#21: Setting a Campaign: Subsectors of the Marches, Part One
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 August 2011, and in the September 2011 issue of the downloadable magazine.
Two years ago, I kicked this column off with some articles that offered suggestions on where and when to place your Traveller campaign. I began by talking about broad eras of play and then moved on to sectors of interest, from Core to the Hinterworlds and from the Old Expanses to the Trojan Reaches. Now, as this column comes to a close, I’m going to return to the topic of campaign settings once more.
Say you’ve chosen the Original Traveller Universe (OTU) for your campaign’s setting, then settled on the Golden Age and picked the Spinward Marches as your home base. That’s still a lot of real estate, some of which has been pretty well detailed over the last 30+ years. Where in that sector should you get started?
In these next two articles, I’m going to overview all of the subsectors of the Spinward Marches, examining the coreward subsectors in this article, then moving on to the rimward subsectors next time. Based on the support that it’s received to date, I think that each side of the Marches has a set of subsectors that is excellent for adventure, and I’ll be highlighting those. As with my previous articles in this series, the RPG.Net posting has links to listings of books and adventures set in each subsector.
Spinward Marches Subsectors: From Cronor (A) to Rhylanor (H)
Cronor Subsector (A). Located mostly beyond the Imperium, Cronor is in part a neutral zone and in part the trailing edge of the Zhodani Consulate. It may be an ideal place for a Zhodani-focused campaign, but if you’re looking for more of the back-and-forth between Zhodani and the Imperium, a few other subsectors in the Marches work better.
The Cronor subsector has also been poorly supported in official publications. Traveller Adventure 6: Expedition to Zhodane (CT), contains some info on the area as part of a traveling campaign and that's about it.
Jewell Subsector (B). Jewell is one of two subsectors that would work better as the basis for a Zhodani/Imperium campaign. It includes 8 Imperium worlds and 6 Zhodani worlds, offering a bit more balance. The world of Jewell itself might be a good focus for a campaign, as a military and industrial giant.
Traditionally, Jewell got very little support, mostly limited (again) to Traveller Adventure 6: Expedition to Zhodane (CT). However Tripwire (MongT) changed all that by offering up a full-length campaign that visits every world in the sector. As such, Jewell is now one of the best defined subsectors on the coreward side of the Marches—though you’ll need to dig through an adventure to pull out that info for more general usage. Nonenetheless, it’s one of the subsectors in that area best suited for gaming—especially for GMs looking for en existing campaign.
Regina Subsector (C). Right next door, in the Regina subsector, we find the original heart of the Traveller universe. This is where it all began in JTAS #1 (CT) with “Rescue on Ruie” (CT), recently expanded and updated as Mongoose Living Traveller Adventure #4 (MongT), and “Starship Annic Nova”, recently updated in Signs & Portents #93.
The sector itself isn’t as much of a frontier as Jewell, Aramis, or Vilis. Instead, it’s a proper Imperial subsector, under the control of Duke Norris (who’s a great person to introduce to the players because of his importance to the future of the Imperium). Still, it’s enough on the outskirts of the Imperium for there to be space for travellers to walk just this side of lawlessness. Powerful corporations like Oberlindes make their home here and are also willing to engage in behavior that wouldn’t be acceptable in the more lawful core of the Imperium; Zhodani trade routes help to keep the subsector interesting; and there is word of more ancient secrets as well.
There is a long list of publications for this subsector (linked from the RPG.Net posting), many of them found in JTAS (CT) and Challenge (CT) magazines. There have also been a number of notable adventures. In early days, these adventures include: Traveller Adventure 1: The Kinunir (CT), Traveller Double Adventure 1: Shadows/Annic Nova (CT), and Traveller Adventure 12: Secret of the Ancients (CT). Also of note is Traveller Adventure 3: Twilight’s Peak (CT), which starts in Regina and moves toward Rhylanor. More recently Mongoose has returned to the area with a vengeance in their own Secret of the Ancients (MongT), a lengthy campaign that should be available as a printed book in a couple of months.
Even if it weren’t Traveller’s Greyhawk, Regina would be a great subsector to base a campaign in because of all the support it’s received.
Aramis Subsector (D). And so we come to Aramis, the last subsector of the Marches’ coreward strip. Its major focus is its frontier with the Vargr Expanses. Numerous agricultural planets trade with the Expanses, while the Tukera Lines megacorp has some pull here because the Duke of the subsector is a Tukera.
Aramis has received very little attention over the years with one notable exception, but that exception is a doozy: The Traveller Adventure (CT), a book-length campaign focused on a merchant crew that also provides a lot of detail on the subsector.
As such, Aramis becomes the third (and last) subsector in the coreward half of the Spinward Marches that’s a great place to run a game—again, primarily for GMs looking for an existing campaign.
Querion Subsector (E). This subsector not only lies beyond the Imperium, but several worlds in it are claimed by the Zhodani Consulate. It’s also hard to get to and of no particular value, so it’s probably the least interesting subsector in the Spinward Marches. The Entrope cluster, which lies to the rimward edge of the cluster, is of note, but that’s only because its ownership is disputed by the Darrians and the Sword Worlders, and thus it more naturally lies with those subsectors (which will be discussed in the next article).
Almost nothing of note has been written for the subsector.
Vilis Subsector (F). The Vilis Sector is primarily of interest as a DMZ between the Imperium and the Zhodani Consulate. However, unlike Jewell, there’s a third party involved here to make the politics more intriguing: the Federation of Arden, which gets some attention as a rising threat in the Classic era.
Officially, Vilis got the most attention during the Fifth Frontier War. Traveller Adventure 7: Broadsword (CT) focuses on the subsector during that time period, and you can also find some amber zones in old issues of JTAS (CT). Spinward Encounters (MongT) features two amber zones in the area as well. As a do-it-yourself campaign setting with a little bit of support, Vilis isn’t bad, primarily because the political lines between the Zhodani, the Imperium, and Arden offer a nice diplomatic triangle.
Lanth Subsector (G). Like the Querion subsector, the Lanth subsector isn’t of a lot of interest for campaigns. That’s because it doesn’t have much self identity; instead, its main focus is on two issues of transportation. On the one hand, you have the Spinward Main curving around the subsector, mainly serving to move people to the coreward side of the Marches. On the other hand, you have the Abyss Rift, acting as a major transportation block—which is to say nothing of its spooky reputation as the Bermuda Triangle of the Marches.
With that said, Lanth has received some official attention over the years, including “Across the Bright Face” in Traveller Double Adventure 2. Further, at least three articles (the majority of support for the subsector) cover the Abyss Rift . Though you might not want to set your campaign here, running one of the Challenge adventures (MegaT) about the Rift might be a fun break for a campaign that mainly focuses on a nearby subsector.
Rhylanor Subsector (H). And finally that brings us to the Rhylanor Subsector. It’s a major population center, and will be the focus of some big battles in the Fifth Frontier War, but none of that makes for a great campaign setting, as it lacks the politicking of subsectors like Mora and Regina and the frontier feel of subsectors like Aramis, Jewell, and Vilis.
However, Rhylanor is a great place to visit, as it’s the heart of a whole series of campaigns, including Traveller Adventure 3: Twilight’s Peak (CT), which could take you here from Regina (and into some nearby subsectors) and Traveller Adventure 2: Research Station Gamma (CT). You could even run “The Starchild” from Traveller Compendium 1 (MongT) as a prequel to Research Station Gamma.
Overall, Rhylanor is a nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want your campaign to live there.
The most coreward subsectors of the Spinward Marches offer up three of the best for adventuring: Jewell (B), Regina (C), and Aramis (D). All three could be well-used by GMs who’d like to have campaigns prepared for them; stringing together The Traveller Adventure, Tripwire, and the new Secret of the Ancients could result in a multi-year campaign.
GMs looking for good setting material for creating their own adventures will be less well-served by the coreward sectors, as most of the information is encoded into those three campaigns. Regina might offer up enough setting material to use due to a variety of additional sources, but really those GMs would probably be better served by a set of three rimward subsectors that I’ll be covering in the next article.
That’s it! Be back here next issue for the exciting conclusion.