The Imperial Government IMTU


Emperor Mongoose
The Third Imperium is both highly defined and very vaguely defined at the same time. Lots and lots of bits and pieces are scattered about in various texts, but there is little context or organization to most of it. Further, the scope and robustness of the Imperium has steadily grown over the history of the franchise. In various threads around the forum at the moment there are questions and discussions about how things work. In those I have generally tried to discuss from the perspective of what the published material says. However, that is not actually how I do things in my own campaign. The Third Imperium's government in my campaign is less pervasive and more focused than often shown in the published books. Rather than talking about what the books say, I wanted to talk about what I play.

IMTU, the Third Imperium is basically a trade cartel. The lessons it drew from the fate of the 1st and 2nd Imperium and the Long Night is that trying to actually administer an interstellar Empire is a fool's notion, but that widespread trade and exchange of ideas is critical to sustained growth of wealth, culture, and technology. So the government is organized around the idea of fostering trade and gathering the profits with as little actual ruling as possible.

Noble titles in my campaign are associated with service in the Imperial government and are not inheritable. NOBILITY is inheritable, but actual titles go with jobs in the civil service, military, or other areas of benefit to the Empire itself. The purpose of this aristocracy is to foster a community of individuals whose views are not limited to their own planet, but think of broader issues and work towards them. This is somewhat inspired by Petrine Russia's "Table of Ranks" concept.

The lowest level of Imperial administration is the subsector. There are no nobles "in charge of" a couple planets or one system or whatever. The Imperial Governor of the Regina Subsector is styled "Margrave of Regina" (I don't have little dukes and big dukes. I replaced the subsector dukes with Margraves and left the Duke for the Sector governor. It just peeved me that Marquis was lower ranked than Count :D). The Imperial Governor oversees the imperial civil service in their area and coordinates with the Imperial Services (Navy, Scouts, etc). The primary expression of the Imperial civil service is the Starport Authority. Every world in the Imperium is required to designate a primary starport that is Imperial territory. Large, important starports are run by an administrator whose job entitles them to the honor of Count. Smaller worlds might have a lower ranked chief administrator styled Baron. The feeblest starports might be bundled into a group under the jurisdiction of a single administrator or assigned to an even junior individual, who maybe a Knight, a general Lord, or not yet even ennobled.
This Starport Director is responsible for running the starport, ensuring that trade is maintained, and serving as Imperial representative to that government of the world. But they don't tell the planetary government what to do or generally care how the government is organized and operates, unless it is engaging in slavery, stockpiling/using WMD, or engaging in smuggling or other anti Imperial activity. They are the main source of imperial revenues, because it is necessary to get an imperial license to operate a starship. And there are import and export duties, generally small but pervasive, that are collected. As well as the starport's fees.

Above these starport directors are the Subsector Governors, who deal with larger issues such as keeping trade lanes open, dealing with any independent polities in their area (if any), and coordinating with the Navy/Scouts. They usually have access to crisis staff to deal with problems that arise in their subsectors that local directors can't handle.

Above the Subsector Governor is the Sector Duke. The sector duke is the first noble who can grant titles and knighthoods. They coordinate the larger needs of their sectors and are even more involved in diplomacy and imperial intrigues. They are also usually the source of funding for Imperial Research Stations and other special projects.

In addition to these civil service nobles, there are also nobles arising from the diplomatic corps. Often assigned by the Sector Dukes, but sometimes from higher authorities, ambassadors to independent polities are generally ennobled in proportion to the significance of their charge.

Finally, you have scientists, artists, and the like who can get minor noble titles for achievements.

All these titles are given to the individual, but the children of titled nobles are simply "Lords" or "Ladies". They are nobles, but they don't have a title unless they get one from their own service (as is expected).

Imperial Fiefs are almost always in the form of stock holdings in Imperial megacorporations. These stay with the person when they retire and can be inherited. Of course, most nobles buy property and other assets with their wealth, but land on planets is not attached to Imperial service and there is a subtle pressure to hold land on multiple worlds rather than "being parochial."
In general, you will find Imperial agents focused on combating piracy, shutting down commerce raiding, mediating disputes between megacorporations, and overseeing the licensing and taxing of interstellar trade. You will rarely see them having anything to do with situations involving the planetary governments unless those governments start interfering with trade.

Planetary governments are pretty much free to do as they wish on in their own system, as long as it does not impinge on the Empire's ability to move goods and make money off said movement of goods. They have no jurisdiction over the Imperial Starport or any Imperial installations, but they can have their own spaceports for in system trade. They can also accept interstellar shipping at their spaceports as long as they do not get caught forgetting to pay the Imperial tariffs and fees.

The Imperium handles most of the Space Navy action with the usual Sector, Subsector, and "Colonial" Fleet structure.
So that's pretty much how I answer a lot of these questions IMTU. I'm not going to further bore you with details. My point is just that what little detail exists for the Third Imperium canon is pretty loose and you can easily answer the questions of economy, government structure, and who does what in a variety of ways without even going outside the bounds of compatibility with published materials. Other than changing up the noble titles, there's really nothing in my write up that invalidates any published adventures, source books, or other "official" material I might want to use. Making the Third Imperium your own and having it help rather than hinder the kinds of stories you want to tell is way more important that trying to parse the meaning of the various throwaway bits on those subjects in the various sourcebooks. IMHO.
1. Loyalty may be more prized than competence, at least in key positions that are foundational to the superior's power base.

2. Appointments of anyone to the nobility by a regional sector duke would have to be signed off by the Imperial court; lifetime knighthoods could be exceptional, to temporarily reward followers and shore up the local aristocrat's own power base.

3. The Imperium is too large to be directly, or even indirectly, to be governed by a single individual or institution, so policies are issued, and management tends to be by exception.
I consider it more like a mob protection racket.

Imperial government starts at the subsector level is an old quote.

The subsector duke is "the made man", he controls the Imperium apparatus of government within his subsector and gains his authority from the Emperor.
He has various Ministries - Justice, Colonisation etc - and can maintain a private army. He owns shares in the local corporations and megacorporations. He apoints Starport Admin
Pretty much. "We'll let you run your planet in whatever crappy awful way you want, you let us move our product through your space without hassles."

I never liked all those barons and knights cluttering up planets without any actual excuse for what they were doing. Or why there needed to be counts pretending like they contributed something by watching over 3 planets that didn't need to do anything except not mess with the starport authority.
As an institution, the Imperial government only gives a crap about there never being another Long Night. Obviously, individual officials will have their own agendas. But the main organizations are "keep communications going", "keep trade going", "keep other people from blowing up our stuff", and "keep track of tech so it promotes stability."

Dulinor's a problem because he thinks the Empire can "make things better". Which means actually governing stuff and getting planets to be nicer places to live. And the Empire isn't set up to do that. And has lots of vested interests that don't want it to get into that game. Doubt I'll ever really worry about where that goes, but that's my starting point for that. The current Emperor and his wife and close friends are dabbling dangerously in benevolence.
I'd like to think that the Imperium would still set a few minimums, such as "no slavery, have a minimum of infrastructure, tech and education so your locals can contribute, don't kill off the natives and yes you have to look, and don't mess up either the economy OR the environment too badly." Otherwise the mob racket thing makes sense.
The standard Imperium rules are "No slavery, no WMD use, and don't interfere with the starport and interstellar trade."

It is pretty clear from the UWP that the official setting has the Imperium giving no f's about conditions away from the starport. There's all kinds of political hellholes and total backwaters inside the Imperium. Even on major trade routes.

Which is what you are going to get when you use a sector generator designed to create a suitable area for wild arsed 70s space opera adventures suitable for explorers, Falkayn type trade pioneers, and the like. It doesn't work so well for actual civilization. :p
Indentured servitude; and unlike Anakin, you can't be born into it.
There are published adventures that make it clear that labor contracts that go to far fall under the Imperial anti slavery laws. As does the history of the Ael Yael species. But where that line is can be pretty blurry.
The Traveller Adventure has examples of:
people trafficking (ie modern day slavery with a sexual angle to boot)
religious oppression
denial of Imperial citizen rights
and lots more
Kinunir has political prisoners being disappeared
arrest and detention with no trial
Research Station Gamma has INI kidnapping and imprisoning sophonts and experimenting on them
The Traveller Adventure has examples of:
people trafficking (ie modern day slavery with a sexual angle to boot)
religious oppression
denial of Imperial citizen rights
and lots more
Kinunir has political prisoners being disappeared
arrest and detention with no trial
Research Station Gamma has INI kidnapping and imprisoning sophonts and experimenting on them
Oh yes, the Imperium of the early Classic Traveller era is definitely not the nice guy you see talked about in the source books nowadays. Not evil empire, but definitely not good guys.