Stroller Collective
This is a CoreNet series on people and cultures.
The unifying insignia of the Stroller Collective

The Stroller Collective is a group of 200-odd nomadic spacefaring clans. Because of their transient status and desire to remain largely apart from other groups they have no official representation in the CSFR Presidium or any other sector- or system-wide authority.

Strollers rarely touch down planetside, and often live their entire lives in spaceborne craft, landing only to trade or barter.


League Era

The forerunners of the Collective were originally emergency colonists during the worst years of the population crunch.

In the early 2200s overcrowding and resource allocation had forced Earth to a crisis point. New Jump drives could not be constructed and installed fast enough to transport colonists to other worlds, and millions died from want as synthesized food producers struggled to keep pace with the expansive population.

The crisis reached a peak in the 2240s, when the League's Extrasolar Colony Council began moving future colonists into unfinished ark ships for long-term habitation. In the first year of housing them, more than three thousand people died from unsanitary conditions and crime. Reports of police brutality and withheld resources were magnified by charges of information censoring. Earth's handling of the situation was widely criticized, and helped raise support for the wider body of government that the League represented.

Following the debacle, groups that had filed legal complaints against the ECC demanding the return of their former residences on Earth were ceded semi-autonomous control of three ark ships. This situation was exacerbated by a majority vote among the provisional staff to develop and launch their own Jump drives. Their initial actions were met with force by Sol System police, as the act of possessing a Jump drive was at that time restricted to League personnel only. Several small conflicts erupted, and more than eight hundred transients died in a single incident when an explosion opened the hull of a queued ship and exposed the entire population to vacuum.

The one-sided response by the system police galvanized the insular mindset that would lead to the Stroller Collective. By this time the living conditions shipside had entered the public consciousness and the League simply wanted the contentious PR nightmare gone. In 2252, the rechristened Ocean Star, Hawk and Revelation left Earth orbit, never to return.


The three ships left Sol System without any sanctioned destination, and were forcibly removed from several colony sites where they attempted to depart their ships en masse and overtax the colonies' resources. Based on statements made after arriving in Appian System, the would-be colonists hoped to intervene in the colonial queue order, a process that was impossible given the hairline margins of early colonial supply lines and site capacities.

What followed were long years of orbiting the fringes of colonized systems and surviving on government aid, interspersed with transit to new prospective worlds. The mortality rate among the first three ships is estimated at 78%, based on records retrieved from the ships' onboard medical systems. In the course of their drifting the ships attracted criminals and other groups of people eager to live in unregulated conditions, and for every colonist that was cast into space or recycled, another was willing to take their place and keep the ships' life support systems running at peak.

The lawless nature of the ships quickly became a focus of sector authorities wherever the ships appeared. At this time, the three original ships still Jumped in tandem to maintain a bare support network during their long periods of orbiting and procuring government supplies. Numerous system governments passed laws limiting the nomads' ability to requisition government assistance with the hope of keeping the ark ships out of local space.

Other systems began ignoring or repealing boarding laws and began searching the ark ships for suspected or known criminals. Numerous firefights occurred, including several where bystanders were injured or killed.

Ship Convention of 2272

Twenty years after the first of them left Earth orbit, the crews of the seven Strollers (as they were derisively referred to at the time) met aboard the Hot Jinn and established protocol for arming themselves and presenting a unified front. By now the crews were almost entirely comprised of people who chose life on a transient ship or could not afford to live elsewhere.

Every Stroller ship had at least a half-dozen legals aboard and on call at any time (legals were and still are a valued commodity aboard Stroller ships, being jealously guarded and rarely traded for other crew members). The Strollers migrated to Miriam and settled there in 2289, during a tremendous spike in the planet's economy. The Strollers remained apart from the general population, largely continuing to live in their (planetside) ships, while pursuing a rapid expansion of their own capabilities. Their legals were able to secure long-term aid agreements from several League groups, even while tensions between Strollers and Miriam natives rose.

With the outbreak of the Human-Skaald War, the Strollers once again took to space. Their lifestyle was seen as an affront to the war effort and they were widely hated during the opening years of the conflict. By this time there were more than twenty main Stroller ships and about ten support craft. Their population had reached the point where the presence of every ship taxed a system' generosity too greatly. The Strollers were able to use the implication of large-scale migration as leverage to secure small-scale aid in sectors far removed from the front lines, and began coordinated dispersing in 2312.


The Stroller Collective is a diaspora culture comprised of several castes living in a rough agreement. At the top are the actual crews, comprised of people recognized as legitimate authorities by the chiefs/captains and the ships' security systems. Underneath them are the work gangs comprised of anyone wanting access to rations or a recognized sleeping space. The lowest caste is made of genuine transients hoping to find work and food as crew members, passengers without the means to secure better transport, and criminals using the ships as cover.

Many outsiders view the Strollers as thieves and con artists, which does little toward securing aid. Strollers culture encourages thrift and resourcefulness, and their ships are often stocked with handmade supplies like sandcaster shells packed with ground asteroid chaff and salvaged glass.

Stroller cuisine is mainly comprised of vac-sealed or otherwise preserved ingredients. Fresh produce is prized, as most cargo space is reserved for high-density galley slabs.

Their dress is often plain and unremarkable spacer overalls, but many Strollers decorate their suits with handmade or unique decorations and pieces of clothing. Religious ceremonies often occur immediately prior to Jumps. Incense is burned and prayers are sung to ensure a safe Jump and future prosperity in the system their ship is bound for. This propensity for hope is no doubt bolstered by the unsettlingly high rate of J-drive failure among Stroller craft.

Other notable ceremonies or celebrations are performed during the following:

  • Marriage between two clans. Customs include ceremonially cleansing the couple's room or sleeping space during the wedding and saving a soil sample of the first planet the two touch down on after becoming a couple. If one of the partners is an outsider, there is an additional ceremony to bind them into the clan.
  • Dividing a clan into two ark ships. This ceremony involves naming the new captain, christening the new ark, and giving gifts and supplies to the new crew. Stroller children often leave drawings of their new ark behind so the souls of their deceased friends and relatives can find them.
  • Discovery of a dead Stroller ark. This involves prayers for the deceased, the ritual recycling of bodies, and salvage of the ship. If the ship is still in working order, there is also the celebration of a new ship for the clan.
  • Discovery of a dead outsider ship. This involves the ritual jettisoning of bodies and salvage of the ship. Strollers rarely comm outsider authorities to avoid accusations.

Strollers do not have a strong internal monetary policy, relying on barter for day-to-day existence. Stroller clan ships always travel in groups of two or three for security (in case of pirates or power plant failure) as well as for political capital. The clans have obligations to aid each other to the best of their ability, which is mitigated by pride. In a crisis situation, the crew of a derelict ship submits control of their ship, any cargo, and the use of their crews or work gangs to a rescuing Stroller clan.

Most Jumps are carefully planned in advance and competent chiefs will have reached aid agreements with distant systems before any Jump transit. Naturally, system authorities are loathe to have their home governments be targeted for Stroller intrusion. Requisitioned government aid forms only a small part of the modern Collective's economy. Mining concerns often hire on entire clans, and they are known as competent belting and salvage crews. Stroller clans occasionally use their ships to haul cargo (legitimate or not).

Political Structure

The Stroller Collective's internal structure is an intricate webs of favors, services expected, honor debts, and familial obligations, tied up with the carefully orchestrated cycle of deference and predation of system governments.

The captain of a Stroller ark ship is the final authority on that ship, and speaks for the clan when dealing with other clans or outsiders. The clan captains meet in person for all major decisions. Votes are weighted by the size of their populations and the prestige or perceived value of their bridge or engineering crews. A majority vote is needed for most decisions affecting all Strollers, but some decisions like declared war require a near-total consensus.

The crew of a typical Stroller ship is mostly comprised of blood or familial relatives. High-demand specialists like engineers and legals are also considered crew, but may be traded to other ships. Blood or familial relatives are almost never traded to other ships for any significant lengths of time unless a clan-crew is being divided.

During a trading meet or other large-scale business transaction the entire ship population is expected to be on call to assist.

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