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Old 05-15-2020, 09:59 AM   #1
thrash
 
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Default ATU -- Into the Night

What if ... the First Imperium had collapsed before Terrans invented jump drive?

In the OTU timeline, renegade Vilani kimashargur escape the Imperium beyond the RImward Provinces c. AD 800. They set up a pocket empire centered around Dingir in c. AD 1000. A century later, the Vilani invaded and forcibly re-integrated them. What if, instead, the timeline followed the outline of the Interstellar Wars, but with a kimashargur/Vegan coalition playing the role of the Confederation?

The first Annexation War comes earlier than in the OTU, by the 1020s, perhaps due to an overly ambitious or easily insulted provincial governor. Without sufficient preparation, the Imperials fumble through their first campaign in centuries; the Dingir Cooperative performs unexpectedly well (or just plain gets lucky) and manages to survive. The governor gets sacked. His replacement vows to bring the rebels to heel -- and screws up again. By the Third Annexation War, the Vegans are convinced to throw in with Dingir to form the Coalition.

By c. AD 1300, the suppressed resentments of the First Imperium's subject peoples have finally been ignited in rebellion, leading to a Coalition victory and establishment of The Second Imperium. This Ramshackle Empire -- without anything more in common than traditional Vilani society as their enemy -- still manages to muddle through until c. AD 1750, collapses as well, and drags the entire civilization down. The Long Night comes a millenium ahead of schedule.

There are two possible explanations for how Terra missed being involved in all this. First, the Coalition, with its cultural ties to the Imperium, is far more focused on intrigue and alliance-building in the gaps between active campaigns than on exploration. Second, it could be that kimashargur scouts reached Terra early (c. AD 1200), but didn't have the will or the resources to develop a minor human race of 300 millions at TL1. Still being Vilani, with those biases and blind spots, they didn't think to check back later and eventually forgot about it. (Yes, these are special pleading, but certainly no worse than the OTU version.)

Terra develops jump drive on schedule, c. 2080, but starts colonizing to rimward using a combination of STL (for 2-pc gaps) and jump-1 down the mains. Exploration to coreward doesn't occur until development of jump-2 c. AD 2130. The explorers miss the minor signs of asteroid mining at Barnard (if they exist at all in this timeline). First contact occurs at Ross 154 (Aggida), where they find the remnants of an Imperial colony that died out at least a century earlier. Paranoid but fascinated, they push on until they contact the (much diminished) Dingir League at 70 Ophiuchi (Zaggisi).

Without the direct threat from the Vilani Imperium, there is no unified Terran Confederation. Various national groups pursue their own agendas, often in conflict with on another, but tend to stay close to Terra. The pocket empires they contact are manageable, comparable in size to Terran-controlled space. They aren't necessarily hostile, either: the Vegans, for example, mostly just want to be left alone.

This shares all the advantages of a Long Night setting -- open frontiers, but with lots of inhabited worlds; common language and standards, but no overarching government -- with a near-future date. For Terran characters (who won't automatically have access to Vilani records) this is truly unknown territory, but not just one empty world after the next.
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Old 05-15-2020, 03:40 PM   #2
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Default Re: ATU -- Into the Night

When is this book coming out? I'd back a Kickstarter for it.
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Old 05-15-2020, 04:15 PM   #3
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Default Re: ATU -- Into the Night

Terra c 1200 should be TL2, not 1. 1 is bronze age.

TLDR: I don't think your logic is sound re no Solomani unification.

Terra likely would still unify - the realization that there's this empire out there is a unifying force, even if it's busy minding its own business and is only a subsector in size and 2 away.

The last 100 years have been largely marginally successful attempts to prevent globalization by force, coupled with increasing globalization by diplomacy and trade.

Russia wants to restore an empire. DAESH wants to restore the Caliphates, worldwide. The US wants to inflict laissez-faire capitalism and republican "democracy" on the third world by economic might. China is moving to dominate, as well...

It's very hard for me to see earth NOT globalizing the moment non-terran intelligences are found. If there's one, the odds are there are many...

Also, given your divergence point as implied doesn't change the Ancients moving humans to hundreds or thousands of worlds, the Solomani Hypothesis is likely to fuel visions of empire. Terrans are conquerors. I don't see that changing, either. The question isn't if there's a world government, but what low-double-digit percent aren't part, and how far can they extend their grasp.

The 6-month guideline for the size of empires fits. (Keep in mind, it's really about troop speed, not comm speed.)

Using a 9 day sustainable jump schedule, 180 days is 20 jumps.
So, given the apparent choice for early J2 era...
The strong control (round trip under 3 months) is 10 pc
The weak control (round trip under 6 months) is 20 pc
The weak hierarchical control (one-way to governors under 6 months) is 50 Pc from the capital. (40 to the governor, then his strong 10)

Interesting idea, overall, but I think we'd see a strong centralized 10 Pc radius Terran government, probably with local 4 Pc governors. (thus giving a 1 mont response time.)
Probably a wave about 20 Pc thick beyond where humans fleeing the Terrans keep re-vikinging generation after generation... and loads of minor states in the 3-6 parsec range.
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Old 05-15-2020, 05:14 PM   #4
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Default Re: ATU -- Into the Night

Quote:
Originally Posted by ak_aramis View Post
Terra c 1200 should be TL2, not 1. 1 is bronze age.
The Traveller Book, p. 85:

TL0 Stone Age. Primitive
TL1 Bronze Age to Middle Ages
TL2 circa 1400 to 1700
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Old 05-15-2020, 08:10 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ak_aramis View Post
I don't think your logic is sound re no Solomani unification.
There are no "Solomani" here -- only Terrans. Even in the OTU timeline, that word won't be coined for almost 200 years into the future.

This is not a prediction, it's a campaign setting. In most cases, I find unified Terran governments to be lazy storytelling, of the "it was raining on Planet Mongo" variety. Reality is usually much messier and more interesting thereby.

I can make room for a unified Terran Confederation in the face of actual war with the Vilani, but if the Vegans never attack I find it difficult to believe that there won't be a lot of lip-service and foot-dragging without a lot of substantial progress -- much like the last 75 years. Kyoto Accords? Brexit?

I didn't choose a Long Night setting to then establish a tiny but monolithic Imperium-by-any-other-name to stifle it. I prefer a political setup more like 2300AD or THS. Having multiple actors with conflicting agendas at home allows the small fry -- the PCs and their competitors -- to get on with the adventuring without a "Mother, may I?"

Note, too, that the Vegan Polity is completely isolated from Terra and its colonies by a 3-pc gap. The only ways to get there (until and unless Terra invents Jump-3 or deep space jumps) are through the Dingir League or via sublight. By the same token, the Vegans are a much more present threat to the League than a few Terran explorers.

Moreover, even if plausibility demands unification at some point, we aren't there yet. I'm completely okay with conditions that are transitory or even fleeting. The setting has to last only long enough for the adventures I want to run, not in perpetuity.

So, yes, Terrans will find the Vilani and other human offshoots shocking -- but it's a scientific mystery, not a political problem. There's no Vilani Imperium to conquer, only remnants and ruins. No one needs convincing of Terran superiority. A few simple tests will prove that the inhabitants of Dingir are genetically human and provide a timeframe for the divergence. A few more samples demonstrate that all the known variant humans were picked up at nearly the same time. Then the race is on to find the Forerunners who seeded the lost colonies on other worlds -- an excellent campaign frame.
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Old 05-16-2020, 08:50 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by ak_aramis View Post
... likely to fuel visions of empire....
There's a good point here, though maybe not the one Wil intended.

In this scenario, it's not the Terrans who should have "visions of empire" -- it's the former kimashargur in the Dingir League. After all, once upon a time they took on the entire First Imperium and won. That's a lot to live up to, even if it was eight centuries ago.

I like to weave noir, pulp, and western themes into my campaigns. One of the tropes all three of these genres have in common is the War: Our Heroes are veterans of a conflict (respectively WWII, WWI, and the American Civil War) that gave them the skills, experience, and grit they need to adventure, even if they never explicitly reference it.

So, for this setting we will push the campaign start date up ~twenty years (to 2152) and insert an armed conflict between Terra and Dingir in the interim. The Scrimmage was fought between 2145 and 2148. The nominal cause was possession of the three garden worlds between the two powers (61 Cygni/Nusku, Epsilon Eridani/Shulimik, and Tau Ceti/Iilike), but was really about whether Dingir had the chops to absorb their new neighbors. They didn't, and the war ended with a return to status quo ante bellum.

(If anyone was really interested, we even have a model for how this conflict might play out: Imperium map with Dark Nebula rules; i.e., with only local control and resources.)

The positive outcomes were mutual recognition and an agreement to allow civilian vessels to enter each other's territory to trade, or to pass through to new regions. This is particularly important to Terran contact with the Vegans, and explorers skirting the League at Lacaille 9352 (Shuruppak) and CD-49 13515 (Enki Kalamma) to reach the largely untouched systems to spinward. This latter is where the campaign is focused, with the "remote, centralized government" (which could be Dingir as easily as Terra) that the PCs used to serve at their backs.

Last edited by thrash; 05-17-2020 at 08:25 PM.
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Old 05-22-2020, 07:44 PM   #7
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Default Re: ATU -- Into the Night

Historical "dark ages" were so-called because they didn't produce much in the way of literature or documentation to show later scholars what was going on. The moral dimension, associating this "darkness" with ignorance and backwardness, came later.

This doesn't mean that there are no states, no organized bodies, no civilizations during a dark age -- inevitably there are, if on a smaller scale than the empire they replace. Greater fragmentation does lead to more frequent conflicts, though of much restricted scope. This uncertainty, combined with the lack of reliable records, is what lends dark ages their epic, adventurous quality: Homeric Greece (12th-8th c. BC), "Arthurian" Britain (5th-9th c. AD), China's Three Kingdoms era (2nd-3rd c. AD), or Japan's Warring States period (15th-16th c. AD).

The canon on the OTU's Long Night (28th-46th c. AD) is written almost entirely in-context, looking back from the Third Imperium. It paints a grim picture of broken worlds and lawlessness. Stripped of the moralizing tone, however, the details are remarkably prosaic: pocket empires of 20-30 worlds, technology frequently higher than present-day Earth, rates of piracy lower than what the rules-as-written inflict on player-character ships, and so on. In fact, the defining feature of the Long Night is a profound lack of interest in interstellar affairs, starting with trade. The worlds that survived the collapse of the Rule of Man did so by becoming self-reliant.

A campaign set during the Long Night (whether on the OTU timeline or a millenium earlier here) closely resembles the setting implied by the classic Traveller rules. Within a subsector-sized "Imperium," things run pretty much as they do in the OTU. Characters can have (former) careers in the military and merchant services, buy passage from world to world along established jump routes, pick up freight and passengers with their bank-financed free trader, or visit the Traveller's Aid Society to search for patrons or rumors. Off the commercial star lanes, subsidized merchants ply their assigned routes to bring service to otherwise unprofitable worlds. All ships are rickety, frequently older than the crews that work them, but lovingly maintained.

Once beyond the frontier, things are less convenient.
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Old 05-23-2020, 11:13 PM   #8
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Default Re: ATU -- Into the Night

One of the starting assumptions of CT is that the interstellar government is remote. Sufficiently so to need feudalism and a noble caste.

This may or may not affect character gen, depending upon edition used.
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:01 AM   #9
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One of the starting assumptions of CT is that the interstellar government is remote. Sufficiently so to need feudalism and a noble caste.
Traveller has, indeed, always had nobles, and the "remote centralized government" description appears early (Book 4, 1978) in canon. The explicit association of the two as "feudalism" came somewhat later (Supp. 8, 1981), however. Its rationale was tied to an Imperium now of 11,000 worlds and 700 pc extent, rather than the pocket empires of 20-30 worlds considered here, or the original, sub-subsector version:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Book 3, 1977
NOBILITY

Persons with social standing of 11 or greater are considered to be nobility, even in situations where nobility do not take active part in local government. Nobility have hereditary titles and high standing in their home communities.

At the discretion of the referee, noble persons (especially of social standing 13 or higher) may have ancestral lands or fiefs, or they may have actual ruling power. The nobility table indicates the actual designations or titles accruing to specific social standing values.

Ranking above duke/duchess are two levels not reflected in social standing: prince/princess or king/queen are titles used by actual rulers of worlds. The title emperor/empress is used by the ruler of an empire of several worlds.
(The 1981 text is similar, but omits the last paragraph.)

Note that Traveller nobles do not always take active part in local government, nor do they necessarily have ancestral lands or fiefs. Noble title might simply convey certain privileges, such as exemption from taxation (Spanish hidalgo) or the right to bear arms (hidalgo again, or Japanese samurai). Even for those that do participate in governing, it may be as quasi-hereditary bureaucrats (French noblesse de robe) rather than as territorial administrators.

Moreover, calling the interstellar government "remote" prompts the question, "remote from what?" For the purposes of this ATU, I intend that the "centralized government" be remote from where the campaign actually takes place. It is background: the place where the player-characters originate and the source of their skills and history. Their present adventures occur beyond the organized frontiers of the empire, where they are left to their own resources.

This does raise another issue: should this setting have an "Imperium" as such? In the OTU timeline, the last entity claiming to represent the Rule of Man disappeared 250 years after the main collapse. That would be c. AD 2000 in this timeline, or ~150 years before present. I have been using "Dingir League" since that's the OTU name for the pocket empire that survived here, but perhaps they should lay claim to the Imperial title (much like the Holy Roman Empire on Earth) to better reflect the implied Traveller setting.

The Terrans, on the other hand, have an empire in form (a metropole that dominates its colonies) but not in name. The "Terran Confederation" which grew out of the United Nations is still more of a coordinating agency among national governments than a unified government per se. Since it has the power to deal with foreign policy and external affairs, however, it seems more cohesive to those on the outside (like the Imperium).
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Old 05-24-2020, 11:30 AM   #10
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Default Re: ATU -- Into the Night

My longest running episodic Traveller campaign (over 35 years now) is set during the 'long night', I have just never defined the exact nature of the previous empire(s) in the region of space my players have been having their adventures.

Frank Chadwick is on record as stating that if they could go back and do the OTU over from the start they would have used the end of a long night setting, which is reflected in their aims for TNE.
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