I've used some of the same ideas as Stars Without Number, but with modification in many cases. Plus, I thought many of their ideas started to become a bit redundant or are obvious based on other things that I'm generating (I don't need a desert world tag when I can already see that I've rolled a surface water number of only 10%, or an ocean world when I rolled a 90%, for example); while they had 60 tags, I've only got 40. The tags should suggest further details about the world, so two or three of them should be generated at the end of the world generation routine, right before you start writing up the notes. I'll eventually add this post to the space mapping flowchart, but let me tinker with it here first.
There's no d40, so what I've done is try to keep my numbers round so I can roll a d4 plus a d10 to render all of these results. I'd like to think that I can add more eventually, but ideally, I'd add them in chunks of 20 after I can think of that many at least, so that I can upgrade the d4 to a d6 (and then to a d8, then a d10, etc.)
To pick a tag, roll a 1d4 and consult the section below corresponding to your result. Roll another 1d10 and pick the tag that is gives you. Do this 2-3 times for every world, and you've got ready-made flavor starters to make your worlds more unique.
1d4 Roll = 1
- Ghost Town—This was once a colony, but it is now abandoned. This might have been from before the Dark Ages, and it was abandoned, or some other technological, economic, or natural disaster led to its failure. The ruins of the old colony are probably still around, silent and abandoned... but sometimes they are not as empty as they seem.
- Alien Ruins—The world has alien ruins of archaeological (and possibly other) significance. They may be a tourist attraction, or they may be strictly controlled by the locals.
- Genetically Modified Population—The people here are dramatically and obviously different from the other spacefaring examples of their race—extra eyes, or limbs, or other organs, etc. Usually this was done on purpose via gene-splicing to make them better colonists in their new environment, but sometimes some feature of the world causes mutations or other rapid genetic change in subsequent generations.
- Death World—An extremely dangerous environment; could be dangerous predators, persistent plague, or wasteland devastated by super-weapons of the past.
- Sealed Cities—Colonists cannot survive the environment on this world, so live in sealed cities; either underground, or in domes or bubbles, etc.
- Civil War—The world is currently torn between at least two factions vying for control and engaged in open warfare.
- Cold War—The world has at least two dominant factions vying for control of the rest of the world, but are in a state of tense cease-fire.
- Oppressed Natives—A puppet or colonial government of off-worlders rules over a sullen, conquered native population.
- Eugenic Mania—This world is obsessed with eugenics (or cybernetics) to improve the condition of its population. Unlike #3 above, this is in response to cultural rather than environmental stimuli.
- Feral World—A colony has been isolated (due to the Dark Ages, or some other stimulus) and has had a complete moral and cultural collapse. Hostile murderous cults, cannibalism, human(oid) sacrifice, or other extremely inhospitable practices have taken hold of the civilization that has grown up in the meantime.
1d4 Roll = 2
- Flying Cities—It is undesirable to settle on the surface. Perhaps hostile natives make it too dangerous, or there is only a gaseous body, or some other inhospitable condition, but the colonists live in cities that float above the surface. May include orbital cities.
- Forbidden Technology—While there is no governing body capable of making and enforcing "international law" (although some pretend to that role) there are certain technologies that are almost universally shunned—DNA corrupting weapons, planet-busters, dangerously unstable AIs with access to deadly weapons, etc. However, at least one example can be found here. The population may not be aware of the danger, or it may be something that the whole population is in on as a war effort, etc.
- Persistent Dangerous Weather—Massive storms that can flatten a city, persistent electrical storms that can blast a starship out of the sky, extreme variations in temperature that can kill the unprepared and crack building materials; something about the weather necessitates extreme precautions.
- Boom Town / Gold Rush—Some extremely valuable commodity is found here in significant quantities that is rare elsewhere; specialized isotopes of rare metals, drug-like spice, valuable wildlife, etc. The planet has had a surge of fortune-hunters converge on it overwhelming the ability of law and order to contain or control them.
- Industrial World—Vast industrial parks dominate the planet, and its industrial base usually makes it a significant exporter. This may be industry that serves to aggrandize the local tyrant, however.
- Mining World—The world itself (or perhaps an asteroid belt within the system) is an important source of raw materials; gold, silver, nickel-iron asteroids, etc. are mined here, and often shipped to an industrial world for further use.
- Hostile Solar System—The world itself is not necessarily dangerous, but the solar neighborhood is. Perhaps a hot Jupiter causes period massive solar flares, or a solar space loaded with debris causes much heavier than normal meteorite activity, or a thick nebula confounds navigation, or there's a lurking black hole in the area.
- Local Specialty—The world has a specific import—a unique technology, or highly prized agricultural product, or even something as simple as extremely fashionable local craftsmen that the high and mighty throughout known space value as decorations. This brings a great deal of trade and other attention from the interstellar neighborhood at large.
- Forgotten—The natives have been completely out of contact with known space for many generations, and may even have forgotten the details of their origin and how they colonized their world. The PCs might even be the first to contact the population in centuries—or perhaps limited contact has occurred under very strict control by the ruling elite, designed to keep their whereabouts and circumstances secret.
- Outpost World—This world is only a tiny outpost of humanity; an observation or monitoring post, a vital refueling waystop on an important shipping lane, or some other stopover planet that offers little in the way of services beyond the essentials, but which may be important enough that all kinds pass through here on their way to somewhere else.
1d4 Roll = 3
- Pilgrimage World—The world has an important religious or historical significance; many are places where Simon the Blessed did something momentous on his way to founding the first order of psionic knights. People often travel here from distant places, and the locals may be very strict with the access that they allow.
- Primitive Aliens—Although colonists live here (or have lived here) the majority of the population is technologically primitive and may be considerably hostile to colonists or other visitors.
- Thaumatophobia—Warlocks and/or psionic knights face extreme hatred or fear or persecution here, and may be completely unwelcome to the point that if they reveal their abilities, they may be lynched on the spot.
- Thaumatophilia—Warlocks and/or psionic knights are seen as heroes or gods almost, and receive tremendous acclaim. Note; this doesn't necessarily mean that foreign warlocks and/or psionic knights are given the same deference that locals are given.
- Warlock Academy—There are very few institutions that teach warlocks their trade, and most are taught by an eccentric via apprenticeship, or some even learn on their own as they can. This world, however, has one of the few academies that can train (relatively) large numbers of them in a systemic way.
- Psionic Knight Academy—There are very few institutions that teach psionic knights to unlock their power, and most learn as squires or apprentices to an established knight. This world, however, has one of the few academies that can train (relatively) large numbers of them in a systemic way. Most belong to a significant order, such as the Simonians, Sacristans, Old Ones, praetors, etc.
- Quarantined World—Access to this world is severely restricted, or even forbidden altogether. Squads of one-man fighters may chase down and destroy those who attempt to land without the proper authorization, or ground batteries may pelt ships from their approach in orbit, or the entire planet might be under blockade by a hostile force.
- Radioactive World—It may be the result of past atomic warfare, or just the natural conditions on the planet, but without extreme measures, the world will cause mutations, cancers, and other problems. Natives are often mutated beyond recognition after many generations.
- Regional Dominance—For whatever reason, this world exerts its political, military, or economic dominance over a multi-system area. This may be the capital of a colonial holding or other polity, or it might just be so technologically and economically sophisticated that the dominance is not formal, although still very real.
- Oceanic Cities—The cities might be gigantic floating ships, or platforms that are anchored to a surface below the waves, or they might even be built underwater altogether, making access to them tricky.
1d4 Roll = 4
- Sealed Menace—Something on the planet has the potential to create havoc for not only the population but possibly even beyond; malfunctioning ancient terraforming equipment that has created an instability, a powerful dangerous alien creature, exposure to the Outer Darkness, a virulent disease that needs to be contained, etc. Whatever it is, it looms like a shadow over everything that happens.
- Secret Cabal—While the populace does not realize it, the planet is secretly ruled by a shadowy cabal of puppet-masters. To keep their secrets, this cabal is often unusually hostile to off-worlders and their meddling.
- Tomb World—Some tomb worlds are similar to Ghost Town worlds where the inhabitants all died off for one reason or another (lack of food, lack of technology to maintain safe living conditions, etc.) but some were deliberately designed to be tombs to the wealthy and important, and their ancient tombs, like the pyramids in Egypt, may conceal all kinds of secrets of the past.
- Trade Hub—An extremely cosmopolitan world that is position in such a way that it is a major crossroads across various trade routes, shipping lanes, or offer ready access to markets or goods that are unavailable elsewhere. This commercial strategic location also sometimes makes them targets for foreign governments to want to control...
- Tyranny—The world is in the grip of an extremely oppressive government; either swaggering elites who feel entitled to their whims (the Normans of Robin Hood legend) or oppressive secret police, or some other flavor of extreme tyranny. Visitors to this world often don't return.
- Hostile AI—An artificial intelligence has run away from its creators and taken over the world. It may have decided to eliminate all potential threats (think SkyNet or Ultron) or it may simply have removed from power its creators and taken over with what it thinks is benevolent intentions.
- Balkanization—The world is broken up into various governments that are hostile to each other, and the whole surface may well be in the midst of low-grade warfare, or raiding, etc.
- Xenophilia—The population are fast friends of a particular interstellar race, either because of the actions of some hero in the past, or because of cultural or religious significance attached to that race.
- Xenophobia—The natives are intensely averse to any dealings with offworlders. This may be low-grade annoyance and impoliteness, attempts to cheat them and insult them, etc. or they may violently react to any non-natives who appear among them.
- Zombie Plague—This isn't necessarily the supernatural zombie type outbreak, put some plague or parasite or drug or mutation (or... well, it might be a magical effect that literally reanimates the dead) has caused ravening hordes of dangerous ghouls who want only to attack, kill, infect, or eat anyone they can get their hands on.