Design Journal 3: Parsec Introduction (Rough)

This is the very rough draft of the Introduction section to Parsec.


Title Page

Table of Contents

Cool Quote

Disclaimer: Since this game is set in a fictional future at least a hundred years from the present, there will be some names of places, cultures, languages, religions and so on which are present today. Nothing is intended by this – this is a game, not a political commentary. If you want your game to be about political commentary, then go for it, but Parsec is not intended to further any particular political views. Its just a game.

One: Introduction

Welcome to the Solar System

Parsec is a science fiction roleplaying game set in our fictional future. The cultures and societies of Earth have been united by a single world government, and faster-than-light (FTL) travel is a reality through powerful Baeder Drives. Humankind is stretching out into the solar system, founding permanent colonies on distant worlds. FTL convoys reach out into nearby solar systems, gathering data and seeking Earthlike worlds. Fission, antimatter production and solar arrays provide abundant energy to power humanity in its quest for the distant stars.

But all is not well. On Earth, gleaming arcologies and sealed commuter tubes are mere meters from filth and squalor. Unrest is constant and brutally put down. Insurgencies crop up in the slums, threatening to upset the manicured lives of the planet’s elite. Family members disappear and are brought to secret prisons, never to be seen again. There is order for some at a high cost for the rest, and while some dream of the stars, others live in squalor and dream of revolution.

Parsec is a game about our dreams of exploration. It is about strange worlds and human beings undergoing rapid change. It is a game about the world gone terribly wrong, about a world-spanning government which crushes dissent. It is a game about corporate powers fighting privateer battles with each other and conducting espionage while exploiting those who starve in the slums.

In Parsec, we give you elements of a basic setting, and as time goes on we’ll add details and expand the world, as well as what you can do in the game. This is your game, though. A lot of the details of the setting will come from your own gaming group. The game is like a structure that you use to hold your story up – but the story is all yours. The rules help you move the story along, but you paid for them, so always feel free to break them or discard them whenever they don’t work. (We don’t think you’ll need to, though…)

Parsec game begins with your character. Everything has been going fine, until one day something happens and cracks form in her illusions. His world begins to fall apart. Or he’s had enough of hunger and filth, and he’s going to do something about it. She’s faced with some terrible decision, and then makes her choice. Now you decide what happens next.

What happens when the government turns against its citizens? What happens when profit is the only value? What happens when human beings change their own bodies and minds with new technology? What happens when seemingly-absolute power corrupts absolutely?

What happens when they come for you?

How It Works

In Parsec, you take on the roles of characters in a shared story. Those who are taking part in the story are the players. One of the players needs to help facilitate things and will have the responsibility of forming the shared setting your story will take place in. She is called the Director. All of the Players will have at least one character each that they are responsible for. The Player-Characters (PCs) are the protagonists of the story. They may not be heroic people, but they drive the story forward. The story is about them.

The Director is in charge of most of the people the PCs meet over the course of a story. She is also in charge of the world itself – she is like narrator who lets the PCs know what is going on around them, and she also has to know about the rules of the game because she helps decide what happens when there’s a conflict. Sometimes Players will help with these tasks, but they are the Director’s responsibility.

Before you begin, your group should get together and decide what kind of game you want to play. In Parsec, there are infinite options, but its possible to point out some general categories that the game lends itself to. Basically, you’re deciding what the story is about – but you need to do this together so that when everyone is learning the rules and creating characters, everything will fit together nicely.

Generally speaking, in Parsec, every story will start with some kind of crisis in the lives of the characters, and every story will involve conspiracy – being part of it, fighting against it, fleeing from it, and so on.

The story could be about an insurgency – people who are trying to throw off the yoke of the world government and rise up in revolution. They have suffered too long, and now there will be justice! The slums of Earth or the dangerous refineries of the colonies are your world – let them come, you’ll be ready. Or take the fight to them – break the seals that keep them in and you out, and see what happens.

The story could be about espionage – the characters are part of the conspiracy, protecting its secrets, or they are trying to find out what is really going on. They could be corporate spies, hired to conduct industrial espionage or even sabotage, and then escape without being caught.

The story could be about being hunted – the characters are mostly normal people put into extraordinary circumstances. They are being hunted by the police or by private security forces or bounty hunters, and they might not even know why! Maybe they know something they aren’t meant to know, or maybe they asked too many questions and drew someone’s attention.

The story could be about pirates and privateers in space – early colonization of the solar system is a bit like the Age of Sail on Earth. The government and corporations scramble for new resources and new sources of wealth abound for those intrepid enough to seek it out. Out in the black void of space, the law’s reach is tenuous, and increased transport invites predators.

The story could be about being a conspirator – your characters know some of what is going on, and they need to protect their position. You work for the government and have some security clearance, or you work for a major corporation that has to protect its secrets or go bankrupt. How far are you willing to go for the “greater good”? As you learn more uncomfortable truths, will your belief in what you’re doing survive?

The story could be about space exploration – there are still things to learn about the planets of this solar system, but more importantly, voyages to other stars are departing. They go out seeking resources, but more importantly, Earth-like worlds. And everywhere, people talk about whether they will find alien life…alien intelligence…alien civilizations. In the meantime, interstellar travel is dangerous enough, and not every voyage is documented, not every ship accounted for…

What You Do

Players narrate what their characters do and say what their characters say. One Player might say “My character Sarah goes over to the security panel to see if she can rewire it before the police arrive.” She might also say “I go over to the security panel…”. Players can speak in first or third person – every group is going to be a little different. It depends on how you’re comfortable engaging in the story. Sometimes a Player talks to the Director (in this case, Sam) “Sam, I take a look at the security panel. Is it a type I’m familiar with?” Other times, a Player talks to the other Players, and so on. Whatever is the best way to get the idea across and describe what you want to happen.

In the same way, the Director tells the Players when something is going on in the situation around them – as long as its something their characters would be aware of. Either way, the Director at least needs to know what’s going on.

Obviously, a lot of the time a Player-Character will want to do something, but it won’t be something easy. This means there is a conflict – a conflict between a character and the world, or around a character and another character. When there is a conflict in Parsec, you roll dice to figure out what happens. Dice are just a way to make decisions about the game that can be surprising to everyone – they represent how things can go right, or go wrong. They also represent what a Character is good at. If she’s really skilled, the Player has a lot of dice.

All of the dice used in Parsec are 6-sided. You’ll probably need at least eight dice or so per Player, though having more will be helpful. When you roll a handful of dice, some of the dice come up “successes” – that means they count towards what you are trying to do. The more successes you roll on the dice, the better your Character does. You know a die is showing a success because of the number it shows – every roll has a target number, from 2 to 6, and every die showing that target number or higher is a success. So, if the target number is 3, and you roll the dice, 3s 4s 5s and 6s count as successes. If the target number is 6, then only 6s count as successes. There’s a little more to it, but we’ll get to that later in the chapter on Conflict.

In the next chapter, Character, we talk about how a Player creates her Character to use in the game.

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