Tag Archives: Planets

A Note on Names

I’ve always had trouble coming up with good names, and in this regard names for colony worlds aren’t any different from names for people. Over the past few years I’ve built a list with about 700-ish names for colonies. However, these were intended for a Terro-centric culture, and many make little sense in Contact Light.

There was no Washington on Enderra, for example. That’s straight forward. But you’ll notice I have already been using names from Earth mythology, for example.

I think these are fair game; they resonate with us because we’re so used to them. Everybody connects Arthur to Avalon, for example. We can assume that these are translations, or an artifact of the strange way the multiverse works.

That said, I may revisit some of the names later, when I’ve got more of Colonial Space nailed down, so to speak.


The Unwashed Masses (High Population Worlds, Part 2)

Now that I’ve brought those mega-high-population worlds a little bit in line with the rest, let’s take a look at each of them in order to figure out what conditions might be like. For this post I will omit worlds with less than about 15 billion people.

I won’t post detailed analysis for all worlds in the sector, but this should serve as a good example of the way I work, and of how you can turn the simplistic UWP codes into actual places.

(As a note, yellow fields are how I mark data I’ve changed from the original dice rolls in some way.)

(5)Temperate 1429 AA8ABB9-G Hi Ht Wa HI5 (5)Temperate

The most populated world in Colonial Space is an interesting one. It is a large (A = 16,000 km) waterworld with a dense (1.5-2.49) atmosphere. It also has the highest tech level of any system (16), and it absolutely needs it.

What fresh, natural food is being produced is entirely aquatic. Most food is produced in vats and by synthesizers. The human population lives under water, on the water, and in floating cities and there’s probably a sizable off-world presence that gets counted in the total (a billion or two on the moon).

I say “human” because the world is actually quite hostile to human habitation. The gravity is too high, the air unpleasant. Yes, they have the technology to compensate, but I will assume that there is also a sentient aquatic species present. Since you can’t really develop technology underwater, they’ve either been uplifted by the colonists, or are being suppressed and exploited. Perhaps both.

The world is governed by a king and severely restricts contact and trade with off-worlders. The government is keenly aware of their technological edge over the other worlds and seeks to maintain it.

(3)Temperate 2614 BAA5AD9-A Fl Hi HI3 (3)Temperate

Another huge world, this one must be even less pleasant to live on. On top of its high gravity, it has an Exotic atmosphere and half the surface is covered in some sort of non-water. I wonder why anybody would want to live on such a planet, and it’s quite amazing that they managed to grow to 45 billion! I don’t want to assume non-humans, that’s a cop-out.

The planet’s government may give us a hint: code D is a “religious dictatorship”, which the Mongoose Traveller rules book says could be a “cult, trasncendent philosophy, psionic group mind”. None of those are very pleasant, and the implications are clear: The world was originally settled by religious outcasts, and they have some sort of inverse China syndrome. That is, instead of banning people from having children they strongly encourage or even force people to have a large number of children.

Why would they do this? I actually rolled on the Cultural Difference table and got a result of 55 – “Unusual Customs: Lifecycle”. Thanks, dice, I guess I was ahead of you.

Let’s leave the exact motivation up for later, but a large population is a large power base. These guys are certainly not up to anything good.

Last but not least I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that the fluid oceans are hydrocarbons, which serve as basic ingredients for the local synthifoods.

(8)Temperate 2917 B888AA9-9 Ga Hi HI8 68.400.000.000 (8)Temperate

Compared to our first two worlds, this one is almost boring. Yes, massive population, but also quite close to Earth: Size 8, about 80% water, just a bit of a denser atmosphere. It’s still classified as a Garden world and the only downside is the fairly low technology. It’s still high enough that they use carniculture vats, hydroponics, and maybe even imported food synthesizers, but the quality of the food will be a lot worse than on that tech level 16 water world.

With the environment fairly normal, and a Charismatic dictatorship (probably still revolutionary leaders in place from the war), this planet may seem like a fairly pleasant one. However, the massive population and the high law level do mean that the citizens’ daily lives are controlled to a great extent. Unlike the religious planet, this one probably does have strict family planning laws in place. Think fertility boards similar to what Larry Niven’s flatlanders have to deal with.

(3)Temperate 2611 A400A96-D Hi Ht In Na Va HI3 (3)Temperate

Ah, something completely different – a small vacuum world. Small as in Mars-sized, and without oceans this still means about the same land surface as Earth. To accommodate 63 billion people, this world is riddled with caves. The high tech level easily supports all these people, and the surprisingly low law level means that this world is probably the most pleasant to be a citizen on of all the high population worlds we’ve looked at so far.

The planet is probably an economic powerhouse – Industrialized trade code – supported by vacuum industries which in turn are fueled by mining. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that there are several dense asteroid belts, ringed gas giants, and many moons in this system that are all used to provide ore for the main world.

(8)Temperate 1418 C785A96-8 Ga Hi HI8 21.700.000.000 (8)Temperate

Next up, another overpopulated Garden world. With a size close to Earth’s, a dense atmosphere and extensive oceans it’s actually as close to the dystopic visions of an overcrowded Earth as we’ve got so far. The tech level is only 8 – about what we have on Earth today, maybe a little bit higher – which means 21.7 billion people is about the maximum the society can support, especially considering the C class starport implies a limited amount of interstellar space travel and the tech level is not high enough for a lot of “domestic” interplanetary travel.

Government code “A” is a charismatic dictator again, but I think this world – due to its location, if nothing else – was a supporter of Empire. So the local government is essentially unchanged under the Republic, and the locals support their leader because they realize that tight government control is necessary to cope with the large population. This is supported by the relatively low law code – much as on the previous vacuum world, the government is as hands-off as it can be.

If we’d ever want to set any sort of “cyberpunk” sort of adventure in the Contact Light setting, this world is a good candidate for it.

(7)Temperate 2135 B784A89-A Ga Hi HI7 (7)Temperate

This is another overpopulated garden world. The higher tech level supports more people than on the previous world. The government is a civil service bureaucracy, the rules book names communism or technocracy as examples. With the higher law level, this one might be a good candidate for a communist state and in a setting that derives inspiration from 1950s golden age science fiction, communist states make for great antagonists.

Beyond that, the UWP is fairly boring in my opinion.

(5)Temperate 1113 A8A5A89-D Fl Hi Ht HI5 30.500.000.000 (5)Temperate

Didn’t we already do this world? It’s very similar to #2614, except for the government type and for being smaller. A lot will depend on why people settled this world, but we can’t deduct that from the UWP. Alien ruins…

(4)Hot 1935 B743A88-9 Hi In Po HI4 15.700.000.000 (4)Hot

The first thing I notice about this world is the Hot climate; interestingly it’s still got oceans! The atmosphere is thin and tainted, so this world is certainly no paradise. It is industrialized, but poor – the reasons for this are the low tech level and its location in subsector O, outside the Empire (and now Republic). Perhaps the civil war caused it to lose what markets it had, or perhaps the Empire was supporting it and that support now vanished.

On the other hand we’re now looking at a world with “only” 15 billion people. Merely twice what we have on Earth today. And with the amount of dry land this planet has there is a lot of room for these people to spread around. It’s got crowded cities, for sure, but it doesn’t have the massive population problems of some of the other planets.

0.7atmospheres, the upper limit for this atmospheric code, is about equal to a height of 3000m on Earth. A quick check shows that this is below the tree line in some regions, so it’s entirely possible that this planet actually has quite a bit of vegetation.

(3)Temperate 0305 B410AD9-B Hi In Na HI3 (3)Temperate

Another Mars-sized world, and with its trace atmosphere it is very much like Mars indeed. The most interesting thing about this world is its location: It is situated in subsector A, which is very much on the edge of a major rift. It’s also a religious dictatorship.

Why did all these people come here? The UWP won’t give us anything. With law code 8, I think that this world serves as a base of operations to explore the spaces beyond, but the powers that be permit no contact between travelers and the locals (change law level to 7). What are they hiding? It’s a mystery for our protagonists to uncover at some point…


The UWP codes give us surprisingly much to work with, considering it’s just a handful of numbers. At the same time, I am very happy I reduced the number of systems in the sector. The more worlds we have, the higher the chances for similar results.

It does make a lot of sense to use the additional rules Mongoose added – such as various power groups and the cultural difference table – and I will do that for all systems when I work out detailed profiles for them.

Finally, we should never be afraid to override the dice. The random results are a guide, not the law. But this should go without saying, right?

Quo Vadis, 256?

So. We have a home. Sector 256. This means the work is just beginning – now I need to lay out local space.


The map of local space should be centered on the Imperial Core. That is, by producing this map we imply that “this is it”, similar to how a Terran national map will show, well, the subject of the map plus perhaps parts of some neighbors. Subsectors F and G as well as J and K should thus be the main focus. K is obviously quite sparse – a backwoods area people don’t go to, perhaps comparable to a stretch of desert.

H on the other hand has many worlds that must be quite important – look at all of these A and B class ports and the travel connections between them!

In theory, this could be a neighboring nation but the ideas I have do not allow for a secondary powerful nation. So it’s part of the Empire, and this means I’ll have to expand the map to the “east” a little bit eventually, just to give our protagonists some room to explore.


The Imperial capital world, Mithra, and the original colony worlds the colonists settled on should be close to the center of that region. They do not “have” to be important anymore – just consider the difference between Rome two thousand years ago and now – but they should probably be relatively heavily populated. They should also be fairly close to each other.

Looking at the map, I immediately notice a bunch of temperate worlds which are marked as fairly habitable. (I also notice that habitability index 9 didn’t get shaded, but no matter). These are 1917, 2017, 2118, 2119, 2021, and 2219:

(8)Temperate 1917 X863445-0 Lt NI HI8 25500
(9)Temperate 2017 B8658B9-A Ga Ri HI9 833000000
(7)Temperate 2021 A663BB8-C Hi Ht HI7 786000000000
(8)Temperate 2118 D864951-8 Ga Hi HI8 5770000000
(8)Temperate 2119 C875657-8 Ag Ga NI HI8 4610000
(7)Temperate 2219 A576A85-A Ga Hi In HI7 12200000000

Interesting. #1917 works well for Mithra, just increase the population a little: X863845-0, Pop 156000000. Makes them “Rich” by Traveller definitions and I appreciate the irony. But we’ll get back to that later.

The other three original colonies were Sassandra, Ascalon and Xoth. Let’s use the three garden worlds, #2017, #2118 and #2219, for them. Either the colonists picked worlds most suitable for them, or ones they could easily terraform.

As for #2021, I’m reducing the population code to 9, with 1.19 billion inhabitants.

The Republic

The Republic was founded on Avalon. But where is that? With Mithra in “G”, our logical choices are “H” and “J”. J is probably the better choice – More isolated – but without wanting to foreshadow anything, I really want to place it in H. Let’s assume all those interconnected worlds indicate a tightly-knit community in this province, perhaps they were never too happy about being annexed by Empire in the first place. And Willem II was just the sort of Emperor who would ignore serious problems staring him into the face.

Consulting the map again, I find this:

(2)Hot 2715 A6309C7-D De Hi Ht Na Po HI2 1580000000

A small-ish desert world with high tech, good infrastructure, a very thin atmosphere and a class C government which the Traveller rules book says could be a revolutionary council. Could it be any better?

I can totally imagine these poor bastards, working in the mines under adverse conditions, their living quarters packed due to the high population. Everybody’s poor, and ideas of a Better Future begin to spread.

With the locations of Mithra and Avalon fixed, I’m thinking that the Republic first captured worlds in J, before circling back and attacking the Imperial core worlds from multiple sides. This probably also means that the J-H axis, with travel through the empty space of K, is the main area of Republic control. G is an occupied mess, and F ends up as a region on the sidelines – the Contact Light equivalent of the Regina subsector.

This is what I love about rng’s – they can be so inspirational!


Welcome to Sector 256

It’s been a while since I worked on world generation. Needless to say, the layout of composition of “Imperial Space” is one of the big fundamentals that needs to be settled before I can work on the details of the setting.

I did consider reworking the random generator into generating entire solar systems (Evil Dr Ganymede has posted a great revision of the 2300AD system generation rules that seems about perfect for the purpose) and perhaps into a less grid-based 2D map, or even a pseudo-3D map.

In the end, I think I should not do either of these. For a space opera setting, a realistic map isn’t necessary – in fact, it’s probably a distraction. Most people can’t visualize 3D space very well.

As for Dr Ganymede’s system – it would create a lot of nice detail but in the end I also want to make some progress. If whatever audience this thing gets prefers, I can always retcon. ūüôā

To cut to the chase, I played around with a few random seeds, and 256 looks great. Here is the map:


The green circles indicate “habitability”, the darker the better. The lines are “travel routes”, basically they connect all A/B class starports that lie within a certain distance of each other.

What I like about this sector is its structure. Subsectors F, G and H are probably the “core” of the (former) Empire. I think that J might make a good place for either the Imperial capital – adding physical distance to the social detachment that led to the civil war – or the rebel capital – explaining why the Empire didn’t see it as a bigger threat.

Subsectors M and N, as well as subsectors O and P make for one nice “fringe cluster” each. There’s a small group with two very habitable worlds in subsector A – a nice “outpost” area – and a number of colonized worlds in subsector B, which might prove interesting – since none of them is a nice place to live there must be something fairly important there to warrant settlement.


The sector contains 262 worlds with a total population of 2,663,284,385,714. That’s a lot of people and I’ll definitely have to reduce it – there are a number of population B systems.

Tech level distrubtion:


World classes:


Starport classes:


I think this is going to be a very nice sector. Do let me know what you think of the layout!

Next step: Clean up the map, and turn it from a generic sector into our colonial space.

Wild Planets

Planets can be quite strange. We just learned that massive planets can have solid surfaces. That’s not the only weird world that is out there.

Cracked.com has a list of 6 Planets that put Sci Fi to shame. It’s an older article but it’ll still serve as source material.

  • Gliese 436 b: “Coated in burning ice”
  • WASP-12b: “Slowly getting eaten”
  • HD 69830c: “Puts Our Night Sky to shame”
  • PSR B1257+12b: “Orbits a Massive Strobe Light”
  • Titan: “Covered in ‘fossil’ fuels”
  • Gliese 581c “Hellish Landscape with black plants and red sky

Astrobites responded with a list of 6 Plantes that put Sci Fi and Cracked.com to shame.

  • GJ1214b: “Planet is a big ball of steam”
  • Kepler-16b: “Has two suns”
  • Kepler-11: “Has six planets inside the orbit of Venus”
  • HD80606b: “Skims its sun”
  • 1SWAP J140747.93-394542.6: “Ring system puts Saturn to shame” (lots of shaming going on)
  • There may be many planets that have no stars at all
  • COROT-7b: “It rains rocks”

It’s probably impossible to account for all this weirdness with an RNG based system, at least one that remains manageable. However, the take-away is that even after decades of finding real exo-planets, we can still get away with designing really odd outlier worlds for our science fiction heroes.

Tech Levels Revisited

Tech Level – assigning a numeric value to a civilization’s technological development – is a powerful idea and having worlds with varying tech levels – often in stark contrast to each other despite physical proximity – is one of the central aspects of the “look and feel” of Traveller. The idea, of course, was a staple of the science fiction genre at the time. Dumarest comes to mind, and Space Viking – but also Foundation.

Other games have used the same concept. GURPS and TORG are two examples I am familiar with, but pretty much every science fiction game has done something similar. None of them are compatible beyond the fact that they use Earth’s development as a model up until the present.

I decided early on – actually before the setting I am working on saw the light of day – that I wanted to use a Tech Level system, and I also decided that I should stay as compatible to Traveller as possible.

A word of warning: This is a long post…

Continue reading “Tech Levels Revisited” »

World Generator Progress

Work days keep me from being productive where it counts – like science fiction world building!

I’ve made a number of improvements to my sector generator scripts…

  • I generate a “Habitability Index” – this has actually been in the script for a few days. I don’t use it for anything, but it’s a quick index of how nice the planet is to live on. Numbers are only ever added, not subtracted, so a world with a medium HI can still be crappy, but it’s still quite useful for judging worlds at-a-glance. Ranges from 0 (=abysmal) to 8(=perfectly earthlike).
  • I now use random seeds. As long as you know a sector’s seed, you can always recreate it again a second time with the script (as long as the script didn’t change).
  • The script now rolls for actual population, using Benford’s Law. (Thanks Berka.)
  • The script prints out some aggregated statistics about a sector – still a WIP.

Actual Population Sample

Here are the populations of the High Pop worlds of sector#121:

(8)Temperate   0110 B566998-8 Ga Hi  HI=8 A=6320000000
(3)Temperate   1502 B310999-C Hi Ht In Na  HI=3 A=1420000000
(7)Temperate   1710 A66ABD9-E Hi Ht Wa  HI=7 A=119000000000
(5)Temperate   3209 C8B5998-A Fl Hi  HI=5 A=3400000000
(6)Temperate   1617 B79AAD9-9 Hi In Wa  HI=6 A=31600000000
(3)Roasting    1620 A554A96-C Ga Hi Ht  HI=3 A=25100000000
(6)Temperate   2013 C841AD9-6 Hi In Po  HI=6 A=10800000000
(4)Roasting    2718 B5869B8-A Ga Hi  HI=4 A=7190000000
(6)Temperate   0330 D9729B9-7 Hi In  HI=6 A=4980000000
(7)Temperate   0923 B577A75-A Ga Hi In  HI=7 A=87300000000
(7)Temperate   1124 BA669B9-A Ga Hi  HI=7 A=1550000000
(7)Temperate   1127 C578BD9-7 Ga Hi In  HI=7 A=310000000000
(8)Temperate   1326 B8759D9-4 Ga Hi In Lt  HI=8 A=4960000000
(7)Temperate   1522 A675B66-B Ga Hi In  HI=7 A=206000000000
(3)Temperate   1527 A410A96-G Hi Ht In Na  HI=3 A=50000000000
(3)Cold        2229 A631AC9-E Hi Ht Na Po  HI=3 A=61200000000
(6)Temperate   2429 C894996-4 Ga Hi In Lt  HI=6 A=2990000000
(7)Temperate   1839 A585AA8-B Ga Hi  HI=7 A=79600000000

A= is the actual population. I only generate the leading 3 digits and then scale it up to the correct power of ten. Yeah that’s 300 billion people at TL7 on #1127 – with a small planet and more water surface than Earth has. Must be a lovely place. Lots of algae farms… Not to mention those TL4 and TL6 worlds.

Aggregated Statistics Sample

Generating sector: 121


Total Systems: 251

Total Population: 1022367735546

Star Ports:
   A: 12
   B: 24
   C: 40
   D: 48
   E: 57
   X: 70

To Do

I’ll add TLs and World Types to the statistics as well…

And I presumably should tackle unrealistic TLs somehow.

By the way, if anybody wants these scripts – let me know. You need unix (or a mac) for them, there is one shell script and one awk script – plus of course the sector map script I’ve modified.

Tech Level

Tech level is determined by 1d6, with tons of modifiers based on all other characteristics of the world. In short, good startports, small world size, unusual or thin atmospheres, very low or very high hydrographic percentages and low and high population extremes give a bonus to TL.

The Mongoose Traveller rules also impose a lower limit on TL based on atmospheric type. If the tech level is any lower, the locals are unable to build or maintain the machinery which enables their survival. Their TL list is a little odd, though.

Test Data

The test run of 10000 worlds gave me this distribution:


The exact numbers at the high end:

197 C
108 D
56 E
35 F
9 G
2 H

The two -H worlds are:

Temperate   40803 A310AC9-H Hi Ht In Na
Special     47003 AADAAA9-H Fl Hi Ht Wa

Both would be interesting worlds to detail.

Anyway, the distribution works for me, since I wanted to keep the Tech Level to 13 (or as low as possible). The TL0 spike may be something to keep an eye out for, and of course we’ll have to see how this looks with actual sectors… Time for another trial run.


Starport code is determined by 2d6-7, adding the population score, under the “hard science” world generation rules, instead of the straight 2d6 roll normally used. The result is then looked up on this short table:


Starport Class

2 or less




















This does mean that class A ports will be very rare under our variant rules, because it takes a world of at least population 6 to even have a chance at a class A port, and then they are rare. A population 9 world – “billions of people” – has a 27.78% chance of an A class star port.


Doing a test run of ten thousand worlds, using my rules variants, I get the following:


Put it in context, this means we’ll have about 16% “core worlds”, 38% “colonies”, and 46% “frontier worlds”. If I go with a subsector star density of expected 22 worlds, this means 2-3 worlds with class A or B. In theory. If it works out that way, I think I may be on the right track – always keeping in mind that I expect to fudge things anyway.

What do those codes mean?

I have been trying to maintain the meaning of the individual world characteristics, but the starport codes will be the first slight departure. Since the explanations in the Mongoose Traveller rules are not part of the SRD, and because they are fairly ill defined anyway, I decided to create my own definitions.

It makes sense to have an in-universe definition anyway.

They’re similar enough that someone who wants to just use my sector data will still be able to do so:



Found on



Major Hub

Major worlds

All services, including major shipyards.


Medium Hub

Major worlds

All services, including shipyards.


Minor Hub

Major colonies

Limited services. Repair facilities only, no shipyards.



Normal colonies

Very limited services; spaceport is fenced in and has basic security perimeter. Fuel available, but no construction and extremely limited repair facilities.


Landing field

Primitive worlds or very minor colonies

Spaceport is nothing more than a marked field, perhaps with some local businesses nearby that serve travelers.



Primitive worlds, recently-established colonies, uninhabited worlds

No spaceport at all.

Starports are rated by the Imperial Space Transportation Authority; rating A is only granted to truly major ports which also serve as traffic control hubs for their surrounding space.


Ah, law levels. Where should I even begin. The basic concept is the same as with the other characteristics of a mainworld. Roll 2d6-7, this time adding the government value to the roll. I think the concept is as old as Traveller, and nobody ever bothered to revisit it – which is just as well, because I again think that this is too varied a topic to just solve with one roll.

For example: The law level table has six categories, but a society doesn’t necessarily restrict different types of item to the same degree. For instance, Germany does restrict weapons (law 8) but has a free press and really no restrictions on software (Information law level 0-3 depending on your view).

Finally, I think that directly basing it off the government value is… problematic. While the government table is ordered roughly in such a way that more “liberal” societies are associated with lower government characteristic numbers, and more repressive ones with higher numbers, I don’t think this necessarily means that they oppress everything in massive ways. And there are strange exceptions; for example a “captive government” is code 6 and those tend to be fairly restrictive.

A better way is perhaps to assign each government type a specific DM, and then roll for each column separately. Then use the highest value in the UWP. Of course this results in a lot of extra data and that will dilute the simplicity of the universal world profile.

What I Will Do

I will roll for law levels normally, but I will not take the value as a rule. Instead, it will be a guideline, indicating whether a planet is more liberal or more restrictive than the norm. Then, once I have worked out the general law level of the interstellar polity each world belongs to, I will rework the values to make sense.