by Hans Rancke-Madsen
Art by Tom Peters and Colored by Alex Fernandez
For many centuries Forboldn was a neglected backwater where a few poor settlers battled climate, atmosphere and soil to make a living and barely managed to keep the population level steady. But today all that is changing thanks to massive Imperial aid. A huge terraforming project to change the atmosphere and climate is underway, and new settlers are bringing much-needed skills and muscle to the planet. Everybody agrees that Forboldn is finally going places. But not everybody are satisfied with the direction it is heading. . .
The following description details Forboldn in the year 1117. Events in the main Traveller universe and the GURPS Traveller universe have not yet diverged far enough to affect Forboldn, so the description is equally valid for both universes. A few notes at the end outlines how things will develop for the Rebellion and the New Era.
Forboldn is a non-industrial Imperial planet orbiting in the life zone around Ivush, a G0 V star with a mass of 1.04 and a stellar luminosity of 1.05. It is a large, molten-core planet with a diameter of 8,080 miles. The density is 6.05 grams per cubic centimeter (1.1 Earth's density), the mass is 1.16 Earth masses, and the gravity is 1.11 G. The rotation period is 26h 24m 00s and the orbital period is 724.88 days (668.1 local days). The atmosphere is a standard oxygen-nitrogen mix with a surface pressure of 2.11 tainted by high C02 concentrations. Hydrographic percentage is 26. The axial tilt is 27 degrees and the orbital eccentricity is nil. Base temperature is 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) giving Forboldn a summer high of 156 degrees F (69 degrees C) at the equator and a winter low of -44 degrees F (-42 degrees C) at the poles. Native life is present.
The high C02 content of the atmosphere has largely restricted development of Forboldn to the highlands where the concentration is low enough to be tolerable. Though filter masks allow humans to breathe in the lowlands, most people prefer to make their home where they can breathe without artificial aid. 80% of the population lives on the Wueldn Plateau, an area roughly the size of France located in the southern temperate zone, and on other, smaller, high-lying areas. The remaining 20% consists of people with a higher than normal tolerance for CO2 who are able to survive at lower altitudes and are spread out across the rest of the planet. On Forboldn, where people for many generations have bred for this trait, it is much more common than usual and many Forboldians can survive CO2 levels that would quickly kill a normal, baseline human. Though strictly speaking this tolerance is distributed evenly along a curve, for gaming purposes it is divided into three discrete levels. Most people will have at most one level of CO2 tolerance (and that only rarely). Only people from Forboldn and planets with similar atmospheric conditions will have two and three levels.
The land surface of Forboldn is divided into four regions: The Highlands, where baseline humans can breathe comfortably; the Uplands; the Midlands; and the Lowlands at sea level. To breathe comfortably in the Uplands, 1 level of CO2 tolerance is necessary, in the Midlands 2 levels are necessary, and in the Lowlands 3 are required. A yoga-like discipline akin to Breath Control allows an adept to breathe air one level above his tolerance level as long as he is conscious.
Forboldn's population is presently undergoing a rapid growth due to a large number of immigrants being ferried in from the Imperial core. The official figure was roughly 3 million as of 001-1117, but a large number of people living in the lowlands refuse to cooperate with the census and is not included in the figure. Estimates range from 100,000 to half a million, with 200,000 being considered the most likely figure.
The planet is governed by an organization called the Forboldn Meliorative Society, LIC, a company in which most citizens have stock. The control rating is 3. The technology is mostly TL 5 except for the rapidly expanding city of Ashar located next to Forboldn Starport which is closer to TL 10 due to recent massive imports of equipment from Regina.
Forboldn was settled in two stages, in 83 by the Asharii, a group of exiles driven from Lishun during one of the Imperial pacification campaigns, and in 141 by the Gugurans, a group of utopians from Dagudashaag with a fake grant to the planet sold them by a swindler. The result was a smoldering brushfire war between the two groups that lasted for five generations. In 234 the Ashari government was recognized by the Emperor as the sole legitimate government of Forboldn and immediately petitioned to join the Imperium. In 250 Forboldn and six other planets in the Regina Cluster was formally admitted. With Imperial aid the so-called Endless War was formally ended in 286, but accidents and mismanagement combined to keep the settlers poor and their technology low. With the pressure of the Endless War removed, the two rival settlements spread out and degenerated into numerous squabbling villages unable to cooperate on anything. Many settlers moved to areas far from their former neighbors, thus spreading the sparse population out across much of the habitable land. The world government soon found it impossible to govern the widely dispersed population and, though never formally dissolved, ceased to function within decades. No Imperial noble was ever appointed for the planet.
Over the years the distinction between Ashari and Gugurans blurred and became overridden by a general dislike of anybody not belonging to whatever local community one belonged to. From time to time larger political units arose, usually by force of arms, but they never encompassed more than a fraction of the planet and seldom lasted for more than one or two generations.
In 987 the Ministry of Colonization decided to attempt to utilize the many hectares of prime land not in use on Forboldn. This, however, provoked the locals into reviving the colonial government that has lain crippled for centuries. If the locals could not agree on anything else, they could at least agree that they did not want any outsiders muscling in.
For many decades the situation remained deadlocked until the ministry in 1089 finally persuaded the locals to allow the formation of the Forboldn Meliorative Society, LIC, a company in which they all received stock. The lure was the sizable subsidies promised by the ministry. The cost was an agreement to let in more settlers.
The plan was to import 1 million new settlers from 1110 to 1120, each new settler receiving roughly the same amount of stock as the original 2.2 million inhabitants. With their skills the tech level and wealth of the planet would hopefully increase to the point where more new settlers could be attracted with less inducement. The Ministry of Colonization goal was a healthy TL 9-10 agricultural planet with around 10 million inhabitants.
In 1110, when the first batch of new settlers arrived, that plan was already going awry. Parts of the project were several years behind even before the 5th Frontier War caused them to come to a screeching halt. Unfortunately, the plan involved recruiting new settlers in the Imperial core and this part was not affected by the war; the settlers began arriving exactly according to schedule. But the infrastructure necessary to house them, feed them, and put them to work had not been built. It became necessary to divert project funds to buy supplies and ferry them to Forboldn. Worse, the local Colonial Office officials have decided to cover up the problem, so the Ministry of Colonization believes everything is going fine and colonists keep coming. So far the Colonial Office has managed to keep most of the newcomers alive, but little progress has been made in making them self-sufficient.
Forlodn Meliorative Society, LIC
The corporation that governs Forboldn and controls the implementation of the Forboldn Project was formed in 1089 in cooperation between the population of Forboldn who contributed ownership of the planet and the Ministry of Colonization which contributed the capital. Stock ownership in the new company was: Original settlers: 51%; First wave of new settlers: 20%; Ministry of Colonization (for later distribution to more new settlers): 27%; Imperial Family: 2%.
There are 100 million shares in all. 51% of the stock was distributed to everyone registered by a census in 1090, a total of 2,166,114 for an average of 23.5 shares apiece. The shares were distributed by a formula that gave adults more and children less than the average number of shares. The new arrivals from 1110 onwards each received 20 shares regardless of age out of the Ministry's allotment. Due to some redistribution from sales and inheritances typical holdings today range from 10 to 60 shares.
A 12 man Board of Governors is elected every six years to run the company and Forboldn. Voting is public with each citizen having as many votes as he has shares. Shares belonging to minors are voted by their legal guardians. The most recent election was in 1113. Very few newcomers voted and the ministry refrained from using their 27%. All twelve current board members belong to the old settlers. Their efforts to govern has been generally ineffective in the face of recent setbacks, growing corruption, and increasingly radical opposition.
Other Power/Interest Groups
The Colonial Office
The Colonial Office is a Ministry of Colonization agency with branches organized on the subsector level to implement the policies of the ministry. Sir Louis Farlane, the Director of the Duchy of Regina branch, has high hopes that when the Emperor gets around to appointing a baron for Forboldn, something that he is expected to do soon, he will choose Sir Louis. If, that is, Sir Louis can manage to hide the problems that are plaguing the project from higher authority.
The office is dissatisfied with the level of cooperation it is receiving from the Board of Governors and has been trying to seize greater control of the project.
The 51% of stock was distributed to everyone registered by a census in 1090 and the new arrivals from 1110 onwards each received shares out of the Ministry's allotment. But no provision was made for the children born to the citizens since 1090. Some families have shared the stock with their new children and other children have inherited from deceased family members, but there is a large group of "angry young people" who feel cheated and are causing a lot of unrest.
Another disenfranchised group, or rather, a large number of groups, are the outbackers. These are small isolated communities in remote, inaccessible areas, clannish and suspicious of strangers, whose favorite recreation is shooting tax collectors and census takers and feuding with their neighbors. Having refused to cooperate with the census of 1090, they did not receive any stock.
One group of outbackers that merit special mention is the Swampers. They live in the great jungle swamps south of the Neasnik Sea and can become very old thanks to their diet which includes a species of tree krakens whose liver has anagathic properties. They marry late and have few children. They are excessively reclusive even by outbacker standards.
A ranger-like patrol was established in 1096 with planetwide jurisdiction and is trying to tame the outback. Until recently corruption was as rife in the Constabulary as in any other branch of the administration, but the new commandant, Oongor Verngoldn, has fought a hard fight to clean up the organization.
Tree Kraken Poachers
Tree Krakens are a family of arboreal animals native to Forboldn. Different species can be found at all altitudes. Some of them have a liver-like organ with anagatic properties. For this reason they have all been hunted extensively over the centuries, and some species have become extinct. All Tree Krakens are now protected by Imperial edict. Tree Kraken poaching is a dangerous, but potentially very profitable, venture.
Algae project scientists and eco-guerillas
One very controversial part of the Forboldn Project involves seeding the oceans with super-photosynthesizing algae designed to remove the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Some environmentalists claim that this will cause the extinction of millions of native species. Others go further and claim that the level of free oxygen in the atmosphere will become dangerously high and thus just replace one atmospheric taint with another. The powerful environmentalist organization The Pan-Galactic Friends of Life are lobbying the Emperor for a ban on the project. Meanwhile scientists are busy seeding the oceans and more extremist groups than the PGFL are trying to sabotage the project, so far with a considerable amount of success.
In the main Traveller universe, the Rebellion puts the final nail in the Forboldn Project's coffin. The last 300,000 of the original million settlers never arrive, and with the loss of the ministry subsidy the economy does not improve nearly as much as had been hoped for. There is some slight improvement, however, and despite difficulties the company does survive.
Eventually the Regency's new Ministry of the Interior takes over the MoC and Imperial Family stock, most of which is distributed to refugees from other Imperial planets who are resettled on Forboldn - incidentally causing a blurring of the division between the first two groups of settlers. In addition, some of the original stock is sold to wealthy refugees. The population increases to 4.5 million in 1200, including 1.25 million refugees from Imperial worlds. In the next two years almost 1.5 million refugee Zhodani arrives. In 1202 stock ownership of the company is: Original and 'new' settlers: 65%; Imperial refugees: 33%; Ministry of the Interior: 2%.
In the GURPS Traveller universe the Colonial Office stages a coup in 1119. They use their 27% of the stock to elect a puppet board whose first act is to ask the Colonial Office to step in and take over the reins of government. Resentment among the old settlers runs high, but at first the moderates prevail; except for a few individual acts of violence, reactions are mostly confined to sending a complaint to the ministry. The whole planet is a powder keg, however, and if something does not happen to relieve the tension, a civil war is imminent. Meanwhile, the Colonial Office continues to issue cheerful progress reports.
- Recently a bomb exploded aboard Algae Seed Station Four, a huge platform floating in the northern part of the Neasnik Sea near the equator; fortunately without doing too much harm. The Evolutionary Protection Army claimed responsibility for the deed. The EPA is a radical environmentalist group which oppose any interference with what they call "natural evolution." They have been known to bomb desert reforestation projects and rainforest logging operations at the same time. Dr. Flora McKenzie, the manager of the station, expects further attempts to sink the platform and is looking for a group of people to beef up security. The job will be complicated by scientists who resent any precautions that interfere with their work, a turf war with the old security guards who are sensitive about their failure to prevent the outrage and suspicions that one of them helped the EPAs, and the necessity of wearing protective suits against the heat and the CO2.
- The PCs are contacted in a roundabout fashion by Oongor Verngoldn, the Commandant of the Forboldn Constabulary. He suspects that the branch office in the Aur Uesh District has one or more bad apples in it. Worse, from various incidents he also suspects that someone in his own office is in league with these corrupt officers, so he dare not send in any of his own people to check. He offers to pay the PCs handsomely if they will conduct an independent investigation.
- A journalist has been killed or gravely injured, and somehow the PCs have come into possession of his belongings. He may have remained conscious long enough to ask them to bring his belongings to a wife or an editor, or they may just have found it hidden away somewhere. It soon becomes clear that at least three, possibly more, different groups all want something that is hidden in the luggage. It turns out to be a holocrystal concealed in the handle of his toothbrush. The crystal contains meticulous documentation of accidents and mismanagement in connection with the Forboldn Project and of how the Colonial Office has covered up these incidents. Obviously, one of the groups that are after the crystal is working for the Colonial Office. Another is working for the local government. The rest are agents of several different Imperial nobles -- Marquis Evan of Roup and Marchioness Josephine of Efate to mention two (Count Evan and Countess Josephine for the main Traveller universe). These Imperial nobles all hope that when the Emperor gets around to appointing a baron for Forboldn, the new baron will become their vassal. Each hope that if he or she is the one to expose the problems with the Forboldn Project, he or she will be assigned the task of cleaning up the mess and thus be in a position to impress the Emperor with his or her zeal and efficiency. For added complication make the content of the crystal encrypted. The key is held by someone else: a colleague who is on the run, perhaps, or an unknown hotel thief or the aforementioned wife/editor.
GM's may be interested in two books by Paul Anderson, Orbit Unlimited and New America, which features a planet with an atmosphere similar to that of Forboldn.
Article publication date: March 24, 2000
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