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#23: Aliens of the Marches: The Jonkeereen

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 October 2011, and in Freelance Traveller’s November 2011 issue.

Although I loved the setting detail found in The Spinward Marches, I was disappointed by the lack of crunch. I wanted to have rules for the races and careers of that corner of Charted Space! So, I set out to create my own. My first article “Aliens of the Marches: The Sword Worlders” appeared in Signs & Portents #80, which you can download from Mongoose. My follow-up article, on the Jonkeereen, fell through the cracks as S&P changed editors, and I got obsessed with a history book. With the hiatus of S&P, I’ve instead decided to offer it here, as the final article of Fifth Imperium’s run.

The Spinward Marches and the sectors that surround it are some of the most diverse in all of Charted Space. This article describes one of the many peoples that inhabit that part of space—the Jonkeereen, a genetically-engineered race of humans who were created in the Deneb sector and have since spread across the Marches.

About the Jonkeereen

The Jonkeereen are a genetically engineered race of desert dwellers. However, their purpose is long irrelevant, and genetic engineering is once more out of favor. As a result, the Jonkeereen have become one of the most alienated peoples living behind the claw.

The story of the Jonkeereen starts with that of the Suerrat, a minor human race of the Ilelish sector. They were conquered by the Vilani during their early Consolidation Wars, renewed their freedom during the Long Night, joined the Third Imperium during its early days, and later threw the whole sector into revolt.

By the 500s, the Suerrat were once more members of the Imperium, but they were still trying to improve their position among the stars by colonizing any remaining planets in the Ielish and Gushemege sectors. One of those was Hillaladi (Gushemege 2438), a desert planet that had previously been considered worthless due to its inhospitable climate. The Imperium moot decided to oppose this new Suerrat expansion, but rather than using the techniques of brute force that had quashed Suerrat insurrection following their sector-wide rebellion, they instead opted to out-compete the Suerrat in the colonization of Hillaladi. To accomplish this goal, they geneered a new human subrace—one that would be specially adapted to the desert environment. Ironically, the end result would be a race of humans at least as alienated as the Suerrat and possibly as rebellious, if recent events are any indication.

The creation of this new human subrace was overseen by the Imperial Ministry of Colonization with work subcontracted to SuSAG, a pharmaceutical megacorp with experience in the geneering field. After three generations of testing and controlled genetic evolution, the first of these desert humans were settled on the testbed planet of Jonkeer (Deneb 1324) in 600. Shortly afterward, in 637, the Suerrat abandoned their attempts to tame Hillaladi, leaving the Jonkeereen without a purpose.
For decades afterward, SuSAG and the Ministry of Colonization both tried to find new uses for the Jonkeereen. Most notably, the Ministry began their “non-optional transplantation operations” in 700, seeding desert planets across Deneb and the Spinward Marches with the Jonkeereen race. This only increased the alienation that the Jonkeereen felt toward the rest of humaniti.

This was the story of the Jonkeereen for the last 400 years: long spans of being ignored followed by short periods of interest when geneering, desert survival, or similar topics came to the forefront of Imperial life.

Though the Jonkeereen are scattered Behind the Claw, and thus have no unified political stand, the 400 million who still live on Jonkeer number enough to make a statement. In 1083 they did so by staging the first of two uprisings led by the Jonkeereen leader Tabali. After it was put down, a second uprising occurred in 1101. The more recent uprising was the resulted from the discovery that the Ministry of Colonization was in the process of creating a retrovirus that would inhibit the reproduction of Jonkeereen. When this second uprising was put down, Imperial Marines killed Tabali under very suspicious circumstances.

Though the other Jonkeereen scattered across Imperial space have not come into such extreme conflict with the Third Imperium, there has been constant tension over the centuries on most of the planets they cohabitate with the rest of humaniti. Meanwhile, in the Glisten subsector of the Spinward Marches, the Ministry of Colonization continues work on the Jonkeereen genome, trying to prove that their geneering work, now 600 years old, was not a waste.

In an unfriendly universe, the only friend of the Jonkeereen might well be the megacorp SuSAG, who has advocated for them against the Ministry of Colonization following both of the uprisings on Jonkeer.


The desert is vast and open. Though in constant motion, it is unchanging. It is harsh and uncaring. In all of these ways, it is the mirror of the Jonkeereen who were geneered to live within it.

The most prominent characteristic of the Jonkeereen culture is its independence. Even when the Imperium was planning to use the Jonkereen to vie for Hillaladi, this geneered race was pushing their benefactors away. Some of this desire for independence comes from the internal mindset that the Jonkeereen require to live amidst the deserts. But much of it comes from the Jonkeereen’s feeling of alienation. They were created for a purpose that they never fulfilled. Now they are adrift in the universe, sometimes used to colonize desert planets, but even then they often contend with ungeneered Imperials who do with technology what comes to the Jonkeereen naturally. Thus the Jonkeereen have drawn inward, away from the rest of Charted Space. They find strength within.

The harsh nature of the desert also drives the Jonkeereen’s conservatism, for progressive ideas in the desert get one killed. It also makes them stoic. Even with the best adaptations and the best traditions, some die in the deserts. There is nothing that can be done about that.

When mixed with other peoples—as is the case throughout the Spinward Marches—Jonkeereen lose some of their most conservative nature. They become willing to interact with other people, perhaps even to listen to their views. But always, there is still distance—caused by the Jonkeereen’s knowledge that they are unwanted relics from another time.

Creating a Jonkeereen

Though Jonkeereen can be created using only the Traveller Core Rulebook, the following rules allow for the creation of more realistic (and perhaps more interesting) Jonkeereen.

Character Generation Modifiers

This article offers variant character creation rules for making Jonkeereen characters. Following is a listing of all the new rules in this article, organized by the steps shown on the “Character Generation Checklist” in the Traveller Core Rulebook (page 5). Only the steps that contain Jonkeereen changes are listed here.

1. Characteristics

2. Background Skills

3. Careers

7. Events

9. Aging


Physically, the average Jonkeereen is tall, thin, and dark-skinned. At a glance, he doesn’t seem that different from the average human whose family has lived in a desert environment for several generations. However, when you look closer you can see a number of genetic variations that were built into the Jonkeereen genome over several generations of geneering.

Looking carefully at a Jonkeereen’s eyes you might notice the protective membrane that helps keep them clear of windblown sand. However, the most important changes are entirely invisible. They include a Jonkeereen’s improved ability to retain water, his increased ability to reclaim energy from food, and his more efficient body cooling systems.

Everything comes at a price. The average Jonkeereen lifespan is just 60-65 years, even outside of the harsh desert environment. In addition, normal anagathic drugs have little effect, though a certain plant on Jonkeer called zaerkee has similar effects.

Character Creation: Characteristics: Jonkeereen have Notable Endurance (+1). Though members of the Third Imperium, no Jonkeereen has ever been given a noble title. They may have Social Standing of 11+, but no title is conferred.

Character Creation: Aging: Apply a -2 DM to all rolls that a Jonkeereen makes on the Aging Table. The zaerkee plant that the Jonkeereen use as anagathics are free on Jonkeer, cost 1d6x100 Credits in the Deneb sector, cost 1d6x500 Credits in the Spinward Marches or Corridor sectors, and cost 1d6x2500 Credits elsewhere.

Gameplay: Survival Skills: Jonkereen have been specially geneered to survive well on all planets with atmospheres between 4 and 9, particularly hot worlds and worlds with 0 hydrographics. As a result, they do not need filter masks for tainted worlds, they need approximately 1/5th of the water of a normal human, they do not take damage from heat until it exceeds 70 (see Traveller Core Rulebook page 74), and any Survival skill checks that they make for hot or desert environments have a +4 bonus.

Planet of Origin

There are five systems within the Spinward Marches that include Jonkeereen in notable numbers, plus two scientific institutes (on Egypt/Glisten and Glisten/Glisten) that see a fair amount of Jonkeereen turnover. Though not included in this listing, there are several additional Jonkeereen planets that can be found in the Deneb sector.

Callia, E150852-6 (Glisten 0206). A rocky, desert planet. Jonkeereen represent about a quarter of the world’s population, but remain almost invisible by dwelling deep in the planet’s deserts. The mainline humans cluster around artesian wells managed and controlled by technicians. They’re not fond of visitors, whether they be off-worlders or Jonkeereen; this suits the Jonkeereen just fine. Background Skills: Animals 0, Survival 0.

Egypt, BAC6567-7 (Glisten 0107). A lifeless planet with an insidious atmosphere. The planet’s population is solely dependent upon its status as a research station and a colonization waypoint, all entirely owned and managed by the Imperial Ministry of Colonization. Various environmental domes contains the different environments that colonists might encounter. There are only a few hundred Jonkeereen on Egypt, and they are solely involved with scientific studies, mostly on the suitability of their species for various planets. Sometimes relations between scientists and Jonkeereen become a bit strained because of the Jonkereen’s history with the Ministry. Most of these Jonkeereen originate on Melior, though a few are born on Egypt as well. Background Skills: Spaces Sciences 0. Any character born on Egypt may optionally decide to take a member of the Imperial Ministry of Colonization as a connection. Roll 1d6 to determine the sort: 1-3: Contact; 4-5: Rival; 6: Enemy.

Glisten, A000986-F (Glisten 0406). An asteroid society and a center of commerce and industry—not just the subsector, but for the entire Spinward Marches. It is also the home of GLIPS, the Glisten Institute of Planetological Studies, one of the largest universities in the sector. One of GLIPS’ major fields of studies is geneering. As such, a few hundred Jonkeereen are employed here at all times for study by researchers and students alike. Most of the Jonkeereen originate on Callia or Melior—though the Imperial Ministry of Colonization is sometimes prickly about GLIPS “stealing its Melioran Jonkeereen.” The situation on Glisten is a mirror to the Jonkereen research on Egypt; the relations between the students and the Jonkeereen are quite good, resulting in the Jonkeereen of Glisten being some of the least alienated in all of Charted Space. Background Skills: Computers 0, Life Sciences 0, Physical Sciences 0, Social Sciences 0, Space Sciences 0, Streetwise 0, Zero-G 0. Any character born on Glisten may optionally decide to take a member of GLIPS as a connection. Roll 1d6 to determine the type: 1: Ally; 2-5: Contact; 6: Rival.

Ianic, E360397-5 (Lunion 0304). A cold desert world with very little to recommend it. The Jonkeereen of the planet—about 30% of the total population—tend to be nomadic travellers of the deserts. These keeps them widely separated from the humans of Ianic, whose ranching of the lizard-like Slindi forms the economic foundation of the planet. Despite this general separation, there is no animosity between the two sorts of humans, unlike on some other planets. Background Skills: Carouse 0, Survival 0. Ianic’s stable atmosphere and government make it a rich planet—but only for its human residents. If a character takes the Carouse 0 skill that comes with the Rich homeworld trait, the player should decide what caused his Jonkereen to become integrated with the humans of his home planet.

Melior, D140466-7 (Glisten 0106). An inhospitable desert planet with a thin and tainted atmosphere. It is controlled by the Imperial Ministry of Colonization, who use it for minor experiments and as a recruiting ground for the nearby research station on Egypt. About 50% of the population of the planet is Jonkeereen, a number carefully maintained by the Ministry for future needs. The Ministry keeps these Jonkeereen separate from other settlers on the planet to avoid conflicts between the populations. Background Skills: Animals 0, Survival 0.

Nadrin, D120203-6 (Mora 0704). A small, inhospitable, and scantly populated world. There are less than 1000 persons on the planet, all of them Jonkeereen. This planet represents a long-term study by the Imperial Ministry of Colonization on Egypt into how well the Jonkeereen can withstand poor atmospheric conditions without outside assistance. The answer has thus far been: poorly. Though Jonkeereen have survived in the atmosphere without respirators or filters, they are confined to only the lowest altitudes of the planet and their longevity is still negatively impacted. It should be no surprise that the Jonkeereen of Nadrin are among some of the most alienated and conservative in the Marches. Background Skills: Animals 0. Any characters brought up on Nadrin suffer an additional -1 DM to all aging rolls, for a total of -3 DM for being a Jonkeereen on Nadrin. In addition to normal background skills, also take Survival 1.

Quopist, B150679-A (Lanth 0605). A warm planet with a thin atmosphere. The population is about 60% Jonkeereen. Though there is considerable conflict on the planet—which has led to an amber rating by the JTAS—it is not racial. Instead, groups of Jonkeereen and other humans are intermixed across the globe, gathering at natural oases, springs, and wells. These “water brotherhoods” often exert territorial control over immense groves of Spiny Trees, a cactus-like succulent that releases an important chemical catalyst called Valden into the sandy soil. Some of the fighting surrounds control of these groves, but other fighting is centered on more philosophical grounds, including a divide between two groups on the planet concerning resource consumption: one treats the Spiny Trees as a renewable resource while the other does not. Background Skills: Life Sciences 0, Survival 0.

Jonkeereen Homeworld Table
Roll 2d6 Jonkeereen Homeworld
2 Egypt
3 Nadrin
4 Melior
5-8 Callia
9-10 Quopist
11 Ianic
12 Glisten

Character Creation: Homeworld: Select a Homeworld for your Jonkeereen by rolling on the Jonkeereen Homeworld Table. Read the information on the world to get a basic feeling for your character’s society and note if there are any special rules that apply to that world.

Character Creation: Background Skills. As usual, Jonkeereen gain a number of background skills equal to 3 + their Education DM. Each homeworld offers specific background skills that players may choose among. These are largely derived from the standard homeworld background skills (Traveller Core Rulebook, page 6), but in a few case one or more background skills have been added due to the specific history of the planet.


Jonkeereen are full members of the Third Imperium, thus they have access to all of the careers available to the rest of humaniti. However, prejudice and natural affinity slightly modify some of them.

Army. Though army recruiting appreciates the sturdiness of Jonkeereen, general prejudice against the desert dwellers tends to keep them from advancing through the ranks. Special Rules: +1 DM to enlistment, -1 DM to advancement.

Drifter. By their core nature, Jonkeereen are loners and nomads, thus the drifter career is the one most frequently adopted by Jonkeereen who leave behind their home planets. Special Rules: +1 DM to survival. This also applies to the advanced barbarian, scavenger, and wanderer careers found in Traveller Book 6: Scoundrel (pages 20-31).

Marines, Navy. Prejudice against the Jonkeereen has generally kept them from being accepted into the more prestigious Imperial military careers. Special Rules: -1 DM to enlistment, -1 DM to advancement.

Scout. Unique among the major Imperial services, the Scouts actively recruit Jonkeereen, primarily for their ability to act as loners, far from the rest of humaniti. The scouts’ incentives to Jonkeereen are usually reflected by improved mustering-out benefits. Special Rules: +1 DM to enlistment, + 1DM to the first Benefit roll.

Character Creation: Special Career Rules: Apply the above modifiers to enlistment, advancement, and survival rolls for the specified careers. Other careers have no modifiers for Jonkeereen.

Jonkeereen Draft Table
Roll 1d6 Service
1 Army (Infantry)
2 Army (Infantry)
3 Army (Any)
4 Merchants (Merchant Marine)
5 Scouts (Any)
6 Agent (Law Enforcement)

Character Creation: The Draft: Though Jonkeereen can theoretically be drafted into any military service, the marines and navy never randomly select them. Use the Jonkeereen Draft Table.

Life Events

Though Jonkeereen are subject to the same mishaps and events as others during the course of their careers, their life events tend to be somewhat different, reflecting the different culture and psyche of the Jonkeereen.

Character Creation: Life Events: If you are told to roll on the Life Events table, you should use the chart below, rather than the table on page 34 of the Traveller Core Rulebook.

Jonkeereen Life Events
Roll 2d6 Life Event
2 Premature Aging. The Jonkeereen suffers premature (or additional) aging. Roll 2d6 on the Aging Table (Traveller Core Rulebook, p36), with a negative DM equal to the number of terms the character has served including the current one. A 1+ still results in the reduction of one physical characteristic.
3 Death. Someone close to the Jonkeereen that still lives on their home planet dies, probably due to the harsh conditions of the world.
4 Alienation. An event further convinces the Jonkeereen that Imperial society conspires against him, causing him to withdraw even more than the norm.
5 Friendship. The Jonkeereen makes a real connection with someone outside his race.
6 Scientific Inquiry. Either the Imperial Ministry of Colonization or SuSAG subjects the Jonkeereen to scientific study. Choose which you prefer, and gain a Conact, Rival, or Enemy from that organization.
7 New Contact. A real connection that the Jonkeereen has made with someone outside his race blossoms. Gain a new Contact. Since Jonkeereen tend to have very few non-Jonkeereen friends, you should try and convert someone the character already knows to become this Contact.
8 Friendship Betrayed. A non-Jonkeereen friend betrays the Jonkeereen—which just reinforces his core beliefs about the universe. Convert a Contact or Ally, if you have one, to a Rival. Otherwise, gain a Rival
9 Wanderlust. The Jonkeereen feels the urge to move on. At the end of the term, you must muster out of your current career.
10 Patron. The Jonkeereen gains a non-Jonkeereen Ally who feels some close connection to him and will actively work for his interests in the future. The Jonkeereen may or may not believe the goodness of his intentions, as you prefer.
11 Deportation. The Jonkeereen is temporarily deported back to his home planet. You lose out on chances for advancement this term, and probably grow more alienated due to the unfair (but expected) treatment.
12 Revolt! The Jonkeereen becomes caught up in a planned revolt against the Imperium—either the events of 1083 or 1101 if they fit with the character’s chronology, or a more minor, local event. If the Jonkeereen sides with the Imperium, he gains an Imperial Ally and a DM +1 to one Benefit roll for the current career; however, he becomes an outcast to most Jonkeereen. If the Jonkeereen sides with the other Jonkeereen, he must immediately muster out of any Imperial career (Army, Marines, Navy, Scouts), losing any chances for advancement that year, and he gains an Imperial Enemy.


The story of the Jonkeereen is relatively contained in Traveller literature.

“Contact: The Suerrat”, The Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society #26, Imperium Games, 1997. This short article provides some information on the minor human race that indirectly caused the creation of the Jonkeereen.

GURPS Traveller: Behind the Claw, Steve Jackson Games, 1998. This book is always useful for its short summaries describing every system in the Spinward Marches. It also contains information on Jonkeereen populations on various systems.

“Races of the Domain: Jonkeereen”, The MegaTraveller Journal #3, Digest Group Publications, 1992. This was the only in-depth look at the Jonkeereen to date, building on some short notes in The Travellers’ Digest #19 (Digest Group Publications, 1990). This new article is heavily indebted to it.

The Regency Sourcebook: Keepers of the Flame, GDW, 1995. Though set in the New Era, this book was still quite valuable as it’s the one that integrated Jonkeereen more broadly into the Spinward Marches and Deneb sectors. It also expanded upon the idea of Jonkeereen alienation.

The Spinward Marches, Mongoose Publishing, 2008. The first-cut reference for the 1105 state of the Official Traveller Universe.

I hope you enjoyed this final Fifth Imperium article, and that it can prove useful in your own campaign. With it, I’m bringing this column’s two-year run to an end. I do plan to offer one addenda sometime in the future, to summarize my review of Traveller fiction when I’m done, but that’ll just be a one-time thing. Until then, may your own Imperiums (or Twilight Sectors or other Traveller universes) prosper!