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Running a Firefly campaign

TroyTroy Registered User
edited March 2007 in Critical Failures
First off I am a long time PA forum reader, but this is my first post (first post on any forum actually).

I first got into pen and paper games before I actually knew they existed. I found a ten sided die laying on the floor at my middle school and found it to be an incredibly efficient way of creating percentages. I proceeded to make games revolving around fantasy worlds and played them by myself to much satisfaction. I soon discovered however the whole wonderful wide world of D&D but for the life of me could find no one to participate. I would read the books and design whole worlds and characters to be used in them, but those senarios would lay unused. And so it has been for quite some time, trying computer games such as Neverwinter Nights but finding it lacked the inherit imagination of what is possible with pen and paper.

So I found a group of friends who are very enthusiastic about the television show Firefly. I discovered that though they would all find D&D a far to "nerdy" endeavour, they all showed intrest in participating in the Firefly RPG. My wife purchased the core rulebook for me as a gift and I have been creating a scenario for them all to play in, and so far I think it will work out.

I however have numerous questions in regards to running a campaign. First, how far out should one prepare for the PC's to go beyond the setting I have created. For example if I say "the mission goes to this moon" and they say "no, we are going to this moon" what am I as a GM to do? Tell them no? or just wing it. I can't easily come up with the material for a whole new setting, but I am not keen to having such a linear storyline.

Second, how important is it to follow the rules? If in a fire fight one of the PC's is about to get shot in the head and be dead dead dead can I just fudge it and say that the bullet grazed their cheek? After all the Television characters often break the rules ie getting stabbed through the abdomen and continuing to fight.

Third, it looks like it will only be three PC's to start with the fourth on a trip to Boston, leaving the ship in a bit of a predicament. The ship "Bosephus" is in dire need of a medic and a mechanic, roles none of the crew is currently filling. Is it okay for me to have a character? For this campaign I created a boy genius who is a mechanical empath and has pretty decent medic abilities. I designed him so that he can logically stay on the ship during any missions but I have instances were he will be present for action. From your experience is it better to have a GM who is completly seperated from the party or would it be an effective way solving the ships lack of neccisary crew? Also if I do use the character would you suggest I play him like a PC or like an NPC?

Fourth, do you have any suggestions on how to use miniatures to represent peoples locations. I am currently using predrawn maps using a sharpie and graph paper and small micro machine Star Wars figures.

Lastly if you have any experience with the Firefly game ruleset do you have any suggestions to moddifing it (especially the overly complicated, and yet strangly undercomplicated spaceship rules)?

Thank you very much for your time.
Also I apoligize now for my grammer and spelling they are not something I excel at.

Troy on
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Posts

  • INeedNoSaltINeedNoSalt Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Troy wrote: »
    I however have numerous questions in regards to running a campaign. First, how far out should one prepare for the PC's to go beyond the setting I have created. For example if I say "the mission goes to this moon" and they say "no, we are going to this moon" what am I as a GM to do? Tell them no? or just wing it. I can't easily come up with the material for a whole new setting, but I am not keen to having such a linear storyline.

    It works to make your scenario a bit, mm, modular? You have to guide the PCs, and you also have to expect them to do things that you weren't prepared for. If your mission starts at place X and leads to place Y, but your PCs never visit place X and instead go to place A, you can just modify your scenario a bit to fit into place A and have their destination change to place B. Usually, you can make the same overall scenario work even with differing specifics.

    Second, how important is it to follow the rules? If in a fire fight one of the PC's is about to get shot in the head and be dead dead dead can I just fudge it and say that the bullet grazed their cheek? After all the Television characters often break the rules ie getting stabbed through the abdomen and continuing to fight.
    Third, it looks like it will only be three PC's to start with the fourth on a trip to Boston, leaving the ship in a bit of a predicament. The ship "Bosephus" is in dire need of a medic and a mechanic, roles none of the crew is currently filling. Is it okay for me to have a character? For this campaign I created a boy genius who is a mechanical empath and has pretty decent medic abilities. I designed him so that he can logically stay on the ship during any missions but I have instances were he will be present for action. From your experience is it better to have a GM who is completly seperated from the party or would it be an effective way solving the ships lack of neccisary crew? Also if I do use the character would you suggest I play him like a PC or like an NPC?

    Play him like an NPC - if he's played like a PC, then things get iffy. So, treat him like any other character you control. He's a member of the crew, but not a member of the party, as it were. The more behind-the-scenes he is, the better - nice to know there's a medic waiting at the ship for us, but he doesn't come on missions. Don't build major plot points around an NPC crewman if a PC crewman could fit the bill, y'no? Don't steal the PCs thunder. Use the NPCs like tools, and filling in the missing crew positions should work fine.
    Second, how important is it to follow the rules? If in a fire fight one of the PC's is about to get shot in the head and be dead dead dead can I just fudge it and say that the bullet grazed their cheek? After all the Television characters often break the rules ie getting stabbed through the abdomen and continuing to fight.

    Yep, I'm taking things out of order! Fudging the rules is pretty much fine, especially if you're playing to play a narrative kind of thing moreso than trying to make it into a tactical wargame. Deciding that a killing blow is actually only a glancing hit is usually comfortable, and honestly, lots of GMs roll their dice behind a screen so that the players never actually know what the results are beyond what the GM says.

    On the other hand, if the scene is supposed to be dramatic, or the character does something that really earns being blasted - like showing up on Alliance patrol ship and pulling out his revolver on the bridge - feel free to blast them to bits. :)

    sometimes you just gotta do a thing
  • TroyTroy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    In terms of modularity if say the crew wants to go to moon A instead of the planned X is it basically the easiest to just transfer the material from X to A. So Bugger the trade leader of Boros becomes Tugger the trade leader of Toros. Same stats, skills, dialouge, becuase they arent going to be going to X anyway.

    And I completely understand why I should play the character as an NPC. It will be very difficult for me to play him this way seeing as how I have been looking for a group to play with for about 10 years. Have you ever witnessed a GM playing a PC effectivly? Or is this something completely looked down upon?

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  • LabesLabes Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Personally, no. I've never seen a GM play a PC (in their own campaign) properly/fairly. It's almost impossible. Why? Because you control the whole other side of the game. Either your character is going to be completely pivotal in the plot you set forth. Or incredibly trivial.

    Also, GM's I know that have run their own campaign give the group items their character could use. And it's not intentional. Say in D&D (not the same as Firefly, but I don't know much about firefly outside the show/movie), you're reading through a book, and see a magic item that'd be useful to your character. "Oh, cool." You say. Next game session, you kill a dragon. Lo and behold, your item is there! Even if you don't do it on purpose, you're players will think you are. It just leads to tension. Not to mention the fact that you control EVERYONE except their characters, and you even wanna take a little bit of that away from them. Irks some people.

    What you said, regarding just transfer the stuff to the new place they decide to go to. Awesome idea. One of the main reasons I always have whatever info for where I want them to go as the 2nd/third page in my hand, instead of the top. Kinda a lie, I guess. Makes them feel like their choice makes a difference in the game, so they like the game more, and you look like the ever-ready GM, with something for them to do no matter where you go. Makes both you and the game look better, awesome :).

    Rules, schmules. "Rule 0: The rest of these rules are guidelines, feel free to do what you want." Is the first line in soooo many rulebooks. But if you don't want them to know that you're fudging a GM Screen works wonders. Just roll behind a screen/binder/book/something to block their view. As a matter of fact, keep everything behind the screen. Heck, now I can seemlessly say in my head "I want X to happen." <rolls dice, result = effect Y> And then just go with X. At first you might be like Roll... check to see what it is... "Uh... the... uh... bullet narrowly misses you." I did it when I started out. Makes it obvious that you're fudging when you delay anymore than you would if it were the result you wanted, ya know?

    Heh, sorry I can't help you with the space-combat. Just tell them to handle it how Firefly did. "Oh crap... run!"

  • TroyTroy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Okay so no go on me playing a character. I will simply control the mechanic/medic as if he were an NPC. I didn't see it from a point of view of people getting mad when good things happen to my guy since I would be controlling those good things...maybe if he was constantly loosing body parts. ;-)

    I had no idea it was so common for GM's to just roll the die and make whatever they really want to happen happen. I feel kind of like I was just told santa clause was really my gross fat uncle.

    Thanks for the advice on the Screen I will get going on making something.

    Another couple questions:
    In terms of maps how do people usually go about it. I am using graphing paper and a sharpie to draw out various maps. For example, I have the Players start the campaign all captives on a slaving ship which gets hit by an alliance patrol boat (sent by a PC's dad no less, which of course she doesn't know) and goes down on a back water planet, near a town. I have a map of the cell block. Then a map of the whole ship with some exterior, a large map to show the distance from the ship to the town, a map of the town, and a close up of the spaceport where the surviving slavers ran to immediatly after the crash.

    Is it best to only reveal sections of the map as you do perception checks or do you just outright provide a whole map as the players get to a section? I was thinking of covering parts that aren't in their line of sight but I can see that getting rather tedius. Is it commonplace to just use a big dry erase board and draw as you go? Becuase I think that is my best option.

    Oh and the space combat/travel I have decided to completely give up on. The ship will get where it needs to go. The damn book goes into incredible detail on so many ascpects of ships, but then just gives up and doesn't incorporate the rules fluidly. I'm thinking of just changing the piloting and what not to straight difficulty checks ie "This particular combat is hard(11) Roll em if you got em!"

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  • INeedNoSaltINeedNoSalt Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Troy wrote: »
    Is it commonplace to just use a big dry erase board and draw as you go? Becuase I think that is my best option.

    Yes. In fact, they make plastic dry-erase things (that can be rolled up all nice and neat) just for this purpose.

    sometimes you just gotta do a thing
  • ArdentArdent Pipe down Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    A bit of sheet plastic should work too, provided you use dry-erase markers.

    The easiest way to handle space combat? Don't put any space combat weapons on their transport and encourage them to run away.

    If you really want to try it, just about any system out there offers decent rules for space combat.

    Steam ID: only1ardent / Origin ID: ArdentX
  • ChorazinChorazin Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Ardent wrote: »
    A bit of sheet plastic should work too, provided you use dry-erase markers.

    The easiest way to handle space combat? Don't put any space combat weapons on their transport and encourage them to run away.

    If you really want to try it, just about any system out there offers decent rules for space combat.

    This actually fits very well into the Firefly universe.

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  • CogliostroCogliostro Marginal Opinions Spring, TXRegistered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Yeah, space combat is almost non-existant in Serenity. I'm in a campaign and have been for ages. We started Out in the Black a few weeks ago, so far so good. I didn't have time to read your entire post, but if you want to ask some questions you're more than welcome to PM me.

  • TroyTroy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Yeah I think that is what I am going to resort to just forcing the crew to run, maybe give them some crybabies to help said process of running.
    Thanks for all your advice everyone. I think I am finally ready to start the campaign.
    Would it be alright to post the general outline of my campaign so you guys can tear it apart and point out what works and what doesn't?

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  • Saint JusticeSaint Justice Mercenary Mah-vel Baybee!!!Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Go for it. That's what the forum's for, man.

    Some people play tennis, I erode the human soul. ~ Tycho
  • TroyTroy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Ok so here is what I have mapped out so far. I won't include all the possible players personel hooks seeing as how they are very numerous.

    The overall setting is about five months after the events in Serenity. The alliance is still in power however there is little trust for them, especially in the Rim. There is rumor of a second browncoat movement.

    The crew so far:
    All the players decided on their characters past, and I simply created their number scores to reflect who they wanted to be. My wife is playin Sha Li a pilot of asian descent who is from a family in the core. She is skilled at kung fu (she demanded she know kung fu) and was trained by the alliance military during the independence war as a mid bulk transport pilot. Her twin sister went to the planet Miranda as a settler after a falling out, she figured she wished not to communicate anymore and has not heard from her since. Since the 'verse wide video of the horrors of Miranda she has held a secret grudge against the Alliance and resigned her position in the military. Her father is also a high ranking Alliance Naval officer.

    The next player is a Half African, Half Asian who's 6' 3" tall and is the Brawn of the crew. An orphan he was raised in the streets and eventually became a gang member for a Ruso-Sino gang. He is illiterate and has very low intellegince but is skilled with a sword, with SMG's, has high levels of intimidation, funtions on intuition, and is rather streetwise. He is running from the very gang he was part of after being falsley accused of stealing a large sum of money from the boss.

    The next crew member is only partially mapped out (friend playing him is currently in boston) but he will most likely be the captain, and unfortuantly will most likely be Mal. Though a bit more eccentric, and have more of a history as a covert ops agent for the independence.

    There is another person interested in playing, but he hasn't said anything in terms of his character.

    The crew will also have a fill in NPC to cover the medic and mechanic roles. A 16 year old genius, and his dog, who they will encounter on there first session. He is also the current "owner" of Bosephus the ship they will most likely use.

    The scenario starts with all the characters being prisoners on the same slaver ship. The ship is attacked by an alliance patrol boat (sent by Sha Li's father, information she doesn't know) and is shot down, but not before taking out the patrol boat. It crashes on a small planet and lands near an abandoned mining town (where the genius boy has been peicing together Bosephus). The surviving slavers leave the players for dead and high tail it for the town. The players who were on one of the relativly undamaged sections of the ship run in to Phillip (the boy genius) after escaping the ship and they head into town.

    Their first potential combat encounter will be with the slavers as the slavers attempt to steal the bosephus (which is incapable of flight with out the pieces slavaged from the slaver ship). When the encounter is resolved the players are offered by Phillip to start a crew and start working out of the Bosephus. They then head to their first major contact who will hand out numerous missions.

    I have a lot of optional story arcs depending on what the players choose but this is the general path I would like them to follow. Numerous missions from the contact are laid out and involve lots of criminal acts, mostly against the alliance and slavers.

    I eventually want to present the players with the option of joining the Browncoat movement. I also have the intent of being very generous with Neotech equipment and advancement points seeing as this is the first RPG any of them will be playing. I want them hooked!

    So is this too Cheese? Too linear? Needs more depth, or more realistic events? A lot of me feels that there are too many coincidental encounters, but I also feel that the first few sessions should be rather structured to allow the players to get a feel for the basic rules of the game, but still have an epic feel. Tell me what you think, and please tear it apart!

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  • TweakkTweakk Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Sounds pretty neat. I am also playing the Serenity RPG, I am the captain of our ship. One thing our GM does that actually helps out a lot is two make a few adventures (or missions in this case) and give us the option to go to whichever one, if they are on different planets. Several main job givers for plot is key.

    Giving too many advancement points might make things too easy for them, in my opinion. Give them plenty of plot points but also make it challenging so they have to spend them too. In our game our crew just wiped and we woke up in some medical facility, our ship crashed after being gunned down by an alliance gun ship as well.

    For the first few sessions I would suggest getting players to try out the called-shot maneuvers, very useful in some cases(especially when you have a sword-wielding mechanic like we do). Also, many bar fights, that is always fun ^^.

  • HorseshoeHorseshoe Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Troy wrote: »
    Oh and the space combat/travel I have decided to completely give up on. The ship will get where it needs to go. The damn book goes into incredible detail on so many ascpects of ships, but then just gives up and doesn't incorporate the rules fluidly. I'm thinking of just changing the piloting and what not to straight difficulty checks ie "This particular combat is hard(11) Roll em if you got em!"

    For anything outside of any specific maneuvers and what not... ships tend to move at the speed of plot in a Sci-Fi move/series.

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  • 3mp3r0r3mp3r0r Registered User
    edited March 2007
    The one thing your going to have to look out for in your first game is that it's, with out a doubt, not going to go the way you planed. you just have to make shure that you have wiggle room in your plot to change what'll happen after the PCs do something stupid. you just gotta make sure that you can wing it if you have to.

  • DeVryGuyDeVryGuy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Troy wrote: »
    I had no idea it was so common for GM's to just roll the die and make whatever they really want to happen happen. I feel kind of like I was just told santa clause was really my gross fat uncle.

    Sometimes ya got to. I've pitted several really powerful characters against my D&D party (including a goddamn Angel) which were handily defeated/avoided through use of the Suggestion spell and crappy will saves.

    Which the first 5 times was alright, but the next one is going to make his friggin will save.

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  • KaioKaio Registered User
    edited March 2007
    I run Tweak's Serenity campaign, and boy, I'll tell you, Waves in the Black is a great community for the RPG and there you can inquire some pretty helpful GMs about just about anything, and you can get great material too.

    http://wavesintheblack.aimoo.com/

    Also, for some Chase Rules and other stuff, Scott Metz has good stuff:

    http://www.geocities.com/scott_metz/

    Josh Awtry also runs a clean looking site:

    http://www.awtry.com/rpg/Welcome.html

  • TroyTroy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Those are great links thanks.

    In terms of getting the players involved in a second independince movement would that be far to epic of a line to go down?

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  • TweakkTweakk Registered User
    edited March 2007
    I think that the adventure so far is a bit to young to do that sort of thing. Maybe later on down the road and near the end of the campaign it would be awesome, but get the players involved with smaller missions and work your way big.

  • INeedNoSaltINeedNoSalt Registered User regular
    edited March 2007
    Troy wrote: »
    Those are great links thanks.

    In terms of getting the players involved in a second independince movement would that be far to epic of a line to go down?

    Well, you'll notice that in Firefly, they didn't ever do anything terribly epic until the finale.

    On the other hand, something like a second independant movement would probably put the players in the role of just another ship, they probably wouldn't really be like leading the rebellion or anything, so it probably wouldn't be over-the-top, season-finale flavor epic.

    sometimes you just gotta do a thing
  • TroyTroy Registered User
    edited March 2007
    Thanks again for all the help it has been of enourmous help.

    So far I have most of the early scenario laid out, possible side plots they may venture too and a lot of work for the main plot of eventually helping the browncoat movement (not directly influencing but helping out as not to make it too epic to start).

    I have painted several miniatures to go with the various characters, I figure this would help them get more into the game overall.

    I downloaded GIMP and have created several maps for the various locations, the more minor ones I will just draw out on a peice of paper. I also have a galactic map with planet locations and distance just so they can reference (I won't make this too big of a game mechanic seeing as how that would be very complicated).

    So I have a mechanic for the campaign I would like some feedback on. I would like the players to have the option of "building" a town. My idea is this. The crew will have a mission that will lead them to being considered hero's of a very small frontier town. The first encounter will involve them delivering stolen medical supplies to the town.

    This town will in many respects be considered their "home town". They will have many chances to deliver various goods to said town. As they deliver goods the town will have grown the next time they come back. So after they deliver the medical supplies their will be a funtional clinic. If they deliver mechanic supplies their will be a functional ship repair yard and so on.

    They could even creativly deliver goods to "build" the town as they see fit. Perhaps gamling machines to build a casino. So not only will the town be a good place for them to lay low, but it will also have more resources for them to use (at reduced cost of course) the more they support the town.

    I feel this would be a great way of showing the players that their actions not only have an impact on how the crew does but also on the 'verse over all. The expansion of a small frontier town certainly isn't epic but it will give them a taste of how epic things may become.

    So what do ya'll think?

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