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SpaceMaster : Privateers

Reviewed by Randy Campbell, Copyright 2000

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

Spacemaster: Privateers is the welcome return of the Spacemaster system for many of its fans, myself included. Spacemaster was originally created by Kevin Barrett, Terry Amthor and Coleman Charlton for Iron Crown Enterprises. Privateersis a 272-page volume, illustrated with many black and white illustrations and a color cover, and written by Robert J Defendi.

There are two aspects of the book to discuss. One is the system; the other is the setting. There is a lot to cover and to quote the back cover, "Everything you need to play - combat, character creation, a complete setting, starships and even psychic powers - can be found in the pages of this one book!"

Concept

I was disappointed when I saw that they had mixed in a setting with the rules. First, most people who pick up Spacemaster: Privateers are likely to be experienced gamers. We either have a setting tucked away somewhere, or we know the one we would like to run if the system didn't deliver. The setting could come from Star Wars™, B5™, Traveller™ and a host of others.

Second, a science fiction space travelling setting is absolutely huge. I'm not sure if you could cram one into 272 pages by itself. With a full Rolemaster-styled roleplaying system as well, it seems impossible. Nevertheless, I proceeded to read in depth.

System

The character creation section is well done and what you would expect if you have played Rolemaster or Spacemaster. Every aspect is allocated a quality explanation and there are several clear examples. When a facet of character creation can be the same as the present version of Rolemaster, it is. This is great for those who wish to mix their worlds and systems. It also allows a more seamless integration of other ICE roleplaying products already in existence.

There are 8 professions (Criminal, Explorer, Pilot, Psychic, Recon, Scientist, Soldier, Technician) and 14 packages, 8 Vocational Training packages (Academic Degree, Bounty Hunter, Capitalist, Combat Medic, Commercial Pilot, Con Artist, Marine, Weekend Warrior) and 6 Lifestyle Training packages (Convict, Corporate Security, Medical Degree, Police Officer, Privateer, Psychic Protege). The only thing that seems to be missing is a class for your everyday NPCs. Something for the people who work in the shopping malls, who work in offices and other fillers that most players would never want to create. It made me want to break out the dice just reading it.

The system is handled next, and like the character creation, it seeks to blend with the overall ICE vision of roleplaying. Maneuvers are discussed in detail, with the appropriate tables immediately available. Again, most of you will find no big surprises and be happy with what you find.

Psychic powers are next, and they are interesting. I particularly enjoyed the concept that all powers were immediate. Magical preparation had been replaced with a recovery period, which gives a significant distinction to psychic powers over magic. The system is flexible enough to handle expansion or alteration to conform to a GM's own view of any setting.

Another note on psychic powers is that they are handled like skills instead of "Spell Lists". As such, they are divided into Skill Categories (Electrokinesis, Healing, Meta-Psi, Mind Over Matter, Photokinesis, Psychokinesis, Radiokinesis, Telepathy, Thermokinesis) as are all other skills in the system. The implications are fantastic! Now, a beginning character can do (well, make that try) almost anything. I am anxious to see the effects played by veteran players who know how to make the most of the rules.

The next system-oriented section deals with experience points. Again, well done with no surprises. Then there are brief articles on injuries, death, religion and finally customizing Spacemaster. I found the last article intriguing based on how integrated the roleplaying system was with the setting.

Spacemaster: Privateers handles the Professions well. They are laid out in the common ICE style and easily understood. Two of the professions are described as fusions of the other six. By my calculations, that leaves 13 more "fusion" professions for a future expansion book to detail all of the other combinations of the six primary professions. Bring on the Psychic-Soldier!

Spacemaster: Privateers also handles the Skills well. They are again laid out in the common ICE style and easily understood. Of particular note is the reduction of the importance of the Self Control category. Good-bye Adrenal Speed... The choices for change across the skills are well thought out and should lead to a better system and campaigns for all.

There are many other small details of the system, but you will have to buy the book to find them all. The system is well done, will easily merge with other recent ICE products, and looks to be a hoot!

Setting

Simply put, there are two identical groups of races with different political ideals (Just think Japan and the U.S. during World War II.). The smaller, more violent one starts to beat up the large one and conquer territory. The large, democratic and economically more powerful one takes several losses early in the war. At the time of the player's campaign, the larger power has finally turned its economy to a war footing, and coupled with its superior technology, is hoping to turn the tide.

Whether you like the story or not, whether it bores you or not, there is an underlying detail that is well done.

The technology that is detailed in the books is all given a tech level. This is used to determine where the technology is in the setting, how common it is, and if both powers have it or only the more technological one. Regardless, this is great for any Gamemaster who is using Privateers: Spacemaster for another setting or simply modifying what is available.

From star travel to everyday devices to weapons, the concepts are well thought out and the science is solid. In fact, I found the hard science background of the entire book to be both accurate and refreshing. It's always easy to toss out science and say, "That's the way the ancient item works", but it is very hard to add it in after the system has been designed.

When reading the book, it's easy to see where the equipment and vehicle expansion books will be coming. If they are written in the same mould, with hard science and associations to tech levels, I'm sure we will all be running down to our local hobby store.

Summary

The concept of mixing your system with your setting is done all the time in the gaming industry. It was done here. I had high hopes that ICE would step back and simply put out a Science Fiction roleplaying system independent of a setting as they bravely did with Rolemaster.

Regardless, this product is a must buy for those of you looking to pick up a system that has great science, is easily customized and simply rocks! If you love the setting and use it, you are getting a heck of a good buy.

Buy it, you'll like it!

Editor's Note:

Spacemaster: Privateers is published by Iron Crown Enterprises. Their contact details are as follows:
Iron Crown Enterprises
P.O. Box 1605,
Charlottesville, VA 22902
USA

Web: http://www.ironcrown.com

All trademarks and copyrights are acknowledged. Please post your comments on this review on the Spacemaster Discussion Board.

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