First: This would make a great climax for an epic Traveller adventure!
Second: I ain’t bowing and worshiping. It’s obviously one of those impersonal, remote, uncaring gods that the pagans raise up for themselves… and so, by definition, is not the intensely personal, inescapably close, passionately caring Creator of Heaven and Earth.
It’s one thing to hear the phrase “Crossing the Rubicon” or even “The die is cast”. It’s another to see what that actually means.
Imperial Defense and Hardpoints
The Hard Shell
I have always preferred a non-Canon “hard-shell/defense in depth” style of Imperial Naval Doctrine:
powerful naval forces for up to six-eight parsecs from the more dangerous neighbours (Zhodani, Solomani, Vargr Extents)
and a set of major reserves/depots/rallying points/Soviet-style (aka militarized & indoctrinated-loyalist) high-tech/high-pop production points up to 18 parsecs (three 6-parsec jumps) from the contested borders, for depth/resilience.
within the unofficial 18-parsec interior border, there would only be anti-pirate and colonial forces, with strong military points at the sector capitals and the occasional astrographic choke point. A increasingly powerful network of military bases, depots, research stations and installations would be located within the 20-parsec region around Capital, with Capital herself being the most heavily defensed system and world within Charted Space.
“Loyalist”, based on what is known of Imperial Interstellar Culture, would have shifted over the centuries.
Pre-Imperial Civil War, these worlds would be high-pop Pure Solomani worlds that honour Terra, strongly follow Solomani religions & cultures, and are very confident of the right of the Solomani (especially the Solomani Ruling Houses) to rule the galaxy with wisdom, strength, clemency, and honour.
Special respect would be shown to the Vilani as the elder (and weaker) brother, and the Bwap as loyal administrators: it is mainly to gain the loyalty of these populations that non-humans sophonts are held to be the equal of humans within the Imperium.
(And to undercut certain divisive Solomani pundits, who held that the Vilani aren’t really human, and thus should have fewer rights before the Imperial Courts.)
Post-Imperial Civil War, these worlds would be high-pop Mixed Vilani worlds — preferably with minority populations of various races — that follow their own way, strongly tied to neither the Vilani nor the Solomani supercultures, but respecting both. There would be a mild preference for Stellar Divinity believers, as an ancient, widespread Imperial religion that is not of Solomani origin.
(The fact that most Divinity believers today are Solomani would be seen as a minus, but their welcoming attitude to nonhumans would be a strong plus.)
Without a racial ruling class, additional stress would be placed on the honourable behaviour of the Nobility, and the need to uphold traditional, predictable ways of governance and culture. The Post-Civil War culture is more stability-oriented, with greater Vilani input into high-level decisions. As the Ruling Houses aren’t tied to either the Solomani nor the Vilani, there would be a stronger tendency to bring in, co-op, and assimilate divisive elements rather than suppress them.
“Everyone gets a voice — lots and lots of divergent voices. Lots of voices, which can never agree on a single narrative, and so by default follow the Official Narrative from the Iridium Throne.”
Cracking the Shell
As Julius Caesar demonstrated, just having a hard shell without interior defenses is just asking for trouble. A single hardened legion (or a very experienced fleet) can drive all opposition from the field by merely existing. Coupled that with a politically astute military commander, and the core systems would merely fall into his lap. “Game, Set, Match.”
Canon Traveller is structured to place the same military strength in every subsector. There are a few double-strength subsectors, mainly Core subsector as a deterrence/reaction force and the subsectors at Corridor Sector to keep that bottleneck to the Domain of Deneb open, and the Vargr out.
Fearing the Neighbour, Instead of Fearing the Outsider
Many years ago, I claimed that the Imperial military is more organized as an occupation force than a defense (or even offensive) force. Perhaps it is, as there are many Imperial high-tech/high-pop worlds, and they may need to be forcefully reminded not to start bullying the weaker worlds.
(In general, people hate their neighbours more than they hate the distant central government. Especially if the central government rules with a light hand, as per the Third Imperium.)
So, back on topic. The occupation/police organization of the Third Imperium could suggest that the Imperium is a harsh corporate/aristocratic control force, off the populated worlds. And this may well be true!
But I suspect otherwise. I have a feeling that what’s really going on is the need of the Imperium to
keep the wealthy, independent-minded system from pushing around the lesser systems that surround them (and, incidentally, building their own empires within Imperial borders.)
keep the wealthy, independent-minded systems from clawing the eyes out of other wealthy, independent-minded systems that they don’t much like. “Only IMPERIAL fleets are permitted to sterilize world!”
keep the wealthy, independent-minded systems from banding together to create a united front against the Imperium. This is actually the least likely problem — generally, they hate each other more than they hate the Imperium — but it’s still a possibility.
Once again, my favourite quote from my favourite interstellar navy sourcebook of all time, Shatterzone’s Fleet:
Fleet has set up a safety zone that civvies call the Core Worlds. We can contain the biggest danger to civilization that we know: our own power. Nobody else can. We are the solution and the outlet for what the Consortium needs.
One final note: Fleet didn’t conquer the Consortium; we created it. The megacorps provide the fuel, the governments provide the motivation. We are the skeleton and the muscle of the Consortium. Let them fight their battles through trade, politics, intrigue and diplomacy, We will keep the direct route — the wars of chaos between the stars — closed off and silent.
People choose their governments, even in aristocratic absolute monarchies like the Third Imperium. The Imperial military is structured as it is for a reason.
I also suggest that, when people have a mind to change their government, people decide just how much that shift is going to cost in blood and treasure.
Traveller history would have flowed very differently if neither Archduke Dulinor nor Emperor Lucan couldn’t find supporters. Or if Archduke Norris couldn’t rally his people under his banner, for that matter.
Even with Julius Caesar: if he culdn’t gain the respect of the population as well as intimidate the local garrisons, he would have never taken Italy. As it is, not only were the Italian garrisons unwilling to fight him: many happily shifted their allegiance from the Senate to Caesar, building his force from one tough legion to one tough legion… and eight freshly recruited legions.
And all this, before his allied legions back in Gaul arrived. And gaining the backing, wealth, food supplies, and loyalty of a good set of Italian cities, instead of a pile of rubble and so many dead Romans.
In the end, actually taking Rome herself was just a quiet mopping-up operation, cleaning things up before reading for the climatic clash against Pompey.
We will accept battle?
Certainly. Why not?
We are outnumbered three to one on foot and five to one on horse. What uninjured men we have are scared and hungry and desperate.
That is the advantage we must press home.
I was not aware irony had military usage.
We must win or die. Pompey’s men have other options.
Not a bad representation of Julius Caesar.
I doubt that we will ever see a similar depiction of Grand Admiral Arbellatra, though.
Too bad: she was an incredibly important conqueror and ruler, and — as governments reflect the face and spirit of their most powerful and successful leaders — probably did more to shape the spirit of the Imperium than anyone outside of Cleon the Great and Artemsus, and (debatably) outweighed the impact of her son Zhakirov, grand-daughter Margaret I, and her more distant descendants Margaret II and Galvin.
Your boss does not know about it. He will after your next negotiation. You will catch flat-footed . . . once…
It reminds me of this:
“My loss is your gain.”
And it brings up an imaginary Imperial scene, where promising noble & corporate talent are schooled at mighty academies like the University of Sylea with textbooks like “Grey Operations: Notable Examples of Plausible Deniability and Information Control.”
“Ah, the University of Sylea. A perfect mix of deep erudition and well-spoken savagery.”
— some witty fictional far-future aristocrat
In my mind, there are two ways for a large empire to control information:
the Soviet way of commissars and secret police and GULAG archipelagos and wall-to-wall propaganda, or
the British way of the Right People, going to the Right Schools, and networking/marrying into/building wealth with other members of the Right Sort. Naturally, they then promote Responsible Thoughts and Acceptable Beliefs for the Decent People to follow.
There is a somewhat different rulebook for Aspiring Nobles to uphold. It is largely unwritten, but strongly enforced.
Ideals that attack Responsible Thinking are tolerated as obscure ideologies on backwater worlds and exotic minor subcultures… but, for one reason or another, never seem to get a major interstellar hearing beyond the subsector scale. Odd, that.
I have always seen the Third Imperium leaning British, with a Hindu Vilani “ruling caste” flavouring.
Perhaps there was something of a Master Race ideology seeping into the Solomani branches of the Imperial Aristocracy around the Civil War era, until the power of the Party was decisively broken by Emperor Zhakirov’s marriage to the Vilani Antiama in 679 Imperial. I doubt if such racism was at the core of the Imperium, though, due to
the need to incorporate Vilani systems willingly (and thus, at the most profitable level) to even start up the Third Imperium, and
Emperor Cleon’s ruling supporting the legal equality of humans and nonhuman sophonts (but not sentient robots!) in the early years of the Third Imperium.
I’m confident that the rise of the Solomani Party came as a reaction to the slow but steady decline of the old Second Imperium Solomani naval families.
A truly powerful Ruling Race can afford to be generous to the lesser breeds, and simply has no need to declare its blindingly-obvious-to-all superiority. (Actually, even hinting at your naturally superior standing would be a sign of poor breeding and a lower-class temperament.)
But a fearful Race, dreading what the future holds, is sure to start going on and on and on about how superior, how perfect it is, how it can never be defeated, why its Triumph Over All is inevitable, yadda yadda yadda.
I can’t think of an enemy that can’t be tricked… once. If you want to beat him more than once, though, you had better be either
far smarter and way more ‘keyed-in’ than your enemy is, on a consistent basis (aka Uncle Ho), or
be able to bulk up fast — via friends & allies (a la Great Britain), or activating deep reserves (the Russian and American way) — so you can take him out in a direct, all-out fight to the death.
Note that smart Travellers will angle their operations so that they can get all they need — and evade the forces of retribution — by making just one fast, hard hit, and then getting out of the blast zone (be it just leaving the world, or leaving the subsector.)
The Superior Man
I’m pretty sure that some of the extremely talented professors of the University of Sylea — the very best of the Imperium — really do think that they can mold some of their young charges into a truly Superior Man, imitating the relationship Aristotle had to Alexander the Great.
Aristotle was appointed as the head of the royal academy of Macedon. During Aristotle’s time in the Macedonian court, he gave lessons not only to Alexander, but also to two other future kings: Ptolemy and Cassander. Aristotle encouraged Alexander toward eastern conquest and Aristotle’s own attitude towards Persia was unabashedly ethnocentric. In one famous example, he counsels Alexander to be “a leader to the Greeks and a despot to the barbarians, to look after the former as after friends and relatives, and to deal with the latter as with beasts or plants”
Aristotle would have been a solid Solomani Party kind of man.
Something for any creative Traveller Referee to chew on… and put to work in his next adventure. With the serial numbers lightly filed off.
(Incidentally, we can also spot where the Enlightenment — which despised the Bible’s universalist ethics, while exalting the Classical philosophers — got its bone-deep racism from.)
But I will end this post not on the humanism of the intensely humanist Aristotle, but on the inevitable failure of the search for the Superior Noble, the fabled Philosopher King.
Yet, logically the quest of humanistic thought (in all of its forms) to find the perfect man must always end in despair. The very fact that such “higher man” philosophies and religions exist shows that the humanists themselves know that man in his current condition needs a change. The American journalist H. L. Mencken, himself a fan of Nietzsche, had no illusion in this regard:
Man, at his best, remains a sort of one-lunged animal, never completely rounded and perfect, as a cockroach, say, is perfect. If he shows one valuable quality, it is almost unheard of for him to show any other. Give him a head, and he lacks a heart. Give him a heart of a gallon capacity, and his head holds scarcely a pint. The artist, nine times out of ten, is a dead-beat and given to the debauching of virgins, so-called. The patriot is a bigot, and, more often than not, a bounder and a poltroon. The man of physical bravery is often on a level, intellectually, with a Baptist clergyman. The intellectual giant has bad kidneys and cannot thread a needle. In all my years of search in this world, from the Golden Gate in the West to the Vistula in the East, and from the Orkney Islands in the North to the Spanish Main in the South, I have never met a thoroughly moral man who was honorable.2
Little has changed since Mencken wrote this in 1923—save, perhaps, a little more education on the part of Baptist clergymen—because human nature has not changed. We encounter no new material (physical or intellectual) despite Nietzsche’s prediction of a higher man. We have faced plenty of war and bloodshed since cultures began more widely to adopt his ideals, but we have experienced no progress in the nature of man.
It ain’t easy, finding — or raising up — the Perfect Imperial Noble.
No matter if you raised him up on Nietzsche, or Machiavelli, or the Art of War, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, even the Books of the Law (Genesis – Deuteronomy), as the Kings of Israel were supposed to be.
All in all, though, I would still prefer my Imperial Noble to be raised up on the Law. Knowing the Law is no guarantee of following the Law… but at least the road is open.
But I would love to get the Imperial equivalent of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. Not really as advice to follow — no pagan is really going to get it spot-on, even if they hit more than they miss — but as a deep insight in how the very highest levels of Imperial authority thinks, at the peak of their power and intelligence.
The two Aurelii – Marcus Aurelius and Aurelius Augustine – were the best representatives of their ages. One was the hero, the true philosopher, the perfect man bred and cultivated to take on, by his own power and virtue, the forces of chaos and bring order. The other was the imperfect, little, insignificant, common man who had no power in himself except whatever power was bestowed to him from above. One displayed the best of paganism. The other displayed the worst of paganism; and then was changed to a redeemed man.
The hero was a complete failure. His attempts were barren, and the civilization he wanted to build and maintain came down. The real man was successful far beyond his own expectations. He laid the foundation for our modern world, with its liberty, prosperity, ethical values, and increased knowledge of God and His Gospel. Godly dominion by real men always beats domination and power by heroes and elites. Always.
It rather cuts against the grain of the Imperial Aristocracy, and even the core logic of Traveller itself: but it runs with the grain of the Free Market (…and relentless entrepreneurship…) that finances Imperial Authority.
Something for your favourite band of Heroes and Friendly Nobles to chat about, deep into the night.
Just for fun the Referee may want to sketch out the 20 most violently aggressive major worlds in his sector… and two extra wild cards, just to spice things up.
If he wants to get serious, then replace “major worlds” with “major families and corporations.”
Due to the structure of the Imperium, it’s quite difficult for even a powerful Imperial world to directly control more than one or two other systems… but it’s far easier for a ruling Noble house or powerful corporation to dominate a subsector, or even dominate strongly influence a sector.
Not even all the executives of Mars, Inc., knew Forrest E. Mars well when he took over the Chicago candy firm three years ago. Their lack of knowledge was scarcely surprising. Forrest Mars is as deliberately anonymous as a business leader with his wealth and power can be.
Oh, so it’s a typical run-of-the-mill Traveller patron then.
About the only thing that most employees knew for sure about their new boss was that his father–the company’s founder–had given him a check, some candy-bar recipes, and instructions to go away more than thirty years before.
Sounds like a ne’er-do-well from a Corporate Noble line.
A Military Noble would give that son a mercenary cruiser, a decent line of credit for ten years, and instructions not to come within ten parsecs of the dynastic throneworld.
Since then Forrest had been seldom seen around Mars, Inc., even after he became a director. For a time he had been barred from the plant. Now, at the age of sixty, he had finally got his hands on his father’s company, merging it with his own Food Manufacturers, Inc. Soon after, he summoned a group of executives and other employees to a buff-colored conference room.
And things start to get interesting in the family boardroom. Or is that the family throne room?
Mars did not just walk into the room; he charged in. His ring of hair was gray around his gleaming scalp, but he still had the athletic stance of a much younger man. He wore an English suit with wide lapels, and his tie was unstylishly wider still. “We didn’t know if he was ahead of the times, or behind,” recalls a participant.
We’re sure to find out!
After a few quips, which sparked a little dutiful laughter, Mars talked of his plans and hopes for the Mars Candies Division, as the Chicago operation was henceforth to be known. He paused. “I’m a religious man,” he said abruptly (he’s an Episcopalian). There was another long pause, while his new associates pondered the significance of his statement. Their mystification increased when Mars sank to his knees at the head of the long conference table. Some of those present thought that he was groping on the floor for a pencil that had slipped from his hands. From his semi-kneeling position, Mars began a strange litany: “I pray for Milky Way. I pray for Snickers…”
“Yep. It’s one of those Solomani corporations.”
“Eh, no biggie. The Vilani have always integrated cultic festivals into corporate life. It’s pretty rare to find one praying for the entire Milky Way, though.”
“You have a point there. But to find a Episcopalian leading a Martian corporate board in prayer is still surprising.”
“You know about this religious weirdness?”
“Dear Pappa wasn’t just the Marquis of Jazz/Delphi. He was also an Imperial Catholic Bishop.”
Trained as an engineer, Forrest Mars is a practitioner of scientific management. To him, management is “applying mathematics to economic problems.” He has thought through his operating methods down to the finest detail, defined his goals completely, evolved an intricate system of controls through charts and tables–and woe betide any executive who wavers on the well-marked path to profitability.
Words to warm the heart of even the most hardcore Calvinist.
Whether it is prayer or logic that does it, Mars’s operating methods seem to work. In thirty-two years away from Chicago, he had amassed a large personal fortune (it is estimated now at about $250 million).
The wise Solomani human corporate tycoon knows how to walk both roads at the same time.
(A stunt that strongly suggests that it’s really just one road.)
And, by the way, Forrest Mars died in 1999. Ninety-five years old, he was worth $4 billion… at a time when four billion dollars was an almost immeasurable amount of money.
Milly, obviously, is the born Traveller, fooling around with a low-tech antigrav contraption. Or is it a TL3 attempt at a proper starship?
Milly: “We’re going on an adventure!”
[Told you she was the born Traveller.]
Mom: “OK, but don’t stray too far from camp.”
Milly: “MOM! We’ll be OK! We know our way around here!”
Molly: “Farmer Heggardy’s Spot isn’t dangerous.”
Milly: (giggles) “Not at all!”
Dad: “Oh I don’t know…. there’s the tickle bears to watch out for…”
Molly: “Tickle bears? What’s that?”
Milly: “It’s OK Molly. Dad’s only teasing. Tickle bears aren’t real!”
Dad: “Oh? Not real? How do you know that?”
Milly: “Well… um… I’ve never seen one…”
Dad: “You haven’t seen a polar bear either. But you know they’re real.”
The more sciency/philosophical Scouts get into some deep philosophical discussions about the nature of reality, late at night. And the borderlands between the real, the unreal, the formerly real, and the potentially real can have direct, real-world implications as well.
From a more action-oriented perspective: There are persistent rumours that there are several worlds, deep in the Solomani Sphere, that are firmly convinced that aliens aren’t real. “It’s all just a pack of made-up tales, hobgoblins dreamt up by the Party to tighten its grip on power.”
Some outsiders – especially Vargr outsiders – desperately want to pay a visit to those worlds. “Can you imagine the charisma hit? The boasting rights of proving ‘I was the first alien to visit a 100% human world in the Solomani Confederation!’
Other observers wonder exactly why the Solomani Party want certain, out of the way systems to be completely unaware of the existence of non-human sophonts.
Another great Solomani episode. And we all know why:
Interestingly, this cuts both ways.
Quite a number of Confederation Pure Solomani feel that visiting the Imperium — stuffed with people who look human, but really aren’t — is essentially an exercise in visiting Body Snatcher-occupied territory.
“One day, I swear, we will retake Terra from the Evil Soulless Fake Humans!”
On the other hand, quite a lot of Imperials, fully aware of the tightly-monitored lives of the Confederation Citizen, fear that some unexpected misstep will set off an incident like that depicted above —
“Fake Human!! EVIL ALIEN!! EVIL ALIEN!!”
— followed immediately by Direct Mob Action, resulting in your broken body bleeding out on the ground.
Some argue that it’s actually better for obviously nonhuman Imperials to visit the Confederation. They may face harsh treatment, but will escape the wildly paranoiac/xenophobic reactions that racially impure humans have to deal with.
Again, fun times with out-of-control artigrav devices.
I wonder what a few crazy, curious boys would deal with real-deal artigrav generators. Should be interesting and educational… assuming they survive the experience.
Justifying a helicopter rescue of a little dog should be fascinating experience. I would go with the “boost in public support” angle, myself.
A PC group with an air/raft (and able to maintain it!) in a TL 8 or less culture can get into a great deal of interesting and profitable adventures.
I love the Berenstain entrepreneurial spirit!
But even I know that there are things money can’t buy: some things stand outside of the Free Market system.
The video above insists that family and friendship is not to be bought or sold.
I would agree (with a special note that you can’t buy or sell your wife),
and increase the No Buy/Sell zone to include…
what belongs to God (you can’t buy salvation, or the Holy Spirit),
and Public Justice (buying judges is the dictionary definition of corruption. Yes, even in the Imperium.)
Many, many Imperials would include your ties to your tribe/race/species/culture/homeworld.
Lots of Imperials would also include your oaths to the Emperor/Nobility/Planetary/Familial leaders & government.
Every so often, free wheeling Travelling merchants should be reminded of this. In the Imperium, money will be the perfect answer to 99% of your problems… but when Mr. 1% shows up, you had better have something more than credits to protect you.
There are a lot more factors then just if you were a cop/sex offender/informant that decide how your first day of prison will be. First, if your crime was a federal one then you’ll go to a federal prison which has much better funding. Also, the amount of time you are sentenced too decides if you go to a min, med or max prison. The latter being the worse type that you see on TV. For the most part, if you are sentenced to less then 10 years, are not in a gang and are not a cop/sex offender/informant then it’s really like being in a military high school. Boredom, gossip, and regiment. Most people (if not in a max prison) do not want to cause to much trouble and add time to their sentence since they will all be leaving. However, in max prisons, where people have nothing to lose, that is where you have to watch out. Yet, if you landed there then you probably did something really bad. Rape is also EXTREMELY RARE. Even in the video, they said 200,000 men are raped a year in the WORLD, not America. Usually, rape is between gay inmates or consensual sex. It’s not TV, a prisoner isn’t going to rape you to show dominance, he would fight or stab you. The best advice they gave here is making friends to create your own “gang”. I made friends with lots of different people, including gang members. As a result, I had “representatives” in different gangs that could vouch for me if another person in that gang was getting on my case. I can’t speak specifically for San Quiton but most prisons are not like that. As long as you don’t have a sentence that is longer than 10 years you will be put in medium to minimum security prison which is MUCH easier then what is described in the video.
Referee note: If the PCs did a non-violent crime — smuggling, money scams, etc. — it is realistic to slot them in a minimal or medium prison, rather than some hopeless, terrifying supermax hell.
Or, perhaps, one of the better labour camps, helping to terraform a world…. by hand.
“Our death rate per year is down to a mere 0.1% per year now, an absolute breeze!”
“We even have heated barracks now. Can you believe it? HEATED BARRACKS!”
“You mean people are actually released from the camp nowadays? While they’re still alive?”