Highwaymen are a colloquial term that refers to the human and Vargr inhabitants of Corridor and rimward Provence sector between the Great Rift and the Windhorn to coreward. This region includes the non-rift subsectors of Corridor, Vilani March subsector (Subsector A/Vland Sector) and Voudzeur, Uekhourg and Daekvagul subsectors (Subsectors N, O and P) of Provence Sector. The region is dominated by the Ushamla Main, a j-1 corridor that bisects the region through Khukish, Lemish and the Narrows Subsectors. The region also includes the Vanguard Way, a j-1 main that connects Corridor with Deneb through Atsah Subsector (Deneb H).
This region is mainly human with large Vargr minorities. The only other alien race are the enigmatic Ojehshodu of Neghu Oug/Narrows (Corridor 2804). Sixty percent of the human population, and about thirty percent of the local Vargr population, are either colonists from other parts of the Commonwealth or Behind the Claw, or are descended from previous immigration waves. Small and mostly inconsequential populations of Droyne and Chirpers are scattered about the region.
Corridor and Provence were first settled by Vilani colonists around -6000 IY. Local warlords managed to seize and exploit the rich resources of the Ushamla Main to build fleets to resist the homeworld's attempts to pacify the sector and add it to the empire, and later built thriving pocket empires of their own. The region became, from the viewpoint of the later First Imperium, a region of lawlessness and rebellion, and they used it as a dumping ground for exiles and undesirables. The 1I was confined to the Narrows, which they heavily fortified against the "pirates" that ruled the sector.
The thriving independent culture of the region became a casualty of the Imperium's decline, as it depended heavily upon exports of materials to Vland to survive economically. This crippled local military forces, making it difficult to restrain more aggressive factions and deter the growing numbers of pirates coming in from other parts of the Imperium. The leading world of Kaasu (Corridor 1209) made first contact with Vargr explorers coming around the Windhorn, and the local warlord hired these as mercenaries out of desperation to augment his own failing military forces. This growing reliance upon non-Vilani soldiers eventually brought large contingents of Vargr military forces to Corridor, and by the time the First Imperium collapsed, these forces were largely in charge.
The takeover prompted a large immigration wave of Vargr to cross into the region, either to settle here permanently, or disperse into sectors farther to trailing. The local Vilani either died out, were expelled back to the new Second Imperium, or acquiesced to their new warlords. A patchwork of states and shortlived pocket empires under Vargr or mixed control managed to ride out the 2I feeble attempts to reintegrate the region into their empire, and its subsequent collapse in IY -1776 and the emergence of the Long Night. During this period, the Vilani populations close to the Windhorn and in the Narrows were completely displaced by Vargr immigrants, and the remaining settlements were cut off from human dominated regions to trailing. The Vargr failed to create any long term stable states, and were increasingly sidelined by their own technological regression, which prompted further migration to trailing, especially in the wake of the Sack of Gashikan.
The emergence of the Third Imperium reinvigorated Vland and its traditional core worlds. Imperial scouts moved rapidly through Vland sector, and encountered only scattered resistance from the Vargr in their attempt to reach Deneb. In its early years, the 3I was primarily a trader state, and it spread its tendrils along underutilized trade routes, such as the Ushamla Main, and through diplomacy rather than force. This allowed them to open up Deneb and the Spinward Marches to rapid colonisation, despite the fact that they had to pay off the local Vargr warlords and corsairs for their ships and people to reach these spinward regions. As the 3I gained in strength and confidence, tensions with the local Vargr rose dramatically in the early part of the IY 200s. A series of wars against the Vargr (IY 220-348) was necessitated by the failure of the Imperium to expand to coreward due to the Julian War, and the unfavorable outcome of the peace settlement that limited the Imperium to the rimward side of a border that cut the bridge of stars between the Rift and Windhorn roughly in half lengthwise. These wars eventually ended in a tenuous Imperial victory, and the staging of a massive fleet garrison long term to keep the bridge to Deneb open.
Corridor was a quiet backwater for most of the 3I's reign. In the aftermath of the First Imperial Civil War, the new Alkhalikoi dynasty shuffled the Imperial nobility in an effort to exile or neutralise rebellious elements, and a significant number of these ended up in Corridor under the watchful eyes of the Navy. Most of these were still disgruntled, for various reasons, when Dulinor killed the Royal Family in IY 1116. Lucan's shortsighted recall of the oversized Corridor fleet left a security vacuum that the local nobles were too unwilling or disorganised to fill, and the fleets of three neighboring Vargr states overran the Corridor in a matter of weeks. In many cases the local nobles surrendered without putting up significant resistance, and even openly collaborated with their new overlords. Resistance to the onslaught might have succeeded if not for bickering between Vland and the Domain of Deneb, the assassination of Corridor's sector duke with a nuclear weapon planted on his command ship by traitorous human nobles, and the capture of Corridor Depot by a Vargr corsair coalition. Eventually all organised human resistance collapsed, and the Vargr pillaged the sector at will.
Vargr rule of the sector was mainly a decentralised affair. None of the states that had carried it out had the means of ruling their new possessions in a legitimate fashion, and they relied upon local commanders or corsairs to carry out planetary administration, making the sector a virtual anarchy. This breakdown in order soon extended back up into the victorious Vargr states as internal feuding broke down the original alliances. Many regions of Corridor were neglected or abandoned by the Corsairs, and a thriving criminal economy made the region rife with crime syndicates and espionage, further degrading the local culture. The locals survived the loss of their old economy by participating in this black economy, and many local planetary governments became organised criminal rackets themselves. Trade in contraband replaced more legitimate trade, and it appeared that the region would have to eventually be cleansed by one or more of the neighboring Imperial factions before it became an insoluble problem.
The arrival of the AI Virus in Corridor was a protracted affair. Despite its fecundity and virulence, the rimward and trailing movement of Vargr corsairs into the former 3I delayed its arrival in the region by many years. The first wave to reach it were a chorus-line of different viral strains being driven outward from the Imperial Core by the first generation of Puppeteer strain viruses. These scored a direct hit upon the rickety power structure established by the local warlords and crime bosses, blowing the Vargr and their states straight to hell. These inflicted major damage upon worlds and infrastructure, and caused civilisation to virtually crumble upon worlds like Kaasu and Plunge. These viruses did not persist for very long, as Puppeteer fleets arrived a couple of years later and destroyed or dispersed them.
The wanton destruction of the first generation transitioned into the tyranny of the second generation. A coalition of Puppeteer fleets, known as the Tong of Kaasu, were able to take the Ushamla Main relatively intact, and from this cluster of worlds attempted to expand radially. Failed military campaigns against Drayne (Corridor 0910), and attritive warfare against other vampire fleets attempting to invade from trailing reduced them to a defensive posture, and a civil war between the partisans of the insane main data system and rebellious elements collapsed their empire into a ramshackle coalition of devastated worlds and dying populations. The Tong survived only because of the lack of means and resources by Drayne and other human resistance to retake the sector on their own. Other organisations, particularly a branch of the Church of the Chosen Ones in Voudzeur subsector, attempted to expand their own empires into Corridor, but eventually collapsed for a lack of political organisation or an overstretch of their limited resources.
The Regency of Deneb reopened its trailing frontier in NE 2 (IY 1202), after acknowledging its Quarantine was receding following the Zhodani Exodus across its spinward ramparts. This unplanned expansion meant that millions of unprepared private Regency citizens and their sponsoring organisations were thrown into a region seething with fear and hostility. The first filibusters were able to quickly overcome the weakened governments along the region's spinward interface, but encountered stiffer resistance as they proceeded farther to trailing. When they reached the Ushamla Main, many thousand or unwary filibusters were killed by the malingering vampire fleets. As vampire fleets rebuilt their depleted battlegroups with the filibusters surviving ships and technology, the Regency Navy intervened in a preemptive strike. The resulting Tong War (NE 4-7) destroyed the Tong completely, and heavily damaged what was left of the regions worlds through heavy naval bombardment and ground battles that extirpated the machines and their remaining industrial base.
The bloody campaign to destroy the Tong, and growing resistance from local human governments and populations dampened the original enthusiasm for trailing expansion. Intensifying crises to spinward with the Zhodani and Sword Worlders eventually caused the Regency to shift most of its assets out of the sector, leaving a crazy-quilt of local planetary governments of dubious loyalties and competence to govern themselves with minimal assistance from the central government. The intensifying crime rates and growing number of brushfire wars between local factions soon made the region a no-go for most Regency travellers. A minimal number of Naval and RQS units rode herd over these regions, most of whom were simply suffering from a lack of rebuilding and security, and were fighting over limited resources. During this time, the Ziru Sirkaa recontacted the Regency of Deneb, and made their own territorial ambitions for the sector clear.
After the ascension of Lemat Arthurian following the untimely death of Regent Caranda, a growing number of Regency military personnel were transferred to Corridor as the new Regent rooted out perceived opponents to his expansionistic military policies. Ostensibly these transfers were to reinforce the overmatched forces already present in the sector, despite the blatantly political nature of these transfers. He did not allow for an improvement of local equipment or supplies, meaning that many of the officers transferred had commands that existed in name only. As war against the Zhodani became imminent, Sector Admiral Seran Ramuun began the practice of dragooning the locals into these commands, creating a virtual military force, and equipped them with whatever military equipment she could acquire to make them a real force. Because these were official Regency forces rather than local militias, the recruits were trained to its standards, and inadvertently created the first unified ruling organisation that Corridor and Provence had seen in more than a century.
Arthurian himself considered Corridor an unnecessary sector for a Regency on the brink of newfound imperial glory. He had already indicated to the Vilani that he did care what they did in the sector as long as it did not impact the Regency itself. In NE 29, Vilani forces began infiltrating the sector, and in NE 32, a scant six months before the Regency's defeat at the beginning of the Crucible War, launched a full offensive into the Narrows with the confidence that they would encounter no significant resistance. However, the Black Regent left no clear instructions to the local commanders, and on her own initiative Admiral Ramuun chose to resist the invasion with all of the forces she had under her command. The Vilani had slightly better technology than the spottily equipped Regency forces, but were at a strategic and logistical disadvantage. Surya launched punitive raids against their cumbersome fleets, straining their supply lines as they attempted to defend against a more mobile enemy. A task force under then Vice Admirals Elizabeth Bonesteel and Hiroe Kayoi ambushed and destroyed the Vilani main fleet at Sluru (Corridor 1405) in NE 34, forcing the Ziru Sirkaa to abandon their spinward expansion policy.
The victory over the larger Vilani force galvanised the sector, and brought the local fleet commanders to the attention of opposition factions back in the main part of the Regency. The main opposition party to Arthurian "invited" Bonesteel and Kayoi into Deneb sector, resupplying them with more modern vessels and equipment from Caranda's Avalon caches. A large portion of the personnel that accompanied Bonesteel to Mora, and Kayoi to Tobia, were Corridor humans and Vargr of the self-styled Frontier Corps. These troops made up the most fanatical part of their forces, and were instrumental in liquidating or driving out remnant Purifier factions from the new Commonwealth. The Frontier Corps remained in continous action until NE 52, suffering major casualties against the Zhodani and Aslan. They returned home for Operation Polar Kilowatt and the pacification of former Vilani territory in the wake of Ziru Sirkaas destruction by vampire fleets allied with the Black Imperium. When they were discharged, former Corps soldiers challenged Corridor's entrenched warlords in a series of small brushfire wars that continue to this day.
Corridor and adjoining regions of Provence have been run through the ringer a bit for the last 156 years. The old Solomani curse "May you live in interesting times" has its own droll and ironic saying: when the locals wish good fortune upon someone they say "May you die in dreadful boredom." History has been anything but kind to these people. Six generations of misery can do dreadful things to a people, maybe even make them seem a bit tetched by the standards of others. The locals have been called various things since they rejoined the Regency some sixty four years ago, but Highwaymen has stuck the most. The phrase was inspired by an ancient Terran ditty, and refers to both the wooly frontier nature of Corridor, and the inspired passion of its inhabitants. The song is a medly that involves the recurrent reincarnation of a soul in various adventurous persons down through history, each of them enjoying a romantic life that invariably is rewarded by a tragic death.
The stereotype of a Highwayman is a hotblooded blue collar type who lives, works, plays and fornicates with no letup in intensity. Supposedly they are tendency for erratic and disorderly conduct and outrageous behavior. It is true that Highwaymen are hotheaded and spontaneous, and at times it seems hypocritical to place them under the Navigator flag. But their reputation is more a sign of circumstances, principally the bitter conflict between Drayne and outlying regions of Corridor, and the ramshackle state of their affairs is more a reflection of the Regency's neglect of the sector following the Tong War. It is true that they are a militant people, but militancy requires powerful hiearchies and a population loyal to them. And their resistance movements were very well organised and supplied, which indicates a strong sense of order and discipline. Indeed the "cathedral" of their society is the military training yard, the marshalling field, the war academy. Strategy and organisation were their primary weapons of survival, and when warfare threatened to consume their lives, they turned it on its head and made it their own.
The long century and a half of living under the heel of Vargr corsairs and insane Vampire Fleets left no reserve for security and no ready fortress to hide behind. To survive they had to go over to the offensive, embracing a semi-brigand existence that combined various kinds of resistance with a strategy of political and economic opportunism. Drayne and local resistance movements in Tong territory stiff armed the vampire fleets with brave acts of defiance, but at the same time many resistance leaders were infiltrating the Tong's markets and take control of its surviving merchant fleets. When the Tong fell to the Regency, Drayne-funded resistance groups had already insinuated themselves into the local hiearchy and had operating shadow governments in place to take over (though this created bitter conflict with Drayne when the latter revealed its duplicitous motives). The erratic nature of Highwaymen is tied into their survival sense. They are easily the most gregarious and dangerous people in the Commonwealth: they can charm the pants off of a curmudgeon, but can show great ruthlessness with their enemies. They play close to the vest, and their spontanaeity has more to do with decisively changing the situation to their advantage.
Highwaymen society is a military barracks at its heart. Its "society" is composed of convoluted networks of mutual assistance. Instead of a narrow idea of fidelity to a particular place and its institutions, people-principally your family and comrades, take precedence. Their community is a collection of friends and acquaintances gathered over a long time, and is not limited to merely professional, political or geographical definitions. But in a world full od danger, where casualties (and rivalries arising from passion) are inevitable the quality or intensity of interpersonal ties is less important than the quantity. Polyamory and "special arrangements" are not uncommon, and marriage is seen as merely a fact of life rather than a sancrosant institution. Friendships are marked more by general camaraderie than by strong personal commitments. Contracts and covenants are mainly observed in the spirit rather than the letter. All of this can create a social circle of contacts and friends that are byzantine and somewhat ephemeral spanning parsecs of space. This tends to reflect the barracks nature of their society, as interpersonal relationships in a military unit are tempered by the inevitability of losing friends and comrades to hostile action. Egalitarianism is strictly observed, and hiearchies are only trusted on the basis of their competence and utility.
Individual Highwaymen are Falstaffian, bigger than life characters. Theirs is not a culture for the meek. If provoked one of them can be capable of enormous acts of ruthless bravery and overwhelming heroism. Their education curriculum is besotted with hero worship, emphasizing sacrifice for the common good. Like any good Navigator, though, there is a lot of hypocritical winking, and their biggest heroes are generally less the affable military hero who gets himself killed in battle than the brigand that is out to save his own neck-the one that manages to overcome his enemies through trickery and daring, and makes a profit in the bargain. Success is all about positioning oneself strategically to make the leap at the right time and place, to deliver the killing blow and make that credit without excessive drudgery. Cleverness is most remarkable than just blind acts of obedience, and self sacrifice is less about the greater good than in saving those that are near and dear. Highwaymen care less about "the government" or "greater society" than their friends, their money and their personal interests. It is their gregariousness that saves them from being consumed with cruelty.
Highwaymen tend to more regimented patterns of dress and custom than the Commonwealth mainstream. Military style tunics and jumpsuits are the norm for just about everyone. Most worlds have strict laws governing curfews and limiting the kinds of public activities permitted. Persons are often expected to show public deference to authority when it is encountered, and some worlds regard "disrespecing a police officer or public official" a misdemeanor offense. They are much more liberal in their private lives, though they tend to be creatures of habits from which they rarely deviate. Politically they tend to identify with progressive causes, though whether as an end in of themselves or as a means to engage their martial tendencies is a matter of some debate. Their strong group identification and dedicated militancy makes them touchy and sensitive over matters of pride, honor and importance, and blood conflict between groups is much more common than in other Commonwealth regions.
Worlds of the Highwaymen
Highwaymen worlds are governed on a permanently ad hoc basis by councils civilians with planetary or Commonwealth military officers as advisors, or were themselves prominent military and resistance leaders during what is locally called "The Wars". Local governance is a matter of their strategic value at the moment. "Concentration" is a foreign word to local governments, who constantly initiate new projects and agencies willy-nilly, while leaving others in the lurch with the sudden collapse of funding or sudden liquidation of their projects. "A dilettante in other regions is a well heeled nobody, in Corridor they're civil servants." Despite this, there exists a common purpose and strong consensual loyalty to the common good. Trade is given prominent shrift, law enforcement is honest and competent, and most services are available to the entire population.
Corridor and Provence suffered major damage during the Civil War, Collapse and subsequent conflicts. Much of this damage is still evident, with few attempts to repair or mitigate it. New communities have simply sprung up within the ruins, sometimes leaning against the walls of destroyed buildings for additional structural support. Because the region is in a constant uproar, temporary structures predominate in most cities, and permanent buildings jut out incongruously, their architecture and landscaping being more a reflection of the personal tastes of the owner, with little or no attempt to harmonise them with their surroundings. Hospitality industries are popular means of earning money, and quite monumental, while other industrial and commercial areas tend to be mainly clusters of small cottage-style offices.
The Highwaymen place their greatest loyalty to the Commonwealth and to their own families, with little in between these extremes of permanence. Politics and business are marked by mercurial swings between emotional extremes. The local planetary governments are often in an uproar over minor controversies. Disputes between partners and neighbors erupt easily, though most are usually settled with fistfights and duels, and lasting grudges are rare. Local government is a kaleidoscopic swirl of local councils and committees, whose proceedings are marked by the uproarious battles of self-proclaimed crusaders and temporary political parties united by a matter of convenience or expedience. Politically the Highwaymen are centrist, without decisively backing either the Conservative or Liberal factions. They are generally quite liberal in their private lives, but military service is so hallowed that they can tolerate brief periods of authoritarianism, as long as it seems to benefit them. Otherwise a foolish ruler will find a hundred guerrilla bands opposing them with excellent tactical skills and ruthless bravery.
The post-Crucible conflicts of Corridor and Provence mainly stem from Drayne's attempt to dominate the sector after the Liberator's coup. The departure of so many volunteer military forces under Bonesteel and Kayoi permitted the Drayne government to infiltrate troops and money on other vital worlds, taking over many older dictatorial regimes. When the Frontier Corps was mustered out in NE 52, the Drayne allied governments harassed, attempted to intimidate, and even killed the returning veterans. Instead of cowing them, the Corpsmen excavated old weapon caches or received castoff munitions from their former commanders and comrades to form militias to resist and root out the "Greeks" and their henchmen. The unpopularity of Drayne's rule with most Highwaymen, and the growing impatience of the Commonwealth government has caused Drayne to abandon its occupation, and rescind their borders to spinward. The Commonwealth Assembly and Senate imposed a divorce upon the region in NE 67, splitting the sector midways between the Drayne Federation and a new Corridor March, governed from Merold (Corridor 1704). Drayne now only has control over its own Kaasu cluster, Ian and Strand subsectors.
The Drayne Federation is one of the most eccentric states in the Commonwealth. Drayne has a militant culture heavily influenced by a heavily idealised version of Classical Greece. It remains loyal to the Commonwealth, but it is a question sometimes of whether the Commonwealth is loyal to it, given its pathologies. The Federation is most heavily concentrated within the fourteen world Kaasu Formation, principally Drayne and the nearby worlds of Kaasu/Khukish (1209) and Shushaku/Khukish (1109). Outside of the Formation, the worlds of Ian and Atsah subsectors enjoy considerable autonomy, and their cultures are more mainstream. Politically the Drayne government has tried to vacuum up every loose world in the region, through some rather clumsy and blatant means. This led to a confrontation with the Frontier Corps returning from the Crucible War, and a number of embarrassing defeats. The solomonic dividing of the sector seems to be the final decisive defeat of its ambitions, and time will tell if it will return to a more moderate position.
The Corridor March consists primarily of the worlds of the Ushamla Main, as it is so new that political integration with Uekhourg and Daekvagul have yet to be accomplished. The people of the March suffered the worst depredations of Virus, and were enslaved by the vampire hive known as the Tong of Kaasu. Their resistance to the Tong and Drayne were led by a benevolent Virus system on Merold calling itself "Bonhomme Richard", and the leaders of March world governments have followed his example by emulating the more radical leaders of the American War of Independence. The March is too far away from Mora, and too disorganised by centuries of war, to be allowed Federation status, and it is ruled directly by a governor under the guidance of the Ministry of Interior. But given their recent history, the Commonwealth has wisely decided to give these worlds as much autonomy as can be permitted under the Covenant.
The official colors of the Drayne Federation are a blue, gray and white. The Federation's flag features a Greek temple with an eternal flame stoked in a brazier. Drayne merchant ships often feature the titan Prometheus bearing a torch with the sacred flame (the more radical feature Prometheus chained to a rock and being threatened by an eagle, a thoroughly provocative motif). Being an administered territory, the Corridor March has no official colors and only uses the Commonwealth Tree of Life and Sunburst symbols. Private property and individuals often use a coiled rattlesnake device, with the legend "don't tread on me."
- Highwayman Brigand
- Though the Commonwealth is remarkably free of the kinds of organised criminal activity that was common to the Imperium, Corridor Sector is rife with irregular mercenary solders that "hire" on to a community as a security force against other communities. This custom is not some outgrowth of the Vargr corsairs but rather of local human guerrilla armies that discovered an existence after the end of the Tong. Called Brigands or Outlaws by their admiring employers, these soldiers have some kind of parasitic or vagabond existence, subsisting off of the community while waiting for outside provocations to ride against. An outlaw group may be as big as a brigade or as small as an alcohol-free frat party. They pride themselves upon their resemblance to Terran antecedents, right down to the archaic weapons and anachronistic mannerisms. Unlike street militia, these fighters are generally wilderness warriors of no mean skill in guerrilla tactics.
- Brigand Ranks
- B1: Tenderfoot (Enlisted)
B5: Sergeant (Commissioned Officer)
- CON 7+, Homeworld=Industrial+
- First Term
- None in first three terms, subsequent to three terms 10+, DM+1 if served for more than five terms. (Commisioned officers receive two skills in their term of receiving a commission, regardless of when it happens.)
- Gun Combat-2, Explore-2, Vehicle-1 (or Animal Handling-1), Perception-2, Melee-1
- Subsequent Terms
- 10+, DM+1 for each three point skill in Charm and Determination
- Enlisted Skills
- Gun Combat, Explore, Vehicle (or Animal Handling), Vice, Archaic Weapons
- Officer Skills
- Gun Combat, Explore, Determination, Economics, Perception
- Special Adventure
- 5+ for +1 CHR, Acrobat, Explore, Heavy Weapons, Language, Medical, and Personal Transport
- Other Effects
- Must roll at the end of each turn on 1D10 for INT or less to avoid capture; DM+1 if Special Adventure was received during turn. If unsuccessful character must spend next term as a Prisoner. If characters should fail twice, they receive +1 Initiative.