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In My Traveller Universe Detail what parts of Traveller you do (or don't) use in your campaign.

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  #1  
Old December 13th, 2008, 05:25 PM
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Default Imperial Culture

Just wondering -- seeing as the 3I is the dominant political, economic and military force in Traveller, it's "culture" must be a very pervasive thing throughout the galaxy. What does "imperial culture" mean in YTU?

Is there a monolithic, or at least easily definable set of characteristics that helps a world define itself as pro-imperium or anti-imperium?

What would be an example of an imperial sub-culture or counter culture?

What are the ways that culture intersects with the nobility and the megacorps?

What are the principle norms of behaviour, and how restrictive are they?

What are the clevages -- racism, sexism, sexuality, religion? What styles of art, music and literature are considered "quintessentially Imperial"?

How many centres are imperial culture are there -- e.g. Vilani, Sylean and Solomani -- and how do they differ?

There are so many places to take something like this, so I wanted to hear what people think...
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Old December 13th, 2008, 06:43 PM
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I would hesitate to say the the Imperial Court is directly impactive on the average planet. Generally aside from the News Feeds, which are never current.

Court fashions? Perhaps, atleast amoung the Nobility and maybe the Merchant class.

I do see the Imperium having an impact in all of the Universities and Colleges, what with the Imperial Chairs of History, Social Studies, Civics and Government, not to meantion all of the other Noble and Imperial Merchant support that most institutions would receive.

The Imperium keeps its hand in, in other ways. Such as the various medal and awards to the Arts, Sciences, and other subjects.

Any world with a Starport will have an on planet example of Imperial Society and opportunities too.

I imagine that the most common influence of the Imperium is the representative member of the Nobility. They would be the Direct Imperial Official that most folks would know of, and hear about most often.
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Old December 13th, 2008, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Renaissance Man View Post
Just wondering -- seeing as the 3I is the dominant political, economic and military force in Traveller, it's "culture" must be a very pervasive thing throughout the galaxy. What does "imperial culture" mean in YTU?
Imperial culture is remarkably similar to 20th and 21st Century Western culture. The apparent problem of how a society that is run as an autocracy can espouse democratic ideas is resolved by a powerful, pervasive meme: "Everybody knows" that democracy cannot function at the interstellar level. Just as everybody know that a military organization cannot function as a democracy, yet find it perfectly reasonable that said military organization defends a democracy, they accept that Imperial organizations can laud democracy without having to practice it.

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Is there a monolithic, or at least easily definable set of characteristics that helps a world define itself as pro-imperium or anti-imperium?
Most worlds consider the question moot. The Imperium is. As long as it doesn't interfere with the world's internal affairs, there's no point in being for or against the Imperium. You might as well be for or against the weather.

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What would be an example of an imperial sub-culture or counter culture?
I'm not quite sure what you mean by sub-culture or counter-culture, so I'll pass on this one.

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What are the ways that culture intersects with the nobility and the megacorps?
The nobility and the megacorpoations are part of the Imperial culture, but with different roles (supposedly, anyway). The purpose of the nobility is to administer the Imperium, the mega-corporations are private organizations. Having nobles owning stock muddies the waters quite a bit.

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What are the principle norms of behaviour, and how restrictive are they?
Old Terra Western norms.

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What are the clevages -- racism, sexism, sexuality, religion?
Anything that interferes with the smooth operation of Imperial administration is Bad. Any prejudices your home world might have inculcated you with had better be left behind. The Imperium itself has no prejudices. Why, we even let barbarians join, as long as they get a proper education first. And the Navy does prefer that its officers have a decent amount of culture and refinement, but that's only reasonable.

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What styles of art, music and literature are considered "quintessentially Imperial"?
Imperial art, music, and literature, of course ;-)

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How many centres are imperial culture are there -- e.g. Vilani, Sylean and Solomani -- and how do they differ?
Imperial culture is purest on and near Capital, but Vilani and Solomani and the other culktural variations are just that - variations. They're not really separate cultures. (As opposed to the cultures of individual worlds, which can be very different. I mean, traditional Vilani culture... Sheesh!)


Hans

Last edited by rancke; December 13th, 2008 at 08:17 PM..
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Old December 14th, 2008, 03:12 PM
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Most worlds consider the question moot. The Imperium is. As long as it doesn't interfere with the world's internal affairs, there's no point in being for or against the Imperium. You might as well be for or against the weather.
You'll forgive me if I find your answers dissatisfying, even if they do rather neatly address the questions.

Take the above answer... the Imperium is a political entity, not a force of nature. Even if it has military power sufficient to convince many citizens that it must be merely accommodated, does not make it universally acceptable. There must be objections to it from people who see it as a contingent rather than necessary phenomenon. It is widely known that two Imperiums rose and fell before this third -- what makes it any different? What gives it the right to tell <insert world or subsector name here> what to do? The nobility and the megacorps are made up of people, replete with flaws and sins... surely some worlds must bridle under their rule?

The 3I distinguishes itself from Imperiums past by allowing a great deal of latitude in the governance and practices of individual member worlds... but I imagine the central government must encourage and foster the adoption of Imperial norms on as many important worlds as possible. This is a question of security as much as it is a question of unity. And the effects of interstellar trade (and the open markets that the Imperium demands) must have a destabilizing effect on individual worlds' economies and cultures. Even without abrogating their responsibilities as member worlds under the liberal rules of the Imperium, there must be some political factions that advocate greater integration and those that want less. This sometimes comes down to symbolic cultural issue -- for instance, a religious theocratic government may oppose the Imperium because they worship a false god (the Emperor.)

The Imperial political system is nominally feudal -- which is a cultural system, based on shared codes of honour and duty to ones betters. This seems far removed already from "Old Terra Western Norms." If you want a liberal western empire, you're on the wrong side of the Long Night -- the Solomani had their chance, and they bunged it up. How important is the notion of "fealty"? If you have a member world that is willing to trade and willing to obey Imperial law outside the system, but unwilling to swear fealty the interstellar noble hierarchy, topped by the Emperor, is this acceptable? Military force, while it might seem to be a concrete thing (either you're blown up or you aren't) always has a cultural dimension... it is here that it finds its legitimacy. So too with economic preeminence. Does the Imperium bring down the boom to enforce cultural norms that legitimize its power and influence? How do worlds signal their independence even as they satisfy the cultural demands of the Imperium?

Last edited by Renaissance Man; December 14th, 2008 at 03:23 PM..
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Old December 14th, 2008, 06:13 PM
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...the Imperium is a political entity, not a force of nature. Even if it has military power sufficient to convince many citizens that it must be merely accommodated, does not make it universally acceptable. There must be objections to it from people who see it as a contingent rather than necessary phenomenon. It is widely known that two Imperiums rose and fell before this third -- what makes it any different? What gives it the right to tell <insert world or subsector name here> what to do? The nobility and the megacorps are made up of people, replete with flaws and sins... surely some worlds must bridle under their rule?
Absolutely. There's the Ine Givar, to name a canonical example. And there's a world that is under Imperial Edict not to build its own navy. Presumbly that world is less than enamoured of the Imperium. But except for some worlds in the Solomani Rim, where the problem is the Solomani Cause, I can't think of any example where the problem is anything more than the Imperium's refusal to grant the world the freedom to attack its neighbors. In other words, purely pragmatic concern. The Ine Givar presumably has an ideology, but the authors deliberately didn't spell out what it was, except that they were anti-Imperium..

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The 3I distinguishes itself from Imperiums past by allowing a great deal of latitude in the governance and practices of individual member worlds... but I imagine the central government must encourage and foster the adoption of Imperial norms on as many important worlds as possible. This is a question of security as much as it is a question of unity.
As long as the worlds pay their taxes and fulfil their obligations to the Imperium, I don't see that secuity is much of an issue. Having a lot of worlds with the same non-Imperial culture would be a risk (as demonstrated by the Ilelish Revolt), but I don't think the Imperium would be much woried over individual planetary cultures. And the fact that there is a Vilani region and a Darmine region and a Lancian Region and an Antarean Region after 1100 years (and even an Ilelish Region 700 years after the Ilelish evolt was crushed) shows that the Imperium isn't doing much suppression of those planetary cultures.

That's not to say that if a GM wants an Imperium that actively attempts to suppress local planetary cultures and substitute an Imperial ditto, he can't select a duchy where the local duke (or his father or grandfather) decided that some of his worlds desperately needed a culture transplant and set about organizing just that. (I'm very much in favor of individualizing duchies).

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And the effects of interstellar trade (and the open markets that the Imperium demands) must have a destabilizing effect on individual worlds' economies and cultures.
Destabilizing? If we can draw a parallel to the current globalization of national economies here on Earth today, ecenomic interdependency seems to increase economic stability. Unless, of course, a sizable part of the economy falters, in which case the dominoes may begin to fall. But America is a much bigger slice of Earth's economy than any single world would be of the Imperium's.

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Even without abrogating their responsibilities as member worlds under the liberal rules of the Imperium, there must be some political factions that advocate greater integration and those that want less. This sometimes comes down to symbolic cultural issue -- for instance, a religious theocratic government may oppose the Imperium because they worship a false god (the Emperor.)
Absolutely. But I don't think that sort of thing will be an Imperium-wide phenomenon.

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The Imperial political system is nominally feudal -- which is a cultural system, based on shared codes of honour and duty to ones betters.
The operative word there is nominal. It's not really feudal. It's more like the British Empire with hereditary governors.

The only meme for the Imperial nobility that I can recall in canon is Noblesse Oblige. Which is about duty to ones subjects. I'd interpret that to mean that in exchange for being born to high position, one is obliged to do the job well.

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This seems far removed already from "Old Terra Western Norms." If you want a liberal western empire, you're on the wrong side of the Long Night -- the Solomani had their chance, and they bunged it up.
I've always imagined that the UN Charter became the model for the constitutions of thousands of worlds and pocket empires -- including the Sylean Federation. However, the main reason why I want the Imperium to inculcate Western values in its servicemen, is that practically every adventure and anber zones assumes that those are the prevailing values. Even when the PCs are hired for antisocial activities, it's Western social mores they're supposed to violate.

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How important is the notion of "fealty"? If you have a member world that is willing to trade and willing to obey Imperial law outside the system, but unwilling to swear fealty the interstellar noble hierarchy, topped by the Emperor, is this acceptable?
The member worlds may not be required to swear fealthy to the Emperor. They sign membership treaties with the Imperium, ceding certain of their sovereign rights to it. The people the Imperium sets to exercing those rights have to swear fealthy to him.

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Military force, while it might seem to be a concrete thing (either you're blown up or you aren't) always has a cultural dimension... it is here that it finds its legitimacy. So too with economic preeminence. Does the Imperium bring down the boom to enforce cultural norms that legitimize its power and influence? How do worlds signal their independence even as they satisfy the cultural demands of the Imperium?
The only norm the Imperium really needs to enforce is that of keeping one's word. Combine that with a treaty and what else do you need?



Hans

Last edited by rancke; December 14th, 2008 at 06:16 PM..
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Old December 14th, 2008, 07:48 PM
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Is there a monolithic, or at least easily definable set of characteristics that helps a world define itself as pro-imperium or anti-imperium?
IMTU, the Imperial presence is certainly detectable, but only in particular areas. The nobility are certainly significant, but not extravagantly so, and they're careful to not intrude in areas that aren't their affair. Each world has its own culture and within certain very broad parameters, defines its own local laws and practices. Corporations will adapt to local customs to some degree, although there will always be differences when dealing with offworlders; the model I usually give to players is how Australians will almost always stand out among Americans at least a little, even if they're very familiar with the US.

The chief values required are a commitment to basic rights for all sophonts, acceptance of free-trade policies between worlds, and a willingness to cede control over the use of force against any other polities to the Imperial government, with the understanding that aggression against other members is strictly prohibited in any form. (This is a pretty bright portrayal; others may not see it as likely or even desirable in their own games. It does represent an ideal that I choose to have generally accepted, though; all Imperial nobility will work from some operating rules reasonably close to this.)
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What would be an example of an imperial sub-culture or counter culture?
Not really applicable. There will be regional differences, but when it takes years to cross the Imperium, there aren't many who do. I play up the differences in different sectors and domains, but the most dramatic differences will happen on the scale of individual worlds.
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What are the ways that culture intersects with the nobility and the megacorps?
It affects the way individuals play their parts -- where a division manager from Mora might be more inclined to hire females for middle-management positions, a manager on a similar level from Vland might just look for someone who has the most established resume. Truthfully, I haven't fleshed out a lot of the regions beyond the Marches for my own game, as very few PCs or the people they interact with will have broad personal experience with the regions or their inhabitants.

<snippage>
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How many centres are imperial culture are there -- e.g. Vilani, Sylean and Solomani -- and how do they differ?
For the most part, I play in the Spinward Marches, and the principal cultural influences are Vilani and Solomani, with a fair bit of Vargr and Sword Worlder mixed in. I treat Mora, Regina, and Trin as the principal cultural referents, with Rhylanor, Jewell, Glisten, and Efate as the second rank.
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Old December 15th, 2008, 02:46 AM
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Hans:

The 3I DOES permit worlds to attack their neighbors... hence the Rules of Warfare. What it prohibits is mass destruction, genocide, enslavement, destruction of industry, and attacking essential means of civil survival, as well as taking over... but you don't like the local government of X, your welcome to depose them... if you can. Just don't ruin the factories

See MT IE, p25 (Good War/Bad War) and p28 (Imperial Rules of War).
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Old December 15th, 2008, 10:33 AM
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Hans:

The 3I DOES permit worlds to attack their neighbors... hence the Rules of Warfare. What it prohibits is mass destruction, genocide, enslavement, destruction of industry, and attacking essential means of civil survival, as well as taking over... but you don't like the local government of X, your welcome to depose them... if you can. Just don't ruin the factories

See MT IE, p25 (Good War/Bad War) and p28 (Imperial Rules of War).
The Imperium tolerates armed conflicts between on-planet forces as long as they're kept within certain limits. It also tolerates a certain level of extraplanetary influence on on-planet wars. That's not the same thing as allowing two worlds to fight each other. One of the two primary causes for Imperial intervention is "excessive interplanetary influence". I'm pretty sure that having one side consist entirely of troops from an extra-planetary source (i.e. one world invading another) would count as excessive. If it doesn't, it's hard to imagine what would.

The Imperial Rules of War article you cite seems to assume that off-world assistance will be provided by an organization with a "legitimate interest in the affairs of the world". So unless a government has a legitimate interest in a neighboring world, the Imperium is probably not going to tolerate the use of national forces against that world.

"However, when it has appeared that the primary burden for the conduct of the war has been carried by an extraplanetary power, the Imperium has intervened, claiming the power has been using the misfortune of a local dispute as a pretext for aggression". [IE:28]

This indicates that aggression is a no-no. Probably expressly forbidden. It would be extremely odd if part the boilerplate of membership treaties didn't include a commitment from the Imperium to defend the member world from attacks.

I suppose that if a war between neighboring worlds were sufficiently muddled to make it impossible to figure out which one was the aggressor, the Imperium might let them duke it out. It's not an unreasonable assumption. But there's nothing in the two texts you cite to show that this is, in fact, the case.


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Old December 15th, 2008, 12:34 PM
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It's clear from several other sources that worlds can militarily impose themselves on other worlds... lots of "owned by" worlds. Only a handful owned by the Imperium.
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SEH w/Diamonds for Extreme Heroism - Battle of Boughene
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Old December 15th, 2008, 01:18 PM
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It's clear from several other sources that worlds can militarily impose themselves on other worlds... lots of "owned by" worlds. Only a handful owned by the Imperium.
Please provide an example. Just because a world owns another doesn't mean it acquired ownership by conquest. It could be bought or colonized. If it was colonized, it's presumably not an Imperial member world.

If one accepts the claim that Garda-Vilis was conquered by Vilis (it could be argued that Vilis colonized Garda-Vilis and uplifted the pimitive natives), it happened before the joined the Imperium, so Garda-Vilis is presumably not a member world. Or if it is, it has a special status set forth in the joint membership treaty.


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