Thursday, 10 January 2019

Five Parsecs - World Building

I like to have some context to my games, even when playing solo, or a one off scenario.  Perhaps that's one of the reasons I never got into competitive gaming (that and not being very good at it).

That story building is one of the things I like about Five Parsecs, and its brothers and sister games.  Now, as it happens, something else I remember fondly from my days playing traveller was spending time using the core rules and the 'Scouts' supplement to create worlds and what should there be to support Five Parsecs but a planetary generation supplement!  Admittedly it doesn't involve complex algebra and calculating the world's average temperature using its Albedo (that's the amount of solar energy reflected back into space by water, cloud cover and ice, in case you're interested), but I think I can cope with losing that...

I also realised that the crew of the Envoy currently don't know anything about the world they're trundling around on.  And that I was on a weekend away in Cardiff in a hotel room at 9pm trying not to wake the 4 year old (who'd exhausted herself playing with my family on her birthday) or the missus, with an ipad fully loaded with the rulebooks and a dice app...

I rolled up a handful of worlds using a combination of the Planetary Generation supplement, and the rules from the older  'Every Planet an Opportunity' rules (as the new ones don't have as much on population size, politics, etc.  What I found great was how quickly it inspired thinking about the backgrounds and possible scenarios.  Anyway, here are my first few worlds, first up, our crew's current home.

Wavell’s settlement
Average atmosphere
Moderate biosphere
Earth like gravity
Inefficient govt
Widespread population
Low tech terraforming
Popular movement
Mining or other industry
Disinterested democracy
Political terrorists
Infiltration by external force
Export- manufactured products

Wavell’s relatively benign Earth like planetary conditions led to it being colonised early in the Rift’s history.  As a result it now boasts a fairly widespread population, spread amongst cities and settlements across its main continents. Conditions meant that the need for terraforming was limited, although the most well populated areas have seen the gradual replacement of native species with earth or earth-like derivatives.

The planet suffers from weak government. A huge number of competing political parties, dominated by small special interest groups, have resulted in a government that is paralysed by inefficiency and inability to reach consensus , and a largely disinterested population.  As a consequence, the planet has seen a growth in domestic political terrorism from anti-government groups and criminal raiders, who face weak and demoralised law enforcement; and the spread in influence of off-world manufacturing conglomerates, exploiting weak regulation over working conditions and pay (and increasingly becoming the de-facto government in urban areas).

Sikorski's haven
Toxic atmosphere
Moderate biosphere
Noticeable gravity -1” dash
Primordial soup, speeds over 4” reduced by 1”
Free trade zone, re-roll one trade/barter roll a turn
Single large city
Planet in natural state
Charismatic leader and followers
Interest group
Mercenary group
Regressive bureaucracy
Unstable economy
Dangerous cult

A relatively recent colony, the planet’s population is mostly concentrated in the hab domes of the Haven for protection from the inhospitable external environment.  Although residents are governed by a positively kafkaesque bureaucracy on everything from living space to lighting allocation, for trade it's a free for all where fortunes can be won or lost overnight, making it a hub for all kinds of shady business activities in the reach.  Increasingly, this activity has attracted the attention of raiders, targeting ships and warehouses outside the dome.  In response the planet has encouraged mercenary groups to set up their base of operations.  With mercenary work also offering better pay and a chance to escape the stultifying regulation of all aspects of life, it has also become the career of choice for many of the havens residents.

Amongst those who do not follow the mercenary life, an alarming number of residents and visitors have fallen under the sway of a charismatic demagogue pushing an insular and controlling cult of personality that increasingly clashes with the authorities and the mercenary cartels.

Zarkov’s frontier
Average atmosphere 
Moderate biosphere
Earth like gravity
Light footed natives
Pacified world
Small settlements
Extensive terraforming
Popular movement
Unity authority
Brutal dictator
Ruthless corporation
Social disorder
Loss of vital resource
Export - food

Zhukov’s relatively benign environment is far from natural, being the result of centuries of intensive terraforming to create a breadbasket world by the Rivecloud Tsushin Corporation and its predecessors. 

Recent decades of relative prosperity led to an increasing popular movement for more local control and population rights.  Facing a threat to the culmination of a centuries long investment plan, RcT Pushed the importance of the world for ‘food security’ in the reach with Unity authorities, persuading them to support a brutal crackdown.  The subsequent conflict effectively destroyed most of the planet’s indigenous manufacturing capability, leaving it reliant on imports for machinery and equipment, controlled by the corporation.  The planetary governor, whilst in name a representative of the Unity, in reality acts entirely in the corporation’s interests.

Despite the crackdowns, elements of the insurgency remain active, being well supported and hidden by the local population.  Attacks on corporate property still occur, alongside vicious reprisal and ‘disappearances’.


  1. That adds so much, nothing like a backstory to the mudball you're playing on!

  2. Cool. One of the best parts of wargaming, to my mind!

    1. Keeps me going in between the rare games