Saying Yes: Firefly RPG

Firefly RPG coverIn recent weeks I wrote a series of posts on game-masters who say “No” to player ideas, and how GMs can dramatically increase everyone’s fun at the table by learning to listen and say “Yes.”

Then came Big Bad Con 2014, where I was scheduled to run events using three different games: Atomic Robo RPG, Tianxia: Blood, Silk & Jade, and Firefly RPG. Let me be honest: after all these years, I’m always jittery about my convention games right before I run; but this time, I had just increased the pressure by kvetching about bad habits of GMs, and how it should be done instead… Thankfully, Big Bad Con is particularly notable for the incredible calibre of players it attracts. Three tables full of superb players was just what I needed to restore my nerve, and we had great adventures. I can proudly say that I successfully stuck to the advice I’d been giving, and things worked out magnificently.

So I thought I would turn the experience into posts where I would share mini-reviews of the three game systems, step-by-step examples of my game preparation and GMing, and my original game notes for anyone who might want to use them.

Firefly: The Baboon, the Browncoat, and the Chrysanthemum

1 – Prepping

A few weeks before the convention, organizer Sean Nittner was looking for someone to run the Firefly RPG, so I volunteered. Sean puts a lot of effort into lining up a good variety of games and recruiting GMs so that there will be plenty of choice for attendees. He even lent me his beautiful autographed book, then contacted Margaret Weis Productions to ask if I could get a PDF convention kit. Thanks to David Robins and Monica Valentinelli at MWP, I got everything I needed to run a game.

So I had to add my game to the schedule ASAP but I did not have a plot in mind yet, so as for my Atomic Robo game, I went for a title that would sound intriguing, and a generic game pitch:

The Baboon, the Browncoat, and the Chrysanthemum
They can’t take the sky from you, but the Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng sure can make it ruttin’ uncomfortable. How were you to know this little job would blow up like that?

(If anyone noticed that I had sneaked the Big Bad Con initials in the title, no one mentioned it.)

My first decision to make: use the characters from the television show, or some of the many customizable templates provided in the book? I asked around in my online circles and received much useful advice. In the end, I agreed with the majority who recommended using the Serenity crew in order to build on  players’ shared understanding, but set the adventure a little prior to the television pilot and limit the cast to Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Kaylee, and Inara. Continue reading “Saying Yes: Firefly RPG”

Ka-POW! Uh…

Marvel Heroic Roleplay coverWarning: Geek alert — this is not an intro post; I’m going to talk about role-playing game mechanics and superhero graphic novel story lines without providing context or explanation.  As a result, it may be even more incomprehensible than usual for those who aren’t into that sort of thing.

This afternoon Edmund and I tried a little combat example using Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, published from January 2012 through April 2013 by Margaret Weis Productions.

The game was immensely popular among my gamer friends when it was published last year, but I understand that the costs and restrictions of licensing Marvel’s property rights made it impractical to continue with a longer line of licensed supplements.  As a result, it’s currently very difficult to find online Game Master (or “Watcher”) resources such as blank character sheets (“hero datafiles”), rules summaries, GM advice for constructing events or balancing the opposition, and so forth.

Cover of Daredevil #255: Temptation!We pulled out our bags of dice and Edmund used Daredevil’s character sheet from the the sample adventure (or “event”) in the basic rules; for the opposition, I started with the standard 2d6 Doom Pool and I used a mob of 3d8 mooks in Hell’s Kitchen, followed by Typhoid Mary (who else?) as statted in the book.  (We were both big fans of the DD era written by Ann Nocenti and illustrated by John Romita Jr.)

I opened with with the mooks and discovered that I had a tendency to roll lots of 1s for Edmund to exploit, which means I used up my little 2d6 pretty early on before he’d even rolled a single Opportunity for me to exploit in return.  After them came Typhoid Mary, but her stats are that of a minor villain in the MHRP book, nevermind the multi-episode story arcs to the contrary we’d read.  The best I could do was pretty much to spend the encounter rebuilding my 2d6 starting pool — and handing out Plot Points.

After the playtest, I took a closer look at the opposition in the “Breakout” event in the basic rules; it seems to me they all open with pretty stiff opposition, villains whose stats are the equivalent of the typical hero’s.  I wanted to ease my way into encounters by building up the Doom pool with low-level encounters first, but it seems to be completely backwards; the GM needs to tenderize the PCs with a big attack before easing up on them for plot development, or even to consistently use opponents that, either singly, as a team, or as a mob, have about the same stopping power at the heroes.

On the positive side, the dice-pool building approach did allow simulation of typical comic book action.  Then again, as this was a first try, there was a lot of flipping back and forth through the book to figure out the variants possible for Plot Points, Doom dice, Opportunities, stress, complications, events, and trauma.

I expect that MWP will probably release a generic version of the system and, hopefully, a GM guide or some supplements that can be used with MHRP or with the metahuman setting of your choice.  But until then, does anyone have some advice or resources to suggest?