As I have discussed elsewhere, I am working on the Solomani Worlds for Traveller. Since then, I was asked if a group of people trying to eek out a living at the edge of the law was possible there considering that so much of the sector is under heavy-handed, represive Imperial puppet governments. My instinct was to answer yes, citing a number of problems in the region. But my mind kept working on that, trying to figure out exactly how that could work. I came up with three general categories that I feel are excellent sources of adventure in the region. More exist, of course, but here are some that any GM should be able to work with.
1) Selling/Delivering Controlled Goods and Services
Naturally this one sounds evil to North Americans and Western Europeans, but most of us have never lived under a repressive regime. Here these consist mainly of drugs, prostitution, and similar. In Iran before the internet, this consisted of Western music; in Cuba 10+ years ago as well as China and North Korea today, this consists of information from the outside world.
Leaving the last four countries mentioned is not really an option for most of their citizens, especially if they do not want to go back. As such smuggling persons out of their territories does occur. These prospect are expensive and dangerous but for those that do not want to stay any longer (no matter the reason) and happen to be really, really lucky, there can be a way out.
So how would this work in Traveller? The Solomani Confederacy lacks Earth-grown coffee. Occupied systems lack holovid shows that have a distinct pro-Imperium bent to them. Smuggling a fugitive out of Imperial territory or a revolutionary into the territory is always a possibility. Playing ferry-smugglers has always been a classic Traveller trope. Here, what those smuggling bins are loaded up with is up for question.
2) Get The MacGuffin
Someone that can pay X amount up front wants something and they hire you to get it. This is the classic Firefly episode Train Job. However, there it was medication to be sold on the black market. Why not flip that on its head: the Imperium wants to punish a group for their lack of loyalty and seizes their medical supplies during a pandemic (just pulling some hypothetical example out of nowhere), and the Travellers are hired by the locals to bring them supplies from elsewhere, having to dodge government surveillance the entire time.
Similar examples can involve hunting down documents/evidence proving someone’s claim to be a legitimate heir to a piece land/planet, guilt/innocence of a crime, or simply returning a piece of a group’s heritage to them.
3) Corporate Espionage
“It’s always legal if a corporation pays enough money to the right people to make it legal.”
While stealing information from one corporation and giving it to another is also nothing new, the reason for it changes. In this example, the plans to be stolen are from an Imperial corporation, and the product is manufactured on a higher tech world, making it impossible for the corporation on an occupied world to ever compete. The other corporation cannot purchase the technology since purchasing such tech there is illegal. However, if they could “develop it on their own,” they could pay off the appropriate people to let them manufacturer it.
This basic adventure idea is more or less a subset of the previous, but I broke it out for one simple reason: money. This one is all about the pay day while the last was about the stories of the people and their struggles, their identity, living under a government without any say in how they are governed.
Need more ideas for your game? Grab the D66 Compendium 2. This Traveller book features more than just names, but also ideas to help you when you need it. Always be prepared with the D66 Compendium 2, available exclusively at DriveThruRPG.