The Last Parsec Primer

The eagerly-awaited (at least by me) Kickstarter for The Last Parsec is now off and running – in fact it fully funded within an hour of opening, so we may confidently expect some of the stretch goals to be met.

The Last Parsec is a loosely-defined sandbox setting, initially with three main setting books, each with a plot point campaign focussed on a single star system somewhere in the sandbox – where exactly doesn’t matter, since hyperspace travel times do not depend on the length of the journey.

The setting assumes you have the Savage Worlds Deluxe core rules and the Science Fiction Companion, although so far I’d say the SFC is optional unless you want to build your own races or hardware.

One of the teaser items is a free-to-download setting primer, a 12-page PDF, so I grabbed that and started comparing it to the SFC…

  • In TLP, the hyperdrive travel times listed in SFC are only valid if the destination has a functioning astrogation beacon for which the navigator has the access codes, which might be freely available, for sale, or closely-guarded secrets. Without access to a beacon at your destination, the trip is longer and more dangerous. (I could see some planets posting commodity prices on the beacon as well as navigational co-ordinates, possibly for an additional fee.)
  • Communication is both possible and near-instantaneous between beacons. Without being relayed through beacons it is slower, but still many times faster than light.
  • Insystem travel is normally done "under conventional power", not by hyperdrive.
  • The Known Worlds do not have a central government, or a common currency. There is however a trade language, Lingua Universal ("uni").
  • The main races are all from the SFC, although Aquarians and Avions didn’t make the grade. Presumably they are still out there somewhere.
  • The interstellar empires from the SFC are both present. Only one is given a size, the rakashan Tazanian Empire, said to be a large one controlling thousands of worlds. (The SFC states that the United Confederation has dozens or hundreds of member worlds, so it looks like the Tazanians are the 800 lb gorilla of the Known Worlds.)

For convenience, the PCs are assumed to work for JumpCorp, a megacorporation reminiscent of the Galactic Taskforce in Star Frontiers – it’s big, it does a bit of everything, and it pays PCs handsomely to do risky jobs for it.

REALITY CHECK

The setting is based in the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, in an unspecified time period. The explored volume, the Known Worlds, is said to span the width of the arm (which I quickly found out was about 3,500 light-years) and to contain billions of star systems with thousands of inhabited worlds.

The Atlas of the Universe tells me that that there are somewhere around 80 million stars within 2,000 light-years of Earth, which is a good first approximation to the setting’s volume, making them around 15 light-years apart if evenly spaced through that volume. Of those, current thinking is that 23% are spectral class F, G or K, and one-third of FGK stars will have Earth-like planets in the habitable zone; let’s call that six million such systems in the Known Worlds, averaging 35 light-years apart.

That says to me that most inhabited planets are Earth-like, because needing life-support systems is more expensive than being able to live without them, and as you can tell from a distance which stars are most likely to have naturally habitable worlds, you probably don’t bother with checking the others out – if you want an airless rock, there are plenty of those in your own star system already.

WHAT’S TO LIKE

The thing that appeals most to me about TLP is that you can drop any world or setting into the overall sandbox with little or no effort, so long as you can make it work with FTL radio and a distance-no-object hyperdrive.

More on the individual setting books in late October or early November, when I’ve had a chance to check them out.

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