by Demian Katz
Points in Space Volume I: Starport Locations (2001)
Published by Cumberland Games & Diversions
Designed by S. John Ross
Illustrated by Dan Smith
40-page sourcebook plus 103-page map book in PDF format.
$9.95 (sourcebook), $7.95 (map book), $12.95 ("virtual boxed set")
This review was originally published in a slightly different form in
Grampa Barmo's Discount Game Magazine #3 (Winter, 2002).
What do I get?
The main 40-page Starport Locations book contains descriptions
and small maps of fifteen locations that might be found in a futuristic
space station. These can be easily inserted into just about any science
fiction role-playing campaign. As something of a bonus, the book also
comes with rules and cards for Face of Emoch, a poker-like game
for two to six players which can be played for its own sake or used to
add flavor to an RPG session. The optional 103-page map book contains
enlarged (1:36 scale) versions of the maps from the main book divided
into hexes and intended for use with miniature figures.
What do I need?
You'll need a computer capable of reading Adobe Acrobat files, and it
also wouldn't hurt to have some existing science fiction role-playing
rules. To play Face of Emoch, you'll also need tokens of some
sort for betting and a printer for creating the game's cards. A printer
is also obviously rather helpful for making use of the map book's maps.
So what's it like?
Both the main book and the map book are attractively and professionally
laid out in full color, though they look fine when printed in black and
white. My only real complaint about the appearance of the product is
that the books lack front covers – they start right at the table
of contents. I realize that covers aren't really necessary, but a game
booklet doesn't feel quite complete without artwork at the front, and
since the download of the main book costs nearly as much as an
equivalent-sized print product would, a cover doesn't seem like an
While the map book is a nice tool for GMs that use miniatures in their
campaigns, the most useful portions of the product's content can be
found in the main book. It's obvious that a considerable amount of
thought went into the writing of the book. None of the fifteen
locations described is entirely obvious or generic, and each contains
some slightly quirky NPCs and a few twists which could serve as
adventure hooks. Admittedly, the book isn't something you'd read purely
on the basis of its own entertainment value (though it is occasionally
quite amusing), and it doesn't really offer any entirely new concepts
(except perhaps for Mexlar pornography), but it is easy to see how the
material presented here could be used as very solid groundwork for the
development of a memorable campaign. It takes all kinds of familiar and
potentially clichéd characters and places and arranges them into
a format which allows them to be used in a fresh way by GMs. It also
provides a few helpful sidebars that address such topics as how to
remove the aliens and robots for a human-oriented campaign and where all
the bathrooms are.
The one thing which may limit the book's usefulness in your campaign is
its tone. The locations presented here are, for the most part, a bit
more like Star Wars than Star Trek in style. Most of the
establishments are somewhat run down and sleazy, and a significant
percentage of the characters presented have some sort of criminal
sideline in addition to their regular work. Obviously, it wouldn't be
impossible to clean things up a bit for use in a gleaming and more
optimistically futuristic campaign, but the material's tongue-in-cheek
cynicism makes it feel more suitable for a darker, grimier and perhaps
more humorous game. This might make an interesting companion to Deep7's
Star Legion 1PG.
Also worth mentioning is the bonus Face of Emoch game. It's a
poker variant at heart, but its variations make it fairly interesting
– the ranked hands are amusing and well themed, and the strategy
of the game is more in the hand building (which offers some good
strategic choices) than in the bidding (which isn't as intense as in
poker). You wouldn't want to buy the whole package simply for the
benefit of these cards, but they do significantly increase the value of
an already good product.
If your campaign style is compatible with the tone of the product,
you'll definitely get some use out of this one, and if you don't need
the maps, the ability to buy the main book separately is a nice feature.
The inclusion of a fun little card game helps to add value to the
package. All in all, this is an above average digital offering!
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