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Wilderness Exploration

This article originally appeared in Issue #001 of the downloadable PDF magazine.

World generation in Traveller assumes that the universe has been settled for centuries, if not longer. While a particular civilization may not know what lies in the next Subsector, the assumption is that people live there. Civilizations may rise and fall, but life and intelligence will still be there for player characters to encounter and find.

This article provides simple rules for developing a region where space travelers have not been before, at least not in large numbers. This means that most of the star systems will not be inhabited when the player characters arrive. Natural hazards and encounters with dangerous, non-intelligent life forms will be the norm. But there is always the possibility of finding a lost colony that was the result of a misjump or a group of refugees fleeing from civilized space for political or social reasons. There is also the chance to have First Contact with an alien race.

The rules presented in this article assume the availability and use of a core Traveller rule book; the recommended versions are those that can reasonably be construed as generally compatible with the original 1977 release of Traveller.

This article is designed to be simple and quick method of developing an unsettled world; relying on the Referee to fill in the details based on his/her vision of the universe.

These rules assume that while life is common, intelligence is rare and starfaring races are vanishingly rare. The Referee must place any interstellar capable race; these rules will not create them for you.

Step 1: Roll the physical characteristics

Roll for star system locations and gas giants as per the chosen version of Traveller. Roll the physical characteristics of the world: size, atmosphere, temperature and hydrographics in the normal manner; use of optional world-generation rules is acceptable and encouraged if appropriate for your campaign. The information within this article applies only to worlds within the Habitable Zone of a star, which is assumed to be the main world.

Step 2: Roll for the presence of Intelligence

Table 1
2D Intelligence Population TL
8 Barren 0 0
9 Isolated Colony 1D+1 1D-3
10 Ruins 0 2D-3
11 Lost Colony 2D-1 2D-3
12 Natives 1D+5 2D-3
DM -1 for Atmosphere 1-

Roll on table 1 to see if there is a local intelligent population present. It is not reasonable to assume that native intelligence could evolve on a world with no atmosphere. All other atmospheres are assumed to be able to sustain native intelligence. Local population and average Tech Level (TL) are rolled based on the type of Intelligence found.


Barren: The world does not have and never did have intelligent life.

Isolated Colony: A colony from a known race is located on the world. The locals know that they came from somewhere else and their history explains why and how they are on this planet. Types of Isolated Colonies include misjump survivors and refugees.

Ruins: The world used to have intelligence present, but it is now extinct. The previous intelligence could have been a colony or native intelligence. Visible ruins still exist. Roll on the TL table to determine the TL of the civilization at the time of its extinction.

Lost Colony: The world has been settled by an intelligent race that has forgotten that it is not native to the world. Often elaborate myths will exist to explain their existence. Significant racial differences may exist between the settlers and the originating species.

Natives: An intelligent native race has evolved.

It is important to remember that the TL rolled is the maximum TL known on the world. No items of higher TL will exist. If TL 9 is rolled, it means that the locals have gravitic technology, but have not yet developed the Jump Drive; although Slower-Than-Light starships may exist allowing the natives to explore star systems within a few parsecs.

Step 3: Roll for social characteristics

Government, Law Level and Culture should be rolled for any worlds with intelligence using the standard procedure for the campaign.

Since it is assumed that these worlds developed in isolation, the Starport rating is based only on the TL of the world. Below are the Starport classes for each isolated tech level.

Starport Class for Isolated Worlds
TL Class Description
4 X No provisions for spacecraft
5 E Airstrip (minimal traffic control)
6 D Airport (moderate to strong traffic control)
7 C Simple Spaceport (one-off spacecraft construction)
8 B Advanced Spaceport (advanced spacecraft construction)

Step 4: Determine native life Complexity and Compatibility

Two new characteristics are defined to describe the world’s native life: the complexity of life and its compatibility with humanity.

Life Complexity:

If Native Intelligence was rolled, the local life forms are as complex and diverse as that of Earth.

The complexity of native life is determined by rolling 2D-1 on Table 2.

Table 2
Roll Description Roll Description
0 None 6 Diverse
1 Simple 7 Diverse
2 Simple 8 Biosphere
3 Simple 9 Biosphere
4 Complex 10 Sub-Intelligent
5 Complex 11 Sub-Intelligent
DMs: ATM 0, 1: -8; ATM 2, 3, B+: -4; HYD 0: -4; HYD 1: -2


None: No life is present on the planet; however, small pockets of pre-cellular life may exist in the oceans or near volcanic vents.

Simple: Single-celled and primitive multi-celled life exists in the oceans. Algae, coral and similar types of life are dominant.

Complex: Complex life has developed in the oceans, including crustaceans and simple vertebrates like fish. Plant life has expanded onto the land and amphibians have begun to move out of the oceans. Land life is still isolated to regions near the water.

Diverse: The oceans are teaming with different species. Complex food chains have evolved and are sustainable in all the world’s oceans and freshwater lakes and rivers. Plant life has spread over all arable land and land life has evolved and diversified. Primitive flying creatures have also appeared.

Biosphere: Incredibly diverse and complex life now exists all over the planet, in all climates.

Sub-Intelligent: A Biosphere where one or more forms of life have begun the long road to intelligence. Complex social structures and simple communications have begun to develop along with simple tool use. The use of fire, one of the defining discoveries for TL 0, has not occurred yet.

Life Compatibility:

Roll 2D-2 for compatibility of life with Humanity and apply the following DMs. Each number represents 10% compatibility with Humanity; any values below 0% are treated as 0%. Compatibility should be rolled for each non-native alien species separately.

DMs for Life Compatibility
0, 1, B, C, F -7 4, 9, D, E -2
2, A -5 5, 7, 8 -1
3 -3 6 0

If 100% compatibility is rolled, the native life is perfectly suited to humanity (like Earth); typically this requires some kind of intervention by another species. Over millions of years compatibility can change as new species evolve and others become extinct.

Animal Encounter Tables should be created for each world with life per the chosen rules. Details of the Native Intelligence can be generated using available rules for defining alien traits, or any method that seems reasonable to the referee if no defined rules are available.

The method shown above should allow a Referee to quickly generate a region of space that has never been settled. This region could be used as the location for an on-going campaign of exploration, or it could be where the player character’s ship emerges after a disastrous misjump and is only needed until they can return to civilization.