#22: Setting a Campaign: Subsectors of the Marches, Part Two
Editor’s Note: The initial Fifth Imperium column was published on the RPG.Net website in July 2009, and appeared in Freelance Traveller’s initial issue in November 2009. This column originally appeared on the RPG.Net website in September 2011, and in the downloadable PDF of Freelance Traveller's October 2011 issue.
In my last column, I began discussion of the subsectors of the Spinward Marches, offering advice on which would work best as campaign settings. This time, I’m going to finish that catalog with a look at the rimward half of the sector.
Spinward Marches Subsectors: From Darrian (I) to Trin’s Veil (P)
Darrian Subsector (I). The Darrian Subsector is the home of the Darrian Confederation, the oldest interstellar government in the Marches and one of the highest-tech civilizations in Charted Space. It might be slightly less desirable as a campaign setting because the Confederation is relatively civilized, but there are still a number of opportunities for adventure including: stories digging into the history of the Darrians and archaeological sites from before the original Darrians annihilated themselves 2000 years ago; conflicts (hot and cold) with the Sword Worlders; and explorations of worlds that lie outside the Confederation itself.
The Darrian Subsector is also tempting as a campaign setting because of the official support it’s received. Most recently that’s thanks to Alien Module 3: Darrians (MongT), which focuses mainly on the Darrian culture, but also devotes almost 40 pages to the worlds of the subsector. The previous source for the Darrians was GURPS Traveller: Humaniti, which devoted 20 pages to them and probably still has some worthwhile tidbits. (It also talks about the Nexxies from the Mora subsector.) The earliest book on the area was of course Traveller Alien Module 8: Darrians (CT). Even with just the Mongoose book, you’ve got a great basis for a campaign. And if you want a ready-made adventure, there’s “Fiddler’s Green” in Crowded Hours (MongT).
What’s surprising is that the Darrian Subsector is just one of three adjoining subsectors that’s been richly detailed over the years!
The Sword Words Subsector (J). Next door, the Sword Worlds also is a subsector with a single government, but the result is very different, as the Sword Worlds are an aggressive culture that’s been falling apart and coming together for hundreds of years. The society is violent and chaotic—making it all around a great place for adventure as long as you don’t get on the wrong side of the Sword Worlders. There’s also ample room for intrigue thanks to animosity toward the Darrians and the Imperium and past alliances with the Zhodani and the Vargr.
There’s also some really hefty source material for the subsector, again making it a really nice complement to the Darrian subsectors. At the moment that starts with GURPS Traveller: Sword Worlds (GT), an all-around superb sourcebook that gives extensive details on, well, everything. Mongoose will have their own Sword Worlds (MongT) out momentarily. For a campaign set in the Sword Worlds, I expect you’ll want both, as I find it hard to believe that the Mongoose book could capture all the details of the GURPS volume. (Hopefully it’ll have lots of new details all its own.)
Several shorter pieces have also helped to detail the area. Over at the edges of the Sword Worlds, you have the classic adventure “Mission on Mithril” (CT), found in Traveller Double Adventure 2, and Avenger’s campaign-length Project Steel (MongT). Among super-short pieces is my own “The Sword Worlds” in Signs & Portents #80, which offers a nice overview of Sword Worlder worlds here and in nearby subsectors.
If it’s not obvious, the Sword Worlds is the second of the three richly detailed subsectors of the the rimward Marches that are just begging for exploitation by GMs.
Lunion Subsector (K). Lunion has been called the “crossroads of the Spinward Marches”. There’s industry and commerce, but as with other civilized locales in the Marches, there’s not necessarily a lot of adventure. Lunion’s another of those subsectors like Lanth (which is just coreward) that you’re more likely to go through than adventure within.
A few adventures have been written for Lunion, including two Amber Zones in Spinward Encounters, but none of it’s enough to hang an extended campaign upon, so you’d do better with one of the (many) subsectors in the Marches that has received more detail.
Mora Subsector (L). Mora is the industrial and political heart of the Spinward Marches and also the “Gateway to the Marches” (or if you’re looking at it from a Marches’ point of view, the Gateway to Corridor and the rest of the Imperium). You can certainly have political, espionage, and industrial adventures here, but traditionally I would have said it’s not the best place for adventure, because it’s the most lawful corner of the Marches, and that’s typically been anathema to Traveller campaigns. However, Mongoose has been giving the subsector some focus in their Living Traveller campaign, so maybe those adventures will help point to the new sorts of campaigns you can run therein.
Two Mongoose Living Traveller adventures, Of Dust-Spice and Dewclaws and A Festive Occasion together constitute the majority of the official source material for the Mora subsector to date. They’re both set on the planet Mora itself.
Five Sisters Subsector (M). Though the Five Sisters subsector is technically part of the Imperium, it’s remote and disjoint from the rest. With a scant 1.845 billion population, the Five Sisters is literally the least populated subsector of the Marches. You could have a pretty blank canvas to paint upon if you wanted to use the Five Sisters as a home base, and there’s a lot of room for exploration and discovery, but absent those being strong factors in your campaign, you’ll probably want to choose elsewhere. Nearby District 268 has a lot of the same feel as Five Sisters, but has a some advantages over it.
A handful of standalone adventures are all the existing source material for the area.
District 268 (N). District 268 is overall a lot like Five Sisters: a sort of wild-west frontier. It’s technically an undeveloped region that hasn’t been welcomed to the Imperium yet, but: its population is a bit higher than Five Sisters at 2.456 billion; it includes a few notable planets like the industry of Forine and Collace and the agriculture of Tarkine; and it’s just a bit closer to the Imperium proper, allowing for a wider variety of adventures.
Even better, District 268 has received a lot of support over four different eras of the game, much of it in the form of really well-detailed world books that give GMs an opportunity to create a richly detailed sector. That kicked off back in the ’80s with Beltstrike (CT), which details the Bowman Belt, and Tarsus (CT). Traveller Adventure 10: Safari Ship (CT) offers extensive information on the world of 567-908, which was later revisited in GURPS Traveller Planetary Survey 2: Denuli, The Shrieker World (GT). During Traveller’s print hiatus of the early ’00s, Avenger Enterprises put out a series of PDF cluster books (Generic) that are sadly now unavailable.
Some of the aforementioned setting books include adventures, but the setting information is so extensive that it’s easy to extract. However, a few straight-up adventures also exist for District 268. Avenger produced a few Fifth Frontier War adventures (T20) in District 268 that are also unavailable. More recently, Mongoose and Avenger have both produced adventures for Mongoose Traveller, including a ~30 page mini-campaign in Spinward Encounters (MongT).
Though the District 268 publications aren’t as cohesive as those for the Darrian and Sword World subsectors, they probably are more extensive (especially if you can find the out-of-print Avenger PDFs). They also provide far more in-depth information on a handful of planets, which could form the strong basis of a campaign. Thus District 268 is the other rimward sector of the Marches that’s ideal for campaigning—especially for those GMs who like piles of background that they can build on themselves.
Glisten Subsector (O). Glisten was a backwater until District 268 was opened up, and is now mostly interesting (for adventurers) as an stepping-off point to District 268.
With that said, there are a number of interesting planets in the Glisten subsector, some of them related to the District 268 expansion. Interesting elements of the planets include: an Imperium Ministry of Colonization training base on Egypt; the Glisten Institute of Planetological Studies (GLIPS) on Glisten; large Jonkareen populations on Callia and Melior (which are sometimes a point of dispute between the Ministry of Colonization and GLIPs); an Imperium exile prison on Mithras; an Imperial Reserve on Marasten; and dust-spice production on Romar. It’s almost enough to make you set a campaign in the subsector—though if you do, it should probably be with the intention of using Glisten as a home base while your players adventure into District 268.
The other element discouraging play in Glisten is the lack of published material. The only printed source is GURPS Traveller Planetary Survey 4: Glisten, Jewel of the Marches (GT). Avenger Enterprises has also produced a few PDFs containing sitreps (MongT) of individual planets. They’ve stayed available through Mongoose (unlike the District 268 material), but they’re mostly color with little crunch.
Trin’s Veil Subsector (P). Trin’s Veil—named for the shattered moon of Trin, which is surely an adventure in and of itself—is the “Backdoor to the Marches”, as it acts as another path into the sector from Corridor. It could be a rising power in the Marches, and that could create some good politicking with Mora, but generally it’s too civilized for most adventuresome Traveller campaigns and would be, if anything, an adjunct to Mora (and perhaps Regina) if you wanted to created a more political campaign.
(Trin’s Veil’s general unsuitability for campaign play is much of what caused me to write this article: I started my own Traveller campaign in Trin’s Veil before coming to the conclusion that it wasn’t the most exciting subsector in the area; I hope this article will offer some better alternatives to other GMs.)
Very little of note has been officially written about Trin’s Veil over the years. Spinward Encounters (MongT) includes two short Amber Zones, which might well have doubled the amount of official material on the area.
In looking at the rimward side of the Marches three subsectors jump out as being great for campaigns: the Darrian subsector; the Sword Worlds subsector; and District 268. An extensive amount of background material has been written for each, all of which could provide a solid basis for any GM who wants a foundation for his own stories.
Generally, I’d suggest that GMs in the Spinward Marches decide where to run based upon what amount of material they’d like to have prepared for them. If they want complete adventures/campaigns I’d suggest the Jewell (B)/Regina (C)/Aramis (D) area that I discussed in the last article; if they want extensive background material to work with while making up their own campaign, I’d suggest the Darrian (I)/Sword Worlds (J)/District 268 (N) area that I discussed in this article; and if they want a blank slate, I’m not sure the Spinward Marches is the right answer, but if so, pick Five Sisters (M).
I’d originally planned for this to be the last article in this column (for now), but while writing it I turned up an article on the Spinward Marches that I wrote for Signs & Portents two years ago that slipped through the cracks when editors changed. Signs & Portents is now on hiatus, so I’ve decided that their loss is your gain. So next month, I’ll present “Aliens of the Marches: the Jonkeereen” as my farewell to Traveller.