I’m preparing this for my own group to be used in time, yet thought I could share it and humbly request for comments. tl;dr: This is a combination of lots of random tables found throughout all of the STA books and supplements.
We, as a group, love world building and particularly enjoyed Traveller. We would spend evenings just creating a new system and society and see our hex-map expand and diversify. While I don’t think that we will delve too much into it with STA, I’m curious enough to think about the question:
How would one “hex-crawl” the Shackleton Expanse?
No, I’m not proposing to set up real hexes. Yet, if one wanted, one could indeed populate the map with sectors and systems, coordinates and all. If one would want to do that, this guide is to help out with the (randomised) generation process.
It refers to random tables of the following publications (in order of publication date):
- Core Rulebook (all Core Rulebook tables are found in the Klingon Core Rulebook and the Tricorder Set Digest Rulebook, as well; yet, these books are not cited with exact pages), cited as CRB
- Science Division, cited as SCD
- Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide, cited as SECG
- Gamemaster’s Guide, cited as GMG
I think you should buy these books, because they’re all great. Therefore, I will leave out details and processes that are described in the books, focusing on ideas how different systems can be combined and plugged together to increase the random table worldbuilding fun.
“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” (Douglas Adams)
We know that the Shackleton Expanse is “located in the Orion-Cygnus Arm of the Milky Way” (SECG p. 23). It stretches “between 120 and 180 light-years accross” (SECG p. 302). Since we can assume the yellow squares on the Star Maps in CRB and the 4 Quadrant Books to measure a “sector” (CRB p. 205), only about a third to half of the Expanse is visible on the map – and only in two dimensions.
Yet, in these two dimensions as shown on the maps and assuming a “sector” to measure 20 light years³ (SECG p. 306) we would go with “about 6 by about 9” sectors, i.e. 54 sectors in one 2-dimensional “layer”.
Space, however, is not only mind-boggingly big, but also three-dimensional. The “thickness” of Milky Way’s Disk is written to be about 1,000–2,000 light-years. This would give us up to 100 layers or 5,400 sectors to generate. That is, obviously, insanely big and more than enough for several lifetimes of adventuring the Shackleton Expanse. Enjoy!
I want, however, to propose three more reasonable approaches:
- Reduce the “thickness” of the Expanse. Matter in the Milky Way is not evenly distributed and the Expanse is stuffed full of gravitation. So it’s safe to assume that there could be systems of some sort “belonging” to the Shackleton Expanse 1,000 light-years “over” or “below” the galactic disk’s median – yet that would be so few systems that we can ignore them. Instead, we can assume that the Expanse itself would be “compressed” near to the galactic disk. I’m just making up the numbers here, but I think a “thickness” of the expanse of 100–200 light-years sounds more reasonable, leaving us with 5–10 instead of 100 layers. That’s still 270–540 sectors and still insane.
- Re-arrange the expanse to be less cubic. I imagine the Expanse to be more potatoe-shaped. Thus, there would be much empty space around the edges of the cube , so empty that we can virtually ignore such sectors. This would leave us with a “middle layer” located on the galactic disk’s median that is represented by the measurements on the map, and 4–9 layers that are located on top and beneath. With every layer put on top or below this middle layer, I’d halve the number of “populated” sectors. With 5 layers total (see above), there would be two layers above and two layers below, comprising of 27 and 13 (or 14) sectors, each. That’s “only” 124-ish sectors. I would re-arrange sectors in a way that (normally) every sector-cube’s side is connected to the side of at least another cube.
- Just generate one layer. Or one just stays on a landscape map and simply generates about 50 sectors for the Expanse and is done with it. This will be completely fine for years of adventuring in the expanse, as a sector will, on average, contain about 7 interesting systems, adding up to >350 times of you(r GM) saying: “You’re the first Starfleet vessel to enter and survey this system.”
The Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide defines 5 regions within the Expanse (SECG p. 305). You should allocate each sector to one of this region. I would encourage you to define one or two additional regions as you see fit, for notable “galactic terrain” see CRB p. 152 ff.
After every sector is set within a region of the Expanse, you can start to generate them all, one by one. For every system within the sector, follow the rules on SECG p. 302 ff. and let me offer the following additions:
Use the “Habitable Planetary Type” table (Table 10-2, CRB p. 308) to determine the primary habitable world’s class. Note that the SECG seems to use a different “Class K” than the CRB.
Also, roll once on the “Planetary Features of Interest” table (Table 10-4, CRB p. 308). Yet, modify the table to simply say “Inhabitants” for any line that refers to “inhabitants” on this table.
Instead of rolling a second time on this table, roll a Challenge Dice:
- On a 1, add a unique alien to this planet (as described in the “Creating Aliens” section in the SCD p. 97 ff.)
- On a 2, roll on Table 10-2 (see above) for a second time
- On a blank face, add Inhabitants to this planet
- If an effect is rolled, there are environmental dangers on the planet as described in the CRB p. 145 ff. / SCD p. 104 ff.
For each time you rolled “Inhabitants”, now create a culture that lives on the habitable world:
- Determine their society / tech level by rolling on table 07404 in the GMG p. 244
- Determine the dominant religion (if any) by rolling on table 07403 in the GMG p. 241
- Determine their cultural trait by rolling on the respective table in the SCD p. 101
- Determine their government type by rolling on table 07401 in the GMG p. 240
You can roll on each table on p. 290 of the CRB to get inspiration on physical, mental, behavioural or cultural traits of the inhabitants. You might also find inspiration on their biology and further traits within the alien creation process described in the SCD p. 97 ff.
For the creation of further worlds, note that the SECG seems to use other planetary Class designations than the CRB. Some classes described in the CRB do not appear within the SECG tables (et vice versa).
To randomly determine the number of notable spatial phenomena within a given sector, roll again on the “Number of Notable Systems” table of the SECG p. 302 and also roll a challenge dice. Halve the number that you got off the table, rounding down. Don’t forget to create new systems…
Note that there are several known worlds and phenomena listed in the SECG (e.g. the Pinwheel or the Homeworlds of the species described in the SECG). These places need to be allocated sectors (and, if you use them, coordinates). Note also that there are some interesting places missing in these random tables. Consult the information on planet creation (esp. CRB p. 307) and all the information on stellar phenomena spread over all the different publications. Think of, e.g. black holes, particle fountains, novae etc.
If you own the Division Supplements, think of randomly determining a department and then rolling on the appropriate table(s) in the Division Supplements to find appropriate plot components.
One finishing remark: Part of the fun of hex-crawling, in my opinion, is the fog of war. Even if many (or all) sectors of the Expanse are populated with systems and species (and maybe even plots): The players should have to find out, first.
I would designate the following four stages of discovery / knowledge about systems (that, by the way, also serve great as traits):
- Uncharted: The sector is not even charted for the star charts and completely unknown to the players. They do, however know that the sector exists and will very likely contain notable systems and/or phenomena. If the sector is assigned a number / designation, the player will know this designation.
- Charted Sector: Telescopes and long-range sensors charted the sector. The players know the total of systems and phenomena, the general type of phenomena (e.g. ion storms present, but not ion storms class III present) and the spectral and luminosity class of the systems’ star(s).
- Charted System: Systems that are charted were visited by automated probes or the long-range sensors of ships within the vincinity. Players know whether the systems are inhabited and should generally know about the society / tech level of each of the inhabiting species (they do not know if it’s dramatically appropriate for the plot).
- Surveyed System: The players have visited (or are visiting) the system and did some scanning. At any given time, they know everything that is dramatically appropriate/necessary at that point in time.
At the start of a crawl, all sectors but one should have the uncharted quality. One sector should be charted and should contain two ore more charted systems. The player can then decide where to start their journey through the expanse. If the campaign features an admiralty level, this could contain plots revolving around charting new sectors and systems by sending (limited amounts of) probes or even the players to certain coordinates to do some cartographing.
That’s all, folks, thank you for reading (and commenting).