Firefly Unisystem

Let's be Bad Guys

Persephone's Ankle

So after watching the excellent Ff DVD I decided to run a Ff campaign.

I managed to get 9 players together which is quite a big group. My normal RPG room only fits about 6 comfortably so i had the great idea of turning my house into a kind of quasi firefly and we decided that diffeent rooms in the house would be different areas of the ship so we could go to these specific areas when action dictated. My back garden was to serve as anywhere off the ship, in the open (IE the Californian desert) and my kitchen was any enclosed off ship location. I thought this solved the problem quite nicely.

We spent a lot of time on the various character generations. I wanted a nice, tight interaction between the charatcers, like in the series, where all characters have some sort of strong reaction to most other chararacters. I was using Buffy RPG, which seemed like a good idea as the Buffy aesthetic is clearly present in Ff. Some of the advantages and drawbacks were awarded points on the fly so that the sort of balance of the series could be achieved.

Eg the Jayne type charatcer I decided had a 'girl's name; Tracey' drawback at a cost of 1, but for Tracey's character to do what his player wanted he needed an extra couple of points so I said that he could have a name like Svetlana or Chloe for a cost of 2. This seemed reasonable but the munchkinning player then chose the name Tracey Chloe Svetlana Elizabeth Courtney Fa Fa and got a few more levels of 'Hard to Kill'. This irked slightly but I said that would be alright as long as he used his full name whenever possible.

The Shepherd character 'Mags' was quite difficult to place because he never really got 'his' episode in the series so we decided on 'Mysterious Past' for a cost of 12 which he could use to basically accomodate any plot line that cropped up.

A hint of things to come occurred with the Kaylee character. Frankly, the guy who was playing her is not the best looking bloke in the world and because the Kaylee character is supposed to be attractive I asked if he could dress up a bit and shower and comb his hair and stuff for the session which he wasn't overly keen on. In fact, he said, 'If I have to shower and shit then you have to get rid of your smelly fucking cats' or similar. Impasse.

So we decided he'd be a smelly, grease-monkey type called Zeke, with no social skills and a phobia of cats. But to punish him I decreed that although he could keep his 'Mechanical Empathy' advantage he wouldn't be able to keep any of his interpersonal advantages, which slapped him down like a bitch. Also, I put a family of 8 cats (inc. 6 kittens) living in the engine room, which meant he could never actually go in the engine room to fix anything. Pwned!!1!.

The rest of the party was 'Millie' the ship's captain. This was played by my lovely girlfriend (actually we're not officially going out, yet, but I hope to one day). We decided that Millie wouldn't need any stats as in the series Mal can do whatever he wants so we decided that Millie would be able to do pretty much whatever she wanted.

The Wash charatcer was 'Balt' a cowardly speedfreak. He said during character creation he just wanted to drive the ship really fast and shag Tina (his wife, of course). The only problem with this, is that Tina (my girlfriend's best friend who doesn't actually like roleplaying but said she'd turn up) can't stand Chris (who plays Balt) so we decided to keep the fact that they were married secret during session play.

Inara was played by Justin who just wanted to ply Inara pretty much exactly like the series, which was fine by me. Hearing that we'd be doing a little bit LARP-y type stuff with the house he asked if he could come in a sari or something, but I said that wouldn't be necessary.

There is a long story connected with the Simon and River characters' players. I thought as it was hinted enough in the series that there is 'more' to the relationship between Simon and his sister than meets the eye that we should be pretty much open about this aspect of their characters right from the beginning. So as a twist I thought we should play them as a married couple right from the beginning and only have everyone find out they are brother and sister later on. I actually found the players for Simon and River on RPGnet but they, unfotunately, could not make the first session.

Session One - To the Black

Part One

This is what happened in the first session of my Firefly game. I wanted an episode to intro all the characters. Luckily the two players who couldn't make it, Simon and River were always going to be passengers so it was trivial to just delay their arrival on board 'Relaxation'. (I decided to call the ship Relaxation for obvious reasons.)

I had the opening action a simple bar-room brawl, in the finest tradition of these things, Millie, Tina and Tracey Chloe Svetlana Elizabeth Courtney Fa Fa were just having a quiet drink waiting for their contact, also, coincidentally Shepherd Mags was in another corner of the bar having a beer.

Zeke and Balt were on board while Inara was out of the action servicing a client. We had a brief interlude while Justin (Inara) went into some detail on his activity with 'Rutger' a high ranking officer with the Alliance which we thought would be a good contact for later in the series. We had to go up to my bedroom to watch this, of course, as this was the best room for using as Inara's shuttle. In fact Justin made a pretty good job of acting out Inara's techniques on my bed, using my son's biggest teddy bear as Rutger. Good roleplaying, IMO.

Tracey Chloe Svetlana Elizabeth Courtney Fa Fa got a little bit phased during the brawl as everyone he attempted to hit was punched out cold just before he could manage it, by Captain Millie, but I ruled this as good genre emulation, afterall, Mal (Millie) is the coolest charatcer in the series, right?

They had to make a quick getaway from the brawl on the edge of a cliff (despite Millie punching everyone out, the locals just kept on coming. I made a deal with Millie that if she didn't run from them, eventually, then I would start letting Tracey Chloe Svetlana Elizabeth Courtney Fa Fa punch a few of them, so this was a worthwhile comproimise, IMO.)

So then 'Relaxation' was supposed to show up below the cliff and lift the four players (Shepherd Mags had felt a strange affinity with the group during the brawl and had been the only one to join their side) to safety.

Unfortunately Balt had gone for a drive. He had decided to barnstorm the local Alliance base 'for fun'. This was clearly stupid but I'm the sort of GM that likes players to do what they like and learn from their own mistakes. Zeke, the engineer, had a plan to take control of the ship from the engine room. it was then I sprung on him about the family of cats living there. I decided he couldn't go in because of his phobia. He said that he should be able to roll for it, but because I wanted to give the campaign a LARP-y feel, I decided that if he went into my lounge (the engine room analogue) for ten minutes and licked my cats then this would symbolise him temporarily overcoming his phobia. Pretty Clever!!1!. He told me to fuck off so I fined him a drama point.

I decided this would be the best time for the credits, with two cliffhangers (one I hadn't originally planned) 'Relaxation' being pursued by Alliance fighters and the rest of the party literally on the edge of a cliff; two phases of action approaching climax. Actually three if you count Justin who was still upstairs at this point.

Now, I'm not the world's greatest guitar player, or singer, but I believe that if the GM makes an effort to prepare some sort of mood setting event for the campaign then the players should make every effort to 'go with it'. So you can imagine I was disappointed that the joining-in during the chorus was decidedly lask-lustre. There may even have been some laughing. I had to change the lyrics slightly to accomodate the name of the ship. Some of it was hard to make scan but I think I pulled it off pretty well;

Take my love, take my land, Take me where I can not stand. I don't care, I'm still free; You can't take the sky from me.

Take me out to the black, Tell them I ain't coming back. Burn the land and boil the sea; You can't take the sky from me.

That I can be; there's no place, country, state or nation Since I've found my Firefly class spaceship 'Relaxation' But from me, you can't take the sky or any other type of atmospheric manifestation.

Session Two - To the Black

Part Two

So the situation was getting pretty exciting. As a GM I had the problem of getting the players all on board the 'Relaxation' as Balt was being pursued by the Alliance fighters. Balt said there was no way he was gonna go anywhere near the cliff by the bar but I ruled that as he was avoiding the Alliance ships he became disoriented and actually flew straight by it. I ruled that it would be possible for the 4 PCs to jump from the cliff onto the Relaxation as it sped past. We simulated this by everyone jumping from the garden (California) to the kitchen (the ship) over my son's sand pit (the yawning chasm), except for Millie who didn't need to prove her jumping skills, IMO. Plus, she didn't want to get wet coz it was raining pretty hard.

Once Millie was on board it was a simple matter for her to take over the ship's controls from Balt and shoot all the Alliance ships. We had some discussion of whether the Relaxation was armed, but I'm pretty sure if the series had continued then it would have been apparent that Serenity had some pretty powerful armaments on board. Also, Relaxation is not the Serenity so they can all fuck off, IMO.

They set course for Persephone. Inara decided that he had an important date to keep with the three sons of an important Alliance-affiliated banker and as the party might not be spending too long on Persephone he should be able to pursue all three missions at the same time. Millie decided that she had arranged to meet and do business with an old war buddy called Luke.

Balt declared that as Millie was now flying the ship he had time to shag his wife, and asked if he could borrow Justin's bedroom. Everyone looked at Tina, who hadn't been paying attention (she doesn't roleplay and had just been reading a book during the brawl) and there was a long silence. I thought this was a good time to call a commercial break, and although it is out of genre, I decided to play another verse of the theme song as a distraction but Tina didn't even look up.

During the commercial break I explained to Balt that as a novel enhancement of the actual series he wasn't actually married to Tina but they had an interesting relationship whereby there was loads of sexual tension passing betwen them but, as of the first few episodes, this was destined to go unconsumated and Tina's raging, but unspoken, passions would manifest in her constantly reading her chick lit paperback. This and a promise that I would let him fly the ship during combat seemed to satisfy him.

So we made planetfall on Persephone. Irana went upstairs and I said we would trust him to do his part of the adventure unwitnessed, which is the sort of mature attitude to roleplaying that engenders trust throughout the group IMO.

The ship was met by a party of Talorians. These were aliens that looked just like humans except for a ridge above their eyebrows and they spoke with a strange accent. I had been practicing my Talorian accent for some weeks and I know the players were impressed, although Mark (Zeke) said it sounded like a New Zealand accent (for which I fined him a Drama Point). Also, John (Tracey...) said that there was only humans in Ff and no aliens. I pointed out that this was clearly stupid and the reason for this was only because Ff only ran for a few episodes. If it had gone on longer, anyone who knows what they're talking would realise that the number of sf stories you can do without aliens with prosthetic foreheads are only a small tiny subset of all sf stories. I just wanted to show I was ahead of the game by introducing my aliens before Joss got a chance to introduce his.

The Talorians told Millie that they would give her loads of treasure to transport a mysterious cargo to Belerophon, which she agreed to. They also told her that, in her fight against the Alliance they had some important information. They said that Persephone had an 'ankle'. Millie (Millie) gave me a strange look. She's blond and good looking, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, but she seemed to be oblivious to the classical Greek allusion that I had drawn. I thought it would be a clue that the Alliance on Persephone had a fatal weekness (I'm planning on having the party bomb an exhaust port in a trench later on in the campaign) as Persephone's Ankle is a famous phrase for a weak point. Anyway, none of the other players seemed to get it either.

So they set sail for Belerophon with their mysterious cargo and that was pretty much the end of the session. Hopefully I will get round to posting the next session, too, where they find out they're transporting gold and not food, or something (I haven't finalised my plans for that, yet).

Session Three - Desert Storm

Part One

So we had our second session of Ff. John (Tracey...) phoned before the session and said he thought on reflection that it might have been a bad move afterall to pile up 'Disadvantage: Girl's Name' quite so heavily. He wanted to change back to Tracey and give up his 'Hard to Kill'-s, and his 'Advantage: Psycho-Idiot'. I told him that if he wanted to do that, it was fine, but he could only sell back his advantages at half the price he'd bought them for. He said this was a bit unfair, but IMO, life is unfair and no one IRL is allowed to chop and change the hand god has dealt them, and someone in an RPG shouldn't be allowed to either.

Fiddling around with the points, John managed to drop his Advantages and some Life Points and managed to get his name to Tracey Racey Svetlana Fa, which was a pretty mature compromise IMO.

The song went quite well this session, too. I devised a short (actually quite long) guitar solo to go in the middle of it, which I had been practicing. I also handed out lighters and dimmed the lights and got all the players to hold the lighters up during the solo. This was a brilliant effect and looked great. I also repeated the final verse eight times or so in order for us to really get a good sing-song going by the end.

Because Tina didn't show up to this session Chris (Balt) insisted that they had sex a lot during the space flight. I thought this was a bit immature and out of line (if not out of genre) so I charged him a Drama Point for every time he wanted to do the deed as long as he described it properly, which was a good compromise, IMO.

The 'Relaxation' landed safely on the Cloud City of Belerophon but befopre they could hand the cargo over to their contact the crew were met by another Talorian who told them that the cargo should really go to the poor, oppressed mud-miners of the desert of Belerophon instead of the rich traders of Cloud City. The players wanted to just sell to the traders here but I insisted. It really annoys me when players won't do the right thing like that. It's obvious that in genre emulation Mal would sell stuff to the poor and beleaguered instead of the rich and effete so I had to promise the players that the poor and beleaguered would pay twice the price they could get on Cloud City.

Once we had sorted that out Inara went off in her shuttle to service the entire Cloud City gravball team (a game I invented) and disappeared upstairs for the night, and the rest of the crew went to the desert.

Once the players landed in the desert they took the gold (Firefly uses food instead of gold but IMO this is bloody stupid and gold is much more valuable) to the saloon. While they were trying to sell the gold one of the Spalatians (another alien race I invented (they have ridged foreheads (but this is the twist (they are generally peaceful)))) pulled a laser on them. (Firefly uses six shooters and shot guns and stuff more than lasers but I think this is bloody stupid as in the future everyone will have lasers and stuff.)

Seeing the Spalatian pull the laser, John (Tracey Racey Svetlana Fa) said something like 'Oy ju sin tchen shien dan yu lao' and I'm like wtf? And he repeated it and I'm like wtf? WTF? And he says something like 'it's how they curse in the future' and I'm like 'No they bloody don't. Wtf would they curse like that for, moron?' Anyway, I told him everytime he curses like a moron from now on I'm gonna fine him a Drama Point.

A big bar-room brawl broke out and eventually the party get thrown through the holographic windows into the desert. They have to make a run for it and the locals all chase them on their grav bikes. (Firefly uses horses alot instead of Grav bikes but I think this is bloody stupid as people in the future are much more likely to ride grav bikes instead of horses, aren't they?)

The party get chased to the edge of a cliff and it looks like there's no way for them to escape. I will leave it here to see if you can guess the cliff-hanger (hint: there's a clever twist). Hopefully I'll finish writing up the session soon.

Session Four - Desert Storm

Part Two

So the party (Millie, Tracey... and Mags) were surrounded and on the edge of a great cliff with seemingly no way out. Suddenly up from below comes the familiar shape of the Firefly class 'Relaxation'. And the ship hovers at cliff level to allow the party to board. This was genius, and proof that no matter what strange situation players are put in, they always manage to find an ingenious way out of it.

Back on Cloud City Millie looked around for a cargo to trade. She and Zeke visited an old scrap metal merchant to see if he had anything useful. The scrap dealer, a Pandovian (an exotic alien race, which looks a bit like a human but is blue and has a lumpy forehead), had a couple of droids for sale, one was a short round beeping one and the other was a human-esque 'etiquette' droid. (Pay attention here, you might think you know what's going on, but this is a fiendish trap which none of my players sussed.) Millie bought the droids and some other stuff and decided she could get a decent price for it back on Persephone.

We were all ready to head back to Persephone when Justin (Inara) gave word that he wouldn't be coming downstairs for the return flight. He decided to stay on Belerophon for the foreseeable future, with the Gravball squad.

After taking off from Belerophon the party decided to inspect the scrap metal that they had bought. For some reason John (Tracey...) and Mark (Zeke) concentrated their efforts on the short round beeping droid. They kept asking me if there was anything jammed or stuck on it that they could move and maybe project holograms or something. This was when I knew I had them.

The players were using out-of-character knowledge to affect their in-charatcer play, which I would consider borders on the cheating. What makes you think there are hologram projectors on it, I asked. They said they just had a feeling about it and thought it might be worth a go. So I told them that mad anarchists on Belerophon had booby trapped the droid into exploding if anyone looked it over for stuff like hologram projectors. They said that that was pretty stupid, and why would mad anarchists bother to booby trap hologram projectors on droids. I said they probably just had a feeling about it and thought it might be worth a go. Sometimes, I rock.

Although the crew were unharmed, the explosion of the droid, caused the 'Relaxation' to go out of control and begin to plunge down towards the Canyon of Death, a deadly canyon in the desert of Belerophon. Only Balt (Chris) the brilliant pilot stood between the party and certain death. 'I try and pull up' said Chris. 'You can't,' I said, 'the thermo coupling neutron rollover spools are damaged (I just made that up on the fly). 'Can Zeke mend them?' 'No, there's too many kittens.' 'I don't know then, we crash and burn.'

That was a bit defeatist, but I managed to convince Chris that he could save everyone's lives if he just concentrated and thought about what he was doing. 'OK, I concentrate and think about what I'm doing', he said. 'No, I mean really concentrate and think about what you're doing.' 'Ok I really concentrate and think about what I'm doing.'

After a while I managed to get across that he had to use a Drama Point to make the thermo coupling neutron rollover spools undamaged afterall and then he could fly the ship fine again. He admitted that he had used up all his Drama Points shagging Tina on the voyage over so I told him he could earn a Drama Point by saying something apposite and witty, in-character.

After about half an hour we managed to get 'Hang on to your hats, if you're wearing one' which was good enough and I awarded Chris a Drama Point. He tried to spend it on shagging Tina one last time before he died, but I insisted it went on the thermo coupling neutron rollover spools and the 'Relaxation' was saved.

The ship was still badly enough damaged that it needed to land as soon as possible, so Balt touched down at the bottom of the Canyon of Death. 'Hang on to your hats, if you're wearing one', he said again.

That was the end of the second session, but as luck would have it, little did the crew know but, by coincidence, the 'Relaxation' had put down right next to the Dungeon of Dol. The Dungeon of Dol is an underground labyrinth which was the ancient site of a struggle between two mysterious alien races, the Elvarians and the Duarths. The Elvarians are a bit like humans but have pointy ears and blond hair and the Duarths are a bit like humans but are short and have beards. I plan on the party exploring the Dungeon of Dol in the next session. Hopefully I'll find time to write the session up, here.