Sir Henry Rider Haggard

From Wikipedia (lightly edited):

Sir Henry Rider HaggardKBE (22 June 1856 – 14 May 1925), known as H. Rider Haggard, was an English writer of adventure novels set in exotic locations, predominantly Africa, and a pioneer of the Lost World literary genre. He was also involved in agricultural reform throughout the British Empire. His stories, situated at the lighter end of Victorian literature, continue to be popular and influential.


Haggard was heavily involved in reforming agriculture and was a member of many commissions on land use and related affairs, work that involved several trips to the Colonies and Dominions. It eventually led to the passage of the 1909 Development Bill.

He stood unsuccessfully for Parliament as a Conservative candidate for the Eastern division of Norfolk in the 1895 summer election, losing by 198 votes. He was made a Knight Bachelor in 1912 and a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1919.

The locality of Rider, British Columbia, was named after him.

Sir Henry would make a good Imperial personality… or even a fine model for one of the (more peaceful) players to use, or (more likely) an interesting NPC, or even a patron.

His focus on agriculture (instead of warfare, or exploration) means a lot more social contact with the 90%+ of the Imperium that is at peace at any given moment in time, and a chance to look at some unusual problems, from hydrophonic issues on the lunar and asteroid cities…

(…and space stations that were thought to be long abandoned…)

…to working out agricultural conflicts: say, between the Imperial Vargr (or other carnivorous sophonts) who want as much free range for their herds as possible…

“Because we’re sick of lab-grown meat, and the rodent & insect farms just don’t cut it anymore!”

…and the humans who think that the Vargr are far too land-grabby (and who haven’t discovered their Aslan neighbours yet).

A lot of Sir Henry’s work involved agricultural fact-finding for the Imperial government, and heading back to the Imperial Moot Parliament to give a report. (And finding some spare time to storyboard another adventure tale!) So, the PCs that the Imperial Knight has as a retinue can have regular visits from the Imperial Core to the Far Frontiers (paid for by someone else – the Knight, or more likely the Imperial Government), and check out the differences themselves.

(As for the PCs themselves: one can be from Capital himself, another from a ‘comfortable sector’ like Massilia, a third from the Imperial Fringe, also known as the Spinward Marches (“A fringy place for more than one reason!”), and a fourth being a Mixed Vilani refugee from the Solomani Confederation. Maybe another PC from a nice quiet backwater, like Ley Sector.

There’s probably no place for an Emptyhead, unless you want a series of ever-escalating arguments in the team which end with someone getting his throat slashed open. Well, maybe a quiet, competent fellow Traveller who carefully avoids talking about Back Home, especially if there’s another Emptyhead in the room…)

Finally, it would be amusing for the fellow-travellers of the Knight to see if they can find themselves in his story-vids (most media is video-based in the Imperium) and the occasional novel (for both the sake of prestige – certain Nobles like to demonstrate their Elevated Taste by only reading, and never watching, stories – and for the low-tech mass-market.)

And no, the PCs are not going to get a cut in the profits of his books, even if he uses a “serial numbers filed off” version of the PC in his fiction. On the other hand, if they play their cards right, they might get to be the hero in one of his books – and make a nice side business off that fact, in seminars for the general public.

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The Return of the RICE Paper

Traveller grognards no doubt remember the old RICE (“Regency Institute for Cultural Education”) papers of Traveller: The New Era. These papers from the Regency – the sole surviving Imperial successor state known, as of 1201 Imperial – were detailed overviews of various worlds in the post-Virus era.

Something of a spiritual successor was written in the new book Far Frontiers: Feraerfon. In the blurb, the writer says

Far Frontiers Feraerfon is an abbreviated world supplement for you to drop into a science fiction interstellar spanning campaign setting. Feraerfon is an earth-like habitable world with an early colonial feel to it. It contains a full colour world map of the main world, one of the secondary worlds in the system, and even one of the colonists originating homeward, zoomed details showing major regions, the main city, details of the characteristics of the world, its general history and ideas on which to base adventure scenarios. It also includes background on a humanoid minor race.

Use this supplement to add some detail to your campaign with another world that adds some colour to the travels of your adventurers through the vastness of space.

This supplement is suitable for use with Traveller, Space Opera, Star Wars, Star Trek, FSpaceRPG and a myriad of other scifi settings. Written by a long standing fan of the Traveller RICE paper concept.

Hey, it can’t hurt to check it out. And there should always be a place for another frontier world in your universe: it’s a common site for daring adventures, and frontier worlds should have unique flavours. (A.k.a.  “Not always Colonial America or the Wild West…”)

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Offensive Translations

When you want to spark a war at a all-worlds Empty Quarter peace conference, this is the translator you get.

(Or, just start talking stridently about race or religion: preferably both. It doesn’t really matter what you say, you’re going to get blood on the floor anyways…)

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Mist Monster

It’s unfortunate that the Starship Troopers movie never got their powered armour, or it would have made a half-decent model of Traveller conventional warfare.

As it is, I get to indulge in my explorer fantasies, with the video above.

Yes, I am lying with pictures here: the 99.5% of the movie’s repulsive alien animals – which mainly want to eat you – was cut off here. But Imperial Scouts long ago learned to be sceptical of most intel reports… the few that survive, that is.

So I get my sensawonder!

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Schlock Mercenary

“No matter how hard I rattle this maraca, I can’t seem to shake a new ship out of it.”
Tagon’s Toughs are on shore leave: No ship, no payroll, and no prospects. Then a ship becomes available at a price that’s just too low to pass up, even if it does mean that there might possibly be some strings attached–long invisible ones trailing straight back to the Galactic Core…

A blurb for the Schlock Mercenary book Emperor Pius Dei, which would actually make for a good Traveller adventure. Just replace “Galactic Core” with “Imperial Core”!

(And I’m extremely curious to know who is actually holding the strings there…)

A sample of the humour of Schlock Mercenary. Not my style, admittedly, but I’m getting massive Traveller vibes here… so you might like it. So try it out and see for yourself…

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Holy Cows, Despised People

Or, even more on the joys of the Indian caste system.

Cows and the caste system

Rathod explained how intricately the stigma against dealing with a dead holy animal is linked with the caste system. “In the village, if a Dalit takes away a dead cow, he has to serve the upper castes for free all year long,” said Maheshbhai Rathod. “Repair their shoes, make leather ropes and harnesses for them.”

Said Parmar: “Thakurs and Patels will not give anyone who lives in Ambedkar colony [the Dalit ghetto of Surendranagar] water, they won’t let us enter their temples. Why? Because we are unclean for working with dead cows or picking up mal[faeces]?”

Rathod described the bitter Catch-22 that is the life of a Dalit. “They take so much from us, make us labour for them, yet when we actually do their work, they call us unclean, beat and torture us,” he said. “But even after thrashing us, they’ll never do the work themselves. There is 100% reservation in leather for Chamaars and in safai, cleaning, for Bhangis, isn’t there?”

Said Rathod, now smiling: “This is why we did that protest. We wanted to tell people, ‘If you don’t like us doing the work, please do it yourself.’ Then we’ll see how important Dalits are.”

If the vegetarian K’kree weren’t so invincibly ignorant, they will put the effort needed to properly understanding Hinduism, and give the backing needed to make it a dominant religious system within the Imperium….

….and, in return, make sure that the K’kree get classified as sacred, holy, untouchable cows. “The only species with a true connection to the Divine.”

“Even more holy and sacred than our primitive Terran cousins, as we can speak, fly starships, organize a proper stampede… and fight back properly against the demonic, filthy meat-eaters.”

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Terrible Regrets


What you see above is Ivan the Terrible, Czar of All the Russias, who just realized that he has killed his own son during a rage.

It would be interesting for the PCs to get involved in a similar dramatic turning-point in a local ruling House – or even the Imperial House. What led up to this turn of events? What was the trigger to the fateful moment? What did the Noble do, when he realized exactly what he did? And what was the aftermath?

That’s one of the things I like about the Third Imperium: it isn’t some kind of impersonal bureaucratic machine, in the style of the First Imperium… or of the ‘managed democracies’ of today.

Men rule, men with names, names which are publicly known (as opposed to some responsibility-shunning, secretive power elite), men who are as often swayed by their emotions, tradition, family relations, and the demands of the people as by official policy, budgetary requirements, corporate expectations and formal regulations.

Sometimes, this is a good thing. Sometimes… not so much.

(But it certainly leads to a very exciting setting!)

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The Mystery of the Interstellar Wars

I was skimming through the GURPS Traveller listing in Wikipedia. I admit, I was pleased to read this bit…

  • Until 1998 the original Traveller books had been out of print for over a decade. Also the small size and amount of the books meant there wasn’t as much information on the universe as many people would have liked. Steve Jackson Games has already printed more material for Traveller’s Imperium setting than Game Designers’ Workshop ever did, with more pictures, starship deckplans, and details of the game universe.

But I was brought up to a halt with this bit about the ‘new setting’

GT: Interstellar Wars is set almost 2500 years prior to the founding of the Third Imperium, with a default year of A.D. 2170. The humans from Earth finally invent a faster-than-light drive for their space ships. They soon make first contact with extraterrestrial aliens, and those aliens are human. The Interstellar Wars has the potential to be a much more dynamic campaign setting than the essentially static background of the Third Imperium.

This looks to be about right to me… except that no one ever wrote up stories for it. I happen to know that GURPS would have been pleased to publish decent material from the Interstellar Wars period while they still had the license.

And yet, I wrote up quite a bit of material for “the essentially static background of the Third Imperium” while I have written up nothing for the Interstellar Wars period. I used GURPS Traveller rules for an alternate setting (Stellar Reaches #15 and #15), and stuck an adventure during the Long Night (“Adventure: The Parable of St. Ram”, Stellar Reaches #23).

I’ve even put in material for the Traveller period I still gag on – after two whole decades have passed! – the 1201 period of Traveller: The New Era (“Hegemony, Republic, Duchy: Part VI”, Stellar Reaches #17).

But I’ve never felt any attraction to the Interstellar Wars era. A history of the period for the Empty Quarter, yes, in the “Hegemony, Republic, Duchy” series. However, that’s background material, and was not meant to be an era to be actually played in. Hint: no maps for spacefaring adventurers.

I would think that war gamers would like the era… but they can go straight to the Imperium game, “Traveller’s Little Brother”.

Going to the Imperium listing in Wikipedia, we get:

When Imperium was published in 1977, its scenario was not connected to any other game. GDW published Traveller in the same year, but Traveller was at that point a system for running adventures in a generic science fiction setting, with no established background. However, as the company constructed the Third Imperium as the default setting for Traveller, the situation in Imperium was retconned into the Traveller Imperium’s history; it became the First Interstellar War, the first of many wars leading to the overthrow of the Vilani Grand Empire of Stars (Ziru Sirka) by the Terran Confederation and the establishment of the Rule of Man.

What if, way back in 1977, GDW decided to set Traveller as the role-playing part of the Imperium board game, in the same ‘Interstellar Wars’ time period and setting?

Something to chew on…

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“Have you accepted Glock as your Lord and Saviour?”

Traveller has a lot of gear, and men get attached to their gear – especially when they are literally betting their life on it.

Guns are certainly part of it, but I can easily see the same thing for spacesuits, jump drives, “the best tech level” for equipment, best languages (and dialects!), the right place to park your starship in a starport, which subsector Duke is most friendly to the small trader, how to prep alien food, etc…

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Sticking Around…

Thanks to Andrew’s fine response to the Greyzone post, I won’t be making any radical changes to the Stellar Reaches setting… and I don’t like the idea of invalidating several year’s worth of writing, anyways.

And where would I find the time to create all the new material? I’m sure that I won’t be able to get a new issue out this year, sadly.

I’m going to see if I can shape up some of the old half-ideas, and perhaps put them up as a series of posts on Stellar Reaches. That should feed my writing bug, until I get a good chunk of time again…

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