In most Traveller Universes, dangerous worlds are denoted by either an Amber Zone status or a Red Zone status. Per the core rulebook, any world with an Atmosphere code of A+; a Government code of 0, 7 or 10; or a Law Level code of either 0 or 9+ should be considered for Amber Zone status, whereas Red Zone worlds are given out at the discretion of the Referee. Today, I'm going to take a few minutes to chat about my thoughts on Red Zones.
Per the core rulebook, a Red Zone is defined thus (quoted under Fair Use):
The Travellers’ Aid Society travel zone classification for a nation, world, or system which is dangerous to travellers. In general, the imposition of a red zone classification indicates the location is quarantined, interdicted by higher authority, or at war. Quarantine indicates that a dangerous disease is present, and the danger of war is self-explanatory, but interdiction requires further discussion. Interstellar governments often find it necessary to restrict access to worlds or systems for political or military reasons, and do so by publishing interdictions. Enforcement of interdiction varies with the reason for the restriction. Interdiction may be imposed on a world if it is a military base or other sensitive installation, for the private reservations belonging to powerful families desiring seclusion, for developing societies which the government has elected to allow to evolve in isolation, or for valuable resource areas being saved for later development or exploitation."
I feel that any world with a population and a Class X Starport is an Interdicted World, and so I will assign it a Red Zone status. Class E Starports are basically little more than a flat piece of ground, which can be accomplished with any pasture, parking lot or other reasonably flat planetary surface. In my opinion, every world can qualify for at least a Class E Starport, so Class X Starports reflect worlds where visitors are not welcome at all. That, to me, makes it a Red Zone, especially when there's a local population. (This is only my opinion, by the way, and may or may not reflect the opinion of others. I'm okay with that. We're talking about my Traveller Universe and its underlying assumptions, after all.)
I also feel that extremely high Law Levels make a world very dangerous for visitors. At Law Level 12+, the risk to personal freedom is so great that characters should really think twice before going there, because they may never return if they suffer a run-in with the local law enforcement. After all, when a world would be classified as Extreme Law under MegaTraveller rules back in the day, it's the kind of place that tourists get thrown in prison for years for nothing more than looking at someone funny. This, too, is worthy of being called a Red Zone. Fortunately, there are no Extreme Law worlds in Beta Quadrant, but several exist in other quadrants of Segin sector.
Traveling to a Red Zone is easy. Just plot a Jump for that system and hope your Astrogator did his job correctly today. Things only get difficult on your arrival into a Red Zone system. Remember, Red Zones aren't just travel advisories. These systems are under active interdiction or quarantine by some force, one which is able to support the interstellar recognition of that status. Therefore, the aggressive enforcement of that policy is something that should be expected. (The only possible exception I can think of is that of an astrogation hazard, such as an intermittent pulsar or an abandoned interplanetary mine field, in which case one could assume that only radio buoys exist in the system to broadcast the reason it is considered a Red Zone.) I believe that in an average Traveller Universe, an Interdicted or Quarantined system (i.e. Red Zone) generally has the following features as a result of aggressive enforcement:
- The major planetary bodies useful for refueling (ice worlds, water worlds, and gas giants, for example) are all monitored by a network of satellites, which record transponder signals of ships coming and going from these planetary bodies, issue warnings about the nature of the Red Zone, and potentially direct defense systems, as needed. The destruction of any satellite in the network is noted, investigated and potentially dealt with.
- Defense systems, including missile sites, "killer satellites" and drone fighters, provide immediate support for the satellite network, and information gathered over the course of any confrontation is radioed to a more centralized location in the system.
- A squadron of cruisers or possibly larger war vessels patrol the system, based from a centralized location near the subject of Interdiction or Quarantine.
- The cruisers are often augmented and reinforced by system defense boats.
- Jump torpedoes (or, if your Traveller Universe doesn't use them, specialized couriers) report regularly with the nearest Naval base of the enforcing authority. If reports are late, more warships are sent to the system to investigate.
These systems are not infallible, but should make things very difficult for star-farers up to no good. Using a false transponder might help somewhat, at least in misplacing the blame later, while jamming signals or disabling a ship's transponder merely removes a source of information for the authorities to pursue later. Jumping into a system with enough fuel to jump out without refueling will save a ship from confronting the authorities while trying to fill up the tanks. Having a man on the inside could help open holes in the defensive arrays, offering windows of opportunity to enter and exit the system stealthily. Sadly, the likely target of any intentional travel into a Red Zone is generally the one that is the most patrolled. While it is possible to Jump from within the 100-diameter limit of a planetary body, normal Traveller rules indicate that you can't jump INTO the 100-diameter limit of a planetary body, so going in is always harder than leaving. And even if you are successful, word will likely get out soon. This is why ne'er-do-wells (like the player-characters) are generally coerced, paid or lured into making such runs for other, more powerful parties. After all, who would pursue the third party when the authorities have the PCs to chase down for disobeying the Red Zone status of a given system?
And now that I've covered some of my basic thoughts on Red Zones, I think I'll include a new random chart in the next post, which provides reasons for the existence of a Red Zone.