Interstellar Cartography

Interstellar Cartography #

Before a game the referee maps a small interstellar cluster comprising several inhabited star systems. Each star system has a single primary inhabited world. Inhabited worlds are described by four attributes, each ranked from 1 to 6: Habitability, Population, Authority, and Technology.

Roll several dice across a sheet of paper. Five should be plenty, three in a rush. The locations of the dice mark the locations of significant star systems on your map.The number showing on each die is the local inhabited world’s Habitability rank.

Place a dot on the spot where each die landed, and note each world’s Habitability.

Roll the remainder of each world’s attributes using the following tables. Roll 1d6 on each table and note the results. Each roll may be affected by earlier rolls. Finally, calculate the world’s Technology attribute.

Draw lines connecting each world to its nearest neighbors. These are travel routes. A route of about the length of your index finger is 2 parsecs. The shortest routes are 1 parsec.

World Generation Tables #

Habitability #

The capacity of the world to comfortably sustain human life. If you rolled several dice to make a star map, the number shown on each die is that world’s habitability. Otherwise roll 1d6. Then determine the world’s faults. A world with habitability 1-2 has 3 faults, 3-4 has 2 faults, 5 has 1 and 6 has 0. Roll or choose faults below.


Roll (1d6) Fault Detail (1d6)
1 Hydrography 1–3: too dry, 4–6: too wet
2 Atmosphere 1: nonexistant, 2: corrosive, 3–4: thin, 5–6: dense
3 Temperature 1: frozen, 2–3: cold, dark, 4–5: hot, 6: burning
4 Gravity 1: crushing, 2-3: high, 4–5: low, 6: microgravity
5 Biosphere 1: dangerous fauna, 2: dangerous flora, 3: deadly microbes, 4: human-incompatable, 5–6: nonexistant
6 Regular Disasters 1. geological, 2. extreme weather, 3. solar flares, 4. meteor showers, 5: wildfires, 6: esoteric (e.g. psychic storms, mass hysteria, alien phenomena, ancient tech)

Population #

Roll 1d6 to determine the approximate number of people living on the world. If Habitability is 5 or 6, add 1. If Habitability is 1 or 2, subtract 1.

If desired, roll 1d6 to determine population density. On a 1, the population is spread evenly across the livable area of the world. On a 6, the population lives in a single settlement or megalopolis. Other results indicate distributions between the extremes.

Rank (1d6) Approximate Population
1 Tens of thousands
2 Hundreds of thousands
3 Millions
4 Tens of millions
5 Hundreds of millions
6 Billions

Authority #

Roll 1d6 to determine the strength and unity of legal authority on the world. If Population is 5 or 6, add 1. If Population is 1 or 2, subtract 1. Roll 1d6 for government type below for more detail about who wholds power.

Authority Rank (1d6) Description
1 No recognized authority or system of laws.
2 Laws are extremely localized and generally permissive.
3 Authority is decentralized across multiple polities, states or corporations.
4 Authority is mostly centralized but rather permissive. Carrying military weapons in public is illegal and enforced.
5 Authority is centralized and strict. Weapons are banned for civilians except in wilderness areas.
6 Authority is ever-present. Surveillance is ubiquitous, and laws are harshly enforced.
Government Type (1d6) Description
1 Anarchy
2 Direct Democracy
3 Representative Democracy
4 Oligarchy
5 Dictatorship
6 Hereditary Feudalism

Technology #

The Technology attribute represents the ready availability of advanced technology and manufacturing on the world. Roll 1d6 and modify it according to the world’s other attributes. Ignore a modifier that would bring a score above 6 or below 1.

  • If Population is 1 or 2, subtract 1. If Population is 5 or 6, add 1.
  • If Authority is 1 or 2, subtract 1. If Authority is 5 or 6, add 1.
  • If Population is higher than Habitability, add 1.

A world with a low rank in technology may lack the heavy metals or other resources required for advanced manufacturing. These worlds import high-tech devices to fulfill certain important functions like water purification, communication, etc. Another world with a low Tech score might be under the yoke of an oligarchic ruling class that maintains order through tight control of weapons and information. Technology rating does not correlate to the knowledge, awareness, or intelligence of a world’s citizens.

For each rank in tech, different technology is readily available:

  • Rank 1: Pre-industrial. Human and animal-powered machines. Mills, mechanical and hand weapons.
  • Rank 2: Industrial. Steam engines and basic electronics; lighting; firearms.
  • Rank 3: Computational. Microprocessors, computer networks. Flying and orbital vehicles. Space stations.
  • Rank 4: Basic interstellar. Fusion reactors, rotational gravity, artificial intelligence, suspended animation, autoprosthetics.
  • Rank 5: Imperial interstellar. Gate cores, artificial gravity, large energy weapons, antimatter reactors.
  • Rank 6: High Imperial. Teleportation, cloaking devices, personal shields, laser pistols.