn't know that already)
And so, I was flipping through my copies of the old Judges Guild sector guidebooks, which detailed the Gateway Quadrant, four sectors of space that included various client states, pocket empires, and independent worlds that acted as a buffer between the Third Imperium, the Hive Federation, and the Two Thousand Worlds.  In the Crucis Margin guidebook, I encountered the Souris subsector, an area of space where there were no less than four separate polities, as well as several independent worlds between them.  What a great place to set some PC's loose on, to let them wander, scheme, and adventure as they see fit!

Of course, things aren't always that simple.

If you head over to the Traveller Wiki or the Traveller Map, you won't find the Souris subsector, not as such anyways.  The Judges Guild version of these sectors had long ago be de-canonized, and the current Traveller canon has different political entities and borders in the area, with the Souris subsector being renamed as the Outrun subsector.  Also, although the names and locations of the various systems have remained the same, some of the worlds have different Universal World Profiles.  The above pic shows the original JG writeup of the Souris subsector; the digits highlighted in yellow show data that has since been changed (either accidentally or by design) with the current canon, as depicted in the Traveller20 supplement Gateway To Destiny (which is also available here).

As a result, I'm pretty much ignoring the revised data/canon, in favor of JG's original version of the area.  Well, mostly.  The data in Gateway details a time a little over a century before the time of the classic Traveller setting (i.e. the years leading up to and including the Fifth Frontier War).  If it makes sense to do so, I may use the 'official' information on the area as a description of the recent history of any given world.  Then again, I may just ignore it.  In any case, I plan on writing up some short descriptions of each world in the subsector.  I would be negligent if I did not mention the work that is being done over at The Etzina Passage, where Chuck is doing some highly detailed work on some of the worlds in the Crucis Margin sector; his work on that blog has helped to inspire me to do a little bit of writing on my own.  My approach will be different from his (mainly because his approach entails a heck of a lot more work), with a looser style.  If I find myself struggling for inspiration on a given world, I may also refer to the old DGP supplement Grand Census, using that book's approach to give a little extra detail here and there.

To the left is a (hopefully) more visually pleasing version of the original JG map of the subsector, which I based off the the above-linked Traveller Map; I used my rather meager Photoshop skills to rework the political borders back to their original locations, as well as correcting the starport designation for 2206/Inuvik, and adding a gas giant back to the map for 1805/Spry.  That's my starting point.  Let's see what comes from it.

Edit: something I did drop from the JG version of the Souris data is the presence of various Scout bases in the subsector.  It doesn't make any sense for the Imperium to maintain any Scout bases this far outside of its borders (well, any official bases, that is), and I think this is a case where the 'official' data gets it right.