Low-Prep Traveller Campaigns for Beginners
This article originally appeared as the featured article in the March/April 2017 issue.
Traveller has a system of mapping that involves locating star systems on a hexagonal sub-sector map, 1 parsec per hex, and rolling up planetary characteristics. This is a nice nuts and bolts system but it does not help the game master do the one thing that they most want to do, which is create meaningful adventure in an interesting context.
This quick nuts and bolts guide will lead you through marking out some galactic-scale nations, developing just enough astrographic detail to provide adventure context, and some interstellar factions that will provide many meaningful adventure seeds. The process is part of the Low Prep RPG Philosophy which I detail at my blog.
Before we start lets quickly talk about the map scales we will deal with:
- the traditional Traveller map. 8×10 parsecs. Time to cross at J6 is just over 2 weeks.
- a collection of 4×4 sub-sectors, 32×40 parsecs. Time to cross at J6 is about 7 weeks.
- 10×10 sectors, 320×400 parsecs. Time to cross at J6 is nearly 1½ years.
- The Galaxy:
- about 80×80 grand sectors. Time to cross at J6 is over 100 years.
I have a quick sketch map of our milky way galaxy with a light grand sector grid. I use it to mark out the territory for my galactic nations. You can pick up a copy at RPGGeek (note: login required)
You want to mark out at least two galactic nations close together on a map showing grand sectors as a grid. My galactic schematic map shows such a grid along with the position of the solar system, spiral arms and galactic core for our Milky Way galaxy.
A galactic nation should cover an area of no more than 4×4 grand sectors. Beyond that size it becomes impossible to administer with the jump technology available. Nations may be collected into alliances or loose confederations but they will not share administrative control or overarching culture.
If you want to use dice then roll a d6 for each axis of a nation, X and Y. On a 1,2 or 3 it is 2 grand sectors across on that axis, on a 4 or 5 it is 3 grand sectors across, and on a 6 it is 4 grand sectors across.
Each nation should either have a common border with another nation or be no more than one grand sector away from another nation. Only create a group of nations that are all reasonably close together. Nations further away will probably not come into play during your campaign.
Optionally a nation may be surrounded by a halo of colonised grand sectors that have not joined the nation and are collections of sector sized nations or smaller star system groupings.
Galactic Overview, with Sol region inset.
On my example (right) I have marked out a region around Sol with several galactic nations and colonised areas. At this point the names don't convey anything other than I vaguely think the non-blue nations are populated by alien species and the blue ones are human space.
Outside of the areas marked is uncharted and largely uninhabited. There could be small pockets of alien life out there but they are not significant at this scale.
Each galactic nation should be either structured as a hierarchy or a federation.
A Hierarchy has one or two central grand sectors as the core, wealthiest and most powerful region. Then around it are provinces, grand sectors locally governed but subservient to the core. Within each grand sector should be a number of sector sized “estates” governed locally but subservient to the grand sector government that contains them.
A Federation, on the other hand, has an overarching government structure based out of a centralised capitol. Each grand sector is a state which manages its own internal affairs with larger scale infrastructure and laws managed by the federal government.
For each nation assign a national focus:
Now create a relationship between each nation pair where they are in contact or within 1 grand sector of each other.
- Aggressive Friction
- Neutral – possibly some subversion
In my map example, The Berekion Incursion is a hierarchic nation focussed on the military. It has an aggressive friction with the Solar Republic. The Solar Republic has a federal structure and a cultural focus. The Kingdom of Kenlo is hierarchic with a commercial focus. The relationship with the Solar Republic is neutral with some underlying tension. The Meronians are federal with a religious focus and no formal relationship with the other nations, though they view them all as heathens.
You should be able to see from this that some interesting tensions and situations are already suggested for your campaign. These can be fruitful for player adventures.
Choose a grand sector from a location covered by at least one of the galactic nations you created. My example grand sector is the one shown as a yellow highlight in the galactic map example above.
On the grand sector map (10×10sectors) mark out any borders from the higher scale. If there are sectors not covered by a galactic nation you may want to add a minor nation. Within the nations you should mark out the larger provinces or states. These should each generally be 2 to 4 sectors across. You can use a d6 mechanism to determine the size on each axis. On a 1,2 or 3 it is 2 sectors across on that axis, on a 4 or 5 it is 3 sectors across, and on a 6 it is 4 sectors across.
Minor nations have a national focus as with galactic nations and relationships with nearby galactic nations and other minor nations.
The border region
So, in the grand sector map (right), I have marked out the galactic nation borders. I have also created the minor nation of Science Trust States that are, obviously, a science focussed nation striving to create a new scientific golden age for mankind. They are neutral toward the Berekion Incursion and trading with The Solar Republic. Within the Berekion Incursion I have demarcated the Assimilation Province 1 which is a nice threatening name. And over in The Solar Republic I have marked out two states, Kelmet and Rim.
Also mark the location of national and state/province capitol star systems, giving each a name. You don’t (and shouldn’t at this stage) have to detail the star system or position it precisely, just make it clear which sub-sector its in.
In the map, each space is a sub sector and the heavy, grey borders are sectors.
At this level we also want to define some “Grand Factions”, groups that are doing something in a cohesive manner and that will provide political and action context for player scenarios. The players will start in the sector marked in yellow, so, being low prep I will only create factions covering that region of space and may detail some others later. That means factions for The Solar Republic, The Berekion Colonies and the Terran Colonies.
A faction has three elements: Level (grand, sector, sub sector, stellar), Strength (2d6 initial strength), and a description of what its about.
You can determine the nature of a faction by rolling on the table below to get a “tag” as to its nature or by designing it yourself to fit the context that you have developed so far. Use the tag to give yourself an idea of what the faction does and how it manifests in the game world. If your mind is a blank, that’s OK; let it simmer. When you have an idea note it down. As part of its description it can be useful to create a faction back story in brief, but that may also arise in play as will be discussed later.
The Faction Nature Tag Table
Roll d6 to choose a column
- On 1-3, use Column A
- On 4-6, use Column B
|2D6||Column A||Column B|
|4||Anarchists/Authoritarians||Pro Social/Anti Social|
|7||Wealth Concentrators/Wealth Distributors||War and Glory/Peace and Stability|
|8||Hierarchic/Networked||Tech + Science/Mysticism/Psionics|
Roll 2 tags, re-roll if 9 comes up again.
|12||Paranoiacs/Egotists||Conspiracy Theorists/Puppet Masters|
Where there are multiple tags divided by ‘/’ then choose one tag only. A faction cannot have multiple tags from the same cell. If another faction ends up with tags from the same cell as a previous faction, it’s often a good idea to choose one of the other tags from that cell, placing the two factions in tension. After setting a tag for a faction you could also choose to assign a tag from the same cell to another faction that has not been set yet to ramp up factional tensions in your campaign.
In the grand sector example let’s have factions for the Solar Republic and the Berekion and Terran colonies in the grand sector. First for The Solar Republic I will create 2 factions, one using dice only. 5 on d6 tells me column B. 7 on 2d6 gives me a choice of ‘War and Glory’ or ‘Peace and Stability’. The Berekions are aggressive. Let’s have the Solar Republic have an appeasing faction and a war like faction in this grand sector. So that gives me two factions:
- The Isolation Movement. The Solar Republic. Strength 7 (rolled). Tag ‘Peace and Stability’. “As long as the Berekions leave our borders alone we will leave theirs alone. Our concerns are to prosper peacefully and to build wealth for all”.
- The Anti-Berekion League. The Solar Republic. Strength 3 (chosen). Tag ‘War and Glory’. “The Berekions have invaded our worlds and enslaved our people. They must die. Build warships now!”.
I chose a strength of 3 so that the faction could start of as a minor voice that has room to grow and so it will struggle against The Isolation Movement. The players can take sides on this or may choose a third alternative.
What about the colonies? Obviously the Berekions have been moving in forcefully and the galactic nation has aggressive plans to assimilate more of the space in this area. In the Berekion colony worlds there is probably a human faction that is a resistance; let’s just create them.
- The Terran Resistance. Terran Colonies. Strength 7 (rolled). Tag: ‘Freedom Fighters’ (not on the table). “We must gather intelligence, equipment and those with a will to fight. Sabotage and insurgency is the name of the game.”
Among the Berekions? I’ll roll the tag. Column A, 9 → two tags. Column B, 11 and Column B, 8. Assassins and Mysticism chosen.
- The Hunters. Berekion Colonies. Strength 11 (rolled). Tag ‘Mystic Assassins’. “The hunt in secret is the great game, the true essence of life. Seek any who would work against Greater Berekion, toy with them and then kill them. Do not be seen, do not be revealed, do not cause collateral damage.”
Now we pull out a sector map which contains 4×4 subsectors. This will be the sector that we picked from our grand sector map above in yellow highlight.
Draw in any borders from the Grand Sector that pass through this sector. Then position and name the following star systems:
- Any Galactic Nation Capitol
- Any Minor Nation Capitol
- Any Province or State Capitol
- A sector capitol if no other capitol is present
- Each subsector that has no capitol marked should have a subsector capitol
- Sectors outside of a nation have no star marked
Position them as you like within the boundaries marked out. At this scale you are able to mark which hex within a sub sector they will be in. You will not place any other stars at this scale and the only information about those star systems is that they are a capitol of some sort.
Next you want to mark major Xboat paths. Xboats are ships equipped with jump drives but no manoeuvre drives. They jump between systems and deliver their cargo while being refeuled and moved about by tender ships. There are three kinds of Xboat: communication; cargo; migration. Migration xboat lines occur where there is a concerted shift of population. Usually from the interior of a galactic nation to its edges. Their tenders transfer passengers to and from starports. Cargo xboat lines carry bulk trade goods and their tenders transfer goods to and from orbital goods yards in system. Both cargo and migration xboats carry mail. Where there is neither cargo or migration xboat lines there may be pure communications xboat lines, which only carry electronic mail between systems.
At this scale you just want to mark that there is xboat paths between capitols and just draw them as straight lines between the capitols you have marked. Its up to you what xboat lines you want to mark in. Also consider lines going off map, indicating at least the name of a system they are connecting with even if that area has not been detailed yet. At the subsector scale we will mark in the detailed xboat paths, including the short range lines within the sub sector.
The map to the right is Enzam Sector (named after the sector capital system). You can see the border of the Solar Republic in blue at top left along with the Berekion Colonies border in orange. Kraatok is a Berekion colonial subsector capitol with no xboat lines, as it is far from the galactic nation. I added it as an interesting “seed nation” capitol just for fun.
The grey lines are cargo/comms xboat lines. The green arrows are migration xboat lines where the bulk of passenger travel is in the direction indicated.
So now we want to create some more factions, this time sector scale ones. For each nation or cultural region present in the sector roll d6:
- On 1: no sector factions for that nation
- On 2 or 3: 1 sector faction.
- On 4,5 or 6: 2 sector factions
These factions have the same form of description as grand factions but operate on the lower scale. The factions generally will only be encountered in this sector and may be allowed to bleed over a little into adjacent sectors.
So I roll and determine there will be 1 faction, and roll for a tag: 6 in column A is “Expansionists/Consolidators”. Given the current climate that is forming from the grand sector work, let’s pick Expansionists, in conflict with GF1: The Isolation Movement. That gives us
- The New Horizons Movement. Solar Republic. Strength: 12 (rolled). Tag ‘Expansionists’. “The Isolationists are inward looking but the Republic could easily incorporate the Terran Colonies and vastly increase its wealth, power and knowledge!”
The grand factions noted also exist at this scale for nations and regions that overlap this sector.
Now we are getting down to player action level. Choose a subsector from your sector map. Fill in borders and the location and name of any capitol star system from the higher level map. Then mark where star systems will be in the normal fashion. Look at the xboat routes from the high level map and see if the stars allow a path with no more than jump 3 in roughly the direction the xboat path should take. If there are large gaps just add an extra star as needed to make the xboat path work, then draw the xboat connections going from star to star by the shortest jump paths available.
Next, give the star systems names.
Now we want to give each star system other than the capitol a role that it fulfils in the nation or in the surrounding star systems outside of a nation. The role will constrain what planet the main planet is and if there will be gas giants or water planets in the system. As prep for a campaign the role is the only thing given to all the stars in the sub-sector.
Non Nation Space Star System Roles
Outside of a nation roll on the following table for each star not
already designated as a capitol.
|General Star System Roles|
|2 to 4||Population Center|
|5 to 6||Mining System|
|7 to 10||Not Decided Yet|
Each population centre is going to govern nearby mining systems and outposts to a range of 4 parsecs where it is the closest population centre. Pencil in connections from each mining system and outpost to stars closest on the way to a population centre in range, tracing through undecided star systems if needed. Mining systems not connected to a population centre then connect together any outposts nearby at a range of 4 that are also not connected to a population centre. Finally outposts not connected to anything yet connect to the nearest star system that is connected to something, or else to the nearest undecided star or another outpost. This defines interstellar trade groupings, or sub-sector nations.
If there are undecided stars between mining systems, outposts and
population centres then designate systems a trade hub where they connect
a bunch of those other systems. The ones not designated as trade hubs
but still on the connection paths are determined by d6 roll:
|3 to 5||General colony|
|6||New colony (will grow to become population centre, trade hub or mining system.)|
Look at any remaining undecided stars within 3 parsecs from decided stars and set them by rolling d6. A 1 or 2 is unused otherwise they are general colonies. All other systems are unexplored.
There will be no xboat paths to add in such non-nation space. The connections you marked are the standard trade and shipping paths for the group of systems where ships make regular trips.
To the right is an example of a sub-sector from the Terran Colonies area of the Grand Sector. I haven’t located this anywhere specifically, it’s a free floating example that took 5 minutes to create.
Nation Space Star System Roles
Within a nation there should already be a capitol in most sub-sectors. If there is a main xboat line or two we want to set roles for those star systems last, so use the General Star System Roles table to assign roles to undecided systems that are not on any drawn xboat path.
Each population centre within 3 parsecs of a capitol, a system on an xboat path or another population centre should pencil in a path to the nearest candidate system, going through an intermediate star system if there is one. The aim is to have a path drawn that leads to the capitol if available. Then do the same for mining systems or outposts not on an xboat path within 3 parsecs of a capitol, population centre, system on an xboat path or other mining centre, preferring stars in that order if they are further away than the closest star by no more than 1.
Next, every path that traces to the capitol, or to a population centre if there is no connection to a capitol, should have a trade hub on it if there are any undecided stars on the path. Select one undecided star on each path to be a trade hub if there is one. Choose star systems that sit on multiple paths to the capitol or target population centre if possible. If there are no undecided stars on a path to the target then either convert a mining system on the path to a trade hub or don’t have a trade hub on that path if there is none.
If there is a path from a military outpost to the capitol that passes through an undecided star then choose the one closest to the capitol on the path and designate that as a military hub.
For each mining system now connected to the capitol make sure there is a cargo xboat path for every leg of the journey. All other connections drawn to the capitol so far are now communications only xboat paths.
For each remaining undecided system on an xboat path roll d6. 1 to 5: general colony, 6: fuel stop.
For each undecided system left after that roll d6. 1 to 4: general colony. 5 or 6: still undecided.
Now look at the undecided star systems that remain (if any). If they are on the shortest path to connect any general colony to the capitol, a population centre or a mining system then they are a fuel stop, otherwise they are unused.
At this point choose a player starting world. If it’s within 2 parsecs of a sub-sector edge then map the adjacent sub-sector down to this level of detail.
Eezra Subsector, the campaign area
In this example, I chose to have the players start on Kael (0408), a general colony system on the main xboat path for the sub sector.
Sub Sector Factions
Now for some factions at the sub sector level. These factions will primarily have more local concerns but may align with or oppose some of the broader factions present in the sub sector.
For each nation or cultural region present in the sub-sector roll d6:
|1||no sub-sector factions for that nation|
|2 or 3||1 sub-sector faction|
|4,5 or 6||2 sub-sector factions.|
I roll 3, so we have one faction present. Rolling tags I get column B, 10: “Bigoted/Inclusive”. I’m not sure which tag I feel like using so I just dice and end up with Inclusive.
- The Liberal Collective. Eezra Sub-Sector. Strength 7 (rolled). Tag ‘Inclusive’. “Humans, intelligent aliens and artificial intelligences need to act as a family for the good of all. All are free to do as they wish where it does not impinge on others.”
The Detail Layer
Now we are getting to the level of detail that will be needed when players experience a star system.
This level of detail is only needed where the players actually are although it can be useful to have some of this out to about 4 parsecs from the players’ location. At this level we will have the following:
- A faction presence check to see which factions have a presence in each solar system.
- A method to allow factions to be randomly picked, weighted for strength and scale.
- Some information about the operations of factions present in the players area.
- Star Port and population level for the star systems as a whole, constrained by star system role.
- Planet Type for the main planet in a star system, constrained by star system role.
- Other standard Traveller details for the system mainworld, constrained to fit the planet type.
- Last, but not least, how this prep can interact with character life stories during character development and how to expand during play.
The Detail Layer Glance Sheet
The aim of the glance sheet is to quickly show minimal information about a subsector, including factions, star systems and main planets, and to permit deferring developing details. Any part of a star system or planet can be left blank, meaning it has not been determined yet. These blanks can be filled in either just in time or between sessions as you see fit, with new details conforming to what’s known.
You want each faction that is likely to be present in the sub sector to have a couple of lines, and the same for each planet. Use meaningful key codes to compress data down and include the planetary profile. Use dashes to mean “nothing here”, since blank means not yet decided.
So naval base presence can be N or –, or blank for haven’t decided yet.
Faction Presence and Picker Cards
Each faction covering the subsector may have members and other assets present in specific star systems. Use the faction presence table to decide whether each faction is actually present in each star system in the subsector. Start with the player starting system and systems within 2 parsecs. If no factions are present place a dash on the glance sheet to show definite faction absence. During play if the players are heading for a system where this has not yet been specified then work it out on the fly. Between adventures add some more around the edges close to where the players are.
In the following table where you have a dice roll to test for faction
presence apply a DM for faction strength, just as if it was a player
|Faction Scope||Capitol||Trade Hub or
type E or X
Next, we want a way to randomly select a faction. For this I recommend using a deck of ordinary playing cards. You assign specific cards to each faction in the subsector, collect those cards into a deck, shuffle it and draw cards to choose a faction. In a star system if you draw a card for a faction that has no presence there just draw again.
Each faction gets a base number of cards, 3 for a grand sector faction, 4 for a sector faction and 5 for a subsector faction. Adjust the number using the faction’s strength DM. Deal the number of cards from the deck for each faction and record the cards that it is assigned on your subsector glance sheet.
So, our grand-sector faction The Anti-Berekion League, strength 3, gets a base of 3 cards with a strength DM -1, giving a total of 2 cards. I draw Queen of clubs and 4 of diamonds and record them as QC 4D. If I draw either card from the picker deck, I have selected the Anti-Berekion League.
The New Horizons sector faction, on the other hand, gets 4 cards plus two more for its strength of 12, giving a total of 6 in the picker deck. I assign 2S, 6H, 6D, 9C, JC, QS.
Planet Type, Starport and Population Level
We are getting down to the standard Traveller level of detail now, but we only apply it to a select few star systems at the start of a campaign and add a few more between sessions or as needed. The details of factions, system roles and xboat paths in the larger context give us information that will be meaningful to the players despite the great distances involved; once players have picked them up, we need to make sure that the finer details remain consistent. What we know will therefore constrain them.
In the following table, System Role selects the property constraints.
- is the standard Traveller starport type; if the table doesn’t show how to select the starport then either roll normally, and roll again if you get an invalid result, or choose by game master fiat.
- Planet Type
- is a general description which will constrain the details of size, hydrographics, temperature and atmosphere. Those details need not be generated until they are likely to impact on play.
- Pop Level
- is assumed to describe the population of the entire system. To generate the population level you can roll normally and keep going until you get a valid value, or choose however you wish.
- Major fuel source
- indicates if there is a source of unrefined fuel in system. If there is no planet with sufficient hydrographics then there will be at least one appropriate gas giant. “No Gas Giants” means just that. If there is a planet with water then that’s fine but the system could be a no-fuel system. “As normal” means to use the standard system generation rules to determine the world hydrographics and/orthe presence of Gas Giants.
- New Colonies
- should be designated as heading toward one of the other role types (other than unused). Their starport will be immature, so about two levels below its ultimate quality, and the population will be half that of its eventual level when mature.
- Unexplored systems
- are unconstrained, you can go to town deciding what their make up is behind the scenes when it suits you or if players are heading off to explore them.
|System Role||Starport||Planet Type||Pop Level||Major Fuel Source|
|Mining System||B, C, D, E||
||1 to 5||As normal|
|Science Outpost||D, E, X||
||1 to 5||As normal|
||4 to 6||Yes|
|Military Outpost||A, B, C||
||3 to 5||Yes|
|Fuel Stop||E, X||rock||0 to 4||Yes|
||1 to 6||As normal|
||0||No gas giants|
Government and cultural details, law level, tech level, planetary factions and bases present can be worked out in the standard way when you need to know. Again probably only within a couple of parsecs of the current play position.
So what about size, atmosphere, climate and hydrographics? These values are constrained by planet type values. Because of that these are the last details you should think about setting, usually just in time, which is when players travel there or need to find out about that information for the planet in question. An important thing to realise is that if players go to a planet that has none of these details you can just wing it off the planet type if you don't want to break the flow of play.
Each of the values in each attribute is valid for a different planet
type. Some values are valid for garden, some for marginal and so on. The
rule is that a planet type can have attribute values for a better world
type but not for a worse world type and at least one attribute has to
specifically match the actual world type. So a marginal world can
include garden world values, but not harsh world or rock values, and at
least one value has to be specifically for marginal worlds. A harsh
world could have a size of 5 and a standard atmosphere, which is a
garden stat, but then its climate or hydrographics must be one of the
designated harsh world values and can't have hydrographics of 0 which is
a rock stat.
|UWP Constraints by World Class|
|Rock||0||0, 1, 2, 3||0||-|
|Harsh||1, A+||4, 7, 9, A, B, C, D, F||1, 2, 9, A||Freezing, Boiling|
|Marginal||2, 9||5, 8||3, 4, 8||Hot, Cold|
|Garden||3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8||6, E||5, 6, 7||Temperate|
Generating campaign areas using this system can be fairly quick, once you’re used to the system.
- It should take a total of about 10 minutes to generate Galaxy, grand sector and sector maps.
- Generating a subsector map with star system types and xboat paths should take about 20 minutes. Naming can take a few minutes longer.
- Defining factions at the grand sector, sector and subsector level should take about 10 minutes.
- Generating planet types and the detail for the campaign starting planet should take about 10 minutes.
- Creating a Faction Encounter Deck should take no more than 10 minutes.
The result is that generating a useful and interesting campaign area, ready for play, will take about 1 hour. No, you don’t have encyclopedic detail on every world. You don’t need it (yet). You generate what you need, when you need it, using the already generated information to influence and constrain the new information.
The reason this is “low prep” is that it doesn't take long and the prep you have done here is for stuff that is significant to play, rather than stuff that just mechanically fits the world building process. The other detail is deferred for later.
Life Stories and Play
So now you have a campaign in varying states of detail, with the most detail centred around where players will start. The next step is linking players to the things going on in the start space by using the life events they generate as they develop their characters. In the same way characters may connect to one another through life events you can work with players to connect their life events to to the factions and worlds that make up your setting. As you do this allow new detail to enter play as appropriate.
Let’s look at some life path events for players starting life in the mining system of Qualis (0507) using Mongoose 2nd Ed.
One character joins the army and gets the following life event: “Surrounded and outnumbered by the enemy, you hold out until relief arrives. Gain DM+2 to your next Advancement check.”
Did this happen on Qualis or another nearby system? Let’s let it happen at Qualis. I’ll go to my faction picker to see if its related to something factional. I get the New Horizons faction, a sector level group. Qualis has a type C star port so the faction is present on an 8+, DM+2 for strength. They pass the check and I note down what other factions are present at the same time. I discover there is only the Liberal Collective present.
So who were the enemy? Let’s say that New Horizons was pushing for more in-system mining to help build a small enforcer fleet they are building near Eezra, the subsector capitol. However they have overstepped the mark in their enthusiasm and a group looking for miners to get better returns on the work done have started an armed insurrection, capturing both planetside infrastructure and space fuel facilities.
The army have been sent in, half a battalion with two AFVs to liberate six of the main mining locations for energy and structural metals. A civilian “observer” from New Horizons was present and insisting on actions that hamper the operation and lead to the player’s squad being besieged.
Now the player knows about New Horizons, some local trouble and a little about the bigger picture. They probably have some feelings about each of these things as well.
Another player gets a life event as a drifter, hanging about on Qualis at the time of the troubles. The event is “A patron offers you a chance at a job. If you accept, you gain DM+4 to your next Qualification roll, but you owe that patron a favour.” I go to the faction pack and get Terran Resistance. They are not present on Qualis. The drifter gets a job, all expenses paid, taking some info on a memory dot to Eezra, delivering it to a member of the Terran Resistance. It contains info regarding the New Horizons’ increase in metals extraction for fleet building and the threat of the miner alliance, and the player learns the Terran Resistance hope to convince New Horizons to work with them in the task of rolling back the Berekion incursion. The Terran Resistance are owed the favour which can be a great adventure seed.
And there you have it, a system that provides large scale, interesting context, connects the players to it, generates scenario seeds and takes very little time to prep. You could take the example sub sector here and run it as a campaign. If you do let me know about it and tell me how things turned out on Qualis over at StrangeFlight.blog. Hope you enjoy it!