Canon, Fanon, and What The Future Holds


Cosmic Mongoose
So, I'm digging into all my old back editions of Traveller and I keep running up on what I think of as The Big Question...
How much of this stuff is actually part of the Traveller OTU timeline?
We have some waypoints on the map:
- The 5FW kicks off 1107 and ends in 1110 with a narrow Imperial victory
- As part of his reforms, Strephon re-emphasizes the Archdukes [a process already going on] and Duke Norris of Regina is named Archduke of Deneb around 1113 or so.
- Strephon is assassinated in 1116, the Imperium fractures into the Second Civil War.

But does Virus happen? I grant you that the breakup of the Third Imperium as told in MegaTraveller is gruesome all by itself. It looks a lot like Europe after World War One... But I honest-to-God have never met a Traveller player that was actually happy with either Virus or TNE.

Does the Empress Wave happen? MM describes a 'wave of madness' in Agent of the Imperium, but it's very different from that described by MJD in his 4th Imperium books by Comstar Games. MM has also said that whatever else the Wave may be, it is not 'Sparklers' or 'Baddies from the Core'.

Is the second volume of the Secrets of the Ancients books going to address or modify any of this?

In closing, I realize that everyone has their personal favorite story going forward from the 5FW. I personally like Loren Wiseman's GT timeline, though if I were to run a game I'd probably have Strephon passing away 'soon' to give Iphegenia a shot at it. And no setting or rules set survives contact with players or referees. But I do wonder about questions like this at times.
These are great questions! From a Referee point of view, would I or my players enjoy using the backdrop a fractured Imperium like the second Civil War?

I don't think we would as it would take a well constructed and resilient sandbox and subdivide it into warring sandcastle polities that collapse easily. I think the referee would require more work to see why Trade, Travel and even characters would connect across a Balkanized Charted Space.

D&D did this when they took the beloved "Forgotten Realms" setting gave it a "Spellplague" in 4th Edition which destroyed many fan favorite elements of the setting by smashing two of its "worlds' together. They did a re-set of these elements called, "The Sundering" in 5th Edition, which moved many of these elements back and remade the two worlds.

I can see why the Lorenverse is very popular with an "Imperium Eternal". It adds some things that upset the Imperium and make it interesting but doesn't throw it all away.

I do think the 5th Frontier War would be interesting to play in for a chance to stage large space battles without fracturing the rest of Chartered Space. In 1105 OTU it is very had for Travellers to enter Zhodane space so it really isn't a major impediment for a Cold War to become a Hot War.

I am looking forward to the Singularity event with new Artificial Intelligence themes. How will the Moot and the Emperor be able to recognize and represent a new sophisticated artificial sophont species? This seems like an exciting development I would enjoy as a Referee.
The Imperium was an empire in decline from the time of the Spinward Marches supplement. The Imperium of the early adventures was definitely the adversary of a PC group, this changed with the 5FW suddenly switched to seeing the Imperium as Yanks in space which continued into the Lorenverse.

I liked Virus and was a big fan of TNE. I would have done some things different (and did so for MTU).

I'm curious as to why you think it would be difficult for a PC group to enter Zhodani space? As long as they had no ill intent they would be allowed to trade, look for work and the like.

They would not be able to be dishonest without being caught, nor would they get away with criminal intent for long.
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Yeah, the 5FW WILL be interesting for a new generation kiddies wishing to be Battle Dressed Fusion spewing engines of doom. Until they realize the bad guys can do that crap too, AND THEY TELEPORT! :ROFLMAO:

And WotC ran a roughshod retcon over the Realms in EVERY edition, from Time of Troubles forward. Which is why I thank Pelor that I always was a Greyhawk fan...

Were I to run a Non-Virus Future OTU, I think that I would probably create a Vargr Crisis where Corridor is taken and the region Behind The Claw becomes an allied splinter state. This would ease the Zhodani situation... a Marches /Deneb state flanked by the Vargr and Aslan will have their hands full and unlikely to encroach into Consulate territories.

This would leave the core of the Imperium more able to deal with the Space Cows With Guns and the Terra-Nazis.

As for Singularity and AI, well, I'm a Luddite. If it's a machine, it's not a 'citizen' it's a tool. You use it until you break it, then send to Supply for a new one. Turing test be damned, if it's programmed it is an object not a person. The utter hubris of Humanity /Humaniti thinking that we're worthy enough to spawn an entirely new form of sentience when we can't even get our own shit together is mind boggling.

I will now go hide in my bunker until the bombs stop falling :LOL:
The Imperium was an empire in decline from the time of the Spinward Marches supplement. The Imperium of the early adventures was definitely the adversary of a PC group, this changed with the 5FW suddenly switched to seeing the Imperium as Yanks in space which continued into the Lorenverse.

I liked Virus and was a big fan of TNE. I would have done some things different (and did so for MTU).

I'm curious as to why you think it would be difficult for a PC group to enter Zhodani space? As long as they had no ill intent they would be allowed to trade, look for work and the like.

They would not be able to be dishonest without being caught, nor would they get away with criminal intent for long.

Well, there's always that ONE guy... lol!
I didn't see a mature Imperium as 'in decline'. It had not yet fallen into decadence like the Ziru Sirka had, and still had a vibrant and active economy unlike the Rule of Man. Strephon always appeared to me to be a reformer /philosopher king in the mould of Marcus Aurelius and had he not made the fatal error of Dulinor as his Archduke, the Imperium might have survived another 500 years. Or not. Who knows.
I guarantee I am not alone in that view, but the years of making the Imperium yanks in space makes people think of the Imperium as being a nice place to live - it isn't.
Here is a little something that summarises the original setting:

The Spinward Marches

The lmperium is a strong interstellar government possessed of great industrial and technological might, but unable, due to the sheer distances and travel times involved, to exert total control at all levels everywhere within its star-spanning realm. It encompasses 281 subsectors and approximately 11,000 worlds. Approximately 1100 years old, it is the third human empire to control this area, the oldest, and the strongest. Nevertheless, it is under strong pressure from its neighbouring interstellar governments, and does not have the strength nor the power which it once had.

On the frontiers the lmperium allows a large degree of autonomy to its subject worlds calling only for some respect for its overall policies, and for a united front against outside pressures. Extensive home rule provisions allow planetary populations to choose their own forms of government, raise and maintain armed forces for local security, pass and enforce laws governing local conduct, and regulate (within limits) commerce. To monitor the space lanes, the lmperium maintains a Navy. Because these forces can never be everywhere at once, local provinces (subsectors) also maintain navies, as do individual worlds.

Defence of the frontier is mostly provided by local indigenous forces, stiffened by scattered lmperial naval bases manned by small but extremely sophisticated forces.

Conflicting local interests often settle their differences by force of arms, with lmperial forces looking quietly the other way, unable to effectively intervene as a police force in any but the most wide-spread of conflicts without jeopardizing their primary mission of the defence of the realm. Only when local conflicts threaten either the security or the economy of the area do lmperial forces take an active hand, and then it is with speed and overwhelming force.

At the spinward edge, 120 parsecs from the original centre of the Imperium, the Marches represent one of the furthest extents of exploration and domination by Imperial forces. Lying adjacent to territory of the Zhodani Consulate and the Vargr Extents, this region is a site which has seen much conflict and intrigue.


The hub of new development in the Spinward Marches is the Regina subsector. Located at the very edge of the Imperium, it serves as a contact point with the Vargr to coreward and the Zhodani to spinward; the result is considerable trade activity through the starports of the region.

The lmperium has been suppressing political dissent in order to keep peace in the Regina subsector.

A reward has been offered by the subsector government for the location of a senator who has been missing since 1102.

A recent uprising at Feri (0405) has cut the Imperial communication jump route from Regina (0310) to Efate (0105).

The government of Roup (0407) has made a subsector-wide call for surplus starships to supplement its local forces. There has been no opposition from the subsector government.

The Forboldn Project is the primary colonization project within the Regina subsector. Originally conceived in 987 to utilize the resources of Forboldn (02081, the project began its execution phase in 1089, shortly after the Fourth Frontier War. Large numbers of colonists were recruited and shipped in cold sleep from the Imperial core, with arrival times set from 1110 to 1120. Simultaneously, preparations on Forboldn began, with detailed planetary surveys to pinpoint resources and initial building projects to prepare industry and quarters for the arrival of colonists.

Interdicted worlds are interdicted because the lmperium is trying to conceal its mistakes in social and political planning.

On other worlds within the Marches:

The lmperium has long maintained (since 556) a research station in the Retinae system for the purposes of communications research. Accessed From Frenzie/Vilis via Thanber, the station has frequently figured in Zhodani diplomatic protests. Its long standing presence at Retinae and the steadfastness of the Emperor has served to maintain its continued operation.

Asmodeus is recovering from a nuclear war which ended in 1005

World 728-907, recently surveyed, is a large inhabitable world with no evidence of higher animal life although extensive forestation and insect presence have been noted. The Ministry of Colonisation has designated the world for seeding within the next century, with a view to colonisation upon availability of personnel and funds.

Collace is the site of one of several lmperial scout bases in the district. Application has been made for membership in the Imperium, which is pending.

Tureded, a small agricultural world, has recently become of increasing importance as a trade and shipping center because it lies at a junction for jump1 travel from rimward to the Regina, Jewell, and Rhylanor subsectors. It is expected that Tureded will be upgraded to a class B starport within the next decade. The Scout Service is currently negotiating the establishment of a Scout base, with the apparent intention of an xboat link from Rhylanor to Dinomn and Regina

The Ling Standard Products shipyards at Lunion and Strouden are the major shipbuilding points within the entire Spinward Marches. The excellent workmanship, combined with level D technology, makes LSP products highly sought after.

The asteroid belt at Zaibon was once the largest deposit of copper on record, but the lode has dwindled to virtually nothing, and the facilities are deteriorating.

Wardn is a small world notable primarily for its intricate patterns carved in its desert plains. One hypothesis holds the runes are marks left by anerobic life, while another claims that they are artifact results of an ancient culture.

The government on Quiru is a military junta which is the result of a mercenary operation. Imperial force has not yet been brought to bear.

Egypt has been selected for a Ministry of Colonization training base.

Mithras is the site of an lmperial exile prison; convicted individuals are deported to the world where they begin life anew. Although environmental conditions are harsh, the opportunities on Mithras have made it a showcase of rehabilitation.

The Imperial Research Station a t Duale has reportedly suffered extreme damage from an explosion of undetermined origin in 1102. A high degree of military security has been present in the system since that date. The nature of the research being undertaken is not known.

Nexine is an underpopulated water world currently being used by the Ministry of Conservation for reseeding efforts using biologically altered humans.

The desert world of Thisbe has undertaken a long-term project to divert large numbers of frozen water and gas asteroids from the Thisben belt to the planetary surface; the intention is an improved atmosphere and hydrographic percentage
The trouble with the early material is that it's influenced by genre concepts of the time, and those don't necessarily fit very well with how the setting has evolved/been reimagined in versions since. The MgT version already has a more mixed take on the Imperium than the fairly blatant "evil galactic empire" stuff of classic, so I wouldn't be surprised if the MgT version also diverges on heavily-debated points like the virus/wave/civil war - albeit more likely by changing them into less arbitrarily catastrophic events than by throwing them out entirely.
Great discussion. So many topics. The FFW marks Mongoose's first foray into Traveller history. IIRC, everything up until now has started in 1105. GDW's FFW was simultaneously introduced with a board game, but I don't think Mongoose intends to do that, so I expect them to either use the Fleet Combat rules that we added to HG2022 or publish an even more abstract version to resolve the many fleet conflicts that occur. I believe Martin Dougherty is writing the upcoming Imperial Navy book, which, among other things, presents the Tigress-class dreadnought in great detail, so I hope this is a step in the direction of making the war's battles participatory events for players.

Alternatively, the approach to FFW could be to simply have the Travellers be witnesses to history, being present for things like the invasion of Lanth, the Siege of Rhylanor, the Battle of Jewell, etc. There's no limit to how much fun and excitement a group could have travelling through the wartime Spinward Marches. The Mercenary books might also be great for the setting. No shortage of work for a daring band of soldiers of fortune.

As for the Rebellion and subsequent Second Civil War, I personally loved that setting. It added a level of dynamism that I was ready for after having already played for years in the CT sandbox. MegaTraveller's Knightfall and Hard Times campaigns, based in Massilia and Diaspora subsectors, respectively, did a great job of making the players feel as if they are in a dangerous war zone. I could see eventually publishing the Rebellion as a setting, some time after FFW if Matt is up for it.

I wasn't a big fan of Virus or the New Era as presented. It wasn't Virus that really bothered me, though. While destructive to our beloved OTU, it did present interesting storytelling opportunities. My main beef was that all campaigns were initially funneled down to the RCES setting, which I had no interest in. Just too limited. There seemed to be little nuance to the setting with the RCES presented as the "knights in shining armor" and all other pocket empires as villains to be overcome. After the Regency Sourcebook came out, we finally dove into TNE, which allowed us to enjoy what was more or less the CT vibe with the caveat that the wolf is at the door, beyond the quarantine zone. The D20 rules were another thing I never liked about TNE. D6 for the win!

The Empress Wave does exist in Mongoose canon. I was asked to pitch an outline for a book about it, after which I contacted Marc Miller and other members of the Inner Circle to see what we're allowed to include. A lot of Wave lore is intentionally left in the realm of mystery, but when I get to it, I will push those boundaries to see if I get censured. :)

Singularity occurs primarily in the Core and will have hints about the events that lead up to the Rebellion and, without saying too much, will give a group of Travellers a chance to learn about the forces that are adversely affecting the Imperium and give them a say in what comes next. Much like Pirates of Drinax gives the players a chance to affect history and change the map in the Trojan Reach, Singularity will give them the opportunity to materially forge the future... if they dare!
If you want to do the EW justice then you must read the TNE Regency sourcebook and dig up a copy of the comprehensive interview Dave Nilsen did on CotI.

There is a thread about it at this very moment. One thing I would do is retcon the retcon - it doesn't have to be FTL at all, I think Don missed the bit about where the wave is in 1119 and therefore where it would be in 1105. According to TNE canon it would be over a third of the way into Zhodani space in 1105, which would tie in nicely with the adventure in the original CT Zhodani Alien module adventure. By 1119 it is halfway, with it hitting the Imperium in 1205-6, no FTL needed.
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When I saw it on the list of future possible projects, I replied that I wouldn't want to touch the Empress Wave with a 10 parsec pole...

The thing about the 5FW (because FFW could be either 4 or 5) war when it came out is that it was the end of Traveller adventures set in the Spinward Marches (more or less - can't remember the exact timeline of the Safari one - but it was out of the conflict zone in any case). So here you have JTAS news briefs giving you a delayed play-by-play of the war, a board game to let you fight the war (well, in some theatres, anyway) - but whatever you did with the boardgame would deviate from canon, and there were no adventurer-scale modules that related to the war at all (so hello, Solomani Rim adventures - another later annoyance being the vagueness of how the liberation of Terra proceeded during the Rebellion - or not ).

Back then I just started to get frustrated by it. The point of having an established milieu is (in my opinion) to have a detailed framework in which to play a campaign and to have published material for adventures. And still keep player (or at least Referee) agency. And the whole thing from 1107 on until the Hard Times era 1125ish didn't really have that, any campaign results of any significance would begin to deviate from the preplanned timeline and newer material would need to be altered to fit into a MTU realm that was going its own way.

The advantage of the Lorenverse was that it kept that steady-ish background - admittedly I wasn't even aware of the GURPv3 Traveller line when it came out and only caught up and bought the stuff after seeing the GURPv4 Interstellar Wars - which was a great sourcebook for the period, but no adventures or other materials followed.


In my opinion, what the 5FW needs is some actual adventure or campaign material, something like, say, Last Ship out of Jewell, Raid on Farreach, Stand on Beck's World, The Emerald Resistance, or something similar.
The trouble with the 5FW as a setting is making it PC scale for Travellers - not an active duty campaign, not a merc campaign.

There is a time between the end of the 5FW in 1110 and news of the assassination reaching the Marches in 1117 which is longer than the 1105 to 1107.
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The trouble with the %FW as a setting is making it PC scale for Travellers - not an active duty campaign, not a merc campaign.

There is a time between the end of the 5FW in 1110 and news of the assassination reaching the Marches in 1117 which is longer than the 1105 to 1107.
It doesn't need to be active duty or merc. It could be a smuggling-gun-running to rebels or guerilla sort of thing, a patron asking a group to rescue an employee or relative (like Rescue on Ruie), intelligence work, trapped behind enemy lines and just trying to get out, all sorts of non-military stuff stuff that happens in the middle of a war (is Casablanca a war movie, or a movie that takes place during a war?).

In fact there is an advantage to it being below the direct combat level - there is no chance (okay, not zero, but not significant) of any actions during the adventure changing the overall canonical progression of the war. The focus would be on personal and tactical outcomes, not strategic - that might be frustrating to some, but there have been uncounted interesting fictional books, movies, stories on World War II written after the fact, and only a small minority of them go into the alternate history route that changes any known facts about the war.

So that whole period from 1107 to 1117 - actually to 1130 - could be done with adventures at the typical Traveller party level, but it seems like it was only really attempted for the later 1120s in CT, or Megatraveller.
The trouble with the %FW as a setting is making it PC scale for Travellers - not an active duty campaign, not a merc campaign.

There is a time between the end of the 5FW in 1110 and news of the assassination reaching the Marches in 1117 which is longer than the 1105 to 1107.
That is the trouble--but Travellers usually excel at getting into trouble! During the original Fifth Frontier War period of Traveller, I was in high school and transitioned my campaign from the mid-1980s murderhoboes-in-space to an active duty campaign, using the justification of the group leader's status as a Marquis and retired captain of a Chrysanthemum-class escort to justify his reactivation and posting (with his doughty crew of veteran space pirates) on a 1000 ton Q-ship, technically a cargo hauler but whose cargo bay was mostly occupied by a Factor/9 missile bay, as a nasty surprise for Vargr corsairs. It was fun while I was in high school and my players liked the level of pew pew involved, but there are plenty of interesting things a non-military crew can do in wartime--soldiers & sailors still gotta eat and use up consumables, just at a faster rate and a higher price, so there's plenty of room for a trader campaign to make a living, just steer clear of that flotilla of Sword Worlds navy ships jumping in to occupy the system! It's a high-stakes, high-reward, high-risk setting, and if the players get the sense that they can die at any time because they're trying to avoid getting caught in the cogs of the war machine, that just adds the right sort of dramatic tension.

I'm kind of looking forward to a second try, as my current Traveller campaign (basically a group of murderhoboes again, but also an indie/DIY variant of the John M. Ford "Road Show" rock & roll tour in space campaign, with one of the PCs as a flashy, hard-drinking Liberace in Space) is spectacularly unsuited to transitioning to a military campaign. I'll find out how well a merc campaign would work shortly, as our next adventure is a small-scale merc ticket with the PCs as the patron (the Liberace-in-space character's family farm is being overrun by fanatics from an adjacent world, supported by faith and a couple of grav tanks!)
Now I'm even more excited to see how this Fifth Frontier and Singularity are presented! I will have to look up MegaTraveller's Knightfall and Hard Times. Adventures during a Civil War are more interesting to me now than I previously thought. Thanks the starter of the thread and those who answered with those great references and well thought out opinions.
Just a casual observation/some thoughts...

We have spoken in the office about featuring different timelines before and beyond 1105, especially with regards to Rebellion and Virus (and beyond)...

The problem is that a) they carry some baggage in that not all Traveller veterans gravitated to them before and b) if we advance the timeline we will inevitably leave some people behind.

Add to that, detailing vast swathes of Charted Space again, is a bit of a bear...

The current view is that if and when we take a look at a different part of the timeline, we may approach it in a similar way to Pirates of Drinax - focussed on a specific area with a campaign attached to it. So, a complete setting in a nutshell, that can be expanded further if the referee so wishes.

The FFW is a bit different, in that it is very close to the current era. However, the last (?) book of that series is likely to cover the post-FFW Spinward Marches, giving referees the ability to continue their long-running campaigns from 1105 to 1110 and beyond....

That is, at the moment, the plan.

And yes, the Empress Wave is a thing, but it is likely a year or two before you see anything on it.
Of course the Empress Wave is a thing, according to TNE canon it entered the Zhodani Consulate in 1040 and by 1119 is about half way through. :)