I think I've mentioned this idea before, but I just had a few thoughts and wanted to flesh it out, as it could be a neat addition.
When a race is small (<5 planets), all the planets are basically normal But once it grows bigger, it could create specialized planets that serve different functions. This could dovetail very nicely with the race modifiers: only certain races would create certain planets.
The way I could see this happening is that when a race gets a 6th planet, they have a 20% chance of one of their planet becoming customized. When they get their 7th, the chance grows to 50%, etc. By the time they have 10 planets, it's virtually 100%. Each customized planet would have its own percentage levels.
Ideally, these planets would only be created somewhere relatively safe -- not in a recently acquired planet, but preferably closer to the home planets of the race. Also, if the number of planets of a race goes down, even to 2, these planets remain their custom selves. Only if the planet gets destroyed does it lose its custom property.
Knowledge of custom planets could be on a need-to-know basis, part of the planet's status that you obtain from spy networks and alliances. If a friendly/spied-on race creates a custom planet, you get the message: 'Race X has turned planet Y into a Z'.
OK so here are the ideas (note that I'm assuming some alien modifiers that may not exist right now):
* Kingship planet: a monarchy-based race would have a government planet from which it rules. If the planet is destroyed, the king is dead, and the empire splits into a rebel faction, and the regular faction, fighting for the throne.
* Government planet: for a democratic race, the government still needs to be on a certain planet past a certain size empire. If it's destroyed, the empire enters disarray until a new government planet is established (or the empire becomes small enough it doesn't need one).
* Research planet: if a planet has certain scientific enhancements and the race is science-oriented, it can create a research planet, which centralizes all research in the empire, and provides a research boost. If the planet is destroyed, the race loses technologies and gets a temporary research penalty.
* Temple planet: a religious race can develop a temple planet, especially if certain holy artifacts are found as modifiers on the planet. If the planet is destroyed, the population becomes unhappy, causing riots. The race's ships get a power *boost* as they're vengeful. A quest to find new idols is created (an item that can be obtained by scanning empty planets).
* Vacation planet: a paradise planet can be turned into a vacation planet, which generates lots of money. If this planet is lost, the race suffers a temporary morale hit.
* Diplomat planet: a planet specializing in diplomats. Can only be generated by races that aren't xenophobic. Gives a diplomatic boost. If this planet is destroyed, the race suffers serious penalties to diplomacy.
* Warrior planet: can only be created by warrior cultures. Gives a small strength boost to all ships. If destroyed, the race suffers a combat penalty.
* Farm planet: becomes a central location for food growth. Productive races only. Gives a food boost to all planets. If destroyed, causes food shortages and starvation on all planets.
* Factory planet: becomes central hub for ship production. Only for productive races. Gives bonus for all ship production. If destroyed, all ship production is stopped for a while.
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