This article was originally posted to the pre-magazine website in 2004, and appeared in its present lightly-edited version in the February/March 2015 issue.
Spacers talk of the Gitans des Ceintures like a farmer might talk of locusts. It is a clan of belters, of French Solomani and Vilani origin, that move from belt to belt, stripping it bare of the most profitable rocks, then moving on once their profit margin drops below a certain point.
Distrusted and disliked by spacers, the clan ships are cobbled together flying scrap heaps that often fail Imperial standards and some are banned from using SPA facilities as a result. Some of the hulls are nearly a thousand years old—many of which are now hybrids of metallic hulls with that of buffered planetoids. Clan fleets do maintain a number of normal-hulled atmospheric- and skim-capable craft for refueling and planet-visiting purposes.
A Gitans fleet generally has a mother ship that serves as a base, repair yard, refueling depot, and ore refinery. This massive ship is much like the small craft that attend it, a hodgepodge of drives, quarters, repair shops, hydroponics vats, and power plants cored into a large asteroid, with the hulls of dead ships thrusting from the rock.
The Gitans spend much of their time in the field in Zero G and, as a result, their ships are generally kept between 0.7 and 0.8 G for comfort. They are taller and more slender than typical humans, and Gitans in general have exceptional Zero G skills, learning to handle themselves in that environment as children. They tend towards darker skin and hair, a contribution of the Vilani side of their heritage.
Gitans keep their history to themselves, though what is publicly known is largely courtesy of a work titled Les Locustes, written by an outsider sociologist, Herman Munk. The author spent a year on a mother ship before fleeing for his life after a planned romantic encounter with a comely Gitans went badly awry.
The clan apparently had their origins in the Long Night. As civilization fell the technology and markets required to support belting operations largely dried up. A Solomani French space mining corporation, employing a number of Vilani personnel, and having foreseen trouble, coalesced its operations, called for all jump-capable vessels to relocate to its headquarters at a gas giant moon. After much debate amongst the Corporate hierarchy and ship captains, the fleet then jumped, intent on finding a profitable belt in a decently populated, culturally refined, and technologically capable system in which to re-settle.
However, the original plan was not to be. The fleet failed to find a system that met all its needs, but picked up a number of spacers seeking communal support along the way. Within a generation, the plans to resettle were abandoned in favour of maintaining their own cultural identity and continuing their nomadic path.
On a number of occasions since the onset of the Long Night the clan has suffered minor schisms, with some families electing to form their own unit. As a result there are a number of Gitans fleets in Imperial space, and though culturally very similar to one another, each has some of their own idiosyncrasies. Despite the split and the considerable distance between these clans, hospitality is extended to each and all in recognition of their common heritage.
Both by their own nature and because of outsider dislike, Gitans are strongly insular. As a result, they have a limited gene pool to draw from, and when a couple signal their intent to have children, clan geneticists screen them to ensure full compatibility. On occasion, the clan makes use of artificial wombs to ensure a replacement birthrate, using eggs harvested from female members, and genetic material taken from males outside the clan. These children are adopted out to couples or raised in crèches on a mother ship.
The Gitans language is based on a pre-Long-Night patois of French, Anglic, and Vilani, with French being the largest contributor. Students of pre-Long-Night French have a fairly good chance of understanding a basic conversation. The Gitans education system is very good, relying on a combination of computer teaching tools and human instructors, so the chance of finding someone who can speak Galangic is quite high, despite their cultural and linguistic isolation from the Imperium at large.
A Gitans fleet is a socialistic community, with people assigned trades to which they have shown aptitude, with those of high skill or performing in difficult occupations receiving more ‘credit’ for individual use of resources (like taking hot showers, using the VR suite, better food, that sort of thing).
However, the crews of mining ships are largely extended families, and it is not uncommon to see three or even four generations of a family in one vessel: A great grand dad in the assay lab, a mother at the helm, an uncle in the med bay, and swarms of cousins in their heavily customized vacc suits doing the grunt work.
Being nomadic in nature, a fleet is almost completely removed from the banking system, and they deal in cash or specie. However, they do interact with the outside world to purchase supplies and parts they are unable to fashion themselves—sometimes even entering into contracts with mining companies. Luxury food items are a particular desire, as by tradition, the Gitans do not maintain hydroponics or carniculture, and the only home-grown food is derived from a nutritionally balanced yet aesthetically unappealing algae-like concoction cooked up by the geneticists.
Though most fleet business is done with cash and specie, individuals and familial units will often prefer to barter for goods and services. They can sit for hours negotiating the ore value of a case of Roquefort cheese or other comestible luxuries. It’s not uncommon for the fleet to send a ship load of their chefs to the nearest port, with their cargo hold looking like the inside of a deli by the time they depart. Mother ships will also admit outsiders to trade with them, though they will be watched closely.
A Gitan can choose to leave the community and, if they do so, the elders determine their ‘shares’ based on how much their ships brought in, their expenses, and a number of other factors. They are then paid out in cash. Some members have in the past managed to take their pay out in the form of a ship.
Gitans are skilled mechanics and engineers—skills developed by keeping together ships that ordinarily would have been scrapped sometimes centuries before. They are also exceptional space geologists, and have a seeming sixth sense about which areas of a belt are best for exploitation and where the more profitable finds might be found. Indeed some of their ships are those that have been salvaged from space itself.
It is this ability to find and exploit the more valuable rocks that enables the clan’s existence, for a nomadic life of jumping from belt to belt in ships not fit to legally take commercial passengers is a hard, dangerous, and sometimes expensive one. And it is this very ability to strip better finds from a belt that angers independent belters, and causes late nights at various corporate space mining concerns on how they can obtain jealously guarded methodology. More than one corporate intelligence agent has ended up spaced and left floating in the wake of a departing Gitans fleet.
They are a prickly people and do not like being insulted. Disagreements in the clan are often sorted out in a Zero G knife fight. Male Gitans are fiercely protective of their women, and while they will openly and vocally appreciate their own, an outsider caught ogling a Gitans woman might be roundly abused.
Leadership is provided by a clan chief, known as a President, who is advised by a council of ‘elders’, typically senior representatives from particular trades like engineering, geologists, maintenance and the like. A clan chief can be a man or a woman and is elected to that post from amongst the elder council. They serve for as long as the council respects their leadership, and a two thirds majority vote can remove them from that post. Ship captains are typically the most senior bridge crewman of a family unit.
Gitans send out seekers to scout belts in other systems, taking samples and reporting back to the fleet, so as to determine which belt they will next scour clean. Such scouts are the more diplomatic members of their clan and will suppress their natural desire to maim someone if dishonored.
Though the clan is very insular, they have accepted outsiders in the past. Some Gitans, with the blessing of the council, take a term or two in the Imperial Navy or Marines, if only to skill themselves up so as to train/lead the clan militia. Those Gitans who temporarily leave the bosom of the clan do sometimes enter into relationships with outsiders, and more than one has bought home a husband or wife with them. Such outsiders find it challenging to be accepted, but adoption of Gitans customs and ways will ensure a smoother transition.
Gitans and Psionics
If you have psionics in your campaign then one element of success behind the Gitans’ ability to mine belts is a form of clairvoyance (treat as a Special talent), the practitioner known as a prophète de minerai. The prophète can ‘sense’ the placement of rocky/metallic objects in a solar system, their trajectories, and, most importantly, physical make up. Using their geological knowledge means they can determine which bodies have the greatest value. Naturally, this includes starships. Tactically, this sense ability would be of extreme utility in fleet combat as the psi’s sense is in real time and not constrained by the speed of sensor readings and light.
It is a secret only known to a council of elders, with one of their number’s sole duty to screen clan children for any sign of this talent and direct their mental energies towards the study of astrophysics, geology and metallurgy. The children will be removed from their families for their special training. On occasion, scouting ships sent in advance of the fleet will have such a psi onboard, ostensibly as the senior navigator or geologist, their talent unknown to the crew.
- CT, MT, and T4 Game Stats:
- Special Talent. Psi Cost range is 1 per 1,000,000 km distance from psionic, to a maximum of [Skill Level×1,000,000 km]. This enables a psi to detect rocky/metallic stellar objects and determine their density and physical make up. Requires a Geology or Mechanical task (in the case of starships) to properly evaluate the information gained from the Psi sense.
- Base chance to detect is 8+ (Routine if MT), with a DM of –1 per 1,000,000km radius scanned. Success determines the size of rocky or metallic objects that can be sensed. 0-1, 10,000 tons +; 2-3, 1000 tons +; 4-5, 100 tons +; 6-7, 10 tons +; 8+, 1 ton+. It takes twenty minutes per 1,000,000 km scanned. Catastrophic failure is as per Telepathy.
- It requires a Geology 8+ roll to determine the approximate density of the objects and a Navigation (or Astronavigation) or Survey 8+ task to correctly plot the location and trajectory of the objects.
Gitans Character Generation
- Due to their low-g lifestyle, roll Gitan as normal, but then apply –1 Str, +1 Dex, and -1 End.
- Physical Description:
- Taller (D6+4%) than typical imperial humans and of thinner build –(D6+4% weight for that height).
- Initial Skills:
- If your Traveller version has Background skills then Gitan start with Vacc Suit 1 and Zero-G Env 1. If your game does not have Background skills then they automatically receive Vacc Suit 0 and Zero G Combat 0.
- Belter Career:
- Gitans favour the belter career (enlistment automatic). Because they work in a cooperative atmosphere with well-trained personnel their survival chances are better. If your Traveller generation sequence has a survival component then Gitans have a pool of Survival DMs equal to their INT÷2 that they can allocate to survival checks during character generation.
- Other Careers:
- Optionally, a Gitans PC's first free skill roll can be allocated to Linguistics or a Language skill so they can speak Galangic and make themselves understood outside the clan.
- After having stopped off to trade at a Gitans mother ship, the PCs discover a stowaway after they leave. A dark-haired Gitans ‘princess’ who happens to be an apprentice prophète wants to see the rest of the universe rather than be cooped up in a smelly rock lab. The princess pleads for assistance falsely claiming she has been subject to horrendous abuse. Naturally, her father sends ships to get her back, and assuming the PCs to be kidnappers, orders them silenced.
- An ore company hires the PCs to steal the Gitans’ ore-seeking techniques—including shadowing one of their scouting vessels or even infiltrating a mother ship.
- The PCs come across a disabled Gitans ship and find that half the crew survived in the low berth—but are comatose. What they do with the ship and crew is up to them, but either the fleet, or a corporate funded spy ship, or both, is on their trail.
- The PCs encounter a group of Gitans in a spacer bar, who are set upon by the locals. Knives are pulled, various unpleasantness occurs, etc.
- The PCs trade at a Gitans mothership, and during a celebration dinner come between a man and his sister—leading to a time-honoured challenge in the feuding sphere.
- If the PCs ship is badly damaged they are ‘rescued’ by a group of Gitans. The rescuers argue over what to do with their ‘guests’, with some Gitans arguing they should kill them so they can salvage the ship. A small group enters the hospital to kill the PCs but are confronted by the nobler faction. A big free for all occurs, with each faction vying for control of the ship.
- Vacc Suits:
- Gitans customise their vacc suits with outlandish patches, colours, stencils and the like. They take pride in suit design and many of their vacc suit technicians are also accomplished artists. Some suits adopt the appearance of animals, from the mundane to the fanciful, such as raccoons, tigers, and dragons. Some families adopt a central theme, with individual suits a variation on that theme.
- Gitans poignard:
- A Gitans poignard is a powered push button space knife, the blade extending from the handle when triggered. The blade is armour piercing, thin and serrated (so going in is easy but makes a bigger hole in the opponent’s suit when it comes out).
- On the bottom of the handle is push button. If pressed twice in quick succession it releases the blade from the handle. A fraction of a second later an explosive charge at the base of the blade ignites to propel the blade into a target and hopefully puncture their suit. Because the blade must be released before the charge fired, the missile option will not work that well in atmosphere since it would probably drop to the ground before it fires.
- However, a blade held against someone’s body and then ‘fired’ would almost certainly work, with a devastating effect, though the attacker would have to take care that their thumb is not broken with the recoil.
- MT Game Stats:
- Gitans Poignard:
- Size: 0.15 long (just handle), 0.3m long (blade extended), 0.03 Diameter, Weighs 0.2 kg. Cost 50 Cr; Replacement Blade cost = 30 Cr (Easy Mechanical task to arm the new blade)
- Pen 9, Damage 2, Block 1; Applicable Skill = Short Blades.
- Max Range (in Zero G) Long; Pen 18/1, Damage 3, Low Sig, Low Recoil; Skill = Thrown Weapons or Spear.