HD 33866 V: "Arcolais"


Star HD 33866 G3V 135.8 LY from Sol in Orion
(Gemini Sector)
Planet V
Diameter 10 331 km 0.81 D♁
Gravity 8.7 m/s² 0.88 g♁
Day 18.3 hours
Year 536.7 local days 1.12 a♁
Atmosphere 0.98 bar Oxygen 0.19 bar
Scale height 9.1 km
Oceans 85% water Tidal range 0.35 m
Climate 4 °C
Obliquity 47°
Illuminance 91 klx 85% as bright as Earth
Spaceport scale 1 ground facilities
Escape speed 9.5 km/s
Low orbit 161 km Period 85 minutes
Population 71.9 million Density 1.4 /km²
Spread agriculture,
small industrial cities
Economy inflexible mixed economy;
high taxes & transfers,
extensive public services
Development 5.5 (Communications Age)
Inequality marked, with privileged aristocracy Gini
Currency mark 𝔐 1 = SVU 1.11
(100 pfennig) 0.37
Households nuclear
Social unit art schools, “galleries”
Social quirks • prudery
• toleration for artistic libertinism
• social regard of critics, curators, and collectors
• art riots
Values • artistic ability
• artistic taste
• wealth
Taboos • nudity (waist to knees)
• crassness
• homosexuality
• polyamory
Government timocratic parliamentary republic
Head of state Governor
(appointed, retired judge)
Chief exec Premier
(during the confidence of Parliament)
Capital Ruskinburgh
Legal quirks • jury trials
• death penalty for rape and murder
• corporal punishment
• “Decency” laws against nudity, lascivious conduct, adultery, sodomy; exemptions for artistic endeavour
• “Aesthetic nuisance” a crime

HD 33866 V is a cool planet with dramatic seasons. The midnight sun and sunless winter days reach to latitude 43°. They bring late florid springs, short exuberant summers, catastrophic autumns, and bitter winters to wide polar zones, but prevent ice-sheets from forming. The colony—largely rural, but sprinkled with small industrial cites—is spread over the tropical parts of the sprawling continent Delecluze and large islands nearby.

Agriculture on Arcolais is dominated by large monoculture plantations that have high start-up costs, employ little labour, and profit from exporting vaccines, antibodies, and other products that need special handling. Settlement is expanding, but farming the frontier is tough unless you have ample capital and own land where the government favours development. Diversified family farming is stagnant; the government supports rural populations by decentralising commerce and service industries to country towns, spending on public goods there, and building rural infrastructure. Manufacturing is concentrated in cities of no great size, which specialise by industry. The economy is inflexible and inefficient, with stagnant wages, persistent unemployment, and high taxes for the rich.

The government is a parliamentary republic with political privileges graded according to wealth. Jury service and the vote are limited to adults who pay more in income tax than they receive in transfers—but free schools, medical care, and public facilities do not count as benefits. Local office and magistracies are limited to the prosperous, global office and senior judgeships to the rich. The government is dominated by the family and proteges of landed aristocrats, and contested by the family and proteges of industrial magnates. Rural areas are over-represented in Parliament on the pretext of equal access to representatives.

Society on Arcolais is distinctly prudish, even repressive. Exposing any part of the body from the waist to the knees is shameful (the upper torso is almost always clothed, too, and fashions permitting a line of sight between the knees are considered racy). Polyamory and casual sex are scandals; adultery, public indecency, and sodomy punished by caning. But much licence is allowed to artistic endeavours. Pictures and sculptures of nudes are everywhere; models pose nude without censure; practising artists are seldom prosecuted for sex with their muses, and often acquitted if they are. So cafés styled as art galleries offer free life drawing classes to their customers, and sleazy modelling agencies rent out “studios” by the hour. Amateur artists get a little easement; artistic celebrities can live flamboyantly unconventional lifestyles with near impunity.

Arcolais’ tolerance for artists’ peccadillos reflects a pervasive preoccupation with the visual arts. Art rather than STEM or literature is the core subject in the school curriculum. This by no means makes everyone an artist, but drawing and painting are common pastimes. People socialise in art classes and drawing groups, and as fans of artists and artistic fashions; they attend exhibitions as a shared social experience. Communities give a higher priority to their local galleries and museums than to sporting facilities, theatres, or libraries. Bars and cafés style themselves as galleries or art schools.

The resulting glut of basic artistic skills and competent amateur output makes it hard to sell artworks well, and there is fierce competition for jobs teaching art. Successful artists enjoy celebrity, but it is critics, gallery owners, curators, and above all wealthy collectors who have the power of bestowing it. The distinction of aristocrats on Arcolais is to own a collection, preferably including major works by old masters that were commissioned by their ancestors, and ideally housed in a gallery that is a major work of architecture, in a private park that is a masterpiece of landscaping.

In this context any art that cannot be collected or curated is challenging to the social hierarchy. Actors and musicians are disreputable, performance artists controversial. Occasional art riots occur, which have a social and economic dimension.

Arcolais’ ideas about art apply to architecture and town planning. Cities, towns, and country houses are picturesque, grand, even monumental—though sometimes inconvenient or impractical.

The Arcolais Academy of Art is a professional society of artists that enjoys untoward wealth and an inordinate sway over public opinion. It functions almost as a church hierarchy, and matches the social power of the wealthy collectors. There are four grades in the Academy: the licence and the diploma are awarded by coursework and examination of a portfolio; the members elect members and fellows. The fellows elect the president of the Academy. The licence is practically necessary to get a job teaching art or curating in a museum. Higher qualifications open up professorships, curatorships, and the directorships of art colleges. They also add weight to the holder’s opinions on aesthetic, moral and social matters—art critics are taken seriously on Arcolais. Therefore the members do not promote even great artists if they live conspicuously immoral lifestyles.


Beaumont Palace is the official residence of the President of the Academy of Art, surrounded by a city of museums, studios, workshops, galleries, sculpture gardens, offices, housing for officials and workers, tourist accommodations, casinos etc. The concentration of architecture and art is prodigious; every prospect is landscaped. The Academy is the major landlord of the surrounding Beaumont county, a picturesque alpine enclave. The President of the Academy is ex officio warden of the county and chief justice of the county court, appointing members and fellows to county offices. Beaumont County is policed and kept secure by proctors of the Academy of Art.

In Delight Square outside the Ruskinburgh Portrait Gallery there is a bronze group depicting a performance artist, Anghela Sudono, being attacked during a performance that provoked a riot in 545 ADT. Conservatives proclaim the statues as great art, but maintain that their subject is irrelevant and that the performance depicted was not art at all.

The Helicon Beach School of Muses is a private college that offers training in deportment and grooming to aspiring professional models, along with classes on portraying emotions and attitudes, and inspiring the artist. Physical education and gym training are included; a private beach allows all-over tanning. So far, more graduates have become actors or fashion models than muses for major artists. Talk-back critics on conservative radio denounce Helicon Beach as “a finishing school for prostitutes”; while a progressive blogger wrote that it “challenges the adage that a model is a found object.”

The Marthan Institute of Technology is the only prominent engineering school on Arcolais. Sponsored by the Imperial Technology Transfer Assistance Service, it is darkly rumoured to be an engine of social engineering being used to promote functionalism over aesthetics, grasping materialism, ugliness, and brutish insensitivity.

The grandest work of engineering on Arcolais is Streeton Gorge Dam , a titanic concrete arch dam in a spectacular location. The reservoir contains snow-melt from the Heidelberg massif for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and flood control. It drowned a grand canyon system that had been the subject of famous landscapes. There were protests against its construction, but the government ruled that a natural landscape is not art. They ignored the murals and carvings that opponents created on the canyon walls to halt construction. Now there is a wide discussion over whether the dam is beautiful, whether it is art, and whether it should be adorned with a gigantic mural painting.

A situation in soap opera

The Broadcast and Streaming department of the Cu Lin City Museum is a hotbed of lust, intrigue, and betrayal. Producers, broadcast talent, and technicians with vivid personalities and striking looks scheme endlessly over sex, promotions, and revenge, not to mention influence over the output of the department and, through it, over the city and the local branch of the Academy of Art. In a maze of flip-flopping from good to evil, the consistent heel is the ruthless Wendi Vanhague, popular and influential host of a drive-time talkback show, who broadcasts inflammatory social and political content without regard for truth or sincerity, and whom the audience love to hate.

Imperial presence on Arcolais

The Imperial presence on Arcolais amounts to little beyond the orbital ground-port, which is operated by the Eichberger Foundation. It and the Imperial enclave are guarded by a short platoon of Imperial marines, the naval presence is a single orbital monitor, and the Resident is comparatively junior. There are small offices of the Public Education Service, the Technology Transfer Assistance Service, and the Economic Advisory Service, but they are not well-staffed or busy, and ILEA has a team of only two investigators. Only the Imperial Service Recruitment Bureau seems to do any business.

If the political system is thus biased towards giving the rich more power, how does it manage to sustain high taxes for the rich?

I picture an Arcolaisian graffiti artist. “See, you can collect it… you just need to do major rebuilding work.”

An orbital monitor is presumably a vessel for bombarding the planet? Come to think of it, a short document on naval vessel types would be interesting.

It’s a military spacecraft without interstellar capacity and without the drive endurance to patrol asteroid mines and what have you, designed to hang out in orbit around a planet and light things up with a big laser. Monitors are meant mainly to destroy hostile and suspicious incoming vessels between when they arrive in the system using their FTL drives, before they can do anything nasty to the planet or orbital habitats. But if they were really optimised for that they would use vacuum-UV lasers for better DO/λ. Whereas they actually use ~500-nm lasers that give good performance through a breathable atmosphere. “To support counter-terrorism operations.” Where there is a balkanised planet with the technology for missiles the Empire puts in a lot of monitors.

I’m going to have to scrub up a consistent model of how much military junk the Empire puts on and around a planet as a function of its development, population, and circumstances.

Well, they tax income, not wealth, so that the established rich get to enjoy services in kind from their fancy stuff that are non-marketed and therefore not taxed, and to exercise influence by letting leases even though they pay tax on the income. That actually protects the position of the big rich by making it very hard to accumulate new wealth.

And then there is the element that some of the taxes go to things that the rich are content to fund jointly though they wouldn’t do so individually, including some revolution insurance.

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This is definitely one of the Great Big Holes in classic Traveller. The Imperium tends to be around when it would be convenient for the GM, and not otherwise.

Traveller is intended at least partly for campaigns in which the PCs get about in their own starship and use it for adventure shenanigans. So it sometimes matters whether there is an Imperial SDB in orbit the would obviate the problem or frustrate the PCs being a solution. I didn’t design Flat Black for that sort of campaign, so I don’t have that issue. That means that I can afford to follow the implications of astronomical populations, economic output, and defence budgets to their logical conclusions. Even a DL 5 backwater with a mere 200 million population ought to be able to support trade and military expenditure like the USA in 1950.