Monday, October 20, 2014

THE LAST PARSEC is Fast, Furious, Fun and...Family Friendly?

I want you to try a little mental experiment for me. I want you to imagine the typical setting for the Savage Worlds role playing game. Have you got it set in your mind? Good. I want you to picture a scale of 1 to 10 and decide how "family friendly" you think the setting is -- and by family friendly I mean "ages 8 and up." Did you come up with somewhere between a 4 and a 6? That's what I initially came up with myself. After all, this is the game that has a number of high concept horror inspired game settings and is from the same minds that created the Horror Western RPG Deadlands.

But that's not really a fair assessment of the Savage Worlds game and the settings it has to offer. While the Deadlands game, and setting, may have been inspired by a painting of an undead Confederate Soldier, Pinnacle Entertainment Group has created a number of settings that are just right for ages 8 and up family fun. Set aside Rippers, Weird Wars, Evernight and Necropolis for a moment. Those would get at least a PG-13 from the MPAA for "thematic elements." We can even set aside Necessary Evil as a "12 and up" Comic's Code Approved version of Supervillains that is just outside the kid friendly zone. Even doing that, we have some great settings available for kids to play with their parents. Slipstream is a perfect combination of Flash Gordon style action and Planetary Romance. Then we have 50 Fathoms a mash up of Pirates of the Caribbean and Pirates of Darkwater that should make any Gen X (or older Gen Y) parent's heart swell with nostalgia. It's clear that Savage Worlds has some settings that are perfect for the family game night.

Add to family friendly settings a rules set that is flexible, promotes storytelling interaction, and is easy to learn and you have one of the best introductory role playing games on the market today.

As a parent of 6 year old twin daughters, I am always on the lookout for games that I can play with them that have enough "genre geekdom" to keep me interested but aren't so grimtastic that the twins have trouble sleeping at night. The two Savage Settings I've already mentioned certainly meet the mark, but it looks like we can add another to the list with Pinnacle's upcoming setting The Last Parsec. The Last Parsec is Pinnacle's latest science fiction setting and it draws from a deep well of science fiction stories to present a straight forward SF setting that doesn't reach to horror for high concept additions. I had a chance for a quick Q & A with Jodi Black of Pinnacle as well as some of the designers of The Last Parsec to see just how well this setting would fit in with my scheduled "dad and the twins Saturday afternoon tabletop session."

When I think about the kinds of settings that Pinnacle and Savage Worlds are famous for, I tend to think of high concept "horror +" games like Deadlands, Necropolis, and Evernight. How is The Last Parsec different?

 I'd say The Last Parsec is more focused on exploration and discovery than on "fighting back the darkness," which is the general theme attached to settings like Deadlands and the Weird Wars line. And even though the setting assumes player characters are affiliated with JumpCorp, within that framework just about any character type can flourish. So games can revolve around exploring the unknown, military action, or even commerce.” – Matt Cutter, author of Eris Beta-V for The Last Parsec

The more I read about The Last Parsec, the more it seems it might be a good fit for family gaming. This seems to me to be especially true in a post-Guardians of the Galaxy environment. GotG fans should be able to find a lot to like in TLP. Was this intentional, or happy coincidence?

“Coincidence, I'm afraid. But I have three kids -- my 10-year-old son cajoled me into taking him to see Guardians of the Galaxy -- and if they were to play in my setting, Eris Beta-V, I'd want my kids to take away the message that it's not productive to judge people on their appearances. JumpCorp can be the bad guys and a seemingly sinister, rediscovered alien species can be good guys.” – Cutter

Shane has stated in the design diary for The Last Parsec that Pirates of Dark Water and the animated Sinbad movie inspired him to create the 50 Fathoms setting. What are some of the "kid friendly" stories that inspired The Last Parsec?

“There's definitely some of Heinlein's Starman Jones in there, where even a simple lass or lad can study hard, take a job with a space corporation, and blast off for the stars.” – Tim Brown, author of Scientorium for The Last Parsec

Shane briefly mentioned John Carter in the design diary for TLP, will there be rules for Planetary Romance in the setting?

“There are rules for romance? Where can I find these?” – Brown

Jodi Black had some words of her own about the setting:

Romance is really about building relationships in game, and most experienced GMs weave interesting tales with the NPCs she offers to the characters. Recurring "romance" themes like the bad guy with a heart of gold, or the good gal with a dark'll find those in The Last Parsec (heck, any setting). But they're secondary to exploration and adventure. 

The GMs in my home group know they need to include some romance to make me happy as a player. Not one-shots so much, but for a memorable campaign that's usually a theme for everyone's characters. And it's not as much about the characters getting married at the end of the story, but of the process: ask him out for coffee, enjoy dinner out together. Actually, dinner out is a dangerous thing in our home games. Usually it get interrupted by an adventure!

Disney's Treasure Planet is one of the Black family favorites. It has aliens, discovery, and reuses the plot from Stevenson's Treasure Island in a new and interesting way. It's a shame the movie didn't do well, because I'd love to see more classic literature imagined as a space adventure...but then again, since those *aren't* in the public eye, any GM worth her salt can use those plots and themes for their kids and it's completely new!

Finally, not to be part of your story naturally...but we're releasing a One-Sheet for The Last Parsec today (hopefully) or tomorrow: Untimely Discovery by John Goff. There's a moral quandary in there that I think would be excellent for a kids game: What would it be like to be arrested for what you thought about? do "bad" kids deserve a second chance? One of the best things about roleplaying is the conversations after, and tying the fantasy into the real world. :)
I'm very excited about this setting and the thought of a game that has echoes of Treasure Planet or even The Black Hole (not mentioned but clearly another inspiration for TLP) gets my endorsement. 

Take a moment to back this great project and join me in the ranks of Savage Fandom. Savage Worlds is fast, furious, fun, and family friendly.

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