World-building can be hard. Anybody who’s ever tried to create their own campaign world can attest to that. From maps, to ideologies, to governments, to natural formations…it’s a lot to manage.
Now, I want you to keep your hand on that dial. Start turning it. Turn it all the way to 10, because what happens when you want to build your own GALAXY?
Try taking all of that creative energy and spreading it across multiple planets and the properties therein. It’s incredibly daunting!
Luckily, Paizo has us covered with the Starfinder Deck of Many Worlds! There are many decks of many things floating around, but this Gamemaster (GM) tool will change how you create content for your science-fantasy tabletop games.
Let’s explore and see some examples!
The Starfinder Deck of Many Worlds is a stack of 100-cards. That’s it. It seems like such an insignificant number, but it really does allow you to create a nearly infinite number of worlds.
Using a series of 10 instruction cards, Paizo walks you through the planet creation process. You draw a series of cards in a specified order, arranging them in a nice little tableau that represents your planet.
Each planet has the following Attributes:
- Religion: do the inhabitants practice a specific faith?
- Accord: is the world rife with conflict?
- Magic: are the residents connected to the magical energies of the universe?
- Tech: how savvy are the inhabitants with technological wonders?
- Alignment: just like characters, planets can have one of nine different alignments
All of the cards are double-sided. The main side has a graphical rendition of a planet along with details like Gravity, Atmosphere, and Biomes. The opposite side includes all of the world details like photos of Sapients and Threats, Attributes, and even plot hooks.
Here’s how it works:
- Draw a card and put the planet side up. This is the physical world.
- Draw another card and place it underneath the first so that the attribute bar details are showing, to define the world Attributes and the first plot hook.
- Draw another card and place it underneath the second. Now we have another plot hook.
- There are dice icons on the left and right sides now. These are Star Fields, and they determine the number of cards to draw for Sapients and Threats on the left and right sides, respectively. Alternatively, you can just choose two for each side.
- Optionally, you can also use the left Star Field to determine moons for the planet. For this, you’ll follow the same steps as creating a planet.
That’s all there is to it! Paizo also provides details for using the cards in creating entire Systems, NPCs, Player Characters, and Settlements. It’s basically a one-stop shop for Starfinder creation, especially with all of the available plot hooks.
Let’s see this Starfinder Deck of Many Worlds in action.
Planet 1 – Mellirya
For this first planet, I decided to go with the recommended number of Sapients and Threats. It can get cluttered quickly, so for the second and third planets I only generated two examples for each.
So what do we have on this planet? A highly technological planet with minimal magic. The planet has a Lawful Neutral alignment, which involves a strict legal code. The interesting thing, however, is that their Accord is low. Maybe the species here have very different ideas on what the strict legal code should entail.
Spathinae are an interesting race where each ‘individual’ is actually a colony of insectoid creatures. They can essentially shape themselves into whatever shapes they want. This pairs really well with the Endiffians, who serve as the Mr. Fantastics and Ms. Marvels of the Starfinder world. Two shapeshifting species vying for power?!
As far as Threats are concerned, I’m really intrigued by the Cybernetic Zombies and Spectras. I’m picturing augmented Ysoki that travel in packs, due to some failed technological experiment on the planet. This forces the other species to keep relocated to safer areas, which capitalizes on that second plot hook.
Spectra basically absorb energy from other planes. What if these creatures siphoned the majority of the magic out of this world? Are there split opinions on the level of trust people can instill in them? Would eliminating the threat restore magic to the world?
Planet 2 – Dunhines Five
Could we get a more cohesive combination than this? The Instar species thrives on magical abilities, with their entire society being based around magic. Religion at a neutral level balances out the Desna-worshipping Instars from the mobility-focused Bantrids.
The world is classified as Chaotic Good, which could indicate the Instar’s desire to further magical development to solve their problems. I wonder if one of these problems is the rampant use of niaqui, an illegal drug that stems from the Niaq species. The Instars are likely consumed by their desire for power, as evidence by the first plot hook.
Because of all the mountains, the Bantrid probably have a difficult time manuevering around. They may be confined to specific portions of the planet. That second plot hook may give us a better springboard for their intentions and motivations.
What if the planet suffers from chronic earthquakes that split open previously inaccessible portions of the world? The Bantrid seek these out, hoping to find an area more suitable for their kind.
I also imagine the Kaukariki to constantly be harassing the Bantrid, who struggle in the mountainous biomes. Gosh, this planet sounds like a nightmare!
Planet 3 – Anomaly X19
Ah, our first irregular world! Planet 3 is covered in crystals, serving as a target for a terrifying Tzitzimitl threat. These undead creatures seek nothing more than destruction of worlds, and the natural beauty of this planet is like a glittering gem, beckoning them towards it.
The Drow probably live within the crystalline walls of vast, geometric cities. Actually, they may inhabit tunnels below the palaces of the Morlamaw species. Morlamaw are very similar to Earth’s walruses, except they tend to have bright, reflective skin that would shimmer beautifully among the planet’s crystal structure.
The Morlamaw rule with a swift, just hand, but the Drow are discontent with playing second fiddle. Maybe a religious leader has whipped the Drow into a frenzy, ready to take their rightful place on the surface. Ironically, that zealousness needs to shift to deal with the Tzitzimitl threat looming.
Our second plot hook ties into the Efreeti. Although they’re on the side of the Threats, I see them more as neutral protectors of the planet. Their only enemies are those who seek to do harm to their world. If the Drow and Morlamaw hope to survive this cosmic threat, they’ll certainly need help from the Efreeti. But they’ll have to play by the rules of the djinn…
Thoughts on the Deck of Many Worlds
This deck injects my brain with some serious creative juice. It’s so modular, and even if you can’t think of good connections between the planet’s aspects, you can always just draw new cards until something sticks.
Better yet, the Starfinder Deck of Many Worlds is compact enough to fit in any Gamemaster’s toolbox. I would even go so far as to say that this is a fantastic resource for players too; determining home world details and character connections just became a whole lot easier.
Now, if you don’t mind, I’m several planets short of a system. Who’s ready for a new Starfinder campaign?
[Disclosure: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of the Deck of Many Worlds by Paizo in exchange for an honest review.]