Wednesday, April 13, 2022

From Travellers to Rival Lords - more on owning land

In an earlier post I talked about the possibilities of Travellers owning land. Land ownership is definitely a route to High Level Play. Here I want to move that idea forward by discussing the adventure potential of owning a lot of land. Also, what happens when the PC's activity comes to the attention of the planetary government. 

Someday, Traveller, all this shall be yours.

I use the term sub-state to refer to any organized territory that is not part of or obedient to the planetary government (hereafter I use the abbreviation PG). For those who are interested, here is a summary list of what any state actually does.

Ten Functions of the State

1. The Rule of Law
2. Monopoly on the legitimate means of violence
3. Administrative control
4. Sound management of public finances
5. Investments in human capital
6. Creation of citizenship rights through social policy
7. Provision of infrastructure services
8. Formation of a market
9. Management of public assets
10. Effective public borrowing

 taken from Fixing Failed States by Ghani & Lockhart

Why do sub-states exist? And why should Travellers get involved?

I have said to my sons many times “everything is complicated”. The factors that allow ungoverned spaces to exist are many and varied. In simple summary, any PG has limited resources. Those resources have to enable the governance of all the PG’s territory - the carrying out of the ten functions listed above. Sometimes there’s not enough to go around. The PG combines reasons of 'can't spend resources’ and 'won't spend resources’. The Referee has to decide how effective is the PG at running its own territories.

Sub-states are quite common in Hotlzmann's Corridor, given the low world populations and lower Tech Levels than in the Empire.

How will a PG respond to the presence of a sub-state? It will depend a great deal on the activity of the sub-state. Is it competing with the PG for resources or off-world trade? Is it seeking cooperation or alliance? Is the sub-state engaging in or supporting rebellion against the PG?

The PG has three general categories of response:

1. Seek to replace the sub-state government with the PG. The most common methods are direct conquest and influencing the sub-state to accept integration into the PG.

2. Influence or coerce the sub-state into client status. On paper it is a separate state but economically, politically or militarily it is dependent upon the PG.

3. Adopt a hands-off policy. Allow the sub-state to direct its own affairs and keep the two states separate.

The PG’s choice of action depends on the benefits gained by controlling the sub-state, balanced by the costs of exerting or maintaining control.

Benefits are things like taxes, new resources, access to other areas of the planet, and increased manpower. It benefits the PG to end rivals or threats like pirates, rebels, or terrorists. Also the PG can recover what was being lost to those threats.

Costs are things that drain the resources of the PG – expending money and material to gain or maintain control. Change breeds resistance and the people of the sub-state may resist coming under PG control. Costs are political. Domestic pressure to ‘deal with the problem’ or ‘we want peace’ is a cost. Pressure from neighbors or external forces who also want to influence the sub-state is a cost. Failure to achieve the desired policy is also a cost. The PG can lose credibility and experience more instability at home.

If the benefit is high and the cost is low, the PG will be forceful in exerting control over the sub-state. If the benefit is low and the cost is high, the PG will exert minimal or no effort to gain control.

Sub-states offer haven and protection to gangs, militias, pirates/smugglers, rebels and warlords. The PG may not want to/be able to tolerate this. Armed Groups can impose much cost on the PG. Their presence might be the justification for subjugating the sub-state. Sub-states can have multiple strongmen and factions. Faldor is an example of a failed state in my TU.

In a situation where the benefits of control are low but the sub-state poses little threat, the PG will probably go with option 3. Administration of even a quiet region has costs; why go to the trouble if the return is minimal?

 An enterprising PC/group of aspiring land lords

There are lots of questions and possibilities in an adventure in land ownership. To start with, the new lords can either:

· Apply for membership in the PG as a new district/county/whatever.

· Ignore or defy the PG and set up the new region on their own terms only.

Where the sub-state exists in relation to the inhabited areas under the PG's control makes a difference. The more distance between the two, the less the two states will have to interact. 

The PCs might set up a new sub-state that has no population. How soon will more people move in, with or without the approval of the PCs? How will the new lords encourage people to settle in their sub-state?

If the PCs want something more remote, it might be as simple as claiming a parcel of land, and controlling it. Think about what I wrote in this post about the size of planets. 90+% of most worlds in Traveller are not populated. That's a lot of real estate up for grabs. How does the PG, if there is one, claim to hold all that?

Depending on the government, all the PCs may have to do is stake out some land and notify the PG. Lower law levels will make this simpler. Every modern state runs on paperwork. File some records, use Admin skill! Expect that the forms will include a promise to obey the PG or recognize its authority.

By organizing an area and conducting economic operations there, the PCs and their allies are setting up a new government. The PG will make some sort of response, if it wants to maintain its own credibility.

There will likely be taxes, which copies Robe & Blaster. The land had better produce something in that case. Use EDU or Administration for land management tasks, do NOT introduce a new skill. Owners/rulers of the sub-states might be able to give PCs a boost in their Social Standing by granting them land and/or titles.

Adventure Opportunities in Sub-states

You’re already seeing the adventure and profit potential here, right? I’ll list some things anyway. Travellers who are not the new land lords can act as agents of either the PG or the sub-state.

Travellers can be spies or saboteurs or military forces. They can be search & rescue teams, diplomats or couriers. They may be hire to resolve a conflict, or to instigate one! Check out 76 Patrons for some ideas about how PCs can influence planetary politics.

Travellers could work for off-planet interests: megacorporations, rival planets, trade unions or empires. Adventures could be standalone, or long-term campaigns to alter the local political landscape.

Creating a new sub-state which is in any sense opposed to the PG will mean adventures, as the PG attempts to influence your new region. Anything the PCs might conceive of to do in another sub-state might be done by NPCs against theirs! 

Defending the sub-state will require military force in many cases; Book 4: Mercenary is made for just such instances.

There are years of game-play to be had in this type of situation. Go forth and conquer!


Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

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