Merry Christmas, Everybody…
(That’s a story I will write some day.)
Merry Christmas, Everybody…
(That’s a story I will write some day.)
Lots of assortedness:
I am currently building a Traveller sector. I am using the Mongoose Traveller rules as a basis, though I have modified them somewhat. First of, a word of warning: If you want to create a Traveller setting, do not be deceived by the simplicity of the statistics for each world. A sector can easily contain 400 or more worlds, and this results in a lot of work if you want to have some sort of consistent result.
First step: The Region
As you know, Traveller subsectors are arranged in a 4×4 grid within a sector.
As my first step, I decided how common stars should be in each subsector. I decided that my “core” subsectors should have a higher number of stars and that the periphery of Colonial Space should include some rift-like regions. I settled on this:
To give myself a better idea what the region of space looked like, I then drew the following small map of a 3×3 sector grid:
Second Step: Star Placement
Next, I rolled whether each hex had a star system in it or not. And, yes, at this point I was still rolling dice. To make things faster, I rolled a bunch of d6 at one time and checked hexes off top to bottom. Needless to say this was a ridiculous approach; I should have just written a small script to roll up the sector. More on this later. At this point I had a hexmap with a lot of circles.
Third Step: System data
I quickly discovered that rolling actual system data took way too long to even contemplate doing it manually – there were too many dice modifiers involved, especially since I wanted to use the “realistic” optional rules in the hope that it would reduce the silly results I would get.
This is the point where I whipped together a simple awk script. It had no awareness of the actual layout of the sector, and it could not draw maps, so I spent another insane amount of time to center all those star system circles, colored them according to water/no water, and added spaceport classes.
I also added “trade routes” – basically just solid lines connecting A class ports that were in proximity of each other, and dashed lines connecting B ports to A ports and other B ports in their proximity. (Disregarding the Traveller 3rd Imperium jump limitations, as my FTL will work differently.)
Finally I used the result to sketch a rough border for my primary polity, an Empire (again, more on that later). At this point my map looked like this:
Step Four: Name That Star
After I had gathered data, the next step was to assign a name to every system. I had a bit of an easy start, because I had already gathered a list of 600+ potential names for colony worlds. Many of them were based on Earth locations, people etc which are not suitable for this setting. I did decide to leave in many of the mythology based names – out of necessity as much as anything else. So there’s no “New California”, for example, but a “Morrigan” and an “Uller”. Picking names, coming up with more names, and placing everything on the map took several days. I also began to draw additional borders for minor polities.
This is a snapshot of the work in progress.
Step Five: Consistency and Detailing
After I had named all star systems, I began an interative process – this is where I am currently at. Basically, I am transcribing every system from the spreadsheet to a text document. At the same time I add Amber/red zones on the map, check for problems, and try to make sense of the results.
One side effect of this process is that a number of smaller states have appeared on the map, for example the Atsinanana Star Empire – one clearly powerful world was sitting right next to two captive worlds.
As I type this, I have 8 out of 16 subsectors to go, but I picked the subsectors with fewer systems to start with – call it 40% done.
Lessons Learned So Far
Creating Traveller star maps is surprisingly much work. If I were to do it again, I’d do a few things differently:
Current map WIP
What can I say, I had a handful of Euros to burn.
I spent some time jotting down a few commonalities of various popular Science Fiction franchises. Here’s what I have so far.
|Franchise||Genre||Location||Time||Aliens||Focus||Protag||Base of Ops||Antag|
|Star Wars||Space Fantasy||Other Galaxy||Past||Countless||War||Soldiers||Ship||Evil Empire|
|Star Trek||Space Opera||Orion spur||Centuries in the future||Countless||Exploration||Soldiers||Ship||Evil Aliens|
|Babylon 5||Space Opera||Orion spur||Centuries in the future||Many||War||Soldiers||Space station||Evil Aliens|
|Firefly||Space Western||Distant system||Centuries in the future||None||Crime||Criminals||Ship||Evil Empire|
|Farscape||Space Opera||Distant region||Present||Many||Exploration, Escape||Fugitives||Ship||Evil Empire|
|Eve Online||Space Opera||Distant cluster||Millenia in the future||None||War, Economy, Exploration||Various||Ship||Everybody else|
|Mass Effect||Space Opera||Milky Way||Centuries in the future||Many||War, Exploration||Soldiers||Ship||Evil Aliens|
|Traveller||Space Opera||Orion spur||Millenia in the future||Many||Exploration, Economy||Various||Ship||Evil Empire|
|Known Space||Space Opera||40ly||Centuries in the future||Several||Exploration||Explorers||Planets||Various|
|Battlestar Galactica (2004)||Space Opera||Milky Way||Past||None||War||Soldiers||Ship||Robots|
|Stargate||Space Opera||Milky Way||Present||Several||Exploration||Soldiers||Earth||Evil Aliens|
|Doctor Who||Space Comedy||Milky Way||Present||Many||Timetravel||Special||Ship||Robots|
|Alien||Space Horror||Close to Earth||Centuries in the future||Few||Horror||Soldiers||Planets||Evil Aliens|
|Warhammer 40k||Space Horror||Milky Way||Millenia in the future||Many||War||Soldiers||Planets||Evil Aliens|
|Dune||?||Orion spur||Millenia in the future||None||Politics||Nobles||Planets||Evil Empire|
|Piper||Space Opera||Milky Way Galaxy||Centuries in the future||Some||Politics, Exploration||Various||Planets||Various|
Now, obviously a few of these entries require comments:
Dune: Not exactly sure what “genre” this is. I’d say science fiction politics, since the dynastic struggle is a big focus. But then there are also religious/philosophical tones to it. I do have to admit I never could bring myself to finish even the first book, so take this with a grain of salt.
Warhammer 40k: It’s also a space fantasy if there ever was one (Elves and stuff, hello?)
Doctor Who: It isn’t really a comedy, but while it has gotten more “mature”, I still have a hard time taking the show serious. It’s a weird mix, at any rate; it’s kind of a time travel show (though time travel is really only a gimmick), sort of space opera, and sort of zany. The protagonists are The Doctor (a time traveller) who is aided by “everyday people” companions.
Traveller: Did not really have an antagonist per se. The Zhodani work as an “evil empire”. The New Era featured the vampire computer virus.
Known Space: Doesn’t really have an enemy per se. The Pakh protectors, the Kizinti, the Thrint, and so on all count but there is not really one standard enemy. It’s more a series about exploration in my opinion.
Piper: Very similar to Known Space in that there is not one enemy species or polity. The Federation serves as an antagonist in some novels, but is the protagonist in others.
So, what sort of conclusion do we draw from this?
A successful space franchise should either have no aliens at all or a whole bunch of them (and in any case most of them are clearly strange humans in strange rubber suits). It’s set centuries or millenia in the future, covers a large volume of space and features soldiers or rebels who use a spaceship as their basis. No real surprises there.
Of course this ‘research’ is very unscientific, I’d like to include more franchises and a measure of success for each franchise (Star Trek is more successful than Firefly – by far – and thus should probably weigh more in the analysis).
Lots and lots of assorted goodness this month:
Not a lot this month, but hey, I’ve been busy.
Spaaaaaaaace! and the Future
I decided – rather arbitrarily, I’ll admit – to close the settings poll. First of all “THANK YOU!” to all of you who did cast a vote.
The results are:
I knew Enderra and Somnium would score relatively well – I posted a lot of Sci Fi stuff, and worked on the map much; and Enderra is, after all, the namesake of the site; I am, however, surprised Antarctica and Arnaron scored so well. As for Terra and Desolate Earth, I think those are just genre votes.
I am not sure what exactly I can take away from these results, except that people by and large voted for what I post about already – I guess perhaps that I should focus more on Fantasy-ish things. We’ll see – I already know that I need to focus better anyway.
More odds and ends:
Tools of the Trade
Question for you guys: Should I keep posting these here, or just on Facebook – or both?