Sunday, October 5, 2014

Savage Worlds - The Last Parsec - Chow Time


Just a Savage Sunday Afternoon


A couple of weeks ago Pinnacle Entertainment Group, the brilliant folks led by legendary RPG-writer/producer/guru Shane Hensley, started their Kickstarter campaign for a game called The Last Parsec.  Pinnacle is the creative powerhouse that created one of my favorite game systems, Savage Worlds, and is also responsible for the very popular Deadlands line of products amongst many, many others.  I'm pretty open about my love for Savage Worlds, the pulp-adventure feel of the game and crazy, zany, fast-paced action that only comes when Wild-Dice are flying and Bennies are furiously spent across a table cluttered with miniatures and playing cards.  In the last year I've had a blast running two Savage Worlds campaigns, my home-brewed, steampunk-inspired Clockwork and Pinnacle's own Weird Wars Rome.  I was a Kickstarter supporter for Weird Wars Rome a year ago, and can attest to the fact that Pinnacle truly knows how to do a Kickstarter right! 



You could call this "Spending a Benny!"


With The Last Parsec in the middle of their campaign (so far they are right around $50,000 of an $8,000 goal!), I wanted to do something special to support such a great game publisher, and thought that running a short demo and then bragging all about it on my blog would be perfect.  Well, first I tossed a bunch of cash at the Kickstarter, and then I started arranging the game.  Had to keep my priorities in order!  

In The Last Parsec, the player characters work for an intergalactic corporation called Jumpcorp that explores the galaxy in search of precious artifacts and exotic resources, while fending off space pirates, irate aliens, and the great perils of the universe itself.  The Last Parsec uses the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion for most of the setting rules and I picked up my copy at Gen Con in August.  The three campaign books, Eris-Beta-V, Scientorium, and Leviathan won't release on PDF until November, but Pinnacle published a short primer for The Last Parsec which gave me enough material to put together an adventure or two.  

I would need to assemble an ace-team of adventurers for this short game to be successful, so I talked my wife Jen and daughters Carrie and Evie into making characters.  My good friend Melinda also signed on to the crew of the S.P. Mk. 747 (they picked the name, not me) and we had a team!  We were hoping to do a little cosplay for this adventure, but sadly were not able to pull the costumes together.  Mel did give herself some pretty big hair, and both she and Jen wore sci-fi'ish garb to accentuate their character sheets.  


Clockwise from top left: Mel, Jen, Carrie, Evie

The Crew of the S.P. Mk. 747


  • Wilma Hops, Hareraiser Pilot, played by Evie
  • Aura, Human Psionicist, played by Melinda
  • Ari Gato, Construct Quartermaster, played by Jen (Mommy)
  • Raymond, Insectoid Engineer, played by Carrie


From left to right, Ari Gato, Raymond, Aura, and Wilma Hops


Adventure Summary - Chow Time


Our brave and intrepid crew of the S.P. Mk. 747 were on a milk-run in the Cylus System.  Actually they had been on the same milk-run for the last three months, and were getting pretty tired of being so far away from the more prestigious, and much better paying jobs that Jumpcorp had to offer.  On their last mission the ship's pilot Wilma got into a spat with the psychic Aura over the Hyperdrive.  Unfortunately for Aura, despite her longing to adventure in the stars, the human telepath suffered from both Zero G sickness and FTL sickness.  So whenever the ship jumped from one sector to another, Aura spent much of the day throwing up (gracefully), and the same went for any time spent outside of the ship.  Well Wilma Hops couldn't take anymore of Aura's complaining, and during a particularly bad argument, the space rabbit accidentally struck the Hyperdrive with a spanner and now it was on the fritz.  

Commander Atlas Vick had to arrange for the S.P. Mk. 747 to be towed back to the nearby Cylus System, and ordered his employees to assist in the ice-mining operations until a new Hyperdrive could be delivered.  Unfortunately for the crew, "assisting" meant ferrying entertainment items, such as comic books, game systems, and board games, between the planets Cylus I and Cylus III.  Cylus I was a Mars-type world covered in alien artifacts that were of great interest to Jumpcorp.  Cylus III was a frozen snowball orbiting its orange sun at over sixty AU - further than Pluto orbits the Sun.  But where Cylus I was a jewel of a world for Jumpcorp, Cylus III's mining operations were conducted by an intergalactic soft-drink manufacturer known as BlissPop.  

BlissPop makes all sorts of beverages and snacks for their customers in every corner of the Milky Way, but the ice retrieved from Cylus III is so incredibly pure that it can be sold at insanely high prices to the extremely wealthy.  BlissPop claims that the ice and waters of Cylus III are considered to be a U^7 quality, which sounds very scientific until the crew of the S.P. Mk. 747 realized that this just stood for "ultra, ultra, ultra, ultra, ultra, ultra, ultra pure."  Nevertheless, one bottle of the U^7 carbonated beverage known as "FizzU" could fetch $500, and so their mission to alleviate the stress of Cylus III miners had some merit and would help pay for their busted Hyperdrive.  

It was a boring evening and the crew of the S.P. Mk. 747 was awaiting their dinner.  The ship's chef-bot, Ramsey, was in the middle of preparing another dull and tasteless dish for those teammates who ate food (Ari Gato was an android).  When the pantry was found to be empty, Ramsey instructed his masters that it would be a few more minutes as he needed to get some more Canned Slammers out of the ship's hold.  Nicknamed for the TasteFull Cannery in orbit around Rigel that also served as a high-security space penitentiary, Canned Slammers were large containers full of semi-meat paste that provided basic nutrition for just about anyone who could keep the grey substance in their stomach long enough for it to digest.  

Ten minutes went by, and when Ramsey didn't return both Raymond and Wilma though it necessary to investigate.  The Insectoid and Hareraiser went aft into the ship's cargo hold and discovered Ramsey lying on the floor, broken while holding a large open Canned Slammer.  Wilma looked closely and saw that Ramsey's busted form was covered in a strange mucous that looked a bit unusual, and there were six other opened cans nearby.  The laser-powered can opener was on the ground next to Ramsey.  But when the two teammates tried to get back to the rest of the group, they found that all the doors leading out of the cargo bay were locked!  




Upstairs, both Ari and Aura got bored waiting for the bunny and the pair of robots, so they started to move towards the back of the ship when they were stopped cold by a locked door.  The portal connecting the front of the ship to the central control section was closed and locked.  This was very unusual, and couldn't mean anything good.

Aura was pretty sure that she saw an odd form, about the size of a large dog, run across her field of vision on the other side of the doorway, one floor below the central balcony.  Searching for something to pry open the door, Ari raided the kitchen and found a large, industrial grade spatula that could double as a Yeti's entrenching tool.  Lifting the great monstrosity, Ari pressed it against the locked doorway and started to pry the portal open.  Aura then grabbed a chair and wedged it in the middle of the doorway so that they could get back to the front of the ship if necessary.  




Meanwhile, Raymond and Wilma took a look through the window on the starboard access hatch and saw something terribly unusual.  A single blue blob of jelly was operating the computer terminal, with great skill.  Raymond was a computer expert, and judging by the keystrokes the slimeball was making, it wouldn't be long before the Insectoid and Hareraiser were jettisoned out the main cargo bay!  




With the door to the central compartments open, Aura ran up the spiral staircase in the middle of the S.P. Mk. 747 towards her room.  But when she saw the door to her chambers open, the psychic took a pause and approached carefully.  Inside the room she saw a single blob of blue slime going through all of her gear and equipment.  When the creature grabbed Aura's laser pistol, the psionicist realized that it needed to be stopped immediately.  




Sensing that the blob had active brainwaves, despite its lack of a brain, Aura summoned forth a blast of fearful energy and flooded the creature's mind.  Terrified, the blue slime dropped the pistol and darted underneath the nearby closet door, filling up the small chamber.  Quickly Aura grabbed her pistol and prepared to confront the slime.  




Ari Gato had the same idea, but when she started to go down the stairwell toward her own chamber, and the flak gun waiting for her, the android discovered that something else had already visited her room.  Samson Slurge, leader of the Slurge Gang, already retrieved Ari's gun, and was pointing it right at her, ordering her surrender.  Ari Gato was pretty confident (some might say "overconfident") in her ability to wrestle a gun off of a slimeball, and the two began fighting over the weapon.  

Raymond didn't want to miss out on the fight, so the Insectoid Engineer took the laser can-opener and began cutting away at the door to the med-lab, adjacent to the chamber where Ari was fighting Samson Slurge.  But more of the Slurge gang started appearing.  When they couldn't hack the computer software, one of the creatures on the lower deck came a'slithering out towards Wilma, who ran in absolute terror towards her buggy friend.  Raymond would cut through the door and leap over the large gap in the floor so that he could assist Ari.  Wilma kept running too, right upstairs to the command deck, so that she could get to her laser SMG.  But on the top deck, the Hareraiser saw that there was another slime leaving the cockpit!  

These gross things were all over the place!  

Aura kept shooting at the one slime in the closet, but eventually realized that she'd need to use something a bit stronger.  Sensing that another member of the Slurge gang was in the hallway, Aura angled her mind blast to take out both the one in the closet and the one in the hall.  Wilma would get in the way too, but Aura was pretty sure the Hareraiser's dexterity would keep her safe.  With a single blast the creature in the closet dissolved into a pool of pain, but the slimeball in the hall managed to stay standing… or squatting… well, whatever slimeballs do.  

A lot of action was still happening on the lower deck.  There were four slimes remaining on the lowest level of the ship, and one went back to the computer terminal while three started to fuse together… into a giant slime!  This huge mass started to slap at Raymond, who used his laser can opener to fend off the disgusting monstrosity.  Samson Slurge decided to use his new giant goon's interference as a way to get command of the situation.  Shooting his way past Ari, Samson ran upstairs and started shooting at Aura, who he dropped with one hit.  Samson was victorious, and was about to cheer in that special way that only a blob could cheer when he suddenly exploded!  



Turns out that little Wilma Hops found her laser submachine gun and unloaded her clip into the notorious gangster Samson Slurge before turning it onto the goon next to his splattered corpse.  Things were looking up for the crew of the S.P. Mk. 747, but there was still that huge slime occupying the entire central section of the ship, and no one knew how much bigger it could get.  Well Raymond wasn't going to wait to find out.  The Insectoid jumped downstairs and into the engineering section.  With a few short clicks, Raymond opened the door to the computer station, sending one of the Slurges out into space very quickly.  On the second floor the door between the cargo hold and the central chamber had been cut away previously by the Insectoid Engineer, and everyone on the second and third floor started flying towards the open gap.  Aura was safe, because Raymond closed her door, and little Wilma was able to hang on for dear life at first.  

Ari Gato was not as lucky, and the construct started tumbling towards the cargo hold.  But almost as soon as she took off, there was a soft "splash" and the android's movement stopped.  The large slime had hit the open portal first and was now acting as a seal between the vast vacuum outside and the S.P. Mk. 747's living space.  Ari was sick and tired of these slimeballs, and so she pulled herself free of the creature and hefted her huge spatula.  With a single slice, the android cut a hole in the center of the creature, allowing it to fly into the cargo bay.  



Ari flew towards the cargo bay door too, as did the Hareraiser  the latter screaming in terror since she would not last long in space.  Luckily Wilma was able to grab ahold of the railing near Ari, who also had a strong grip on the metal rungs.  Both watched as the last slime spaghettified through the cargo bay door and out into space.  


Once things got back to normal the team did a little research.  Turns out that Samson Slurge and the Slurge Gang were doing time at the Tasteful Cannery in orbit around Rigel.  Imprisoned for over seventy-five years, the creatures hatched a plan to escape the prison.  Since "Krill Leeches", the alien species to which the Slurges belonged, didn't need air or food so long as their mucous was intact, they canned themselves and were shipped off to Jumpcorp as consumable foodstuffs.  

They just happened to pick the wrong ship.

Quotes


"An overconfident pacifist… that's mean?" - Jen was pretty confused at the hindrances that her husband (me) picked for her.  Well wife, until you learn to make your own Savage Worlds character on your own you get what you get.  


"Ramsey did you… uh… buzz buzz buzz…" - Carrie quickly remembered mid-sentence that her Insectoid Engineer couldn't speak.

"It's like the 'James Cagney' of blue slime, here!" - Jen was mildly amused at the "30's mobster" accent that I did for Samson Slurge.  

"I'm done with you!" - Jim (as Samson Slurge) to Jen
"No, he does not shoot me!" - Jen got quite upset that the GM was picking on her character.
"This game could be bad for your marriage." - Mel's pretty observant.  

"So did you like this more than Necessary Evil?" - Jim to Melinda
"I did!" - Mel to Jim

Quick story on this last quote.  At Gen Con 2014 this summer, Melinda was at the Pinnacle booth looking at books.  Mel has been a long time player in my Savage Worlds games but never got behind the GM screen, so she asked a woman working at the booth for a recommendation for a first time gamemaster.  The woman suggested Necessary Evil, to which Melinda blurted out that she didn't like that game at all.  Well the woman at the booth was Jodi Black, whose husband Clint wrote Necessary Evil.  Mel backpedaled a bit and clarified that she didn't like playing villains.  

And then Jodi banned Melinda from ever playing Savage Worlds again.  True story!

Actually that didn't happen.  Jodi very politely recommended 50 Fathoms, which Melinda purchased and should be running soon.  I have to confess, I heard this story second-hand from Mel and our friend Craig, but felt it was worth sharing because it embarrasses Mel, and that's the kind of friend I am!  





Guts Check


Since I only had the Savage Worlds Science Fiction Companion and Last Parsec Primer document to work with, I felt the urge to craft a few things on my own for this adventure, which I'm happy to share.  





Hareraiser

My younger daughter Evie was having a hard time deciding on what character to play for this game.  On one hand she absolutely adored Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy and was thinking about picking a Floran.  But then again, she has a really cute stuffed Yeti from the Expedition Everest ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Well, I thought I'd make the choice a little easier for her.  Evie is completely infatuated with bunnies and rabbits.  It took me just a few minutes using the Science Fiction Companion to cobble together her very own species of "space bunnies", which we ended up naming Hareraisers.  

Hareraisers are daring and adventurous aliens who managed to survive and evolve on a world full of terrible predators.  Despite not being the biggest, strongest, or toughest creatures on their world, Hareraisers are quick, agile, and very capable of thinking on their paws.  In the Last Parsec universe, Hareraisers make incredible pilots, and are naturally suited for being behind the flight-yoke.  

Racial Abilities:


  • Attribute Increase - Agility (starts play at 1d6)
  • Skill - Piloting (starts play at 1d6)
  • Leaper
  • Small
  • Cautious (they may be adventurous, but let's be honest… they're still bunnies at heart!)

The Slurge Gang 

The members of the Slurge Gang belong to an alien species called "Krill Leeches."  I like to think of the Slurges as a cross between an old mobster, Jabba the Hutt, and the blue slimes from Dragon Quest.  Krill Leeches change color depending on their mood, but are typically a shade of blue unless they become afraid or angry, in which case they turn to a dark grey which works like camouflage.  All Krill Leeches follow a "boss" and typically form small gangs of six to twelve individuals.  

Traits:


  • Attributes:  Agility d6, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
  • Skills:  Fighting d8, Shooting d8, Stealth d10, Knowledge (pick one) d6, Streetwise d8
  • Pace 8, Parry 6, Toughness 7 (2 armor from mucous)
  • Attack:  Slap (acid base) 2d6 AP1, or by weapon
  • Abilities:
    • Krill Leech bosses are Wild Cards but have the same stats as Goons
    • Krill Leeches can turn into a pool of slime at will which allows them to pass under doors, go through grates, or into other very tight areas so long as their volume can be accommodated.  
    • Three Krill Leeches can form together to create a Greater Krill Leech.  These creatures become Wild Cards immediately.  Greater Krill Leeches have a Vigor of d10, Toughness 9(2), Reach 2, and deal 2d10 AP 2 damage with their slap. 


That Awesome Map

Finally I have to give a shout out to "0 hr: art & technology" for the wonderful deck plans that I've picked up over the last year from DrivethruRPG.  The ship I used to represent the S.P. Mk. 747 freighter was the Midnight Rose and you can purchase it here.  All of 0 hr's works are wonderfully detailed, and while they include stats for d20 games, they can be used for just about any system.  




Inspirations


When I first saw the Kickstarter for The Last Parsec, images from so many incredible books, games, and movies from my past started rushing into my mind.  Hunting the wild alien horrors like Samus Aran in Metroid.  Escaping terrible prison planets like Riddick.  Unlocking the secrets of supposedly-dead aliens like the Antarans in Master of Orion 2.  But when I first read about Jumpcorp I started thinking of the Space Legion from Robert Asprin's Phule's Company

If you've never read Phule's Company (or any of the sequels), you owe it to yourself to give them a read, especially if you are looking for some source material before The Last Parsec releases.  I'll save you some time, here is a link to the Amazon page!  I mostly enjoy military science fiction, such as Joe Haldeman's The Forever War and Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, or hard sci-fi, such as the works of Ben Bova.  Well Phule's Company is nothing like this.  Think "French Foreign Legion" meets "Aliens" meets "Stripes".  Yes, Stripes from the 1980's featuring Bill Murray and Harold Ramis.  I won't do a review, but the idea of a bunch of "B-Team" spacers crewing an old junker as punishment while employed by Jumpcorp came straight from the Phule series.  

… and if you must know, the inspiration for the Slurges came from watching videos on YouTube of people opening cans of whole chickens, with broth.