Dark Nebula: Setting Inferences

Posted: 7 February 2014 in Settings
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“The Klingons are a proud warrior race, and have no need of fripperies such as fridge magnets.” – Bill Bailey

Having done the map, the next stage in my budding Dark Nebula campaign is to peruse the boardgame and see what I can infer from it. For this purpose I’m considering Savage Worlds, Stars Without Number, 5150 and Traveller as candidates for the rules – I expect to use all of them in this setting at some point, so I’m looking for common denominators.


Let’s start with Traveller, because the designers were writing Classic Traveller at the same time they were writing Dark Nebula and used some of the same concepts, so it should be easiest.

Jump Routes

There are only a handful of J-3 routes, and a single J-4 route.

J-1 drives would be limited to a few specific clusters of worlds; in the Solomani Confederation there is one group of four worlds and one pair, in the Aslan Hierate there is a group of three, there’s a group of six worlds between Mizah and Daanarni, and there are a few isolated pairs out in the boonies.

However, there’s only one system you can’t reach with a Jump-2 drive at the start of the game, and that’s Taida Na, which initially can only be reached from Valka using a J-4 drive. So the majority of starships would have Jump-2 drives; you really don’t need anything more, and you have severely limited movement with less. The military might have a few J-3 ships, maybe even the odd J-4, but that’s debatable.

This is somewhere that Mongoose Traveller may have an edge; in the board game, any ship can traverse any jump route; so the Mongoose warp drive variant rule might be a better fit. (And while we’re at it, given the unusually high proportion of waterless worlds, maybe the Mongoose hard SF option for world generation.)


Kuzu and Maadin are both specified as homeworlds with "high populations". That term has a specific meaning in Traveller, namely a population of 9 (billions) or A (tens of billions) – looking ahead to SWN, and because I normally assign the minimum value necessary to match other evidence, I’ll go with 9. Given their status in the game, they deserve class A starports as well.


As far as technology goes, J-4 drives and battle dress for jump troops, but lack of evidence for anything higher-tech than that, place the maximum TL in the region at D (13). There’s also no need for it anywhere other than Maadin and Kuzu, so that sets their TL.


The boardgame is silent on these, but familiarity with the default Traveller setting will tell you that Solomani humans and Aslan are present. In the past I’ve added droyne, ithklur, vilani and others, and may do so this time as well, but let’s see how far we can get with just the basic two for the moment.


Spike-4 drives are needed to move 4 hexes in SWN, and require TL5, so we can assign a population of billions and TL 5 to the two homeworlds, which are also Regional Hegemons. Races will include humans and also hochog, renamed and described as if they were aslan – the Proud Warrior Race is such a classic SF trope that almost every game has it, and SWN is no exception.


The above topics don’t really matter in SW or 5150, and neither game needs much about them beyond a little narrative. The only problem with 5150 is that it’s not immediately obvious how to do aslan, but to start with I’ll just give them +1 Rep for being the Proud Warrior Race.

As regards Savage Worlds, I rule out High-Space at this point because it’s grounded in transhumanism, and CT/Dark Nebula aren’t, so the Sci Fi Companion is a better fit for this particular game. I make a note that natives of Maadin and Kuzu might have the High-Tech (Minor) Hindrance under the SW SFC, and that jumps are only possible along mapped routes. On the racial front, we have humans and rakashans; those are the only two races obviously needed, and the boardgame is about a war between the two, so it seems reasonable for the rakashan racial hostility to be directed at humans.


As usual, I’m feeling lazy, and rather than create new characters for the SW implementation of the Nebula, I’ll reactivate Arion and company, setting Gordon’s as yet undocumented civilisation in a planet-less system in the Dark Nebula itself. Daanarni becomes the aslan name for Antares, Halfway becomes the orbital station at Hasara, and I’m sure I can retcon in other stuff easily enough when I need it. The Arioniad’s riff of a loose alliance of worlds threatened by a human empire fits best with the Mizah cluster facing off against the Solomani Confederation; good luck, guys.

  1. You got my creative juices flowing as well! This could be the perfect CT setting, even better than the Marches. A perfect sandbox, and no Imperium and Human Space Feudalism (other than the Aslan, that is) to worry about. Plus all the forbidden science in the Nebula itself you hinted about.

    I might be doing something similar in CT as well. Could be fun to build!

  2. In SWN, I’d put both Maadin and Kuzu at Tech 4+, and reserve Tech 5 to the Dark Nebula itself. This would fit well with the boardgame’s assumption of technological progress brought from Nebula exploration. Taida Na could be moved one hex closer to Valka, or a planet (or asteroid belt) could be added one hex next to it to allow a Drill 3 route.

    This could be the perfect non-OSWNU (Official SWN Universe) SWN setting as well: three big factions, numerous smaller ones, and as many world tags as you want. You could even build each faction’s navy with Skyward Steel, and even stat up SolSec with Darkness Visible!

    • andyslack says:

      Hi Omer – thanks for the interest! I love the DN map, but it’s equally attractive that I can make up more stuff without bumping into lots of established canon. (You can do that anywhere in CT of course, but I feel less constrained in the Nebula for some reason.)

      I was going with SWN TL 5 for Maadin and Kuzu as I wanted to make both stock Regional Hegemon factions; the Space Marines and Pretech Manufactory assets for that stock faction are both TL 5, as is Spike-4 drive technology. In the boardgame, both also have the capability to field grav tanks, which are also TL5. The hidden culture in the Nebula I’m setting to TL 6, as there must be a level higher than 5 to produce the Artifact equipment in the core SWN rules.

      I had been thinking of branching out into Skyward Steel and Darkness Visible, but baby steps…

      • We’re thinking the same thought – the Dark Nebula map is non-canonical, so I can do whatever I want on it without stepping on anyone’s toes, BUT also it is OTU, so I can use whatever OTU stuff I want in it. Perfect for adventures!

        I was thinking about developing my own version of the DN map with CT stats, then run a solo game in it using Star Trader (which I’ve just bought from DTRPG today following your review of it). This might later serve for Tomorrow’s War miniature wargfaming or even a setting for a PbP or even a face-to-face game.

        Looking forward to see what you’ll come up with for this area using SWN.

  3. My CT version of the Dark Nebula, inspired, among other things, by your work:


    • andyslack says:

      That looks nice! I might turn mine around so it faces the same way, the perfectionist in me is torn between having the Confederation at top right where it should be to align with OTU maps, and having it at bottom left as per the boardgame.

      I like what you’re doing there, I’ll keep an eye on it.

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