I have begun a campaign set in a post-scarcity science fiction setting, called the Spiral Confederacy. The setting is a sprawling corner of the galaxy that was once a sprawling human interstellar empire. This empire fell apart in some ancient catastrophe that separated all the planets, and over thousands of years they lost contact with each other. A new empire, the Spiral Confederacy, has arisen and is slowly recovering all the planets of this diaspora, expanding from a central core. The Spiral Confederacy is divided roughly into the core, consisting of planets that have been connected for thousands of years; the Rim, containing planets reconnected in the past couple of hundred years, still recovering from their isolation; and the Frontier, which contains unexplored planets and Remnant planets, civilizations of the Diaspora that have not yet been reconnected. Adventures will start in the Frontier.

The Spiral Confederacy is close to a post-scarcity society, with so much wealth and resources that there is no need for most people to work or indeed to do anything they don’t want to. A person can live their whole life without working or contributing to society in any way but still have a guaranteed home, food, education, leisure, planetary and interstellar travel, with no conditions. The only limitation on standard needs is the amount of time it takes to procure them. The society is not completely post-scarcity, so although it is based on the principles of Iain M Banks’s Culture, it’s not possible in this Confederacy for a person to simply request a spaceship for themselves and disappear on a galactic tour for a hundred years – that level of resource consumption is still restricted. There are also many legal limits, still, on what people can have – you can’t fly a plane without a license and training, for example. But you can get on a plane and travel anywhere you want, any time. As a result of these restrictions there is still inequality – to have homes on multiple planets, for example, or own a spaceship, one will have to work and contribute and build up the right to this greater level of resource use. It is to achieve these rights that most people begin adventuring.

The Spiral Confederacy has several important underlying principles, described below.

  • AIs are illegal: The Confederacy has a deep and powerful hatred of AIs, and does all it can to drive them out of economic and social life. As a consequence, AIs are commonly found as enemies of human civilization. They have followers amongst the human population, however, who call on their powers as if they were gods – players can play these PCs as a new Traveller career called Adherents. As a consequence of this attitude towards AIs, all computer systems are heavily secured and hacking is almost impossible; furthermore, the Confederacy has reached the limits of its technological advancement (in Traveller terms, TL17) because further advancement is beyond human computational capacity and requires an AI contribution to science
  • Psionics are the scientific frontier: With scientific research stalled, human effort has turned to the development of psionics and the human mind, in the hopes of using these mysterious and little understood powers to advance human civilization. Psions are an acceptable character career and there is no limit on psionics in society, though it is considered polite for a psion to identify themselves clearly
  • Remnant worlds have “magic”: Many remnant worlds have fallen back into ruin and barbarism, and an interesting consequence of this slide is the development of priests and “magic”, something only observed in these backward worlds. The generally accepted theory is that these primitive worlds conceive of psionic powers as divine intervention or magic, and channel their powers through this mechanism; but interestingly, their powers are different to the standard psionics available to people from Core worlds. Study of these Remnant Priests is an important part of the program to advance psionics, and Priests are a new career available to players.
  • Information cannot travel faster than light: The only way to carry information between star systems is on spaceships, which travel at high speeds through jump technology (the standard Traveller system of moving a certain number of parsecs in a week of jump travel). There is no “ansible” or other method for conveying information without sending it through jump; matter can travel faster than light, but light cannot. Thus information takes weeks to move between star systems, so systems without regular trade routes can be months behind the news, creating a sense of frontier or colonial life, like the 17th century on Earth.
  • Consciousness is required for jump: It is not possible to send automated systems through jump space – for some reason, a consciousness is required to enter and leave jump. Computers can program jump paths and enter jump but they always, without fail, misjump or are lost in jump space. This includes AIs, either because the consciousness must be organic or they are in some sense not genuinely conscious (the argument made by the leaders of the Confederacy). This prevents AIs from spreading their consciousness between planets and forces them to rely on Adherents for this task; it also prevents the Confederacy from sending news between planets without devoting piloted spacecraft to the task, and creates pockets of space where news is patchy and information is not regularly updated. Pirates and criminals thrive in these pockets.

Against this backdrop the Confederacy is slowly spreading and joining up the planets of the old Diaspora. It fights a low-level war against AIs on its fringes, and occasionally also against Remnant planets who refuse to accept its protection and wealth, or against rebellions from within. As it expands it stumbles upon mysteries from before the first fall, and catastrophes or strange enemies. Greedy for history, it is always looking for brave or stupid adventurers to help with its contacts and conflicts on the fringe of its space – and it is on that frontier that we will conduct our adventures.

A full description of the Confederacy, and guidelines for house rules, can be downloaded here.