Review: Eris Beta-V

Posted: 26 November 2014 in Reviews
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Drum roll please… This is the first major deliverable from Pinnacle’s Last Parsec Kickstarter. Excitement abounds; Halfway Station can barely contain itself.

In a Nutshell: First setting book for The Last Parsec from Pinnacle Entertainment; assumes you already have the Savage Worlds core rules and the Science Fiction Companion. 98 page PDF. Not sure what the cost is because I Kickstarted the whole Last Parsec package, so this is part of a bundle for me.

CONTENTS

JumpCorp Memo (4 pages): Here’s the introduction, ostensibly a JumpCorp recruiting piece. It explains how the rings of Eris Beta-V are unusual because they were formed when a ship from a long-extinct culture collided with a gas giant’s moon; this premise gives a lot of scope for mining, artefact recovery, fighting off space pirates, and adventure generally.

Eris Beta-V (4 pages): The recruiting piece segues into setting rules in this chapter, starting with a couple of new Hindrances and an Edge. Then come rules for mining the rings, the ringstorms which disrupt mining efforts, stun grenades, the Aquatic mod allowing starships to function as submarines, and three new ships suited for the environment.

A Planetary Gazetteer (3 pages): The planet, indeed the whole star system, are dominated by JumpCorp mining interests. JumpCorp Security is the only law. There are two habitable moons, a number of other moons, and several distinct regions of rings.

Your players can safely read up to this point. From here on, it’s GM-only territory, and I’m going to be cagier than usual because this is such a new product.

Enigmas of Eris (5 pages): This chapter explains what’s really going on for the GM. I will say that it includes some sample artefacts, because the players already know from the JumpCorp Memo that there are valuable artefacts in the rings. My reaction to the first few chapters was "meh", but actually once you read this bit – or find it out during play – it’s not bad at all.

Eris’ Rings (31 pages): While the Planetary Gazetteer gives highlights for each major location in a few sentences, this chapter looks at them in more detail from the GM’s viewpoint, explaining what each place is like, its points of interest, and how you get there; sometimes this is embellished by one or more of a rough map, tables for obstacles and encounters determined by a card draw and a die roll, or a cross-reference to a Savage Tale intended to be run there.

The Spy Who Came in From the Void (26 pages): Here’s a plot point campaign in nine parts. During the course of this, the PCs visit all the major locations, work out what’s really going on insystem, and probably try to stop it. I think I can say that much without any spoilers. I think I can also say that knowing the plot point’s title won’t help your players much.

Savage Tales (9 pages): Seven savage tales to expand your plot point campaign.

Bestiary (9 pages): About 20 life forms and about a dozen major NPCs.

FORMAT

Two-column black text on a pale blue background, with dark blue borders, and full-colour illustrations every few pages, much like the SFC. I immediately turned all of that off using layers, except the text and illos.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

I struggle with the idea that the gas giant orbits its sun every 60 hours, especially given that its own moons take 5-6 days to complete an orbit. At first I thought it must be a typo, but it’s repeated several times. I honestly doubt whether my players would notice this, or care if they did, because it has no impact on the story at all; but it bugs me.

Update 1st December: Several people have told me this is a valid orbital period for a “hot Jupiter”, but Pinnacle have also said that this is a typo and should have been “60 weeks”.

I’ve been conditioned to associate the words "sector" and "subsector" with specific meanings by decades of playing Traveller; in this product, sector seems to mean the star system, and subsector the volume containing the gas giant and its moons. That confuses me a little, but maybe that’s just me.

CONCLUSIONS

The way to think of this is as an adventure, or perhaps a short campaign, in an overall setting; 16 adventures would take a group like my last one maybe half a year of real time to play through, and take beginning PCs to halfway through Seasoned rank. I’m OK with that, because then they move on to the next adventure; if, like me, you secretly think of your game as an action-adventure TV show, Eris Beta-V is one season of that show, not the whole five-year story arc.

I was hoping for a bit more background detail on the overall Last Parsec setting, but we don’t really learn any more of it than we knew from the SFC. The upside to this is that you can plonk Eris Beta V in almost any setting without worrying about it too much, all you need is an interstellar megacorporation and a lawless frontier region for it to gambol in.

This all reinforces my view that The Last Parsec isn’t a setting as I understand the term; it’s a very loose framework, really not much more than a few named organisations and races, into which stand-alone adventures are dropped. I shall watch with some interest to see where Pinnacle is taking this bottom-up approach to setting design; potentially, it gives them unlimited scope for more plot point campaigns, one per star system.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5. This would be part of a bigger campaign for me, rather than the spine of one, and I think that was Pinnacle’s intention here.

Next time, I’ll talk about the various other goodies the Kickstarter has lavished upon me so far; the music, the GM screen, the archetypes, and the wallpapers.

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Comments
  1. HH says:

    Just so you know, it’s entirely possible for “Hot Jupiter” gas giants to have extremely short orbital periods. A well-known one, 51 Pegasi b “Bellerophon”, has a period of 4 days.

    • andyslack says:

      Hmm, you surprise me – thanks. Still dubious in this case as Eris Beta-V is said to be the third planet from the star, so the two further in must be going even faster…

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