Tag Archive for 'worldbuilding'

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System Book 2: Xibalba is now available!

Lately I’ve been busy writing a new System Book for Spica Publishing, and I am pleased to announce that System Book 2: Xibalba is now available for purchase!

Xibalba originally started off as a one-paragraph writeup for the (now probably dead) Spica Sector book – but we were looking for interesting things to release as smaller products, and we figured it’d be fun to expand upon it and release it as the next System Book. Quite a bit of science went into designing this system to be as realistic as possible (like System Book 1: Katringa before it, which I co-authored), which is named after the asteroid belt that orbits its white dwarf primary. I evolved the star itself and incorporated the effects of the star’s red giant phases on its worlds – one planet was consumed during the giant phase, another’s surface was completely melted, and all of the planetary orbits expanded outwards as the primary lost its mass during its planetary nebula phase (again, Gravity Simulator proved very useful for this!).

The ‘adventure hook’ is that there are strange hauntings and manifestations occurring in the system that have so far defied explanation, and there is plenty for any visting PCs to investigate. I wanted to bring some mystery and a sense of wonder and of the unknown to the setting, but it’s designed to be more “spooky” than “horror”. Inspirations include the movies Solaris, Event Horizon, and the Terran Trade Authority: Spacewreck book. It may be smaller (and cheaper) than System Book 1: Katringa, but there’s still plenty to explore!

Are you brave enough to Visit Xibalba?

Spica Publishing is pleased to announce that its latest product – System Book 2: Xibalba – is now available from RPGnow and DrivethruRPG. This 9-page PDF is written by Constantine Thomas, and is available for $3.99.

Spica Publishing presents System Book 2: Xibalba – a complete planetary system around a white dwarf star. This supplement is compatible with the current edition of the Traveller or any other SF RPG, and can be incorporated into an existing campaign or used as the focal point of an adventure. Inexplicable events plague the inhabitants of the system – are they really haunted by the ghosts of the dead, or is there a more rational explanation for the manifestations?

System Book 2: Xibalba includes:
– A realistic planetary system, based on current astrophysical knowledge.
– Details of the worlds in the system, including the barren worlds of Akabna, Balamna, and Chamna, the Xibalba belt, and the distant gas giant Sisna.
– A description of the small mining community on the asteroid of Nuevo Tikal.
– A brief history of the system and its major events, including the madness that destroyed the Caracol habitat.
– Ideas and suggestions for the strange ‘manifestations’ that haunt the inhabitants of the Xibalba system.
– Adventure seeds to occupy Player Characters while in the Xibalba system.
– Rules for incorporating Xibalba into Spica Publishing’s Outer Veil setting.

Download it today!

“Traveller” and the Traveller logo are Trademarks owned by Far Future Enterprises, Inc. and are used with permission. The Traveller Main Rulebook is available from Mongoose Publishing.

[2300AD] Near Star Map Astrosynthesis DB file

This week I received an email request for the Astrosynthesis DB file that I used to make my realistic 2300AD near star/arms map, and after digging it up I figured I may as well post it for everyone to use. It uses a special version of the realistic stellar databases that I’ve presented elsewhere on this site – it has the 2300AD-specific names for the stars and systems, so it shouldn’t be used for scientific purposes (I think it just uses the RECONS + DENSE + Hipparcos databases). As usual, please don’t redistribute this yourself – just link back to this page if you want to spread the word!

Instructions: Click the image below to download the 2300AD_DB.zip file, unzip it into a local folder, open Astrosynthesis 3.0, and open the unzipped 2300AD.AstroDB file from there. Hopefully it’s some use! 🙂

2300AD Astrosynthesis 3.0 database file



Copyright stuff: The 2300 AD game in all forms is owned by Far Future Enterprises. Copyright 1986 – 2012 Far Future Enterprises. 2300 AD is a registered trademark of Far Future Enterprises. Far Future permits web sites and fanzines for this game, provided it contains this notice, that Far Future is notified, and subject to a withdrawal of permission on 90 days notice. The contents of this site are for personal, non-commercial use only. Any use of Far Future Enterprises’s copyrighted material or trademarks anywhere on this web site and its files should not be viewed as a challenge to those copyrights or trademarks. In addition, any program/articles/file on this site cannot be republished or distributed without the consent of the author who contributed it.

[Stellar Mapping] The 2300AD Near Star Map

The 2300AD Near Star Map

The 2300AD RPG – originally published by Game Designer’s Workshop in 1988 – presented an excellent gritty, realistic near-future hard sci-fi setting with lots of exploration, mystery, and interesting aliens. It’s also about to be republished by Mongoose Publishing as a setting for their version of the Traveller RPG!

One of 2300AD’s most interesting features is that the setting is built around a realistic (for the 1980s) Near Star List based on the Gliese Catalogue (2nd Version). FTL travel in 2300AD has a maximum range of 7.7 lightyears, resulting in the creation of “Arms” that extend from Sol to connect only the stars that are within this range of eachother (this limit can potentially be extended to 11.55 ly using Stutterwarp tugs, but this is expensive and uncommon).

There are three of these Arms, each colonised by a different political power in the setting – the French Arm, the Chinese Arm, and the American Arm. The French Arm stretches “upwards” from Sol towards Galactic North, ending at the orange giant star Arcturus. The American and Chinese Arms share the same beginning, but split off so that the American Arm heads Coreward/Spinward while the Chinese Arm sprawls around the (galactic) southern part of the solar neighbourhood.

Unfortunately the Near Star List (NSL) has not been updated for the new version of 2300AD. A lot of stars have been discovered in the solar neighbourhood since the late 1980s (as shown on my Stellar Mapping page), and the locations and distances of existing stars have been greatly refined since then too – so how does the updated stellar data affect the Arms?
Continue reading ‘[Stellar Mapping] The 2300AD Near Star Map’

[Stellar Mapping] How to make your own stellar database!

Looks like my new Stellar Mapping page has been well received so far – thanks to everyone who has shown an interest in it, I hope you’re finding it useful!

In this article I’m going to show you how to make your own stellar database, with the same tools I used to construct the ones I presented on my mapping page. For this exercise we’ll be relying on something called VizieR, which is a huge online database of thousands of star catalogues. You’ll need to have a basic understanding astronomy to make the most out of this, but it’s not that tricky.

Let’s say you want to make a database of stars in a corridor between Sol and the famous Pleiades star cluster (if you’re familiar with the 2300AD RPG, this is essentially the path the Bayern took to the Pleiades). We’ll be using the Hipparcos star catalogue, since it has the most accurate parallax measurements (from which we can derive distances).

Continue reading ‘[Stellar Mapping] How to make your own stellar database!’

[Review] Fun with Gravity Simulator

Lately I’ve been playing around (again) with a very interesting program called Gravity Simulator. I’ve been using it on and off for the past four years or so, and it’s proved to be a very useful tool for worldbuilding.

Gravity Simulator is a Windows-based program that allows you to create celestial objects orbiting eachother and see what happens to their orbits under the influence of gravity. You can create planets orbiting stars, satellites orbiting planets, and even asteroid belts – if it can orbit something, it can be made to work here. The algorithms used in the program don’t quite account for everything (for example, the change in orbit caused the transfer of angular momentum between two bodies by tidal forces is not calculated), but the results are still very accurate.

Planetary orbits evolving (spiralling outwards) while a star loses mass

The good points are that it’s a very powerful orbital modelling tool, and known phenomena such as orbital resonances and the Kozai mechanism (where a planet’s eccentricity can be increased by interactions with a nearby massive object in an inclined orbit) have been known to naturally come out of the simulations. It can also output to a data file that you can then use to plot graphs of parameters using Excel (e.g. semimajor axis vs time), and can output screenshots too so that you can make animations if you have movie-making software.

To create a system, you just enter the mass and orbital parameters for all the objects and then set it going – you can even create entire asteroid belts by getting it to create many objects with a range of parameters that you specify (though the more objects you have, the more processing is required which obviously slows things down). The program uses a ‘timestep’ system, in which it recalculates everything once per timestep – a smaller timestep means that the resolution of the interactions is higher and they are more accurate as a result, but the downside is that it takes longer to do the calculations. If the timestep is set too large however then the accuracy can be compromised – so the trick is to find a value that is a balance between processing speed and accuracy, which varies depending on what you’re looking at. If you do it right though, you can run a simulation for hundreds of thousands (or millions) of years of simulated time if your system is left running for long enough. This literally brings stuff that formerly was done on supercomputers into the hands of desktop users!

To show off a bit, here’s a relatively basic example of a sim I made – 10 closely spaced planets the same size and mass as Earth, separated by 0.1 AU between 1 and 2 AU from the sun. This is what happens when the system is left to run for 175000 years (every second of video corresponds to the passage of 747 years of simulated time) – all of the action is in the first 2:50 mins of the video, after that nothing much happens other than a bit of precession of the remaining orbits. The planets start off in circular orbits but then they start to get unstable and individual worlds eventually start making close approaches to eachother, which really disrupts their orbits. This one has it all – orbital precession, collisions, and planets thrown into very eccentric orbits! At the end of the run, only four planets are left, and I suspect that if I’d left it running for longer one or two of those might eventually be lost too.

Orbital Evolution of 10 close planets, simulated over 175,000 years

There’s a good discussion forum for it too, and the author of the program is there quite often and is very helpful. Being a rather specialised program, only a handful of people post to the forums on a regular basis (I am one of them – I post there as “EDG”) but there’s a lot of interesting material posted there (especially by frankuitaalst, who posts a lot of very interesting animations and graphs of resonances). I’ve done some investigations myself of the Kozai mechanism, and used the program to track the evolution of asteroid orbits while a star loses mass as it changes from red giant to white dwarf.

This is why I think Gravity Simulator is so great – it’s an excellent tool for curiosity-driven science (the best kind of science, I think!). I know that more often than not I didn’t have a clue what the result would be when I started running my simulations, and it’s really fun to see how a complex system turns out. As a result, it’s fantastically educational too.

The downside is that the program is a little fiddly to use, and it’s probably going to be a bit scary at first if you haven’t had any previous experience with orbital dynamics. There are example simulations that you can download from the gravity simulator website though, and you can find the Tutorial/Help File there too which explains how everything works (you can also access this page through the Help menu in the program). Plus you can always ask for help on the forums if you’re stuck!

Another thing to be aware of is that the version of the program that you can download from the website via the download page there is somewhat old – once you’ve installed it from there, you should grab the latest beta of the executable from the forums, copy that into the folder you installed it to, and use that as the executable instead. This adds some very handy functionality, including the ability to create new objects with a range of values (handy for asteroid belts) and to dynamically vary the timestep so that it slows down when objects get close enough to gravitationally interact.

Overall, Gravity Simulator is a great educational tool and produces some fascinating results. It’s pretty much unsurpassed as an general orbital modelling tool (I’m sure orbital dynamicists use their own custom programs that are way more technical, but this is great for us non-professionals!), and there’s a lot of support for it (many sample simulations can be found on the rest of website as well as on the forums). It’s well worth checking out and playing around with anyway, and if you have any interest in orbital dynamics then it’s a must-have!

System Book 1: Katringa is now available!

I’ve been spending the past few months working for Spica Publishing on a new supplement for the Mongoose Traveller RPG called System Book 1: Katringa, and I am pleased to say that it is now available for purchase!

There’s actually some science in it too, since I used my realistic planetary system generator (which is based on the latest research) to make the system, and I made the physical details of the young A8 IV primary star, its planets, their orbits and Katringa itself as realistic as possible (I even figured out the orbital evolution of the moons of the gas giants in the system!). So if you’re looking for an interesting new planetary system for your SF games then please do check it out!

Welcome to Katringa!

Spica Publishing is pleased to announce that its latest product – System Book 1: Katringa – is now available from RPGnow and DrivethruRPG. This 30-page PDF is written by Richard Hazlewood with physical data by Constantine Thomas, and is available for $6.99.

System Book 1: Katringa is the first in a series of books from Spica Publishing that describes a complete planetary system and its society, and is designed for use with Mongoose Traveller or any science-fiction RPG. Katringa is a former corporate mining colony that is gradually being allowed more independence over time, although corruption still pervades the government. Conditions are harsh in the asteroid belt close to the system’s energetic primary star, but the riches are worth the risk.

System Book 1: Katringa includes:
– A realistic planetary system, based on current astrophysical knowledge.
– Details of the worlds in the system, including the mineral-rich Idowa Belt, the gas giants Accra and Yendi and their moons, and Olufemi and the Outer Asteroids.
– A planetary map of Katringa showing major landmarks and settlements.
– A full physical description of Katringa, including a detailed breakdown of its geographical features and timekeeping system.
– Katringa’s unique African-influenced society, history and government.
– Important NPCs that may be encountered on Katringa, from all walks of life.
– Adventure seeds to occupy Player Characters while in the Katringa system.
– Detailed asteroid mining rules.

Download it today!

“Traveller” and the Traveller logo are Trademarks owned by Far Future Enterprises, Inc. and are used with permission. The Traveller Main Rulebook is available from Mongoose Publishing.