Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Don't Hand Me Map Colors

Back in elementary school, they'd give us colored pencils with the sole purpose of coloring maps - and they called them map colors.  I don't know if they still call them that, but I discovered that when I started to use my colored pencils on subsector maps for Traveller, they suddenly became map colors again.

And yeah, don't hand me map colors.  I will use them.

In working on my latest Traveller maps, I took a hint from Flynn and started looking on the quadrant level, getting a good feel for a region before zooming in on a particular subsector.

After dorking around with dice, I realized that I needed bigger guns, and used automated generators to build my quadrant.  Heck, it even made up randomized names.  I figured those names would be ancient names from original surveys of the First or Second Imperium, and that by the Third Imperium, they'd have names that the players could pronounce. :)

So, armed with my trusty map colors, I printed out multiple copies of the quadrant, combed over my world data, and began thinking.

First I looked at Tech Level, with an eye for high population areas.  The colors indicate a star-faring level of technology, the letters indicate capabilities of the starport, and a line around the star's hex indicate billions of inhabitants - all of which can be used to indicate the level of hustle and bustle in a system.

Tech Levels
Next, I broke down population.  The hot colors, yellow orange and red, indicate a good, sustainable population.  The cool colors indicate a planet with not much going for it, so no real reason for there to be scads of people.

Population
For my next map I didn't use so many colors.  Outlined hexes indicate systems of particular interest or value to the Third Imperium.  Class A starports, Imperial Naval bases, and Imperial Consulates are indicated.  Then the blue lines show where Imperial travel would most likely occur - which indicates the probably X-Boat (snail mail) routes.  Actually, I refined the X-Boat routes a bit, but this map is good for describing the places the Emperor would care about - and places that he doesn't so much - and how they would interconnect.

Communication Routes
Then I tackled trade using the suggested method in Mongoose Traveller.  They use a pretty simple algorithm that doesn't get too messy, and delineates between industrial traffic and agricultural and general raw material flows.  It also show really well where BFE is.

Trade Routes

The next map I call the Law and Chaos map.  Purple and pink with purple lines indicate the really big interstellar powerhouses of the quadrant.  These are additionally highlighted with a black line around the hex.  Then, I determined the zone of influence of these powerhouses using the jump drive rating from their technological profile, and created 'borders' showing how far their cultural influence would dominate, modified by their neighbor's proximity.  Yellows indicate colonies and greens indicate corporate held territory.  Systems outside of the zones of influence would typically be on their own, as far as culture is concerned.  Red areas indicate lack of government, or zero level law enforcement, so those are the really wild areas.  Those would definitely be Amber Zones.  Like I said - Law and Chaos.

Law and Chaos
The last map here indicates cultures that, from their law levels, are not too fond of outsiders.  Either they ban outsiders completely, or try to keep contact to a minimum.  Those systems are also very good candidates for Amber Zones.

The 'Go Away' Club
After going through all of that, I figured that the subsector in the lower right hand region would be the best place to start, as it had enough immediate diversity and backwater areas to facilitate some easy Traveller style adventures in as few hops as possible.

I need some new map colors, though.

- Ark

6 comments:

  1. That is awesome. I can easily understand the info you are presenting. If I ever do a Traveller game (always kind of wanted to) I'm coming back to this post.

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    1. Thanks Telecanter. I was trying to make it understandable to me, so I guess it rubbed off. :)

      - Ark

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  2. Maybe you could get some mileage out of clear projector cells printed with your map and put different data on each. I think you could combine the law/chaos and Amber / bad law places using solid vs. hashmark color. I think you could combine the trade route map with the communication route map by using double-lines for comm routes and single-lines for simple trade routes. Although, isn't a trade route also a line of communication?

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    1. 1d30 - Clear cells are a pretty good idea. I think there are some better ways of organizing the data - like you mention. This is just the way it popped out while I was exploring.

      Trade routes are lines of communication, yes, but the specific comm routes in blue indicate Imperial traffic, which would differ primarily in the level of scout (x-boat) and naval traffic present. Important stuff for pirates to know. :)

      - Ark

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  3. So much better at exploring a quadrant than I am, the Imperial Scout Service must be jealous as hell. I start, like you did, with random generation, but rather than do all that analysis (which I find REALLY impressive, btw), I just use my campaign concept as an overlay to determine which of the randomly generated planets make sense, and which need some creative corrections.

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    1. Well thanks Dave. It's not all that hard - just a lot of coloring. But then again, I do database work for a living, so maybe my brain is wired different.

      I'm doing a pretty standard Traveller campaign, so the basic setup works. But I prune. I mean - how many size 0 population A systems does one seriously expect to pop up in a subsector? :)

      - Ark

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