Disclosure: The reviewer was “comped” a copy of this at TravellerCON/USA in connection with a project discussed with the author. This review originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Freelance Traveller.
“Starport” places is arguably a misnomer; while all of the locations presented are described as being at one or another starport in the publisher’s Clement Sector setting, few of them are actually starport-specific, and most could easily be set elsewhere on a planet.
That noted, the 21 places cover a wide variety of establishments, from the obvious dining and lodging establishments to specialty shops, to repair facilities, to entertainment—there’s a casino, a nightclub, and a boxing arena. Each includes an overview, one or two NPCs, and at least a partial floor plan. Among the less-commonly-seen types of establishments are a chapel, a charitable social-service organization’s office/hostel, a storage facility, a bureaucratic office (visa office), a security office (which could stand in nicely for a police station), and a trauma unit, which could double as a small hospital.
Some of the places are quite definitely imaginative, e.g., The King’s Lodge, with its “stable” and “dungeon” guest areas, as a ‘themed’ hotel. Others are riffs on real-world ideas, such as Koko’s Sailing Away as a ‘themed’ show-bar/dinner theatre, and the Short Stay Capsule Hotel being essentially identical to the Japanese idea.
The overviews give a summary of the place’s backstory, enough to capture the “flavor” that the authors had in mind for it. In some cases, there are references to Clement Sector setting background, but it’s not difficult to recast the descriptions to fit a different campaign universe while keeping the same flavor, e.g., using Big Al’s Biscuits as the ‘template’ for an AstroBurger Express, or the Captain’s Guildhouse suite floorplan for a similar Travellers’ Aid Society facility in the Third Imperium setting.
None of the floorplans are printed at sizes that would allow them to be used directly as miniatures “battle maps”; some of them are, in fact, too small to be readable (and often blurred enough that even a strong magnifier isn’t much help). The descriptive text helps somewhat, as area numbers can usually be made out even on those where text on the plans themselves is simply too small and at too low a resolution to read, but on many of them, the legends are unreadable. Having the PDF is essentially mandatory, as I’ve yet to find a way to ‘zoom’ a printed page.
There are one or two places where the floor plan and the descriptive text seem at odds with respect to the image intended; for example, the description of the Bumpy Road Steakhouse suggests a somewhat “upscale” dining establishment, but the plan shows crowded, almost cafeteria-like dining areas.
Overall, a good idea that has a few issues in the execution. Even with those issues, though, it’s a worthwhile resource to have, and one which just might inspire your own imagination to go beyond it.