Traveller’s Tales

From The Hardest Places in the World to Visit

Last summer, my Royal Air Maroc flight from Casablanca landed at Malabo International Airport in Equatorial Guinea, and I completed a 50-year mission: I had officially, and legally, visited every recognized country on earth.

This means 196 countries: the 193 members of the United Nations, plus Taiwan, Vatican City, and Kosovo, which are not members but are, to varying degrees, recognized as independent countries by other international actors.

I guess that there is some extremely wealthy, anagathic-addict lunatic who plans to visit each of the 11,000 systems of the Imperium.

I say ‘systems’, as there are far more than 11,000 worlds in even a sector. If a sector has 400 systems, and each system has over 50 planets & moons (like ours, but my number of 50 worlds in our solar system is really old here…), then that’s 20,000 worlds right there.

And you’ll need the anti-aging anagathics (or pure Vilani ancestry) to visit all the worlds. Eleven thousand systems is a lot: visiting one system a day, with instant FTL, would take 30 years. But it can take no less than one week (on average) to visit a system, due to the nature of jumpspace, so 11,000 = 7 days = 77,000 days, or  210 years.

To enter one country, the author was

disguised as part of a team studying under the guidance of an archaeology professor and expert on the tiny clay counters used for keeping financial accounts in the Middle East some 7,000 years ago. My own finances were $9,000 weaker after airfare and tour arrangements.

Another officer required a bribe of $50 to leave the starport airport:

a uniformed officer rubbed his thumb and fingers together as I approached and said, “Money, money, money.” He asked for a bribe of $50 to let me leave the airport.

I told him, in my most forceful French, that I had already paid for my visa.

He looked unimpressed: “Money, money, money.”

I lied and told him that the Chadian ambassador to the United States had assured me that I did not have to pay more money to enter Chad.

He looked at me as if I were a simpleton: “Money. Money.”

I asked him to show me the regulation that required me to pay.

He looked at me as if I were a troublemaker.

I told him I would pay him only if he gave me a signed receipt.

He choked with laughter and shared the joke with two of his colleagues, who were waiting for their cut.

As the end of both his shift and my patience approached, the price of the bribe dropped to $15.

I had only a twenty, which I gave him, and asked for change. For this I got the biggest laugh of the day and a wave to get the hell out.

Now, Somalia is a good model for the more frisky Solomani systems:

Somalia has been devastated by decades of war and terrorism, so it certainly needs tourist dollars, but its government is reluctant to see visitors get killed or kidnapped. A few hotels and guesthouses are, however, open for business, although they primarily cater to diplomats and nongovernmental organizations, and they do take care of procuring visas. They can also book at least four, and preferably six, armed guards who will form a complete perimeter defense around you, with their chief beside you, usually scanning the rooftops with binoculars for snipers.

Looks like a job for a PC crew… “Good pay, but you’ll be earning it, so do yourself a favour and think before signing the bottom line…”

For another nation…

I finally gave up on the official procedure and found a way in (with camera) thanks to a friend at the United Nations, who put me in touch with an official of the Arab League, who put me in touch with a shady character who “facilitated” my entry in 2008 by crossing several palms with silver to procure a visa.

Being a facilitator could be a nice side business, for PCs with initiative!



About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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2 Responses to Traveller’s Tales

  1. Bill Cameron says:

    Interesting as always. A couple years back a member at COTI posted explaining both “zarpe” and “pratique” plus how a canny referee could use each in their games.

    While a “zarpe” is official clearance to LEAVE port, most ports you’re arriving at will want to see the “zarpe” from your last port to ensure you haven’t skipped out on any obligations. While most of the systems in the Six Subsectors belong to the Imperium and thus wouldn’t normally require a zarpe for travel between Imperial systems, you can easily see how zarpe requirements can be used to bedevil your players.

    A “pratique” is official clearance to enter port usually based on a vessel’s captain’s assurance that there are no contagious diseases aboard. Note, the phrase “usually based”. Authorities can and do require medical examinations of all aboard newly arrived vessels whenever they believe it to be necessary, whenever they’re having a bad day, or whenever they need some extra cash.

    In the COTI thread, it was suggested that Ral Ranta would be a good candidate for a polity using the zarpe/pratique system to legally harass “foreign” vessels.


    • Alvin Plummer says:

      Harassing Players is fun!

      On the other hand, it needs to be (reasonably) fair: It’s difficult to reach all the goals of verisimilitude, getting your PCs to engage with the environment, providing a challenge to be solved, and entertaining both the PCs and the Referee.

      I suspect that humour and (on the Referee) a willingness to reward PC creativity, bravery, and good roleplaying skills would help to turn the necessary annoyance of zarpe and pratique to a moment to shine, and bring Traveller alive!

      (and keeping them in the background, most of the time…)


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