Dark Nebula: The Starmap

Posted: 19 June 2015 in Settings
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There are two things I spend far too much time agonising over in SF campaigns; the starmap, and the world names. I’m shooting those particular hostages by grabbing the starmap from GDW’s old boardgame Dark Nebula, because as Andrew Finch said in D&D 4th Edition, the DM’s job is to entertain, not to be original – and all the games companies involved have an enlightened attitude to seeing their games referenced in blogs (thanks, guys!). So without further ado…


As usual, I laid the map out so the hex  numbers on the map tiles were aligned, then collapsed it to one parsec per hex and rotated it so the Solomani Confederation is at the top right (which suits Classic Traveller canon better). I also removed the junior partners in double star systems, because experience roleplaying on this map both with and without them has shown me they are an unnecessary distraction.

Notice that it’s the size of two standard Traveller subsectors, or Stars Without Number sectors, placed side by side. Notice also that it has a number of routes leading off-map, which will come in handy if I need to expand the campaign, link it with another game, or run a one-off game with a disposable star system.


Solid green lines represent known jump routes, dotted ones represent unexplored jump routes – in my take on the setting, they are routes predicted by hyperspace theory which for some unknown reason do not exist. The map is a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional space, so star systems which appear adjacent may be too far apart vertically for a jump route to exist.

Star systems are represented by coloured dots; red ones are capital systems, blue ones are primary, orange are secondary, and grey are tertiary. Read on to learn what that means; note that capital systems are essentially primary ones with greater political importance.


Here’s a summary of the Nebula’s system types, and what we know of them from the boardgame:

Primary systems, including the two capitals, have naturally habitable worlds. These are inhabited, and have good quality spaceports which can provide fuel and starship maintenance. They always have good planetary defences, and may also have some sort of starfaring military capability – troops, military spacecraft, or transports. They provide the owning player with 4 Resource Units per turn.

Secondary systems are inhabited, but their worlds are not naturally habitable. They have average quality spaceports, which can provide fuel and can maintain spacecraft but not FTL drives. They have average planetary defences, but cannot project power into other star systems. They are worth one RU per turn to their owner.

Tertiary systems have no planets, no inhabitants, no starports, and are worthless to their owner except as defensive choke points.


This is a well-trodden path for me, so I’ll pick the pace up further and post daily next week. I promise there will be new ideas as well as recycled ones!

  1. […] Dark Nebula: The Starmap […]

  2. raikenclw says:

    I create a “Known Jump Routes” map by using a Traveller hex star map with any xboat routes deleted. I then limit ships to jumping only along hex rows, always beginning and ending each jump in a mapped system. Jumping into (and out of) blank hexes is possible only if a navigator has coordinates for a not-publicly-charted jump point contained therein. I find this method creates many more interesting strategic bottlenecks than the default method of allowing jumps in any direction.

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