Some Final Tales From The Serenity RPG

So, after an absence from campaigning of a few years, due in no small part to a certain new cynicism in me towards Firefly, last year I cam back to the RPG for a new adventure, using the crew that I described in the last post. Here, in what I think will be my last post on Firefly and RPG’s, I’d like to talk about that game and how it’s been going.

I have previously discussed the opening session and how that went, and from there the crew has managed to mostly stay out ahead of the numerous catastrophes and conflicts they have gotten involved in.

Straight out of their slight success in the official opening adventures, we went into “Tuyo”, a story largely inspired by Netflix’s Narcos, where the crew travelled to a planet with a vaguely South American feel to take on a notorious drug dealer on behalf of the local government. The general feel I wanted to go for in this adventure was being caught up in something the crew didn’t comprehend fully, to be out of their depth in a time and place where they were only very late arrivals, and I think that I pulled it off, to a certain extent. There was something kind of neat about a setting where the influences was a mix of English and Spanish as opposed to English and Chinese. In plot terms, the thing pivoted upon the crew’s active participation in what amounted to a mutiny within the planet’s police force, initially led by an ineffective, corrupt guy, who is overthrown by what appears at the time to be a more virtuous good cop and his compatriots. But it all goes horrible wrong as said good cop suddenly militarises the police, all but neuters the local government and starts shooting people willy nilly: a lesson to all of us about the grass always being greener, etc. All that was left was for a final assault on the drug Kingpin’s HQ and then a somewhat more subdued confrontation with the Kingpin himself, on a dingy slum street, not unlike the final end of one Pablo Escobar.

From there we decided to try out an adventure I found on the internet dubbed “Copperline”, essentially a take on the well-worn but always worth a go “derelict ship” plot. The crew took on a not-quite-legal salvage job from a naer do well called Badger, to investigate the remnants of a ship called the Copperline, that’s been lost for decades and carries a Mary Celeste-esque vibe of bad luck and death to whoever sees her. When the crew find the ship, they discover a lot more than they bargained for: another salvager ship where the entire crew, bar one woman, are dead of some disease, a second salvager group intent on killing anyone else, another ship from nearby Tong organisations that had a bone to settle with one of the crew and the cheery fellows of United Reclamation, the official Alliance salvager that I envisioned as a sort of armed union that didn’t like others taking their stuff. Discovering a cure to the infection they’ve all been exposed to and stopping that infection from reaching nearby planets was the aim of the game, and it was a fun two session experience with investigation in the first half and a succession of entertaining shoot-outs in the second. The crew didn’t come out on top this time, losing out on both the salvage and earning the enmity of Badger.

Next up was “Gung Fu”, that took it’s influence from a few different things, among them Netflix’s Marco Polo, Avatar: The Last Airbender and classic D&D style dungeon crawls. The crew decide to go after Chiek Sentai, fingered for numerous murders, who turns out to be a martial arts expert of near supernatural ability, and a former high up in an ancient order of warrior monks. The truth, according to him, is that he’s been turfed out of the order by the new guy, and wants to reverse that situation, and the crew were happy to help, after a beat down and the promise of cash. Before the big attack on the Order’s Japanese style castle – yup, that’s what I was doing – the crew had a session long diversion where they were sent to retireve some katana’s from a mountain stronghold, and ended up having to face numerous deathtraps and puzzles, The Last Crusade-style that culminated in a battle with a ferocious mountain bear. Unfortunately for one of the crew, my engineer, that battle wasn’t without loss. Despite this, the crew returned the swords and went ahead with the operation, only to be betrayed by Sentai, who uses them more as a distraction for his real plan, leaving the crew in a position likely to be killed. They made it though, and were able to beat up the bad guy surprisingly well despite his own immense martial arts abilities. Job done, and money got, despite grievances against Sentai and his order.

Next up was a change of pace, in “Big Bad”. Some bad terraforming and perhaps divine rage leads to the small planet of Rivane to undergo some serious tectonic convulsions, a sort of 2012-esque upheaval of earthquakes, volcanoes and megatsunamis, that the crew are essentially conscripted into helping. This resulted in three rather fun sessions: helping to haul the contents of a bank out from a crumbling skyscraper-filled city, shooting up the robotic guards of a senile old VIP as part of an evacuation from an imminent volcanic eruption, and then a race against time to fix the grounded ship, sabotaged by an opportunistic bounty hunter, before “Big Bad”, the tidal wave to end all tidal waves, comes crashing in on top of it. Environmentally based challenges are always something I’ve struggled to get right as a GM, but this was probably my best attempt at doing so, and the crew were able to come out of it all smiling.

A somewhat more light-hearted offering, my attempt at comedy gaming, followed after with “The Play’s The Thing” , where the crew, in the process of giving transport to a troop of Shakespearian actors, are asked to get involved in a “play within a play” plot to determine the possibility of murder in the death of the troop’s former leader. This took the form of putting on a short-form play for a theatre contest that had to replicate the murder, include a bawdy joke and end in a song and dance. The hook was that the crew had to make the play themselves, entirely, from scratch, eventually coming up with “The Serpent Eats The Sun”, a five minute tale of love, betrayal and murder in ancient Egypt, with several references to penis length included. The play was a disaster, naturally, and the murder angle didn’t have a super happy ending, but the crew had fun, so who cares?

It was back to more serious business next with “Dust In The Wind” where the crew travelled to a frontier planet to help take on a “Dust Devil” guerilla fighter group, led by a particularly effective Unification War veteran. Throw in some Tong’s after the same crewmember as before and an angry biker gang, and you got yourself some drama and action. “Dust In The Wind” tripped along for a few sessions until I got to the main point: the crew having to engage in a cross country road battle with all of the above named factions, after their ship got robbed by said Dust Devil. This was basically Fury Road in RPG form, and it went an incredible three sessions of combat -easily the longest I have ever done – before the crew finally came out on top, as the last hovermule, and ship, standing.

All that was left up the present day was the big game-changing session that came as close to a mid-season finale that a game like this could realistically have: a trial! Or, an inquiry, of sorts. While trying to renew the ships bounty hunting license, the crew suddenly had to account for all of the above discussed adventures, and the barrell-load of potential crimes that came with them, in the closest you could get to an RPG session clip show. One crew betrayal later, and the crew were found guilty of “All of the above” and looked like they might be facing some serious jail time, not to mention the loss of their ship. But then along came an Alliance Intelligence agent, with an offer to go to pass up…

And here we are. It’s been a fun run, and I don’t envision it coming to an end anytime soon.

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