Friday, 31 December 2010

Alien Minor Race: The Johdari

A Johdari
During a couple of days holiday out at the beach at Maraetai, I finally had a chance to play around with “Flynn’s Guide to Alien Creation” that I reviewed back here.

It is a very quick and simple system to use, and I really enjoyed playing with it. I did find that having a vague idea of the alien race you wished to create enabled you to visualise the created alien more easily. Below is the second alien race I created – the Johdari – a member species of the Outrim Alliance and the race of the character Kephar Oanneshhu, the Engineer in the Webcomic “The BurrowWolf”.

The Johdari

Johdari are a humanoid Minor Race descended from nocturnal arboreal Omnivore/Hunter stock and are native to the planet Johunshhizair/Entorth A-886883-C.

Johdari are warm-blooded, have two genders and are egg-layers. Of Medium Build, though smaller and slighter than humans, they possess bilateral symmetary; have a pair of arms ending in two-fingered hands; and a pair of legs ending in two-prehensile toed feet, each with an apposable gripping spur. They are Fast, moving at 9m, Natural Climbers with Notable Dexterity (2d6+1), and posses a prehensile tail. Built for short, quick chases, they soon tire, having a Weak Endurance (2d6-1). Razor sharp teeth (Natural Weapon – Teeth) and Low Light Vision enabled primative Johdari to dominate the jungles of Johunshhizair, traits that their star-faring descendants still posses.

Maturing at Age 18, Johdari start aging around Age 38 (5 terms) and then slowly (DM+1 to aging rolls). All Johdari benefit from their government’s advanced education system and have Notable Education (2d6+1).

Skin colour ranges from dark brown to jet black and the skin is covered with a fine, downy, fur of a similar colour.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Website Update #10

Chariot IFV from Combat Wombat Miniatures - 15mm scaleI have finally updated my modelling log and my Traveller pages on my website.

There are many Works In Progress.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

History of the RimWorlds #5 – Enter, the Imperium

Copyright Jon Lomberg and the National Air and Space MuseumThe Veil - created by the passage of a starcluster through the plane of the galaxy some 100,000 years ago, the Veil stretches up out of the plane of the galaxy, originating in the Spinward March / Trojan Reach section of published maps, and trailing up towards the open starcluster.
- Chris Harrod: MetaTraveller

The creation of the Veil by my friend Chris enabled us to sidestep the increasing clutter around the Spinward March, while still permitting us to use interesting “official” material without too much trouble. The divergence of our campaigns into the Veil was the beginning our divergence from the GDW-driven timeline of the 3rd Imperium, though the on-going campaign development jumped backwards and forwards chronologically, as well as moving from the macro metagame to the micro scenario.

Writing up the Imperial History of the RimWorlds in 2008, I began to flesh out my theories of a comitatus-style development of the RimWorlds and the character of that initial swashbuckler, Kolin Venuraski, started to emerge:

History of the RimWorlds

103 Thongaloros Empire falls to the Outrim Barbarians.

323 Ftaioiaftew/Gazul settled by Aslan of Huiha Weakhayuwikhye.

497 First Imperial presence in the Rimworlds in Kaorin and Berimar’s Sceptre subsectors.

540 Sector Duchy of the Rimworlds established with its capital on Raelmar/Thurgandarn. Kolin I Venuraeki is first Sector Duke.

The Imperial Interstellar Scout Service mapped their way up the Whisp and into the Coreward Subsectors of Kaorin and Berimar’s Sceptre in the mid-490s. The Whisp Route was, by its nature, difficult to navigate with the Tech Level 12 equipment available to the Imperium at that time. Several Rifts, with multiple, barely sustainable, Jump-3 passages across them, challenged the Scout Service Exploration Service. Eventually, massive fuel refineries orbiting sullen and isolated M-Class stars kept the route open.

Having run the Whisp, the Scouts discovered that the Coreward Subsectors of the RimWorlds, Kaorin and Berimar’s Sceptre, possessed a relatively dense population of vibrant, younger stars, perhaps remnants of the original starcluster that burst through the disc of the Milky Way some 100,000 years earlier. Unlike the barren stars of the Whisp, these stars possessed planetary systems rich in resources.

As the exploration reports filtered back to the IISS Domain Command Centre Deneb, Lord Kolin Venuraski, the young, ambitious, head of a cadet branch of the House of Deneb, caught wind of this new and, as yet, unexplored region. Deftly manoeuvering through the rocks and eddies of Domain Court politics, Lord Kolin, the younger son of Count Metch Venuraski of Fornice/Mora, succeeded in having himself appointed to head the Imperial Commission considering the Scout Service reports on the new sector.

As the Imperium was already heavily committed to the exploration and settlement of the Spinward March, the prospects of colonising a remote pocket of space, accessed via a hazardous and difficult passage, held no immediate attraction to the members of the Commission. Except for Lord Kolin Venuraski. Proposing to explore and exploit the RimWorlds for the betterment of the Imperium through the agency of a Chartered Private Equity Company, thus avoiding any direct commitment of sparse Imperial resources, Lord Kolin shamelessly exploited his position as Head of the Imperial Commission to be commissioned Viceroy of the RimWorlds Sector. The patent of Viceroy was struck in 525, 28 years after the initial scouting missions.

Venuraski had not been idle during this time. Early on, he had reached the conclusion that the Imperium or, more specifically the Domain of Deneb, with expansion in the Spinward March under way, lacked the resources to fully exploit the Rimworlds. In his capacitiy as Head of the Imperial Commission, he was able to ensure that the Scout Service purchased refinery stations for the Whisp Route that vasty exceeded the Service’s requirements. That a large percentage of the refinery construction work was farmed out to heavy engineering corporations on Fornice, or in the Mora Subsector with connections to House Venuraski, passed unnoticed at the time.

As the Imperial Commission’s deliberations dragged on, Venuraski put together a team of trusted advisors who analysied the confidential Scout Service reports and then began drawing up a colonisation plan for the RimWorlds. With this plan in hand, Lord Kolin began marshalling the resources of his immediate family and his wider House. A casual conversation at a soiree opened his eyes to the fact that there were a number of younger siblings of the Houses Major who felt that they were being excluded from the Spinward March development. Frustrated, yet in control of reasonable resources in their own names, these restless young nobles numbered talented, yet untested, members amongst their ranks.

By the time Lord Kolin became Viceroy Kolin of the RimWorlds in 525, he had a strong, multitiered organisation behind him. The moneyed timid, as well as the short-changed adventurer, had all found places in his Chartered Private Equity Company, as silent shareholders or as divisional chiefs and managers. The first colonies were already established in Thurgandarn Subsector in the Coreward RimWorlds even as the ink dried on Kolin Venuraski’s letter patent as Viceroy.

Expansion was rapid and successful, and Kolin began to dream of a Sector Duchy. And then his advancing wavefront of scouts ran into a technologically competent Pocket Empire, the Klarthur Confederacy.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

History of the RimWorlds – Design Notes

When I began constructing the subsectors that were to become the core areas of my Traveller campaign, I had no idea of their history. Later, as I learned more about GDW’s 3rd Imperium campaign setting, I envisioned my campaign area as being “just off the map” of the Spinward March. Later again, when I discovered that the Trojan Reach had overwritten “my” bit of space, I ignored the entire issue of interlinking until my friend Chris came up with the concept of the Whisp and the Veil. In the interim, for the RimWorlds I had developed a List of Sector Dukes, Subsector Duke Lists for the four Imperial Subsectors of Gamelea, Nolgor, Miazan and Gazul, and family trees of the Houses Major that held these four Subsectors.

In 2008, as I began writing up my Traveller material for my website, I worked up a History of the RimWorlds from the 1984 chronology. This, in turn, led to an expanded Imperial History of the RimWorlds. As this History grew longer and longer, I eventually broke it up into the various sections, or chapters, that it now appears in. The Imperial History of the RimWorlds drew heavily on the Sector and Subsector Ducal Lists, and as I came to consider dates and events in the chronology, and what was actually happening behind the scenes at those times, having the family trees proved a real bonus. In one place I suddenly had a cast of characters, in the relatives of the ducal encumbrants, who had their own motivations and desires and whose actions and reactions could also reverberate both forwards and backwards in time. This was all some years before I discovered T4’s Pocket Empires, but the principle was very much the same.

The current power structure in the RimWorlds dates back to the initial Imperial colonisation of the Sector by Lord Kolin Venuraski of Deneb and his Chartered Private Equity Company in the early Sixth Century of the 3rd Imperial era. This is very much based on a form of the comitatus system, similar to that used and understood by Count Belisarius in the Sixth Century AD on Terra, crossed with the merchant-adventurer company common in England in the Sixteenth Century AD. Under this system, Houses Major and Minor contributed resources to Lord Kolin’s exploration and settlement of the RimWorlds in return for resources and land (ie planets or systems). Under Lord Kolin’s leadership, the Houses Major and Minor agreed to contribute military forces for the mutual defence of the territories claimed for the Imperium and to support such Imperial Forces and agents as were assigned to the RimWorlds.

So in the RimWorlds, unique amongst Imperial Sectors, the Subsector, or Colonial, Fleets are the first line of defence and maintain law and order within the various Subsector Duchies. The nine Imperial Subsectors share between three and four Imperial Fleets amongst them, so these fleets tend to act as a strategic reserve under Sector Ducal control. RimWorlds Subsector and Sector Dukes have traditionally led their forces from the front and the chronology and family trees are filled with the premature deaths of senior figures during various battles. This becomes understandable if one is also aware that many members of the Houses Major and Minor also hold senior command positions, either within their Household forces, their Subsector forces or the Sector Command Structure.

Traditionally, most Houses Major practised patrilineal inheritance for their major titles and offices. Daughters tended to receive minor holdings and offices and were married off to secure alliances between Houses. Heiresses often found themselves in the position where they could hold command rank in the military but were somehow considered incapable of holding a political position in their own right. House Hikisaku of Gazul/Gazul was unique amongst Houses Major in that they practised primogeniture inheritance. This policy was attributed to Admiral Alleen hault-Hikisaku, Governor of the Trans-Nolgor Territories, who was confirmed as Subsector Duke Alleen I of Gazul Subsector in 593, upon the elevation of his family to House Major status. Amongst Houses Minor, patrilineal, matrilineal and primogeniture inheritance all find their supporters and adherents.

In reviewing the Imperial History of the RimWorlds document on my website, I feel disinclined to cut and paste it into this blog as this would be, I feel, lazy blogging. Instead, I will endeavour to précis what I have already written and, perhaps, expand upon it so that readers of both sources will see a campaign’s deep background unfold and grow before them, hopefully for the betterment of my on-going game.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

History of the RimWorlds #4 – Setting the Scene for the Imperium

Aslan by the Keith brothers from GDW's Alien Module 1: Aslan - used completely without permission

Two centuries after the Fall of the Thongaloros Empire, discussed in my previous blog entry, the following event is recorded:

-143 Aslan colonise Yuwe/Lymethius.

103 Thongaloros Empire falls to the Outrim Barbarians.

323 Ftaioiaftew/Gazul settled by Aslan of Huiha Weakhayuwikhye.

Huiha Weakhayuwikhye settled at the Rimward end of the Rimworlds, four hundred years after Huiha Esoyatre and Huiha Khysokhou colonised systems in what are now Lymethius and Cabria Subsectors. While there seems to be a sense of relationship between Huiha Esoyatre and Huiha Khysokhou, with Huiha Weakhayuwikhye there is a sense of separation – the only common element is that all three Huiha are Aslan.

While current records aren’t clear – ie I haven’t done any development on the subsector Rimward of Gazul – I would assume that Huiha Weakhayuwikhye in fact ended up occupying several worlds over the Rimward border for, as we shall see, Huiha Weakhayuwikhye eventually played a fairly crucial role in the Rimward Coalition and this, in turn, implies that the Huiha had sufficient resources to successfully resist Imperial expansion.

And then finally the 3rd Imperium steps on stage in the RimWorlds.

Friday, 10 December 2010

History of the RimWorlds #3 – Vanished Empires

Image borrowed from Eli's 'I See Lead People' blog, who sourced it from DeviantArt

And then we come to this entry in the chronology:

103Thongaloros Empire falls to the Outrim Barbarians.

A single line of text that manages to say both much and nothing at the same time. “Outrim Barbarians”, by the way, was an early term used by me to describe non-Imperial peoples living beyond the Imperial frontier. This term is similar to one that appears in early GDW Library Data and which is used to refer to Zhodani and Vargr in particular. As with the GDW term, “Outrim Barbarians” has fallen out of favour as I continued to develop the RimWorlds.

By the time I was constructing my website, I had expanded the one line reference above to a Library Data entry that read as follows:

Thongaloros Empire
Stellar Empire that extended through much of the Rimworlds sector and which collapsed in 103. The dominant sophonts of the Empire was a hexepedal reptilian race called the Tsalur. Small pockets of Tsalur survive on Xcothal/Nolgor and in the Hand of Ssra'ka Aissr in Cabria Subsector. Artifacts and ruins from the Empire still turn up from time to time.

This entry actually drew together two threads of RimWorlds development.

During the initial Traveller campaign I ran, which centred on my friend John’s ex-Scout character Ezra Weinbach, I introduced the Tsalur Minor Race. The Tsalur Warriors were a hexepedal reptilian people living in caverns beneath the surface of the nearly airless planet Xcothal in Nolgor Subsector, and were actually based on a 25mm Fantasy figure I had inherited.

At about the same time, the chronology entry concerning the fall of the Thongaloros Empire was made. Shortly after that, I began to wonder about this early Empire – who were the people (probably not human as 3rd Imperium humans only showed up in the RimWorlds some 400 years after the Empire had collapsed, and any earlier human populations were refugees or sublighters, and in fairly small numbers)? How big had this empire been? Why had it collapsed? What traces had it left? Was I entirely happy with the name of the Empire (the answer to this question is ‘No’, but it is a name that Imperial researches have tried to extract from the records of a dozen different Minor Races, as well as Empire inscriptions, with no apparent surviving pronunciation guides)?

The linking of the Tsalur to the Thongaloros Empire was a bit of an inspired joke on my part. What if researchers discovered records of a vanished stellar empire? And what if different researchers discover and study a fairly primitive and aggressive Minor Race? Would they necessarily link the two together, particularly if the Tsalur Minor Race is only extant on one planet within Imperial space, and the ruins of the vanished Empire are only found on a handful of worlds along the Imperial border?

I saw no need to DGP the situation to death. Not knowing all the answers is part of the fun of being a Referee. When you come to write a scenario, the process of mapping it out, and then running players through it, serves to answer the questions for you.

In Classic Traveller, the Ancients tend to get blamed for everything, from population movements to Rosette systems. In the RimWorlds, the Thongaloros Empire did do some impressive stuff, though only using Tech Level 13 or 14 technologies – they had a pretty forthright labour policy, for example, and were not shy about shifting fairly massive population numbers about as required for various projects. They also controlled all Jump Drive technology within the Sector for a period of at least 500 years – restricting subject races to non-Jump capable ships that were carried between systems on gigantic Carriers. This explains some of the unusual population distributions within the Sector, the fact that there are fairly substantial Minor Race populations mixed together on certain worlds, and the fact that some Minor Races no longer know for certain what or where their system of origin was.

As to the fall of the Empire, the basic explanation would appear to be that a thinly spread, technologically advanced master race-society crumpled and collapsed when fresh, Jump-capable migrants moved into the Sector and refused to accept the status quo. Aslan ihatei had settled Yuwe/Lymethius some two hundred years before the fall of the Empire, and Yuwe is deep within the Sector. If the ihatei had been rewarded with land for services, it may have been deemed advisible to move them as far away from the Coreward Whisp as possible to reduce the temptation for them to side with any newcomers, especially if the Tsalur had not realised that settled Aslan will drive off incoming ihatei as a matter of course.

So, the identity of the destroyers of the Empire is still unknown – it may have been an alliance of Minor Races rising up to pull down the oppressors, it might have been newcomers coming up the Whisp from the Spinward March, it might have been a combination of the two. Suffice to say, the Tsalur survive as savage primitives on Xcothal/Nolgor and as a fairly powerful Pocket Empire in the Hand of Ssra'ka Aissr in the Cabria and Entorth Subsectors. The Thongaloros Empire is no more, but occasionally tunnel systems are found on certain out of the way planets, and strange starships are discovered orbiting barren moons, and odd step-pyramids are located deep in the jungle. Teleportation devices have been found, and strange plasma weapons, as deadly now as they were a thousand years ago.

In short, a secret box of puzzles and plot-hooks.

Monday, 6 December 2010

History of the RimWorlds #2

RimWorlds Sector
The dating system used in my Traveller campaign is the same as that used in Classic Traveller – ie it has been some one thousand one hundred and nine years since Cleon I founded the Third Imperium. To put this into perspective, if today’s year, 2010, equals Third Imperial Year 1109, then Cleon I ascended the Iridium Throne in 901 AD. On Earth at the beginning of the Tenth Century AD, Harald Finehair ruled a united Scandinavia, the Kievian Rus dominated Russia, and historians traditionally viewed this period as the darkest part of the European Dark Ages.

The first entry in my History of the RimWorlds is intriguing:

-3410Maasubi Religion founded by the Prophert Ragarn

The Maasubi Religion is the faith of the Most Excellent Order of Tijur, Talur and Belesarn – known as the Tijur Monks – of Lotarf/Nolgor. Of Ragarn’s story I know as little now as I did when I first pencilled the entry into my notebook sometime before December 1984.

Ragarn’s religious mission, if I have the date correct, takes place at the height of the 1st, or Vilani, Imperium, nearly one thousand years before the Solomani achived space flight. When I recently rechecked this date, my first reaction was that I had placed Ragarn’s story too early in the timeline. After playing around with several alternate interpretations of the date entry, I found that the decider here was whether Maasubi owed its origins to Vilani or Solomani mysticism. As I write this, I find myself beginning to come down on the side of the Vilani for several reasons:
· The word ‘Maasubi’ appears to me to have a certain Vilani flavour to it with the long first vowel;
· There are relics of Vilani culture and language scattered around the edges of Imperial space in the RimWorlds – such as the Rimward Coalition trade tongue Khishsuun, the Vilani/Solomani language Mersim spoken by the inhabitants of the Khedivate of Nutharal/Cabria, the Old Vilani dialect Siikharsim spoken in the Dathynan Concordance in Gazul Subsector, and the Vilani dialect Khasikha spoken in the Geithurian Republic;
· Plus given the brevity of the 2nd Imperium, the most likely pre-Third Imperium human migrants into the remote RimWorlds are Vilani, fleeing “something” –Vargr incursions or persecution by the Bureaux - by moving across Corridor Sector and into the Spinward March. Some of the Vilani exiles lingered in the March, while others pressed on, seeking to put more distance and time between them and whatever it was that had set them to flight. When the 3rd Imperium began moving into the March in the 4th Century, the Vilani exiles who had remained behind either submitted, or started running again, eventually passing up the Whisp towards Intergalactic space in the wake of the earlier migration.

This last point neatly explains the various Vilani dialects in various parts of the RimWorlds Sector, as they are indicative of several migrations of isolated populations over a period of perhaps one thousand years. This time frame is important as it neatly straddles the mysterious Thongaloros Empire.

In concept, Maasubi appears to be a meditative and martial monastic religion, something akin to Shoalin Buddhism. Additionally, Tijur Monks, particularly from Lotarf/Nolgor, are attributed Psionic powers. By 1109, Lotarf, Shenn and Thrisk are the sole remaining strongholds of Maasubi in the Rimward subsectors of the RimWorlds, though other monestary planets may exist in the Coreward subsectors, towards the Whisp route back to the Spinward March.

-609Droyne colony ship reaches Yuar/Cabria.

Droyne turn up all over the place. I quite like Droyne, and really should re-read the material I have on them. Yuar/Cabria is an interesting system for them to be occupying as it controls the Jump-3 route across the middle reaches of the Uedhkinthuez nakhae – The Black Beast – a Rift running Rimward from Gyffd and Gaidon in the Cabria Subsector. The Yuar Droyne are only Tech Level 12, but have a population in the billions. It is assumed that they arrived in the RimWorlds prior to the rise of the Thongaloros Empire but what their relationship with the Empire was like is unknown.

-143Aslan colonise Yuwe/Lymethius.

There are three known Aslan Clans in the RimWorlds; Huiha Esoyatre, Huiha Khysokhou and Huiha Weakhayuwikhye. Of the three, Huiha Weakhayuwikhye is the most isolated at the Rimward end of Gazul Subsector, and the last to settle in the RimWorlds Sector, arriving some four hundred years after the other two Huiha. Huiha Esoyatre and Huiha Khysokhou are both member-states of the Outrim Alliance and Huiha Esoyatre has been taking a greater leadership role within that alliance since the 4th Outrim War of 1080 – 85. It is possible that Huiha Khysokhou owes its origins to Huiha Esoyatre ihatei who struck out on their own to seize new lands.

Huiha Esoyatre and Huiha Khysokhou appear to have settled Yuwe/Lymethius during the Thongaloros Empire period of RimWorlds history. It is possible that the Huiha were welcomed as mercenary soldiers and given the land they craved in returned for serving the Empire as soldiers. When the Empire began to weaken, the Huiha expanded into whatever niche they could find, and fought to hold what they already had.

Given the date of settlement, it would appear that the ihatei that formed Huiha Esoyatre left Hierate space early on, crossing the Great Rift and the Trojan Reach before finding their way up the Whisp to the RimWorlds.