Lighting A Candle

Posted: 10 January 2014 in Settings
Tags: , , ,

“Don’t curse the darkness – light a candle.” – Chinese proverb.

So, I’ve been thinking… For years now I’ve planned my gaming in some detail at the start of the year, and I’m never really happy with the outcome; first I get frustrated because some real life event gets in the way, then I grudgingly hack bits off the plan until it fits, repeat those steps every few months, and wind up grumpy and dispirited because I haven’t achieved anything.

Since that doesn’t work, let’s try something else, shall we? Let’s not bother planning, and as Ed Teixeira says, “Just play the game”.


In the spirit of “just playing the game”, this is a campaign that is taking up space in my head and just won’t go away, so I suppose I’ll have to get it out of my system by playing it. Starting a new campaign is like having kids; there’s never a perfect time for it, you just have to get on with it and deal with the problems as they arise.

Dark Nebula is, of course, a board game by the sadly defunct Game Designers’ Workshop, and is an offshoot of their Traveller RPG (which is itself arguably an offshoot of their earlier Imperium boardgame). For some reason the board just sings to me, and must be used. However, the official board is at half a parsec per hex; I’ve shrunk that to one parsec per hex and merged each of the double stars into a single system, the better to fit Traveller standards. Here’s what that looks like in Hexographer, with the maps laid out so that the hex numbers match up; in the board game, the map is in geomorphic sections, and placing them to one’s advantage is part of the game.


Primary (blue) systems have an earthlike world, orange ones don’t (specifically, they have no free-standing water), and grey ones have no planets at all. Systems named all in upper case are “homeworlds”, with high levels of population and technology; ones in cloudy-looking hexes are inside the eponymous Dark Nebula. Solid green lines are known jump routes, dotted ones are theorised to exist but have not been mapped well enough to use.

The Arioniad has been a game about a group of characters with no fixed setting or rules. Dark Nebula will be a game about a setting with no fixed rules or characters, although as ever I expect to develop favourites. Will it last once the SW SF Companion and/or the next Shiny Thing come along? Who knows? Certainly not me, but I have spent enough time cursing the darkness.

Fiat lux.

  1. brassjester says:

    Hmm… know exactly how you feel. I tend to switch between rule systems like a Ping-Pong ball, much to the utter frustration of my players. Currently I’ve had an urge (“tugging”) to play Call of Cthulhu again, simply because I got the Eldritch Horror boardgame for Christmas. Beasts and Barbarians is on hold for a moment; firstly the kids had all started college, or in Ben’s case started his apprenticeship, so they didn’t have a lot of time; secondly I was falling into my usual GM trap of trying to get everything right for the setting (“would that sort of thing happen in Caldeia?- must check it up”). As Ed said – “just play the Game” – something I need to learn to do as a GM.
    I’m also still playing SWN off and on as a solo Game; I love the system but the kids weren’t that keen (it was TOO simple for them as they were brought up on a diet of Savage Worlds)

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