Friday, October 31, 2014

Numenera - Tales of the Broken Mask - Session 7

The Sun Below: City on the Edge, Part 1

Special Introduction 

This week I received a copy of Dread Unicorn Games' The Sun Below: City on the Edge by John W. S. Marvin, a licensed adventure for Monte Cook Games' Numenera.  I've only done a few reviews up to this point, and if you are a regular reader of my blog you know that my typical post is just a simple rehash of the craziness that occurs at my gaming tables, both virtual and live.  But the timing was perfect!  I've had a bit of writer's block, especially following the Stonebound Monk, and wasn't sure where to take my game, so I welcomed the opportunity to give The Sun Below a try, and pick up adventuring materials to keep my players underground until the end of Hallowthanksmas.

So What's Inside?

This may possibly be a rather a nontraditional game review and ongoing play report for The Sun Below: City on the Edge, but I still feel it necessary to give you an idea of what you are going to find inside.  Right away you get hit with cover art that for me is reminiscent of TSR's Dark Sun.  The lead artist on this project was Reece Ambrose who, as well as being an awesome guy (we happened to meet at Gen Con this year) places evocative imagery all throughout the adventure, as do the other artists involved (Alysha Lach, Gill Pearce, Doug Scott, Alicia Severson, James E. Shields, Justin Wyatt, and Britanny Zendejas.)  Not to get ahead of myself, by my favorite piece from this module comes up on page 14, the image of the An Dormorr, a biomechanical craft that will take the adventurers deep within the bowels of the Ninth World.  One of my favorite aspects of Numenera is how the game can take you from a feel of traditional fantasy right to the weird so quickly.  One moment you find yourself battling a tentacled monstrosity with swords and bows, and the next you are getting ready to ride a living airship.  John W. S. Marvin does a superb job keeping the flavor and context that has made Numenera a success.  

The overall design of the adventure is easy to follow.  There is a very handy index, as one would expect from a quality adventure, but The Sun Below: City on the Edge goes a step further.  Hat's off to both John W. S. Marvin and Project Editor Alison Wells for such an awesome layout of the materials.  The adventure shares a similar layout as the Numenera Corebook, with callouts  and pertinent information listed along the edges of the main text, which makes running this adventure very easy.  Frankly, if I didn't know already that this was a third-party licensee, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.  

The adventure itself is vast and sweeping, with 42 pages of actual adventure text embedded within the 60 page product.  Here is where I deviate a bit from a traditional review.  Since I plan to run this entire adventure for my Tales of the Broken Mask campaign, I'll be featuring my thoughts on each section over the next several weeks.  What I will say is that you're in for quite a ride as The Sun Below: City on the Edge ends up providing a whole new setting beneath the drit of the Ninth World.  

Before I move on to the summary of the first adventure, I'd like to share some of the new rules and materials that you'll encounter.  First and foremost is the way Marvin scales this module for virtually any campaign, from First Tier to Sixth Tier.  In a section called "Modifying the Adventure," it is explained that most difficulty levels will have three values, one for first and second tier, one for third and fourth, and one for fifth and sixth.  

Let me say now, very clearly, that this... is... BRILLIANT!

If someone else in the Cypher community has done this already please let me know, but John, if you are the first, WOW, what a great idea!  I know that the Cypher System is in general very easy to scale, but to have everything so clearly set up for the game master is really, really great.  My players in the Tales of the Broken Mask campaign just hit Second Tier, so I'd be using the first number in the "x/x/x" split, but when they hit Third Tier all the necessary changes are made.  Love it!

Another new rule is a Mook system.  I'm sure most of you have seen this before, and for me this hearkens back to D&D 4th Edition and Minions.  1-Hit Mooks and 2-Hit Mooks are both described, as well as an optional No-Mook variant.  I'm going to break from my apparent fan-boy game-crush just a tad here.  While I like the concept of the Mook, I don't know if I care for the actual term "Mook".  Not sure if there is another option, but for me a Mook is slang that breaks the feel for the weird setting just a little.  This is probably just a preference-thing, and I guess I could call them minions, but I don't like that term either.  I'm probably not going to call them anything actually, but the rules are sturdy and I intend on using them.

So you get the maps, the art, and the optional rules, but you also get creatures... a DOZEN pages of additional creatures.  At the heart of the adventure are the Praithians, a Ninth World version of a Mummy using numenera to extend their lives.  Several variants are listed, and they fit the module very well.  But there are also other creatures that, while they are designed for The Sun Below: City on the Edge, can be lifted out and placed anywhere with relative ease.  The Pyronic Sentry, a synth and glass construct resembling a heat-impervious "Big Daddy" (from Bioshock) is probably my favorite.  To see a bunch of these rise out of lava would be a terrifying sight indeed!  

If this sounds good to you so far, be sure to check out the adventure on DriveThruRPG.  Download the sample PDF and give it a quick browse.  Given the time and effort that John W. S. Marvin and his team put into this module, it's certainly a steal at $7.99.  

If you are still wondering if the adventure is right for your crew, read on! 


  • Chase Rombek, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond, played by Frank
  • Jak, a Mutant Glaive who Constantly Evolves, played by Craig
  • Glyquorg, an Exiled Jack who Controls Animals, played by Andy
  • Ralyx, Mlox Jack who Throws with Deadly Accuracy, played by Marc

Non-Player Characters of Note

  • Bel, owner of Bel's Bar and Coffins in the Traveler's Den
  • Ennuan, an old associate of Chase who was an Aeon Priest and now belongs to the Three Swords 
  • Gurn-Ellohesh, Fixer for the Broken Mask
  • Nyxie, Captain of the Grinder


It had been three weeks since our Unmasked Seekers of Nihliesh's well-known Sacred Hunters of the Broken Mask completed their capture of Raa-em, the Stonebound Monk.  Knowing that there novice bounty hunters managed to return with a rather impressive, and unexpectedly difficult mark, senior initiates of Typhaon's order decided that more important missions should be assigned to this new crack team of hunters.  Late one night at Bel's Bar and Coffins, a small dive establishment in the lowest depths of Nihliesh, Glyquorg was seated at a small table just outside of his sleeping chamber, one of the "coffins."  Bel had just finished cleaning up the bar when she walked down the back hallway of her Traveler's Den and placed a simple card in front of the Exiled Jack.  The card had a scrawled map of the city on one side, with an X marking the southern end of the petitioner's ward outside of the city's structure.  On the other side were the initials GE.

Gurn-Ellohesh, fixer of the Broken Mask was calling.

Glyquorg queried Bel as to whether or not in her opinion this could wait until morning.  She offered a serious response only if serious money was put on the table, so Glyquorg woke Jak and Chase and left the city.  Elehar had been missing for at least two weeks, on a "walkabout" outside the city's limits while Ralyx had business dealings to which he needed to attend.  They'd catch up eventually, thought Glyquorg.  

Just outside of the city, about where the mark was scrawled on the map was a massive organic ship, resting on top of the snow-dusted sands of the Matheunis Cold Desert.  The ship was a "Grinder", a land-sail craft carved out of the living body of a massive seventy-foot long beetle.  Jak had seen such craft before, and remarked that the giant beetle was flipped onto its back while great wheels were inserted into its sides.  The musculature of the beetle's innards would manipulate the wheels.  The term "grinder" came from the beetle's mouth, which was on the "deck" of the craft.  Drivers would take scoops of grain and dried beans and shovel them into the mouth of the creature, which would in turn grind them up with its mouthparts.  As long as it was fed, a grinder was a great way to travel the desert.  

The grinder's pilot was a young mutant woman with shimmering skin and six fingers on each hand.  She just happened to be speaking to Gurn-Ellohesh.  When the party approached, the fixer was not himself.  He was curt, saying few words, only that "Ellohesh" was hogging up too much time.  The woman interjected that her name was Nyxie, and that the lattimor fixer was in his bursk state at the moment.  A member of the Broken Mask as well, Nyxie dismissed Gurn and told the party that she would be delivering information regarding their next marks.   

Chase was interested in Nyxie's mutations, and blatantly scanned her in the middle of their conversation.  This of course fouled the mutant's mood, causing her to prefer conversation with Jak and Glyquorg rather than the party's Nano.  Nyxie told the party that their marks were two children, both grandchildren to an important member of the Three Swords.  The Three Swords were a terrorist organization of Angulan Knights, bolstered by the Order of Truth, bent on taking down the Fahat, the ruling caste of Nihliesh.  For the Knights, destruction of the Fahat could lead to the fall of a powerful city of despicable mutants.  For the Aeon Priests, the Fahat's connections to the Convergence was a dangerous impediment to the Order's expansion of power and dominance.  

Chase returned to Nyxie's good graces when he admitted that he had a connection to one member of the Three Swords - the Aeon Priest Ennuan.  Nyxie knew this, and told the team that Ennuan's grandchildren, Tuctin and Tar, were the marks.  They were to be captured and returned to Nihliesh as bargaining chips.  Once the mission was accepted the team boarded the craft.  

Scouts of the Broken Mask last tracked Ennuan to the city of Guran, where his grandchildren resided.  From there he was traveling north-west to the edge of the Black Riage mountains, in search of a prophecy spewing face.  Nyxie informed the team that a few weeks ago the Iron Wind ripped through the southern end of the Black Riage, and in its wake left a massive organic face on the side of a hill.  This face spoke strange words in an alien tongue, but occasionally a few lines of the Truth came out.  Many Aeon Priests traveled to the site, as well as other petitioners, pilgrims, and tourists.  Ennuan was said to be taking his grandchildren to see the face, which would make them especially vulnerable to  the bounty hunters.  It would take just the night and a few hours of the morning to reach this location by Grinder.

The face was an impressive sight indeed!  Sixty feet tall and constructed of violet and brown stone textured flesh, this humanoid face continued to talk and mumble countless words.  There were several witnesses to this scene when the grinder arrived.  Two elderly travelers were near the mouth, as well as a drunken couple seemingly in love.  A chain gang of slaves nearby sifted through the drit hunting for other materials that could have formed from the Iron Wind.  

At the center of the group was a wagon with a simple lizard pack animal, and sitting atop the wagon was Ennuan with his two grandchildren.  Chase was careful to cover his face while he approached the significantly larger cliffside face, hoping to not be recognized by his former associate.  The rest of the bounty hunters followed, listening to the odd words escaping the visage's lips:

"The sun below... floating heads tell tales... the world below... the portal station needs repair... the daughter sees, the father cannot, the mother might."  

Ennuan was just smiling, and when he saw Jak standing nearby he started up some small talk.  Ennuan assumed that since Jak was a mutant he came from Nihliesh.  Jak carefully stated that he hadn't been to the city in some time and asked why the Aeon Priest was interested.  The priest backpedaled, apologizing for acting on the stereotype that all mutants had to come from city that once walked.  Looking away from Jak and back towards the face Ennuan admitted that he was just interested in the goings-on of an important trade city, and that he was an occasional visitor himself.  While the two spoke, Tuctin and Tar decided to get closer to the face.  

It was about this time that the face started to slur its speech and come apart in great purple globs.  As the party lurched back in disgust a great tentacled monstrosity, a Travonis ul, bounded from within the mouth and started flailing on the visitors with its long whip-like appendages!  The elderly couple was smashed, as was the male of the drunken couple.  The tentacles not only struck with the force of a sledgehammer, they also created a stinging sensation that numbed everyone who was struck.  [When you get to the end of the adventure, I discuss this effect in my parting thoughts... a bit of a Game Master error]

There was little the party could do to wound the creature, as Glyquorg spent much of the encounter stunned and unable to flee while Jak's blade did minor damage to the beast.  Chase knew that his mental powers could have a significant impact though, and he backed away from the Travonis ul's reach and let loose with a massive blast of psychic energy.  The creature was struck!  Impressed with himself, Chase made the mistake of pulling back his hood to get a better view of the beast's reaction, but in turn revealed himself to his former associate Ennuan!  He didn't have much time to react, however, as he was soon struck by a dead body flung at him from the Travonis ul, causing one of his cyphers to discharge.  

The two grandchildren, marks for the bounty hunters of the Broken Mask, were not far from the giant face's mouth while this battle was going on.  While the team fought the Travonis ul, two yellow tubes emerged from the mouth of the giant face, and one by one the two children were grappled and dragged into the cave that formed in the stone maw.  Jak had been trying to get the lovesick drunken woman to let go of him; when her lover died, she charged towards the Glaive screaming "Save me, be my hero!"  Once free, the Mutant Glaive charged into the mouth, followed by Chase and then Glyquorg.  The trio found that the interior was made of synth and steel corridors, with a corridor to the left leading to an empty stasis pod, and one to the right leading to a stasis pod containing a decaying mass that was once another Travonis ul.  The party didn't have much time to search for the children when the Travonis ul charged back inside and started flailing again.  Luckily the beast was still sicked from a long time in stasis, so it only required a few more thrusts from Jak for it to collapse.  


"… a flipped over giant cyborged potato bug." - Jim describes the "Grinder", the creature/ship that would take the party to the Black Riage.

"You let a terrorist, who is also a grandpa, get away!?!" - Glyquorg to Chase Rombek on finding out that the ex-Aeon Priest PC let a former associate and known member of the Three Swords faction go.  

"GM intrusions are a terrible mechanic in this game…" - Andy wasn't having a good night with the die-rolling

Jim - "You're trying to D&D your way out of this encounter!" -
Andy - "The encounter D&D'd us!" 

Parting Thoughts on Part 1

So I made a few changes to the very start of this adventure that you probably wouldn't notice unless you've read through The Sun Below: City on the Edge.  The adventure gives several optional plot hooks, one involving an Aeon Priest, and since our party of bounty hunters already had a connection to Ennuan, I only had to change a few names to make this work.  One of the plot hooks in the original adventure materials is more of a rescue mission, so the idea that our player characters have to save the two children only to kidnap them for the Broken Mask is a bit twisted.  It'll be interesting to see how that plays out over the next several weeks.

We didn't have an especially long session last night because we were two players down, but the initial reactions of our group were interesting... mostly due to my mangling of an encounter!  That first encounter with the Travonis ul, even though it was weakened, was absolutely brutal for three second tier characters considering this GM sometimes doesn't read an entire stat block!  I had the tendril attack, which can hit everyone within short range each round, capable of stunning victims on a failed might defense roll.  A Travonis ul can in fact stun a PC, but only if it hits with hits bite... the tendrils aren't supposed to have a stunning effect.


Of course this left one player impaired and one debilitated.  So... yeah, I'm probably going to hear about that for a while!  Who knows what I'll bungle next week!

Coming Up Next Week

Our team of Unmasked Seekers will have to deal with Ennuan, who will question the party's presence at the Face.  Another potentially important NPC is Klaro, whose heart has been stolen my the incredible Glaive, Jak.  And finally... where did Tuctin and Tar go?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Norwin Game Knights Event - Numenera - Into the Violet Vale

You need to make sure you are prepared with this crew!

Open Game Night

Once a month the Norwin Game Knights, a local tabletop gaming club in Western Pennsylvania, gathers to play some awesome games.  On a typical night we've got everything from Settlers of Catan to dominoes going strong in the basement of a local church.  Usually we also have a role-playing game taking place, and we've had one-shots of Savage Worlds, Basic Fantasy RPG, and Numenera over the last year.  Numenera holds a rather special place within our group though, since the very first RPG at the Norwin Game Knights was a year ago when I first brought that thick orange book to the table.  

So this month I wanted to do something special since its our RPG anniversary!  

This summer I ran two sessions of Into the Violet Vale at Gen Con 2014 and I thought I'd share this wonderful adventure with my players back home.  This rather unique adventure was written just for Gen Con.  But now that the adventure is on sale at Monte Cook Games, the cat's out of the bag.  I thought it was about time that I run a session with some of my favorite gamers (and a brand new player!) and put together a little summary of our excursion.  

A Few Things

First, let me say that there are spoilers in this adventure summary, so if you haven't played Into the Violet Vale, and you intend to, you may want to skip this section entirely.  Otherwise, feel free to read on!

Second, if this adventure seems compressed its only because I had 3 hours in which to get the game ready, introduce the system to a new player, and then run the game.  Typically at a convention you'd have four hours.  

Clockwise from bottom left: Andy, Michelle (observer, and Michael's Mom), Bobbie, me (Jim), Emily, and Michael

Cast of Characters

  • Remmi, a Graceful Nano who Talks with Machines, played by Emily
  • Benthre, a Charming Jack who Fuses Flesh with Steel, played by Michael
  • Rygax, a Mlox Jack who Sees Beyond, played by Andy
  • Daylen, a Learned Jack who Wears a Sheen of Ice, played by Bobbie

Adventure Summary

Our incredible band of numenera hunters, Remmi, Benthre, Rygax, and Daylen, had become rather renown in the Steadfast as folks who could get any job done.  While this sort of fame can be extremely useful in some situations, it can also cause unforeseen complications.  So when the four adventurers found themselves in Sharash recently, they were all dragged before the vile and evil Baron Asdren, who demanded their services.  The Baron was being plagued by a local rebellious militia called the Steel Star.  This group of guerrillas had been quite successful in disrupting trade and communication in the area around Sharash, but recently lost their edge when their leader, a "woman" named Sinter, was revealed to be an artificial life form.  Some of the rebels turned on Sinter, forcing her to flee into the wilds. 

Baron Asdren demanded that the party hunt down Sinter and bring her to Sharash alive.  The Baron was just as interested in Sinter's form and powers as he was in stopping the rebellion.  At first the numenera hunters had balked at the idea, and that was when the Baron unleashed his wicked plan: he informed each character that he had captured one of their second cousins and was holding them hostage!

When this did not have the desired effect, the Baron chirped in that he would also pay each character 200 shins!  

Long-story short, the party went out into the wilds and managed to track down Sinter.  It wasn't especially hard, since she seemed rather melancholy and disinterested in preserving her own "life."  But no matter, she was tackled and bound with a special cord that would keep her from using her full artificial strength.  

Of course this is where our story begins…

Along the trail back to Sharash the party encountered a small encampment alongside the road.  The numenera hunters were careful to keep an eye out for rebellion participants who could still be loyal to Sinter, so this camp seemed potentially dangerous.  Rygax decided that caution was necessary, and so he stealthily approached the camp.  Remmi, the problem-child that she was, preferred to throw caution to the wind, so while her Mlox pal skulked forward she bounded behind him rather noisily.  The two reached the camp around the same time, leaving Daylen and Benthre to watch over Sinter.  

The camp seemed abandoned but only recently so.  There were three tents and a small fire at the center.  All of the tents were full of supplies, and at first there was no sign of guards or patrols.  Remmi took a look around the camp's perimeter and instantly became the 9th World's greatest detective (Emily rolled a 20 on an Intellect-based Perception roll).  The Graceful Nano was able to tell that there were about six humans in this area, and that recently they were attacked by something… something large.  Finding a few large footprints, she figured that the creature was a massive biped.  Remmi also found some dung, which she… tested.  

This led to several jokes about vitamin deficiencies, monster bowel regularity, and pro-biotic yogurt commercials.  It also led to Remmi chucking a piece of poo at Rygax, which got lodged in his third eye.  

Once the Activia jokes started flying Emily couldn't keep it together.  

After clearing the dung from he third eye, Rygax continued to check the tents and came across a note from a journal.  The camp belonged to the rebels, and some of those that were loyal to Sinter were preparing an ambush on the bounty hunters that had captured her (the adventuring party).  Rygax read this aloud, and once Sinter heard it, she took off towards the trees.  

Nows a good time to discuss the foliage surrounding the camp. There were two distinct types of plants that grew in this area, both in great number.  First were the great fern trees, that stood between twenty and forty feet high.  These were typical for the region.  But the other plants were not.  Strange purple plants, about waist high at most.  Daylen, the party's botanist, was going to get a chance to get a good look at these plants very soon since she was the one chasing Sinter.  The artificial woman got free of Benthre and charged right into a grove of the purple plants.  Benthre took off after her, but stumbled when trying to run up a hillside, so Daylen used the fallen jack as a springboard and continued bounding after Sinter.  

Here is where things got… weird.

The rest of the party followed in the direction that Sinter and Daylen traveled, but by the time they found the trail, it seemed to be four hours old.  Eventually they came across the Learned Jack and her quarry; Daylen had used the cable and a nearby fern to cause Sinter to stumble.  But when the team turned it appeared that the clearing the party just entered was actually twenty miles away from the camp they just left seconds ago.  Searching the area, the only sign of interest was the corpse of one of the rebels, sticking out from beneath a bush.  It looked like the rebel's head had been crushed just an hour beforehand by something large… possibly the poo-dropping sixteen foot tall monster.  The team was going to pick the pockets of the dead man when they heard a thumping.  Remmi turned north and saw a misty, nearly ethereal creature moving towards the team!

Rygax ordered the numenera hunters to move, and started running east.  Going through a dense part of the forest, the party exited the ferns and it became night.  Another shocking change in time became even more strange and alien when Daylen came across the decaying and worm-eaten body of the rebel they saw just a few minutes before.  At least three weeks had to have passed for the body to be in that condition.

Andy's seen a lot of stuff in Numenera, but he's never experienced the craziness of the Violet Vale!

Something was warping space and time, and Daylen had a pretty good idea what it was.  Given that the purple plants seemed to have an alien origin, and that they were warping the gravity fields of the native ferns around them, she deduced that they were the cause of the time-jumping.  But then the booming footprints started up again.  The "Pale Stalker" found the team again, and again Rygax shouted "run!"  

The numenerians ran for twenty minutes, at least until they stopped hearing the thunderous footsteps of the creature.  But they had to stop abruptly when they ran right into a sheer cliff-face.  The Black Riage lay before the team, the mountain range that was previously thirty or more miles away was now blocking their path!  There were some plants on the ground of another color here, this time yellow.  Benthre felt compelled to check one, and when it "poofed" in his face, he panicked but was able to get the weird substance off.  Daylen identified the plants as "Shrill Blooms" and kept a few… just in case.  

There wasn't anything else of interest at the bottom of the cliff.  Stumped the team looked at each other and shook their heads.  And then a light voice spoke up in Remmi's mind.  Sinter felt that she had a connection of sorts with the nano who could converse with machine-kind, and she requested that the party give her some trust.  Sinter offered to aid the party in their quest to get free of the Violet Vale so long as they free her from her bindings.  Nothing else seemed to be on the table, so the team agreed and let Sinter free. 

Traveling along the side of the mountain face, it wasn't long until time and space jumped again, and rather than a cliff there was a massive ivory tower.  The front of the tower was guarded by two brutish looking creatures wielding clubs.  Taking this as an opportunity to use his charm, Benthre's mechanical form strutted forward and he started talking with the creatures.  The jack spent a few minutes talking until he realized that he wasn't getting anywhere.  It was about that time that the doors opened and a female form came out from inside the tower.  She introduced herself as Lady Weiss, and she welcomed the party to the Violet Vale.

Upon some questioning, the Lady admitted that she had a way out of the Vale but that she would want something in return for the trouble of using her special device.  The head of the Pale Stalker is what she sought, claiming that the creature was troublesome and had harmed her other creations on occasion.  The numenera hunters agreed to the trade and set off to slay the misty predator once and for all!

Dry erase markers and ceramic tiles - perfect to sketch out the encounter scene!
Ambushing the Pale Stalker ended up being fairly easy for the team.  Daylen was able to launch several arrows at the creature as it charged them, and before it could reach the team Remmi commanded Sinter to start striking.  Actually, Sinter's heavy fist would end up causing the beast quite a bit of damage… the Steel Star leader was quite the soldier!  The creature had a hard time landing a claw on any one of the characters, they were just that good!  Benthre's crushing mace unbalanced the beast while Rygax's arrows pierced flesh and tore tendons and muscle.  Eventually the Pale Stalker would collapse… the nightmarish creature was nothing more than a paper tiger in the face of this amazing troupe of hunters.

Lady Weiss was good on her word, and used her device, a teleportation platform, to send the party on to Sharash.  From there, the team would need to decide on whether or not they would join Sinter and those few forces who remained loyal to her, or of they would turn her over to the Baron Asdren.

Oh what a night!

Quotes from the Table

"So who's my Jude Law in all of this?" - Emily felt like her character was a Sherlock Holmes type.  

"Okay, diplomacy sounds like the perfect thing to do with a giant monster…" - Andy wasn't certain that Emily's idea to give the Pale Stalker a warm hug would be beneficial to the party.

Andy: "Let's run sideways." 
Emily: "Like a crab?" 

"I kind of want my second cousin over Sinter." - Michael

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!


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?  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Numenera - Tales of the Broken Mask - Session 6

The Stonebound Monk, Part 5


  • Chase Rombek, a Mystical Nano who Sees Beyond, played by Frank
  • Jak, a Mutant Glaive who Constantly Evolves, played by Craig
  • Glyquorg, an Exiled Jack who Controls Animals, played by Andy
  • Elehar, a Tough Glaive who Rages, played by Scott
  • Ralyx, Mlox Jack who Throws with Deadly Accuracy, played by Marc

Non-Player Characters of Note

  • Raa-em, The Stonebound Monk Itself


Raa-em still wanted the "gifts of the past", and the party of Unmasked Seekers was coming to the realization that the "Stonebound Monk" Raa-em was demanding cyphers and possibly artifacts in order to remain in its presence.  Raa-em was a curious entity indeed.  All of the party’s scanning and investigating led to the belief that Raa-em was a single mossy entity that covered the four remaining floating boulders in the center of the room.  It switched back and forth between "I" and "we", and was terribly impatient.
Ralyx peeked over the edge of the pit in the center of the room and saw that there were several decaying corpses in the small pool at the bottom, possibly with a few items.  The Mlox Jack took out some rope, tied it to a nearby pillar and prepared to descend into the pit. Immediately Raa-em’s thoughts entered Jak’s already battered mind.  The monk demanded to know what the Mlox was doing, and when Jak explained that Ralyx was going to go down into the pit, Raa-em forbade the action.  Jak warned Ralyx of the monk’s statements, but the Mlox was not deterred… at least not until several stones were flung at his head and back, cracking open his skull and leaving the Jack very bruised and bloodied.
Thinking that maybe he could do a better job talking with the monk than the party’s glaive (who lacked social skills), Glyquorg (who also lacked social skills) asked to communicate mentally with Raa-em. The entity departed Jak’s mind and forcefully entered the Exiled Jack’s thoughts.  Raa-em proclaimed that it was displeased by the Mlox’s actions and demanded a piece of Numenera.  When Glyquorg started to stall, and instead ask questions of the monk, Raa-em became furious.  The entity proclaimed that Glyquorg was to leave, and immediately the gravity shifted for the Exiled Jack.  The monastery was situated on the side of a sheer cliff, and while the party felt like they were standing with normal gravity, they were all actually standing on the side of the mountain…
… all but Glyquorg, who was flying towards the water barrier that made up the dome.
Luckily Ralyx saw his fellow Jack start to fly, and tossed some rope that Glyquorg caught. The Exiled Jack landed precariously on one of the pillars, balanced over a drop that would take him outside of the dome and another 500 feet towards the ground below.
Raa-em departed Glyquorg’s mind and reentered Jak’s.  Again the entity demanded the "gifts of the past."  At this point Elehar was getting impatient. The glaive was hungry, bored, and sick of Raa-em’s shit.  So he walked forward and tossed one of his cyphers onto a moss covered boulder.  The cypher at first appeared to dissolve, but upon closer investigation by Ralyx’s third eye, the entity was actually disassembling the cypher bit by bit, distributing the pieces of the device all throughout its "body".  Ralyx decided it was time for a team "pow wow", and he motioned for the party to assemble around the pillar on which Glyquorg was standing.
The team of Unmasked Seekers was stumped.  Raa-em was incredibly powerful, demanded cyphers and artifacts, had the temper of a child, and yet seemed addicted to the numenera.  Luring the entity away from the monastery would be incredibly difficult, and the bounty hunters didn’t know if they could battle the psychic mossy boulders and survive, let alone return them "alive" to Nihliesh.  During the conversation Glyquorg kept rubbing his legs, complaining that the act of standing on the pillar was becoming painful.  Crouching down, the Exiled Jack realized that the structure he was standing on was actually vibrating! Glyquorg started searching the pillar below his feet and noticed that the "stone" of the structure was more like concrete, covering a long piece of rusty steel – the same material that the team was encountering all throughout the mountain.  The top of the pillar ended a mere inches from the watery dome, and when Glyquorg passed his hand between the pillar and the dome, he felt a stronger hum and vibration.  A quick scan by Chase and the party realized that the liquid dome must be magnetized in some way, and controlled by the pillars.
Elehar was still standing near Raa-em, and found the voice of the monk entering his mind. Raa-em praised the glaive for the gift of the past, and now that the meal was finished, offered a story to Elehar.  Elehar was instructed to kneel, which he did, and Raa-em began to speak.  The story was actually more of a personal reflection on the nature of time, and how time passes more quickly for the old than it does the young.  From the lecture, Raa-em revealed that it was thousands upon thousands of years old, possibly nearing a million. Although the story did not make much sense, it left Elehar in a very serene state, and when he stood up his mind was more settled, and wits were a bit sharper.
When Ralyx heard the story from Elehar, the Mlox thought it was dumb. 

He had his own story brewing, and it involved an electrical ray emitter.  Giving the rest of the party very little warning, the impulsive Mlox jammed the emitter into one of the pillars and unloaded the cypher’s energies in one terrible blast.  The electricity coursed through the pillar, destabilizing the magnetic field above. This caused the watery dome to crash, the entire party to get drenched, and Raa-em to scream in pain and terror. The stonebound monk immediately lost control of gravity and the entire party started to fall.  Ralyx was holding on to the rope he attached earlier, and Glyquorg grabbed the end of the rope before he fell below.  Chase dropped to the ground and slid as gravity shifted, but was able to plant his feet on the edge of the pit and keep from falling further. Jak safely landed on one of the pillars.  But Elehar was not so fortunate.  The glaive tumbled and slid along the wall, finally coming to a rest 500 feet below.
The team took a few minutes to get their bearings before carefully climbing back down the side of the mountain.  Chase stayed back at first, and searched the pit’s contents and dead bodies.  There were several oddities and cyphers hidden amongst the bones, and even an artifact: a skill bud that would affix to the side of the user’s head and give them skill in healing!  Eventually the team made it to the mountain’s base, just near the large metal spires, where Elehar was scratched and dinged up, but not dead!  Also, tucked in the shadows just beneath one of the boulders, was a quivering mass of moss.  Realizing that Raa-em must have had some kind of allergy or aversion to sunlight, Raylx took a small sack into which he packed the formerly stonebound monk.

Once back in Nihliesh the party went before both Gurn-Ellohesh, their fixer, and Seskana Vaeshir, matriarch of the Vaeshir family.  The Unmasked Seekers shared everything that occurred during their mission with their patrons, including details about the weird, rusted structure that was buried within the mountain.  Seskana, disgusted by Raa-em’s form,  wanted nothing more to do with the monk.  She could not get coin or currency from the entity, but also didn’t feel the need to slay a seemingly eternal piece of moss.  The matriarch gifted the life form to the party, and Chase Rombek happily took the entity as his new ward.  Once paid by Gurn-Ellohesh, each member of the party was offered a mutation, as per the laws of the Broken Mask.  These mutations were accepted by the entire team save for Chase, who opted to remain "pure."  Although he was offered an opportunity to join the Broken Mask, Ralyx declined entry, stating that he would prefer to remain on only as an independent contractor.  

The party’s lattimor fixer seemed amenable to this, but remained unsure of where the strange arrangement would lead.


"I am a something something that excretes living solvent!" - Marc playing with foci.

"Inappropriate winter weather wear?  Is that like a thong?" - Jim to Mark on Ralyx's gear selection.

"I can't stop him.  He's his own three-eyed person, or cyborg, or robot, or one eyed freaky thing." - Jak explains to Raa-em that he has no power over the party's Mlox

"I'm just getting a feel for its mental state." - Andy explains his interaction with the stone bound monk.

"I think that gut slurry is the word of the night." - Marc may have been right.

Jim (GM) to the players:  "You find a level 5 blinking cypher."
Frank:  "Blinking?"
Andy:  "It cures "dry eye."

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.


"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.  


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.  


  • 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.  


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.