Okay. I’ll admit that this project has taken over my brain. It’s been fun for me to work on it and dust off some of my programming skills. This will be another small update as I haven’t had a lot of free time this past week but enough to get some work done. If you haven’t read them yet, the early posts are here: original post, update 1, update 2, & update 3
The good news is that I think there will just be two more updates and we’ll have the completed map. There might be a few more after that for upgrades to the software but those will probably be a bit more spaced out. Here’s what’s left to do:
- Random generation of spectral types (this post)
- Complete “Alpha Dawn” map (this post)
- Complete “Player’s Version” of the Extended Frontier map (update 5) – This is the full color version of the B&W map I’ve been posting
- Complete “Referee’s Version” of the Extended Frontier map (update 6) – This will be a version of the map with all the Sathar system labels and jump routes included.
I’ve decided that to get to the completed map, I’ll just do the nebulae by hand. I already have the shapes drawn on the B&W version of the map so it’s easy enough to transfer them and do the render. Getting the software to do the nebulae will be a future project.
If there is interest, I could also do a remake of the Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space version of the Frontier map in this style. While I’ve modified my map to match most of the named systems on the Zeb’s Guide map, they are not exactly the same (for reasons discussed in earlier posts) and the unexplored stars do no match between the two maps. If there is a large clambering for it, I’ll do that as a future project.
Let’s get on with this week’s update:
Random Stellar Types
After I had the program interpolating the colors between the base spectral types, the next step was to sit down and code up the random generation of those spectral sub-types. I needed this to randomly fill in all the “unexplored” systems with a proper mix of spectral types. The explored systems are way too heavily weighted toward the F & G stars and there are a few too many (i.e more than about 3) for the number of stars in the region but that’s okay.
In any case, I wanted the relative numbers to be approximately correct based on real stellar distributions so I busted out data on the stellar mass functions and after a bit of math came up with a d100 table for the various main sequence spectral types (A, B, G, etc.) to determine the relative ratio of their sub-types (A0, A2, A4, etc). Once I had the numbers it was a simple matter to code up a few subroutines to generate the values. There are some refinements I could make in the future but this is good enough for now.
Complete “Alpha Dawn” Map
Once the program was generating random spectral types in the correct distribution, it was time to finish the smaller map corresponding to the Frontier provided in the original printing of the game and the later “Alpha Dawn” reprint (named to distinguish the core rules from the Knight Hawks supplement).
I did this by running a random map and then taking the spectral types generated and applied them to the remaining systems in the original map. Next I took the resulting file and edited it to tweak the positioning of some of the labels so that they weren’t overlapping any of the jump lines or other text. Finally, I took the nebulae I had created for the earlier version and imported them into this map. This gave me my final version of the smaller map.
I might revisit this in the future and do the nebula with different colors but for all intents and purposes, this one is done.
In making this I realized that the stars in system FS18 are really bright. It’s an M0 Giant and A0 main sequence star in a binary system. Combined, they are ~39x brighter than the sun and only 2 ly from Athor. That means they would appear to be at -5.27 magnitude star in the night sky. For reference, the brightest star in our sky, Sirius, is only -1.46 (small, more negative numbers are brighter). Venus, at its brightest, is a -4.2 magnitude object. That means that this star appears 2.5 times brighter than Venus at it’s brightest and about 30 times brighter than Sirius.
The Full Map
Now that the AD map is done, it’s time to start working on the full Extended Frontier map. I knew I was going to need a lot of random star systems so I generated a big random map with the program to get a good number of star systems with the correct spectral type distribution. I’ll use this whenever I need a random system value.
That done, the first step was to get the data for all the various labeled systems on the map. I already had the ones from the AD map I just needed to add the others. The data for these systems came from a variety of places. For the systems included on the Zeb’s Guide map, I used the spectral types listed in Zeb’s Guide after verifying that they made sense when mentioned in the modules (which usually just gave a color). I didn’t find any real issues so I just used the Zeb’s Guide values.
For the Saurian systems (east of the Frontier), the spectral types were taken from the article “The Sauria Sector” published in the Frontier Explorer, issue 4.
The data for the S’sessu systems (south of the Frontier), the spectral types were taken from the article “Phri’sk Anyone? Detailing the S’sessu Homeworlds” in issue 16 of the Frontier Explorer (p 23 – I haven’t gotten around to putting the individual articles of that issue on-line yet). However, that article only listed spectral types for two of the systems. For the other three, I selected random spectral types in the G & K spectral types from the list of random systems.
With all the star systems in place, I added in all the jump routes connecting those systems. I discovered I had a limit in my code that would not print a jump if it was over 14 light years in length. This was preventing the jump between Gruna Garu and Lynchpin from being drawn so I had to fix that bug. I still don’t let the random process create jumps that long but if you’re entering the data for a map and want a longer connection, the software won’t stop you anymore.
This also required me to change a couple of things. If you’re familiar with Zeb’s Guide, you may notice that the connection between Zebulon and Capella is now a straight line at 9 ly instead of a broken line at 10 ly. The broken line never made any sense given the Knight Hawks rules so I’ve done away with it. The other change was the connection between the S’sessu worlds of Kashra’sk and Minan. The map in the Frontier Explorer lists the distance as 12 ly but it is actually only 11. That is fixed on this map.
The next step is to now add in all the other systems on the map. To do this, I simply pull a system entry from the big random list for each star system on the map and remove the system from the big list so I don’t reuse it. I started in on that process, filling in the systems to the southwest of the Frontier but haven’t finished entering everything else yet. That will be the subject of the next update. However, here’s the big map as it currently stands.
This is just the raw, software generated map, with no tweaking or extra annotations on it. Over the next week or two, I’ll start adding in the rest of the stars and the nebulae. This map covers an area 90 ly wide and 100 ly high which should give your players plenty of area to explore if they need to get out of the Frontier and into the wilds.
That’s it for now
That’s where the project currently stands. If you have any thoughts, questions, or suggestions, let me know in the comments below.