Free Traders Setup Part 5: The Seven Portals

Since historically these were just portages on the river Dnieper where rude strangers tried to take things from passing merchants, I feel I have a free hand. This part of the map is the fun bit, with half-understood alien technology and space pirates. Each of the giant portals will be different, but they will all have the enigmatic one-of-a-kind gimmicks that were such fun when the Traveller Ancients left them for the PCs to find.

Between Novgorod and Kiev, the Farside Route runs between star systems too far apart for normal hyperdrives; fortunately, some long-vanished alien race seems to have had the same problem, and left hyperspace portals bridging the gaps. Ships must fly a predictable course to use these portals, which makes them a favourite hunting ground for pirates; the normal method is to go as fast as you dare in the hope the pirates can’t match vectors in time.

Tags: Alien Ruins (the portals), Warlords (Rakashan pirates).

The Rakashans are standing in for the historical Pechenegs, of whom Wikipedia has this to say: "Although an important factor in the region at the time, like most nomadic tribes their concept of statecraft failed to go beyond random attacks on neighbours and spells as mercenaries for other powers." In the game’s time frame, for the last 200 years they have been raiding Kiev and its territories at random, culminating with blockading Kiev in (2)968, although they have also occasionally served as mercenaries in support of Kievan forces.

For these fellows I think I’ll drag in the Mandate Archive: Scavenger Fleets free web supplement for Stars Without Number. Select any or all of the fleets in that, and imagine them crewed by samurai cat-people instead of humans. There y’go, that’s your Rakashan pirates right there. Rakashans need a racial enemy, and since I expect the players to generate a mixed human-rakashan-robot crew, I can’t use humans or robots for that enemy; enter the Saurians, stage left. Beyond knowing that they and the Rakashans hate each other, I know nothing more about them at this point. If the Rakashans are Pechenegs, then probably the Saurians ought to be the Magyars, who for our purposes are much the same sort of chaps – raiding, pillaging and serving as mercenaries, although by 3000 or so (1000 AD historically) they were settling down a bit in present-day Hungary.

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5 thoughts on “Free Traders Setup Part 5: The Seven Portals

  1. The Rakashans might have the addage, “He who runs away today lives to steal your stuff/count coup tomorrow”, and might prefer tip and run raids in fast, lightly armoured ships. The Saurians, while still raiders, might be happy to engage, even at equal odds, and might use less nimble but more heavily armoured ships. The Rakashans almost treat raiding as a game, while the Saurians take, and hold.

    • Hmm, insofar as I’d been thinking about it at all, I’d been thinking of them as much the same – but I like the idea of differentiating them like this, thanks!

    • “while the Saurians take, and hold.” If they take and hold, they aren’t really raiding, they’re conquering. Maybe Rakashans count success in terms of the monetary value of what they steal, whereas Saurians count it in terms of the monetary value they DESTROY.

      • Maybe the Saurians historically raided, but now are shifting to take and hold. There’s a plot hook there (why are they changing behaviour?) and it’s what their historical analogues the Magyars were doing at about this point in their real-world timeline.

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