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The Crucible Campaign: Travelling In the Commonwealth: The High Zhdant Federation


Cronor/Cronor (Spinward Marches 0304)

Political Organization

Undivided federation without internal political subdivisions. Presided
over by a governor and a unitary oligarchic council.


Comprises all of the worlds of Iavdeiev and Zdiadlevepra subsectors (Ziafrplians O and P), Llanic (Gvurrdon M), Shial and Massina (Foreven C and D), Cronor (Spinward Marches A) and all Zhodani culture worlds in Jewell Subsector (Spinward Marches B). For a variety of reasons, Zhodani culture worlds in Querion Subsector (Spinward Marches E) acceded to the Arden Federation instead.


A stylized Zhodani trefoil disk, with red, orange, and gold lobes, superimposed upon a blue-white sunburst. High Zho starships usually are adorned with a flock of three eagles; one red, one orange, and one gold representing the three bird constellations.


Mainly pure Zhodani Humans with significant mixed or Imperial communities. A number of communities in coreward and trailing Cronor subsector are descended from either sublight or jumpdrive colonization mounted by the Rule of Man or during the Long Night: these form a self-ruling community with no formal name beyond the colloquial "Rommies". Significant Vargr populations are found here along with small immigrant Droyne communities. The sole minor alien race are the Tethmari of Gyomar (SM 0108), whose local high pressure ammonia atmosphere does not encourage much visitation.


The Rule of Man were the first recorded settlers of the region, with their oldest colonies dating back to IY -1800. Several sublight colonies made it here during the Long Night. The Zhodani were slower in reaching the region: their first colonies came in about -1100, though these were mostly breakaway communities. By -1500 they had settled the Iavdeiev and Shial subsectors, and by -1000 had colonized a handful of systems in Massina and Zdiadlevepra to trailing. The Zhodani were mainly interested in commercial development, and their expansion was slow and methodical. They did send a number of exploratory missions to rimward and trailing, contacting the Vilani in Deneb and Corridor sector, and observing the Darrians to rimward. But for the most part astrographic difficulties, cultural conservatism and a lack of observed value in local worlds limited their expansion.

Zhodani and Imperial traders had first contacted each other in IY 50, but it took very little time for the Third Imperium to expand beyond their Spinward Main communities into the spinward-coreward quadrant of the sector. Miscommunication coupled with each states cultural biases created tensions early on between the two governments, but the region's backwardness and other political obligations prevented all out war. But in the 500s Imperial colonists began moving in earnest into Massina and Zdiadlevepra subsectors, and tensions escalated into open war in IY 589. The First Frontier War lasted until Olav Plankwell's victory in 604. The Imperium ceded unsettled territory in Foreven and Ziafrplians sectors to create a small buffer zone. When Plankwell journeyed with the Spinward Marches fleet to Capitol, assassinated Empress Jacqueline and started the First Imperial Civil War, Zhodani and Vargr forces launched a renewed offensive in the Second Frontier War (615-620). In this war Admiral Arbellatra Alkhalikoi was able to stymie the Outworlds Coalition advance decisively, but was forced to cede more territory, this time in the Marches itself.

The demilitarized zone created at the end of this war was did not satisfy the combatants. A further war was defused in 799 by the preemptive demonstrations of Imperial naval power and preventative diplomacy. This crisis spilled over into the Psionic Suppressions, which created a good deal of long term social and political damage for the Third Imperium. Afterwards the Zhodani steadily built up their military power and technology, and struck the distracted Imperium in the Third Frontier War (979-986) for their only clear military victory over the Imperium. Emperor Styryx was forced to cede more than twenty worlds to the Zhodani or neutrality, a move that resulted in his abdication. This created about a century of peace, before the Zhodani decided to resolve the "Imperial situation" once and for all during the last years of the eleventh Imperial century. Rising tensions sparked a spontaneous Fourth Frontier War (1082-1084) that ended in stalemate and armistice before the central commands of either state could react, without significant loss of territory or material by either side. Further buildup led to the Fifth Frontier War (1107-1110) which ended in a decisive Imperial victory, though the peace terms were generous to the Zhodani.

While the Consulate and the Imperium grappled with each other, both empires showed signs of decay and age. The Consulate was increasingly incapable of preventing the spread of "deviant" ideas through its burgeoning population despite the vigilance of its security services. The expensive method of reeducating entire populations took otherwise productive worlds out of the national economy, which further strained the empire and its institutions. Iadr Nsobl province was able to weather these to a greater extent than other regions due to the limited exposure of the local Zhodani population to the Imperium and other outside elements, providing some degree of inoculation to the spontaneous rebellions that swept the Consulate's coreward regions in 1119.  The shock of the Second Imperial Civil War and subsequent Collapse and release of the AI Virus bought some time, but only for a few decades. As stresses increased, provincial governments took escalating responsibility for their own security while the Consulate tried to contain the spread of insurrection. By the late 1180s Iadr Nsobl was practically self-governing while still maintaining the fiction of national allegiance.

In 1200 the Zhodani Core suffered a massive meltdown of public order. New rebel forces led by a variety of self-proclaimed messiahs seized several key subsectors in the coreward periphery. The shock of this victory spread down the grapevine unhindered by the Zhodani's monolithic culture, and entire populations around the capitol panicked. Suddenly Iadr Nsobl found itself inundated by fearful refugees looking for a safe haven. Some fled to rimward, overrunning struggling Imperial culture worlds. A larger percentage made their way to the Regency of Deneb, inflaming atavistic passions among the border populations that suffered during the Frontier Wars. But the vast majority were barred from leaving the province by the tightening Quarantine and the confiscation of ships by neighboring governments. Populations in the rimward portion of Ziafrplians, and neighboring regions of Foreven and Spinward Marches soared geometrically. Conditions became overcrowded, life support margins almost fatally taxed on several worlds.

In the wake of this flood, a new faction called the Dawn Heralders succeeded in defeating or uniting enough other religious factions to become the Consulate governments chief enemy. Its agitators and guerrillas flooded the spinward worlds of Iadr Nsobl, seeking either new converts at first, and then willingly trying to undermine civil order with sabotage and piracy. Provincial forces were deployed to deal with this infiltration, but with so many mouths to feed the local council was forced to turn to the Regency of Deneb for aid and subsidies. When nobles in adjacent sectors began to turn away from the Consulate in favor of their own petty empires, they began to intrude on the spinward and coreward reaches of Ziafrplians, adding further pressure. Regency military intervention creeped into the sector starting in 1210, which did not allay the growing reactionary movement in the Spinward Marches, or stop the flow of enemy forces. By 1221 Iadr Nsobl was little more than an appendage of the Regency of Deneb. The assassination of Regent Caranda at the hands of Zhodani friendly terrorists inflamed the reactionaries, and the new Regent Lemat Arthurian stationed troops across the rimward half of Ziafrplians sector, taking virtual control.

The ease of the takeover deluded Arthurian and his allies, who dreamed of creating a new Imperium out of the Regency, with the collapsing Consulate being their cow. Despite the opposition of a significant percentage of both the Regency and occupied Zhodani populations, the Black Regent was able to fin angle a growing buildup of Regency forces in the spinward parts of Ziafrplians. Firefights with more organized Zhodani groups across the interface with Tienspevnekr Sector convinced the Regent's commanders to expand momentously into that sector as well, despite strained logistics and an increasing Dawn Heralder presence in the rear. The Regency Fleet encountered fractured opposition at first, as the smaller guerrilla forces fled for deep space. But it reached a point in Zarontse subsector (Tienspevnekr F) about twenty parsecs from the Consulate capitol world of Zhdant where it ran head on into organized Consulate naval forces: the Consulate government had thrown in its lot with the Heralders and other factions to resist their self-proclaimed liberators. The superior Regency forces were able to dispose of this force with only moderate losses, but were unable to regain momentum in the face of hardening opposition and crumbling supply lines.

Unable to communicate with Mora for instructions, and lacking authority to reorganize their forces to match the nimbler and better supplied Zhodani forces, the hidebound admirals delayed fatally for almost two months. They made a brief retreat to the Addaxur (Clotho) reservation to alleviate part of their supply problem, and made a stand against the swirling Zhodani. The battle was an unmitigated disaster for the Regency: fully twenty five percent of their forces were lost or overrun. Three fleets were completely destroyed when they were cut off from retreat. Arthurian's entire command group was cutoff and captured. Discipline broke down, and entire forces retreated on their authority without coordination. Some commanders were able to regain enough command cohesion to rally their forces, otherwise it would have become a rout. Heavy losses meant that the stands taken closer and closer to the Regency were only temporary. Only the timely arrival of CNO Sylvester (nickname: The Old Bitch) to take personal command over the retreating mass at Iavdeiev stopped the bleeding.

The sudden retreat of the Regency panicked the local Zhodani, but a lack of shipping prevented a mass exodus. The sudden resurgence of Consulate authority was momentarily encouraging, but it was proved an illusion by the excesses of Dawn Heralder and Noble troops. The Heralders even brought in Vargr mercenaries and corsairs to reinforce their own hardline troops, and began "reeducating" the locals in a brutal fashion. Millions were forcibly recruited by the fanatics as livestock, to serve their forces as laborers.. or worse. The Regency forces received enough reinforcements and reorganization to inflict a stinging rebuke on the Zhodani in Cronor and Llanic subsectors, and Sylvester was able to bring the fleet out of Consulate territory scratched but not broken. The victorious Zhodani took over the fortifications at Cronor, and began to convert them into massive transit camps for the billions of people they anticipated to conquer. The world received millions of Denebians plus Ardenians, Sword Worlders and Darrians who did not anticipate that the Heralders would plunge the entire sector into their jihad.

Three years later the tide turned in the other direction, and it was the increasingly unruly Dawn Heralders and their failing allies who faced the new Commonwealth Navy above Cronor in the Battle of the Second Line. After the crushing defeats at Lunion and Strouden, the Zhodani had attempted to create a new line from the occupied Sword Worlds through Vilis and Jewell. This line was broken very quickly by the better organized and equipped Commonwealth forces. The second line was better manned, but it formed an "L" shaped bend around the Consulate, with the junction of the bend at Cronor itself. It took three months of sharp attacks by Commonwealth forces to reduce the siege lines and retake the world. The shattered Zhodani attempted further defense lines at Iavdeiev, and finally at the Tienspevnekr interface, but the loss of Cronor cost them their remaining experienced forces and most of their heavy warships, and these defense lines were crushed with less difficulty. The last remnants of the Consulate government surrendered in NE 42 (IY 1240) and the last major Heralder stronghold fell later that year. Warfare remains an endemic part of the Zhodani heartland, as the economic and political collapse of the Consulate has created a fluid situation in which no faction has yet emerged. Despite this, the High Zhdant Federation was admitted to the Commonwealth in NE 57.


For centuries the Zhodani lived hidden in a mentally sanitized petri dish, where contradiction, resentment and other smoldering dragons were slain by their psionic masters. Connecting these nonpsionic dots was a carefully constructed system that rewarded conformity, through a network of affinitive communication and empathetic interpersonal relations. While this created a society that was seemingly well adjusted, it was a kind of mental "farming" that was as artificial as regular horticulture. Human minds aren't conducive to that kind of regressive conditioning, and naturally strain against such artificial boundaries. And because reason is an imperfect foil to the emotions from which it springs, the efforts of their psychologists and sociologists were exactingly superficial, mere refined emotional filigree. This created tension between the nobles and their charges in a society that required constant supervision by the authorities, which led into devilishly complicated systems of control. The monolithic impersonality and lack of cultural experience in handling more "deviant" ways of thinking meant that their populations and territories would undergo periodic "pandemics" of uncontrolled social change and populist rebellion.

But the destruction of that culture was an equally scarifying event, and the "High Zhodani" that emerged in those regions most friendly to the former Regency were left feeling betrayed and alienated in the aftermath of the Crucible War. The Consulate had collapsed very quickly, when glib tongued rebels advanced alternatives that prompted the abandonment of this artificial relationship. Real, rainbow-hued humanity was simply not permitted to exist by their social contract and everyone, even the nobles, had become so disgruntled about their obligations to create a contradiction that overwhelmed the utility of their psionic society. But the ruling structure completely abandoned traditional culture and society too quickly, with the good being shed with the bad. As Solomani philosopher Alexis De Tocqueville had said, "the most dangerous moment for a bad government is the moment it tries to reform itself." In the vacuum that the ensued, too many nobles and proles embraced violent sociopathic philosophies and groups like the Dawn Heralders or the secessionary movements of the rimward periphery, mistaking novelty for benevolence. And the result was a revolution of unlikely genesis and success, followed by a sanguinary civil war that killed one out of every ten Zhodani, followed by a devastating war with Deneb that crippled the Regency and destroyed the Consulate. The High Zhodani did not take these philosophical leaps, because their leaders were subject to political constraints placed upon them by their local nobility and the Regency, and because they had more experience with alternatives. But every idol of their culture had been toppled in a short span of years and the new gods of the Heralders and other competing factions had proved just as false.

The transformation from cultural Zhodani into Commoners with Zhodani background was difficult in conception but easy in execution. The Zhodani's refined social graces and excellent communications skills were their greatest triumph. The Zhodani Exodus left tens of billions of Zhodani to assimilate into the Regency, and through them and their descendants the Commonwealth had become familiarised with their culture. Combined with the Commonwealth Covenant's protection of their society, and the democratic nature of the new government, they had an avenue to graft themselves onto the body of Deneb without compromising their traditions. What was surprising to other Commoners was the High Zhodani acceptance of a libertarian philosophy upon joining the Commonwealth, which only goes to show how difficult it is for a stereotype to be dispelled even in modern, liberal societies.

The coupling of "Zhodani" with "freedom" may seem a terrific oxymoron, especially to an unreconstructed simpleton from the Imperial period. But the Zhodani culture worlds wanted a less authoritarian existence for reasons detailed above, and to prevent the extermination or total assimiliation of their culture into the Commonwealth mainstream. At the time of their accession, the Commonwealth was dominated by conformist regions in Deneb Sector, people who were well meaning but were demanding that the people of the Frontier put aside their differences for a suffocating degree of unity, and who had no sympathy for groups deviating from their script. Even the Regecny's embrace of psionics made the conservatives a danger to the Zhodani, as they regarded as being merely a means of extending the power of the Commonwealth state. With no other power center for just plain old nonconformity, the High Zho allied themselves with other libertarian groups like the Speculators to create a loyal opposition to the more conservative Denebians. And in this their culture was instrumental in its own preservation, as it was already an "exotic" alternative to such philistinism. Being an alien society gifted with psionics creates a double vantage point that the conservatives lacked. This gift of extrasensory and extraterritorial perception was the point of departure for them, and a rallying point for likeminded independents. The High Zhodani came to accept that their destiny was to knock down these walls of authority, destroying prejudices, and expand the horizons of the Commonwealth with enlightenment.

The High Zhodani cathedral is the open sky, lit with stars, hovering above them. And the most profound way to destroy barriers is to simply breach them with their physical presence. This is a society dedicated to travelling. This came easily to their society. A very large minority of High Zhodani were refugees living in crowded squalor, with barely a leaky roof over their heads, and the hotel rooms and ship staterooms of the open skies are an improvement. The consensus among them is that they will never be at home in the Commonwealth until reaches its final form. The caricature of a High Zho is a man or woman trammeling alien worlds in military style fatigues, with a small knapsack or suitcase that contains all of their worldly possessions. They rarely form lasting family connections within their own culture, unless they find some kind of lasting stability in terms of income and human relationships. More often they marry either other travelling Zhodani, or mix into more Imperial communities in an understated manner. An Imperial having a Zhodani spouse is no longer considered to be a novelty except in some parts of Corridor and the Periphery.

The most prominent members are the "gatherers" or multi-talented persons who combine aspects of being a journalist/intelligence agent/traveller/anthropologists in their efforts to seek the essence of universal beauty, and bring it back to where it can potentially enliven the Commonwealth, or further their communities goals abroad. This is mainly an academic pursuit supported by the largest universities in the Federation at Cronor and Sachebr (SM 0705), which provides the ships and supplies and academic analysis that supports these expeditions. Unlike most High Zho travellers, the gatherers are rarely solo and usually work with official credentials with their own ships and equipment. A rump nobility still exists in the Federation, but only in a consultative role, and they are often confined to working with the poorest and sickest members of their community, without the benefit of high technology.

Politically the old system of psionic promotion has been junked. The psionic games are a thing of the past. The Intendant class has been folded into the Federation's civil service or professions. The Tavrchedl' still exist in their original form, but psions are now the same as everyone else. And they receive less recognition and are subject to more scrutiny than their Imperial culture counterparts. Political parties are also restricted by popular consensus: the parlous state of many postwar communities and the extravagant self-destruction of the Consulate has left most persons distrustful of personal political agendas. This distrust extends to public meetings as well, and functional and ceremonial secrecy is not tolerated in any form. Business and industry still resemble their Consulate predecessors more than their Commonwealth equivalents, the result of alienation from the highly speculative capitalism of the Enterprise and Arden Federations. They have embraced Commonwealth religion and charitable organizations, celebrate the same holidays with the same fervor, and serve proudly in the Commonwealth military and government. More importantly, the expressions and proxemics of both cultures have rubbed off on each other, so that a High Zhodani will be almost indistinct from his Imperial culture neighbors just on the basis of a conversation.

Worlds of High Zhdant Federation

Most High Zhdant worlds are still in varying stages of reconstruction. The majority of inhabited major cities have been rebuilt, but the outbacks of some high population worlds are still littered with the radioactive wreckage of other abandoned cities. Zhodani cities are compact and comfortable in layout, but are generally more crowded than other Commonwealth equivalents. Most urban Zhodani live either in communal housing or crowded apartments built out of whatever materials could be had, from recycled rubble to military shipping containers. Zhodani on less populated worlds have the luxury of access to local building materials, but their communities are still crowded. Their buildings still have the grand sinusoidal construction, but they prefer large domes or other lowbuilt covered buildings to easily damaged (and expensive) skyscrapers or soaring arcologies. Single family dwellings, whether in the city or in rural areas, are small and built into the surrounding terrain, with ample cover over the open yards closest to the home. Property lines are well defined and kept clear of obstructions, and Zho cities are probably the friendliest to grav vehicles and other aircraft.

Food rationing is still in effect upon some worlds in the spinward Federation, and other worlds where food is plentiful tend to impose voluntary rationing of some kind to distribute surplus food to them. The High Zhodani don't seem to be comfortable with surplus anyway, unless it buys comfort for more than themselves. Offer a Zho beggar money, and he'll ask for it in small bills to distribute to his friends and family. Public buildings like restaurants, banquet halls and other areas built for mass socialization are the center of their material culture, and the camaraderie makes up for the lack of private property and shortages. The interiors of most buildings are optimized for socialization: compact rooms with minimalistic furniture like divans and futons are the norm. The mark of status and prosperity is the ability of a family to provide hospitality to their neighbors and friends. Businesses are often nepotist in their hiring, though most are owned by circles of investors rather than a single family or clan.

Travellers who visit High Zho worlds are advised that they will find a community that is like-minded. Accommodations are sparse, as hospitality is mainly a function of private offering rather than public obligation. Most private citizens are willing to offer up their homes to offworlders, and do so freely; but taking too much of this hospitality will result in certain obligations being levied upon the taker. This is true of most institutions: the first few services offered are free samples, but eventually they will start demanding some kind of repayment, which can take an enormous number of forms. Local law enforcement and the Tavrchedl' are tolerant of non-Zhodani foibles, but they will enforce the law with as much ruthlessness as a Midwayman. Bear in mind that this sociable of a people have little provision for privacy: unisex bathrooms and even shared accommodations are not uncommon.

High Zhodani Careers

High Zhodani Traveller
These are the wandering troubadours, street preachers, and knights errant of High
Zhodani society. Their travels they act as "human lint rollers" picking up whatever local
traditions interest them and carrying them into the next port of call. Most sustain themselves by
doing odd jobs, being itinerant traders, or by writing and other advocations.
High Zhodani and INT 6+, Homeworld=Industrial+
First Term
Determination-2, Perception-2, Economics-1, Charm-1, Interaction-1, Explore-1
Subsequent Terms
Determination, Peception, Economics, Charm, Interaction, Explore, Vehicle, Spacehand
Special Adventure
7+ for Gun Combat, Melee, Language, Spacehand, Animal Handling or Personal Transport
2 of any kind per term
Other Effects
3 Ship DMs per term. Starting cash is determined as per a Belter


High Zhodani Netminer
The loose, peripatetic ways of the High Zhodani mean that they have enormous access to the Spinward States and their markets. Netminers are info junkeys, brokers and kingmakers that debrief Zhodani travellers and traders hoping to glean whatever insight they can, and then sell the information to interested persons.
High Zhodani and INT 6+ and EDU 6+, Homeworld=Post-Industrial+
First Term
8+, no DM (Use businessman ranks)
Economics-2, Technician-2, Interaction-1, Charm-1, Perception-1
Subsequent Terms
Economics, Technician, Interaction, Charm, Perception, Vice
Special Adventure
9+ for Engineer, Peception, Determination, Fine Arts, Language
2 (Trader or Academic) per term
Other Effects
SOC +1 for every promotion

Library Data

Bird Constellations
The ancient Solomani Arabs fancied the constellations of Cygnus, Vega and Aquila to be a flock of three eagles. As these constellations all exist in a window of sky containing the former Zhodani Consulate, it was natural for the High Zhodani Federation to use three Commonwealth eagles, rendered in fiery colors, to represent themselves. As a cultural symbol the use of three eagles symbolises the search for freedom, dignity, and prosperity.