Friday, February 8, 2013

Traveller: Milieu 0 Overview

I found this on my drive the other night, it's an overview of the Milieu 0 setting for Traveller that I wrote up intending to submit it to JTAS as run by Steve Jackson Games, but never got around to it. Since Milieu 0 is my favourite Traveller setting era, and home to my favourite and longest running campaign, I thought I'd post it for other's education.

Milieu 0 - An Overview
  The traditional setting for Traveller, that of the Spinward Marches around the Third Imperium years 1105-1116, has proven popular over the years. However as many referees are aware this is not the only area and time period that you can use in your Traveller game. Megatraveller introduced us to the galaxy of the year 1116 and onwards, a time of civil war and chaos brought upon by the assassination of Emperor Strephon. The Megatraveller period marked the end of the Third Imperium.

  Milieu 0, as the time is called, is a time at the opposite end of the Third Imperium’s life. It is the time around the formation of the Imperium. It is an exciting period in the history of the universe that we know and love, a time of birth and exploration. A time of contact and discovery. The core worlds are not as prosperous as they are towards the end, nor is the Imperium anywhere near its final size. In this time the existence of races such as the Zhodani, Aslan and Hiver are unknown to imperial humaniti. However to fully understand this period it is necessary to go back in time.

  The Long Night. This is the name given by Imperial historians to the time before the Third Imperium. The Long Night was the result of the collapse of the Rule of Man. The Rule of Man was established in what would be Imperial year -2204. Built on the ruins and conquests taken from the Vilani Grand Empire of the Stars (Ziru Sirka) the Terrans established their rule over much of known space. Unfortunately the Terrans were unprepared for the difficulties in governing such a large body of space and the rule of the second Imperium collapsed after barely four centuries of existence.

  With the fall of the Rule of Man many civilizations collapsed completely. Interstellar trade dried up and score of planets who were dependant on the flow of trade to feed their populations simply died out. Known space entered a dark age, each system was on it’s own to fend for itself as best it could. Many wars broke out between systems over resources, food and technology but after a few decades the starships simply stopped moving between the stars.

  For over a millennia this situation persisted. The majority of known space was silent. Planets regressed technologically and socially and still many more planetary populations were destroyed by plague, famine, internal war or natural disaster. For many the old stories of ships that sailed through the void of space were nothing more than a myth, something to tell your grandchildren over the fire at night.

  Not all was so bleak. In a few places civilization and technology managed to cling on and survive. These pockets of light kept life going sometimes as planetary governments and even in a few cases as multi-system civilizations.

  The world of Sylea was one of these worlds. Sylea continued to trade in limited means with neighbouring worlds and it was this trade, and the determination of its people, that enabled it to survive. In -650 the Sylean Federation was founded, a lose confederation of worlds that banded together for mutual benefit. Over the next six hundred years the federation expanded throughout the Core Sector and spanned scores of systems. Unfortunately the method of government hadn't changed with its expansion and the sheer size of the federation began to show around the edges. Naval forces couldn't respond to piracy effectively, lesser worlds were not having their voices heard and the government had become so cumbersome and bureaucratic that it couldn't respond to any situation in sufficient time. Many agreed that this could not continue.

  In -30 Grand Duke Cleon Zhunatsu became a member of the Grand Senate and resolved to remake the federation into something that could govern space, not just the current area but the entirety of what had once been the Rule of Man. Over the next thirty years he manoeuvred within the senate. He built an economic and political powerhouse around himself and in the year 0 all his hard work came to fruition. The Sylean Federation was disbanded and a new Third Imperium arose in its place. This new Imperium laid claim to all the worlds of the previous Imperiums and set about bringing them under its wing.

  The Third Imperium of the year 0 is one of expansion, consolidation and reorganization  Expansion of its sphere of influence to bring all the worlds previously claimed by the previous Imperiums under its influence. Consolidation of the worlds within its sphere and their integration into the Imperium. Reorganization of the principles of government to lay the foundation for the Imperium in the millennia to come.

  At the time of the formation the Imperium, the scout service had explored relatively little of nearby space. Several hundred years before contact had been re-established between the Sylean Federation and the Vilani homeworld of Vland to Spinward and coreward but not much more exploration had taken place. In the coreward and Spinward directions systems had been contacted and mapped out as far away as sixty parsecs from Sylea, but rimward and trailing expeditions had been much less. As a result one of the main aims of the newly formed Imperium was to scout as much space as possible and bring its records up to date.

 Adventuring in this milieu is very different to other Traveller eras; as yet there is no defining Imperial culture across the stars (if one ever exists). Trade routes are only beginning to open up with newly contacted worlds and heavy trade only exists around the Core Sector. Xenophobia is rife among the Imperial frontier and technology is haphazardly distributed. Jump Drive technology is many years behind and J-3 level drives are only just making an appearance. In the core worlds a Tech Level of 12 has just been attained and it will take centuries for that level of invention and scientific knowledge to propagate itself through space.

  Known space is full of the unknown. Data held in the central databases is over a thousand years old and needs updating. Much of that information is corrupt, missing or just plain wrong. The newly established Imperial Interstellar Scout Service spends it’s time mapping systems, updating records and exploring worlds where man has not set foot for over sixteen hundred years. Exploration and first contact are top of its priorities. The chance to see something new is ever present and the frontier is a genuine one.

  Imperial expansion is generally formed by trade agreements and the tying in of newly contacted economies to sanctioned traders and ever increasing Imperial goods. This can present great profit to a trader who is able to ply his wares to the natives, and even greater profits to be made from trade with the unknown. The risks for the small trader are much higher than at any other time in the Imperium’s history, but the payoff is that much greater. Smuggling from interdicted or undiscovered worlds provides a steady income as wealthy patrons from the core vie to be the first to own items from unknown worlds.

  The pace of expansion is quite rapid in all directions, apart from rimward. Emperor Cleon is wary of the possibility that a portion of the Terran government has managed to survive the Long Night and lurks in that direction. As a result exploration and expansion has been prohibited from reaching further rimward than the Massila Sector. At least until the Imperium is ready for the task.

  Of course there are often worlds and collections of worlds that do not wish to be part of this larger empire. Those that resist are bypassed by the expansion and the Imperial Navy assigned to watch over them. In the early years of the Imperium many of these ‘Pocket Empires’ are discovered and bypassed. Over time these will be subsumed into the Imperium and not all of them by peaceful methods.

  All these elements combine to make Milieu 0 a different adventuring experience to normal Traveller, the new frontiers being pushed back into the unknown serves to create a more frontier and exploration based atmosphere. Players cannot call up their trusty Library Data when they need information, new life forms are discovered every day and there are threats to the Imperium out there that no one knows of. Who knows when the exploring scouts will encounter someone else who has similar dreams of empire?

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