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I tend to GM campaigns where players travel a lot. Whether it is through D&D planes or in a space-opera setting, they are bound to visit a lot of very different and varied places. And I have to admit that after a while, I start to run out of ideas.

Therefore, I am looking for a system allowing me to easily create towns, countries, or even planets. I have several requirements though:

  • Setting-agnostic. I need something that can be used in space-opera, D&D, L5R, and so on. I can ignore the non-relevant results if necessary.
  • Scalable. Ideally, it would be possible to use it on towns, planets, and everything in between.
  • Some randomness. My issue being that I am running out of ideas, I would prefer a system that generates ideas for me.
  • Not too specific. Most city generators I find actually generate too much. I don't want a system that generates the population size, race proportions, number of inns, and so on. I just want some guidelines and I will fill the blanks.
  • Different government results. I would like a system resulting in different political systems, such as democracy, monarchy, communism, theocracy, and so on.

For example, the output I would ideally have from the system would be along the lines of "Science: 1, Religion: 5, Education: 2, Wealth: 0, Government: Military, Special: Food Taboo" (values and categories are totally arbitrary).

Diaspora cluster generation system is a really good start, but is unfortunately too specific to solar systems. I tried the "other kinds of clusters" suggestion, but with no success (not very scalable, have to design and balance the tables myself, still quite setting-specific). An adaptation of this system to make it more general could work.

Pathfinder settlements are a surprisingly good fit, and a random settlement generation system could fit what I need.

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I start to run out of ideas. Ask your players to help. –  okeefe Apr 14 at 23:45

4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Use Chaotic Shiny's Civilisation Generator.

  • Setting-agnostic: Yes. It covers a few date ranges from the past to the future, and is generically applicable enough.
  • Scalable: Yes. As you take this smaller-scale, you may want to de-emphasize some generated details, ignore them, or treat them as properties of the larger civilisation this village belongs to. (The village might not have its own autocratic system of government, but it would belong to a domain ruled by an autocracy.)
  • Some randomness: Lots of randomness.
  • Not too specific: Yes. This will give you a few words on each detail, which I have found is enough to be stimulating, but not so much it's restrictive.
  • Different government results: Yes. Though I don't think it's generated a communist civilisation for me yet, it's generated democracies, tribes, republics, theocratic and hereditary autocracies, and oligarchies.

It does not, however, offer numeric output like you've provided. It focuses on a few words of output, which is probably more useful.

  • It provides some details on education level, but rather than describing science and religion levels, it describes the civilisation's strengths (which might be technology-related) and provides some basic details on its religion.
  • Rather than stating wealth, it describes some other details about their economy from which you could deduce their wealth.
  • Whether they have a military government could be determined based on their circumstances (are they at war?) and their political structure.
  • There's plenty of stuff that fits under "special".

As a side note, it also has a planet generator and a medieval city generator.

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You've described the planet/civilisation generator at the heart of Stars Without Number almost exactly. You even have a "Special: Food Taboo" thing there beside the numbers, which is the kind of non-numeric information that it specialises in delivering.

It's nominally a sci-fi game, but in a post-fall galaxy where anything from a medieval to high-tech society is possible to discover on a newly-encountered planet. It won't give you magical details, but the level of detail is such that you can easily substitute "magic did it" for any instances of "technology did it" as necessary. There may be results you'll have to ignore for a specific genre, as you say, but with this tool there will probably be fewer than you expect.

It's built to give you all the high-level abstracted stuff, with just enough detail, to be able to use regardless of rules system. The generator scales up from small settlements to entire planets, and will give you government, notable people, and notable issues. And best of all, the no-art edition of Stars Without Number is free.

At the very least it's a useful tool to add to your toolbox. At best, it may become your go-to tool for creating interesting new places on the fly.

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You can make your own with a script (With, for example, python), since (I know this first hand) finding the exact program you are looking for can be really hard. I did this to generate NPCs and it worked great, althought it may be a bit more complicated depending on the detail level you are looking for.

If you just want generic data like names, sizes, facilities, governments and such (In short, just a list of facts about the location generated randomly), you can do it in a few lines and a bunch of data files. If you want layouts and more concrete stuff (Just in case you want it for the future) it can get more complicated, but it can still be done.

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You could have your players or some friends give you ideas, or have them input directly into the data files as well. This way you don't have to worry about coming up with a multitude of ideas just for the script to serve its purpose. –  Jason_c_o Apr 15 at 17:11

There are a whole set of different generators for a variety of different things available at http://megacosm.morgajel.net/. They're being added to at a fairly rapid rate it seems as well. The country, region and street generators might be useful for you in particular.

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