An entertaining read, this book doesn't just supply details of the Zocalo - the 'shopping mall' of the Babylon 5 station - but copious information about trade all over the galaxy and much, much more.
Of course, it does provide a lot of information about the Zocalo, enough to keep the most shop-a-holic parties content, or enable commercially-minded characters to set up their own enterprises. There's plently of local colour, good background for parties just passing through or who have a pressing need for a certain item (or piece of information whether by collecting rumours or speaking to an information broker) even if the idea of a full-blown shopping expedition fills them with horror. There are tables to help you design stalls and shops, details of some of the better-known denizens and more.
Whilst many groups will prefer to either roleplay their shopping sprees or just state what they want and deduct the cost from their character sheets, those who like a game mechanic for everything will enjoy those provided for retail activities. Indeed there are 2 variants, choose which suits your needs. Both are based on item availability, how the vendor feels about the customer, and their willingness to negotiate. One is a simple 'single obstatcle' system based on finding the desired item and negotiating the price, the other allows for a full-blown shopping experience, playing out the search for the item as well as the bargaining over it. There's a big list of sample outlets or you can design your own as detailed earlier.
Not everything that the average party is going to want to acquire will be legal, so the next section Shady Dealings is designed to facilitate that. It also presents some of the more unsavouring residents with whom the party might have to interact to obtain that illicit item, with several gangs both human and alien introduced. Mixing with the seamier side of life has its own perils - apart from having your collar felt by station security - in the shape of falling prey to an addiction or being blackmailed. There's also a discussion on smuggling and the security measures against it... and how to circumvent them.
Enough of the mechanics of trading, legally or illegally; we then move on to what you can actually purchase. Starting with ancient artefacts, there are commercial and professional services, items of technology specific to certain species, computers, professional equipment, luxury items, station services, and, naturally, weapons and armour. For artefacts, there's a system for determining what the item does (or did, it may no longer function). For items originating from different species there are a series of templates that can be applied to a more common item to fit it for use by the species in question... or mark it as having been developed by or for them. Services receive similar treatment, with pages of tables to handle virtually anything you might want from construction to financial advice and wealth management. And if you cannot find what you want? Get someone to make it for you, of course.
If you cannot find it in this book, you can probably find it in the Zocalo, whatever 'it' is!
Return to The Zocalo page.
Reviewed: 25 October 2021