Back in April when I went to Reapercon 2013, I was blessed by GM Chris and GM Dave with one of the two prototype copies of Eons. I've had a blast playing this game (or perhaps a supernova...). Since then, I've obtained my actual production copy and have had more chances to play. The game is awesome. If you're looking for a resource management game with a touch of science where you play a god (er..."Cosmic Architect") then Eons is for you.
So after listening to the wisdom and advice on creating campaign worlds in the Order 66 Podcast Episode 9; Go West Young Sam, it occurred to me that the building of star systems was sounding very similar to the building of your galaxy in Eons. I started bouncing around ideas, considering card interpretations, and came up with the following "extra-gaming" use for Eons. The idea is to take the stack of Eons playing cards and use them as inspiration for the details of a star system you're creating for a table-top RPG.
Option One: "Single Hand" System
This is the simplest option for creating a planetary system for your game; deal yourself a standard Eons hand of seven cards, and lay them out in front of you. This method of system creation is good if your PCs decide to go off the rails and head off in another direction from where you planned. It's also good for a one-shot encounter if you can't come up with anything that session and need some ideas.
Hopefully, you'll pull a star, a couple planets, and maybe some interesting Cosmic events. This method could result in a system of nothing but stars, or nothing but planets. Thankfully, science accounts for most of this. There are many multiple star systems in our own galaxy, why should the Star Wars galaxy be any different? Drawing a hand full of planets could be just as interesting. Perhaps a series of rogue planets are currently moving through the area. If you pull a "life" card in such a system, run with it. There could be exogorths in the system. Civilization could mean a space station, or a derelict battle fleet, or a pirate base.
Lay out the cards with any stars drawn to the left, and any planets drawn to the right. Use Supernovas to remove stars from the hand, or simply discard them. Apply Life and Civilization cards to planets as desired. Come up with a name for the stars and planets, or use the names right on the card (I recommend at least making them more "Star Warsy"; apostrophes and hyphens abound).
Option Two: Number of Planets
The next option is to take the entire stack of cards, and either select or randomly roll for the number of planets to be in the system. I recommend not using a ten-sided die for this. Using a 6 sided one would be better. To lower the odds of it being a 1 planet system, add 1 to 3 to the result of the roll.
Now, start turning over cards until you have a card spread that contains the number of planets you rolled. This could take a while, and lead to some very interesting star systems with nebulae, black holes, and neutron stars in it. Use these navigational hazards to their fullest. Nebulae are easy to do, and the planet could even reside within it. Neutron Stars and Black holes make excellent locations for research facilities that may or may not have been turned into pirate bases or secret military installations.
EDIT: An interesting side-note; as I was laying out the cards and explaining what I was doing to my wife, she stated that I was doing a tarot reading. I found it to be a rather crude analogy, but a strong enough one that I couldn't really refute her commentary. It's like that between us. Often.
Interpreting the Cards
Regardless of how you decide to use the cards (or your significant other's observations), interpreting the draw is important to the layout of your Star System.
Stars: These are the most basic cards to decode; it's the core star your planets (if you have any) orbit around. It's possible, and often likely, that you'll end up with multiple star cards. That's okay, you can either weed them out with any Supernovas you draw, toss them from the hand, or use them to represent binary, trinary and other multiple star systems.
Planets: Odds are, if you're developing a star system you're going to want some planets of some sort in it. That's usually why the players are going to the star system in the first place. Eons has the four basic planet types; molten, gaseous, liquid, and earthen. As George Lucas has shown us, any one of these planet types can support life and civilization of some sort.
Life: Either the planet has life on it or it's at least able to support life of some sort. Alternately, if you have a hand with no planets, Life could represent space-born creatures like Mynocks or the aforementioned exogorths (space slugs). It could also be for sentient gas clouds, living space mold clinging to asteroids, or any number of fantastical living beings.
Civilization: Tons of options to use with this card. In the game Eons, you can't play Civilization without Life. In this use, Civilization is separated from Life. There are many instances of civilizations within the Star Wars universe that exist on planets without life. On such planets, Civilization represents protected shelters, colony worlds, sprawling domes cities protecting the inhabitants from the harsh environment of the planet. It represents massive hovering cities in the atmosphere of gas giants, or floating platforms on seas of toxic, but valuable liquids. Even molten planets work, with element-enriched mining facilities on molten lakes of fire and lava. One could argue that places like Nar Shadda and Coruscant are earthen planets with Civilization, but no Life, simply because the entire world is urbanized. In a system without planets, Civilization represents asteroid bases and space stations.
Nebulae, Neutron Stars, and Black Holes: Small and Large nebulae breath interesting life into any star system. You could have planets in the system orbit through the nebulae, and come up with the effects such an orbit has on the planet. Stretch your creative muscles. It might simply disrupt communications and travel to and from the world, but it could also interrupt life; requiring the residents to remain in enclosed cities while the planet is within the Nebulae. This usually means something is valuable enough on the world to make such inconveniences worthwhile.
Neutron Stars and Black Holes represent much more lethal navigational hazards. Even with Star Wars science, it's hard to come up with a reason one of these would be in a star system. Most likely they're at the edge of one, and their unique properties affects life and travel in the system. As mentioned above, these stellar phenomena make great subjects of study, attracting scientific and military installations to them.
Meteor Strike and Cosmic Collisions: Now we start getting into cards that are not stellar bodies, but galactic events. These two cards effect change upon planets, and drawing them should do the same to the bodies within the star system. Meteor Strikes can be a few things; one is literal, a meteor has hit a planet. That means that the meteor likely came from somewhere nearby, and perhaps there is a ring around the planet in question. Multiple Meteor Strikes in your hand could mean a full blown asteroid belt lies in the system. Another interpretation is that it's not a meteor strike, but a meteor cloud that the planet passes through from time to time, much like our own. Or a comet in the system that orbits the star and passes by the planets in the system.
Cosmic Collisions are planetary altering events. Used literally, it can signify an event that either ended life on a planet or possibly civilization. It doesn't have to be an extinction-causing asteroid, though. It could be something more artificial, or man-made. Maybe a brutal war occurred and destroyed much of the population. Maybe a period of tectonic instability (natural or artificial) altered the planet. Or a huge cruiser accidentally hit the planet at lightspeed. Or orbital bombardment from a fleet of ships devastated much of the surface.
Supernova: This one is very similar to the previous set of cards, but affects stars (and really, the entire star system). If your hand has a lot of stars, you can simply start using Supernovas to remove stars from the system on a one-to-one basis. Maybe the Supernova represents a Star evolving from one type to another (from Yellow Dwarf to Red Supergiant, for instance), obliterating worlds in the process. Could be why the system has no planets, if you didn't draw any. The death of a star in a multi-star system could really shake things up, and bathe the area in cosmic rays and high radiation for millennia to come.
Taken one step further towards the abstract; maybe the system altering event wasn't the death of a star, but something else. Could have been an invasion. Or the rise of a Dark Side cult on one of the planets, subjugating the system's populace. Anything that alters something within the system as a whole could be represented with a Supernova card.
An Example is in Order...
I think it's time for an example of what I'm talking about. For this example, I'm going to use a simple 7 card draw, your basic hand in Eons. Let's see what I get...
Okay, so I got a Red Dwarf star (there's a joke in there somewhere...), two Liquid Planets, one Earthen Planet, Life, Cosmic Collision, and Meteor Strike. Not bad! The star is easy, we've got a red star that has three planets orbiting it. You can ignore the Eons game rule that limits how many planets a type of star can support.
I'll place the first Liquid planet near the star, and have it be a planet of liquid toxic chemicals with a higher boiling point than water. Hot, steamy, and lethal to most living beings in the galaxy. Next I'll place the earthen planet, and the second Liquid planet will be farther out.
I could say that the Life card is tied to the Earthen planet, or the second Liquid planet, but I think I'm going to be a little more abstract and say that Life will apply to the system, not just one specific planet there in. Both of those planets will support life. With a cosmic collision and a meteor strike card in the hand, I'm going to say there's an asteroid belt in the system, too. Let's place it between the first and second planet. The "planetary altering event" is usually something bad, but in this case I think I'll have it be something positive; a sudden tourist trade to the system.
The name of the Star on the card is Reese 2-14. Going with some "L33+ Sp34k" and dropping some letters, we'll call this the Reezla System.With two planets capable of supporting life, but no civilization to speak of, we'll consider this a newly found or under developed colony planet. The corporation that found the system wanted to colonize it, or at least tap into it's resources found on Nixev (the first Liquid planet), but found it to be too expensive and dangerous. Perhaps it's too far off the space lanes for someone other than a major corporation to undertake. In the mean time, some of the creatures on the second planet Cael's Hope (Earthen Planet) are vicious predators and attract the elite hunters of the galaxy. The more temperate liquid planet Rydel has abundant sea life, great for sport fishing.
The Reezla System
Let's put this draw into the Star Wars galaxy...
The Reezla system has few minerals for corporations to exploit for profit, but another company has started to cash in on the offerings of the system. A tourist company has tapped into the potential for the sport hunting and fishing market and offers exclusive "Big Game Cruises". Guests travel aboard a Mon Calamari cruiser to the Reezla system (the actual tourist cruisers, not the ones the Rebel Alliance put guns on). This cruise departs from a nearby system, where the wealthy tourists enjoy several days in hyperspace gambling, dancing, and partying before arriving in the Reezla system. The cruiser, being made by the amphibious Mon Calamari, is able to set down on Rydel's oceans. Guests on the ship are able to enjoy a few days at sea while smaller sea skimmers take sport fishermen out to catch "the big one". Then its on to Cael's Hope, where posh shuttles transport hunters down to the planet to a specially designed base-camp, and go on safari for the most dangerous creatures around over several days. Daytime hunts are followed by lavish bonfire parties in the base camp compound, protected by a specially designed perimeter fence and armed guards.
Recently, a band of pirates has uncovered an asteroid base that the original explorers established to start mining operations in the system (a common trope for pirate bands in the Expanded Universe). They are preparing to ambush the next cruise to the system, and prey on it's wealthy clientele when they reach Cael's Hope, and most of the armed personnel (and tourists) are away on the planet. Their plan could work too, unless some meddling PCs get involved...
I came up with all this in less than 10 minutes. A system that's just aching to be used in a campaign or episodic one-shot.
Making a Big Bang
For all the crazy details Game Masters have to come up with, sometimes it's nice to have some help in crafting the galaxy the characters are living in. In less than 2-3 minutes, a GM with a copy of Eons can come up with some pretty interesting details about a star system the PCs encounter while going "off the rails". Or with 10-15 minutes, the GM can get some ideas and breathe life into a new star system, just waiting for pcs to explore.
Eons; crafting galaxies across the gaming cosmos, one system at a time.
Want a copy of Eons? Order it from Gamer Nation Studios, or check with your friendly local gaming store to get a copy! Even if you don't use it for this, it's an AWESOME game!