An interesting Mad Max-style sci-fi scenario. It would be a very good fit for the Traveller: The New Era robot apocalypse setting: perhaps a greater emphasis on crazy warrior robots could be used to add additional Wilds flavour.
I can also see this situation kick in during the Long Night, or the early Imperium when fresh new worlds were still being contacted. It’s rather unlikely to find these worlds within the Canon, Classic Imperium though: it’s too easy for the more aggressive and well-funded colonial expeditions or wealthy neighbouring worlds to conquer the impoverished low-tech settlements, raze the patchwork robots production/repair centres from space, and take the planet for themselves.
Expansion: “It’s Just Business”
You could still find them outside the Imperial borders, though. Or as a temporary, post-war condition, with a few years… or decades… of chaos before the neighbours move in. Or, perhaps more likely, one of the larger local groups hooks up with an off-world ally, gets a fresh infusion of new tech and new equipment (and the grease monkeys to keep everything running), and simply roll over the still-backward locals.
Of course, nothing is for free. I’d guess there’s some kind of financial quid-pro-quo going on with most of these off-world deals: “I’ll give you lots of fresh guns, hand-held explosives, ample food and medicine, and a few World-War II-tech artillery and bombers in return for (mining rights/exclusive markets/private starports/whatever).”
Expansion: “It’s Just Politics”
Political deals are a bit more interesting, where the world takes the money in return for submission to the off-world authority of a Noble House/Interstellar Corporation/Nearby Local Systems. (You can well get ‘two-out-of-three’ or ‘triple-hit’ deal.
Naturally, the Ruling Houses like the idea of getting more and more systems under their wings. It means more prestige, greater weight in the Sector and Imperial moots, and more titles for the ‘second sons’. Wisely managed, it also means more loyal troops, a bigger economy to skim, and greater family glory.
Interstellar corporations are just here for the cash: see the above ‘it’s just business’ section. In Vilani cultures, corporations can and do gain real political power and actual ‘battlefield-scale’ loyalty – so long as they deliver on the profits and the stability. But in Solomani cultures, nobody is willing to die for the Corp (as opposed to Tribe, Race, World, Nation, Deity, or even a beloved Noble).
Building up the off-world authority of a major planet is a little more tricky. The Imperium permits a major system to have one or two – maybe three – colonial systems under her sway. But anything more than two grates on Imperial nerves: the Iridium Throne really doesn’t like the idea of other interstellar governments operating within her borders.
Imperial interstellar autonomous governments are rare enough that you can actually count them all, across the 11,000 stars:
- the modern remnant of the Sylean Federation (kept around for old time’s sake),
- the League of Antares (a result of the Julian War),
- and the Vegan Autonomous District (a high-tech/high-pop bulwark against Solomani aggression
There was the Solomani Autonomous Region… but we all know how that turned out.
Expansion: “For the Tribe!”
Traveller being Traveller, tribal deals are definitely possible. If a wealthy Solomani population sees that it can help a poor Solomani population on another world get a leg up the racially impure types, it may well send over some cheap assistance: returns may well outweigh costs here. Same thing for the Vilani (replace “racial purity” with “cultural conformity”), or the interstellar religions/ideologies.
Non-humans would be more careful though. The Bwap might get away with it, thanks to their long-standing alliance with the Vilani. But offworld Vargr giving a hand to local Vargr would almost immediately spark off-world humans dropping off their own supplies to their own people – while maneuvering the (human-dominated) Imperium into cutting off Vargr support as “wicked alien pirates trying to spread their corruption and establish more raider bases on Imperial soil!”
Note that the claim may well be true: but, true or not, it’s a useful thing to say.