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Supplement Four December 27th, 2007 07:23 PM

Reading a subsector - Regina
One of the things I like to do as a GM before I start a campaign is an activity I call "reading a subsector". What I do is look at the basic information provided (usually by official subsector data but can be a freshly generated subsector) and make a lot of assumptions based on the "facts" as presented before me.

It's really quite a fun and creative exercise. And, the "background" it develops for a campaign is priceless. When gaming, the suspension of disbelief is paramount, and the devil is in the details.

The best "official" read of a subsector I've seen is in the Traveller Adventure. It's spread out, but an attentive GM can find a gold mine of details that tells him what living in that area of space is really like.

For example, the Aramis subsector is divided into three astrographical regions. There's the Aramis Trace, the Towers Cluser, and the other worlds (spinward) in the subsector called the "Scatters". Sabre rattling is deafening in the region as the Zho's and the Imperials prepare for the Fifth Frontier War. The Empire has placed a price ceiling on lanthanum, which effects much of the mining in the subsector (not just Patinir). In contrast, a subsector initiative is on to increase trade with the Vargr coreward, and on several worlds, Vargr Trade stations have been established.

One large corsair band from the neighboring coreward subsector is creating havok with the worlds in vargr space. It's even swallowed a rival band recently, and the combination of these two events has led to an influx of vargr refugees into the Aramis subsector--most gathering on worlds in the Towers cluster. And, this has led to growing resentment against these non-Imperial vargr immigrants...hampering the efforts to increase trade with the Extents.

There are more details like these, but you get the idea. These are all exceptional things to place in a GM's tool bag--something he can rely upon, almost by instinct, as the game progresses. Knowing the lanthanum ceiling is in effect, for example, may color the GM's portrayal of an NPC belter that the players meet in a bar. Worlds begin to take on the feeling of real life (and not just be stops on a dot map).

"Aramanx? Naw, ya dunna wanna go there, sonny. Civil war is about to break out. They won't even let you leave the high port.

Or...the GM could portray an NPC from the world of Pysadi. This NPC is probably a bit of a religious zealout. Backwards (not unlike some third world countries in the real world), to the tune of TL 4. And, weak as hell. Puny. Standard gravity on the world is about half a G.

Supplement Four December 27th, 2007 07:40 PM

Regina subsector
Just for kicks, I'm looking over the Regina subsector (probably the most famous subsector in the entire game) and seeing how this region "reads".

Feel free to join in and read it with me. What do you see? What do the subsector "facts" say to you?

On my first glance, I see there are five astrographical regions in the subsector.

1. The star cluster that contains Yorbund and Kinorb. For a quick look, check here. See, the cluster continues coreward into Vargr space. The entire cluster looks a bit like a fish hook. Hmmm. That might not be a bad idea when thinking of a name for the cluster.

2. Another cluster contains the four worlds of Yres, Pixie, Menorb, and Boughene. Have to think of a name for that one.

3. Yet a third cluster appears in the center of the subsector containing Feri and Shionthy. It kinda looks like a musket, drawn with stars in the sky, doesn't it? Regina's Musket? Locals refer to it as "The Musket"?

4. And then there's Roup. Lonely Roup. It's the only star in the entire subsector that isn't a piece of a star cluster. Is this the "Eye of Regina"? Going to Roup, people will say you're traveling to the "Eye"?

5. The biggest collection of stars in the subsector is the wide-ranging tendrils of the Spinward Main. All other systems not mentioned are part of the Main.

Supplement Four December 27th, 2007 08:17 PM

And, this is interesting...

Check out Efate. The highest TL in the subsector is TL D. That occurs on Efate, Uakye, Pixie, Boughene, and Yori.

But, Uakye, Pixie, and Boughene are non-industrial. That reads to me that they are importing their tech.

In fact, the only world out of these five with a large production base is Efate. It's the only one marked as industrial.

Efate's major trading partners are Uakye, Pixie, and Boughene.

Yori, being a "rich" world, is self-sufficient, but not being "industrial" doesn't have a large production base (in subsector terms) for exports.

So, Efate is it. It's THE major production center for the entire subsector. (No wonder it's got such a history duing the Fifth Frontier War.)

And, look at its law level? LL-0. No Law.

They've got not restrictions on their exports!

If you want to buy a PGMP, then Efate is a good place to look. Heck, if you find one anywhere in the entire subsector, it's a 90%+ chance that the weapon was manufactured by a company on Efate.

Efate's govt code is 3: a Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy.

I'd say the world is run by a group of men called "The Barons". Profit is their main motive. Efate was colonized during the Rule of Man but remained a shiny star during the Long Night. With re-incorporation into the Imperium, the world has grown like an old west frontier town after gold was discovered. Like a deep water port that has prospered over the years, the Barons have benefitted from their little outpost at the edge of Imperial space.

And, I bet that world is a hot bed of activity. What a place to set an adventure! The world boasts a Class A starport, a Naval Base, and a Scout Way Station. There, on the border of the Imperium, it's a gateway port to other sections of space.

No law (except the Baron's law--which might be worse than a real law system). Alien refugees from the surrounding regions. Zhodani embassies. Vargr embassies. Embassies for the various client states.

Let's not forget the Ine Givar Rebels (read the TNS flashes from Fifth Frontier War).

And, with Efate exporting whatever will be profitable (and damned with Imperial regulations), you can bet that Efate is a micro-cold war all by itself, with sides and participants too numerous to count.

Because of TL restrictions, you know that Efate's Class A starport has got to be the primary shipyards for the entire subsector as well. No gas giant in the system means...more money for the Barons. They've got to be some of the wealthiest men in the 3I.

Yeah...Efate is something else. What a neat and interesting place to set a campaign.

Thin, tainted atmosphere.

Billions of people.

Huge industrial complex.

Location at the edge of Imperial space. A "gateway" world.

Class A starport.

On the Spinward Main.

On the primary X-Boat communiation route (and therefore on the major trade routes as well).

Naval and Scout bases.

And...have you noticed too, that there are several worlds in the subsector that do not participate in the subsector community? Many of these are close to Efate. Look just rimward of the world. Whanga, Knorbes, and Forboldn. All on the Spinward Main. All potential power players--but they're not. All Class E starports.

See X-Boat route? Wouldn't it make more sense if it had followed the Spinward Main from Regina to Efate? Yet, what happens? The X-Boat route completely skips that section of space, instead moving through other star clusters before eventually bending back spinward to Efate.

I wonder if, back during the early days of the 3I, when the X-Boat routes were being created, that the Barons of Efate had anything to do with this? Maybe it was their political pull that made the "superhighway" bypass its rivals. (Then again, maybe the Scouts always intended for the X-Boat route to touch each star cluster in the subsector--make a lot of sense too.)

Spinward Scout December 27th, 2007 11:06 PM

Was working on a 'Round the Regina Campaign for a bit before Real Life took over. Good subsector for an Ancients series and a good old-fashioned frontier area. I set the campaign in year 1111, just after the Fifth Frontier War ended. Then you've got refugees, war veterans, scavengers, and possibly stray Zhodani lurking around. Plus a rebuilding after the war.

These are the names I came up with for the areas in Regina:

Regina Spur
Pixie Cluster
Tentus Edge Worlds
MidWorlds Trace
The Diffuse

Hope that helps,

EDIT: If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page below the thread, there are a bunch of links to Similar Threads (a couple of which I started a while back).

Supplement Four December 28th, 2007 12:06 AM

Where are the armies?
Another interesting thing to figure out when "reading" a subsector is to figure where the armies lie.

Most CT player posit that there is not real "Imperial Army". The only real Imperial Forces are the Navy, Marines, and Scout Service. The armies of the Imperium are actually created and run by the worlds and nobles of the empire. Membership in the Imperium requires that world armies be subject to Emperor in times of need.

It's not like a vastly powerful United Nations (much more powerful than the real UN) with surrogate powers over member nation's armies--a UN with the power to order US troops into a war zone without US approval. It's part of the cost of being a member of the Empire.

So, if you subscribe to this model of how the armies in the Imperium are run, then it is interesting to look through a subsector and figure where the ground military power lay.

TL is important. Population is important. Atmosphere is somewhat important. Political designations, like subsector captial is important. Naval bases can be important. Starport Class is important for logistical reasons.

(Whether an Army is present, btw, can also be important for character generation purposes. If no army is present on the character's homeworld, then the GM may consider barring that career as a choice for the character.)

Efate definitely has an army. It's got the Starport. It's got the TL. It's got the population. It's got the positioning. It's got the industrial base.

The interesting thing about Efate's army, though, is its governmental and law structure. This army is in the hands of the Barons and no other. It guarrantees their claim to power on that world short of an invasion from another Imperial member world.

On the other hand, take a place like Hefry. There's no army there. It's got relatively low tech (TL7). It's a vacuum world. It's non-industrial. It doesn't have the population (up to 99,999 on the entire planet) for a large army.

If there was ever a problem big enough to warrant ground action on Hefry, then, chances are, troops would be routed from Efate or Regina to occupy Hefry. (Of course, Marines would probably land first.)

Now...if you're talking about a vase Scout operation, Hefry is your planet. I'd wager those 10,000+ people on Hefry all have something to do, either directly or indirectly, with the huge Scout instellation that is on the world.

Supplement Four December 28th, 2007 12:13 AM

The rest of the system
Too often, too, we forget about the rest of the star system.

These systems are made up of much more than just the main world. If there's a gas giant in the system, there may be stations close to them. Asteroid belts might have large or small communities of belters.

A system like Hefry probably doesn't have much. There may be a few scientific or Scout related installations in the system. Places like this is where GMs need to set secret pirate bases and the like. These types of systems are more at risk of having vargr corsair bands swoop in to prey on merchant shipping.

Then again, a system like Efate may have loads of ports and bases and populations in and around most worlds in the system. All the traffic and the heavy military presence make this type of system not such a good place for a corsair to stage a raid (doesn't mean they don't try, from time to time).

Extended star systems like this should be considered, from time to time, as homeworlds for player characters (places besides the main world). Just make sure the main world TL supports such an idea.

vraymond December 28th, 2007 02:27 PM

Reading a subsector
S4, I agree with you completely. A careful "read" of a subsector can tell you a LOT about what's going on. Population, tech level, government and law level all say a lot about where the "centers of gravity" are - with the additional bonus of also giving a sense of where the frontiers or bypassed or simply forgotten areas are.

I've tended to think that settlement of space had to have gone very quickly, in order to justify the relatively random results you get in subsectors generated normally. In other words, it's easier for colonists to get a ship to another star system than stay and "fill out" the system they are in. As a result, you get different government types, law levels, and tech levels right next to one another.

Supplement Four December 28th, 2007 04:15 PM


Originally Posted by vraymond (Post 245174)
S4, I agree with you completely. A careful "read" of a subsector can tell you a LOT about what's going on. Population, tech level, government and law level all say a lot about where the "centers of gravity" are - with the additional bonus of also giving a sense of where the frontiers or bypassed or simply forgotten areas are.

Another thing I didn't mention was shipbuilding. Where are the power-house ship building places in the subsector.

First, we look at the worlds with the Class A starports, because that's where the starship yards are going to be.


Kinorb is TL 5. But, it does have a Class A starport. So, we'll assume it has the bare minimum of a Class A starport shipyard (TL 9). Drives A-D can be manufactured there. The world is non-industrial, so the starport manufacturing must be limited.

Looking at the starship design rules, it's clear that the largest ship the Kinorb shipyards are capable of servicing is an 800 ton space vehicle.

That may be very handy information for a GM to use during gaming.

Then, you have to look at TL, because that will tell you what type of ships are being built in those shipyards.

Looking at the same stats on Regina, it's TL A means that the shipyard there is capable of manufacturing drives A-H. But, there's also a Naval Base on Regina, and it is the subsector capital.

So, a creative GM may say that the civilian yards at Regina are capable of handling 1000 ton spacecraft at maxium, but the Naval yards can service any size.

Adds some character to Regina, does it not?

The yards at Efate, Pixie, and Boughene can all handle drives A-Q, so that makes them able to service vessels in the 3000 ton range.

How does this help a GM in a game? Well, let's say they're trying to figure out where the damaged 3000 ton freighter jumped to? The choices are Efate, Pixie, and Boughene...which one was in jump range?

What about starships being serviced at smaller ports? What if that damaged 3000 ton freighter dropped in at Kinorb?

Sure. There's lots of servicing that Kinorb yard can do for the 3000 tonner. It can make orbit around the world if none of the starport docks are big enough, and shuttles can ferry passengers and freight to-n-fro.

It's just if anything major is wrong with the 3000 ton vessel, then this give the GM a great excuse to holding the ship in port while the part needed is shipped to the ship's location (provided the ship couldn't make the journey to the proper port).

All sorts of information can be gleaned by "reading" a subsector this way. Where are you going to place your major shipping company headquarters? Well, they'll probably be based on either Efate, Boughene, or Pixie. And...maybe Regina, but only because its the subsector capital.

Vargas December 28th, 2007 04:49 PM


Originally Posted by Supplement Four (Post 245156)
Most CT player posit that there is not real "Imperial Army".

Respectfully, I don't subscribe to this idea. I don't see any reason why there can't be one.

And as far as Whanga and the other two Class E ported worlds mentioned above go, I kind of have a hard time with them not being more built up given they're on the Spinward Main, but I guess that's life with a randomly generated sector.

Supplement Four December 28th, 2007 05:57 PM


Originally Posted by Vargas (Post 245183)
Respectfully, I don't subscribe to this idea. I don't see any reason why there can't be one.

It's up to preference, I guess. I used to subscribe to an official Imperial ground Army. Then, I always wondered why Army bases weren't shown on maps. Were they assumed to co-exist with the Naval bases?

Over the years, many Traveller players subscribe to the idea that the Imperial Navy and the Imperial Scout Service exist, but there is no "Imperial Army".

Then, when GT's Ground Forces book came out, it finally made it canon (if you consider GT as canon) that the Imperial Army is really the "Unified Armies of the Imperium", which is made up of member world armies under control of the member worlds and the Sector Dukes.


And as far as Whanga and the other two Class E ported worlds mentioned above go, I kind of have a hard time with them not being more built up given they're on the Spinward Main, but I guess that's life with a randomly generated sector.
The randomness doesn't bother me at all. There's a lot about real life that seems "random". Heck, I look at a map of Houston streets, and in hindsight, years and decades later, they don't make a lot of sense. But, that's the way "they grew" over time.

I see the "randomness" in Traveller in the same way. That's the way it "grew" over time. Maybe, now looking back over 1000 years after the 3I was established, some things would be done differently from the Monday-morning quaterbacking position.

MWM said once, on the TML, that he enjoys looking at UWPs and trying to put reason to what seems to be unreasonable combinations.

I always thought that was a beautiful way to look at it.

It's fun to go back and say, "Hmmm....maybe it's that way because of this..."

In a way, numbers generated in Traveller that would "make more sense" are less interesting. Less "alive".

I prefer the game the way it is.

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