Review: Paizo – Deck of Many Worlds (Starfinder)

Deck of Many Worlds
Deck of Many Worlds is an accessory for the science fantasy RPG Starfinder, developed by Joe Pasini and published by Paizo.
By Aaron T. Huss

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Deck of Many Worlds is a random planet generator in card format. It is designed for use with Starfinder, utilizing a handful of its planet mechanics, but can easily be adapted for any sci-fi game (heck, even authors could use it for writing fiction). It contains 100 cards with a unique world on one side of the card and mechanics on the other side. You shuffle and draw cards to mix and match the worlds and mechanics in order to create a veritable endless number of possibilities.

The planet side of the cards contains a number of different worlds types – Terrestrial, Gas Giant, Desert, Jungle, Irregular, etc. Beneath the world is a series of aspects randomly placed across the bottom – Accord, Magic, Religion, Tech, and Starfinder alignment. These aspects are coupled with arrows on the mechanics-side of the card, depicting whether that aspect is higher, lower, or standard. The mechanics-side also includes an intelligent and threat species from one of the many Starfinder books along with a random hook and what looks like a d6 one each side of the hook, utilized for a variety of purposes. The process is simple – draw a card and use the planet side, draw a second card and align the arrows to the aspects (which provides the levels of each aspect, the hook, and the random d6s), draw a number of cards equal to the left-most d6 to define the intelligent species on that planet and a number of cards equal to the right-most d6 to define the threat species. Optionally, you can draw one final card to use for defining the planetary system using the d6s and the hook.

Pretty simple, extremely versatile, and probably a million combinations.

Deck of Many Worlds does have its drawbacks though. The first drawback is the intelligent and threat species; these species are taken directly from Starfinder books… 19 different books from my count. That means to get 100% usage of this accessory, the GM will have to make a considerable investment. This includes the core rulebook, Pact Worlds, Alien Archives (1), 2, and 3, and a selection of Adventure Path books. If you already have these books, then great! If you don’t, what to do…? Well, honestly you can really get over this drawback quite easily. You could 1) discard that card and draw another one, 2) use that species as part of the overarching storyline, but never needing a stat block, or 3) use the species as guidance for one you already do have.

The second drawback is that randomly drawing planets, especially when construction a planetary system, may not make sense due to the type of world. I personally would separate the cards (only when drawing planets) into three separate stacks – Terrestrial, Gas Giant, and everything else. 1) create your Terrestrial planet, 2) draw from the Gas Giant stack to define everything outside the feasible area of local star reach, and then 3) draw from the everything else pile to create all the “closer” planets in relation to the local star. Then you can place them wherever it makes sense within the planetary system.

I actually think this very simple accessory is brilliant. Sci-fi games are often filled with random planet generators, and this one is so simple and fun that I would probably use it for every game system. The intelligent and threat species can easily be adapted to any bestiary you may have, but it’s all the other things that define the planet generically (i.e. aspects, gravity, atmosphere, etc.) that can be applied abroad. It’s quite the GM utility and a must-have for your galaxy-spanning games!

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