Our special thanks to Brian Sites, FerrociousFtageFilms on YouTube, for putting our video together.
What kind of game is Parsec?
Parsec is a science-fiction tabletop RPG that sticks close to what is feasible given what we know about the world today - the only big "cheat" is the new technology of faster-than-light travel. The setting is composed of things we can easily imagine in our own future, without any supernatural elements like psionics or magic. It's a simple, versatile game, and you can probably teach the system, create characters and be ready to play in an hour or two the first time you sit down.
What is Parsec about?
Through this game, you portray stories of people who are living on Earth or elsewhere in our solar system about 100 years in our future. You tell their stories one scene at a time, focusing on the conflicts they get into, the secrets they know, and what they want most. Meanwhile, around them, neo-feudal corporations and a new world government fight for supremacy on a ravaged Earth while the very first FTL drive-ships change space travel forever. The stories you tell take place in vast post-urban wastelands, the crumbling fringes of great cities, cutting-edge and vibrant city cores or inside vast arcologies - or off-world, on permanent space-stations in orbit around Earth, colonies on Luna or Mars, mining operations in the Asteroid Belt, outposts on Europa or Titan, or on one of the many ships connecting all of them. Whether your character is an urban tribal insurgent or a corporate spy or a space-faring pirate captain, a simple system helps you get your character into interesting conflicts and fight her way out of them.
How did this start?
At the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, OH a few years ago I heard from a friend that the owner of Jolly Roger Games were looking for a game designer and writer to work on a science-fiction RPG for him. Being a newbie game designer and experienced writer, I went over to their booth and ended up talking to Jim Dietz, the owner. He described what he wanted - a sci-fi RPG that was relatively 'realistic', fast and easy to learn and to teach new players, for use with his own setting that he had sketched out. I obsessed over it for about a week, put together a pitch document, sent it over, and got the green light to begin work. A few years later, here we are.
What is awesome about your game?
I set out to create the game that I would want to play, more than any other game out there, given the setting and what Jim wanted from the game. I didn't want to do anything unusual - this was going to be a 'traditional' game, with a GM (whom we call the Director), players, dice, character sheets, attributes and other familiar elements. I decided on a very simple d6 system, with the number of dice you roll determined by your Attributes and the situation you are in, and the target number for each die determined by your Skill. Each die equal to or over the target number is a success.
I decided to use the same Attributes for characters that we use for spaceships, and to treat the ships like characters themselves with their own simple creation system, a way for them to be upgraded or retrofitted, and other things to give each ship a 'personality' without adding complexity to the game.
I've never been a huge fan of book-keeping in a game - counting each copper piece or credit each character has, or going on shopping trips through the equipment section of the game book. To avoid this, I decided that a lot would simply be determined by a character's Status, which is a combination of wealth and social standing, abstracted out to a number between 1 and 10. Status is not a hard limit on what your character can do - the Trait system lets you create equipment that can provide expensive, high-tech or jury-rigged, low-tech solutions to problems you encounter. What Status does is highlight differences in economic class, and it says where your character fits in society and where you will stand out or not be allowed to enter (an executive in gang territory or a migrant laborer in an acrology, for example).
The other thing I want to mention is how we abstracted out a three-dimensional space combat system. This was a serious puzzle - how do we account for the way each ship is oriented with regard to each other ship? How do we cover maneuvers like rolling along an axis or reversing orientation, which are easy to imagine but hard to represent on a table? A simple answer seemed to work best - all the system needs is a few notes and a d6 representing each of the ships involved in the combat. I haven't played every game out there - not by a long shot - but I really like our solution, enabling fast and furious zero-gravity dogfights without a lot of clutter or accounting necessary, and I haven't seen any games that do that as well as Parsec does.
As I said in the video, I could go on and on.
Who did the art for the game?
That would be Jacob Walker, AKA Inkplow. You can see more of his work here on his website. I have to say it's been exciting to see the art emerge, things I'd described or imagined coming to life. One of my personal favorites was a request that I made for an image of two people engaged in a zero-gravity jujitsu knife fight. Why you ask? Because it made sense that people wouldn't use guns or grenades in space very often, since that would risk breaching a hull and venting all of the air out into space - so, knives. It also made sense, when I imagined people fighting in zero gravity, that they would need to grab a hold of each other, or else each blow they landed would set them spinning and flying apart, and there would be no leverage - hence, jujitsu. Anyway, Jacob Walker is awesome, and his art and layout transformed what I wrote from a manuscript into an actual game book (and I got to see my knife-fight!).
Who are you again?
I'm Doug Hagler - I'm a writer, editor and game designer, among other things. I've been writing almost my whole life, editing since I was an undergrad, and designing games for about a decade. I have a day-job (sometimes more than one) that takes a lot of my time, and a family, but the spare time that I have is taken up with as much writing and gaming as I can manage.
Isn't there a third person you mentioned?
Yup - he's Jim Dietz, owner of Jolly Roger Games and the guy who came up with the basic elements of the setting for Parsec. He's also had a hand in every stage of the game's creation. You can find him every year at Origins at the Jolly Roger Games booth, and talk to him about his company and the many games they publish.
When will this game be out?
We're hoping for it to be available for Origins Game Fair this year (2012). It'll be a tight squeeze, but we think we can make it. Assuming, of course, that enough people participate to make this all possible.
Ok, take a moment and just sell me on this game.
It's a fast, simple system with minimal notes and bookkeeping that still lets you create and portray a huge variety of futuristic characters. The conflict systems are interesting and all have consequences that will drive the story forward. Players collaborate to determine what their goals are, what obstacles they will face, and when they spend time coming up with a cool plan, they get dice to use when they execute it. Directors can set up a game session with very little preparation, and go into it already knowing what the players want to accomplish and what challenges they want to face - no need for 'railroading' or trying to guess what will get the players to buy into the story. There is a huge world to explore, and your characters can come from any part of it - suits, spies, explorers, criminals, revolutionaries, entertainers, soldiers, you name it.
Of all the tabletop sci-fi RPGs out there that I know of, I would pick this one first to play with my friends.
- (30 days)