Monday, September 25, 2006

an odd find

Traveller canon can turn up in the oddest places. Take, for instance, the Thieves' World boxed set released by Chaosium in 1981. Thieves' World was one of the earliest examples of a licensed RPG property and one of the booklets in the set, "Personalities of Sanctuary", is the earliest known massively multi-platform RPG supplements. Pretty much every single fantasy role-playing game that anyone cared about at the time was represented in that book. Setting characters were statted up for AD&D, Adventures in Fantasy*, Chivalry & Sorcery, DragonQuest, and Basic D&D (yeah, it gets a separate section), The Fantasy Trip, RuneQuest, Tunnels & Trolls, and... Traveller. Weird, huh? I think Trav's inclusion goes far to show just how high of esteem the game was held back then. It really was the D&D of sci-fi.

Like the other sections of the booklet, the Traveller section mostly contains stats for the characters from the Thieves' World books. But the first section of the book is devoted to making a place for the world of thieves in a Traveller game. The Universal World Profile of the planet is given: N-68956 0405 X866670-1. Agricultural World. Interdicted. RG. N-68956 is the name of the world on Imperial starcharts. The planet can be found in hex 0405, though it is left to individual referees as to what subsector that hex appears in. X866670-1 indicates a fairly earthlike world with no starport, no unified government, and low tech. The text explains that a Red Zone interdiction has been level against the world because either magic is real on Thieves' World or because the magic of the setting is leftover Clark's Law level technology. I like both of these options and I 'm tempted to sneak world N-68956 in my Gateway Quadrant project. I doubt anyone would notice one extra world in Blackedge Subsector, for instance. Several years back the canon-wonks on the Traveller Mailing List reached the conclusion that the planet Algine was the best fit if you wanted to drop the Thieves World right into the Spinward Marches. That works especially well for the ultra-tech explanation of magic, as Algine is near worlds of known Ancients activity.

But a third option is offered to explain Thieve's World fantastic magic in a sci-fi setting. And here's where we get to the canonical information. Dig it:
The third rationale goes farthest afield. Thieves' World is truly far-fetched fantasy. It has no real existence in terms of a world or of a planet. Instead Thieves' World is the figment of a vast, high-powered computer's imagination--a gigantic role-playing game for real people. On Trin, in the Trin's Veil subsector, in the Spinward Marches of the Imperium, ISMM Corporation maintains a computer software laboratory dedicated to the advancement of the computer sciences. To this end, the Thieves' World simulation is available (for a price) to travellers who find out about it and make the right contacts. For a price (about Cr10,000 per person) a band of adventurers can step into specially-constructed "experience tanks" and spend about two weeks (both real and experienced time), with options for additional two-week extensions, provided money has been left on deposit for this purpose. Within this computer-moderated game, absolute parallels with the Thieves' World anthologies are possible.
There you go. In the middle of a boxed set fleshing out a licensed fantasy setting, we get piece of throwaway canonical information on a world and a coporation in Traveller's Spinward Marches. Did I mention the Traveller section of the booklet is credited to Marc and Mary Beth Miller? That's why I keep calling this info canonical. "Marc Miller said it, I believe it, and that settles it." is a catchphrase I seen used to express what Mr. Miller means to the world of Traveller.

*That reminds me. I really got to review this game some time. It's Dave Arneson's attempt to write an RPG without Gygax. Reading AiF disabused me of the notion that Arneson was the unsung genius of the duo. Don't get me wrong, I like lots of stuff by both guys. But in my opinion neither ever really outdid their earliest works.

Shannon Appelcline's cool history of Chaosium -includes a neat passage on Thieves' World

A Notable Guide to Thieves' World

Green Ronin's new Thieves' World rpg line