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Saturday, 28 January 2023

A Science Fiction Map Kit

One of the fascinations with Traveller is with its starships. Ranging in size from one hundred tons up to hundreds of thousands of tons, the players are exposed to them in the rules fairly on—during the process of character creation. Careers such as Scouts, Merchants, and Nobles all have the possibility of giving the characters starships of a small, but capable size. Of course, a starship will take the Player Characters from star system to star system, from adventure to adventure, but the starship also becomes a home too. As a home, the players doubtless want to know what their starship looks like and if they have a role aboard her, as no doubt they do, where their normal station is and where their stateroom is. Then of course, starship deck plans are just like maps. They provide locations to visit, to adventure in, to explore, to attack and defend, and so on. Which can of course be for the theatre of the mind or with miniatures. Starships in Traveller are also highly technical, designed to be realistic within their setting of the Third Imperium, with much their displacement and tonnage given over to fuel, power plant, and jump and manoeuvre drives. There are plenty of supplements dedicated to starships in the Third Imperium—official and unofficial, but of these few, barely a handful are dedicated to the really large starships, space stations, and other big installations and locations. This is where Starship Geomorphs comes in handy.

Starship Geomorphs is a vast collection of geomorphs—or map sections—which can be slotted together to form larger locations in a wide variety of layouts. This includes starships, space stations, buildings, and massive structures. They are all designed using the architecture and map iconography of Traveller, so there is a high of familiarity for long-time fans of the venerable roleplaying game. However, none of the geomorphs are official Traveller content despite their compatibility. Further, their use lends itself to form and function rather than technical design, with the geomorphs here being slotted together to create their locations and ships rather than the Game Master designing a ship using the rules for naval architecture and adhere to the rules for realisation as a set of deck plans. Consequently, Starship Geomorphs possesses a greater utility than a set of deck plans for a single starship or location might.

Presented in landscape format, Starship Geomorphs opens with an introduction and an explanation of the geomorphs. These are organised into standard, edge, corner, and end sections. In addition, there are aerofins too, the aim being to reduce the starships being more aerodynamic and less boxy. There are suggestions too to flesh out a ship design, including its overall look, occupants, gear, age, level of wear, sounds heard aboard ship, and more. There are suggestions also, to add flavour and detail, including what might be found in the ship’s locker and down a ship’s corridor. Other uses of the geomorphs suggested include combining them to create space stations, like the small Dyson-Class modular Star port, corporate facilities, and so on. In the case of the sample starship and sample corporate facility, references are provided to the particular pages where the geomorphs can be found that make up the particular object or location.

The bulk of the book is understandably given over to the geomorphs themselves. They begin with a multipurpose geomorph, a research area geomorph, cargo bay—full and empty, engineering/sensor ops, flight hanger/crew area, brig/prison, arboretum—upper and lower, a drop capsule/troop deck, an auditorium, a sports complex, high passage (first class) passenger deck, promenade decks—food/retail and casino, cloning facility (or alternatively low berth facility), bride areas, gunnery and sandcaster decks, and much, much, more. Some are quite mundane, such as the battery deck, office space (or cubicle farm, proving that office design does not get better in the future), waste processing, and so on. Very quickly the Game Master can put together a troop or fighter carrier, an exploratory or laboratory vessel, a passenger liner, an imperial throne ship (yes, there really is a throne room geomorph!), a strike vessel complete with weapon turrets and barbettes, and more. Punctuating these are some delightful cross section three-dimensional illustrations of the various geomorphs, including a ‘Flight Hanger with Launch Tube’, a cargo bay with an armed crewman outside ready to shoot some scuttling creatures inside, a corridor with doors off and a window through which can be seen a poor, glowing man having suffered a strange mishap in the laboratory, a low berth area, a steerage compartment for passengers travelling on the cheap, and lots more. There is a sense of humour to a few of these, but in the main, they help bring their locations to life and add an extra dimension to the deck plans.

This is just the starships possible with Starship Geomorphs. Space stations and star ports are also possible, again using many of the same geomorphs. However, mix up the office space, auditorium, lobby, and so on, and what you have is a corporate building. The arboretum, promenade areas with and without casino, swimming pool, and passenger decks all combine to form a hotel, with the steerage decks becoming the equivalent of a coffin hotel. There are tram and train layouts, interstitial spaces for between floors and decks, connecting bridges between buildings and space station sections, and a lot more.

Starship Geomorphs is cleanly and clearly laid out. The writing is fairly light in tone and there are notes here and there throughout. The geomorphs are all well done and easy to use.

As a book, Starship Geomorphs is a superb catalogue of maps, plans, deck plans, and more. If there is an issue, it is that there is a high number of geomorphs labelled ‘Multipurpose’, in fact too many of them, to the point where their purpose is lost without the Game Master going through them one by one. Another issue is perhaps that whilst the print version is lovely, the PDF is actually of greater use because the user can separate the geomorphs and put them together onscreen. Further, Starship Geomorphs is not just of use for Traveller, but will work with any Science Fiction roleplaying. Thus, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, The Expanse, Star Trek Adventures, Star Frontiers, and Cyberpunk Red—all of these would work with a lot of the geomorphs in Starship Geomorphs. If Starship Geomorphs is missing anything, it is a guide or suggestions to create particular ship’s deck plans or building floor plans, but there is plenty of inspiration to be found in the individual geomorphs. The geomorphs can of course be used to create locations for confrontations between miniatures in skirmish wargames.

Starship Geomorphs is delightfully, usefully utilitarian and inspirational in its design and purpose. This big book of map sections is a terrific addition to the toolkit of any Game Master running just about any Science Fiction roleplaying game or even wargame.

1 comment:

  1. The link in the text above will take you to DriveThru RPG for purchase, but it is worth pointing out that there is no need to purchase the PDF. A free (and legal) PDF is available at http://travellerrpgblog.blogspot.com/2020/07/starship-geomorphs-20.html. Also, graphic files for each geomorph are available at http://travellerrpgblog.blogspot.com/2020/08/even-more-images.html