This article was originally posted to the Freelance Traveller website in 2009, and reprinted in the September/October 2016 issue.
Many starports, some spaceports, and a few air/sea ports have a “Chandlers of (insert world name)”.
Chandlers is a chain of shops carrying a variety of TL9-12 ‘comfort items’ suited for space travel. The majority of their inventory consists of small, easy-to-pack tools, ‘toys’, and devices, but you can also find luggage and various types of carry-bags, and a selection of popular entertainment media, ranging from books (both hardcopy and data) to audio and video recordings suitable for use with most personal computers or media devices.
Everything purchased from Chandlers bears the Chandlers logo. About two-thirds of the inventory will be the same from shop to shop, and will bear a ‘generic’ Chandlers logo. What makes Chandlers special is the remaining portion of the inventory that is devoted to “Chandlers of ___” goods. These are locally made items that aren’t exported, but are sold by Chandlers exclusively at that one location. They also carry the Chandlers logo, but with the world name as well—this creates something of the old “steamer trunk with many stickers” mystique when you see someone who’s been around the galaxy sporting a “Chandlers of Regina” jacket with a stylish “Chandlers of Jewell” carry-bag over one shoulder, and a pair of “Chandlers of Aki” black leatheresque boots.
The locally-made goods are uniformly of good quality materials and workmanship, and generally showcase local materials, esthetic motifs, and crafts. The Chandlers logo is placed on the object by the local artisans, using appropriate tools and artistic styles (e.g., a locally-made carry-bag of animal skin may have the logo tooled in, branded on, or sewn on in beadwork, depending on the artistic style). On worlds with early-industrial technology levels or below, and where local law permits, Chandlers will offer native suppliers the option of taking payment in store credit, which will usually be redeemed in useful mid-tech items not otherwise available on the world—for example, a native supplier of hand-sewn carry-bags may supply the local Chandlers with four such bags every week, and may take a solar-recharged flashlight or two in payment.
All Chandlers shops carry these goods. They are all TL9+, and (where applicable) can stand up to wear-and-tear somewhat beyond ‘normal’, though concerted abuse will generally be more than they can handle.
With most items from Chandlers, if a compass, knife blade, or other gadget can be added for no apparent reason, it often will be. Glow-in-the-dark parts—or sometimes, the whole object—may be included, again without a lot of rhyme or reason, other than it makes them easier to find in a ship cabin that you’ve not yet gotten used to, and thus aren’t sure if the nightstand lamp is on the left or right side of the bed.
Some examples of the Chandlers basic inventory are below. These come from the portion of the store that is always the same, no matter where you go. They bear the Chandlers logo without specifying a particular world name.
- “Alexandria” hand computer:
- Exclusive to Chandlers, these hand-computers come standard with a huge built-in entertainment library, and are thus sought after. Selections are updated annually, and generally include the most popular works, both overall and in specific genres, of the past five-to-ten (standard) years. A number of perennially-popular multi-player games are included, and may be played over an ad-hoc wireless network that may be established between Alexandria hand computers, or over a planetary net whose protocols conform to Imperial standards (subject to local regulation). The device includes a camera for taking holiday photos or videos. The computer, including all ancillary functions such as the camera, is battery-powered, but includes a light-activated charger that can recharge the battery from ‘insufficient power available’ to ‘fully charged’ in 4 hours of ‘normal sunlight’ (defined as a mid-range G-class star through a standard atmosphere). The built in compass, flashlight, corkscrew, knife blade, screwdrivers, tweezers, and toothpicks are handy bonuses, and many a vacationer has been pleased that the device can be submerged in 3 meters of water for an hour without problems. The standard price of Cr1500 at any Chandlers makes it a very popular item.
- (Hardcopy) Books:
- Cr3 to 10 per book, depending on popularity, type (fiction, nonfiction, reference, etc.), and subject matter. These are generally the widely available low-price editions, though usually with a Chandlers-exclusive binding (and bearing the Chandlers logo). Some editions are bound suitable for display or gifts; these editions usually run about twice to three times the price above (and are more durable under ordinary use). Some reference books are also available in special extreme-durability editions; these are printed and bound on materials that require special effort, tools, or chemicals to damage or destroy. These extreme-durability editions command premium prices of as much as Cr10 additional over the display/gift editions.
- (computerized) Books:
- Cr1 to 5 per book. Most selections are from the library included with the “Alexandria” hand computer, or current popular works not yet included in the “Alexandria” library; locally-acclaimed works, even if not currently popular, may be available on specific worlds. Purchaser must supply computer or other standard compatible-interface device for storage and/or display. Chandlers recommends the “Alexandria” hand computer (available as an additional purchase).
- Cr1 per song. Most selections are from the “Alexandria” entertainment library, or current popular songs not yet included in the “Alexandria” library; locally-acclaimed works, even if not currently popular, may be available on specific worlds. Purchaser must supply computer or other standard compatible-interface device for storage and/or playback; Chandlers recommends the “Alexandria” hand computer (above), the “Carnegie” music player (below), or the “Hollywood” or “Hollywood Studio” video players (below) (all available as additional purchases).
- “Carnegie” Music player:
- Cr100. Includes interface cable and adapter plugs for most standard compatible-interface data sources, wireless capability for Imperial standard networks, standard commdots, or the “Alexandria” ad-hoc network, and unobtrusive earphones for listening privacy. Holds approximately 40 hours of music. Includes a small but bright emergency flashlight rechargeable in sunlight (6 hrs from ‘insufficient power’ to ‘full charge’ in normal sunlight; provides 4 hours of constant illumination if music is not played). Sized to fit comfortably into most clothing pockets (1cm x 1cm x 0.5cm). The outer surface provides limited control (volume up, volume down, next song, previous song, pause/resume playing) on the basic unit, but an enhanced version with a holodynamic projected screen/console (Cr150) offers additional control. The on/off switch is an actual hardware switch rather than a soft control. Holding it to the on position for more than 1 second activates or deactivates the flashlight mode. The device also functions as a timepiece with 8 time zones (including local time divisions) and four alarms, each of which can be linked to a song in memory.
- Cr2 per episode of popular video serial, Cr5 per feature-length video. Most selections are from the “Alexandria” entertainment library, or current popular works not yet included in the “Alexandria” library; locally-acclaimed works, even if not currently popular, may be available on specific worlds. Purchaser must supply computer or other standard compatible-interface device for storage and/or playback; Chandlers recommends the “Alexandria” hand computer (above) or the “Hollywood” or “Hollywood Studio” video player (below) (all available as additional purchases).
- “Hollywood” Video player:
- Cr250. All of the capabilities of the enhanced Music player (above), plus the ability to project videos onto a vertical flat surface at distances of up to approximately 10m. Storage enhanced to approximately 250 hours of video playback, at the cost of not fitting into most clothing pockets (but suitable for carrying in even a small personal carry-bag). Includes a small built-in screen/control panel.
- “Hollywood Studio” Special Edition Video Players:
- Cr500 to 1500, depending on videos included. These are functionally the same as the “Hollywood” video player (above), but are pre-loaded with all the episodes of a video serial or series of feature-length videos, plus additional recorded material such as all scripts (text), pre-production photos, cast interviews (video and text transcripts), selected “out-takes”, etc. They are usually packaged with tie-in goods such as T-Shirts, key chains, and other goodies inspired by the video(s). Where appropriate, the player itself may be made to look as though it were a prop from the videos. Note that Hollywood Studio selections may not be included in the “Alexandria” library.
- Fluffy Pillow:
- Cr25. This pillow is made of memory foam material tested and certified to not cause allergic reactions in most travellers. It comes in a variety of colors and is easy to clean. When purchased, it appears as a small box about 3cm × 5cm × 1cm, with the small ends being metal touch-plates. Touching the plate with the Chandlers logo stamped in it causes the material to shift to the ‘foam’ state, expanding to the size of a ‘firm’ standard bed pillow. Touching the other plate causes it to revert to the ‘solid’ state for storage or transport. Very useful when sitting in a starport waiting for your ride which won’t arrive for several hours.
- Cr100. The Chandlers blankie is a throw blanket 1.5m square. It has three layers: the inner layer is a soft fleece, the outer layer is a water-repellant breathable surface, and the middle layer is a programmable soft memory plastic with several programmed states. One is ‘folded’; when put into this state, the memory plastic stiffens and folds itself (and the rest of the blanket with it) into a 10cm × 5cm × 2cm block. The folding process takes less than a minute, and will halt if it detects something being folded into the blanket. When unfolded, the plastic is soft and flexible, but the threads of that layer can move something like the slats in a Venetian blind. When fully ‘closed’, the blanket stops all airflow and is as insulative as a starship or spacecraft emergency blanket (which it can serve as, if more are needed than are normally kept in the ship’s locker). When fully ‘open’, it lets air go through easily and the blanket is not much warmer than a simple fleece throw.
- this product is a messenger bag that has a triple-seal allowing one to move objects through vac without exposure. The total volume of ‘cargo’ is about 3 liters. What makes the VacBuddy more fun are a pair of metal canisters in the bottom of the bag which are set up with valves to the inside and outside of the bag that can be operated while the bag is closed. You can fill them with air while inside the ship, and use them to freshen the air in the bag while moving your small pet. You can evacuate the canisters while outside the ship, then load bulky clothing into the bag aboard ship, seal the bag, and trip the canister so that the clothing is collapsed for easier carry. There are standard vac-suit fittings on the canisters so they can be pressurized to 50 atmospheres. If you put a few beverage containers in the main pocket, leave the top open, and vent both cans, the pressure change will cool the contents of the bag to a drinkable level. Other uses are limited to the user’s imagination. If you’re not the type to be going outside the ship, you can usually get a steward to take it to the airlock and empty the cans or hook to the vac suit rack and charge the cans for you for a Cr5-10 tip. The bag costs Cr 150, and is (of course) watertight in addition to being airtight. It has the main vac-safe pocket, the two cans in the bottom, and a flap with 1 large and 3 small pockets.
These items are locally procured, and will be of the local tech level. The workmanship will be of high quality, but the durability will be limited by local materials and production techniques.
Most low-tech worlds have nice hand-made carry-bags, jackets, and/or boots using local animal skins, suitably treated, as the material. The Chandlers logo will be tooled in by hand, done in sewn-on or glued-on beadwork or stonework, or burned or etched in, depending on the local craft. Bags will range from Cr10 to Cr25; jackets from Cr20 to Cr50, and boots from Cr 20 to Cr75. Musical instruments may also be available, generally for Cr50 and up. Where the local tech level supports reliable sea travel, such nautical items as water-resistant boots or hooded cloaks, manual sun-sighting or star-sighting gear (quadrants or sextants), or watch timers (usually a sand-glass or water-glass in a pivoting frame) will be available, usually also from Cr50 up. Some navigators like propping a Chandlers Sextant on the shelf in their quarters as decor – especially the gothic-style ones.
Chandlers carries a variety of pocket knives, small tools and mechanical gadgets on these worlds as well, all bearing the appropriate logo. Sometimes a low tech (TL4) world will attempt to produce a local variant of a higher tech item, which gives a very ‘steampunk’ effect. Some items are meant for shipboard use, for people leaving the world to keep as a useful souvenir. These generally are Cr10-25, and include things such as:
- Writing sets with elegant parchments and fountain pen, ink well, and inks.
- Small cigar humidors or snuff boxes (or local equivalent) that can also be used to hold other things
- Elegant brass and wood slide rule type analog computers, usually pre-set for common shipboard calculations. These aren’t used that often, but are great presents for someone who’s just passed an engineering or navigation exam, and can be engraved at time of purchase.
Some are meant for use off a ship, when people from higher tech worlds are exploring the back country. One example sold for Cr50 is a ‘Device Charger’ – this is a 25cm × 10cm × 10cm wooden box with a shoulder strap, weighing 3kg. One places it on a table, opens the latches on the sides, and unfolds the box to reveal a base with a small Stirling engine and generator plus a number of plugs for various electronic devices. One can either put very hot water in the hot side, or put a standard camp stove fuel tablet, or twigs and small pieces of wood in and light them to run the device. Such items are very popular when staying at a hotel that does not offer electric power.
Mid tech worlds have items with the cool “retro” look that’s fashionable in some circles. Some of the Chandlers Luggage Trunks from TL6 Dictatorship worlds look like they were made with a “Use Bigger Hammer” mentality: “Electricity for making aluminum is expensive. We use aluminum for aircraft to defend our homeland. Steel plate left over from a project in a tank factory is good enough for offworld exploiters’ luggage projects.” Such luggage is prized by those who don’t have to carry it from ship to ship, as there are no concerns over it being accidentally damaged or the contents jostled. Cr 150 is a small price to pay for such assurance.
Another popular item from TL7-9 worlds is retro space hardware – these worlds can make precision hardware and in cases where they re-developed technology during the long night, they went round-about compared to what was developed in the Imperium, making the item a usable conversation piece.
High tech worlds have their own things, of course.
Chandlers originated as a ship’s provisioner, and hasn’t forgotten those origins. They still carry a full line of foodstuffs, both for the galley and for emergency rations, which can be ordered in bulk for stocking up any starship from a one-person Scout/Courier all the way up to passenger liners. Provisions from Chandlers have a reputation for both quality and consistency, and some shipping lines rely exclusively on Chandlers for provisioning their ships.
They have, however, expanded beyond that, and sell retail quantities of many snack foods, emphasizing products that can either be eaten immediately ‘on the run’, or stored as personal emergency rations. In addition, local specialties of similar nature—trail mixes, jerked meats, dried fruits, sausages, etc.—are also often available, in packaging of local style. Most of these, especially meat products such as sausages, jerkies, or pemmicans, while still of good quality, will be quite variable in taste, especially at lower tech levels, where both preparation techniques and the recent diet of the particular animal that went into them can affect the flavor.
ChanBars are available in a variety of flavors for Cr1 each. These are typical calorie- and vitamin-packed ‘energy bars’ preferred by athletes looking for a quick energy burst, or people ‘roughing it’ looking for compact emergency rations. Packaging them in TL12 materials extends their shelf-life, and reduces incidents of accidental puncture (and subsequent spoilage). Some sell at Cr2, but include either a chemical chiller or heater to make the treat more appetizing. A ChanBar ‘Chocolate Ice Cream’ is a nice treat that sells well on warmer worlds. The content are a liquid goo normally. Squish the end of the wrapper, knead for sixty seconds, and then open and you’ll find soft serve ice cream at about 5C. One positive selling point is that the ChanBars are always the same recipe and taste, no matter where you go—something that gives the heavy traveler a consistent “taste of home.”
Local treats start at Cr1, depending on what they are. Sometimes Chandlers will ship out a processing/packaging machine, in which case the cost goes up to cover shipping for empty package materials. Sometimes the product is sold in locally produced packages. These are more ‘charming’ in some cases, and have added benefits. For example, the various 0.25kg summer sausages produced on various worlds are often sold in the local equivalent of a cotton baggie with a drawstring top for Cr3. The tastes of the sausages vary wildly, but people see the “Chandlers of ____” bags being reused to hold something else more often than they see the snack that was in them originally. These bags are also often used for the local trail mix or cereal snack. The issue of the tastes varying wildly from store to store is a powerful one—not only is the recipe different, but the ingredients are as well, and on lower tech worlds the taste is strongly influenced by what the animal was eating last week before it was hunted down.
All in all, Chandlers is an old friend that meets you as you arrive with a gift and a snack, and who offers a little something to take on with you when you leave so that you’ll remember the visit.