The Corridor, from Esperanza to Gateway.

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Esperanza is a gas giant moon in the Epsilon Indi system. It was colonised many centuries ago, in the second wave of sub-light exploration from Earth. Esperanza’s native flora is typically blue-coloured, although many Earth species have been successfully introduced – especially crop plants. The huge population mainly live in spawling cities. There is an orbital starport city (pop=10m), with a space-elevator linking it to the downport.

Esperanza is the capital of the Esperanzan Commonwealth, a tyrannical empire that governs the entire human Corridor as far as Gateway (1414). The Commonwealth is dominated by telepaths, who claim to be the “Next Step” in human evolution. Non-telepaths are treated as second-class citizens. Dissidents are in constant danger of detection by the “Thought Police”, who can send them to “re-education camps” with only the thinnest veil of due process.

The Commonwealth has recently seized control of the Earth system, and has already made its first abortive attempt to conquer Procyon, the last bastion of human freedom in the Core worlds.


The head of a XaIt was here that humanity had its first encounter with aliens. Esperanza lies at the end of a branch off the Main that was claimed by the Xa Imperium. Three years after first-fall, the colonists were amazed to detect a vast spherical alien craft entering orbit. The haughty Xa made it clear that humans were welcome to live on their world, but that they would be expected to pay tribute in proportion to their population. The stunned colonists had little choice but to acquiesce. Esperanzans became citizens of the Xa Imperium, learned to make their own jump-1 drives, and were eventually allowed some access to other Xa worlds.

The jump-drive designs were transmitted back to Earth, where the initial delight soon turned to frustration when it became obvious that only a handful of Core worlds were accessible from humanity’s home world.


It was many years later that the Esperanzans discovered that they shared the planet with yet more intelligent aliens. The “Batwings” were a shy, telepathic race, with somewhat insectoid bodies. They lived in vast underground burrows, and shunned all contact with humans. Unfortunately for them, the Batwings both resembled Earthly “devils” and possessed inexplicable “magic” powers. Religious zealots grew to hate and fear them. The “New Puritan” movement arose, and began a series of pogroms against the Batwings. Eventually the Batwings were exterminated, but not before they had passed on the secrets of telepathy to many of their human sympathisers. The Puritans violent campaigns continued, and drove these “human witches” to the edge of exinction.

The Xa wars

Xa BattleshipNot satisfied with waging war in their homeland, the New Puritans also embarked on a violent revolution against their Xa masters. A series of bloody campaigns established first their independence, and then increasingly large territories along the branch that has become known as the “Human Corridor”. Xa and other alien populations were uprooted, and replaced by human colonies, under the sway of the “Esperanzan Commonwealth”.

Earth’s invention of the Jump-1+ drive, about a century ago allowed Earth to join forces with the Commonwealth, and launch the “5th Xa War”. Together, they drove the Xa entirely out of the Corridor, and captured the world of Xa-Arrack – now renamed “Gateway”. In the “6th Xa War”, the Commonwealth allied with the Long Republic, and finally broke the back of the Xa Navy. Allied fleets penetrated deep into the heart of the Imperium, and razed all of their shipbuilding yards. To date, the Xa have shown no signs of recovering from this blow. The Imperium is a shadow of its former self.

Year Zero

Commonwealth Navy Roundel17 years ago, the “witches” finally emerged from the shadows. Long laid plans were put into effect, and the Puritans were swept from power almost overnight. A secret group of human telepaths seized control and declared “Year Zero”. The Commonwealth was revealed to be a hollowed-out state, the “Illuminati” had infiltrated almost every level of government. Puritan zealots were executed en masse. Only a handful made it to the safety of Earth, or of the Commonwealth’s distant colonies. Many of those have now been hunted down as the telepaths have consolidated their grip on power, and subsequently moved to subvert and conquer Earth itself.

There are still a handful of Puritan colonies. Chief amongst them is New America, where a Commonwealth task force was recently beaten back, with the aid of Fteirle mercenaries.

Procyon is also host to a small Puritan population.

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  1. alex said,

    15 December, 2014 @ 11:53

    Facebook comments:

    Tony Jones Interesting! As a bit of background colour is there life in the gas giant? I can imagine meteor impacts on the planet could have carried bacteria there and if there is enough water in the gas giant they could survive there, like bacteria do in the Earths atmosphere:

    Bacteria In Earth’s Atmosphere May Affect Cloud Formation And Climate | POPSCI.COM

    Alexander Tingle Yeah, I think it’s a good bet that a life bearing moon would seed its host with simple life. It’s a big step from that to more complex life. A gas giant’s atmosphere is a pretty unpromising environment.

    Tony Jones I wasn’t thinking anything more than bacteria, but enough of them might affect the colour of the planet as seen from space. I guess to make it more blue in this case…

    Andy Miles I think the discussion of the worlds is fascinating and the following ISN’T intended to shut it down BUT; given that Alex’s intention is to go with space opera rather than hard sci-fi are we over doing the hard science a little?

    Matt Fitzgerald This is the sciencey canvas upon which large buckets of Space Opera will be liberally splashed

    Plus, we can’t currently detect anything smaller than super Earths, so there’s plenty of scope for implausible-but-not-provably-impossible stuff.

    Heck, every system beyond Sol could be stuffed to the gills with Death Stars and we’d be none the wiser.

    Alexander Tingle The hard science stuff is a great source of plot points, and as Matt says, colour. (Literally, in this case). There are thousands of worlds on the maps I’ve generated. Obviously, I’ve not detailed anything like all of them, but even writing a paragraph or two about each of dozens of worlds can start to drain one of inspiration.

    That said, we’ve talked a lot about planetology. I’m equally interested in feedback about the cultures, and the setting in general. What kind of character backgrounds? Etc.

    Alexander Tingle Something that puzzles me is what kind of currency I should use. The Main will operate very much like the Silk Road – good are traded along it from culture to culture. There isn’t much traffic that ventures very far along it. So much of the trade would be barter, although individual states might have their own currencies.

    Alexander Tingle I could boil is all down into arbitrary “credits”, but that feel like a bit of a cop-out. OTOH, perhaps it would get a bit tiresome constantly having to convert trade goods into the local scrip on every planetfall.

    Matt Fitzgerald Hmm. Whatever the Xa used to use would be a strong candidate, since the Esperanzans are effectively a successor state to them, and were part of their economy for centuries.

    Matt Fitzgerald Credits are useful as that’s what everything in the source books is priced in, and lets you leave the ‘convince the local sultan that the ship’s fridge is a valuable piece of modern art to trade for fuel because this world doesnt use credits’ scenarios as interesting adventures rather than a constant headache.

    Matt Fitzgerald More realistically low volume high use items are probably more plausible. Traditional scarcity items like gold and silver aren’t that scarce in a space mining milieu. Art is culturally subjective, so a bad store of interstellar value. Medicines, computer chips / self contained expert systems, stellar survey data are all good candidates. Lanthanum, or whatever you need to make jump drives, is also going to be immensely valuable.

    However, this being Traveller, the a-number-one resource that will be sought, horded and profligately expended will be… Ammunition !

    Jean-Paul Tolley Don’t forget farm machinery!!

    Matt Fitzgerald Bit bulky for the wallet though. Unless TL 10 comes with some truly remarkable miniaturisation abilities

    Tony Jones @Andy: But the hard science is (for me at least) weird and interesting enough to make a good background for anything, and to be honest is stranger than most of us could probably come up with!

    Tony Jones If you’re looking for low volume high use, what about music, movies and books (or the equivalent text files)? Take up very little space and can be reproduced indefinitely (assuming lack of DRM)…

    Matt Fitzgerald A good medium of exchange, but only to cultures that share your tastes. A poor store of value, because of the replicability, surely ?

    Tony Jones No world culture is going to be entirely monolithic in its tastes, but even so I imagine a ship could easily have a library of media from a vast array of cultures with something for every taste. Of course some tastes might be illegal on some worlds, which might be an issue…

    Tony Jones I suppose it would depend on whether starports count as extraterritorial so your ship sells media to a local; distribution is then their problem.

    Andy Miles As I said I find the hard science fascinating and I fully agree with all of the points made above, my point was that there was a danger of over analyzing some issues. Going back to the trade issue…I somewhat reluctantly agree that Credits are a necessary evil in a game like this. Looking at Alex’s silk route analogy the goods traded were often those for which the means of production/point of origin was unknown to the end user; silks, spices. In Europe there were monopolies on things like glass production. The Russians closely guarded the secrets of how to process furs into top quality felts; there are examples of beaver pelts being bought in the Americas, transshipped to Russia for processing and being sold as a hat in London for the equivalent of a working man’s annual wage. So, I suppose we need analogies for those sorts of items. How about embryos of genetically modified species that are excellent sources of meat but are sterile so that you can’t create your own breeding stock? Lenses for high quality lasers (military or industrial) that are made from a substance not widely available. Chemical compounds that can only be obtained or processed in some exotic location. But some things just aren’t going to be worth shipping even if they’re free:

    The Tricky Ethics of Intergalactic Colonization | WIRED

    Alexander Tingle Miniaturized farm machinery? Like this? culticycle | Farm Hack

    Andy Miles I think that JP’s farm machinery accelerates mesons to near C in order to help break up land for agricultural purposes…

    Alexander Tingle I was strongly considering using antimatter as the universal medium of exchange. I started thinking about how you could have a microgram or two embedded in some high tech coin…. but then I thought better of it. Having coins double up as hand grenades doesn’t really sound like a good idea.

    Andy Miles Presumably then currency is measured against the anti-matter standard? Maybe coins are known as “antis”. Currency exchange could be a source of adventure on occasion though; you’ve just been paid in Esperanzan credits only to find that they’ve just been devalued by a factor of 100. Can you get somewhere that doesn’t know this yet and spend them? How will the locals react when they discover that you’ve just paid them in worthless bits of bundled fibres?

    Jean-Paul Tolley I think you might have to use something along the lines of Star Treks DS9 bars of gold pressed Latinum bars. Artificial work around I know a bit like the credits but if it is based on a metal then it’s quality can be tested where ever you are in the galaxy.

    Jean-Paul Tolley As for farm machinery it was damn useful for getting rid of vermin like those pesky space rabbits.

    Alexander Tingle The TCS setting that I abandoned had each world using its own crypto-currency. Different major worlds would have to have their own currencies, because of the travel time. That was quite an interesting approach. Interstellar payment systems would use a system of trusted intermediaries, similar to hawala.

    Other planets & moons in the same system would be at a massive disadvantage. Any communication delay renders a crypto-currency less valuable, so if you are sitting on some distant planetoid a few light hours from the main world, you would really struggle to take a full part on the main world’s economy.

    I abandoned all that because I might be interested in the implications of interstellar travel for crypto-currencies, but in the end I didn’t think it would make for a fun game. Hence, Ad Astra…

    Alexander Tingle I think hawala might still be a useful concept for Ad Astra trading.

    Asher Hoskins Have you read Neptune’s Brood by Charles Stross? Lots of stuff about making money work across interstellar distances, although in his case the lack of FTL travel was a necessity for the money ideas to work.

    Alexander Tingle Neptune’s Brood does sound interesting.

    Tony Jones A microgram of antimatter would still be equivalent to about 45 tons of tnt so probably not a good idea!

    Tony Jones Sorry, 450 kilos of tnt…

    Andy Miles In many ways that system is not unlike the credit card system in that you have the card holder, the card issuing bank, the merchant’s acquiring bank and the merchant. The card holder makes a purchase from the merchant; the merchant draws down the funds from their acquiring bank; the acquiring bank draws funds from the issuing bank and then the issuing bank presents the card holder with a bill to be settled by an agreed date.

    Tony Jones Presumably you could use a system like the ones that used to be used for long distance trade in the days of sail.

    Alexander Tingle Silver and gold were the main currencies in the Age of Exploration. The precious metals mainly came from South America, via the Spanish, and ended up in China (where imports were forbidden, and all manufactured goods had to be paid for in silver).

    That was what I was thinking of with my antimatter currency, but as mentioned, I don’t think that’s viable. I guess there could be antimatter-backed currencies, as suggested by Andy, but trust in any “central bank” wouldn’t extend very far along the Main. A promise of payment isn’t worth much if you have to travel for 3 years to get it.

    So, I think it will be local currencies (such as the Xa’s antimatter backed, Imperial Star – devalued three times in the last 100 years), combined with a trust based hawala-type system for trade between currency areas.

    Interestingly, antimatter-based currencies suggest the existence of huge antimatter reserves held by various central banks. Imagine a Fort Knox, but for storing hundreds of tonnes of antimatter!!

    Tony Jones You wouldn’t want it on a planet! 100 tons of antimatter would be about a 4.5 teraton explosion. Maybe putting it in an isolated asteroid cluster, maybe at a trojan point, would be a better idea. If it was sufficiently well guarded of course…

    Matt Fitzgerald Talk about money burning a hole in your pocket…

    Andy Miles “Stop or I shoot!” “now officer, I REALLY don’t think you want to do that as I have BCr100 worth of anti-matter in this here case…”

    Matt Fitzgerald Heck, an antimatter 1Cr piece should give pause for thought. Unless it’s Alex’s Lawbot, which will probably treat that as a bribery attempt.

    Andy Miles Going back to the early HEIC, they intended to barter for the spices that they wanted. They took wool cloth to India but were essentially mocked when they tried to trade it. “Let me see captain, we are standing here in 35c and you’re offering me wool? Why would I buy that when I can buy silk at half the price?”. The first expeditions often resorted to piracy to get whet they wanted and later moved to purchase with silver and gold. They were then roundly mocked when they returned to England: “Let me see captain, you took £100 of my gold half way around the world and brought back a small bag of shriveled up berries? And you’re not actually returning any of my gold, you’re instead giving me shares in your next expedition to bring back…oh MORE shriveled up berries and perhaps some dried bark this time…”

    Andy Miles Looking at exchange rates…what are the main influencing factors? Presumably timely access to information on the needs and performance of an economy? Would this info be available when communication is limited to the speed of Jump? Maybe within a small cluster of worlds but how could you regulate exchange with a larger body like the Xa Imperium? As of (X date 3 months in the future) the exchange rate will become… Could this actually be a factor in how/why the Xa have stagnated? They can’t keep up with small dynamic economies? Their currency has had to be fixed across the whole of their Imperium? Trade grinds almost to a halt, there’s no incentive for innovation, all kinds of relationships become fixed, no social mobility, change is seen as dangerous (actually starting to sound like c19th China).

    Alexander Tingle That’s getting dangerously close to Accountancy Quest. Perhaps you would have liked my original TCS campaign idea after all…

    Alexander Tingle If you’re interested, I could post some of the TCS stuff that I wrote. Here’s a flavour…


    Data is routinely traded. Every ship can trade in data, because they all stand an equal chance of emerging from jump a little before their rivals. Market traders will pay handsomely to get their data transmitted first.

    Accurate jumps that get the ship to arrive as close as possible to the mainworld yield better paying priority data rates – a good Navigator is essential. Faster maneouvre drives that land & take off quicker yield better bulk data rates – a talented pilot will help too.

    Bulk data.

    Data brokers parcel up petabytes of information to be transmitted to nearby worlds. Each packet encrypted, and sent repeatedly until an ACK arrives, often weeks later. Brokers pay on first receipt of each packet. The current outbound data queue is free to download – though it’s so large it usually required a hard link – so you have to be on the ground.

    Priority data

    Some packets are high priority. They can be tight-beamed to ships just before they depart, and are usually tight-beamed down to the data broker the instant the ship emerges from jump space. The ship transmits packets in strict priority order – higher paying packets are sent first. It’s also possible to purchase a time-delay following your packets, so that competitor’s packets are delayed.

    Brokers pay on first receipt of priority packets. They pay less, the longer the delay after the ship emerges from jump.


    Some senders will pay for programs to be run on the starship’s computer when it emerges from jump. Typically they look at the current state of financial markets and make immediate trading decisions. Ships usually charge for each clock cycle used, with cycles closest to the jump windows costing the most.

    Traders want to minimise the latency to each of the markets they trade, so mid way points are very popular. Elysee has a huge algorithmic trading business. To a lesser extent: New Home, Sturgeon’s Law, Colchis, Topas, St. Genevieve.

    Andy Miles We had discussed that model before. Perhaps a playable compromise it essentially a barter trade system for major items (represented by a variant of the existing trade rules but with less opportunity for vast profits) and small, day-to-day, transactions use cash. Maybe to make the larger transactions more interesting (and to avoid the age old question of “why not just cash it all in and retire?”) a given percentage (say 80%+) must immediately be used to purchase cargo/fuel/spares/servicing (representing the barter element).

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