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World attributes

Uriel

distortion monkey
Hi people, long time no see.

I´m working on something that will hopefully be a game somewhere and I´m stuck at my planet/setting generator stage. The idea with this is that you generate planets that has descriptive attributes just as player characters does; equivalents to strength, intelligence etc. There will be many different planets and settings and I need a system to just quickly describe or create something beyond just a vague description.

So the question I need help with, since it feels like I´m missing something, is what attributes would one need to describe most, but not every, planet. This is what I m thinking of so far, nothing definite yet. The idea is to have these on a scale from 0-9 so that one could use a D10 to randomize planets. For each attribute there would be a small list of qualities that further specify things that a simple scale cannot show, like a quality for Technology that said that while Technology is high, it is limited to a very small group and on average much smaller, or a quality for Fauna/Flora that said that while diversity is high it is also very local.

Habitability- How hospitable the planet is to human life, ranging from barren vacuum rock to earth habitability++.

Geology: From uniform geology (all water for example) to a broad range of terrain

Fauna: How diverse and widespread the local wildlife is.

Flora: How diverse and widespread the local plant-life is.

Population: How many sentient beings there are and how crowded they are.

Technology: How advanced technology is. Just a slightly condensed GURPS scale.

Infrastructure: Whether there is infrastructure available for sentient being to grow enough food, support

Stability: How much strife and war there is.

Coherence: How unified the sentients are, from each for oneself, to tribal structures to global government or hivemind.

Magic: It is not going to be called that, but essentially yes. In my game it will be solar-system divergence from regular physics.

Obviously some of these would be codependent in some ways but that is for later.

So what obvious or specific attributes am I missing? I looked through my rpg library but could not find anything like this. Old time sci-fi rpgs like Traveler or GURPS might have something like this, but alas I got rid of those some years ago.

Thankful for any feedback, even if you are just telling me it is futile as long as you say why.
 

1of3

Registered User
Validated User
The idea with this is that you generate planets that has descriptive attributes just as player characters does; equivalents to strength, intelligence etc.
Something to remember: PC attributes may be descriptive, but that is not what they are for. They are like buttons you press or interfaces you play the game with. Intelligence is for intelligence rolls. Strength is for damage. Etc. In the same way, NPC stats and situational difficulties also have that quality. They are the numbers you roll against, the things you have to consider. The descriptive quality is often an afterthought. That's why it's hard to say how strong a character with Strength 14 really is. So you might certainly emply purely descriptive qualities, but they will not behave, like other numbers in the game do.

So I'd say, from a PCs perspective:

I'm not interested in the place's tech level per se. I'm interested in their Markets, i.e. can I buy stuff there. If Markets is bad, that may be that they don't have much or they won't sell to outsiders.

I may be interested in their Security. That is, how likely am I get away with murder (or anything else)?

I may be interested in their Needs (things I can sell them) and Resources (things I can get there).

I may indeed be interested in their Coherence or Diversity, if I want to start unrest.

I may be intersted in the Lethality of the place. Will I be eaten by giant predators? Do I need breathing equipment to go outside?

The fact that the place is a planet, doesn't really matter. You could tell the stories of Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Babylon 5, Firefly or Farscape in a fantasy setting. Starships and lasers are just window dressing. Planets in these stories are just places that the PCs visit.
 

The Benj

Registered User
Validated User
GURPS Space does have good stuff on this. You could also check out Stars Without Number, I think the free version had this kind of business too.
 

Uriel

distortion monkey
Something to remember: PC attributes may be descriptive, but that is not what they are for. They are like buttons you press or interfaces you play the game with. Intelligence is for intelligence rolls. Strength is for damage. Etc. In the same way, NPC stats and situational difficulties also have that quality. They are the numbers you roll against, the things you have to consider. The descriptive quality is often an afterthought. That's why it's hard to say how strong a character with Strength 14 really is. So you might certainly emply purely descriptive qualities, but they will not behave, like other numbers in the game do.

So I'd say, from a PCs perspective:

I'm not interested in the place's tech level per se. I'm interested in their Markets, i.e. can I buy stuff there. If Markets is bad, that may be that they don't have much or they won't sell to outsiders.

I may be interested in their Security. That is, how likely am I get away with murder (or anything else)?

I may be interested in their Needs (things I can sell them) and Resources (things I can get there).

I may indeed be interested in their Coherence or Diversity, if I want to start unrest.

I may be intersted in the Lethality of the place. Will I be eaten by giant predators? Do I need breathing equipment to go outside?

The fact that the place is a planet, doesn't really matter. You could tell the stories of Star Trek, Star Wars, Stargate, Babylon 5, Firefly or Farscape in a fantasy setting. Starships and lasers are just window dressing. Planets in these stories are just places that the PCs visit.
Some good points there. Maybe what I really meant are planet qualities. You will not roll them per se as regular attributes but they will use the same scale for simplicity.

Security, Needs and Resources are good ideas. Lethality seems like an obvious inclusion, maybe as a compound average of several other qualities.

GURPS Space does have good stuff on this. You could also check out Stars Without Number, I think the free version had this kind of business too.
I´ll see if I still have GURPS Space somewhere. I checked out Star Without Number, it was kinda neat. It had Atmosphere, Temperature, BioSphere, Population and Tech level. I´ll give it a proper read through when I have time.

Thanks both for your input!
 

catty_big

Miao wow!!
Validated User
Freedom: How much constraint on freedom of action and movement etc. does the prevailing power structure/political system impose on its citizens.
 

catty_big

Miao wow!!
Validated User
Something to remember: PC attributes may be descriptive, but that is not what they are for. They are like buttons you press or interfaces you play the game with. Intelligence is for intelligence rolls. Strength is for damage. Etc. In the same way, NPC stats and situational difficulties also have that quality. They are the numbers you roll against, the things you have to consider. The descriptive quality is often an afterthought.
This is precisely what PDQ (Prose Descriptive Qualities) does. In PDQ your descriptive quality is used mechanically as an ability. Forex in one game I was in I played a Librarian, who had Voice of Authority as a quality, and in one scene, where some bad guys were trying to steal an artefact from a glass case in a museum, I used it to bark a command at them to stop what they were doing. They froze, giving my team buddies enough time to disarm them.
 
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Shadow Captain

Registered User
Validated User
Of course it depends on the purposes characters might have. If we are talking about a game of exploration then the physical characteristics of the planet are important, the composition of the atmosphere (if any), the temperature, environmental hazards, etc. If mining follows exploration then you'd want a method of assaying/surveying for minerals and settlement sites. If it's a game of colonization then the presence of water becomes important, whether it's commonly available, trapped in underground or in polar caps, or entirely absent. The characteristics you present suggest a game of already settled planets, so maybe you're just looking for adventuring sites, or perhaps it's a game of commerce. My best suggestion is the pare down the characteristics that affect player-character actions.

You listed technology as a possible characteristic. I'd recommend development, but that also depends on the purposes of the characters. Development suggests a standard of living for the typical inhabitant and the expectation for improving that level, which is good for a more narrative style of gaming. Technology suggests production, which might facilitate a commercial campaign.

Just some quick thoughts.

I have run a couple indie games that focused on exploration and colonization, and the players wanted simple metrics in order to determine a world's terraform-ability and exploit-ability. It boiled down to "how many trips would it require for a typical freighter to deliver the needed supplies to establish a colony" and "how many trips would it require for a typical freighter to deliver the supplies needed to upgrade that colony to the next step up."
 

Uriel

distortion monkey
Good ideas. I can definitely see Freedom as a an important attribute. Especially since I´d like to model planets that challenges the players presumptions of how a civilization can be set up. How would a civilization that has high Freedom, very high Cohesion (hiveminds), but low Stability look like? Generally I´d like to avoid the cliche of every human analogue alien civilization is either a monoculture or a pastiche/mix of Earth cultures.

Good thoughts about development. I had a vague idea that Infrastructure would reflect how well a civilization could build stuff. Technology would be knowing how do, Infrastructure would be needed to actually built it, especially when it comes to mega-project such as space stations and elevators.
 

EggRogue

Registered User
Validated User
I think allow for ratings for different regions/nations across the planet. If the planet is essentially a single colony, then one set of attributes is fine. A developed world would likely have multiple countries with radically different attributes.

World: Glorbon 5.
Habitability: Earth-like.
Resources: Abundant.
Flora/Fauna: Lush, diverse.

Region A: New Zarcania. Colony originally established by the Trade Collective. Highly developed but rigidly conformist.
Population: High.
Technology: High.
Freedom: Low.
Stability: High.

Region B: The Free States. A splinter group from the oppressive collective, formerly consisting of rejects, malcontents and outcasts, it has grown into an impressive independent nation but has frequent trouble with infighting amongst local factions.
Population: Moderate.
Technology: Moderate.
Freedom: High.
Stability: Low.
 

1of3

Registered User
Validated User
World: Glorbon 5.
Habitability: Earth-like.
Resources: Abundant.
Flora/Fauna: Lush, diverse.

Region A: New Zarcania. Colony originally established by the Trade Collective. Highly developed but rigidly conformist.
Population: High.
I think, using High or Low isn't very helpful. The descriptive qualities for the whole planet on the other hand are much better.

- For Population you could have: Sparse - Urbanized - Metropolitan - Arcologies
- With Resources it would be interesting what exactly those resources are, like Abundant Dilithium, Little Water. Something they have and something they lack, would be good generally good pattern.
 
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