Revisiting the Fifth Frontier War narrative


Banded Mongoose
Hello Folks,
Recently, I started watching MADAME SECRETARY (ok, Binge Watching actually) and I got to wondering "how can I adapt this for use with my Lunion subsector campaign. Substituting The POTUS with the Duke of Lunion, I'd have to of course, invent the role of Secretary of State for use with the Imperium.

So, idly speculating, I posted my thoughts to the Facebook forums for Traveller and came across this interesting nugget...

First - go to!51.99!6.15&options=58359

There, you will see the map for the Spinward Marches centered on the Sword Worlds. Why is this important? I'd like to direct your attention to the fact that the Sword Worlds borders the Third Imperium with three subsectors which are Vilis, Lanth, and Lunion. Rather than bore you all with my analysis, I'm just going to bring up two sets of numbers as contrasted against the BEST two worlds of the Sword Worlds. Between Sacnoth and Gram, we have two of the highest tech worlds in the Sword World region, each at TL 12, with a sum total of about 14 Billion population. Now, let's look at the Darian Confederation with its single world at TL 16 (four tech level difference over and above the Sword Worlds) with a 2 Billion population. I'm not even going to mention the Star Trigger as being anything worthy of consideration largely because that is a joker in the deck so to speak. But, for now, let's just talk about tech levels, populations, distances and such.

Now, let's actively look at the Imperials - with just the Lunion subsector alone. It contains worlds with A class starports with a total of 17 Billion people at TL 13. Granted - only a 1 tech level difference, when combined with a numerical difference of some nearly 3 billion more people than the Sword Worlders - that is not an insignificant issue. That's just LUNION, not including Lanth or VIlis.

Now comes the final thought I'd like to toss out here. Somehow, the Zhodani manage to convince the Sword Worlds to throw in for their surprise offensive against the Imperials. Even if the first phase of the Fifth Frontier War goes off without a hitch and the Zhodani take the Jewell Subsector quickly, the Zhodani are some 20 parsecs away from the nearest Sword World border. Not exactly within easy support distance of each other's military.

And finally, looking at the FFW ship counters, many of the ships are Jump-3 or Jump-4 in capabilities for the Imperial CruRons or BatRons. Any Imperial fleet that is based on a "Shield World" (those Lunion worlds directly adjacent to the Sword World borders) - can arrive at either of Gram or Sacnoth within two (that's 2) Jump transits.

So I have to ask - would you as a leader of a confederation of Sword Worlds, who in theory, can't easily work together during times of peace, are seriously going to strip half of their battle fleet from their worlds, and leave their main worlds vulnerable to reprisals once the FFW begins? With four sub-sector's worth of serious enemies, all within easy jump distance of their domains - can any one explain why the Sword World would even TRY to join the Zhodani fleet in a surprise offensive? One Subsector against FOUR. The Third Imperium wouldn't need BatRons to go up against the Sword worlds - they could get by easily with CruRons and DesRons engaging in a campaign of Commerce Raiding with superior numbers of high tech smaller ships. If the BatRons (there were six in the counter mix for FFW the boardgame) - then chances are there would be an equal number of BatRons, if not more, with the Sacnoth home fleet kept in reserve. None the less - once the Imperial response fleets get into play, the Sword Worlds will have slit their own throats. They initiated a ware, and eventually, the superior industrial might of the Spinward Marches triple sub-sectors will begin to wear against the sword worlds in a simple war of Attrition that they can't win. Toss in an industrial base that will be starved for materials once the commerce raiders in the form of Destroyers and escort destroyers begin to arrive - the Sword Worlders will have to have a VERY Strong system defense boat system and home fleet to fend off the Imperial forces

Why did the Sword Worlders join the Surprise Offensive under these circumstances? Because the "narrative" said so? Sorry. No. Take a GOOD hard look at the situation as outlined above, do your own analysis on the numbers based on the UWP of the worlds in question. Than ask yourself, if the Sword Worlds do NOT have a single unified government, who organized them to engage in what would be a unified war effort? Did for instance, Gram agree to help the Zhodani of its own and told the government at Sacnoth "We've committed, now you're committed"? DId some Sword World Admiral tell his subordinates "I believe we've awoken the Sleeping Dragon" as he saw the writing on the wall before the FFW was even a single hour old?

How did someone sell the Sword Worlders on an alliance that had to track through 20 parsecs of space before the fleets could combine?

Again, I'm not looking for a narrative that in effect says "Let there be light - and there was light". I'm looking at human nature, and the calculus of war that everyone in charge of their own military/industrial complex would have had to make prior to the opening act of the FFW. I'm looking for those wargamers who are going to look at this from the vantage point of "I"m the leader of the Sword Worlds - how did I agree to join the FFW in the first place? What steps would I Have taken to insure victory?"

Thoughts? Comments?
Okay, you lost me at binge watching MADAME SECRETARY.
But seriously, you raise a good point: “What’s in it for me?” Either some significant technical aid from the Zhodani or promises of regained Vilis Subsector territory might be sufficient. My box of FFW is in a closet somewhere, so I’m going from supposition here:

An attack into Lunion would be… problematic is an understatement, but Vilis and spinward Lanth are rather weak and separated from the Main and a strong Imperial presence (Vilis is a high-pop world, but it’s likely tied up with issues on its neighbor). So, a jab into Vilis and commerce raiding into Lunion is a viable strategy, with most of the fleets in reserve against an Imperial counterattack. Stage through Tavonni to annoy Lanth or through Margesi to poke at Frenzie. And Querion is next to Vilis. Joint operations against Frenzie are a possibility.

The best thing the Sword Worlds can do for the war effort is tie down those BatRons so they can’t be deployed elsewhere. There’s no chance of charging in to Lunion to take and hold anything without getting massacred.

The root issue is a valid point, though. What do the Sword Worlds stand to gain? Margesi? Torment? Which world does that benefit? Yeah, I don’t know.
Hmm, interesting... first off, I’ve never owned nor seen or played the FFW game, so until Mongoose releases their version of FFW my knowledge of the whole thing is... well, sketchy. Now, with that out of the way, if I was the head Grossadmiral of the entire combined Sword Worlds navy and I had to attack the imperium, I can’t think of any better occasion than when the bulk of their forces are already occupied with fighting another opponent.

Based on w hat I do know, which is basically what’s in the brand new Sword Worlds book, I’d say the Swordie defense game is pretty strong and that imperial subsector-level assets are gonna gonna have a tough time.

Sword Worlds offense isn’t too shabby either, with deception, raiding and big servings of sneaky bastard, so with most imperial heavy assets tied up against the Zhodani they might actually stand a chance. For a while.

Why though...? Excellent question! Honor & glory? The three things I can think of, aside from “a friend in the Zhodani” is a chance to acquire tech, possibly expand (or use the threat of expansion to gain other benefits) and, well, to earn recognition.

Or something. I dunno.
If the Zhos offered a massive technology transfer over 10 or preferably 20 years. to upgrade the SW fleet before the war it might be worth a punt.
But that would invalidate a lot of the ships in the new SW book (or at least relegate them to second to third line duties.
An attack on the Darrians while the Imperium is distracted would make more sense.
All interesting comments - and will be filed away for later use... ;)

Cross pollinating from the Facebook thread - one comment that was made was that the Sword World's "Viking" psyche (my words, not his by the way) were such that they are driven by their culture to raid for personal honor etc.

I can see that as a possibility, but that has some major implications. For instance, a culture like that won't play nice and there will be constant friction that will be ongoing where the two cultures (ie Sword World and Imperial) come in contact.

It also implies that the Sword Worlds MIGHT have embassies in nearby locations so that their citizens might be able to conduct business inside of the Imperium, and that the Imperium may very well have embassies within the Sword worlds for their citizens. Which citizens? I"m glad you asked that question. ;)

Businessmen working with local Sword World businessmen.
Teachers teaching language or other disciplines that are acceptable between worlds/cultures.
Spies pretending to be any of the above

Can a Merchant crewman fall in love with a Sword Worlder native and marry? Can a businessman come to love the culture he deals with daily and still love his Emperor? Could a young man elope with a young girl - hoping to settle down in District 268 - away from their parents on the Sword world who disapprove of the Imperial culture from one of the couple? All of these can be stories for a merchant ship that plies its trade between Imperial Worlds and Sword Worlds. It would also potentially be an issue where you might find other ways in which the Imperials might interact with the Sword Worlders.

For example? Suppose you had some Sword worlders who left their world in their youths, but were later on an Imperial world in their adult age. Further suppose, that a Sword worlder had the bad judgement to become involved in a Kidnapping of an Imperial noble's son and/or daughter. Now fast forward to such a person being up on murder charges when the kidnapping goes badly. OK, so that's not a big deal right? Catch the bum, give him an Imperial Trial, and execute him for an attack on an Imperial Noble's family. But, what if his BROTHER arrives and springs him from prison, and the two now head for safety at the Sword World/Imperial border?

Now, suppose the Imperial Consulate delivers an ultimatum "Deliver the fugitive from justice or face sanctions" Further suppose that the Sword Worlder's agree, and that an Imperial Ministry of Justice agent has to pick up the prisoner (now in low berth) and deliver the fugitive to the Imperial Authorities on Lunion? Pretty cut and dried no?

Not if you're aboard an Imperial Liner inside of Sword World territory when the Fifth Frontier war begins. Did I neglect to mention that the Imperial Liner is subsidized and subject to mobilization in the event of war?

(For the record, I started such a scenario as a demo for Fantasy Grounds using GURPS TRAVELLER)

In any event - the more I can detail things to my satisfaction, the more "Scenarios" appear to almost write themselves just being based upon the details worked out.
1. Managed the first season when it initially came out.

2. The Zhodani may have done some elite capture and influenced the influencers.

3. They may have hacked their SpaceBook accounts and done some leveraged extortion.

4. May have gender imbalance, and out looking for mates.

5. Sword World merchants may have scouted Imperium defences and reported back that they were weak and ripe for picking.
Condottiere said:
2. The Zhodani may have done some elite capture and influenced the influencers.

5. Sword World merchants may have scouted Imperium defences and reported back that they were weak and ripe for picking.

You might be onto something there, Condottiere, 2 and/or 5 sound very plausible. We do know the Zhodani are massive fans of psionics, so why not use that to "subtly influence" a few high leaders... ? Scary thought.

The impression I got from the new Sword Worlds book was that scouting/espionage/preemptive raid planning is perhaps not the most important but still one of the major true goals with trade expeditions, especially from the larger merchant cruisers. I suspect we might get to know more soon, when the Skandersvik campaign book gets released :)
Difference between Sword Worlders and Vargr could be they're late stage Vikings, thus more organized and culturally homogeneous.

Though I don't recall a trading tradition with the doggies.