Review: Leviathan

Posted: 10 December 2014 in Reviews

In a Nutshell: The second world and Plot Point Campaign for the Lost Parsec setting; requires Savage Worlds Deluxe and the Science Fiction Companion. 98 page PDF.

CONTENTS

Travel Brochure (3 pages): This book focuses on a vacation resort planet, Leviathan, where tourists come to see – and possibly hunt – giant life-forms. This chapter is written in the style of, you guessed it, a travel brochure; one page of text, two pages of a very nice picture of tourists (or maybe tour guides) unloading a vehicle, with flying not-quite-dinosaurs in the background.

Characters (7 pages): Leviathan is a world-sized wildlife preserve. This chapter speaks to what types of characters would live and work here; hunters, guides, medics, researchers, pilots, explorers – any type of outdoorsman will fit in. Of course, you could also be a tourist.There’s a new hindrance (Weak Stomach) to complicate wilderness survival, and two new professional edges; Explorer (simplifies travel and survival) and Scout (helps you spot hazards and avoid being surprised). There are also a few world-specific items, weapons and vehicles – unlike the earlier Eris Beta-V, where some of the items (like the stun grenade) felt tacked-on to me, these seem tightly integrated to the world; you can immediately see how they are useful on Leviathan, and less so elsewhere – a couple of them, in fact, are absolutely essential to the PCs’ survival, although they are unlikely to realise that up front. Neat trick.

Leviathan (8 pages): The chapter talks briefly about the Sigma Hydrae system and its main bodies, before settling in to the player’s version of the truth about Leviathan; it’s a lot like prehistoric Earth. The local government is essentially the Vestal Interplanetary corporation, which hires in a JumpCorp subsidiary to provide law enforcement. There’s a gazetteer and a basic world map.

This is as far as players go; the rest is for the GM.

Leviathan’s Soft Underbelly (11 pages): This starts with setting rules; modifications to Survival rolls, local hazards and pests, unanswered questions about the star system, encounters on Leviathan. Then what’s effectively a GM’s gazetteer; what the PCs will find in each area, including links to appropriate Savage Tales, and random encounter tables. There are a number of researchers and less savoury groups to be found out in the wilderness, as well as the local predators.

Extinction Event (31 pages): Here is a plot point campaign in eight acts, in which the PCs discover evils ancient and modern and (probably) try to stop them – yes, this campaign has multiple evils. The assumption, as ever, is that the PCs work for JumpCorp, which has a contract to provide troubleshooters of various stripes to Vestal’s Leviathan operation. There’s an easter egg of sorts here, in that one of the secrets of Leviathan is linked to one of the secrets of Eris Beta-V, which would be a nice touch if the PCs discover both and make the connection.

I like the way the plot point campaign swerves from exploration to violence to horror to mystery and back. The players are going to have to pay attention and keep their wits about them.

Savage Tales (16 pages): Nine short scenarios to intersperse with the plot point ones. They reaffirm my growing belief that Savage Tales are best used in the early stages of a campaign, with the focus gradually sharpening onto the main plotline. 17 adventures at two experience a pop and 2-3 weeks of real time between sessions gives you most of a year’s play and takes the PCs from Novice to halfway through Seasoned, or if they played Eris Beta-V first, up to the top of Veteran.

Bestiary (16 pages): Twenty or so critters, mostly six-legged dinosaur analogues, mostly curious about what the PCs taste like, and half-a-dozen stock NPCs suited to the planet.

And we close with an index.

FORMAT

The usual Last Parsec trade dress; suppressible full colour background behind two-column black on white text, colour illustrations every few pages, colour covers that make the product look a bit like a tablet PC.

Does the job and is clearly part of the Last Parsec line. I like the artwork for this one much better than the illustrations in Eris Beta-V, but that is likely a matter of personal taste.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT

Sigma Hydrae is a real K1 star about 350 light-years from Earth; the idea that it is on the very edge of the Known Worlds doesn’t fit with the statement in the Last Parsec Primer that the Known Worlds occupy the width of the Orion Arm, several thousand light-years.

Come to think of it, the idea that the Known Worlds have an edge doesn’t really match the FTL drive system, which is more like cyberspace; you’re either connected, or you’re not. The idea that Leviathan is far from charted trade routes makes no sense; either it has a nav beacon, or it does not. The reference to the multiple jumps required to reach it, however, could simply mean that Vestal is being tricky with its nav beacon codes – only giving you the code for the second jump once you’ve finished the first, then changing the code for the first jump.

Leviathan is described as an M-type planet; that nomenclature is unique to Star Trek as far as I know.

Maybe Leviathan was written before the final version of the SFC was ready? It reads like an adventure for a more traditional SF RPG, Traveller perhaps. None of these points are showstoppers, you can simply avoid mentioning them and no harm done.

CONCLUSIONS

I want to run this one. Maybe I’ll start over the Christmas holidays, I should be able to get the old gang together for at least one session.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5. Very nearly 5 out of 5, actually; I have nits to pick (hey, it’s what reviewers do), but this is a solid story, and those PCs who survive will know they have been up against a worthy foe.

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