Friday, January 18, 2013

Traveller Sandbox: Beta Quadrant Hall of Infamy, Part 1...

Good Afternoon, All:

Step Seven in the process of developing a sandbox setting for the Traveller Sandbox Experiment is to create a Hall of Infamy for the Beta Quadrant, based on the setting details to date. These could be political figures, corporate CEOs, and other powerful entities with a major agenda and lots of power behind them.

The basic structure for a Hall of Infamy is simple:
  • One Supreme Over-Arching Enemy: Defeating this antagonist should require only the toughest, meanest, most experienced adventurers available. The Supreme Enemy is best located on a world that serves as an Interstellar Threat or Exploration Site, to encourage travel and interaction with these other elements we've created.
  • Two Major Enemies: Defeating these antagonists is not a job for novices, and should require well-established, well-prepared veteran adventurers. Major Enemies are frequently associated with Cultural Hubs, Interstellar Threats or Exploration Sites.
  • Four Minor Enemies: Defeating these antagonists should be very difficult for novices, yet defeat can be accomplished at the hands of seasoned adventurers who are starting to build a reputation for themselves. Minor Enemies are often found on worlds that serve as Interstellar Threats.

That is not to say that there aren't other local or regional threats in existence. Indeed, most adventures are based on the premise that such a threat exists. The Hall of Infamy reflects those established villains and antagonists who are a problem from Day One, when the campaign begins. These are the foes that are mentioned on newscasts and spoken of in those seedy bars that adventurers tend to hang out in when they are looking for gainful employment. These are potentially the guys that may become a thorn in the side of the party as they go about their own personal plans. Therefore, it's best to drop seeds about them from the beginning of the game. Hence, we need to create a Hall of Infamy.

So, because we are using a Quadrant of four subsectors, I'm going to aim for one Minor Enemy per subsector, to spread them out a bit. I could have one Major Enemy to coreward and one rimward, reflecting settled versus frontier settings; or I could do one Major Enemy to spinward and trailing, reflecting the split between the two major warring factions of Beta Quadrant. Given the military/mercenary campaign style that helped me determine to use Beta Quadrant instead of the other three options, I'm going to aim for a spinward/trailing split. Finally, the Supreme Enemy should not be limited to a given polity, but should be a threat to everyone, regardless of Allegiance. These Enemies should not include the various authorities/established polities, even if they are at war, because we don't know what side the players will want to be on. To prevent bias in preparation, I'm going to operate under the assumption that your polity's enemies just add to this list, but even your polity will have enemies that aren't a part of the greater political picture.

My efforts to describe these seven antagonists will be broken up into two posts. In today's posts, I'll deal with the three greater foes, that being our Supreme Enemy and the two Major Enemies. I immediately start reviewing my notes, and find a potential candidate for the trailing Major Enemy, that being the Brothers of Sakari. Then I realize that these psionic terrorists are pretty localized to Koyane Subsector, and so I make a note to add them to the list of Minor Enemies. I also consider Star Admiral Mahmoud Pasha of Bastet for such a role, and realize his level of influence, while it crosses polity boundaries, is located to coreward. Indeed, his reach is mostly centralized to Gleti Subsector. Again, we have an excellent candidate for the list of Minor Enemies. In the same vein, the Holy Crusaders of the Moldandan Universal Church are great for a Minor Enemy in Litha Subsector, but their tech is too low to really have the level of influence we're looking for.

Ah ha! Technology! That's the key criteria I'm missing. Transportation in Traveller is based on Jump drive, which becomes more efficient with higher Tech Levels. Okay, digging through the TLs in Beta Quadrant, I locate the following sources for enemies with "legs" of Jump-2 or greater (that being TL 11 or higher, and a Class A starport):

Sutekh        1707 AADA846-B    Wa                 415 Se (M4 V M6 V)
Zinsu         2308 A621533-B  N Ni Po              600 Ja F9 V* M6 V
Jengu         2407 A79A89C-B  N Wa              A  621 Ja M1 V M4 V*
KOYANE        2706 A5699EF-B    Hi              A  712 Ks F7 V* M3 V
Chedenoman    3201 A300569-C    De Ht Ni Va        303 Na M4 II M8 V* [M5 II]
Haligan       1817 A410556-C  M De Ht Ni           202 Na M6 II

Automatically, I determine that Chedenoman is probably too isolated to be good for what I am seeking (since threatening others requires jumping across the Shogunate first.) However, Haligan looks good. With Jump-3 capacity, Haligan starships are within three jumps of all of the spinward polities. Haligan is four jumps from the major independent world of Abrakos. Therefore, one of the Major Enemies should come from Haligan.

The most centrally located of these worlds is Zinsu. Therefore, I think I'm going to place a Major Enemy there, as well. This violates the thought process of having a spinward/trailing split, and takes us to a coreward/rimward split for Major Enemies, but I'm okay with that, now that I'm looking at the right criteria.

I feel that the Supreme Enemy should be based out of an Exploration Site. Why? Because I like the idea that he's using some ancient Progenitor technology to subsidize his power base. Looking over my Exploration Sites, I recall that I have designated Malsumis (2814 X410232-8 Red Zone) as an Exploration Site, under the protection of Tabaldak (2813 A6878CE-9 Amber Zone). That set up starts triggering my creative process, and suddenly, I have an idea!

Below are some brief write-ups on the enemies that came to mind. If you have any feedback or further suggestions, don't be afraid to leave a comment to this post.

The Five Families
Based out of in the Zinsu system, the Five Families is an organization of philanthropists whose membership is limited to those who are genetically descended from five distinct bloodlines. The membership claims to be able to trace their lineage as far back as noble families from Old Earth. Numerous conspiracy theories surrounding the Five Families postulate that their humanitarian acts simply provide opportunities for the organization to accumulate power through control of public resources, but such claims are ridiculed by the media. Due to their humanitarian efforts, the Five Families receive certain diplomatic freedoms across polity borders not allowed other organizations during times of crisis.
Resources: Charity funds and accumulated wealth; privately owned public utilities; sparkling reputation in public identity; media/public relations firms; extensive spy network.
Agenda: Secretly gain control of multiple polities to forge a new Empire under their control, either as a fait accompli or through civil war.
Opposition: Politicians supporting the status quo; conspiracy theorists.
Connections: Any character may have had possible interaction in the aftermath of any natural disaster; Agents and Rogues may have run afoul of one of their clandestine efforts; Entertainer may have been hired to perform at charity benefit; Nobility may have been involved with charity work or been a target of their machinations; Scholar may have received grants or funding to support one of their projects.

Haligani Star Raiders
The Haligani Star Raiders are a specific group of landed gentry who serve as privateers for King Lucas I, ruler of Haligan. In exchange for land and political sanctuary, the Star Raiders provide the king a portion of their captured goods. Utilizing ships built with Haligan's advanced technology, the Star Raiders have earned quite a reputation as vicious pirates of the space lanes.
Resources: Political sanctuary; advanced starships.
Agenda: Amass large personal fortunes.
Opposition: The authorities; Holy Crusaders of the Moldandan Universal Church.
Connections: Any star-faring character may have suffered an attack by a Star Raider vessel, particularly Merchants; Drifters, Marines, Navy, Rogues and Scouts may have worked with, for or against Star Raiders.

Nadie Takhi, Factor of Malsumis
Shortly after Nadie Takhi became Factor over the Malsumis Colony, the world of Malsumis became interdicted, and Tabaldak declared itself as an independent polity known as the Tabaldak Jurisdiction. Since then, the Factor of Malsumis has become a presence in interstellar society, following a series of highly successful investments. She is known for having an inordinate fascination with the Progenitors, and has toured numerous sites, seeking Progenitor artifacts and relics of a bygone age. In recent years, Factor Takhi has achieved an increasing amount of control both politically and militarily, and appears to be mobilizing forces for an unknown conflict. Referee's Note: Factor Takhi has access to a Progenitor AI that is actually calling the shots. Originally, it helped her become rich and successful to secure her service and further its own means, but now she has become trapped by circumstances into being its servitor as the AI unfolds its plans.
Resources: Major investments; Progenitor artifacts.
Agenda: Restore a long-gone alien race to interstellar dominance, destroy all descendants and inheritors of the Enemy races (namely other sentient beings in former Progenitor space), and finally win the War of the Ancients. (This may be a hopeless effort, but the AI is insane and doesn't comprehend that fact.)
Opposition: "Descendants and inheritors of enemy Progenitor races"; the Star Emperor's Navy.
Connections: Agents, Drifters, Nobility and Rogues may have all had encounters with the Factor's Agents; Scholars and Scouts may have been approached regarding information about Progenitor sites and artifacts.

Traveller campaigns differ from fantasy campaigns in many ways, but this is one of the areas where those differences are most easily apparent. In a fantasy game, the villains tend to be simply high-level characters with conquest or tyranny as their objective. Dealing with them is generally a matter of getting enough experience and personal power to directly confront them, have a Big Boss battle and the day is done. In Traveller, that isn't the case. I've painted a picture of a secret society working behind the scenes, the classic raiding pirates gambit with advanced technology, and a budding megalomaniacal (and potentially genocidal) AI operating through its human pawn. These villains will require far more effort than a simple surgical strike to take care of, given the vast array of their economic and political power.

Personally, in this experiment, I think this might be the weakest area, given the nature of movement on the star maps and the restrictions implicit with starship construction. Still, I'm happy with what I have created above, and I think I can really do some fun stuff with what I've come up with so far. Of course, I'm not done with this step yet. I still have four more members of the Hall of Infamy to create.

More Later,

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