Monday, May 22, 2006

Working from Big to Little


I'm revisiting my early posts, and adding some new stuff here.
These are some pretty raw notes, but they're the assumptions I'm operating under for MTU's setting.

1) In the Good Old Days, there was a great, human, interstellar Empire. I'm calling it, brilliantly, the Old Empire. Haven't decided how big, but bigger than the current empire. Haven't decided how old, but older. Haven't decided what tech, but about the same, or lower.
It was by the efforts of the Old Empire that humans were spread amongst the stars: so, No Ancients.
2) The Old Empire fell. Haven't decided why, but it happened anywhere between 1000 and 500 years ago. Some worlds stayed strong, some regressed. Ever since, the collapse has been gradually rolled back - largely to the credit of the ubiquitous Scouts.

3) About 200 years ago, the Festrian Empire began its spread and eventually filled what is known as the Festrian Main. When Fester began to produce warships capable of long jumps, J2 and 3, her navy began to expand and project power into the eight subsectors around the Main (The Festrian Reach) and beyond this frontier into the Old Empire.

Check. At this early period, the house of Fester was known as the house of Miralbis, an Old Empire Ducal family, and retained that title. It is not until the end of this period that Fester Miralbis declared himself Emperor, naming both his capital and the empire after him.

4) About 100 years ago, the Emperor Fester II "The Mad" began a persecution of the Psionics within and without Festrian borders; this devolved into a bloodbath, and then to civil war. These "Witch Wars" continued throughout the Empire for perhaps 50 years, until the Mad Emperor's assassination.

Check. This is reflected in the condition of many of the worlds in the surrounding subsectors.

5) Succeeding to the throne, Fester III recalled the navy and put down the rebellion: His success owed not only to his willingness to orbitally bomb a number of the Imperium's worlds to the stone age, but to his effort to shift the focus of the war away from the Psionic witch-hunt and towards reunification. Nevertheless, due to Imperial propaganda and universal horror with the circus of atrocities that were the Witch-Wars, Psionics are almost universally seen as the ultimate cause of the conflict (hence the prejudice against same at the core of book 3)

Check, although rather than the Imperium's worlds, it was generally worlds of neighboring OE Duchies.

6) As a result of the Witch Wars and the Reunification, "The Troubles," much of the Festrian Reach and the Main has been depopulated and reduced to frontier conditions, even among the homeworlds.


7) The navy has been returned, largely, to its role of raiding and conquering among the worlds of the Old Empire beyond the Festrian frontiers. The remaining naval force is spread thinly throughout the homeworlds and the frontier itself, focusing energies on hotspots while letting the remainder of the empire fend for itself.

Over a third of the navy is concentrated on Fester itself; small tripwire fleets are peppered throughout the Fester subsector. Perhaps a third is, at this time, raiding in the OE.
But beyond this, the above holds true.
Now I gotta go back to work. More on Scouts and Trade in the Festrian Empire later.


Blogger KenHR said...

Solid start. I like the non-Ancients angle, though some of those old adventures involving them look to be good ones!

10:43 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

Some of 'em are, yeah, but it's such a standby gimmick for the Official Traveller Universe that I wanted to avoid it, since A) it wasn't part of the initial LBB123 framework and B) the whole rationale of OTU Traveller aliens depends on them.

Granted, my current most developed alien species (which I'll post in a couple days) are the Squillish, a species strongly resembling sapient Squid. CUTTLEFIIIIISH IIIIN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!

10:59 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

Also: The Old Empire is remote enough so that some of its great advances (and secrets to its fall!) might be similarly available to adventurer exploration... Also, both the Old Empire and the early Festrian Empire will have conquered other species, who will have left ruins.

And heck, there'll be newer ruins: By the look of it, more than half of my "Non Industrial" planets would be "Agricultural, Rich or Industrial" if they only had higher populations: and there's an awful lot of low tech worlds. I blame the low tech and population on The Witch Wars... practically every planet in the Imperium's going to have ruined cities; some worlds are going to be downright feral.

11:04 AM  
Blogger KenHR said...

Blasted planets...I like that!

I do have to admit to tweaking TLs upward a bit for Arkad Sector; I just couldn't see how MTU's Imperium would have survived without it. I also created a coupld UWPs that are "illegal" by the rules, but I wanted to include some obscure creations from favorite authors for some reason.

Sounds like you're designing truly alien aliens, not just men in rubber suits. Good deal! I got ahold of two alien modules (Zhodani and Darrians) and have been flipping through them for ideas. Seems to show a bit of that rubber suit-ism/furry-ism I dislike, but I need to read closer. The Zhodani, in particular, almost seem like an original Star Trek series episode adversary (not necessarily a bad thing!).

11:53 AM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

I think there's a lot of inspiration in early Traveller coming from H. B. Piper's Space Viking, and I grab onto a lot of that in terms of the de-evolved tech in some of the more backward worlds.

Yeah, the Zhodani are pretty Trekky. I could buy them, though, in ways that I could never stand the Aslan, the Vargr, and so on - those aliens that were derived from terran stock. Consequently, My old games generally were all-human affairs. This is the first MTU where I'm really actively dealing with both Psionics (which I avoided before) and Aliens.

So far, I've got these:
The Squill, really the only group I've really worked out in detail
The Pexari (that one tech H world) who are human, but culturally alien due to the tech;
Psions - humans, some withing Imperial society but effectively alien;
Old Empire humans At least culturally alien - certainly politically alien, since the Festrian Navy's been cutting a bloody swath through their worlds for the past two hundred years or so.

For other alien societies, I'm going to be looking at some of the wackier worlds that show up in random generation: super high populations at super low tech on worlds with exotic atmospheres seem to call for non-human populations.

12:19 PM  
Blogger KenHR said...

Funny...there's an article about exploring the formative influences of Traveller at the Internet Review of SF here:

Piper is listed as a major influence. The article caused a minor flamewar at CotI and earned some derisive commentary on the TML, but I found it fascinating reading from a lit crit-type standpoint (an intent which I think a lot of the Trav grogs missed).

You're totally right that the weirder UWPs would suggest some form of alien life. Arkad has one really "out there" world along the lines you mention: tiny, with millions of people and a tainted atmosphere. I figured it would mean that the inhabitants are single-celled (single BIG baseball-sized) organisms that look like a kind of moss. They achieve intelligence and sensory ability by combining themselves into a sort of super Voltron-moss. Not completely original, but I'd never have thought to include something like that if it weren't for the wacky generation tables.

3:00 PM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

The wacky generation tables are perfect for jogging creativity. It just takes discipline to go in there and say "how does this make sense" as opposed to "this doesn't make sense."

There's a lot of Refs who bristle at the surprising number of rockball/asteroid worlds sans atmosphere with massive populations. I'm fine with them, because that's how I'd class Trantor.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Dan "far-trader" Burns said...

1) No Ancients - Good idea, at least in as much as it was badly overused in the OTU. Still there needs to be some "Great Mystery". Well maybe not needs to be, but it is a good idea for a long term campaign. But not needed for a good few adventures. The best part is you can always retro in a "Great Mystery" after a few adventures if it looks to run campaign length :)

2) And there's your "Great Mystery" maybe :) What did cause the fall? If those who knew were lost in it, then you have your "Great Mystery" ready to build on.

3) (and 2 and 4 a bit) One of the problems with the OTU was it's long time line. Millenia are hard to use without artificially suppressing advancement. And that gets overplayed pretty quickly. Better to compress your timeline a little. So, in my opinion, 2 or 3 centuries might work better for the time to recover from the fall, and then some 100 or so years to found the new empire. That way you preserve more of a frontier feel on the fringe.

4) A nice bit of darkness.

6) Then again (see my comments on 3 above) this works too for creating a kind of frontier. Not the un(der) explored and settled kind, but the devasted kind. That's up to personal taste. It does give a logical reason for the rise of pirates. Deserters from the Navy (with ships), local systems gone renegade when badly treated, and such.

7) And a good explanation for a thinly spread Navy, which helps support pirates. Ahhh, Old Empire enclaves out there, more fun. Possible clues to the cause of the fall and sources of older (higher perhaps) tech. And of couse dead Old Empire worlds full of danger, er, adventure ;)

P.S. Of course my ramblings above are mostly covered by the comments between yourself and Ken :) Hope you don't mind me posting this far back, if you even see it. Carry on, far-trader out.

9:39 PM  
Blogger MTU: The Festrian Empire said...

W00T! Thanks for the Comments! That's awesome feedback, Dan. I may well condense that timeline some when I get a clearer view of things. I think that

A) if the Dark after the Fall is more recent, there's still going to be a lot of worlds barely recovering from it (enhancing frontierness)

B) if the time between the devastation of the Witch Wars and the present is sufficiently recent, then its frontierness will be more pronouced, and there will be further explanation for the LBB3-hardwired antipathy to Psions.

But I agree: some frontierness is definitely to be desired.

7:23 AM  

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