Random Tables in Dark Horizon

I’ve posted before about random tables for generating star systems in Dark Horizon: first on political systems and then on political stances. These are all part of a long section for creating compelling systems on the fly which provides one hundred different hooks for a star system. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though.

Half the items on the hooks list are static, single-result hooks. They are things like “Mandatory AR has created a complex system of protecting privacy, even blocking out faces” and “The government relies on a set of exclusive religious orders to accomplish its goals.” These are hopefully compelling enough and have a little bit of room to customize them. The others, though, refer to subtables like the political systems and stances tables. You’ll get a result like “Very recently the government was toppled in a coup by the new {{Political System}} regime,” which then prompts you to roll for one of the eighteen different political systems.

Taking all of that into account, the possible results of my “one hundred” system hooks table is actually close to 2,600 different hooks. Even if a GM never developed a system on their own, always using this table, and ran a campaign for several years I’m pretty confident they wouldn’t run out of unique hooks for systems. To give you an idea of how this works in practice, here are two more subtables and an example at the end.

Law

1d6 Law 1d6 Law
1 A Prohibition Against 4 Public Subsidies for
2 Draconian Laws Concerning 5 Strange Traditions Regarding
3 No Enforcement Regarding 6 Very Lenient Laws Concerning

Systems have all sorts of different local rules which visitors must respect. As long as they don’t extend beyond the physical space of the star system or infringe on an inherent right, the regional authorities tend not to worry about them. Legal specifics can be brought into play if desired but this table just gives you a starting point for shaping unique laws for a star system.

  • Prohibitions means that something is banned outright. Consider the punishment for possession in this case: fines, jail time, and/or confiscation.
  • Draconian Laws can cover a number of different situations, all of which are very strict. It might dictate personal uses or insist on some religious observance regarding something. Other results can indicate that something is banned or controlled, this result indicates strict guidelines that others have to follow.
  • No Enforcement indicates that there might be laws about something and they might be strict or loose but none of that really matters. Whatever regulations are on the books the law enforcement and government don’t really follow through. Maybe it’s not viewed as a priority and is deprioritized to the bottom of the list or maybe the laws are controversial and politicians don’t want to enforce them or repeal them.
  • Public Subsidies pay for part of the production or development of an item and it means that it will be very For items that are rare or tightly controlled in other systems this can be a surprising turn for visitors.
  • Strange Traditions can be similar to Draconian Laws in that it dictates the behavior surrounding something not the thing’s actual existence. In this case, though, the results are social codified into a cultural law. Breaking the norm might not mean jail time but it has social ramifications which might really trip up a visiting crew.
  • Very Lenient Laws means just what it sounds like: there are no laws regarding the possession or use of something. While this seems great for gun-toting, law-breaking PCs, it also means that anyone in the system can have access to something which makes things dangerous.

Trade Good

1d6 Trade Good 1d6 Trade Good
1 Exotic Organisms 4 Robots
2 Food 5 Starships
3 Metallic Ores 6 Water

Interstellar trade is very complex, even more so than the economics of planets. What is rare and highly valued in one system might be literally lying around everywhere in another system. Sometimes trade goods are important in-system as well if there are large population centers on resource-poor planets.

  • Exotic Organisms might be economically important if they are either very useful (like a beast of burden or an organism with a medical use) or if they are a status symbol (like exotic birds or apes on Earth).
  • Food is found everywhere, otherwise people wouldn’t be alive to have a populated system. Sometimes systems don’t have access to enjoyable or complex foods or there might be an exotic culture that trades its cuisine from “authentic” sources.
  • Metallic Ores are a big item in trade. Most star systems will have some metals that can be mined but in cases where they are rare (or have been mined out) or difficult to reach it might be far more economical to ship ores in.
  • Robots are specialty items that not every star system is equipped to make. Starting up a robotics industry can be time-consuming and costly, meaning that cheaper models can be shipped in from other systems.
  • Starships are another specialty item but one which can’t always be constructed locally. Orbital shipyards are the easiest locations to construct spaceships and if that’s not an option in a star system then ships will be brought through from other systems. Because of the size limitations of Gates, the trade good might actually be sections of spaceship that are then assembled in the star system.
  • Water is another resource that is almost certainly found in every star system but which might be difficult to reach or found only in small amounts. Within a star system, water-rich and water-poor planets often have robust trade circles.

In Practice

Let’s say your characters are starting a session headed home from some random system. You don’t want to devote a lot of time and energy to coming up with this system (or they caught you off guard and you don’t want to derail things) so you roll on the System Hooks list of one hundred hooks and you get “Shifting relationships with connected systems has led to {{Law}} {{Trade Goods}}.” You’ve got the above tables so you roll two d6s and get “A Prohibition Against…” and “Food.”

You decide that there is a competing market for raw protein in neighboring systems so the star system that the PCs are leaving has strict rules against shipping in any protein products. The crew might riff on this with a discussion about how they’re glad to be getting back to their favorite food products since all the soy-meat in the system they just left was just “off.” Bam! A throw-away star system now has a fun story attached to it.

If you had rolled “No Enforcement Regarding…” instead then they are leaving a system where there is effectively no oversight for food production. Maybe someone got sick, maybe they have a shipment of food in their cargo hold that now needs to go through a serious customs check. Either way, it’s a place to start the session that doesn’t take up people’s time but which has some awesome possibilities for roleplaying.

Next time I should have this whole chapter up and ready for your review. Stay tuned!

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