Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Remote Control

Traveller assumes a remote centralized government (referred to in this volume as the Imperium), possessed of great industrial and technological might, but unable, due to the sheer distances and travel times involved, to exert total control at all levels everywhere within its star-spanning realm. 
-Book 4 Mercenary

I have no problem with selling a bunch of items with the 3I setting. People eat it up. All is well. the problem is the more you show of the Imperium the less remote it gets. If you have a central government with any kind of time/travel lag that makes resurrecting the idea of nobility a good idea it will likely be a long way off. But starting with Adventure 1: The Kinunir the Imperium began to creep closer and closer and become a pervasive thing. In fact it got to the point where you'd have to travel for half a term to get to a frontier let alone uncharted stars. Don't give me that business about the 11,000 worlds having unexplored worlds within them and unexplored sections of worlds. If your cel still gets three bars you ain't exploring you're retracing someone's footsteps.

I'm a firm believer that the less there is of the Imperium the better everyone is. I've been reading up on a number of sectors, that are sadly no longer canon, fiefdoms dealt out to friends and allies of GDW. There's some gonzo gaming there.

If you are going to have a powerful central government keep it remote for a good story. Otherwise the slick players and unsociable sorts have to spend nearly as much time tripping lightly as dealing with story stuff. It also means people can't holler for help as easily.

A central government might have its power limited by distance and travel times,  by astrographic features, political necessity or inertia. Sometimes it can be several factors. In the First Interstellar War the Imperium was indeed far from the upstart Terrans, there was another crisis going on prohibiting sending reinforcements to the sector governor and the Vilani were by then complacent and thought they had nothing to fear in the galaxy.

In Andre Norton's fiction the closest thing to a government seems to be central Control for the Patrol. the local authorities seem to have a lot of power to restrict the Patrol i their domains and various guilds wield equal powers to protect their supporters. While an invasion or pirate blitz would probably produce a rapid and coordinated response (before everything turned to shit   Star Rangers) the Patrol and government didn't really bother anyone much. In most of her stories you had fairly rapid travel and faster than light communications. So a weak government allowed people to play dirty.

But the Imperium ... is Traveller's Borg. Initially big and impressive as Hell and barely glimpsed, like a T-rex through some fern trees. It was dragged out so regularly it became the the elevator music of Traveller.

So when I get a Traveller game going the Imperium may be running things behind the scenes or causing the earth to move a few sectors over but it will remain mostly remote and hidden and likely to make its presence known with a million ton dreadnaught showing up in the middle of your plans. A rumor of the Imperium being involved should be a cause for dismay or rejoicing (if you're an NPC.)