Spooky action at a distance

Social Standing in Traveller

Traveller has this weird stat called Social Standing. Perhaps a more appropriate name for it is Nobility’, because the only thing it determines is if the character has a noble status (gained at values 11+). Social Standing can be improved through service to the Empire, for example by rolling a career in the Navy. In this post I wanted to see how Social Standing works in Traveller and how I would use it in my own campaign.

In Classic Traveller (1977) the stat is described as:

the social class and level of society from which the character (and their family) come.

I actually like the tiny reference to family reputation, since I think it is a great theme that can be used by the referee to insert drama and conflict into a campaign.

Mongoose Traveller (2008) is an example of the standardised description used in subsequent editions:

A character’s place in society. Characters with a high Social Standing can claim a noble title in the Imperium and will find life much easier thanks to their reputation and contacts.

All editions provide some version of the table below to determine the exact noble rank of a character. As character stats can only go up to 15, so Monarch and Emperor titles are reserved for non-player characters.

Rank Title Description
10 N/A Highly regarded individual, celebrity in their field, a name on the lips of many.
11-12 Knight Without land, but with a noble title.
13-15 Princep Land owning noble.
16 Monarch Ruler of an entire world.
17 Emperor Ruler of several worlds.

All editions agree that being a noble makes your life easier, but what about everyone who is not part of the nobility? The main issue with the Social Standing stat is that if it’s below 10 or 11, it goes completely unused.

Traveller5 (2013) has one of the most detailed nobility systems of all editions. Nobles receive income from their land and can vote in the Imperial senate. The only other way to gain land (apart from being born into nobility) is to discover uncharted planets. I find this alternative way of owning land within the Empire an interesting way to motivate characters. It got me thinking, what if the Social Standing stat showed the character’s relationship to owning land?

I propose the Stardom stat (stands for star dominion) as a replacement. Its value decides how close the character is to Imperial nobility, and in turn, their rights to stellar objects in Imperial space.

Rank Title Owning
6 or less Asteroids, for mining purposes.
7-8 Star system without worlds, for establishing bases.
9-10 Land on a non-habitable world, for terraforming.
11-12 Knight An entire non-habitable world.
13-15 Princep Land on a habitable world.
16 Monarch An entire habitable world.
17 Emperor Several worlds or star systems.

This integrates nicely with Travellers nobility system and makes the stat useful for non-noble characters. Campaign opportunities, such as defending or developing land, are now relevant to all characters. Of course this also turns Traveller into a petite-bourgeois fantasy of landownership (in the grand tradition of D&D), which has its drawbacks if you are looking for a more swashbuckling campaign.

What are your thoughts on feudalism in space?

Published on August 14, 2023.

Tagged: traveller   reputation   domain  


Spooky action at a distance is a blog run by emmy verte, to muse on sci-fi, fantasy location exploration and short fiction. You can donate to support Ukraine here.