How they roll – Mikey Wesson

While I prep for the next episode to release in the March hiatus, each day this week I’m going to release the RPG stats on the crew and ship.  I’m going to be using the Cortex classic (or the “Cortex 1.5” as I like to call it) system described in the Supernatural and Serenity RPG book (especially the Big Damn Heroes book).  Once the new Firefly RPG corebook releases this year, I’ll see how much can be adapted into Cortex 2 (or “cortex plus” if you want to use the proper naming).

Ministry of Intelligence Communique

(for authorized eyes only)

Michael “Patch” Wesson

Rank: Doctor (2nd in command)
Ship: Echo Trail

Latest medical data [attributes]

  • Agility – d6
  • Strength – d8
  • Vitality – d10
  • Alertness – d6
  • Intelligence – d12
  • Willpower – d6

Observed proficiencies [skills]

  • Covert d4
  • Discipline d6 (Concentration d10)
  • Guns d2
  • Influence d4
  • Knowledge d6
  • Lore d6 (Mythology d8) (Symbols d8)
  • Medicine d6 (First Aid d8) (Surgery d10) (Pharmaceuticals d8)
  • Perception d6 (Empathy d8)
  • Science d6
  • Unarmed Combat d4

Distinguishing characteristics [assets]

  • Highly Educated/Higher Education d4
  • Devoted (Lori) d6
  • Sawbones d6
  • Sensitive d6
  • Steady Calm/Cool Under Fire d6

Possible vulnerabilities [complications]

  • Credo/Duty (Hippocratic Oath) d12
  • Dark Secret d8
  • Hooked (alcohol/self-harm) d4

More commonly referred to as ‘Patch’ by his crew-mates, observation has uncovered the doctor’s name to be “Michael Wesson”.  Although not a popular moniker, it is not uncommon either; the Ministry is still investigating all records of persons by that name.  Thus far, none fit this individual’s profile nor show any signs attending a medical school able to train a person of his proficiency.  It is highly likely that his name is a fake, and judging by his drinking habits and tendency to self-harm, his real name hides something unbearable to his conscience.

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By natewinchester Posted in RPG

How they roll – Lori Walker

While I prep for the next episode to release in the March hiatus, each day this week I’m going to release the RPG stats on the crew and ship.  I’m going to be using the Cortex classic (or the “Cortex 1.5” as I like to call it) system described in the Supernatural and Serenity RPG book (especially the Big Damn Heroes book).  Once the new Firefly RPG corebook releases this year, I’ll see how much can be adapted into Cortex 2.0 (or “cortex plus” if you want to use the proper naming).

Ministry of Intelligence Communique

(for authorized eyes only)

Lori Walker

Rank: Captain
Ship: Echo Trail

Latest medical data [attributes]

  • Agility – d8
  • Strength – d6
  • Vitality – d6
  • Alertness – d10
  • Intelligence – d8
  • Willpower – d10

Observed proficiencies [skills]

  • Covert d6 (Streetwise d8) (Stealth d8)
  • Discipline d6 (Leadership d10)
  • Guns d6 (Pistol d12) (Shotgun d8)
  • Influence d6
  • Knowledge d6
  • Lore d4
  • Perception d6  (Investigation d10)
  • Pilot d4
  • Survival d2
  • Unarmed Combat d2

Distinguishing characteristics [assets]

  • Good Name/Reputation d2
  • Leadership d6
  • Light Sleeper d4
  • Mighty Fine Hat/Signature Possession (revolver) d6

Possible vulnerabilities [complications]

  • Credo/Duty (to crew) d8
  • Nosy/Insatiable Curiosity d4
  • Superstitious d2

Records indicate that, as a young girl and before the Unification War, Lori spent a lot of time with her father who operated a small shipping company.  When he died at some point during the war, she took over the operation and continued running supplies for us and – according to reliable sources – the Independents.  Sometime at the close of the war or soon after it, an incident occurred that wrecked her father’s ship (and possibly some of the crew though numbers and identities are currently unavailable).  The Echo Trail resulted from her efforts to rebuild the wreckage.  We are still investigating how she recruited her current crew.

She is extremely loyal to her crew yet is known to seek out unexplained happenings heedless of the danger.  Exhibits signs of superstition and a belief in mythical beings.  Recently Captain Walker has been getting too close to classified secrets.  Recommend a trap be set using either “classified” information or “rumors” about a monster.  It is preferable that one of her crew be captured.

By natewinchester Posted in RPG

Serenity – Leaves on the Wind #1

Yes, the Firefly-‘Verse lives again in comic book form.  I’ll assume that if you’re reading this by now, you’ve probably already picked up a copy.  Or I doubt my review is going to influence anyone on their purchasing decision of this issue, so be warned: here be spoilers.

I will admit, though my efforts, that Whedon’s ‘Verse is very much a visual work (hence why I’m now trying to find an artist).  TV/Movie is the best form for it, but comics are a worthwhile third choice (an animated TV/Movie series – the mix of the two – would be the 2nd).  A quick refresher on all the comics:

  • Those Left Behind – The transition between the series & the movie.  Not bad but being only 3 issues hurt the narrative, especially with the revelation of the Hands of Blue.
  • Better Days – An “extra” story of season 1, again only 3 issues but with a lighter, self-contained story the pacing is much improved.  However some parts of the story might be offputting to some fans.
  • The Shepherd’s Tale – The backstory of Shepherd book which was released in graphic novel form first thing rather than individual issues.  This is… very debatable.  Like some, I’m content with leaving Shepherd’s story unknown.  However if it must be told… I must say I slightly favor the “what if” episode 217 origin over this one – but that’s a discussion for another post.
  • Miscellaneous issues – There have also been 4 single issues released in either digital or print format.  The one that was an extended funeral for Wash (Float Out) is by far the must read.

Leaves on the Wind is the first real story post-movie (even Float Out was more flashback) so of course we’re all dying to know what happens in the ‘Verse after the signal got out (*cough*).  So far the first issue is just set up.  We see where the crew, other characters, and our crew are at this moment.  Inara and Mal are together… Zoe is having her baby… all groundwork this issue.

If I had any complaint, it’s sort of about the artwork.  As I said, this property is one heavily relying on visuals and while the artist is quite good most of the time, periodically one is baffled by what one is supposed to be picking up from a panel.  It’s ironic because Dark Horse’s free comic last year had a Serenity story in it with a very stylized art, meaning that I could often tell characters and action easily at a glance.  This issue, with a more realistic art style, can baffle at times.  The first time we see River, I wasn’t sure if it was her or Kaylee, not even from the dialogue until a page later.  Some characters I’m not sure if I’m supposed to recognize them or if they are new to this “season” of the show.  The art isn’t so baffling as to make the issue unreadable, just enough to shake you a hair out of the story a time or two.

Still, I eagerly await the next issue.  (and will give the entire saga a grade once it’s finished)  Here’s hoping nothing I’m writing has to be junked. 😉

By natewinchester Posted in Reviews

Firefly card game review – Out to the Black

Firefly has been enjoying a bit of renaissance lately.  Last year we got a board game based on the show with its first expansion out earlier this year.  Last week, we finally had the release of the Firefly Out to the Black Card Game.  So how is it?

Overview

While the board game did a bang up job of exploring the verse – the “outside” of the ship – some have remarked that there is little action going on “inside” the ship, and what happened within the ship & between the characters was as much of a part of the show as the wider adventures on the frontier.  So how do you fill this gap?  Well you could play the Firefly RPG – but since that’s still a month away, this card game gives you a quick filler.

The game engine is largely simple: 3-5 players assume the role of the one show’s characters (main crew only right now).  Each character has 3 stats and several abilities.  Each turn one of you gets to be the “leader”.  After prepping, you see which job you’re going to get and who – if any – are coming along to help you.  Ya’ll aim to complete the job, only for things to go sideways, then you see how much of the job you completed.  This is a co-op game meaning that you only win or lose as a team.  Like most quality co-op games, you have 3 possible ways of losing, and only 1 way to win.

Pros

The cards do have a look and feel to them evocative of the ‘Verse.  The cards themselves are generally easy to read with few confusions ever arising from the first time any of us played the game.

There is a lot of flexibility in the game set up, you can play on almost any surface and on the whole it doesn’t take up much space (though the board game is a space hog – exceeding a basic card table).

There’s more balance to the game then first appears.  For example, Kaylee, Wash, Simon, Jayne, and Mal all have their stats total up to 4.  River & Book are the only two with stat totals of 5 while Zoe & Inara have totals of 3.  However, they also all have a variable starting hand size: 3 cards, 5 and 7.  As you’ve probably guessed, the higher/lower their stat total, the fewer/more cards they get to play with.

The jobs you go on have a neat “completion” chart on them.  Depending on how well (or poorly) you do on a job determines how rewarded (or screwed) you are from it.  Pass none of the 3 requirements, you’re in for a world of hurt.  Pass one of them… slightly less hurt.  This led to a few interesting moments in our game where we couldn’t go for a “pass all” (best outcome) and had to aim at deliberately failing a requirement while trying to pass another.

Finally there’s lots of untapped design space in the game, meaning that the makers could release expansions for the game for awhile (heck, the crew of my story could fit in pretty well).  Oh wait…

Cons

The last pro mentioned above is also a con as the game in general feels very “bare bones” with lots of potential left unused.  For instance, one game that I quite enjoy playing with both of my friends is Shadows Over Camelot (in fact, this game feels very much like a stripped down & streamlined version of that game with a FF skin on it).  One of the things in the game you can do is look at and rearrange the top few cards on the decks.  In this game?  No such ability exists on any card or crew.

But when it comes to games, I always have 2 big criteria which makes an analog game worth playing or not to me: Does it take very long to set up? (and does the game play take less time than the set up?)  How easy is it for players to violate the rules of the game unintentionally?  What I mean by the latter is how easy is it to make innocent mistakes in the game?  Yahtzee is a popular positive example as the rules are incredibly simple (roll dice 3 times) and the scoring is all right there on a piece of paper in front of you.  Chess would be the popular negative example as it can be easy to forget which piece can move where, how much and the dozen of odd case rules (like castling).

Now this card game takes almost NO time to set up, so it gets a big thumbs up in that regard.  However some of the rules and gameplay are unintuitive enough that new players will make lots of mistakes (as I just know we did).  Notice earlier that I said the CARDS themselves were easy to read, it’s the game rules THEMSELVES that cause the most confusion.  There’s entire rules on when you can and can’t show cards and how much you can tell the other players, but when you’re in a group going up against the game itself, it gets easy to start blabbing.  The exact rules on when you get to draw cards or not are also a bit confusing

Other

What hits middle of the road between Pro & Con is the player interaction.  Usually if I’m playing a game I want to actually be interacting with other people, not playing a fancy version of solitaire. (otherwise… why wouldn’t I play solitaire?  Or on my computer?)  See the deal with the jobs is that each one has a listing as a “# man” job.  Anywhere from “single person” to “5-man” (obviously you are to take out the number exceeding your number of players beforehand).  If you hit a 1 or 2 person job in a game with 5 players, that means 3-4 people can all go take a coffee break while you go through your turn.  Yes there’s some cards that allow you to aid your crewmates while you’re not technically helping but there aren’t many & the positive cards in this game (36 total) are as a precious resource as the money and honor.  Keep in mind that the job cards break down as 6 1-man, 4 of every other meaning that in a 5 player game, you can have players getting stuck “off on the side”. (in our first game, one player got a 1-man job BOTH times he was leader)  Of course if we were supposed to take out 1-man jobs before playing… well that’s just an example of what I said earlier with innocent rule breaking.  One can only hope that maybe in future we can get an expansion encouraging more player interaction.  Perhaps one where other players could split up to form a competing crew (perhaps an alliance crew hunting them down?) and let two teams get in games screwing each other over?

All in all your enjoyment of this game is going to be very subjective.  If you REALLY love Firefly and/or co-op games and you have a few friends who do too, this is a nice, “RPG-lite” filler to fill your FF need.  Moderate fans and players not big on math calculations will probably want to avoid or at least wait until a few expansions have fleshed out the game and then you can pick it up in a package deal.

You can purchase the games below:

Now if ToyVault could only hold a contest for fan-creation crews to be added…

By natewinchester Posted in Reviews

Episode 3 – Meaner than a Junkyard Dog

They have a plan, now it’s just a matter of pulling it off.

The question is, can they make it to the heart of Reaver territory?  If they survive, would they like what they find?

Episode 3 is now here.

And that’s my “mid season” hiatus until the summer comes around.  Unless enough people express a desire to get episode 4 before then.  Just leave a comment here or tweet @spnserenity for begging or threatening.

Stay shiny and keep flying!

Lost episodes found!

While episode 3 is being edited (I’m posting previews of it on the twitter account @SPNSerenity), I thought I’d do my part to restore and keep up a bit of internet history.

The firefly Lost episodes.

In general really good, although a lot of it has to be thrown out of canon after some of the comic issues.  And obviously since some episodes touch on the Serenity movie they also have to be discarded where they conflict, which is a shame because some of the extended action sequences and drama are really good.  Although at times you do appreciate the tighter pacing of the movie.

So while I can’t acknowledge all of these scripts as canon, I will try and work tributes to them in where I can.

I especially recommend episode 217 as it’s a better and more appropriate backstory for Shepherd Book than the one the comics gave us in my opinion.

Keep an eye out for later this week for the next episode before we go on hiatus during the show run.

Make that Tune

Take my Love, take my land…

Carry on my Wayward Son…

Great shows have great songs associated with them.  Well, I’d like a theme for this show.  So write something original, mix up a medley or even just scribble down some lyrics, and send them to spnverse at gmail (dotcom) by the end of January.

Winner(s) will get mp3’s of Mal’s Song (by Vixy & Tony) or any other Supernatural & Firefly related tracks of their choosing.

Save people.  Keep flying.

Episode 2 – Ten Little Passengers

Episode 2 is now live, guest starring Mark Sheppard!

I’ve also been adjusting the document names to more closely match tv episode numbers (so no, there’s not a hundred episodes you’re missing, but rather, season 1, episode #).  Episode 1 is down at the moment as I correct it to standardize the format with it.

Also, now that I’ve got more than one to this site, time to announce… summer submissions!

Yep, when the long hiatus comes ’round in the summer, I’d like to do more of these episodes, but it takes a bit for me to get one of these done.  Besides, both Supernatural and Firefly are collaborative efforts so in that spirit, if you enjoy this and want to add to the ‘Verse as it is, by all means please do so.  Then send the story to “spnverse” at gmail (dotcom).  I may need you to correct a few things to bring it all in line with canon so you’ll probably want to make it a monster of the week episode.  And don’t forget that we want to keep this at the same level of network airing times SPN & FF had so don’t go all HBO with the sex & swearing.

Hope we get to put out some awesome stories this summer (and episodes 3 & 4 at least get released before January 14th).  Happy hunting everyone!  Keep flying.

Costume Contest!

Now that the mid season Hellatus is upon us, episodes for this will be releasing and we’ll be doing a few contests to promote it.  (not super fancy prizes, we are a budget here, but hopefully something for everyone)

First up since it’s winter in the northern half of the planet, SewGeekAustin has agreed to donate this lovely hat to keep somebody warm.

A warm and toasty hat.

However we here in the ‘verse feel like you need a little something more in the good fight, so we’ll be having a Devil’s Trap pinned to it to make sure those pesky demons stay out of your head.

So what’s the contest?  Design some costumes!  The captain and doctor already have distinctive looks (described in the upcoming episodes) but we still need some “regular” designs for the rest of the crew.  You can draw it up, sew it up, or assemble it from scraps in your closet and do a “cosplay” pose & picture.  Heck you can even do it for the captain’s & doctor’s costumes and add in some additional flavors.  We’ll take submissions until January 13th (which means you need to email it in before midnight Jan 12th) and either announce the winner on the 14th, or begin voting if we get just too many awesome entries to decide.

“Rules” (more like guidelines)

  • Send your entry to “spnverse” at gmail. (dotcom)  You can also email there or leave a comment on this post if you have some questions or want some clarifications.
  • Style should be evocative of both Firefly and Supernatural both.  This is a crew living on the edge, of the edge.  Sometimes they have to choose between buying clothes, or bullets.
  • If you want to add a story to something (like how Dean’s coat belonged to his father), go ahead, though the editorial staff may have to make adjustments to it to make it fit within past or upcoming canon.
  • If you’ve already got the hat, but still want to participate, feel free, just let us know in your submission and we’ll work something out.

More contests coming as the hiatus drags on, so if clothes aren’t your thing, don’t worry, you’ll get a chance for more. 😉

Firefly Board Game review

Hooray!  The Firefly board game has finally released!

So how is it?  Well I’ve played a 5 player game with someone who had picked it up at GenCon (as well as the 5th player expansion) and now that I have my own copy, I’ve played two solo games.

In general: My primary rule of game playing is that I don’t like anything which takes as long (or longer) to set up than it does to actually play (hence my general dislike of Fantasy Flight).  This game… closely skirts that line.  If you do a proper job putting everything back in the box neatly you can set up future matches in under a minute.  But that just pushes the equivalent time to the back end, meaning clean up can take up almost as much time as the game itself.  (Really, shouldn’t it be an international game law that whoever wins the game, is the one that has to put it up?)  For multiple players, it can take over two hours to play a full game, while solo can be done in an hour or less.

The gameplay is very well done and a delight overall.  Although the rulebook looks intimidating, it’s size is because it’s fairly thorough.  This is my favorite kind of game design where the rules are an intuitive, basic framework and everything else is spelled out on the game materials themselves.  The ONLY issue with such is that it makes the game more punishing for newbies and gives a pretty big advantage for veterans.  For instance, there’s “skills” on each crewmember you can recruit (guns, tech & diplomacy or something, just think of them as red, blue and green).  You NEED to get your blue skills as high as possible as quick as possible since when you’re flying through the Black, every “problem” card you could hit can be handled with sufficient blue.  Another newbie tip: if you’re out shopping for some gear, always pick up a Sniper Rifle over any other firearm if you have the money (it is slightly more expensive).  The gain you’d get from paying less is not enough to make up for not having that keyword down the road.  So yeah, while the rules will tell you everything you need to know about how to play, there are quite a few unlisted rules you’ll need experience to learn.

The flavor of this game is VERY good.  For example, Christiana Hendricks’ character actually shows up 3 times as a crew card, named Yolanda, Bridget or Saffron.  All have the exact same stats, but if you recruit one of them, the other players have to discard their copy.  Both Badger & Niska have jobs which require you screwing with the other one’s business.  I like that touch and it’s a nice shout out to things that might have been had the show run longer.  The Alliance monopoly money is GORGEOUS and almost worth the price of the entire game alone.  I’m also pleased that in cases like with the job cards, they put info on the front and common back so that there’s very little wasted space in this game.

Do I have any complaints?

  • The player interaction is still kind of thin so far.  Currently there’s only 3 major ways players will butt heads: 1) Indirectly screwing over others by getting the jobs/crew/gear/etc that those others wanted.  2) Moving the Alliance Cruiser/Reaver Cutter closer to opponents.  3) Players can also trade directly with each other if their ships are in the same sector.  Of course, given as I said – that resources are limited and that the other person may have to put their own trips and goals on hold to meet you, the chances of convincing someone to trade are challenging.  You can also swipe crew IF the crew is disgruntled AND your ships intersect, again a long shot on both accounts.  I’m hoping that future expansions (yes, there is already one planned) will introduce options to allow players to raid one another, or perhaps swoop in and steal a job from someone.
  • So the rule on death is that a character suffering from it gets removed from the game all together (the rules tell you to just toss them back into the box).  The only problem with this is that if you run with a large group (4-5 people) the crew can get thin, so if everyone has some bad luck, you can all find the game in an unwinnable situation where nobody can do anything.  The only exception to the crew issue is that each buy location has a generic “gun hand” which is only discarded, not killed, but it only has a single gun “skill” icon.  I’m hoping they put in generic tech and diplomacy eventually so the game doesn’t get dragged down by a series of bad luck.
  • Sometimes you get to feeling “confined”.  There are only 5 locations on the board where upgrades, crew and gear can be bought.  Two of those locations are also where you can deal with someone to get a job and two more “job spots” are next door a third purchase spot.  Meaning that you and your friends can practically wear a run in the board from all places you’ll be running back and forth to.  So sometimes I wish there were more things to do elsewhere around the board.  I mean, sure there are jobs involving those, but you’ll typically pass over them for jobs heading to the same old same old to keep your route efficient. (hmm… how like a firefly captain)  Maybe if they… had a generic crew/gear deck that you could purchase from if you ever stopped at another planet?
  • I know the legal reasons why they didn’t, but I’m kind of disappointed there’s no Miranda on the board and that you can’t play an end game of “get the message from Miranda and get it to Mr Universe”.

Although… you know what?  It is hard for me to be too angry at some frustrations as “frustration” could very well be called the main theme of the show.  So you do get the sense that the ‘Verse is against you, but it’s not to the point of “hopeless” as I’ve seen in some other challenging games.  I’d almost call this a “role playing-lite” game because you really do feel like you’re running a crew in this.  So if you love Firefly/Serenity and you DON’T have a general aversion to long, drawn out games, I definitely recommend picking this up. (by clicking on the below and through Amazon, please? I get just a few nickels if you do so)

(details on the games I’ve played after the ad)

Now if I can just get a SPN-Verse tie in expansion… XD

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So the first game I played, with 4 other people, I was having fun just participating (wasn’t even that worried about winning) right up until I hit a snag during a job.  The consequences were simple: I had to hit a skill value or else all my crew died.  With all the skill I had on hand, I only needed to roll a 2 or better on a 6-sided die.

I rolled a 1.

Thankfully I was close to a buy planet so I limped there, only to see that all the crew at that location had been picked clean.  I hired what I could, then tried to finish the job I was on earlier.  The 2nd crew died even faster.  I’m glad one of the other players ended the game shortly there after as there was nothing else for me to ever do.

Now speaking of long odds…

The solo game gives you 20 turns to try for 1 of 3 possible goals, and you get to start out with up to $1000 worth of crew.  I checked.  The ENTIRE Serenity crew would cost you $1600. (also, that would be 8 of them when the game only allows your ship to have 6)  So for the inagural game I choose Mal as the captain (note: captains are free in both $ and crew count), Kaylee (because I love her), Wash (because HE’S STILL ALIVE!), Two-Fry (he can help on later jobs) and Saffron (hey, I already separated one married couple, figured somebody on the ship should have their wife).  This time I went for the “1 of each possible job” route of victory.  My last job?  I picked Niska’s “screw with Badger” task.

Now I have a bit of a rep with my friends.  That is, if a game has a 1-in-a-million rules question or weirdness or whatever, I WILL end up triggering it; and not always deliberately.

See, there’s a rule that if you get a crew member on board the ship disgruntled twice, they abandon you immediately when over a planet.  If your captain gets disgruntled twice, EVERYONE leaves you.  So I was doing that last job, when I hit the last “misbehave” card.  The consequences of it got my captain (and several crew, actually) a 2nd disgruntled token.  So… did they all jump ship right then or is the job finished first?  Because the answer determines whether I actually won the first game or not.

Oh and the 2nd time I tried a solo game?  I tried for the “get $15k” goal and my last job on that one (on my last turn, and needed to hit the goal) was Badger’s task to screw with Niska.

Yeah, so far those two fighting have always led me to profiting in the ‘Verse.  I think Mal would be proud.

(btw: 2nd game I went with the Yellow-Eyed Demon Burgess as a captain)

By natewinchester Posted in Reviews