“Every form of art asks questions of the viewer. Questions about life and existence. The questions asked by Five Parsecs From Home is whether your war droid trooper will find true love on the Fringes and why exactly a three armed tax collector is leading a band of religious fanatics?” – Five Parsecs From Home
In a Nutshell: Science fiction supplement for FiveCore skirmish wargaming rules. 91 page PDF by Nordic Weasel Games, $14.99 (on sale at $7.99 at time of writing).
This is a supplement for FiveCore, allowing the player to use those rules to simulate the sort of adventures one sees in Firefly, Dark Matter, or Killjoys. It can be played as a one-off fight, a campaign game, or as the combat engine for more traditional and freeform roleplaying.
The setting for the game is deliberately vague and morally ambiguous, and to my mind laced with dark humour; the game takes place on the fringes of the Unity, a human-dominated bureaucratic state which responds to any perceived problem in the colonies by invading them (since it can’t be bothered to find out what’s really going on), and then habitually forgets to redeploy the forces afterwards. This means colonies are periodically re-conquered by their own government, and the conquerors are then absorbed into the general population, leaving large quantities of military-grade weapons and more-or-less combat-ready troops lying around. With counterfeiters and petty warlords with incomprehensible local currencies everywhere on the fringe, most traders operate on the barter system. The drive to expand and breed like crazy is confined to humanity, with the typical alien thinking “Where did all the humans come from? Oh, we’re part of the Unity now? Well, whatever, man, who cares.”
The first step is to create your crew, which consists of 4-8 figures. Don’t get too attached to them, because your “player characters” have no special protection. Each has an origin, a motivation, a class and maybe some special circumstances, all determined at random. The crew as a whole has a variety of equipment, provided by their classes and special circumstances, which may also give them Talents (known in other games as Edges, Advantages, Feats and so on). The group also has a starship and a reason they met, but these have no mechanical impact and exist only for narrative purposes. One or two group members may also have random character flaws.
At this point, if you want to play a stand up fight, or a club campaign composed of a series of those with no connecting story, you’re good to go. Otherwise, you head into the campaign section. The focus of the rules is a wargaming club rather than a roleplaying group, so the campaign likely has several players, each controlling a group of rogues, and taking turns to provide each other’s opposition by acting as game master and running the NPCs – or perhaps the two groups get into a fight. Towards the end of the book are some notes on running a more traditional narrative-heavy roleplaying campaign with a single games master, using the rules to adjudicate non-combat activities.
The campaign turn has an unspecified length, possibly a week, and in each turn the group travels to another world, assigns a dirtside activity to each crewman (repair, trade, recruit etc.), finds a patron and a mission, trades, sees the local sights, and enjoys a random event. Missions and random events generate the combat scenarios which are the core of the game, and there is a new random event generator for the unexpected occurring during combat.
There are scenario rules for special occasions; hacking computers, bluffing NPCs and NPC reactions, repairs, fear checks, etc. There is the obligatory equipment list, with sfnal weapons, armour and goodies – including alien artefacts which make good scenario McGuffins.
Much like FiveCore itself; single-column black on white text, few and basic illustrations, colour covers.
SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT
I don’t like the random event which ends the campaign, but I can always reroll it.
I love the setting and will assimilate parts of it directly to better serve the needs of the collective. The campaign system is heavy on tables and random dice rolls, in a way that RPGs (at least, the ones I play) are moving beyond, so the game as a whole brings back fond memories of playing Laserburn in the 1980s. Good times, so maybe that style of play is worth trying again…
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5. One to try later.