The Cleaved Helm

Referee's Notes

"Be careful with labels. Look beyond the stereotype for the reality"
— Marc W. Miller, "The Aslan Question," Travellers' Digest #18


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The "Metagame" perspective on the Space Viking Era

Image - Ref's Notes

Inspired by the occasional "Ref's Notes" feature of the original Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society, Ref's Notes are "an informal discussion of some aspect of [the Cleaved Helm campaign] from the referee's viewpoint, with the aim of helping beginners get started and helping the experienced ref add a little spice to his game."

Ref's Notes includes Cleaved Helm campaign information which varies from the established Traveller canon or which fleshes out details about the early Sword Worlds which are not adequately explained in the canon.  A particular focus will be those canonical elements of Swords Worlds background which are not internally consistent.

Ref's Notes also features discussions of the role-playing philosophy of the Cleaved Helm campaign and will examine the ways in which role-playing philosophy has influenced the campaign setting.


Aesirist cult  | Darrian alphabet | Darrian ruins  | Feudal technocracy | Free‑form role‑playing | Non‑humans  | Sagamaal  | Stellar coordinates | Universal Military Service Registration



Darrian alphabet

The modern Darrian alphabet — rome te-yulep — is based upon the classical Darrian syllabary — yaser te-yulep — but uses Anglic-derived characters introduced by the ancient Solomani immigrants.α

Sound
A
B
BH*
D
DH*
E
EH
G
GH*
I
IH
K**
L**
LBH*
LD**
LY**
LZ**
M**
MB**

Character
a
B, b
bḣ
D, d
dḣ
e
ĕ
G, g
gḣ
i
ĭ
K, k (ḱ)
L, l (ĺ)
lḃḣ
Lḋ, lḋ (ĺḋ)
Lẏ, lẏ (ĺẏ)
Lż , lż (ĺż)
M, m (ḿ)
Mḃ, mḃ (ḿḃ)

Pronunciation
lock
bat
abhor
dog
wrath
greet
get
gate
agua
lite
lit
kind (lock)
long (hill)
l + bh
held
only
bells (ills)
mind (tom)
tomboy

   

Sound
N**
ND**
NG*
NGG**
NY*
O
P**
R**
RY
S*
T**
TH
U
Y
YR*
Z
ZB
ZD
ZG
ZL

Character
N, n (ń)
Nḋ, nḋ (ńḋ)

Nğ, nğ (ńğ)
ńẏ
o
P, p (ṕ)
R, r (ŕ)
Rẏ, rẏ
s
T, t (ť)
Tḣ, tḣ
u
Y, y
yṙ
Z, z
Zḃ, zḃ
Zḋ, zḋ
Zġ, zġ
Zŀ, zŀ

Pronunciation
nice (can)
bond
ring
finger
any
oat
pin (top)
run (bar)
reach
mess
time (pot)
this
loop
yellow
fire
zoo
z + b
mazda
z + g
z + l

α A simplified version of this alphabet — with minimal diacritical marks — appeared in "The Darrian Way of Life" in Challenge #25 (1986) and in Alien Module 8: The Darrians (1987).

* These consonants only appear at the end of a syllable.  (Syllables may also end in any vowel.)
** These consonants may appear at the beginning or the end of a syllable.  The character form shown in parenthesis is used when this consonant appears at the end of a syllable.  (The remaining consonants only appear at the beginning of a syllable.)


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Feudal Technocracy in the Sacnoth Dominate

"Feudal Technocracy was the dominant government form in H. Beam Piper's Space Viking."
Marc Miller, "Planetary Government in Traveller," High Passage #5


The Feudal Technocracy government type has been part of Traveller® from the very beginning (pre-dating the first appearance of the Sword Worlds by two years):α

Feudal Technocracy: Ruling functions are performed by specific individuals for persons who agree to be ruled by them.  Relationships are based on the performance of technical activities which are mutually beneficial.β

In the original Third Imperium campaign (set initially in the year 1105 by the Imperial calendar), just six of the Sword Worlds — Anduril, Excalibur, Gram, Hofud, Narsil and Sacnoth — had Feudal Technocracy governments (though Gram, Narsil and Sacnoth were the three most populous Sword Worlds of that era).  Other government types among the Sword Worlds in this era included Company/Corporation (Dyrnwyn), Participating Democracy (Biter), Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy (Durendal, Orcrist and Tyrfing), Representative Democracy (Hrunting and Mjolnir), Civil Service Bureaucracy (Beater, Colada and Tizon), Balkanization (Gungnir and Joyeuse) and Impersonal Bureaucracy (Enos and Sting).

When the Sword Worlds of the Sacnoth Dominate era — nearly 1500 years prior to the original Third Imperium campaign — were presented in detail two decades after their original introduction, all save for Sacnoth were described as having Captive governments, reflecting the off-world control of the government of the Dominate, a Self-Perpetuating Oligarchy.γ  But this was an obvious error: the world government type was not intended to describe the control exercised by an interstellar government.  (Otherwise, each of the original, Third Imperium era Sword Worlds might also have been described as having Captive governments, reflecting the off-world control of the Gram-led Sword Worlds Confederation of that era.  Indeed, every world in the Imperium might also, by this logic, have been described as having a Captive government.)  Only four of the Sacnoth Dominate worlds — Haulteclere, Orcrist, Morglay and Igliim — are described as actually being "owned" by other worlds, either Sacnoth or Gram, and are therefore the only Dominate era worlds appropriately described as having Captive governments.

In the Cleaved Helm campaign most of the Sword Worlds of the Space Viking era are understood to have a Feudal Technocracy government type.  Still, this leaves open the question of what sort of government a "feudal technocracy" is.  The original Book 3 definition has long been a source of confusion and contention, so much so that Question 4.4 of the "Frequenly Asked Questions" (FAQ) of the old Traveller Mailing List (TML) dealt specifically with an extended discussion from 1994 of this government type.  The TML FAQ concludes that "there is no distinction between feudal technocracy, technocratic oligarchy, technocratic feudalism, or anything else that might be considered in any way 'feudal' or 'technocratic.'"

Subsequent observers examined the form of Feudal Technocracy practiced in the Third Imperium.δ  The Feudal Technocracy government is also common among the worlds of the (post Third Imperium era) Star Viking campaign.ε  But perhaps the most helpful insight came in an earlier, less well-known piece.  Traveller — and Traveller's Sword Worlds — creator Marc Miller offered an expanded version of the original definition of Feudal Technocracy which he admitted was inspired by the prevailing government form of H. Beam Piper's Sword-Worlds:

Feudal Technocracy: Ruling functions are performed by specific individuals for persons who agree to be ruled by them.  Relationships are based on the performance of technical activities which are mutually beneficial.  The lower levels of government (all the way to the citizens themselves) support the upper levels of government for as long as the general system provides a living for all.ζ

Miller also offered two examples of this sort of Feudal Technocracy from the actual world of the early 1980's:

Japan (in that companies tend to hire employees for life, and strong loyalties are formed), and the United States (in that some populations have strong party loyalty in return for local assistance by the party in the form of jobs and handouts).η

Miller seems to have been describing the Japanese keiretsu system and political patronage in the United States.

The Cleaved Helm campaign looks to the original inspiration of the Sword Worlds of Traveller, the "Sword-Worlds" of H. Beam Piper's novel Space Viking and Piper's related Terro-human Future History yarns.  In Space Viking Piper describes a Sword-Worlds hereditary aristocracy comprised of "independent lords," "financial and industrial barons" and "landholding and industrial barons."θ  In another Terro-human Future History story Piper tells us that the "landowners, the trading barons, [and] the industrial lords" are the nobility of the Sword-Worlds.ι

The feudal technocracy of Piper's Sword-Worlds is one in which the mutually beneficial "technical activities" that are performed as the basis of the relationships between the rulers and the assent-granting ruled are those activities which undergird industrial capitalism.  The ruling aristocracy are the landowners (like protagonist Lucas Trask, who opens Space Viking as lord of the "farming and ranching barony" of Traskon on Gram), the financial and trading barons (like Lothar Ffayle, lead partner of the Bank of Wardshaven on Gram) and the industrial barons (like Sesar Karvall of Karvall steel mills on Gram and Alex Gorram of the Wardshaven shipyards).

The aristocratic industrial capitalism of Piper's Sword-Worlds is the dominant world government form in the Sacnoth Dominate Sword Worlds of the Cleaved Helm campaign.  And while no female rulers are portrayed in Space Viking, the hereditary feudal technocracies of the Cleaved Helm campaign practice the absolute primogeniture of Piper's Sword-Worlds, in which succession of the noble position passes to the eldest child, regardless of gender.κ


α Traveller's Sword Worlds first appeared in Supplement 3: The Spinward Marches (1979), pp. 16-17, written by Marc Miller.
β Traveller's Feudal Technocracy government type was first defined in Book 3: Worlds and Adventures (1977), p. 6.  This definition subsequently appeared in The Traveller Book (1982), p. 85, the MegaTraveller Referee's Manual (1987), p. 22, and the Traveller Core Rulebook (2008), p. 175.
γ "The Sacnoth Dominate," Hans Rancke-Madsen, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (online), July 25, 2000; reprinted in The Best of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (JTAS) (2004), p. 38.
δ The first examination of Feudal Technocracy in the Third Imperium appeared in "Empires of the Paper Pushers: Bureaucratic Governments," Matt Stevens, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (online), May 30, 2000; reprinted in The Best of the Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (JTAS) (2004), p. 58.  This examination was expanded in extensive detail in "Feudal Technocracies," Matt Stevens, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society (online), April 3, 2001.  A brief examination of Feudal Technocracy in the "re-booted" Third Imperium campaign appeared in First In: Exploration and Contact Among the Stars (1995), p. 93.
ε Reformation Coalition Manual 1: Path of Tears - The Star Viking Sourcebook (1993), pp. 18-19.
ζ Marc Miller, "Planetary Government in Traveller," High Passage #5 (1982).
η Miller, Op. cit.
θ Space Viking (part one), H. Beam Piper, Analog Science Fact — Science Fiction, Vol. LXX, No. 3, November 1962, pp. 20, 30, and Space Viking (part two), H. Beam Piper, Analog Science Fact — Science Fiction, Vol. LXX, No. 4, December 1962, p. 145.  (H. Beam Piper public domain texts images served by Greg Weeks.)
ι "Ministry of Disturbance," H. Beam Piper, Astounding Science Fiction, Vol. LXII, No. 4, December 1958, p. 28.  (H. Beam Piper public domain texts image served by Greg Weeks.)
κ The Space Viking antagonist, Andray Dunnan, makes an absolute primogeniture claim to the ducal throne of Wardshaven on Gram, held by his maternal uncle, Angus, claiming "that his mother was born a year and a half before Duke Angus and the true date of her birth falsified to give Angus the succession."  Dunnan's claim is unrecognized not because absolute primogeniture is understood to be an inappropriate basis upon which to make such a claim but because his claim about the falsification of his mother's birthdate is rejected.


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Free-form Role-playing in the Sacnoth Dominate

"This will be a 'free-form' (i.e. non-rules-based) role-playing game that emphasizes character (and plot) development over rules-crunching."
— "Space Viking's Daughter," 2004


The Cleaved Helm campaign adopts an explicitly "free-form" approach to role-playing which was used previously in the "Space Viking's Daughter" game, an online role-playing campaign set in H. Beam Piper's Sword-Worlds.  As in Space Viking's Daughter, the emphasis of the Cleaved Helm campaign is upon character, setting development and adventure plotting.  Here, for example, were the "character generation" instructions provided to players in the Space Viking's Daughter campaign:

". . . send [the referee] your character write-up (a prose description of appearance, history, experience, and personality, not a list of statistics from some RPG rules system). . . .  Your character should be the sort that one might encounter aboard a Space Viking ship (interpreted broadly — Space Vikings can have some interesting visitors at times) but should not be an actual character from Beam's novel.  (A not-too-close relative or acquaintance of a character from the novel will be acceptable but is not encouraged.)  [The referee] will review your character description (possibly suggesting some modifications) [and] we [will] begin play [once] we have agreed on your character description. . . ."

That was not the typical Traveller character generation process!  (Of course, a player could nevertheless have used the Traveller character generation rules to create their character for the campaign — subject to that final review with the referee.)  This approach which favors "narrative" over "rules-crunching" will be apparent throughout all aspects of the Cleaved Helm campaign.  Descriptions of non-player characters won't includes statistics for characteristics nor lists of skill levels.  There will be no detailed statistics for starship capabilities, for firearms and equipment, for encountered animals.  There will be detailed descriptions for starships, for firearms, for animals (descriptions of which will sometimes even point to Traveller sources for similar starships or firearms or animals which do provide statistical details).

A significant exception to the general preference for narrative over statistics will be in world descriptions.  The basic and extended forms of the Traveller Universal World Profile (UWP) provide a great deal of complex information in a simplified manner which can be quite useful to game play.  That said, world descriptions will also include detailed narratives meant to "bring to life" the information summarized in the UWP.


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Stellar Coordinates in the Sacnoth Dominate

"As [world] characteristics are generated, they should be recorded along with the name of the world and its location (generally its subsector and hex humber)."
Book 3: Worlds and Adventures


The Sacnoth Dominate uses a modified stellar coordinate system which is based upon the traditional sector hex location number system of the Third Imperium campaign.  By convention, the Dominate stellar coordinate system is based upon Gram, the original Sword World (located at hex 1223 in the Spinward Marches sector).  Gram is at the center (or zero point) of the Dominate stellar coordinate system (representing the coordinate system's origins in the early days of Sword World settlement, well before the advent of the Sacnoth Dominate).  Each world location is identified by coordinates determined from its relative location to Gram.

Unlike the traditional hex location number system, which consists of a four-digit hex number determined on the basis of a world's location in the surrounding sector, the Dominate stellar coordinate system requires six digits, in order to specify the world's relative directions, spin-trailward and core-rimward, from Gram.  The first two digits of a world's coordinates indicate its distance Gram Gram (in hexes) along the spin-trailward axis with the third digit indicating whether that distance is spinward ("S") or trailward ("T") from Gram.  Likewise, the two digits in the fourth and fifth positions of a world's coordinates indicate its distance from Gram (in hexes) along the core-rimward axis with the sixth digit indicating whether that distance is coreward ("C") or rimward ("R") from Gram.  By convention, a world which is on the same spin-trailward axis as Gram uses a zero in the third position and a world on the same core-rimward axis as Gram uses a zero in the sixth position.  This convention gives Gram itself the coordinates of "000000."

The Dominate coordinate system makes it relatively simple to convert a world's Spinward Marches sector hex location to the Dominate stellar coordinate system.  The first two digits of the world's sector hex location are subtracted from the first two digits of Gram's hex location ("12").  The absolute value of this number provides the first two digits of the Dominate stellar coordinates.  (Values less than ten retain a zero before the single digit.)  Numbers which were negative originally are given an "S" value as the third coordinate digit while those which were positive originally are given a "T" value as the third coordinate digit.  The fourth and fifth digits of the Dominate stellar coordinates are determined by subtracting the last two digits of the world's sector hex location from the last two digits of Gram's hex location ("23"), with the absolute value of this number providing the fourth and fifth digits.  (Again, values less than ten retain a zero before the single digit.)  Numbers which were negative originally are given a "C" value as the sixth coordinate digit while those which were positive originally are given a "R" value as the sixth coordinate digit.

Using these conventions, the coordinates of Hrunting, to spin-coreward of Gram (at sector hex location 0921), can quickly be determined to be "03S02C."  Similarly, the coordinates of Biter, to trail-rimward of Gram (at hex 1526) are "03T03R."  Stellar coordinates for each of the twenty worlds of the Sacnoth Dominate are as follows:

World
Gram
Joyeuse
Colada
Tizon
Hrunting
Tyrfing
Sacnoth
Excalibur
Hofud
Durendal

Hex
1223
1123
1022
0922
0921
1324
1325
1225
1524
1523

Coord
000000
01S000
02S01C
03S01C
03S02C
01T01R
01T02R
00002R
03T01R
03T000

   

World
Dyrnwyn
Orcrist
Anduril
Narsil
Beater
Sting
Biter
Isenfang
Haulteclere
Morglay

Hex
1522
1126
1026
0927
1424
1525
1526
1020
1121
1221

Coord
03T01C
01S03R
02S03R
03S04R
02T01R
03T02R
03T03R
02S03C
01S02C
00002C

Other nearby worlds include the closest Darrian world, Cunnonic (hex 0822), at coordinates "04S01C" and the inhabited worlds Entrope (hex 0720) at coordinates "05S03C" and Caladbolg (hex 1329) at coordinates "01T06R."

Since the advent of the Sacnoth Dominate there have been multiple official and unofficial attempts to establish a new stellar coordinate system using Sacnoth in place of Gram as the central reference world.  None of these efforts has been successful and the original, Gram-based coordinate system remains in use across the Dominate, including its use by the Dominate Exploring Expeditions to identify newly-explored worlds beyond Dominate space.


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Universal Military Service Registration

"The form is provided as part of a long range plan for Traveller players."
— Loren Wiseman, Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society #7


Image - TAS Form 97

TAS Form 97, Universal Military Service Registration, was originally printed on the subscription mailing wrap of Journal of the Travellers' Aid Society issues No. 5 and No. 6 and subsequently printed in the "From the Management" column in issues No. 7 and No. 8.  In issue No. 7, editor Loren Wiseman noted that submitted forms would "be kept on file [by GDW] for (frankly) advertising purposes over the next year."  In issue No. 8, Wiseman added, "I don't think you'll be sorry you entered."

With the release of Fifth Frontier War, those who had "registered" for "universal military service" received a computer-generated description of a Traveller player-character — with their name — serving in one of the units represented by counters in the game for the respective "governmental allegiance" they had selected on the registration form.  For example, a player-character might have been a Colonel serving in the Second Grav Tank Corps of the Sword Worlds Confederate Army.



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