The Crucible campaign is my IMTU campaign offering an alternative timeline to the pending TNE 1248 setting. It has evolved out of my concern (though perhaps that is not a strong enough epithet) over the way the Regency of Deneb will evolve under the emerging storyline. Rather than get involve in a losing battle with other Traveller players over what is essentially a losing cause, it is easier to simply create a "bolt on" campaign for other Regency fans to allow their campaigns to exist in the larger New Era campaign without a break in continuity, and to allow for the Regency's unique vision of the Flame to survive in its original intended form. That is not to say that the Regency of Deneb survived in its original form.
In the end the Regency was a nation that existed in a semi-completed state between the worst excesses of the Imperial past and the unrealized goals of its founders. The tension between these irreconcilable forces eventually polarized the Regency people, and led to the emergence of feuding reformist and conservative factions late in its history. This split in turn led to the emergence of unenlightened leadership that sought to exploit this gap to enshrine a reactionary state. Under the influence of a reactionary faction of embittered nobles and unprincipled entrepreneurs calling itself the Purifiers, the Black Regent of the Regency attempted to intervene in the growing disorder of the Zhodani Consulate in a last stab at uncontested control of the region Behind the Claw in hopes of unifying all of charted space under a new Imperium. But their campaign reaped a whirlwind instead of a bounty.
The Consulate was divided between an increasingly impotent Consulate government, ambitious nobles and a violent cult calling itself the Rantledr Ilzhents, or the Dawn Heralders. The latter worshipped the visions experienced in its psionic adherents by their direct immersion in the encroaching Empress Wavefront, and their "prophets" had made steady inroads among the Consulate's increasingly anomistic masses. The Heralders filled the gaps between the feuding nobility and the disintegrating central government, providing both the necessary services once the exclusive domain of the Consulate government, and a new community vision that was now lacking in their society. Unlike the civil authorities, the Heralders was free of the nonpsionic xenophobia that had insulated their society for centuries. But they still believed in psionic supremacy, and their increasing hostility towards the Regency and other Non-Zhodani states created an escalating cycle of tensions and low-level insurgency even before the ascension of the Black Regent. The nobles and the central government were hamstrung by their mutually hostile ambitions, their disorganization, and their fear of a DH inspired holy war against them.
When the last Aledon regent was assassinated at the hands of DH inspired terrorists, the Black Regent and his allies were able to take virtual control of the Regency, and quietly prepared it for war against the Zhodani. They did so laboring under false assumptions about the state of the Consulate. It seemed at the outset that it would be an easy war against divided opposition. When they moved against the Consulate in the late 1220s, the Regency military proved too small, their political arrangements with Zhodani nobility too fragile and naive, and their understanding of Zhodani nationalism too limited for a decisive victory. The ensuing war, known as the Crucible, nearly destroyed the Regency and its people, and did destroy the Consulate forever. The Black Regent was dead, the Purifiers either dead or exiled, and the formerly divided factions of the Regency were now unified around a shared goal of communal survival. The massive damage created by the war, and their absorption in building a new government took all of their time and effort, and thus were unable to share in the creation of the new Imperium. Since then, the Post-Regency government calling itself the Commonwealth has become alienated from the new Fourth Imperium for philosophical reasons, and now pursues its destiny alone.
The Crucible War virtually annihilated every state behind the claw. The Dawn Heralders attacked virtually everyone of their neighbors out of their zealotry, and this created a coalition of foes that eventually crushed them and their ambitions. It also created the impetus for a more unified government among the peoples of the Regency and its immediate neighbors, as the Sword Worlds and the Darrians were nearly destroyed by the conflict. Building upon decades of shared history and the Regency's traditions of cohesive multiculturalism, the framers of the new state were able to bind together traditional Imperials, Zhodani, Darrians, Sword Worlders and large groups of Vargr and Aslan under the new flag of the Commonwealth. This was not possible without enshrining basic freedom and rights for individual citizens, and creating pluralistic regional governments to replace the old subsector governments.
The new state is a federal republic organized around a tripartite democratic government. The old Imperial nobility was virtually extinguished by the Crucible War, and the remaining militaristic and dictatorial governments left over from the Imperial past have either reformed or disappeared. The culture is a mélange of traditional Imperial politics, Zhodani social insurance and community centered welfare programs, Vilani conservatism, and a heavy dosage of Aslan and Vargr culture in regions that abut their traditional states. The heavy damage inflicted by the Zhodani and Purifiers has left the Commonwealth people dauntingly antiauthoritarian to the point of hair-trigger paranoia in some regions concerning government policy. Regionalism has emerged, giving the new member-states a distinctive feel, but Commonwealth culture has proven surprisingly cohesive.
One of the most significant changes is the "Zhodani" feel of local society. The absorption of billions of refugee Zhodani has made Commonwealth culture significantly different from its Imperial parent. Commoners are more honest, though they tend to be more prickly than Zhodani as a result. The old "Thought Police" have been replicated, in a more benign fashion, as cadres known popularly as the "Brotherhood", which use natural and artificial psionics to detect antisocial behavior, and reinforce the bonds of community. Local society has also become very democratic, with Vilani style bureaucracies being supplanted by vigorous local councils that take a very proactive (some would say meddlesome) interest in securing their societies. But as a counterpoint to this ingrained conservatism is an interstellar marketplace of ideas supercharged by the existence of so many different cultural groups under one flag. Commoners tend towards ablative identities of multiple layers, reflecting the overlapping loyalties of their country.
Behind the Claw
The Commonwealth encompasses the former territories of the Sworld Worlders, Darrians, the Corridor between the Great Rift and Windhorn, former Vargr territory to coreward, and most of the Consulate's former province of Iadr Nsobl. Foreven is a Commonwealth protectorate, as is the old buffer zone in Trojan Reach. Outside of this region exists a near total state of anarchy. The former Zhodani Consulate was crippled by the war, and its interior pillaged by Vargr Vampire fleets and marauding Zhodani factions. What remains is a welter of broken glass and rubble, ruled by petty fiefs of would-be warlords and a few pockets of civility scattered around the periphery. This region absorbs the lion's share of the Commonwealth's military resources it is willing to commit beyond its borders, and creates one more reason for its lack of interest in Imperial affairs.
The situation is not helped by the disorder of other BTC polities in Beyond, Far Frontiers and Foreven sectors. The Corelian League, after years of dictatorial government, exists only in name as local warlords feud for control. The Aslan Hierate has splintered into three different pieces, two of them actively engaged for control of other sectors far to spinward. Vargr corsairs have reemerged to coreward, some of them actively conspiring with remnant Viral intelligences on the other side of the Windhorn. Add to this refugee flows from the other side of the Claw resulting from wars between the new polities emerging out of the wreckage of the Third Imperium, and it seems that a constant rain of crisis threatens to consume the Commonwealth. Though not as active as during the Crucible, the Commonwealth military forces and services have responded admirably to putting out these brushfires, and it has emerged as the only working force of unity and order in some surrounding regions.
Despite its absorption in affairs BTC, and its rocky relations with the new Imperium, the Commonwealth remains committed to assisting in the recovery of the remainder of Charted Space. The Crucible was a humbling affair for the new state and its citizens, and a new spirit of generosity has been one of its main bindings. The government has rechanneled some of this generosity into ad hoc fleets of military and merchant vessels known as Nomad Fleets. Combining military, diplomatic, scientific exploration and mercantile enterprise into one bundle, these huge gypsy caravans dawdle for years in a particular area outside of the Commonwealth, building various kinds of outposts, restoring interstellar institutions, building trade routes and alliances. This unique mixture of gunboat, humanitarian and credit diplomacy has enabled recontact of most regions this side of the Claw, and significant restoration of ties with regions on the coreward and trailing sides of the Fourth Imperium.
These fleets are staffed on a voluntary basis by military and mercantile personnel, and a Babel's worth of ordinary citizens that sign on for the five to seven year duration of each mission. This includes many untrained youths from worlds devastated during the Crucible, or from the vast refugee camps that developed in the trailing regions of the Spinward Marches sector after the war. These youths sign on during an annual event known as the Gathering, whereby prospective ships of a new Nomad Fleet leave Efate/Regina, and travel down the Spinward Main to sign up new recruits. Most of these youths pass a simple physical and mental fitness test, and train during the duration of the mission in a profession, trade or military occupation. A fleet may lose some of their personnel due to emigration or attrition, but usually comes back to the Commonwealth with more people than it left due to its contacts with devastated worlds and regions.
One fleet leaves each year from the final Gathering rendezvous at Lunion/Lunion for one of the four galactic directions. So far a dozen fleets have convened, and half of these are still in operation. The thirteenth fleet will convene this year (NE 72) and will depart for trailing, looking to break through to Ley Sector, and into K'kree and Hiver space beyond. Next years fleet, Number 14, will leave for rimward through the devastated Aslan Hierate, cross over through Reaver's Deep, recontact the former Solomani sphere, and eventually rendezvous with No. 13 somewhere in Diaspora or Old Expanses sector. Future plans call for two or more fleets to begin new expeditions, twenty years in duration, towards the Galactic Core to recontact Zhodani and Vargr outposts in that region.
The Rest of Charted Space
My personal campaign will use a different set of non-Commonwealth nation-states than TNE 1248. But this campaign, as stated previously, is intended to be used with that material without too much problem.
One of the main departures personally is that the Zumetaxis contact mission mounted by RQS did not occur in this timeline (and given all its troublesome aspects of its existence in the older GDW timeline, one wonders why TNE 1248 retains it). In fact, as of NE 72, the Commonwealth and the Reformation Coalition have never formally traded ties aside from an occasional chance meeting between their merchants somewhere in the 4I. To put things in a nutshell:
- The Reformation Coalition still exists. But like the Regency/Commonwealth it has changed significantly. No Zumetaxis mission means that the Coalition went on a rampage of warfare, fed by its own contradictions. However these excesses created runaway expansion, and increasing opposition from peoples incorporated during its conquests eventually led to a civil war that resulted in the downfall of the original founder worlds.
- The Fourth Imperium. But just as the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor even an empire, the 4I is a contradiction in terms. A multinational alliance is a good description. A graphic train wreck with mass casualties is an even better one.
- The Children of Earth: Harold Hale's post-Solomani religion is here in greater force. But they now inhabit a region that is remarkably reminiscent of the old Solomani Confederation. But unlike the older Confederation, the new region is mainly rebuilt former member states, now nominally sovereign entities, under the overlay of the COE hierarchy. The COE are also the greatest source of instability in the New Era.
- The Golden Horde: Of course, not every Solomani went out for the COE. The peoples of the spinward Confederacy have multiple objections to these militants and their faith. Fortunately for them, the former Aslan Hierate lay before them, ripe for the plucking. Unfortunately for the Aslan survivors, these aren't the NICE Solomani...