Tuesday, May 1, 2018

More Traveller Literary History - Toyman

I have now read the first three books in E.C Tubb's series "Dumarest of Terra". This week I finished Toyman, (#3).  But this is not a book review.

Marc Miller himself named the Dumarest saga as a major influence on Traveller. So how does Traveller reflect Tubb's universe? There are several things. First there's the word Traveler, which the protagonist uses to describe himself.

Although Toyman all takes place on one world, there is discussion of High, Middle and Low passages. Since I've now had a PC die in Low berth, I appreciate more the gritty feel of the desperate who travel Low.

Earl Dumarest wears Mesh armor, and carries a big knife (a Blade). Some NPCs use lasers, alongside clubs and whips. Thus the uneven distribution of technology across space, and the inclusion of primitive weapons in the game.

The planet Toy (not really a joke) is an example of Government Type 1: Company/Corporation. Stockholders run Toy, and whoever has the most shares has the most influence. The guy with the biggest share  is (again, not a joke) the Toymaster.

The majority stockholders are owners of businesses. Of course they're all in competition to get more stock. More stock means more power, and the overthrow of the Toymaster.  In the story, the Toymaster makes a play for a large bloc of stock that would give him the 50.1% holding he needs to become supreme authority. This is an aspect of government Type 1 I had not considered before, how type 1 could degenerate into a dictatorial government.

There are lots of laws on Toy (high Law Level) and justice is more concerned with process and order than on the truth or on virtue. There is a lot of social ritual enforced by law to keep stockholders from dueling and murdering each other. It seems that the winner gets the losers stock. Stock is in the world corporation as a whole, not in individual companies. All profits from exports are part of the world stock and all companies contribute to the world economy.

A small aspect of the story that has not gotten into the Traveller rules is an NPC who works in genetic engineering. The resulting creations become the property of the creator. They are not considered persons. Slavery exists, both in fact and
in indentured servitude. Some time I intend to explore the place of slavery in Traveller further.

The society of Toy (and Tubb's universe generally) is harsh, uncooperative and decadent. There are few 'good' people. Dumarest is better than most, but is not an altruist or 'hero'. He's out for himself and would rather the universe leave him alone. Everyone he meets is venal and self-serving. Everything is a bargain or a deal or a contract. Dumarest views the Universal Brotherhood, a vague interstellar religious group, with suspicion. He suspects them of being secret manipulators, and so refuses their offers of charity.

An element of these books that did not make the leap over to Traveller is the Cyclans. Cyclans are a cyborg collective. They have the common sci-fi tropes of being cold, logical and unemotional. They seem to have some kind of hyperspace communication, and have Big Plans for the universe.

On Toy, a Cyclan is present, trying to persuade the Toymaster to accept him/it as an advisor. The Toymaster is suspicious of the Cyclan,  and is having none of it. He assumes that the Cyclan is there to become a puppet master (and he is correct).

Dumarest becomes a pawn in the local power struggle between stockholders, and between the Toymaster and the Cyclan.  He fights for one side to get money and information from the local supercomputer. Traveller PCs should find themselves in the same position.

I have written my TU as being less jaded/cynical than Tubb's version; and instead of the Universal Brotherhood, I have the Church which is not a manipulator or a secret society'. I will, as I am able, continue to read the Dumarest Saga, and glean from it what I can to incorporate into my TU. I encourage all Traveller players to read it as well. They're good stories (not the greatest, though) and also useful for the world-building that Tubb presents.


  1. In Peter F Hamilton's Hidden Dragon, our hero wants to become a spacer, but star travel is controlled by a corporation, and he can only afford to buy enough stock to get a commission in the space marines instead

  2. "Dumarest views the Universal Brotherhood, a vague interstellar religious group, with suspicion. He suspects them of being secret manipulators, and so refuses their offers of charity."

    Actually, he is on good terms with them throughout the series and declined their offers of food because it comes with the requirement that he subject himself to the benediction light, which makes a man unable to kill another man, which he knows he cannot afford to accept in his position.