Tech Compatibility: Imperium vs. SWC in Traveller RPG

George Kelln

Banded Mongoose
Greetings fellow Travellers,

I come to you with a query regarding the intricacies of technology compatibility between cultures in the Traveller universe, specifically concerning the Imperium and the Sword World Confederation (SWC), but it could be expanded to other cultures.

For example:

1. Missile Compatibility: Is it feasible for a missile sourced from a SWC destroyer turret to function within the missile bay of an Imperial Destroyer?

2. Spare Parts Interchangeability: Can spare parts procured from an Imperial destroyer effectively repair a SWC destroyer, or are there notable disparities hindering such cross-cultural maintenance?

Initially, I pondered the notion of technological disparities between adversaries, akin to the contrasting equipment of American, Russian, and Chinese origin. However, my musings expanded to consider the variances between allies, reminiscent of the equipment diversity spanning American, French, German, and Japanese origins.

That of course doesn’t mean American equipment is used by these other countries; but there is saying in our game, “the Imperium uses the Imperial system of measurement and everyone else uses the metric system”.

Furthermore, I couldn't help but wonder about the influence of megacorporations transcending national boundaries. Have these entities facilitated the diffusion of technology across cultural lines, or do they primarily adhere to distinct technological standards?

I'm thinking about this as a history lesson on three Imperiums:

If it were up to the Vilani and Bwaps, everything would be standardised and any attempt to change not only measurements but control systems and interfaces of missiles and parts would be near sacrilege.

And then those pesky Terrans showed up. Did forced conversion to the metric system cause the Long Night? (hey, there's an obscure dissertation topic for some Scholar character).

And then Sylea shows up and starts expanding, handing out technology kits to everyone to get them to join their club. That would be my excuse for standardisation, but while it would apply across Imperial space and possibly the Sword Worlds and Darrians based on their Terran origins (only the imported Terrans, but they brought the tech - even if it was during the Second Imperium's collapse), then I could buy for those governments. But Zhodani equipment would certainly be in not compliance with Zhunastu Industries standards. And anyone getting technical assistance from them would at least have a bunch of adapter plugs (now there's a business opportunity in the Federation of Arden for you: Imp-Zho Connectors, Inc.)

Hard to say how well it would work out and it depends on whether the technological base was built in isolation.
Two examples:
Railroad Gauges: All over the place. Even in Europe, you need to change between France and Spain
Torpedo Diameters: The 21 inch (533mm) and 12.75 (324mm) inch diameters are pretty much standard - maybe because a lot of ships around the beginning of the 20th Century came out of British shipyards.

Okay that's the historian's answer. The gamer's answer is a question: Does it make a useful plot twist or is it just another pain-in-the-butt-more-record-keeping thing?
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Just because Traveller genericizes, doesn't mean it happens outside respective spheres' of influence.

It probably is possible to adapt different standard components to function in other sourced equipment, which is where high factors in electronics, mechanics, engineering, pay off.
I'd say, have whoever is trying to get the parts to interface make a skill roll of Engineering, Mechanic or Electronics as appropriate for the parts. Feel free to impose a penalty based on tech level, ship role and military vs civilian.
Then, if they succeed, they've found a way.