Designer's Notes
Challenge28 350px
From Challenge 28
Publisher Game Designers' Workshop
Version Traveller: 2300
Author Marc Miller.
Format Magazine article.
Canonical yes
Edition First Edition.
Year Published 1987
Pages {number of pages}
Available from Far Future Enterprises

The Near Star List and Map in Traveller:2300[]

Maps of the stars have long been of interest to science fiction game designers and players. Because state-of-the-art games and simulations depend upon the quality of the information they present, there is strong pressure from the marketplace to produce maps that accurately represent the neighborhood of Sol.

Previous Maps[]

Triplanetary (GDW, 1973) started the modern realistic genre of science fiction games with a vector movement structure set in the solar system. The map in Triplanetary used a hexagon grid and an astrology text to place the planets for the year 2000. Stellar Conquest (Metagaming Concepts, 1974) was an interstellar exploration and warfare game which sidestepped the problem of true stellar positions by setting its situation in a hypothetical globular cluster. Star Force (Simulation Publications, Inc., 1975) produced a 3D map of stars within 30 light years of Sol and touted it as the most accurate map yet produced. However, no supporting data was produced and some starnames on the map were obscure or fanciful. Universe (SPI, 1982) upgraded and revised the Star Force map, but it still lacked a solid source listing for its stars. Imperium (GDW, 1977) produced a 2D map of the region near Sol which became less accurate with distance (although at least one reviewer was taken in and marvelled at its accuracy). Traveller (GDW, 1977) used the Imperium map as the basis for its Solomani Rim (GDW, 1982) maps of portions of an interstellar empire in the far future.


The decision (in 1985) by GDW to proceed with the design of a science fiction role-playing game using state-of-the-art gaming rules created a requirement for a state-of-the-art stellar environment as well. The underlying philosophy of the game was established as "playable realism," and a realistic star map was considered absolutely necessary.

The basic reference for near star data is W. Gliese's Catalog of Nearby Stars, 1969. Naturally, we went to that first, and the catalog was keyboarded into a series of Apple II + DOS 3.3 data files, proofread, and then transferred to a Macintosh. During transfer, stars at a distance of greater than 50 light years were eliminated.

MacSpin (TM) was the essential program for this project, and it was an invaluable resource; it allowed projection of the star points onto a Macintosh screen to produce a 3D image of space within 50 light years of Earth and then rotating it to discover the details of stellar locations. Using MacSpin (TM) we produced a view of the nearby universe as if looking down on it from a distant point. That view (an XY plot) was produced and saved as a MacPaint file, then blown up using Poster Maker and individual star names were added. Stars were size coded based on height in the Z axis. The final poster-sized map was printed out on an Imagewriter, taped together, and sent to the GDW art department.

The GDW art department executed the map, color coding stars according to spectral class, and producing size codes based on height on the Z axis. The final product was produced as a poster map measuring 22 by 25 inches. At the same time, the data files were sorted alphabetically by star name, formatted and transferred to a Compugraphic typesetting system for final production. The data was then printed as an eight-page list of near star data. But don't think the project was easy; it consumed nearly two months of effort on the part of a designer and a typist, and that doesn't count the further work performed by the art department to finish it off.

The result was not only a beautiful map of the space around Earth; it is the most accurate map of nearby stars ever produced. The Near Star Map from Traveller:2300 shows, to the best that modern science can determine, what space is actually like within 50 light years of Earth. Because true spatial relationships are maintained, you can tell at a glance what stars are near what other stars, and which ones have no real connections. Near Star List on Computer Media

The data on the Near Star List and in the Near Star List is is also available in the following forms:

Apple II + Text Files: Two DOS 3.3 disks containing 19 files with the basic data formatted for random access. A file editor (Basic language) is included on each disk. A file printer (configured for MX-80) is also included. Use of the data will require some knowledge of AppleSoft Basic. These files contain the entire list of stars from Gliese's Catalog of Nearby Stars. They are in rougher shape than the Macintosh files (below), and contain some typographical errors (primarily in names).

Macintosh Files: One Macintosh 400k disk contains files for MacWrite, MDS Edit (also accessible by other applications), Record Holder, and MacSpin. It also contains supporting documentation in MacWrite files.

The MacWrite file is used for printing out the basic data. The Record Holder file is used for data base purposes. The MDS Edit is a generic text file which can be accessed by other applications (we used ZBasic for this sort of work). The MacSpin file is used with MacSpin, a three-dimensional graphical data analyzer. The disk contains only data files, no applications or system files are included.

These files are a subset of the Apple files (only stars with a distance of 50 light years or less are included). They have been edited to correct errors as they were found. Star names have been checked, and correct constellation names included where possible.

The Traveller:2300 game system required some fanciful names; actual catalog names are appended to the fanciful names in the data listings.