View Full Version : Sci-Fi Mapping program/technique

12-28-2012, 11:26 PM
Does anyone know any good programs for creating maps of galaxies/star clusters, or failing that, a tutorial for creating them in GIMP? I'd prefer it to be 2 Dimensional, with the ability to make things like sectors, jump lines, and system info. I usually do them hand-drawn, but with almost everything else in my campaign digital, it would be a great asset to be able to move my campaign stuff on a flashdrive rather than also having to carry a folder. Not to mention the fact that my players would love if I give them an awesome looking galaxy map print-out.

12-29-2012, 01:37 AM
Sectors are boxes, stars are dots or small circles, and jump lines are, well, lines. If you want to stay 2d, well - to be quite frank, any drawing program will do the trick. You don't really need anything special for it. The hard part, when it comes to star maps, is doing them "right" (3d).

Since space is mostly, well, empty space, I'd recommend something vector-based over a raster editor. I.e. look into Inkscape, for example, rather than Gimp.

That said, Astrosynthesis may be what you are looking for - but I have NO experience with it myself and really do believe you do not need any specialized software to manage 2d star maps: AstroSynthesis v3.0 (http://www.nbos.com/products/astro/astro.htm)

12-29-2012, 01:40 AM
Oh, and, PS: I created a B&W base milky way image some time ago, based on NASA's work, which might or might not be helpful to you as a base image for your work: Milky Way Galaxy in Black and White | Enderra (http://enderra.com/2012/02/01/milky-galaxy-black-white/)

Here's a sample of what I did with it: A new Galaxy | Enderra (http://enderra.com/2012/01/26/star-map-final-version/galaxy-01-j-smaller/)

12-29-2012, 01:49 AM
Wow, thanks for the great reply. I ask for a program because it might be nice to, say, be able to click on a star and see its name, political ownership, planets, and other information rather than having to root into my catalog for that. Looking at Astrosynthesis, it seems like it might be my best bet. Even though it is designed to be used in 3D, it seems like I'll be able to simply set the z axis to have only a single level, so I can basically make it 2D. Unfortunately the price is a bit high, so I might have to put it off and just draw it rather than use a program.

12-29-2012, 07:21 AM
Hmmm. Call me old-school but I am not much for integrating computers at the game-table. Too distracting. As a means for the GM to organize information, I have no problem with it though. What I'd do, if I were to run a modern Sci Fi campaign, was to have all the info ready (say as in the library data from Traveller) as discreet textfiles, and when a player looks one up I'd print it on the fly. The big advantages of paper are, besides not allowing anybody to get distracted by the WWW (and break immersion) or an app (on a phone or ipad), that it's easy to handle and you can doodle and take notes on it.

If you run a game on a galactic scale you can't map it all out anyway, and you can't detail every starsystem there is. It's just absolutely impossible. My current star map (not the sample I linked above) has about 500 named systems. One can automate a lot of course - stats and simple fractal maps - but imagine you spend even 30 minutes writing up a little blurb for every system, that's 250 hours or 10.5 days of non-stop work - or 31 working days of 8h each.

12-30-2012, 08:42 PM
I'm the only one using a computer at the session. A laptop with my notes, and my desktop behind me with the planet the players are at loaded into SpaceEngine (I code them into it myself). I do print handouts on the fly, such as wanted posters, letters, but the notes I keep electronic simply because it's easier to type. Right now for a starmap I have a single hexed print paper for each sector (of which I currently have 3) with each system location and name marked onto it. Each hex is a parsec. I have detailed system information that I have in catalog form made using GURPS Space. All I really want is to be able to easily map all of that information either onto a tooltip style mouse hover, or at least be able to show the name with maybe a color or icon showing political ownership.