Monday, January 27, 2020

Third Imperium - Ancients: The Mysterious Forerunners

Ancients: The Mysterious Forerunners

Very little is known about the race known to those within the Imperium only as the "Ancients", the "First", the "Forerunners", or the "Precursors". In fact, nothing of consequence is known about the race itself, as they left no known depictions of themselves, precious little in the way of written records, and a scant handful of artifacts scattered across hundreds of planets. Most of what is known has been gleaned from archaeological evidence found from a handful of surviving sites which are mostly subject to restricted access rules and open only to selected researchers. The remainder of what is "known" about the Ancients is conjecture and educated guesses extrapolating from the scanty actual information. The discovery of an Ancient site has been, on occasion, sufficient to place an entire world under Interdiction.

It is generally accepted that the Ancients first appeared as a spacefaring interstellar civilization between 400,000 and 300,000 years ago. The handful of surviving artifacts they left behind show them to be highly technologically advanced, surpassing current technological capabilities in many areas. Scholars believe that for reasons that are currently unknown, the Ancients took samples of early hominids and seeded them on planets throughout the Orion Arm, and possibly beyond. To date, the Imperium has found more than four dozen existing strains Humaniti, and archaeological evidence has been uncovered of at least a dozen more that died out prior to being contacted by any spacefaring race. Currently, general consensus is that the actual original home world of humaniti was Terra, a fact that the Solomani Confederation plays up in its propaganda as a means of promoting their claim to supremacy among human civilizations.

The Ancients also, once again for reasons unknown, are believed to have taken early canines from Terra and genetically modified them into the Vargr after seeding them on the planet now known as Lair. Genetic testing has confirmed that wolves and Vargr share a common ancestor, demonstrating this link. Why the Ancients chose to transport and modify canines and hominids and not any other species from Terra is a mystery. Why the Ancients chose to only transplant species from Terra is also a mystery. Some scholars have noted that just because humaniti and canines are the only two transplanted species that have been found by the civilizations in known space does not necessarily mean that there are not others, only that no one has found them.

It is sometimes difficult to determine what evidence shows the Ancients actually did as opposed to what they are credited with doing. Almost any unusual structure or odd circumstance will be attributed to the Ancients in some circles, whether there is actual evidence supporting this conclusion or not. The multi-world rosette in Tireen is generally acknowledged as the work of the ancients due to the discovery of Ancient artifacts on some of those worlds, but several other odd configurations of planets have been attributed to the Ancients with substantially less than convincing evidence. Similarly, any sophont or other form of life that has an unusual or unexplained attribute will find someone championing the notion that the Ancients are responsible for that attribute.

At some point between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, evidence suggests that the Ancients became involved in a war that lasted for several millennia. Whether the Ancients were fighting an as-yet unidentified second race or fell to fighting against one another is not known. What is known is that the Ancients were completely wiped out as a consequence of this war. Many scholars have conjectured that the war reshaped entire world, indeed, many existing asteroid belts throughout known space are believed to be the result of world-shattering weaponry used in this conflict. There is an entire cottage industry producing books theorizing that one or another planetary myth or legend is actually based upon some example of Ancient military technology. In some cases, this supposition is probably correct. The proposition that legends of vast, implacable, violent gods found in Vilani mythology are in fact the stories of Ancient warbots running long after their masters had disappeared has been buttressed by the discovery of several large pieces of Ancient machinery on Vland. Indeed, some scholars speculate that deconstructing Ancient technology helped the Vilani develop Jump drive technology as early as they did.

Despite more than ten thousand years of exploration and study, the Ancients remain almost as much of a mystery as they were when the Vilani first left Vland in sublight ships. Actual information about them is scant, leading to an annoyingly incomplete record of their existence that is coupled with speculation run rampant. Though their actions seem to have reached across the millennia to shape modern interstellar civilization, the Ancients remain a nigh-impenetrable enigma.

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Thursday, January 23, 2020

Third Imperium - Calendars and Dating

Calendars and Dating

By default, Traveller renders dates using the Imperial calendar, which counts the official founding of the Third Imperium as the "zero" year. The Imperial calendar starts its count of years at year 0 instead of year 1 because when Cleon I announced the conversion of the Sylean Federation into the Third Imperium, he declared that year to be a "jubilee year". It is currently the year 1120 by Imperial reckoning.

There are several other widely used means of accounting for dates in the Traveller universe. The first is the Vilani calendar, which dates to the founding of the First Imperium. Year 1 on this calendar is the equivalent to 473 A.D. on the Solomani calendar and the year -3084 on the Imperial calendar. The Third Imperium was founded in the Vilani year 3084, and it is currently the year 3882 by Vilani reckoning. Note that these dates don't align perfectly with the other two calendars, due to the fact that the Vilani year at 446 standard days in length is longer both the Solomani year and the Sylean year.

Another notable non-Imperial means of recording years is the Solomani calendar, which is basically the modern Gregorian calendar. By Solomani dating conventions, the Third Imperium was founded in 4251 A.D., and it is currently the year 5641 A.D. While the use of Solomani dating is fairly rare in the Imperium, nationalistic political considerations means that its use is common in the Solomani Confederation. Once again, the year counts don't line up perfectly, due to differences in the lengths of the Vilani, Sylean, and Solomani years.

The Aslan use their own dating system, based on the orbital period of their homeworld Kusyu, which is about 320 standard days long. Their calendar dates to the selection of their first ruling council of 29 clan leaders in -2083 on the Imperial calendar. According to the Aslan calendar, it is currently the year 3645.

The Zhodani also have their own calendar, which dates back to the first Psionic Games in -6731 on the Imperial Calendar (alternatively 2209 B.C.), The Zhodani count by Olympiads, which are held once every three Zhodani years. Each Zhodani year is only 273 standard days long, and consequently each Olympiad is 819 days long. The Zhodani are currently in the 3741st Olympiad.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Third Imperium - Sectors and Subsectors

Sectors and Subsectors

Space is Three Dimensional

Space is a three dimensional area, which makes mapping it difficult without resorting to computer animation or cumbersome angular calculations. Traveller has traditionally solved this issue by ignoring the three dimensional nature of space and presenting maps of Imperial space in the form of two dimensional hex maps in which each hex represents one parsec of space. This has the advantage of rendering space in a convenient and easy to read format at the cost of exact accuracy. For campaign purposes, this format works well enough, so I will keep it. Space is really three dimensional though, even in Traveller, so there may be exceptions to the hex mapping conventions.


The ordinal directions of North, East, South, and West are inapplicable to space, for relatively obvious reasons. Instead, the Third Imperium uses directional terms derived from the relationship to the Orion Arm, the celestial body that encompasses known space. The four directions are Coreward, Rimward, Spinward, and Trailing. Coreward is towards the galactic center, while Rimward is towards the galactic rim. Spinward is in the direction of galactic spin - or clockwise, while Trailing is the opposite, or anticlockwise.

Imperial Sectors

Space is divided by Imperial convention into sectors each measuring 32 by 40 parsecs. Each sector is further subdivided into sixteen subsectors of 8 by 10 parsecs. This mapping convention dates back nearly five thousand years to the early days of the Vilani Empire and has been adopted by all of the Third Imperium's neighbors as an administrative convenience. Other terms used to describe sectors include march, matrix, region, reach, and quadrant. One of the most dynamic regions in the Third Imperium is the Spinward Marches, a sector on the Spinward edge of the Imperium.

The Third Imperium is the largest polity in known space, encompassing nearly 27 sectors of space. Given that a sector holds, on average, between 500 and 650 inhabited worlds, the Imperium commands the loyalty of somewhere between 13,500 and 17,500 inhabited worlds spread out over nearly 35,000 square parsecs of space. These worlds, and many of those in the various client states and adjoining regions have twice been surveyed by the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service, the first survey was published in 420, and the second in 1065. Each survey took nearly one hundred years to complete, and given that the most recent survey was completed fifty-five years before the present, this means that the survey data is as much as one hundred and fifty years out of date.

Other Nations

The Imperium is bordered by several client states, minor nations, and unorganized territories, most of which occupy at most a single subsector, and some of which command the loyalty of a single . It is also bordered by six major states. Note that the existence of states dominated by members of particular alien races does not mean all individuals of those species live within their borders. Despite the existence of, for example, the Aslan Hierate, there are Aslan who reside within the Imperium, serve in its armed forces, and even hold titles of nobility. The same holds true of most of the other major races. Conversely, there are also humans who live in polities controlled by aliens, owing loyalty to those nations.

Aslan Hierate: Lying Spinward and Rimward of the Imperium, the Aslan Hierate is ruled over by the Aslan, a superficially lion-like alien race. The Hierate is not so much a single nation as it is a collection of mostly allied clans that share a common culture and a very loose cooperative governing body that has almost no actual formal power. The Hierate spans across 18 sectors. While the Aslan Hierate has never gone to war as a single entity, component clans have allied themselves with various warring parties, and the tradition of sending younger sons out as Iratei to seek lands of their own has frequently caused friction with their neighbors.

Hive Federation: Situated Trailing and Rimward of the Imperium, the Hiver Federation is home to the Hivers, a species of enigmatic and mostly peaceful hexopodally symmetrical aliens that can best be described as starfish with slightly more specialized limbs. The Hive Federation has only been involved in a single war waged against the K'kree, which they won. The Hive Federation controls 17 sectors.

Solomani Confederation: Comprised of humans from Sol living in those territories that were not reintegrated into the Third Imperium following the collapse of the Second Imperium and the coming of the Long Night, the Solomani Confederation is the smallest of the major powers. The Solomani are chauvinistic and nationalistic, having been in multiple wars with the Imperium, most recently the Solomani Rim War in which they lost control of Terra. The Solomani Confederation is directly Rimward of the Third Imperium and rules over 11 sectors.

Two Thousand Worlds: Located to Trailing, the Two Thousand Worlds are the dominion of the K'kree, a six-limbed race of herbivores referred to colloquially as "centaurs". Despite being descended from herbivorous herding forebears, the K'kree are incredibly aggressive, always concerned that meat-eaters they meet will pose a danger to them and not averse to launching preemptive wars to wipe out such threats. Convinced of their own racial superiority, the K'kree treat all other races in their sphere of control as second class citizens and enforce vegetarianism on all within their territory. The Two Thousand Worlds stretch over 14 sectors of space, although they are composed of something more along the lines of 7,000 to 9,000 inhabited worlds.

Vargr Extents: Directly Coreward of the Imperium is the Vargr Extents, populated primarily by the Vargr, a race of bipedal wolves known to be directly descended from genetically modified wolves from Terra. The Extents are not so much a government as they are "where the Vargr live", as there is no organization, no central authority, and almost no law. Although the Vargr are disorganized and anarchic to such a degree that it is impossible to say that the Vargr "did" anything as a group, several clans of Vargr allied themselves with the Zhodani and Sword Worlders to form the Outworld Coalition against the Imperium in the most recent three Frontier Wars in the Spinward Marches. The Vargr Extents cover an area of roughly 14 sectors of space.

Zhodani Consulate: This alien dominion of humans is Spinward and Coreward of the Imperium, covering no less than 13 sectors of space. The Zhodani are a major strain of humaniti that achieved Jump capability on their own, and have wholeheartedly embraced the use of psionics throughout their culture and government. The Zhodani have fought five wars against the Third Imperium in the Spinward Marches, the fifth and most recent taking place between 1107 Imperial and 1110 Imperial.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Third Imperium - Science and Technology in the Third Imperium

Science and Technology in the Third Imperium

Traveller and the Third Imperium assume a certain level of technology to make the setting work. The general guidelines for how this technology is reflected in the GURPS rules are detailed here. More specific guidance will be fleshed out as time permits.

Tech Levels

The Third Imperium is, in GURPS terms, mostly TL10, with cutting edge Imperial technology reaching TL12 in some areas. That said, technology is unevenly distributed. Many member worlds are relative backwaters, with locally available technology as being as low as TL8. Even TL7 worlds are common enough to be unsurprising.

At a base level, all of items available in GURPS; High Tech are generally available. Most of the items of tech level 10 or below found in GURPS: Bio-Tech, GURPS: Ultra-Tech, and GURPS: Ultra Tech 2 can be found as well, although there are some notable exceptions. Note that some technologies are limited primarily by Imperial custom or law. Attitudes of the denizens of other polities, or even individual member worlds within the Imperium, may vary.

Items designated by the GURPS rules as being available at TL11 and TL12 exist, but are more difficult for Imperial citizens to obtain. Many of these higher tech items are classified or restricted to military or other official use. Other items are experimental or otherwise still in development and may not be available to the public as of yet.

Examples of Ancient technology range in capabilities up to TL15, but such artifacts are exceedingly rare and impossible to replicate.

Technology Changes from the Base GURPS System

Nanotechnology in the Third Imperium is generally much more poorly developed than the GURPS ultra tech guides assume, a fact that may simply be due to the inherent limitations of the technology. All types of ultra tech equipment that rely upon nanotechnology to function are essentially unavailable.

Cybernetic prothetics are reasonably common, but cybernetic enhancements and implants are generally seen as scandalous. Consequently, many such enhancements are unavailable, not because they are unfeasible, but rather because reputable businesses don't want to be seen as dealing in them. They could be obtained from less reputable sources, but would probably be more expensive as a result. Biological prosthetics and enhancements are viewed in much the same manner, and available under much the same circumstances.

Like nanotachnology, robots and artificial intelligence are much more poorly developed than the GURPS ultra tech guides assume. So far as anyone knows, no functional A.I. has been developed by the Third Imperium or any other known civilization. Robots are classified by Imperial law as non-sentient and are consequently not eligible for Imperial citizenship.

Energy weapons are available in the Third Imperium, but require the "backpack" power option, making them bulky and cumbersome. As a result, slug throwing personal weapons remain common in the Third Imperium.

Breaking the Laws of Physics

Most of the technology found in the Third Imperium is plausible according to current physics. There are four notable exceptions:

Jump Drives: No form of faster than light travel other than Jump Drives exist in the Third Imperium The only known means of traveling from star to star in Traveller is the use of Jump Drives. There is also no means of faster than light communication other than travel via Jump Drives.

Jump Drives are rated by the number of parsecs they will allow a ship to travel in a single Jump, ranging from Jump-1 to Jump-6. At the present time, Jump-6 is the fastest any ship can travel, and is theoretically the fastest speed allowable by Jump Drive technology. Longer Jumps are possible as the result of a misjump, but these are unpredictable and impossible to control.

No matter the distance traveled, a Jump takes approximately one hundred and sixty-eight hours to complete (roughly one week), plus or minus ten percent. While in Jumpspace, a starship cannot be contacted, and cannot communicate with anything else, including other ships in Jumpspace.

The smallest size a ship can be an still accommodate a Jump Drive is 100 tons of displacement. Jump Drives use liquid hydrogen as fuel and a Jump consumes 10% of the ship's displacement tonnage in fuel for every parsec traveled. Any Jump of less than 1 parsec is treated as being 1 parsec for fuel consumption purposes. Jumping out of or into an area within 100 diameters of a substantial mass such as a planet, moon, or large asteroid is ill advised, and increases the chance of a misjump.

Reactionless Thrusters: Most spacecraft, including starships, use reactionless thrusters. Reactionless thruster technology in the Third Imperium is more advanced than the standard for GURPS ultra tech. Thrusters appear on the schdule laid out on the table to the right, substituting the "Traveller Tech" level for the "GURPS Tech" level.

GURPS TechTraveller Tech
TL10 Standard Thrusters
TL10 Super Thrusters
TL11 Standard Thrusters
TL11 Super Thrusters
Spacecraft are generally rated according to how many G's of acceleration they are capable of achieving. Most spacecraft have acceleration capabilities between 1-G and 6-G. Lower acceleration ratings are certainly possible, but may make maneuvering around planetary bodies difficult. Streamlined ships that expect to land in planetary atmospheres generally all have at least 1-G of acceleration to make take off possible. Higher acceleration ratings are theoretically possible, but prohibitively costly.

Note that while reactionless thrusters are the norm, other forms of sublight propulsion are possible and are sometimes used, including light sails and the various types of TL8 to TL12 reaction thrusters found in GURPS: Vehicles. These are generally less efficient than standard reactionless thrusters, and as a result those who use them are either forced to do so via exigent circumstances or are simply eccentric.

Artificial Gravity: Traveller assumes that artificial gravity technology is available and in common use. Starships and other spacecraft assume artificial gravity is standard, although it is certainly possible to construct ships that do not have this technology. Contragravity vehicles are in common use, and most small craft used as launches by starships are such types of vehicle.

Psionics: Not only do psionics exist in Traveller, they are the backbone of the government of one of the major polities in the setting. Psionics is interwoven throughout Zhodani culture and government, offering a path to power and prestige in that region. In the Third Imperium, on the other hand, psionics is distrusted, illegal, and its study is actively suppressed. Other nations may take different views. Most psionic powers are present in the Traveller setting, including ESP, telepathy, psychokinesis, and teleportation.

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Thursday, January 9, 2020

Campaign Design - Prestige Class: Bride of Darmas

Bride of Darmas (adapted from the Book of Eldritch Might)

Females occupy the lowest rungs of duergar society and most are valued only for their capabilities as slaves, pack mules, and mothers of male children. The males are unquestioned masters of their dominion and tolerate no sign of dissension.
Very rarely, a female duergar is born with the heavy frame of a male duergar, and these strong females are - if possible, even more ruthless and belligerent than the males. They are so exceptional, in fact, that they are exempted from the rigid striations of duergar society. They do not serve as slaves or bearers of children, but instead form a secret society of priestesses who serve Darmas as his ceremonial wives. These so-called brides of Darmas answer only to religious authorities and do not speak to anyone outside their tight-knit group. Adding to their mystique, they are never seen without a ceremonial head wrapping customarily worn by duergar and dwarven brides. This wrap, always dyed black for a bride of Darmas, obscures their features, making these enigmatic warriors even more mysterious.
Almost all brides begin their careers as barbarians, fighters, or warriors, or barbarians, but a small number train first as adepts, clerics, or favored souls.

Hit Die: d6.
Luck Die: d3.

To become a bride of Darmas, one must meet the following criteria:
  • Skills: Knowledge: Religion 4+ ranks.
  • Race: Duergar or dwarf
  • Alignment: Any evil.
  • Gender: Female.
  • Base Attack Bonus: +5 or higher.
  • Special: The bride must be a virgin who must take an oath of chastity and fealty to Darmas.
Class Skills
  • The bride of Darmas's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Climb (Str), Craft: Any (all skills taken individually)(Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Jump (Str), Knowledge: Religion (Int), Ride (Dex), and Swim (Str).
  • Note: Because the Three Worlds campaign uses the Skills by Character house rule, the list of class skills given here is only included for the sake of completeness, and is not used by characters in the campaign setting.
  • Skill Points at each level: 2 + Intelligence modifier.
Class Features
All of the following are class features of the bride of Darmas prestige class.
  • Base Attack Bonus: Good. A bride of Darmas gains +1 base attack bonus per class level.

  • Base Fortitude Save Bonus: Good. A bride of Darmas gains +½ base Fortitude save bonus per class level.

  • Base Reflex Save Bonus: Poor. A bride of Darmas gains +⅓ base Reflex save bonus per class level.

  • Base Will Save Bonus: Good. A bride of Darmas gains a +½ base Will save bonus per class level.

  • Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: brides of Darmas are proficient with all simple and martial weapons, with all armor, and with shields.

  • Fearless (Ex): All brides are immune to fear, including magical fear. Allies within 10 feet of the bride gain a +4 morale bonus on saving throws against fear effects. Granting the morale bonus to allies is a supernatural effect.

  • Challenge Hero (Su): Beginning at 2nd level, a bride may issue a ceremonial challenge to the leader of an enemy force. if no clear military leader is present, the DM chooses whom the bride may challenge instead according to the following priority: First, any opponent with the Leadership feat, then the opponent with the highest base attack bonus, and finally, if no opponent fits any of these other qualifications, the opponent with the highest Charisma ability score. The challenge itself is a mind-affecting compulsion effect that is not language-dependent. In most cases, a crooked finger or wave is enough to get the message across.

    Refusing the challenge requires the opponent to make a Will save (DC 15 + the bride's Intimidate bonus). An opponent who fails the save or chooses not to resist immediately moves by the shortest possible path to be adjacent to the challenging bride, who can engage the target in melee combat. The opponent is subject to attacks of opportunity as normal for moving through threatened areas. The challenged opponent is not stunned or negatively affected in any other way.

    If the challenged opponent backs out of melee, runs away, or falls in combat to the bride, all combatant's on the opponent's side suffer a -4 morale penalty on attacks, checks, and saves for the remainder of the combat. If the bride falls or runs, combatants on her side suffer an identical penalty. Multiple uses of this ability are not cumulative; a side can only be demoralized once per combat.

  • Nameless (Su): At 3rd level, the brides identity continues to dissolve into the sisterhood. She loses her name, but gains a +4 resistance bonus against enchantment spells and effects.

  • Smite Good (Su): At 4th. level, the bride gains the ability to focus her infernal husband's wrath into a devastating melee attack. once per day, she may add her Charisma modifier to her attack roll and deal 1 extra point of damage per bride class level. This ability functions only against good-aligned opponents. At 7th level and against at 10th level, the bride gains an additional daily use of this ability.

  • Sisterhood (Su): As she is accepted into the secret society, the bride's physical uniqueness becomes less and less important. Their wrappings make all brides look the same, and their emotional bond makes them identical on a spiritual and mental level.

    At 5th level, a bride may grant a +4 resistance bonus on any single save to any other bride within 30 feet, once per round. Using this ability is a free action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity, and may be used as a reaction after the target bride is required to make a save. The bride who grants this bonus suffers a -4 resistance penalty on all saving throws during the same round.

    At 8th level, a bride may transfer up to 10 hit points to any other bride within 30 feet, following the same rules as above. As with the resistance bonus to saves, using this ability is a free action, but it may be used only once per round. Transferred hit points are permanent - they do not revert to the sending bride when the effect ends. This ability can be used to raise a character's hit point total above her normal total, but these extra hit points disappear after an hour. The sending bride can replace her lost hit points with natural or magical healing as normal.

  • Faceless (Su): At 6th level, the bride's physical identity is consumed by the totality of the group. She is no longer recognizable as an individual even with her wrappings removed, and gains a +4 resistance bonus on saves against all transmutation spells and effects.

  • Side by Side (Ex): On attaining 9th level, brides think and act as one creature. As long as the bride is adjacent to any other bride (of any level), she gains a +2 insight bonus to attacks, Armor Class, saves, and skill checks.
Bride of Darmas

2ndChallenge Hero
4thSmite Good, once per day
5thSisterhood (saving throws)
7thSmite Good, twice per day
8thSisterhood (hit points)
9thSide by Side
10thSmite Good, three times per day

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