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Reviews - Points in Space Volume I: Starport Locations
 
by Demian Katz


Points in Space v1 logoPoints 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 unreasonable demand.

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.

Conclusions
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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