If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.
Some other useful links:
If you want to go to the very first post on the Atlas of Ice and Fire, click here.
Some other useful links:
Here’s my latest map, a take on the continent of Thedas from the Dragon Age series of video games.
So far, BioWare have released three games in the Dragon Age series: Dragon: Age Origins (2009), Dragon Age II (2011) and Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014). The fourth game in the series, Dragon Age: Dreadwolf is currently in development and planned for release in 2023. There are also spin-off novels and comics.
The Dragon Age games are set in Thedas, a name given fairly synonymously for both the main continent where the action takes place and the world as a whole. Thedas is located in the southern hemisphere and extends from the southern ice pack to subtropical regions in the north. The full extent of Thedas has not been mapped, and the existence of other continents across the sea is only vaguely known.
Thedas is home to humans and the traditional fantasy races of elves and dwarves. Setting-specific races include the Qunari, a race of large, horned humanoids who hail from unknown lands across the sea and have colonised islands and some cities in Thedas; and the Darkspawn, a race of subterranean creatures who have repeatedly attacked the surface races, but have recently been pacified. Despite the name of the franchise, dragons are fairly rarely encountered.
The continent is divided between several major powers:
Ferelden: A major kingdom located in the south-east of Thedas, south of the Waking Sea and east of the Frostback Mountains. The capital city is Denerim. Ferelden is the primary setting for Dragon Age: Origins.
The Free Marches: A loose association of independent city-states and townships north of the Waking Sea. Starkhaven is the largest city. Another major city, Kirkwall, is the primary setting for Dragon Age II.
The Empire of Orlais: The largest and most populous nation of Thedas, located at the southern end of the Waking Sea (also called the Shining Sea). Its capital is Val Royeux. Orlais is the primary setting for Dragon Age: Inquisition.
Nevarra: A fairly powerful mercantile state located north of the Shining Sea, taking advantage of its central location to trade with all its neighbours. Its capital is also called Nevarra.
Antiva: A fairly large nation located north-east of the Free Marches. Its capital is Antiva City.
Rivain: A remote nation in the north-east of Thedas. Its capital city is Dairsmuid.
The Tevinter Imperium: A powerful nation of sorcerers and mages, located in the central-northern region of Thedas. Once the dominant nation of Thedas, it has long been in decline. Its capital is Minrathous. Tevinter is rumoured to be the location for Dragon Age: Dreadwolf.
The Anderfels: A large nation in the north-west of Thedas, beyond the enormous Hunterhorn Mountains. The capital is Hossberg.
Seheron: An island-nation north of Tevinter. Its capital is Seheron. The island has been contested between the Tevinter Imperium and the Qunari of Par Vollen for many generations.
Par Vollen: A very large island or possible subcontinent, located north-east of mainland Thedas. Par Vollen is the effective homeland of the Qunari in Thedas, although their true homeland is believed to be located far to the north-east, beyond the Boeric Ocean. The Qunari occupied Par Vollen centuries ago and have since been at war with most of the mainland races of Thedas, controlling some coastal settlements and warring with the Tevinter Imperium over the island of Seheron.
Thedas’s true dimensions remain unknown: the thick jungles and forests of the Donarks block expansion to the north, whilst the Hunterhorn Mountains, Sea of Ash and the hostile jungles of the Viridis make westward exploration a challenge. It is known as a people known as the Voshai live beyond the Volca Sea to the west, occasionally trading with the Anderfels via the port city of Laysh. They have recently reported troubles in their homeland. An additional continent known as Amaranth is also believed to lie beyond the Amaranthine Ocean to the east of Ferelden, but according to legend and rumour it is a hostile land of nightmarish creatures which is not really worth the bother of exploring it.
For this map I drew on the excellent map of Thedas created by Francesca Bearald for the 2020 book Tevinter Nights. This map is significant as the first canon map that shows more land to the north, west, south and east of Thedas proper compared to the original maps of the continent. This map from Wyrd Sisters of Thedas was also useful, being the original game map expanded for more locations from the games themselves and some spin-off material.
Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.
It’s been a while, so decided to dust off the map-making muscles with a (relatively) quick map of one of the most underrated epic fantasy series, Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series.
Published in seven volumes between 1997 and 2005, Crown of Stars is the story of a great threat which falls upon the Europe-like continent of Novaria. However, the peoples of Novaria are engaged in their own internal feuds and concerns which blind them to the growing threat. In particular, the unified realms of Wendar and Varre are facing the prospect of civil war and invasion across the sea from the hostile Eika.
The fate of Novaria comes to rest on the shoulders of four individuals: Liath, a young woman who joins the elite messenger service known as the King’s Eagles, but faces the unwelcome pursuit of the vile Hugh, who believes she has abilities beyond those of ordinary humans; Alain, a young man who discovers he is the heir to a remote barony, upon which the fate of the unified kingdoms may hinge; Rosvita, a churchwoman writing a history of the realm from her vantage point in the King’s Court; and Sanglant, bastard child of King Henry, who commands the defence of the city of Gent against the Eika invaders.
The series is noteworthy for both its length (seven chunky volumes) and its status as a completed saga, as well as how it handles themes such as religion (the world is dominated by a matriarchal form of Christianity), cultural and ethnic differences. It is also consciously set at the beginning of the medieval period rather than the end, resulting in far smaller armies than is the norm in epic fantasy (a thousand troops is a fairly substantial force) and ideas like some nations not having capital cities, with the king instead on a permanent progress or circuit between the noble holdings.
Elliott has gone on to write additional series include the Crossroads and Spiritwalker trilogies. She is currently writing the space opera Sun Chronicles series, with its second volume, Furious Heaven, due in August 2022.
Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content before it goes live on my blogs.
Steven Erikson’s latest entry in the Malazan literary universe was published yesterday. The God is Not Willing is the first novel in the Witness Trilogy. Set ten years after the events of The Crippled God, the novel depicts the misadventures of the Malazan XIVth Legion as it is redeployed to the town of Silver Lake, the same town visited by Karsa Orlong many years earlier (in the first part of House of Chains), resulting in total chaos. The fallout from that visit is still being felt. Meanwhile, the Teblor tribes are on the move, preparing to move south in vast numbers to escape a coming natural disaster and seek out the Shattered God, Karsa Orlong, the God who is Not Willing.
I reviewed the book last month, and I thought it might be fun to create a map for the area covered in the novel. I drew on the map in The God is Not Willing itself and also utilised the House of Chains map and Steven Erikson’s own map of the Blackdog region to create something that is hopefully quite interesting, and handy for those who wanted a larger-scale view of the events.
Thank you for reading The Atlas of Ice and Fire. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.
The Fourth Succession War was a military conflict fought from 3028 to 3030 and involved all five of the Successor States of the Inner Sphere, along with numerous mercenary companies. The war was the largest and highest-intensity conflict fought since the Second Succession War (2830-64; the Third was a much longer but far lower-intensity conflict), but is notable for its comparative brevity.
The name is sometimes criticised; whilst the first three wars were obstinately fought to ensure the primacy of one house above all others and allow it to restore the Star League, the fourth was fought from less lofty idealistic goals and more for realpolitik, with measured and realistic objectives which were, for the most part, met (and in fact, exceeded)
The principal cause of the war was the unprecedented division of the Inner Sphere into two political blocs. This had been caused by the signing of the Federated Commonwealth Alliance document between First Prince Hanse Davion of the Federated Suns and Archon Katrina Steiner of the Lyran Commonwealth respectively in 3022. The alliance between the two powers saw them sharing military intelligence, technology and training techniques, with the Federated Suns benefitting from the Lyran Commonwealth’s immense industrial-technological base and economic power, whilst the Lyran Commonwealth’s military benefited from the Federated Suns’ far superior training regimens and intelligence on activity in enemy space.
In opposition, the Draconis Combine, Capellan Confederation and Free Worlds League signed a similar treaty of alliance and friendship, the Kapteyn Accords, brokered by ComStar, each of the three powers offering to come to the aid of the other two. However, this alliance was considered unreliable at best; the Capellan Confederation and Free Worlds League had repeatedly clashed for worlds along their common border (particularly in the Duchy of Andurien) and both the Draconis Combine and Free Worlds League coveted the same worlds in the Federated Suns’ “Terran Corridor” which linked Terra to the bulk of Federation space. In addition, the Combine was cut off from its two allies, forcing their militaries to operate independently, and there was little to no appetite for the three powers to collaborate on technology sharing or military training. Even intelligence was shared reluctantly. Still, the Federated Commonwealth Alliance could field 185 BattleMech regiments to the Kapteyn Alliance’s 185, giving the two sides perfect parity (at approximately 33,000 ‘Mechs apiece) and assuring their mutual defeat or destruction in any conflict, at least theoretically.
It appears that in 3022-25, the principal goal of the Federated Commonwealth Alliance was as a safeguard against hostility from the other three powers. However, in 3025 House Liao instigated Operation Doppelganger, an ambitious plan to replace Prince Hanse Davion with a genetically-engineered replacement who would be subservient to the Capellan Confederation’s needs and would deliberately weaken the borders to allow the Confederation to gobble up more worlds. The hope was that the double’s activities would force an internal conflict within the Federation, maybe even triggering a civil war and severing the alliance with Tharkad.
However, the plan was discovered and halted in its tracks by the Federation’s internal security. As a show of his displeasure, although the plan was not publicly exposed, Prince Hanse Davion began Operation Galahad, a massive demonstration of Federation armed might on the Capellan border. These manoeuvres triggered panic in the Confederation, forcing Chancellor Maximilian Liao to rush regiments into defensive postures along the border at great expense (and the risk of weakening the border with the Free Worlds League, something he was loathe to do despite their ostensible alliance). Davion repeated the Galahad exercises in 3027.
As well as the Galahad exercises, Prince Davion infiltrated two deep-cover agents into the Maskirovka, the Capellan Confederation’s intelligence division, and through careful data analysis and observation confirmed that his brother-in-law Duke Michael Hasek-Davion of New Syrtis, the ruler of the entire Capellan March, had been leaking intelligence to the Confederation in the hope of triggering a war which he would sit out, then attack his brother-in-law at an opportune moment and seize control of the Federation. Prince Davion began leaking false reports to Michael as well.
As a result of these intelligence victories, Hanse Davion had effectively gained complete control of all military intelligence flowing from the Federated Suns into the Capellan Confederation. The Lyran Commonwealth’s intelligence division had also made huge inroads into the Rasalhague Military District of the Draconis Combine, successfully stirring up secessionist sympathies in the district’s many worlds which chafed at the rule of House Kurita.
Hanse Davion proposed a joint military endeavour to Katrina Steiner: the Federated Suns would launch a massive invasion of the Capellan Confederation whilst the Lyran Commonwealth simultaneously attacked the Draconis Combine along their border. The Combine would have to divert troops to meet the Lyran thrust, and thus would not be able to come to the Confederation’s aid by attacking the Federation’s long, exposed border between their two nations. The careful military balance was, in Hanse’s eyes, overcome by secessionist tendences in both the Confederation and the Combine, which he believed they could exploit to get many worlds to swap sides without the need for invasion. Despite considerable misgivings about the wisdom of the well-equipped but sometimes poorly-led Commonwealth attacking the militarily superior Combine, Steiner agreed.
For the third year in a row, the Federated Suns began its Galahad exercises along the Confederation border in the summer of 3028. However, false intelligence leaked via Michael Hasek-Davion “confirmed” that this would be another exercise designed primarily to intimidate the Confederation and force it to waste time and money by fortifying the border. Maximilian Liao took the bait and did not move troops into forward positions, as he had the previous two years. In addition, the Inner Sphere was distracted by the social event of the century: the marriage of Prince Hanse Davion to Archon-Designate Melissa Steiner, Katrina’s daughter, on Terra. The rulers of the entire Inner Sphere and many Periphery states were invited, along with significant entourages.
The wedding took place on 20 August 3028. In one of the most infamous moments in Inner Sphere history, Prince Hanse Davion unveiled his wedding gift to his bride at the conclusion of the ceremony: “My dear, I give you the Capellan Confederation.” The plates the wedding cake were served on were each emblazoned with a symbol, that of a Capellan world under Federation attack in the first wave. Capellan Chancellor Maximilian Liao, in personal attendance, reportedly had to be forcibly removed from the room. The Draconis Combine and Free Worlds League delegations left immediately, correctly guessing they would also be facing attacks to stop them reinforcing the Confederation.
Under the cover of its Galahad exercises, the Federated Suns launched a massive invasion of the Capellan Confederation along their mutual border, beginning on 19 August 3028. The principal offensive was designated Operation Rat and was designed to run in multiple waves. The Federation’s plan was to bisect the Confederation from galactic east to west across its narrowest extent, cutting the Confederation in two and isolating the Tikonov Commonality in the north, whilst overrunning and conquering the Sarna Commonality to the south.
Wave 1: Aldebaran, Liao, Algol, New Hessen, Pleione, Poznan, St. Andre, Shensi, Styk
Wave 2: Tikonov, Tsitsang, Genoa, Gan Singh, Buchlau, Hunan, Zurich, Ningpo, Alrescha
After the capture of Tikonov, its ruler, Colonel Pavel Ridzik was almost assassinated on the orders of Chancellor Maximilian Liao. Federation agents prevented the assassination and Ridzik declared the secession of the entire Tikonov Commonality from the Capellan Confederation as the Tikonov Free Republic, taking a sizeable chunk of the Confederation’s military forces with it. Ridzik was later assassinated in a second, successful operation.
Wave 3: Menkar, Achernar, Kansu, Yangtze, Ronel, Tybalt, Slocum, New Canton, Arboris, Saiph, Tigress, Jonathan
Wave 4: Menkalinan, Tall Trees, Shipka, Foochow, Foot Fall, Woodstock, Bharat, Hamal, Highspire, Azha, Second Try
After the fourth wave, the Confederation finally rallied for Operation Riposte, a counter-assault into the Federation targeting several worlds that were being used as supply bases: Axton, Algot, New Aragon, Halloran, Basalt, Nopah and Kawich. The counter-attacks were easily fended off, as the Federation used their intelligence agents to encourage attacks on worlds that were heavily defended.
Wave 5: Corey, Zaurak, Menkib, New Macao, Mandate, Wei, Remshield, Tsingtao, Sarna
Wave 6: Truth, Kaifeng, Matsu, Heligoland, Palos, Sakhalin, Kathil-Sian offensive
Whilst the sixth wave was underway, House Liao launched an ambitious offensive deep behind the Federation’s lines. The second battalion of the 4th Tau Ceti Rangers and the Death Commandos was dispatched to attack and destroy the supply base on Kathil, with the goal of cutting off the Kathil shipyards from the invasion front. Maximilian’s thought was that if the shipyards were incapacitated, the Federation would have to abandon the offensive for lack of resupply for their WarShips and JumpShips. However, news of the operation was leaked by the moles in the intelligence agency and the Federation sortied the 1st Kathil Uhlans (a scratch company assembled from the remnants of the Davion Light Guards, 5th Syrtis Fusiliers and the Third Battalion of the Kathil Capellan March Militia) to first defend the shipyards and then use the IDs of the attackers to mount a lightning raid on Sian itself. There they would extract intelligence operatives Justin Xiang Allard and Alexi Mallory. As a bonus they also extracted the Chancellor’s daughter, Candace Liao, who had fallen out with her father and sister (his heir). Candace seceded her St. Ives Commonality from the Confederation as well.
Wave 7: Bora, Campertown, Chamdo, Elnath, Lesalles, Old Kentucky, Phact, Quemoy, Raballa, Sarmaxa, Ulan Bator, Wazan, Yunnah, Sarna (continued), Tsinghai.
During the offensive, ComStar twice intervened in the conflict on the Kaptyen side. The supposedly neutral power faked a Federation attack on the ComStar Hyperpulse Generator (HPG) on Sarna and used this as an excuse to impose an interdiction on the Federated Suns, shutting down all FTL communications. However, unbeknown to ComStar, the Federation had developed “black box” technology allowing them to engage in FTL communications without ComStar’s aid. This technology was slower, but allowed communications to continue. Prince Davion had also suspected such as possible reaction and had given his generals in the field considerable leeway to act on their own authority, allowing them to exploit and follow up on local successes if possible.
ComStar also mounted an attack on the New Avalon Institute of Science on the Federation capital world itself, hoping to destroy the Federation’s copy of the Helm Memory Core, a Star League-era computer system which had been recovered some years earlier and threatened to upset the technological and scientific balance of power in the Inner Sphere. The attack, carried out by ComStar forces disguised as Capellan Death Commandos failed, partially due to Prince Davion’s personal intervention in his BattleMaster ‘Mech. Davion knew that he had changed the units attacking Sarna at the last minute, so ComStar had faked the wrong units, and also that the Death Commandos were attacking Kathil at the exact same time they were supposedly attacking New Avalon, confirming to him that ComStar had gotten involved.
With the failure of the attack on Kathil, his daughter’s betrayal and the resulting counter-strike reaching Sian itself, Maximilian Liao took ill and had to abdicate his power in favour of his other daughter, Romano. She negotiated an end to the conflict.
In order to prosecute his invasion of the Confederation, Prince Hanse Davion decided to redeploy many of his most battle-hardened units from the Draconis March, where they had earned their spurs during the Third Succession War fighting across the border with the Draconis Combine. This left the border dangerously exposed whilst the assault on the Confederation was taking place. Davion knew that the Lyran Commonwealth’s attack would draw off the Combine’s best units, but he was still in danger of losing worlds along that front.
To this end, he opened negotiations with Jaime Wolf, the infamously honourable commander of Wolf’s Dragoons, one of the most respected and feared mercenary companies in the Inner Sphere. The Dragoons had been under contract to the Combine for some years, but Jaime had fallen out of favour with Coordinator Takashi Kurita and a deep feud was developing between them. Davion offered safe harbour within the Federation if the Dragoons helped defend the Draconis March from attack. Jaime agreed and redeployed his forces to this end.
The Draconis Combine could only spare a small number of units from the Lyran front to attack the Federation, but chose several key targets in the Robinson Operational Area (the Coreward Theatre of the Draconis March). Several worlds fell in rapid succession, namely David, Klathandu, Royal, Marduk, McComb, Lima, Galtor, Deshler, New Aberdeen and Bergman’s Planet. An attack on Breed was thwarted and turned back by Federation defenders, who performed better than anticipated.
More significant was the Battle for Northwind. The Combine hoped to take the strategically vital world of Northwind as a way of funnelling supplies and support to the Capellan Confederation to the galactic south, and cut off the inner part of the Terran Corridor from the rest of the Federation. However, Prince Davion played an unexpected canny move by offering the famed, exiled Northwind Highlanders mercenary force their ancestral homeworld if they deserted the Confederation and joined the Federation. They agreed, depriving the Confederation of a key mercenary force and reinforcing the planet against the Combine. The Combine’s attack was turned back in some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
The Combine now launched their assault on Wolf’s Dragoons, committing surprisingly large forces to assault the Dragoon positions on Wapakontea, Harrow’s Sun and Glenmora, to the consternation of commanders who would have preferred taking less well-defended worlds elsewhere. In each case the Dragoons stood and fought, inflicting horrendous losses on the Combine forces before withdrawing in relatively good order. They eventually fell back on Crossing, drawing the bulk of the Combine’s forces in the sector after them, and all but obliterated them in a pitched battle. The Dragoons survived, but with the loss of almost 80% of their troops and equipment. In gratitude, the Federation granted the world of Outreach to them as their own homeworld in perpetuity and the Dragoons set about rebuilding immediately.
The Lyran Commonwealth entered the conflict with some hesitation, believing they were facing a far more dangerous opponent than the Federation was, and that if the situation went badly, they stood to lose a staggering number of worlds and lives. However, Archon Katrina Steiner believed they could achieve significant success since their goal was not conquest, but rather triggering the nascent secessionist movement in the Rasalhague Military District and engaging and destroying as many Kurita forces as possible to stop them redeploying to the Federation front. Operation GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG began simultaneously alongside the Federation’s Operation Rat.
Wave 1: Harvest, Bailiano, Wheel, Marfik, Moritz, Weingarten, Kandis, Karbala, New Caledonia, Al Hillah, Heiligendreuz, Camlann, Diosd, Hyperion, Jabuka, Ko, Orestes, Ramsau, Sabik, Shaula, Shionoha, Volders, Buckminster, Vega
The first wave of the attack was far more successful than anticipated: the Commonwealth overran and defeated every target bar only the prefecture capital at Buckminster, where the fighting devolved into a slug fest, and fellow prefecture capital Vega, where the Coordinator’s son Theodore Kurita successfully led an innovative defensive campaign which turned back the Lyran onslaught.
The reasons for the success were credited to excellent intelligence-gathering and superior Lyran equipment tied with Federation training techniques, as well as many of the attacks being led by veteran generals from the Combine frontier rather than “social generals” from the rear echelons (despite grouching about this within political circles). The Coordinator was also blamed for committing more troops to the Federation border than had been anticipated due to his keenness to destroy Wolf’s Dragoons, leaving several worlds on the Lyran front under-defended.
Wave 2: Csesztreg, Lothan, Tukayyid, Buckminster, Hohenems, The Edge, Aubisson, Hainfeld, Grumium, Kirchbach, Verthandi, Memmingen, Kimball, Atria, Imbros, Kufstein, Karbala, Cebalrai
The second wave built on the successes of the first. The goal was to pursue and destroy retreating Combine forces whilst also seeking out and engaging Combine reinforcements before they could concentrate for counter-offensives. The Combine’s military doctrine had always favoured attack rather than defence and had presupposed a hesitant Lyran offensive led by inexperienced officers; faced with a much more aggressive and capable enemy, Combine forces often faltered, leading to avoidable losses.
The second wave was completely successful, completing the capture of Buckminster despite a ferocious defence and some heavy urban fighting.
Wave 3: The Edge, Stanzach, Utrecht, Komephoros, Kimball, Sabik, La Blon
The third wave was divided between further offensives into Combine space and defensive actions against limited Combine counter-attacks. Lyran successes were offset by the Combine successfully recapturing Kimball and Sabik and mounting a thrust across the line to capture the Commonwealth world of La Blon.
Wave 4: The Edge, Liezen, Engadin, Stanzach, Radstadt, Tamar, Gunzburg, Utrecht, Shirotori, Buckminster, Csesztreg, Feltre, Galuzzo, Nox, Quarell, Satalice, Altenmarkt, Kimball, Komephoros
The fourth wave a mixture of seizing more vulnerable worlds whilst continuing to defend against surprisingly weak Combine counter-thrusts. A key moment came during an ambitious Kuritan assault on Tamar, the capital of the entire Tamar Pact, which was turned back by mercenary forces despite inept leadership and interference from the planet’s ruler.
Wave 5: Dromini, Yorii, Lambrecht, Asta, Altair, Dyev, La Blon, Sabik
This wave, known as Operation Holdur, was enacted with the Lyran reserves. The Archon believed that the Combine’s lacklustre defence opened the possibility of further successes, with a strong focus on the worlds to the galactic north-east of Terra. The idea here was to blast open a hole through the Combine front to link up with Federation space north and north-east of Terra whilst the secession of the Tikonov Free Republic and successes on the Free Worlds League front had opened lines of communication and supply to the south and south-west. The operation was successful, and even widened to include the successful retaking of La Blon. However, the Draconis Combine retained Altair in the post-conflict peace deal, meaning the goal of opening the contiguous border north of Terra was not achieved, though ultimately a moot point.
Wave 6: Dromini, Skondia, Nusakan, Alpchecca
This wave was a defensive action against the Draconis Combine’s Operation Contagion, an attempt by Theodore Kurita to halt the invasion by taking Commonwealth worlds along the Skye front. Kurita’s superior leadership, despite the under-strength forces allotted to the task, resulted in the successful capture of Skondia and Alpchecca, putting Combine military forces within striking distance of the capital on Skye. However, an attack on Dromini was defeated and the Combine suffered a huge loss of prestige and morale when the Genyosha suspended their war contribution to resolve a duel of honour with the Kell Hounds on Nusakan. Yorinaga Kurita, arguably the Combine’s finest MechWarrior, committed suicide after losing the duel and many of the Genyosha, furious with their dishonourable treatment by the Combine, defected to the Hounds.
During this offensive, Duke Aldo Lestrade IV of Skye planned to defect from the Commonwealth to form his own nation, but he was assassinated before he could carry out the threat.
Although the assault was not as successful as Kurita had envisioned, it nevertheless placed Combine forces within striking distance of a major Commonwealth world, forcing the Lyrans to divert forces from a further wave to its defence. With front-line troops exhausted and lines of supply stretched, Archon Katrina Steiner called a halt to the offensive for resupply. The Combine, shocked by its poor performance against what it had always considered to be an inferior foe, likewise chose to rest its forces and these lines remained constant to the end of the war.
With the outbreak of hostilities, Chancellor Maximilian Liao called on the other signatories of the Kapteyn Accords for aid. Although the Draconis Combine responded, the Free Worlds League was more desultory. Captain-General Janos Marik was not minded to rush to help the Confederation, with whom it had a number of border disputes. However, when Coordinator Takashi Kurita joined the call for aid, he realised he needed to act. Marik ordered the implementation of Operation Dagger, a cautious thrust into the Lyran Commonwealth along the border near Terra.
Wave 1: Wyatt, Milton, Phecda, Pulsbo, Timbiqui, Launam
Operation Dagger was successful, with the Free Worlds League picking off six worlds from the Commonwealth.
Wave 2: Procyon, Van Diemen, Talitha, Wasat, Callison
The second stage of the war on this front was an unexpected offensive from the Tikonov Free Republic, supported and supplied by the Federation. Lord Ridzik’s forces seized Procyon, Talitha, Van Dieman and Wasat in short, order, triggering severe consternation in the Free Worlds League. Simultaneously, the Lyran Commonwealth attacked and seized Callison, making Marik fear a general offensive along the Lyran front was about to begin.
Wave 3: Wyatt, Milton, Phecda, Pulsbo, Timbiqui, Launam, Marcus, Zosma, Denebola, Castor, Devil’s Rock, Oliver, Alula Australis, Graham IV
In one of the most embarrassing episodes in Inner Sphere military history, the Commonwealth undertook a successful disinformation campaign that made the Free Worlds League fear a full-scale offensive was imminent. Janos Marik evacuated all of the worlds captured in the first wave of the offensive and also ceded a number of worlds near Terra, which Marik believed the Commonwealth would seek to conquer to open a contiguous border with the Federated Suns. Lyran militia units indeed moved in to take these worlds after they were left undefended, but the focus of the Lyran offensive remained on the Draconis Combine. As a result, the Free Worlds League lost fourteen worlds for effectively no reason.
As 3030 dawned, Prince Hanse Davion called a general halt to the offensive. Military successes by both the Lyran Commonwealth and Federated Suns had been absolutely huge, the Capellan Confederation had been effectively eliminated as an ongoing threat, the Draconis Combine had been humbled and the Free Worlds League humiliated. A territorial link had been formed between the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth, which from this point on would be called the Federated Commonwealth (although they formally did not become one nation until 3052). Privately, both Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner believed the offensive had succeeded beyond their highest hopes and they should quit whilst they were ahead.
The exhausted Capellan Confederation was forced to accept the terms imposed on it, whilst the Draconis Combine and Free Worlds League both accepted the terms to allow them to rearm and resupply.
The ComStar Peace Pact of 3030 was signed by the Federated Commonwealth Alliance, the Free Worlds League and the Draconis Combine on 19 February that year, bringing an end to the conflict. The Federated Commonwealth Alliance effectively kept all of its gains and the losers were forced to accept the new status quo, even as they bristled for revenge. The Capellan Commonwealth refused to sign, but given the utter shambles it had been left in, this was not particularly relevant.
The Fourth Succession War redrew the map of the Inner Sphere significantly. The Capellan Confederation was, by far, the worst-affected nation. More than a third of the Confederation’s territory was lost and almost half its star systems (107 in total), with two commonalities seceding and the Sarna Commonality being lost to the Federation’s invasion. The Confederation lost two-thirds of its combat strength, either destroyed in the field, surrendered or lost to the two new nations, the Tikonov Free Republic and the St. Ives Compact. Of its approximate 180 battalions in combat readiness at the start of the war, almost 30 had been knocked out of commission by sabotage (a new polymer “captured” from the Federation that actually made the ‘mechs much more vulnerable to fire damage), 65 had been destroyed, 15 had seceded to the St. Ives Compact, 9 had seceded to the Tikonov Free Republic, 11 had surrendered and 11 had defected to the Federated Suns. As the smoke cleared, the Confederation was left with 41 combat-effective battalions, barely mustering 14 of the 45 regiments they had started the war with.
The Federated Suns was the big winner from the war. In fact, although Prince Hanse Davion had made some comments suggesting that the capture of the entire Capellan Confederation was possible, privately he had believed that slicing the Confederation in two and seizing a few dozen worlds would be a good outcome. Triggering the collapse of more than a third of the Confederation’s territory, sending Chancellor Liao mad, splitting his family apart and triggering near civil war within the Confederation’s remnants was a much greater success than he had anticipated, not to mention his allies’ huge victory against the Kuritans. The Federation only sustained moderate losses during the campaign and captured most of the Confederation’s heavy industry intact. It acquired enough new worlds to form a new subpolity, the Sarna March, and combined with the Lyran Commonwealth’s successes, opened up a wide swathe of territory around Terra to link the Commonwealth and the Federation’s territory directly together, allowing for free trade and military reinforcement across their mutual borders.
The Federation did sustain some losses to the Draconis Combine, with fourteen planets captured (in some cases, recaptured) by the Kuritans. In some cases, these worlds were reclaimed by the Federation a few years later, but in others they were lost permanently.
The Draconis Combine suffered significant losses during the conflict. Fifty-three worlds were lost to the Commonwealth, which far offset the fourteen planets gained from the Federation and two from the Commonwealth in the Skye region. Although the entire Rasalhague district did not secede, secessionist tendencies were dramatically reinforced in the parts of the district which remained in Kuritan hands. The Kuritans could generally be pleased by their individual military units’ performance, which was often impressive despite being outnumbered on a local level, and by the rise of the Coordinator’s son and heir, Theodore Kurita. Previously an unknown entity, Theodore displayed considerable military skill and personal bravery on the battlefield, as well as strategic and political acumen in his judgement that threatening Skye (even if something of a bluff) would halt the Lyran offensive.
The Lyran Commonwealth achieved a tremendous military victory, by seizing fifty-three systems from the Draconis Combine and more still from the Free Worlds League, as well as opening up the space around Terra to link Commonwealth and Federation territory directly. Commonwealth casualties were relatively light, and the military could take pride in a superb campaign which significantly improved its previously poor reputation. Katrina Steiner’s gamble, first in allying with the Federated Suns, then in marrying her daughter to Prince Hanse, and finally in invading the Draconis Combine and defeating a superior opponent, secured her reputation and that of her nation.
The only fly in the ointment for the Commonwealth was the cunning realpolitik played out by Theodore Kurita and ComStar, which resulted in the Draconis Combine granting Rasalhague its independence several years later. With little choice, the Commonwealth had to release most of its conquered worlds to the new nation (as it had previously agreed to do should the situation arise). The result was the loss of most of the Commonwealth’s material gains from the war, which left an ugly taste in the mouths of some Lyrans. Still, in the short term, the war had been a huge success.
The Free Worlds League had lost more than a dozen worlds to no particular end, resulting in a personal humiliation for Janos Marik, especially when it looked like they could have ended the war with their borders intact and a modest number of Lyran border worlds in their hands. However, the Free World League exited the war with its military almost entirely unengaged and unspent, unlike the other four Successor States, and its merchants seized on the uncertainty to win contracts and concessions that would otherwise have gone to the Commonwealth’s corporations.
The human cost of the war was starker: 100 million dead, either through combat or resulting food and medical supply disruptions, with over 80 trillion C-bills of property damage incurred on almost 200 planets. The Inner Sphere would be many years in recovering from the catastrophe.
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The Inner Sphere
The Inner Sphere is the territory located roughly within 600 light-years of Terra and claimed by the Successor States of the fallen Star League. These polities form a flattened sphere approximately centred on neutral Terra and divided between the five major powers of known space.
These states each consider themselves to be the natural heir to the grace and power of the Star League. These states are, arranged roughly clockwise, the Lyran Commonwealth, the Draconis Combine, the Federated Suns, the Capellan Confederation and the Free Worlds League. At the centre of the Inner Sphere is Terra, under the control of the mercantile-religious organisation known as ComStar.
Around the edges of the Sphere lies the territory known as the Periphery, inhabited by various independent worlds and minor powers.
Each of the Successor States is huge, either in distances spanned, the number of star systems controlled or, in the case of the Federated Suns, both. For ease of reference, each one of the States breaks their territory down into different sub-regions, though each State has its own method of determining how this is accomplished.
The States are as follows:
The Lyran Commonwealth
Founded in 2341 as an alliance between three mercantile states, the Lyran Commonwealth extends some 400 light-years anti-spinwards and corewards from Terra. Originally a much smaller nation, the Commonwealth benefited from the collapse of the Rim Worlds Republic during the fall of the Star League and absorbed much of its former territory.
As of 3025, the Lyran Commonwealth contains over 300 settled systems, with its capital located on Tharkad. The Commonwealth is ruled by House Steiner, whose current leader is Archon Katrina Steiner.
Reflecting its origins, the Lyran Commonwealth is noted for its mercantile and corporate power, with some of the Inner Sphere’s richest corporations located within the Commonwealth’s borders. The Commonwealth is the richest-per-head nation in the Inner Sphere and fields some of its best equipment, with a high preponderance of rare Assault BattleMechs and variants in the armed forces. The nation’s political power is concentrated in the hands of its nobility, to the point where officers in the Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces (LCAF) often buy their ranks with little or no formal training in the military academies, resulting in the phenomenon known as “social generals.” This has left the LCAF in a precarious situation where many of the individual units, soldiers and MechWarriors are of a high standard, with top-of-the-line equipment, but they are often led by inexperienced officers with little or no front-line combat experience. Still, with 75 BattleMech regiments mobilised at any time, the Commonwealth is the third-most-militarily powerful nation in the Inner Sphere. The Lyran Intelligence Corps (LIC) is also a formidable intelligence organisation.
The Commonwealth has a fractious relationship with the Free Worlds League to the galactic south, and worlds exchange hands between the two sides along the border on a somewhat regular basis. However, the relationship with the Draconis Combine to the galactic east is considerably more dubious, with real hatred and dislike on both sides of the border. Many of the best LCAF units and their most experienced officers are located along the Combine border.
For the past three years, the Lyran Commonwealth has enjoyed an unprecedented alliance with the Federated Suns. The two empires, located on opposite sides of Terra and expanding in different directions, have no major border disputes and their philosophical and political goals are compatible. In particular, the overwhelming strength of the alliance has discouraged the Draconis Combine, sandwiched between the two powers, from making war on either. The Federated Suns have offered military advice and equipment to the LCAF in an attempt to bring it up to their spec, though some in the military and nobility resent the intrusion of new ideas.
The Lyran Commonwealth is divided between three bodies, each subdivided into smaller provinces.
The Draconis Combine
The Draconis Combine was founded in 2319, growing out of the former Alliance of Galedon formed between Galedon V and New Samarkand. The Combine controls a vast swathe of space extending some 400 light-years spinward from Terra and 400 light-years corewards. The Combine controls over 350 settled planets.
The Combine is ruled by House Kurita from the planet Luthien. Its current ruler is Coordinator Takashi Kurita. The Combine is something of an imperial power, believing that it is destined to resurrect the Star League and rule over humanity as its destiny. The Combine’s army, the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery (DCMS), is superbly trained, with the military rigidly trained in the concepts of honour and sacrifice. Combine units are noted for their greater tendency to fight to the death rather than surrender, though the extent of their fanaticism is often exaggerated by their enemies. The DCMS is regarded as a formidable war machine, but a somewhat inflexible one, often unwilling to embrace new ideas or doctrines. It is also not the best-equipped armed force, often over-relying on Heavy ‘Mechs and lighter classes due to a shortage of Assaults. However, this often makes Draconian MechWarriors formidable in battle, having to make up for in skill what they lack in equipment. With 80 MechWarrior regiments mobilised, the Combine has the second-largest military in the Inner Sphere.
The Combine’s intelligence branches, the Internal Security Force (ISF) and Order of the Five Pillars (O5P) are considered extremely effective. Despite the names, the ISF actually undertakes the bulk of external operations against enemy powers and the Order maintains internal security (the “internal” theatre of the ISF is actually the entirety of the Inner Sphere, as the Combine considers itself the heir to the Star League).
The Combine is based upon the Five Pillars: the Pillar of Gold (the government), the Pillar of Steel (the military), the Pillar of Teak (the people and culture), the Pillar of Ivory (philosophy and religion) and the Pillar of Jade (the economy). All five pillars have to work in harmony to ensure the survival and growth of the Combine.
The Combine has relatively few friends, though it does enjoy cordial relations with the Free Worlds League, from which it is separated by a large span of space, and the Capellan Commonwealth, with which it shares some common goals, principally the elimination of the Federated Suns. The Combine holds the Lyran Commonwealth in contempt, despite its large military, but it both hates and respects the Federated Suns, with which it shares the longest and most contentious border in the entire Inner Sphere.
The recent advent of an alliance between the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns has put the Draconis Combine on the back foot. The Combine is sandwiched between the two powers and in the advent of both attacking simultaneously, the Combine would be hard-pressed to hold them back. To defend against this, the Combine has entered into a strategic alliance with House Marik of the Free Worlds League and House Liao of the Capellan Commonwealth, although this alliance is generally considered to be less stable than the Lyran-Federated axis.
The Draconis Combine is divided into five military districts, each of which is further subdivided into prefectures.
The Federated Suns
The Federated Suns – often called “The Federation” by its citizens – was founded in 2317 and is the largest, richest, most populous and most powerful of the Successor States. The Federation extends 400 light-years rimwards from Terra and over 600 light-years spinwards. It controls over 500 settled planets, representing the greatest concentration of humanity in known space.
The Federation is ruled by House Davion from the planet New Avalon. Its current ruler is First Prince Hanse Davion, widely known as “The Fox” for his cunning political stratagems and wily military prowess. Despite being an effective monarchy, the Federation prides itself on being the greatest bastion of personal freedom, liberty and democracy in the Inner Sphere. It often holds itself as being the moral conscience and defender of freedom in known space, an idea the other powers are sceptical of (to say the least), and quick to accuse the Federation of hypocrisy when it acts in the interest of realpolitik rather than its idealism.
The Armed Forces of the Federated Suns (AFFS) is regarded as the finest military in the Inner Sphere, with a strong balance between the fanaticism and emphasis on individual glory provided by the Draconis Combine and the reliance on superior equipment of the Lyran Commonwealth. The AFFS is a highly professional force with a superb military academy system, designed to find and promote the best military minds in the Federation. With more than 110 BattleMech regiments mobilised, the AFFS is the largest military force in the Inner Sphere, though it also has vastly more territory and worlds to defend than any other power. The Ministry of Information, Intelligence and Operations (MIIO) and Department of Military Intelligence (DMI) are among the best intelligence services in the Inner Sphere, operating agents in backwaters in the Periphery and deep-cover operatives in the very centres of power in the other empires, often playing the long game and employing patience to position agents at the very heart of enemy power.
The Federated Suns has tempestuous relations with both the Draconis Combine to the galactic north and the Capellan Confederation to the galactic west. The Federation has gone to war against both powers many times and usually been victorious, or held its own. However, the Federation has never been able to embark on a full war of conquest against either power for fear of exposing its flanks to the other. The Federation has the largest military in the Inner Sphere, but it is not large enough to wage full wars against both neighbouring powers simultaneously.
This geostrategic weakness was recently undone by the alliance with House Steiner of the Lyran Commonwealth, putting hostile forces on both sides of the Draconis Combine’s borders and theoretically allowing the Federation to put pressure on the Capellan Confederation with less fear of an attack by the Combine. The Combine, Confederation and Free Worlds League have responded by forming their own alliance, but this is considered a less stable alliance in contrast.
The Federated Suns is divided into three principalities or “Marches.” Each March is enormous in size, population and power. Each March is divided into military operation theatres and further subdivisions, as follows:
The Capellan Confederation
The Capellan Confederation is the youngest of the Successor States, founded in 2367 as an alliance between several powerful, smaller factions in the systems surrounding Capella. At the time the Federated Suns were expanding swiftly from galactic east and the Capellan systems decided to band together rather be swallowed up by the rapidly-growing superpower. The Confederation extends 400 light-years rimwards from Terra, but is only around 200 light-years wide at its widest extent. The Confederation appears small on maps, but it is relatively densely populated, with 217 inhabited systems as of 3025.
The Confederation is ruled by House Liao from the planet Sian. Its current ruler is Chancellor Maximilian Liao. The Confederation is a highly autocratic power with a controlled economy and caste system. Power is concentrated in three bodies: the Chancellor, the Prefectorate and the House of Scions. Capellan society is rooted in service to the state: those born in the Confederation are effectively wards of the state until they are granted citizenship by service in the military, law enforcement, medical, scientific or intelligence communities. Those who are unable to earn citizenship become servitors, forced to work in crippling conditions for the bare amenities needed to survive.
The Capellan Confederation Armed Services (CCAF) are a small but professional and well-armed military force, with 45 BattleMech regiments under arms (augmented by a fluctuating number of mercenary forces, Warrior Houses and the elite Death Commandos). The Confederation government has long feared an insurrection of the CCAF and kept the military numbers to the bare minimum needed to dissuade attacks by the Free Worlds League or the Federated Suns, but this is insufficient to fulfil the Confederation’s long-term goal of claiming more territory from the surrounding powers. The Confederation bases much of its defence plans on information gained from the Maskirovka, the Confederation intelligence agency. The Maskirovka is noted for how incredibly widespread and tenacious it is, with sympathisers on many worlds in every Successor State and throughout the Periphery. The Federated Suns’ intelligence agencies are better-funded and resourced, but the Maskirovka is considered more ruthless and is more feared.
The Capellan Confederation has hostile relations with the Federated Suns, which it considers a rival despite the Federation having more than twice and not far off three times the Confederation’s size, military power and population. Much of the Federation’s anti-spinwards expansion came at the expense of the Confederation, either in terms of actual member worlds or worlds the Confederation coveted as well. The Confederation wants to bring down and destroy the Federation, but due to its inferior resources has employed assassination, subterfuge and sabotage as its preferred weapons of war. The Confederation also has a long border with the Free Worlds League, with which it has sparred several times over worlds of mutual interest, and the Rimward Periphery, a region where the Confederation has looked for allies and opportunities for expansion.
The Federation’s recent alliance with the Lyran Commonwealth has seen the Confederation open talks with the Draconis Combine and Free Worlds League, forming a mutual defence pact. This alliance is designed to counterweight the Davion-Steiner axis, but is considered a somewhat less reliable partnership.
The Capellan Confederation is divided into five major subdivisions, known as commonalities. Each commonality is divided into grand duchies, duchies and fiefdoms, although these titles change hands so often as factions and families rise and fall that tracking them becomes very complex.
The Free Worlds League
The Free Worlds League is the oldest of the Successor States, founded in 2271 as an alliance between the Marik Republic, Federation of Oriente and Regulan Principality. Unlike the other Successor States, which are cohesive nation-states with a strong central authority, the Free Worlds League is more of an alliance of semi-autonomous polities banded together for mutual defence against their neighbours. Its constituent regions have the greatest autonomy of any in the Successor States, although this has come at the expense of security. The League extends approximately 400 light-years rimwards from Terra and 400 light-years anti-spinward. There are more than 330 settled systems in the League.
The League is ruled by House Marik from the planet Atreus, although “ruled” is perhaps a strong term. The League is a somewhat diffuse organisation which places high degrees of autonomy in each member world and sub-body, many of which are responsible for maintaining their own military forces and government. Broadly speaking, the League is organised as a federal state with the League acting as the federal government and each member-state organising their own affairs. The nominal head of state is currently Captain-General Janos Marik.
The Free Worlds League Military is nevertheless a professional and respected force. It can mobilise 60 BattleMech regiments at any time, but, in times of warfare, the FWLM can call upon reserve troops from individual planetary militias or state governments. The quality of these troops can vary extremely wildly. The FWLM is notable for its focus on combined operations, with armor, infantry and aerospace forces existing in large numbers and its relative numbers of BattleMechs being quite small compared to conventional forces. In addition, the FWLM fields one of the largest navies in the Inner Sphere, a product of its large number of shipyards, with the Free League’s doctrine of war focusing on denying space and air superiority to enemy forces and destroying enemy forces before they can land on target worlds.
The Free Worlds League also maintains an efficient intelligence-gathering operation: SAFE. SAFE is considered the least-effective intelligence body of the five Successor States, with a low number of successful missions outside its borders. SAFE (the acronym’s origins are unknown, with popular myth suggesting it stands for “Search and Find Everything”) is better employed as an information analysis bureau.
The Free Worlds League has varying relations with other powers, including long-running border disputes with the Lyran Commonwealth and several major border clashes with the Capellan Confederation, particularly over the Duchy of Andurien. The League’s federal structure and devotion to the freedom of its member worlds, not to mention their lack of a common border, makes it arguably a natural ally of the Federated Suns, but the two powers have had generally apathetic relations over the centuries. The League does enjoy arguably the closest relationship of any of the major powers with ComStar on Terra, and has a moderate relationship with the Magistracy of Canopus, one of the largest Periphery powers on its galactic southern border.
Since the formation of the Davion-Steiner Alliance, the League has entered into a strategic alliance with the Draconis Combine and Capellan Confederation. The League is not a natural friend of either state but considers working with them preferable to possibly being conquered by the Lyran Commonwealth.
The League has the most confusing hierarchy of the five major powers, a result of it being more an alliance of lesser states and independent worlds than an empire as such. Most star systems in the Free Worlds League are autonomous systems maintaining their own governments and militaries, sending representatives to the League Parliament on Atreus. However, multiple systems have banded together into smaller states for greater protection and representation
Sarna, the BattleTech Wiki, was an exhaustive source of information, canon, star locations and facts, as well as providing some symbols and information.
The recent 2018 BattleTech video game was a source of information, inspiration, expanded lore, new maps and faction symbols, as well as being a fantastic video game in its own right.
This map marks the start of a number of maps related to the BattleTech science fiction setting, from the miniatures game, novel line and video game of the same name and the MechWarrior series of video games. You can find out more about the setting here.
These series of maps depict known space as it stands in the year 3025, after the Third Succession War. This is the time period of the “classic” BattleTech setting and approximately the setting of the recent video games BattleTech and MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries.
During the past nine centuries of interstellar exploration and settlement, humanity has expanded across a region roughly circular* in shape, approximately four thousand light-years across and centred on Terra, humanity’s ancestral homeworld. This region is vast and crowded; more than 50 million stars are located in this volume of space, less than three thousand of which have been settled by humanity and only a few multiples of that have even been visited by spacecraft. Of course, this area is infinitesimal when compared to the remainder of the Milky Way Galaxy; less than 4% of its width has been explored by humans.
The exploration of this volume of space was undertaken by several bodies, most notably the Terran Hegemony, the Rim Worlds Republic, and the Star League which they were both part of. Survey ships struck out on perilous journeys far beyond the rim of settled space in search of worlds suitable for terraforming, if not the rare jewels of worlds already suitable for colonisation. Not all these ships returned; jump technology was not always certain and sometimes, after hundreds of jumps carrying ships far out of communications range of settled space, their recharging systems would fail, leaving ships stranded with no way of getting home. Exploration was thus perilous.
After the fall of the Star League in 2781 and the beginnings of the Succession Wars, exploration became of less interest to the major powers. There were more than enough worlds to be dealing with already, most of them not in any imminent danger of overpopulation, and the impetus for costly, dangerous journeys was reduced. The age of exploration did not completely come to an end – ComStar, in particular, maintains an exploration arm, and the private firm Interstellar Expeditions maintains some long-range surveys – but it did slow dramatically.
Divisions of Known Space
Known space is divided into three distinct regions, defined as follows:
* Maps in the BattleTech universe are curiously two-dimensional, depicting events taking place on an approximately 2D plane of the galaxy centred on Sol. Stars “above” and “below” the map appear to have not been settled in significant numbers, and well-known stars above and below the galactic plane (such as, for example, Polaris) are not listed, or have been moved. In other cases, real, named stars are not in their correct spatial relations to Earth (Terra) or one another. For reasons of sanity, it is best to assume that BattleTech takes place in a parallel universe version of the Milky Way where the major powers have chosen not to settle worlds above or below the galactic plane and the Inner “Sphere” is actually more pancake-shaped.
Next time we will take a closer look at the Inner Sphere itself.
In the process of creating my recent Babylon 5 starmap, using the location of real stars, I thought it might be interesting to create a larger map showing all of the major powers and their colonies, and the jump routes connecting them.
This map is based on the map provided in the Babylon 5 Roleplaying Game from Mongoose Publishing (2002), which in turn was partially inspired by the starmaps in the earlier Babylon Project Roleplaying Game from Titan Books (1997) and Babylon 5 Wars miniatures game from Agents of Gaming (1997), with some modifications. All of these games ran their maps and other information past J. Michael Straczynski and his assistant Fiona Avery for approval. Whilst official, licensed products, however, they are not necessarily canon (Straczynski later fell out with Mongoose Publishing and declared the information in their game to be non-canon, even apparently information that he’d authorised). However, they are the best maps we have or are likely to get.
The map depicts the state of known space at the start of the year 2257, at the time that Ambassador Kosh of the Vorlon Empire arrives on board the Babylon 5 diplomatic station. There are five major powers whose military, political and economic clout is enough to classify them as superpowers: the Vorlon Empire, the Minbari Federation, the Centauri Republic, the Earth Alliance and the Narn Regime (in rough order of age and power). Some of these powers exercise control over other races as overlords, such as the Centauri, or the Minbari over several neighbouring worlds which are part of their “protectorate,” most notably the Norsai.
In addition there are a large number of minor powers who have banded together as the League of Non-aligned Worlds. These include the Abbai, Balosians, Brakiri, Cascor, Drazi, Gaim, Grome, Hurr, Hyach, Ipsha (or Iksha), Llort, Markab, Onteen, Pak’ma’ra, Vree and Yolu, whose combined power is considerable but undercut by internal divisions. There are yet more minor powers who prefer to maintain their own independence, such as the Lumati, Golians, Sh’lassans, Onteen and Ch’lonas.
This map depicts the major empires based on hyperspace transit routes, not their physical relationships in realspace. The Earth Alliance incorporates systems that are physically close to one another – such as Proxima Centauri, which is only 4.2 light-years from Earth – but also ones that are extremely distant, such as Deneb, located 2,616 light-years from Earth. However, quirks of hyperspace currents and gravitational inclines allow relatively rapid transit to those systems. Similarly, worlds like Centauri Prime and Narn are a fairly convoluted series of jumps from Earth, despite physically being relatively close by (Narn is about 19.7 light-years from Earth, Centauri Prime around 58 light-years away), whilst the mysterious Alpha Omega system is more like 25,000 light-years away, on the Galactic Rim, but can be reached relatively easily (if anyone had any reason to travel out there).
Jump routes are shown in three varieties. Thick lines are major routes, catered for by multiple, redundant jump beacons and in some cases multiple jump gates. Thinner lines are normal routes, catered for by a single beacon and gate. Broken lines are restricted routes, where one or both of the gates has been switched to only allowing authorised ships to pass. The reasons for these restrictions vary, but may be down to planetary security, quarantine (dangerous wildlife is the reason the Centauri world of Na’ka’leen is quarantined), military restrictions or dangerous space phenomena (the reason the Narn have restricted access to Sigma 957).
“Jump routes” refer to the jump beacon network in hyperspace. Every jump gate has a beacon (located in realspace, to avoid drifting in hyperspace) which emits a powerful tachyon signal that can cut through the interference of hyperspace. Beacons can pair with one another, creating lifelines through hyperspace which non-FTL-capable ships can follow to destination gates. FTL-capable ships, vessels with their own jump drives, are also reliant on the beacon network to reach their destination but can choose their own exit point from hyperspace. Ships with more advanced and sensitive signal receivers might be able to take “shortcuts” in hyperspace, bypassing the beacon network altogether because they can detect the beacons of other gates at longer ranges, or even are confident enough to head out on a certain heading, losing contact with one beacon before picking up the signal of another, but this is an extremely hazardous tactic, risking being swept off the beacon network altogether and being marooned in hyperspace forever.
Ships which expand the jump network – such as the Earth Alliance’s immense Explorer-class starships – do so by ranging out from a beacon and attempting to target other stars through trial and error, jumping out and dropping a new beacon if they find something interesting, even building new jump gates altogether if the system is worth it. This is slow and tedious work even for more advanced races, but ensures that the jump network continues to expand continuously across the galaxy, if at times agonisingly slowly. The lack of stellar reference points prohibit the use of hyperspace for intergalactic travel; the distances involved are well beyond the range of modern beacon technology.
Here’s a quick project I’ve been meaning to look at for a while: a Babylon 5 starmap. This map only shows a few systems and their relative positions in real space (not hyperspace, which is a very different thing). Babylon 5 is one of the few SFF franchises – certainly one of the few TV shows – which actually uses real stars as the basis for locations.
The map is partially based on the fine Stellar Geography article about Babylon 5, where the writer lays out persuasive arguments for the locations of both the Narn and Centauri homeworld based on in-text distances and directions. Unfortunately, insufficient data exists to map the locations of the Minbari and Vorlon homeworlds, and other locations of note.
This map shows Sol, the location of Earth and the heart of the Earth Alliance, and the neighbouring powers of the Narn Regime and the Centauri Republic. Epsilon Eridani, the neutral star system where diplomatic station Babylon 5 is located, is shown, along with the Earth Alliance’s major colonies at Proxima III and Vega VII. These are real-world stars whose distances are known. The location of the Narn homeworld can be inferred from the show (in the episode By Any Means Necessary): we are told that Narn is located 12.2 human light-years (10.0 Narn light-years) from Babylon 5. The only star located at this distance from Epsilon Eridani likely to have habitable planets (actually closer to 12.4 light-years, but that seems a negligible difference) is 82 Eridani.
The location of Centauri Prime is harder to discern, as the only clue we are given is that Centauri Prime is 75 Centauri light-years from Babylon 5 (in The War Prayer). However, the star Iota Centauri is located a pleasing 65.3 human light-years from Babylon 5 (approx 58 light-years from Earth), with a reasonable possibility of hosting planets, and located in a direction that would allow the Centauri to encounter the Narn before they encountered humanity.
Unfortunately we lack any significant clues to be able to identify the stars that are home to the Minbari, Vorlons or other species. One world that does appear is called Markab, and there is a real star called Markab (located 133.35 light-years from Sol and 130 light-years from Babylon 5), but according to J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5‘s main writer, who penned 91 of the show’s 110 episodes), he was unaware of this and the star is not meant to be the location of the Markab homeworld.
In the Babylon 5 universe, interstellar travel is conducted via hyperspace. Hyperspace is a parallel (but featureless) universe that exists alongside our own and intersects with it at every point, but is much smaller. Because of this, ships can enter hyperspace, travel several thousand or million kilometres and exit hyperspace several light-years away from their prior location. However, hyperspace features strange gravitational eddies, inclines and currents that prevent simple linear travel. Ships might have to fly “against” the current to get to a target destination, and in some areas hyperspace travel might become impossible, necessitating a return to real space and travelling across open space to get to another jump gate located “beyond” the obstruction in hyperspace. In other areas there may by hyperfast currents and eddies that can dramatically speed ships to remote regions in hyperspace, allowing them to re-enter real space thousands or even tens of thousands of light-years from their prior location in just a few days, whilst it might take weeks to travel a hundred light-years under normal conditions.
In terms of plot, of course, the vagaries of hyperspace travel allow the writers to be vague about travel times and have ships travelling at the “speed of plot.” That said, J. Michael Straczynski was reasonably consistent about travel times. It is a two-day jump from Earth to Babylon 5 (10.5 light-years) and a three-day jump from Babylon 5 to Centauri Prime, despite Centauri Prime being considerably further away (~58 light-years based on the map calculations). It is also a two-day jump from Babylon 5 to Z’ha’dum on the galactic rim, a distance approximating 25,000 light-years (assuming Z’ha’dum is on the rim closest to Earth, otherwise possibly considerably further; 75,000 light-years if it is located on the opposite side of the galaxy).
For these reasons, a literal distance map between stars is somewhat pointless, since stars relatively close in realspace might entail a long trip in hyperspace, whilst stars located thousands of light-years apart might be a very quick trip in hyperspace. As a result, various fan and quasi-canon Babylon 5 maps in licensed material show maps in terms of jump nodes rather than literal distances.
Still, this was a fun little map to put together, using Celestia to establish the relative stellar relationships.
After a bit of a break, I’m easing back into the mapping game with this quick map based on Guy Gavriel Kay’s The Fionavar Tapestry, a high fantasy trilogy published in the 1980s.
The trilogy consists of the novels The Summer Tree (1984), The Wandering Fire (1986) and The Darkest Road (1986) and was Kay’s debut solo work. His previous work in the fantasy field had been assisting Christopher Tolkien in editing The Silmarillion for publication in 1977, so Kay came into the field with rather more impressive credentials than most fantasy authors.
The Fionavar Tapestry sees several Canadian students summoned to the magical world of Fionavar, where the kingdoms are under threat from a dark lord, Rakoth Maugrim. The students find themselves taken on new guises and powers in this world, even re-enacting ideals from other mythologies (one of the students finds herself fulfilling the role of Guinevere in a revamp of the Arthurian legend) before the final great battle is fought.
Kay’s later work has been much more rooted in real history, with an arguably declining level of magic in his later novels. He’s also, remarkably, never written a trilogy again, with the closest being his Sarantine Mosaic duology. Fionavar did get a sequel of sorts, however, with Ysabel (2007), a fantasy novel set in our world which is mostly self-contained, but does feature several characters from the earlier trilogy.
A while ago, I received a request for an interesting idea: isochronic maps of fantasy worlds.
Isochronic maps show time over distance, and are very useful if the specific distance is less useful than knowing how quickly you can get somewhere. The scale might tell you that a location is 300 miles away in a straight line, but an isochronic map can tell you how long it will take to travel that distance given various factors (time of year, weather conditions, mounted or on foot, on good roads or across country, terrain etc).
I started looking at doing an isochronic map of Westeros but ran into problems that sorting through the morass of geographical factors would take a considerable amount of time, requiring a huge number of judgement calls on how good quality the Kingsroad is versus the Ocean Road, how impassable the Mountains of the Moon are in autumn and so on. For the time being I switched to doing a much more simple distance map which does not take account of geographical obstacles at this stage. The distance map is centred on King’s Landing, the capital city of the Seven Kingdoms.
The distance map is based on the idea of someone being able to travel 25 miles in one day. This would typically be someone travelling on horseback with moderate baggage and able to swap horses maybe once a week or fortnight (otherwise you could assume 2 days of rest for every 5-7 days travelled and extend the days required to travel accordingly). The journeys would be slightly faster on an excellent highway like the Kingsroad, and a lot slower in bad weather.
A full isochronic map would take account of such features. Historically they were more useful for ocean travel, given the more dependable regularity of ship speeds as technology improved, but land-based ones exist as well.
A fully accurate isochronic map is impossible, due to the number of variables being very high (pleasingly, for an author who hasn’t necessarily put this amount of thought into things), but it’s something to definitely consider for a future entry.