Introduction to Traveller
by Ken Bearden
The year is 1108, by the calendar established at the dawn of humaniti’s third attempt at an interstellar empire.
For over a thousand standard years, man has pushed out into the galactic arm, conqueror of all in his path, dominator of planets and solar systems alike, stretching his reach over 200 parsecs from Terra.
Aliens refer to this region of the galaxy as Humani Space.
Humans call it:
The Third Imperium
Known space is but a fraction of the entire galaxy, but the Third Imperium is one of the largest empires in known space – the largest interstellar empire in existence. It is one of three human-dominated empires, and together, these three human dominated regions account for over a fourth of every solar system that has ever been explored.
Humans are the most numerous beings known to exist.
A blue planet, lying far out in one of the spiral arms of the Milky Way, is the birth-world of the Humani. Some refer to this world by its ancient name, Earth, but most beings today call it Terra.
Humans from this world are no longer referred to as Terrans or Earthlings. They are known as Solomani – meaning “Men of Sol” (“Sol” being the name of Earth’s sun). And, if you count the current year by the ancient Solomani calendar, the year is 5623 AD – the 57th century, in ancient Earth terms.
For an age, the Solomani believed themselves to be the only intelligent life in existence. They experienced a rude change in their culture when they discovered otherwise. As they took to the stars, the Solomani, like so many species before them, began to colonize other worlds. At first, they settled their solar system, and then, as their technology developed, allowing them to push out into the void, they set foot on worlds in other star systems.
They discovered other intelligent life – alien life.
And, they discovered that some of the aliens were human!
The Solomani year was 2096 AD. Terran explorers – men from the small, fledgling grouping of Solomani planets – made contact with another race of humans, humans calling themselves Vilani.
But that shock – carrying with it ramifications in religion and eons of scientific theory that the Terran society and culture would barely overcome – was reflected as a simple Solomani facial tic when compared to the discovery that the Vilani already controlled an interstellar empire.
The Vilani called their empire the Ziru Sirka, meaning “Grand Empire of Stars”, and it was so vast and awe-inspiring that it took years to travel across, even in the fastest jump-capable starships of the time.
The Ziru Sirka – what history refers to as the First Imperium – predated the Solomani jump out from Terra by some 1500 standard years.
“When the Solomani were just beginning to explore the use of iron, the Vilani were exploring the galaxy.”
The Vilani empire had existed since 473 AD on the Solomani calendar, and the Grand Empire of Stars stood poised to swallow the pitiful number of systems the Solomani had settled as a river swallowing a few pebbles that fall in its path.
The Interstellar Wars
The Solomani and the Vilani became co-habitants in the space around Earth. The Vilani made initiatives to draw the Solomani into the Ziru Sirka, and the Solomani resisted.
War broke out. Fiercely independent, the Solomani defied efforts to have their culture swallowed by the humans-not-from-Earth. But, the Vilani leaders on Vland, the Ziru Sirka capital, looked at the Terrans with little more than mild curiosity. The pitiful number of Terran systems were but just one more client state of the great, star-spanning empire of the Vilani.
For close to two centuries, the relations between the Vilani and the Terran Confederation (as Solomani Space had come to be known), were typified by a number wars fought along the Ziru Sirka’s rimward border.
Communication within the Grand Empire of Stars was slow, and Vilani culture emphasized decision by committee – a stark contrast to the culture of the Solomani, where individual initiative is lauded and communication distances within the much smaller Terran Confederation were extremely shorter.
The Solomani fought a guerilla war, on many different fronts, followed by peace, then war, then peace, then war again. The Vilani leaders regarded the Interstellar Wars as little more than a regional problem – where issues in other parts of the enormous empire drew priority.
And over this 189 year period, the people of the Solomani and the Vilani mingled. A great diaspora from Earth ensued, and Terrans, like the Chosen People, spread out from Earth, planting themselves on distant planets.
The Rule of Man
218 standard years after first contact between the Solomani and the Vilani, one of the most confounding hiccups in history occurred.
The Solomani had saturated the rimward systems of the Ziru Sirka. Many of them came to power on Vilani held worlds. The two cultures blended. Solomani influence soared, and the Vilani were hampered by the slow, meticulous decision process characteristic of their culture.
In a blink of an eye, just 15 years after the end of the last Interstellar War between the two peoples, the Solomani came to power. The Ziru Sirka fell.
A Solomani empire referred to the Rule of Man was born. It was the same empire – just under new leadership, even though Solomani rule is referred to, in history, as the Second Imperium.
The men of Earth, from the tiny collection of stars, had defeated the might of the Grand Empire of Stars. David slew Goliath.
The Long Night
The Rule of Man was characterized by rebirth but little growth of the Second Imperium. Under Vilani rule, the First Imperium had floundered, stagnated, in both growth and technological development. The Solomani fought to change that characteristic of the empire, but it was a difficult battle. The Vilani system had been entrenched for close to 2000 years. The Solomani experience with governing an interstellar government was under 200 years – and never had the Terrans ruled an empire as vast as the Imperium.
It was a miracle the Solomani became governors of the largest star-empire in existence. And, it was inevitable they would loose it.
Nobody foresaw just how bad the new rulers would be for the Second Imperium. Where the Vilani were stagnant and rigid, the Solomani were inexperienced and naive.
The first indication of the inability of the Solomani came when it was apparent the new nobility would be unable to persuade their own brethren to accept membership within the Second Imperium. Solomani and Vilani people merged during the 428 year period known as the Rule of Man. Over the generations, Solomani/Vilani culture became one – to the point where a distinction between the two races of Humaniti was no longer made on some worlds of the Imperium.
The Solomani of the Terran region of space despised what some of their people had become – losing themselves in an alien culture, and the Terran Confederation remained independent (albeit sympathetic) of their cousins of the Second Imperium.
But the men of the Terran Confederation could not prevent what would befall all of Humaniti at the hands of the new inexperienced Imperial rulers.
Over the four centuries of Solomani rule, technology subsided. Regions of the Imperium gradually lost touch with the rest of the whole. Border wars were dealt with by persons inexperienced with interstellar government.
The Second Imperium fell apart.
The Rule of Man was over.
And, the Long Night had begun.
For over 2000 years, the Imperium existed. Created and guided by Vilani for 1600 years, the Solomani destroyed it in just over 400 years.
The following 2000 years, there was no Imperium. The Solomani government crumbled. Pirates fed on interstellar shipping like never before because of inept Solomani policy and enforcement. Interstellar trade eventually came to a standstill. The net growth of industrial output throughout the empire was negative. Factories closed faster than new ones could open.
This black time marked a pull-back from space by virtually all humans in Vilani-dominated space. The self-defeating nature of interstellar piracy eliminated itself as a major threat – eventually, there just were no cargo ships to prey upon.
What was left of Imperial interstellar trade was taken over by other star-faring races, although only on an intermittent basis. Aslan traders wandered through the rimward sectors of the former Rule of Man territory. Vargr traders visited – and sometimes raided – the coreward sectors.
Some small human governments retained their starship technology and served their own worlds, but other Imperial planets fell into dark ages. Some were plagued by wars brought on by massive inflation, scarce food, nil purchasing power, and non-communication outside their solar systems.
The Imperium was plunged back in time, 4000 years, to the conditions the Vilani endured when originally growing the empire. Eventually, though, light dawned on the Long Night.
Over this multi-generational period, worlds did reach out to contact their neighbours. Federations, Republics, and other small interstellar unions emerged. Interstellar trade within one union of star systems merged with new markets in other interstellar unions.
Small human governments emerged, connected themselves, grew bigger.
Until one – the Sylean Federation – reached out its hand, provided by a man born of the union between a Solomani father and a Vilani mother, establishing the Third Imperium.
That was over 1000 years ago. By the Terran calendar, it was the year 4518 AD. Cleon I declared himself emperor, established a new dating system (the one we use today), and a campaign was begun to recapture all of the member worlds lost after the fall of the Rule of Man.
Some 500 years passes, but the former Imperium was restored – and it grew, larger than ever before, thanks to the establishment of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service and the aggressive efforts made by a long line of strong handed emperors.
Today, after 1105 years of membership in the Third Imperium, Vilani and Solomani are indistinguishable. In the middle classes, traditionally both geographically and socially mobile, the Vilani/Solomani distinction has become meaningless. Extensive intermarriage has blended the two, and the tendency, during the Rule of Man, for wealthy Vilani to adopt Solomani surnames has further made fine distinctions of lineage difficult to define and trace.
Initially, the Third Imperium was dominated by the Solomani – a result of the Solomani dominated Sylean Federation, and, to a lesser extent, the influence of the Solomani during the Rule of Man. But, today, most citizens of the empire refer to themselves as Imperials, members of the species known as Humani.
Terra is now a member-world of the Third Imperium, but the Terran Confederation still exists, as an independent empire, now calling itself the Solomani Confederation. When the term Solomani is used today to describe a being, it is understood as a term describing a human from this independent state – not an Imperial citizen.
The Solomani have moved their homeworld to a planet called Home, and there is much friction between the Third Imperium and the Solomani Confederation over the ownership of Earth.
The Ancients & The Solomani Hypothesis.
Since first contact was made with the Vilani, the collective Solomani consciousness wondered at the impossibility of another human race developing on a planet other than Earth. There were many types of species within and beyond the Imperial borders, but the chance that an exact species had evolved on two different worlds was mind boggling. Scientists were stymied for over 2500 years.
About 100 years after the establishment of the Third Imperium, during the growth and recapture period, investigations were made on Vland, homeworld of the Vilani and the former capital of the Ziru Sirka. The Imperial scientists found that it was an impossibility that the Vilani had evolved on Vland. The planet’s ecological system ensured that a human could not have come from the world.
In addition, Solomani archeologists discovered that pyramids, like the Egyptian structures on Earth, had been found on other planets in the Imperium. The Vilani had always known this, but it was not until the Solomani came to power that notice was taken of the galactic coincidence.
Similar constructions, like the stone “heads” of Easter Island and the strange circle of stones known as Stonehenge, were found as well, and it became clear that the ancient superstitions of aliens visiting Earth when Humaniti was in its infancy were true – however shocking that may be.
Until the Third Imperium was established, there existed no satisfactory explanation for the many interfertile human races found on different worlds (many races other than the Solomani and the Vilani). Numerous theories on man’s origins had been proposed, but none had gained complete acceptance.
Evidence was gathered, and a startling revelation was unleashed upon all Humaniti, Solomani and Vilani alike: An ancient, star-faring race of lizard-like people did indeed visit Earth before humans recorded history. Earth was indeed the birthplace of Humaniti. And the Ancients, as the ancient lizard-aliens have come to be known, took some unknown interest in the species and seeded humans throughout this section of the galaxy – where humans have adapted, and thrived, and thought themselves evolved on the worlds on which they were planted.
This theory was unleashed on the galaxy in 114, by the Imperial calendar, and it has become known as the Solomani Hypothesis.
Not much more has been discovered about the Ancients since that revelation, over a thousand years ago, but evidence of the Ancients’ existence has been found.
It is known that the Ancients wielded the power of extremely high technology – technology much higher than any attained by any species known to exist today. The Ancients are actually credited with genetically uplifting species – actually forcing evolution on a species artificially! It is even hypothesized that the alien, canine-descended Vargr are a product of Ancient genetic evolution. Vargr DNA measures, almost exactly, as DNA from various species of dogs on Terra (although a Vargr would never agree to that finding).
What little evidence of the Ancients that has been found indicates that the pre-historic aliens dominated this section of the galaxy – and that they destroyed themselves in a genocidal interstellar war. For what purpose, it is not known.
The alien species known as the Droyne – small, winged, lizard-like aliens incapable of flight, devoid of an interstellar empire of their own – are thought to be the descendants of the Ancients today. It is commonly accepted that the Droyne are a race that is in the eons-long process of rebuilding itself after the largest holocaust history has ever known.
This is the time, the universe, the culture that the game is set in.
The year is 1108, and your characters are citizens of the Third Imperium.