Worthy Ideas from a Commenter

After being tied up for a while, I got a break – and a set of insights from a regular commenter. Time to get out of my own balloon-sized head, and see things from a different set of eyes…

From the Fighting Attitude comment:

Yeah, happy, happy Imperium. We are all one family, come sing the Vilani version of “Kumbaya” which I think translates as:

We are bland, so bland, so very very bland.
We are beige, so beige, so very very beige.
Boring is good, Boring is great,
Boring stops things from escalate(ing)

This is hilarious. 

I am sure that the (less genocidally minded) Vilani actually does this – or a really similar equivalent – all across the Imperium. Fortunately, most Mixed Vilani/Solomani are not as bloody-minded as the denizens of the Empty Quarter: couple this with the real profits of (some level of) peace and prosperity, and it actually works… most of the time.

Also: “Bland is Safe, Bland is Predictable, Bland is Corporate, Bland is Profitable!” In-universe, Bland is the Imperial Way…. officially.

(This does not mean any disrespect to the major publishers of Traveller: they just want to make a buck, not spark a war, and Keeping Things Bland helps with the money-making. “Why should we tell the gaming groups what to think, when we can put up a set of loosely-tied details, and let the Referee and the PCs project what’s really in their heart?”

As to what’s in the heart of this writer, as displayed in his Empty Quarter write-ups… well, it might be best to just shiver a little and quickly move on…

I heartily support the publisher’s decision – “More Money means More Traveller!” – it’s just that I have a different road to travel.)

Of course, the Middle East is hard-core anti-Bland, and it’s this ridiculously important patch of desert that’s the spiritual ancestor of the Empty Quarter. Which makes me wonder about alien visitors to the Middle East.

Assuming the demonic, pure evil alien visitor avoids getting stoned to death or beheaded, it would be an absolutely fascinating place to investigate. Just try to avoid getting Jerusalem Syndrome, and coming back home a world-historical prophet with blazing eyes and a voice that absolutely compels the obedience of billions…

Talk to anyone who was a US Mil brat overseas during the 60’s and 70’s. Japan, Germany, Philippines, even Iceland. Once you step off the reservation, the only support you have is your own family/group and your fists. I learned to use a bike as a shield at 8 years old.


This would be actually a highly interesting set of adventures. The PCs get to be a group of children tied to a Imperium-jumping military family, who get into all sorts of scrapes. Even in the closed, battle-brother world of the Imperial services, there are a good set of subtle (but very real) set of conflicts and competitions:

  • not only the legendary Vilani/Mixed Vilani/Solomani business,
  • but the (massive, but often ignored) human vs Everyone Else business,
  • human vs Vargr Charisma clashes (and the various small-scale personality cults)
  • Sector vs Sector,
  • Major World vs Major World,
  • Noble House vs Noble House,
  • Noble vs Commoners,
  • Old Military Families vs the Conscripts vs the New Military Families
  • Corporate vs Corporate,
  • Vilani Ritualism vs Stellar Divinity vs Abrahamic vs Dharmic business,
  • Male vs Female (You’d be surprised how widespread patriarchalism is within the Imperium: “It’s not just for the Bwap and the Arabs anymore!”)
  • Garden worlders vs Hostile Worlders vs Habitat types
  • Traditionalist vs Modernists (and “Which Tradition? Which Modernity?”)

And we haven’t even left the school base yet!

Fortunately, most everyone really does want to get along, and most everyone really does support the Emperor and a unified Imperium, so there is actually a decent foundation to work on. A general willingness to give each other the benefit of the doubt – coupled with lots and lots of work, to insure the devil doesn’t get the idle hands and bored minds he’s looking for – helps to keep the peace.

(This is true even in the Imperial military services of the Empty Quarter – post-Hebrin Rebellion, anyways. See “Brevet Commodore Baron Jadeep Upadhayay, Imperial Navy”, Stellar Reaches #24, page 5 ff for my take on the subject.)

Step off the base, and things get more dicey.

Not so much in the Imperial Core, and strongly pro-Imperial worlds: families who directly serve the Emperor are likely to be looked up to.

But outside of the safe worlds, where “wealthy and powerful outsiders” are viewed with a mild suspicion at best, and open hatred at worst… “stick together, and be careful out there.”

(And then, there are always the Blood Vargr cubs. Even the (very) few whose parents serve the Emperor are educated separately from the other youth. “A five-year old Suedzuk cub is a very, very, very different thing from a five-year old human child.”

With a taste for wandering in packs, and in-born hunter/killer instincts.

If I was a scout, I would make it a point to collect Long Night tales about people wandering around in the wrong part of the woods, when the Vargr Pillaging was still in the upswing and raiding Blood Vargr had a solid tech advantage over the local humans. “Good thing I wasn’t planning to sleep tonight.”)

From the other Fighting Attitude comment:

Argh. the point I was trying to make before my computer dropped the center section was that the veneer of ‘oneness’ only goes so far. Inherently, the total control and Vilani-ness only exist where the mega-corps and the imp-gov have their heavy boot on the neck of the people.

And that comment was supposed to be followed by the comment about growing up as Mil-Brat overseas.

I tend to be more softer than the Respected Commentator, mainly because I think the Imperium is. Long-lasting empires like to reduce costs and general hostility, and putting your muscle behind money, trade, traditions, familial & corporate alliances, enlightened self-interest, and – yes – certain bribes, corporate payoffs, and subsidies (including all those subsidized traders…), is just plain cheaper than a massive internal security establishment.

I could certainly be wrong here, and I am well aware on just how thin that veneer of civilization is.

But note that his comment is actually rather accurate for the Six Subsectors… but the entire region is a weird cultural outlier vis-a-vis the other Imperial sectors.

“You mean they actually value something HIGHER than MONEY?!?” – the solid majority of visiting Imperial corporate executives, just before going into catatonic shock.

The power of the megacorporations is definitely thinner in the Six Subsectors than elsewhere in the Imperium: The Vilani and the Bwap-dominated systems are strong corporate centres, but in general, the rest of the region really does prefer poverty and independence to wealth and subservience.

Outside of the legendary Tukera Lines — see Stellar Reaches #12, “The Grand Tour”, page 22-23; Stellar Reaches #24, “Ekatan Korpal, Megacorporate Officer”, page 53-54,  Stellar Reaches #25, “Demari Penniver”, page 37 ff — the megacorporate leadership simply can’t face the Outside Context challenge, and quietly slink back to the far more profitable, and far less insane, regions of the Imperium.

“Far more profitable, and far less insane, regions of the Imperium”
Anywhere else in the Imperium. Possibly, Charted Space.”)

From The Stockpile

That would require the tribal peoples not to be destroying infrastructure right and left that would allow the refining of those same raw materials.

That would be nice, for a start. No, I won’t be holding my breath… *sigh*

(But, if you are roleplaying in the 1105 Empty Quarter, you might actually see the local tribals working together. Even if you assume that the Wahhabi lunatics never change – a good bet – they are easier to handle & ignore if they are just throwing rocks at starships on a few desert worlds.

For all the important positions, replace the Jihadi with the more urbane and well-read Brotherhood guys — who are more interested in fleecing Infidels than killing them, have some concern with good public relations, and are not so eager to turn everyone into a hostile, no-compromise enemy — and you can finally get some infrastructure built. See modern Turkey as an example…)

I see a shift from open air storage to more underground and cave storage (much like what we see in Afghanistan now) for storage of critical materials. Family (meaning well armed and defended) compounds over the access points to these stockpiles would be the key for maintaining control (and ownership) of the materials.

I always did like underground operations right across all Traveller cultures, simply due to the rise of air/rafts and viable anti-gravity platforms. But anyways…

And I can’t imagine how a factory would work in the EQ. How much budget is allocated for defensive purposes? Do they rent the local armed forces for perimeter defense? (I envision factories built like the reactor that the Israelis bombed, behind 20 meter berms and so forth.)

The Respected Commentator had a better understanding of modern fortifications that I do, so I bow to his expertise…

From Moon Invasion

But let the godlike spaceman get drunk and wander away from his/her/its protective barrier and it will be like the Portugese captain against the Christian Samurai in the Shogun mini-series.

(For those of you who don’t remember or, ah, are too young to have seen it, Captain pulls pistol at our hero and suddenly notices 2 arrows protruding from his chest, through his armor. Oops.)

An interesting point!

Certainly, the low-tech Emptyheads have rough’n’ready ways to deal with (comparatively) high-tech Vargr raiders. And almost every local world can produce reasonably accurate firearms and artillery of the 1950s (TL 5) level: a good bolt-action rifle is way more dangerous than arrows, and a lucky anti-armour artillery round can sting a thin-skinned starship…

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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