Obsidian Portal Campaign of the Month December 2017 – The Last Parsec

What does it mean to be human; a part of mankind?” I sometimes wonder about how much simpler a question that must have been for people before. Before we made the grand voyage of interstellar flight. Before we terraformed countless worlds, and allied ourselves with intelligent lifeforms from beyond the black. Before the genetic modifications, the implantations, the symbiotes. Before we began to twist who and what we were in exchange for more expedient settlement.  Sometimes I think that we as a race are already gone, that humanity has reached The Last Parsec – December’s Campaign of the Month! If anyone can truly answer that question, it’s Maksim_Kotelnikov, the GM of this interstellar campaign. So come with me on a journey to to the stars and beyond!

First off, feel free to tell us about the person behind the GM screen. Where are you from? What do you do aside from gaming? Alter Egos? Wife and kids? Where can we stalk you on the internet. Let us know if you feel so inclined!

Hi there! I live in Russia, in small forest village. Since we live literally in the wilderness, with few players living locally, I started GMing via the internet. My first game as GM was in 2002. Not every hobby allows you to find so many friends as roleplaying games do. Some players travel all the way from Moscow just to play.  The game can get quite noisy and boisterous and so on these days, my wife and daughter tend to visit our relatives to enjoy a more peaceful environment.


You won’t be able to find me anywhere on the internet other than my email address and Obsidian Portal page.  It is usually me that finds other people when we wish to play.  Hopefully, this will change in the future and it will be easier for other players to contact me.


Currently my main work is developing PF and 5E adventures for AdventureAWeek. Although, not long ago, I also started working for Paizo as well.


Me real name is Leonid Ponomarev, but one popular video blogger from the Russian YouTube named me Maksim Kotelnikov by mistake.  To avoid further confusion, I chose to use the name as my author’s pseudonym, and currently have some published books and Fantasy Grounds adventures under that name.

Tell us about The Last Parsec in a nutshell. How did it come to be and how long has the campaign been going on?

I just wanted to play few games in a space setting, and chose “Daring Tales of Space Lanes”.  However, after this single adventure, I felt that the player characters hadn’t fully developed and I needed to continue with more space adventures.  We started with “Nemezis” but this setting had been designed for a single star system only, so I started to look around and found “The Last Parsec”.  At first, we thought the adventures would be a series of “one-offs”, but we liked them so much they developed into an epic campaign offering scenarios reaching many years into the future.

What made you choose the SAVAGE WORLDS game system? How does it compare to other game systems you have played?

You know, when we started playing space adventures, Starfinder hadn’t yet been published, and we felt we had to choose between GURPS or SW.  We chose Savage Worlds because we were playing online and because it seemed more adaptable to Fantasy scenarios.

Are there books within the SAVAGE WORLDS system covering space campaigns? How much of your space campaign is based on these and how much is your own design?

We have been using Nemezis, Interface Zero and The Last Parsec books (plus as many independents as we can get hold of).  As GM I use nearly 30% of my own adventures (designed specifically for the player characters, incorporating character detail, romantic side stories, etc.) and 70% of pre-published adventures.

Where do you draw your main inspiration from?

Our inspiration is drawn from many places, including “Elite: The Dangerous” (computer game), where I get practical ideas like ship weapon installation, space scanning and many more, “Firefly” and “Babylon 5″(TV series), for storylines with powerful ambience, etc. but I also like the darkness of “Animatrix” and “The Alien” (movies); and I have been orienting toward those as well.  This not only gives the game sessions more space heroics, but also some dark and horrific touches too.


For example, you can start your setting on an interplanetary space station with different races and politic quests; but then you go into deep space and discover a lost ship with no people and nothing left inside apart from a horrific and dangerous secret.

Futurist technologies seem to be a large part of the game you play. Are these technologies explained as part of the gaming system or have you introduced concepts by yourself?

I use a combination of ideas from different campaign settings. I have added some of my own ideas with regard to ship damage space fighting, but most of what we need to play is contained within the Savage World books.

How much of the source material is available in your home language?

Almost all SW space rulebooks have been translated into Russian, but Fantasy Grounds have no translated text, so all my players need to understand English.

There’s some great artwork and design on the site. Who is responsible for this? Do you have any site designing gems to offer other aspiring GMs?

I used the style from official The Last Parsec rulebooks. The hardest work has been about dynamically changing the background for the Chrome browser. I tried to add this effect for other browsers too, but they have associated time lags.  Also, there has been an issue getting the right rate of change on the background so that it did not distract too much from text legibility.  Often when designing, operation can be more important than pure visual appearance.


My wife is a good artist and she has drawn many images for our previous and future sessions. We are still not entirely satisfied with all the visual aspects of the site, but we hope to be adding to it soon.

How much time do you usually spend preparing your game sessions? Describe a typical session.

I usually spend as much time preparing as it takes to play, i.e. three hour’s preparation for a three hour session.


I always use some music compositions or ambient sounds, so there is never total silence in any of our adventures.   I worked one year as radio Disc Jockey, and that experience is very useful now. Also, I worked few years in government theatre as actor, and because of this, I am comfortable rehearsing all NPC roles before each session starts.  I keep my diary ready with extra NPCs to use in any unusual situations that arise, so there is always enough to fill out the game sessions if necessary.

What does the future have in store for the characters in The Last Parsec? Without giving the game away, is there anything you can reveal……?

Some of my players want some xenomorphs in deep space, so they will meet them in the near future.  Also, my wife and I have developed a unique planet, named “Zalkor”, inhabited by beautiful animals and forests similar to those in the film “Avatar”.  Imagined ancient galaxy gods and exciting space fleet battles will be in the story too, but I’ll know more as the characters progress.

How long have you been using Obsidian Portal? What brought you to the site and what keeps bringing you back?

One of my old players suggested Obsidian Portal.  It is a great back up for any game, both for playing online but also maintaining the details of the campaign.  To have all the information at your fingertips is a wonderful feeling.

Do you or any of your players use the Obsidian Portal Forums? If so, what would you say are the biggest benefits from keeping up with the Public Forum threads? If not, why not?

We are all readers of the forums.  Neither I nor my players nor I start many threads but we do regularly make entries and continue to read to see what other people are saying.  I have found many new interesting campaigns through doing this.

If you had to pick just one thing, what would you say Obsidian Portal helps you with the most?

The Calendar! This is the most useful and awesome thing, because it really helps to organize sessions and lets people know when the next session will be!

What would you say the single biggest highlight from your game has been so far?

The fact that our adventure is designed specifically for our heroes.  I always adapt the history so that it affects the personality of the characters. Furthermore, with the game being run as a 21+, we get to touch upon the issues of morality, sex, terrorism, betrayal and deviations caused by scientific and technological progress. This is a story that will not leave you unaffected.

Okay, before we get out of here, give us some of your best GMing pearls of wisdom.

Always work for quality, instead of quantity. It is better to create a well-researched story with deep characters, than to spend many hours of your life and remember nothing.

That’s going to conclude our travels for this trip I’m afraid. But trust me, there’s more out there in the infinite corners of the universe. For now, content yourself with the knowledge that you have come this far and not lost who and what you are. We’ll be back soon enough with another campaign for your viewing pleasure. Until then, keep those nominations coming!

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