Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tommy's Take on The Last Parsec: Eris Beta-V

Hi guys, remember me?

I'm not dead, just started a new job, and that plus illness plus baby have pretty well sidelined me recently.

I recently got a chance to take a look at one of the books in the Kickstarter for The Last Parsec (now in its final day), and I thought I would give you a brief overview.

It's only a brief overview for one huge reason, which is that it's a Plot Point Campaign, and I try not to spoil TOO much in my reviews.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Kickstarter is nearly wrapped up, it has massively exceeded its goals, and Pinnacle has developed a stellar track record for fulfillment (that I have personally experienced, backing Deadlands Noir and East Texas University).

$35 gets you all three setting/Plot Point books in PDF, $70 gets them for you in print and there's even a minis set to go with it (as well as a set of action cards I like the look of). The question, though, is this: What IS The Last Parsec? It's...a little different than anything Pinnacle has done before, setting-wise. It's a very broad sci-fi setting that assumes you have the Science Fiction Companion and the core rules (and maybe the free primer), and the releases are all actually sub-setting books and adventures within the larger universe. The first set of books are Leviathan (adventurers on an untamed planet), Scientorium (featuring a lost artifact of knowledge seemingly gone mad, if that's possible) and Eris Beta-V (corporate explorers looking to recover the remnants of a lost civilization before their rivals can), with even more variety promised for 2015. In essence, Pinnacle is kinda aiming for a setting with Something For Everyone (Except Maybe People Who Hate Sci-Fi).

Eris Beta-V is a 96 page book, with the additional rules information needed for running this above and beyond what the Sci-Fi Companion holds.

Chapter One is written as JumpCorps propaganda, but serves as a good primer to the setting as it should probably be just about what JumpCorps employees would know about the region. Those four pages would make a great handout to give to new players.

Chapter Two dives more into mechanical goodies, from JumpCorps equipment to Setting Rules for exploring Eris Beta-V. This includes flying through a ringstorm, a Dramatic Task which can be unhealthy for your ship (and crew) if failed.

Chapter Three is definitely not for player's eyes, as it is a gazetteer of the sector, and dives into the truth of what's going on in the area. There's some pretty big behind the scenes stuff going on here, so you will want your players to remain unspoiled. My favorite part of the chapter (maybe even the BOOK) is the numerous random encounter tables, based on card draws and divided by suit. Some of these encounters are fairly innocuous, but some are Much Bigger Deals, like a crazy old man who knows more about what's happened here than the PCs have been told by their employers.

Chapter Four is the Plot Point Campaign, and I will not get into heavy details here for (hopefully) obvious reasons. In a nutshell, the campaign begins with a corporate sponsored mining mission that quickly gets upended by the startling re-emergence of a scientific pioneer long thought dead. Perhaps not surprisingly, the PCs become embroiled in a conspiracy from surprising quarters, culminating into a race against time to stop a horrific act of war. The best part about it is the "how" of the grand finale is left in the PCs' (and GM's) hands...the bad guys need to be stopped, but you definitely have some freedom in how you do it.

Chapter Five is a mess of Savage Tales, many of them keyed to certain areas. These include assassination attempts, bounty hunting and a ghost ship that pretty much is what you think it is if you've watched a lot of sci-fi.

The bestiary covers the stuff you need that's unique to this part of the universe, like beautiful black birds that eat flesh, sci-fi mushroom men, sci-fi cave men, <REDACTED>, and relevant NPCs.

WHAT WORKS: More a commentary on the broader Kickstarter, but it sure seems like it would be easy to find something you like here, given the attempts at a wide range of sub settings. The random charts flooding this book are always welcome to me. Personally, I love that Pinnacle is releasing settings and material for the companions, rather than ignoring them. The Vulcans in this setting are zombies. Pinnacle is a low risk Kickstarter company, given their track record.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Hard to judge. I'm working off of a draft copy, so placeholder art is repeated, chapter headings are from the sample adventure, etc. The Companion plus rules plus setting requirement may be a deal breaker for some people.

CONCLUSION: The Kickstarter is funded, Pinnacle will deliver and the setting books run a decent range of sci-fi tropes with more slated to come. The plot point campaign will need player buy-in and GM preparation to pull off well, but the text does provide advice for properly setting up the revelations in it. It sure looks like Pinnacle has another hit on its hands as they enter a bold, new frontier.

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