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.

Please click for a much larger version.

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.

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