Basic Traveller Universe Overview


Hi everyone, I’m new to Traveller and am attempting to learn about the traveller universe. Is there a sourcebook that covers the basic history/lore of the game from the beginning to present day? I’ve been reading the Pirates of Drinax books and there’s a lot of info about one group or another but I’d like to have a better understanding of the timeline and and how all these different factions came about without having to buy half a dozen books with a deep dive into the individual factions.
The Third Imperium
(oh sure, Chris, plug your book)
Actually, yes, Third Imperium is a great overview of the last 1100+ years of Imperial history with references to the previous 9000.
On the free and on-line front there is the Traveller Wiki: and for those who love maps, there is Travellermap: For a more specific look at/near the Trojan Reach there is also the Glorious Empire book:
(see, Chris, I plugged that one for you)
Also, towards the back of the Glorious Empire book there is a chapter with some guidance on making/modifying your own maps on Travellermap, though the various help pages on that site have more detailed and more current information.
(oh sure, Chris, plug your book)
Actually, yes, Third Imperium is a great overview of the last 1100+ years of Imperial history with references to the previous 9000.
On the free and on-line front there is the Traveller Wiki
Wow, great! I was actually looking at those two books but I wasn’t sure how useful they’d be and I didn’t want to spend too much since I’ve dropped a mint on buying books this past week already :)
More than 30,000 years ago there was a race of psionic winged lizard people, who today are called the Droyne. The Droyne were physically and mentally varied due to a high degree of mutation, but their psionic caste-based social system kept them ironically very stable. For many centuries they remained happily stagnant. But Droyne intelligence varies, from barely sapient in those who don't go through the correct psionic rituals in adolescence to very, very smart. One anomalous Droyne was ultra-intelligent, and unlike other Droyne, ambitious. This great scientist took control of his people, and through psionic and scientific wonders, achieved immortality. He transformed the Droyne into a starfaring empire. This high-tech society would one day be known as the Ancients, and the guy behind it all came to be known as Yaskoydray -- "Grandfather".
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Grandfather needed subjects and servants for his experiments, as did his clone children. The Ancients visited Terra, finding primitive humans. Populations of humans were carried to worlds and research sites across the Ancients' empire. Some were genetically altered to survive better in alien environments. Grandfather was eventually disappointed in his adaptable stock, as his Sons happily seeded human populations on worlds of their own. Grandfather decided to make a race wholescale, and uplifted Terran canines to make the Vargr race. Fickle as ever, though, he soon decided they weren't right either, and moved on to robots. Eventually, Grandfather decided that his Sons were interfering with his own grand experiments. Being the amoral super-scientist he was, his solution was to try to kill them all. The Ancients empire was torn apart by war.
The Ancients fell from power, with remnants of their high technology scattered across their former territory. Groups of Droyne, populations of humans, and the Vargr on their designated homeworld were left, devoid of high technology but often with mythic tales of their ancestors or creators. Thousands of years passed. Some human and Droyne populations died out, some Droyne forgot the correct psionic rituals and became barely sapient Chirpers. But some populations survived. One human population on the planet Vland did very well, partly because the local biochemistry was incompatible, so as long as they were careful with food issues they didn't need worry about plague, etc. The people of Vland -- the Vilani -- formed a conservative but expansionist nation and in time developed the jump drive, becoming the first nation of the modern age to reach the stars.
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The Vilani had a complex and rigid social order that ensured their stability, but it was dependent on the lack of external rivals. The Vilani conquered a number of other, more primitive peoples, both human and non-human. When they met other humans with space empires, however, they weren't happy. The Vilani were unique in having invented jump drive, though. The Geonee humans had scavenged it from Ancients ruins, while the Suerrat humans used generation ships. The Vilani then declared that because of this, they were the Major Race, and anyone who hadn't invented jump drive, Minor Races. As the Major Race, they should be in charge. The Consolidation Wars followed, with the Vilani conquering all other spacefaring cultures in range.
The Vilani Imperium was sprawling but stable. Too stable, really, it was stagnant. In time, and to the Vilani's annoyance, their Major Race distinction had to accommodate other races who had developed the jump drive independently. The Zhodani were a human people who had embraced psionics. The Hivers were a peaceful, manipulative race of land-starfish who were building a multi-species federation. The K'kree were militant herbivore herd animals. All had invented jump drive and formed their own empires, albeit distant from Vilani space. More worryingly, the Vargr had achieved the jump drive, and while forming large, enduring empires is rather foreign to the Vargr mindset, they happily formed a string of pirate empires and chaotic star nations on the Vilani border. A distraction for the order-obsessed Vilani. On the other side of their empire, their borders had stopped only a parsec or two from Terra...
The Terrans now invented the jump drive. Although the original human stock, they were a bit late to the party, having not been aided by the Ancients. Unlike the stagnant Vilani, the Terrans were dynamic, even reckless. They chafed against the vast, repressive star empire that had claimed most of local space. The Vilani saw the Terrans as barbarians, the Terrans resented being told that the Vilani owned the stars, the patents on jump drive, etc. Conflict broke out in time. Had it been Terra Vs the whole Vilani Imperium, obviously Terra would be done for, but initially it was just "border province more interested in internal politics" Vs "upstart distraction".
This was the period of the "Interstellar Wars", which saw the Vilani gradually cede ground to the Terrans, both astrographically and economically. The vulnerability of Vilani to Terran diseases didn't help, and made relations worse. Given that they were massively outnumbered, the Terrans tried to create allies through uplift of dolphins, apes, and other animals, producing new sophont populations. Eventually, the Terran Confederation built ties with restless Vilani subjects, like the Geonee, the Suerrat, and the alien Vegans, and the Terrans took control of the Vilani Imperium. Terran military personnel were left trying to govern massive Vilani territories. When the Terran government made to introduce disastrous post-conquest policies, the navy launched a quick coup, declaring that both the Vilani Imperium and the Terran Conderation were defunct, and all human territories would now be governed as one by the military government, as the Rule of Man. This would also be known in later times as the Second Imperium, or (to cynical Vilani) as the Ramshackle Empire.
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The Terrans had inherited the bloated Vilani empire, but they couldn't really sustain it. The dynamic economic models and politics that had helped them gain control were less suited to maintaining such a sprawling territory, even with the help of Vland's bureaucratic framework. The Rule of Man lasted a few centuries, but suffered an economic collapse. Interstellar trade and travel became rare, and many worlds dependent on outsystem trade collapsed. This insular period was called the Long Night. It was a dark time for humaniti, although not for a new Major Race called Aslan by the humans -- the Aslan expanded very quickly, and overran a fair few human colonies in their obsessive quest for new land.
Eventually, space travel started up again as planets recovered. Small empires and confederations emerged, many of them culturally now a blend of Vilani and Terran (or Solomani as the Terran cultures were now known), sometimes with Minor Race influence. One of these was the Sylean Federation, based on Sylea, a planet that had been a First and Second Imperium holding. The local culture, now a blend of Vilani, Solomani and native Sylean human influence, produced a new cheap energy source, and a savvy business leader used it to become a great power. He claimed continuity with the Vilani Imperium and Rule of Man, declaring that the Sylean Federation and the feudal network he was establishing were now the Third Imperium, laying claim to all territories that had been part of the prior two. So began a great expansion through various political, diplomatic, economic and military means, quickly establishing the Third Imperium as a superpower.
The default setting for the universe is 1100 years later, with the Third Imperium and its nobility as the feudal overlord to 11,000 planetary societies, plus a few regional cultural blocks that retain a distinct identity. One of those regions, the Solomani Sphere centred on Terra, seceded from the Imperium when the nobility refused to back their policies of cultural supremacy, leading to a war, a new Solomani Confederation, and bad feelings -- especially since Terra ended up on the Imperial side of the border. There were also a series of border wars with the Zhodani Consulate and relations are poor because the Zhodani consider psionics to be the foundation of civilised society while the Imperium ended up violently anti-psionic, repressing its use. Nonetheless, things are generally stable, the Imperium prospers. It has wary relationships with its neighbours. Zhodani and Solomani plot and are plotted against, each part of a propaganda war with the Imperium. The Aslan are always hungry for land; the Vargr remain chaotic and corsair-happy; the Hivers manipulate and meddle; the K'kree are definitely going to trample all those disgusting meat eaters one day, just you wait; the Droyne are enigmatic and somehow both everywhere and beneath the radar; and Minor Races are both eager to contribute to Imperial politics and frustrated by their repression. And that's where things stand, really. In the default setting.
Yep, Traveller uses "Sophont" for intelligent, self-aware life. And there's a distinction between Apes and apes, or Dolphins and dolphins -- because some of them are now intelligent peoples, Minor Races like any other, but there are also still old-fashioned non-sapient ones around.
More than 30,000 years ago there was a race of psionic winged lizard people, who today are called the Droyne.
300,000 years ago. Although I suppose technically "more than 30,000" is still correct.

Without going into too much detail, from a gameplay PoV, the "1100 TI" game setting is dominated by a human-centric Galactic Empire which "rules the space between the stars" but broadly allows individual member planets to rule themselves. A major part of the setting paradigm is that there is no FTL communication beyond messages carried by ships so the administrative centre of the galaxy is "distant" and local nobility are given the authority to run Imperial affairs. Many adventures and campaigns re set in the border regions of the Imperium.
@G'Naakbusters This is a great write up for the referee but it leads me to a version question. In Classic GDW Traveller wasn't the Terran theory of Humaniti's Origins still in dispute circa 1105? There were adventures that changed the course of accepted evolutionary theory. Should some of your excellent articles be redacted for character use?
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