Monday, October 13, 2014

Rambling on About The Last Parsec

Is your crew ready for acton?


So… The Last Parsec…


I cannot fully express how geared up I am for this campaign setting to drop!  Since the Kickstarter began I’ve been cramming myself full of sci-fi goodness, re-reading some of my favorite books, watching Battlestar Galactica, and pouring hours into Borderlands 2.  I started playing Mass Effect 2 finally (yes, I’m very behind in my PC/console gaming), and even downloaded the iOS version of FTL, despite the fact that I was so terribly ineffective on the PC version.  I even talked my wife into learning the Firefly board game with me, so that has to be some kind of crazy sign that great things are to come!


I have the best wife ever!


It’s been a long while since I’ve run a space based, non-Star Wars campaign.  TSR had a generic system called Amazing Engine in the 1990’s, and there was a campaign setting called Bughunters which held my attention all throughout high school and much of college. Bughunters took place in a dark and gritty near future, and felt like Aliens and Blade Runner mixed together.  Later Alternity rolled off TSR’s printers and while they produced a setting called Star*Drive, I only ended up playing it once, preferring to use the Bughunters setting with updated rules.


Some of my favorite sci fi books… and Savage Worlds!

Starboxing


Come to think of it, unless it was Star Wars, I’ve never run a large, galaxy spanning, exploration and adventure themed "space campaign", which is probably why I’m so excited for Pinnacle’s new product.  As I’ve shared with some of my friends recently, while I’ve heard and seen that Fantasy Flight Games’ Edge of the Empire is an innovative and cinematic system, I’m just burned out on the Star Wars saga.  I’ve run campaigns using the Star Wars d6 System and the d20 Revised Edition, and even own all but one of the Saga Edition books.  But whenever I get the urge to run a Star Wars game I feel the crushing weight of canon and expanded universe.  Despite having a keen working knowledge of Star Wars, there is always someone at my table who knows just a bit more than I do.  Even when I try to open up a new section of the Star Wars galaxy map, there are so many books and games and movies, and TV shows… it’s hard to keep it together!

Incidentally, this is why I’ve never even tried picking up Forgotten Realms for D&D.

I really believe that The Last Parsec will be different. Granted it’s fresh and still unreleased (obviously brand new territory for GM's), but from the design notes I’ve read there will be a big sandbox (or "starbox" as they are calling it) feel to this setting.  Hopefully this will be similar to how Numenera has all of that open space on the map where it is strictly the GM’s territory.  Only time will tell, but if the products are anything like Pinnacle's other settings it will be amazing.  

Yes, I'm a bit of a Savage Worlds fanboy.


Campaign Design


With the PDF’s releasing to Kickstarter Backers next month, I started kicking around the idea of getting a fully-fledged ongoing in-person campaign started.  Note the term "in-person", since most of my gaming is done online nowadays, but we had such a great time last week playing The Last Parsec at a real table using maps, mini’s, bennies, cards, and Play Doh that I want to do it again, sooner rather than later.  The challenge with being a thirty-five year old father of three with a lot of friends who are also parents and grown-ups, and work and do "boring real life things" is that getting everyone to an actual table on a weekend can be rather difficult.


It was so much easier to game when I was 17… 



Gaming online on a Tuesday or Thursday night is a piece of cake, I just put the kids to bed, sit down in front of the computer, and grab my dice.  

Boom!  Ready to go!  

But in-person play takes more coordination, scheduling, and snack preparation.  It can be really hard to get a group of five to six players to the table, and personally I think that Savage Worlds, despite being fun online, truly shines as an in-person, live tabletop game.


Away team is… well… AWAY!


Away Missions


I have between six and eight people who I know would be interested in playing Savage Worlds with me, but there is very little chance that I could get them all to the table at the same time even twice per month.  My idea to overcome this challenge is to create a spaceship-centric theme and couple it with a roster of players that may rotate session to session.  These aren’t adventuring parties; these are "Away Teams."  Each character would have a role on the party’s ship when they aren’t on a mission, and could possibly serve as NPC’s when a player has to miss a game.   The ship itself would also serve as both an NPC as well as part of the setting.  Whole adventures might take place on the ship, as was the case in our playtest last week.

Of course this may require that the individual adventures I run are shorter, perhaps "con-length" (3-4 hours each) so that everyone at the table on a particular day is able to finish the mission, but I'll have to plan for those sessions where we run over.  Maybe end the adventure at a point where there is a reasonable explanation for a character to return to the ship.  The point is to not have that character "fade to the background" or require them to be NPC'd by the GM or another player if they can't attend the next session.  I'm reminded of Mass Effect, where my version of Commander Shepard can call up different party members when needed.  

My other alternative is to just run a game that is so freaking overwhelmingly good that no one will ever want to miss out and they'd skip work and family functions to be at every game...


Legos do make the best minis


At Your Table?


I’d be very interested to see/hear how some of you other gamers run science fiction campaigns, or even how you plan to play The Last Parsec.  Is this idea of an Away Team new to you or have you done it before?  What’s worked and what hasn’t?