25 Mar 2016

The Terran Commonwealth - Overview

Last week, in detailing two potential NaNoWriMo projects, I mentioned the Terran Commonwealth.  The short version is that I wanted a non-Trek setting to use for my own nefarious purposes.  Essentially, a large setting that I can use as a default setting without having to worry about similarities to existing properties.

The Commonwealth started because I wanted to test an idea I had with Traveller while learning how conditional statements worked in LibreOffice, a three-dimensional star map as opposed to the game's two-dimensional subsector and sector maps.  As I was working on it, I discovered why the game uses a 8 parsec by 10 parsec hex map.  My core sector has over 2000 potential worlds, almost double that of the Third Imperium's roughly 1200 potentials.  Even with just half the potential locations having worlds, that still means over 1000 worlds to create.  I got half of Sector 000's worlds generated before realizing that I should have been directing my efforts to a more frontier sector.  I did get some oddities, which got me thinking about what they mean.  Several worlds have both a Scout base* and a pirate base, leading to the Royal Exploration Service having assets to use against the Royal Navy in exercises and in reserve in case of invasion.  Another world had the Universal World Profile A569000-0, or a moderately sized world with thin atmosphere and 90% of the surface covered by water, with a top level starport and no one living on the world.  Using the Commonwealth as a gaming setting, that world would be a mystery for players to solve.  For writing, there is story potential.

With the base concept worked out, the next thing to work out is how the Commonwealth works.  I have Scout bases, Naval bases, consular posts, Travellers' Aid Society offices, and even pirate bases.  How does everything come together?  Working from the top down, for now, I start with the head of the Commonwealth, the hereditary king or queen.  His or Her Majesty also serves as the Sector Duke of Sector 000, or Core Sector, and is advised by Parliament, made up of the House of Commons and the House of Lords.  Given travel times, where at best speed it takes eight weeks for a message or a person to get from the frontier, Sector 231, to Terra, planetary representatives aren't feasable.  Instead, at least at the Commonwealth level, ridings** encompassing several close worlds vote to elect a Member of Parliament.

At the Sector level, the Duke also has a Parliament to handle local affairs.  Not every planet in a Sector has representation at the Sector Parliament.  A colony needs to go through their world that originally settled it, though a Commonwealth colony answers to the Sector Duke.  Low population worlds, those with under a million inhabitants, also aren't represented in the Sector House of Commons.  However, to prevent the larger worlds from running roughshod over the smaller ones, the low population planets can appeal to the House of Lords and have a standing committee where delegates can air grievances and make sure their needs are met.

The next level of nobility down is the Count/Countess.  This person answers to the Sector Duke and is in charge of a number of worlds.  There is no "County Parliament"; counts do maintain a court where delegates can petition for redress within the county.  The main priority for the count is to maintain open spacelanes and communications between worlds within his purview.  The count also represents the worlds in the House of Lords at both the Sector and the Commonwealth levels.  Since it is difficult to be in two or even three places at once, counts do send proxies.

The Marquis/Marquesa has control of a handful of worlds, with similar duties as a count.  A marquis also has seats in the House of Lords at both the Sector and Commonwealth levels.  Barons/Baronesses represent just one world, and do not*** have a seat on the Commonwealth's House of Lords.  They do have on at the Sector level.  Knights are the odd ones; historically, they did receive land.  Today, there are orders of knighthood awarded for achievement.  The Commonwealth's knights are a mix.  Some knights are hereditary, inheriting land holdings.  Some are awarded for noteworthy achievements.  Knights do not have seats in any House of Lords, but can be found as seneschals for higher nobility.

The traditional services from Traveller - Army, Marines, Navy, and Scout - do exist in the Commonwealth, because they're handy to have.  The Royal Army is one part expeditionary force, one part internal peacekeeper.  Each world is also entitled to have a standing defense force, as are nobles higher than a knight.  In times of emergency, these armies can be called into duty by the Royal Army.  The Royal Marines are the shipboard troops of the Royal Navy; their mission is to establish a beachhead or to assault a starship.  The Royal Navy, the pride of the Commonwealth, patrols the spacelanes and defends the Commonwealth from threats internal and external.  The Exploration Service is civilian, handled by the Ministry of Colonization, and handles not just exploration but the Royal Post.  There are inter-service rivalries, naturally.

Focusing on Sector 231, I have an alien race in mind, the Saurians.  Closer to dinosaurs that to reptiles, the Commonwealth ran into the Saurians and got into a war.  The Saurians see primates as livestock and were taken back when the new food starting shooting.  Diplomatic relations are tense, and agitators on both sides aren't helping.

That should be enough at least for now.  I have a setting, a government, an outside force, and a story idea that can build on top of everything.  I'll worry more about gear later; technology can be kept loose for now.

* The Exploration Service, which is a separate career in Traveller from the Navy.
** For those outside a Commonwealth country, think wards or districts.
*** For now, at least.  I'll reconsider when I see just how many of each noble type I wind up with.

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