Category Archives: Other Worlds

The Making of Colonial Space: Drawing the Map

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:

665-65-6
65-64-65-6
65-64-65-6
5-65-65-65-6

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:

adjacentsectors3

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:

sector-maponlyI did have to refine my script multiple times during this process, to eliminate bugs as well as some glaring problems in the Traveller world creation system.

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.

sector03-maponlyAs an aside, I keep the world profiles and other related data in a LibreOffice spreadsheet for easier maintenance.

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.

  • Why are the values as they are? – For example, if a world is a colony or captive government, who captured or colonized it, and why?
  • Are there values that make no sense? – Such as a vacuum world with a TL of 2 and 33 inhabitants. These results get fixed as I spot them.
  • Are there obvious implications, such as an Agricultural world next to a world with massive population?

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:

  • Let the random generator handle more of the work; look into drawing maps automatically. If the script could produce a basic SVG, that would save days of work.
  • Change the world generation order. Traveller does some things right and some wrong. In my opinion, I should generate all the physical stats first, then decide a sort of habitability index, and then generate population and stats depending on population based on that. It could even easily be an iterative process, where all the nice worlds get colonized first, and then people spread out to less desireable worlds or to nice worlds that are further away. This could even result in a basic timeline.
  • Include stellar data and a few more odds and ends in the design sequence.

Current map WIP

sector12-maponlyMore on this setting will surely follow…

Shattered Grounds – Updated Concept

A long time ago I came up with what I tentatively call “Shattered Grounds”. It is post-apocalyptic fantasy setting, but unlike the trope (in which magic awakes after a nuclear war), it is an actual fantasy setting that experienced a doomsday.

The – as of yet unnamed – world was a normal fantasy world with dragons, wizards, orcs and humans. It also featured a vast underworld, similar to the Underdark from Dungeons & dragons. If anything, this underworld was much more extensive, with underground caverns hundreds of kilometers across.

One day, and without warning, large sections of the surface collapsed into that underworld. The continent-sized caverns caved in, causing huge valleys and lowlands, effectively lowering leaving continent-wide, kilometer-deep scars behind. The oceans of the world flowed into the now exposed underworld, flooding much of it; consequently, with much of the water gone, the surface world turned into a vast desert. Civilization was devastated and the world was plunged into chaos and savagery…

Shattered Grounds - Concept
Shattered Grounds – Concept

Should make for some awesome vistas…

So what’s happening in the world?

Continue reading “Shattered Grounds – Updated Concept” »

Northern Continent, WIP 3

3rd WIP of the Northern Continent map:

map01h-smallI’ve added two layers (the “high mountains” layer is very unfinished though – it’s obvious where more detail is needed) as well as adding a lot of detail to the existing layers. Click on the image for a 2048px wide version. I’m fairly happy with how this map is turning out, if I may say so myself…

A Northern Continent, WIP 1

More cartography…

A Northern Continent
A Northern Continent

Click on the image for a (slight) zoom.

This is a map roughly representing a continent that featured in a series of dreams I had over the years, where a group of adventurers would explore the continent. It’s all made-up, of course; I never saw a map of the place in my dream but the basic features are all there…

 

The Collapsed World, Map v2 (Updated)

I think the map of the collapsing world is now almost done. Of course it’s just a high scale world map, and only the surface world, but as such it’s now fairly complete. I probably need to add some detail here and there – a few more rivers, but not too many; a bunch of former islands, maybe some more cracks and canyons that cut through the surface. And finally I should place at least a handful of cities and assign different parts of the world to different races and cultures.

Colllapsing World - Map v2, updated
Colllapsing World - Map v2, updated

I am really happy how this map turned out and I can’t wait to do some regional maps. Paint.Net works quite well but it still lacks some features to make it a really “good” raster editor; still, it’s free and quite good already.

The final version of this map is now available.

The Collapsed World, Map v2

I took a short break from the Earth 2174 map because I just had to do something else… and because episode 10 of Game of Thrones gave me fantasy fever for a moment. I created a new version of the Collapsed World map, (More about the concept in that posting.)

I created the template myself, but the method I got from The Piazza’s The Edge project.

It’s clearly not done yet, and it is only the surface world (plus exposed part of the “underworld”), but I am quite happy with the map so far, I think it is definitely superior to the old one because it has more variety of terrain planned in.

What do you guys think?

This map was updated in a later post. The final map is also available.