What makes a Place?
Previously we designed a galactic sector and examined one star system in detail using the generator tools in Stellar Adventures. Today we will build a “Place” using the procedures that start on page 99.
Places are built similarly to characters in that they have Characteristics and “Specifics” that act like Special Skills. Unlike character building, this is not a point-buy system but it is closer to how Traveller randomly generates a world. Place Characteristics are values from 1-12 and cover the areas of:
- Size: “represents the people, buildings and general infrastructure”
- Tech: “measures the technological advancement of the Place”
- Trade: “represents the extent and reach of the exploited trade routes and the facilities to assist said trade.”
- Society: “the level and organisation of government, laws, social institutions, police force, healthcare”
- Military: “measures the defensive and offensive capabilities”
- Resources: “measures access to natural and local resources”
It is suggested that the Director (“Gamemaster”) either assign values that make fictional sense or use a random roll of either 2d6 or 1d6 + a base number. There’s no suggestion that a high number in one Characteristic (say Size) should carry over a modifier to another. The Director is encouraged to use the Characteristic values to form the basis of tests, for example, “Tech could be tested to see if a starship module is available in the starport.”
Places can also have Specifics but there’s no fixed set of these instead some are suggested but it is clear the list is not meant to be exhaustive:
I had to scratch my head at Law being a Specific Skill rather than a Characteristic. I understand that the Society Characteristic covers a mix of Culture, Government, and Law but it is a bit too much bundling for my tastes. I’ll probably just add a Law Characteristic and move on.
Unlike Sectors and Systems, there are no tools to “visualize” a map of a Place. That said, if you wanted such a thing, then you could turn to the Advanced Fighting Fantasy supplement Blacksand which includes… yes, a die-drop method of laying out a village, town, or city. Eyeballing the results should allow you to sufficiently reskin the “fantasy” elements into something more sci-fi friendly.
Finally, some guidance is given on using a Place in play, both for opposed and unopposed tests. The next section of the book covers Trade, with more detail and procedures than Places but it is curious to note that the Trade procedures are built around tests involving combinations of a Place’s Characteristics and the suggested Specifics. It is a good way to get a handle on how you might use the Place concept in your own game. Stellar Adventures is a toolkit book more than anything else, it does not come with a setting and there’s not even a strongly implied setting. One could run anything from Alien to Cyberpunk to Star Trek to Star Wars using what is in the book. Being a toolkit person, this is why Stellar Adventures has long appealed to me.
Building a Place
I’ve sketched out a character I might use in this game (there’s no “lifepath” Character building in Stellar Adventures so I ended up using Traveller Supplement 04, Citizens of the Imperium to build the character’s backstory.) In doing so I’ve uncovered that they’ve come from Enlid-1 one of the twin ice planets that are orbiting the star of Rylin. On Enlid-1 there’s a “surface outpost” which I’ve given the name Enciso Town. I scratched my head for a bit on the best way to randomly roll up the place Characteristics and ultimately decided on throwing 2d6-1 for each. Sure that rules out a 12 but then again it works much better with the roll-under nature of Fighting Fantasy. I considered building a cascading system of Characteristic modifiers similar to Traveller but eventually determined it was more trouble than it was worth.
After throwing 2d6 seven times (remember, I added a Law Characteristic) I end up with the following Traveller-style “Universal Place Profile” (
UPP) hex sequence for Enciso Town:
A363884 or “in English”: an outpost with a large population with unimportant tech, average trading conditions, a working-class society, above average military presence, above average resources, and a fairly low law presence.
At face value what we have generated so far has the trapping of a standard mining outpost and I could probably work this as-is. Instead, I wanted a bit more detail, so I turned to Distant Lights: Creating Borderworld Outposts for Your Campaign by Kevin Crawford. I did not use all of the random tables in this book because there are too many and several did not thematically fit with the galactic profile shaping in my head. Picking a few random tables throughout the book has built out the additional bit of background for Enciso Town:
- Enciso Town is made up of bright white domes and multi-level geodesic structures that house a population that has started to outgrow the available infrastructure. Power outages and water shortages are not uncommon.
- “Enlid & Enciso” were a pair of explorers who initially charted the Rylin sector ages ago. Enlid was mostly interested in astronomic anomalies, such as twin planets, whereas Enciso was interested in planetary surveys. The Enciso family has the mining rights to many locations throughout the galaxy, including the mining outpost on Enlid-1. Enlid & Enciso Mapping Services (EEMPS) also provides all of the major star navigation charts and stellar traffic control systems throughout the galactic sector.
- Enciso Town is currently run by Enciso Mining Enterprises Vice President Kayla Ninnr. They are corrupt, deeply involved in smuggling operations, and maintain control over the local population because they also operate the facilities on Enlid-1 that can filter out the dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and methane from the planet’s ice resources.
- A form of dangerous and high-speed grav-bobsled racing is extremely popular on Enlid-1.
These last details paint a much more evocative picture of a place. They required more time investment though so every time you look at a GM resource like this you have to ask yourself “am I going to use this?” In this case, I envision this as the starting location for our game so it was a valuable world-building exercise. We’ve got our major corporate overlords, a corrupt executive that can serve as a patron, local conflict, and a splashy sport that helps me understand why a character I generated through Traveller happens to have a high skill in vehicle driving.
Next time we’ll take a peek at how to use Traveller character lifepath generation to inform your Stellar Adventure characters. Hint: Troika shows us the way.