How would you run a not-Firefly campaign?


#1

Disclaimer #1: I am not asking this question because I want to run such a campaign. I am asking it because I have been thinking about it and am curious about how it might be done. Also in the hope of encouraging someone else to think the same thing, decide to do it, and fill Wellington’s campaign gap.

Disclaimer #2: I am also not asking how to write this as a theatre-style game or series thereof. I know how to write it as a theatre-style game, and its easy (for “I have done this n times before and can see what all the bits should be and how they should go together” values of “easy”; its not the difficulty, its the time).

Disclaimer #3: See disclaimer #1. No. I mean it.

That out of the way, what it says in the subject line. Not the setting; we know that: a dusty frontier (bing! There’s your name) with a distant and fairly disinterested central authority, economic needs that can’t always be met legally, and a mix of people who fill those needs in the gaps. Not the rules: we’ve got plenty, and TIMTOWTDI. Not the format: again, TIMTOADI, you can do evenings or full weekend games. Not even the first game: again, easy (everything is always easy if you steal from people who have done it before). But the campaign structure, the where and the what.

Its difficult to use a specific place, a space station or a mining town, because Firefly wasn’t about places. It was about a ship and the people who lived on it. That seems essential, but that means that you’re either committing to a very small number of PCs (~10) and a huge cast, and changing them every planet they go to, or you’re having multiple ships and contriving reasons for them to meet over and over again in different places. Or you can go with the place, but then you’re doing a different story, a Babylon-5 with cowboy hats, and contriving reasons for your PC-vessels to be in port at the same time (though you can play interesting games on that front with weekend-long events).

It seems very easy to get a one-off / first game out of this. It seems more difficult to get a series. Which is a pain, because the rest of it is such a doddle.


#2

It seems to me that what you’re asking isn’t just specific to Firefly. It strikes me that you’re essentially asking how to run a campaign based around one or more crews of spaceships. Generalising even further, you could essentially say that the question is how to structure a campaign based around one or more self-contained groups of PCs, with the intended focus being on the varying adventures of said group(s) of PCs. I haven’t seen Firefly, so it’s possible that I’m not aware of some aspect that makes it unique and unable to fit with the usual organisational styles, but so far as I can tell it is do-able.

I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with going with a small bunch of PCs and following them around, complemented by a large crew. Moonbright takes this approach right now, and it seems to be working pretty well. Even expanded out to full weekends, I don’t see that this is a bad approach, unless you’re specifically wanting to have a high number of players. Dreams in the Witch House did it successfully (albeit with slightly higher player numbers at first). The one major downside to this is that I can’t really see any particularly good way of determining who should get to be the players if there is over-subscription.

The second approach you suggest, contriving reasons for multiple crews to meet, doesn’t seem all that far-fetched to me. If the crews all have a mercantile focus, then it is highly plausible they will all head to the same locations where the chance for profiteering is good. Since those locations are also likely to be war/disaster zones, crews with a humanitarian focus would also fit. A mixture of the two would provide for some immediate conflict. It would still be entirely possible to have recurring NPCs, in the form of other crews, members of the distant authority who are resentful at having to be the token response to these incidents, antagonists who develop an enmity specifically towards the PCs (perhaps due to events at the first game) and so follow them around, etc. In every game most NPCs are shallow one-offs anyway, and in my experience some of the recurring NPCs come from someone’s backstory, which will usually give the GMs a ready made reason for them to show up in-game. Alternatively, some particularly influential NPC might send out some sort of missive to crews, directing them to meet at differing locations at appointed times. Perhaps the reasons behind this are a major element of an ongoing plot, with the motives and reasons of that NPC becoming clearer as the game goes on.

The last possibility you mention, described as Babylon-5-with-cowboy-hats, whereby you have various groups and they repeatedly come together at a specific location for whatever reason(s), is also a valid option. It is exactly what Crucible is doing at the moment, and to a certain degree (though it wasn’t quite the same) is what Teonn did. It perhaps doesn’t give the specific feel that you are seeking in a Firefly game, but there’s no reason it can’t be done for any given sci-fi game.

Well, this is what it all looks like to me, as someone who has never tried to GM a campaign (or indeed even written a one-off). There probably is a way to get what you want that I just can’t see, but the three options outlined above all can definitely work. If you’re wanting specifically the idea of the game being the adventures of a crew, then I think barring discovery of another superior method, you would need to use that first option of the few PCs with large crew.


#3

I like the idea of moving around and contriving a reason for them always to meet up at the same place and time. The trick is to make that reason a part of the game without removing the PCs agency around it.

So, how about there is actually a faction in the centralised government that are really keen to stamp out the black marketeers. And every now and then they get their resources and logistics to the point where they can mount effective and system-sychronised blockades/customs searches etc so the PCs have to lie low. But the PCs (or, more likely, their black marketeer’s association) have some influence in the centralised government and they are usually able to swing it that one of the systems or planets gets overlooked or paid off or de-scoped, so they all head to that system to lie low.

You could even have a mechanic in which the PCs can influence which system it is so there are IC reasons (typically trade) for some factions to prefer this system over that system, adding to the potential for conflict and roleplaying opportunities, making the whole “next location” contrivance actually a PC-generated aspect of the game.

Is that what you are after ?


#4

There was a firefly LARP. The dynamic of captain and crew seemed ok, though the campaign did not carry on so its hard to say whether it worked or not.

One thought is that space is big. Like, really big. As such, stopover destinations and optimal routes are likely to be relatively similar - you don’t want to spend any more time in space than absolutely necessary. A campaign following ships as they jump through the solar system could be quite cool, with each game representing the stop-off at an asteroid, moon, planet, or space station. Crew that reliably turn up each game are just on the same flight path, so naturally see each other at the other end.


#5

Funny you should ask (specifically re: wellington)

I have basic concepts around running a campaign where groups of PC’s are the Crews of various ships, who have reasons to be in certain places.

A weekend campaign where Friday night is all about RP, various missions are supplied via rumours, notices, hiring of crews etc. Each mission has certain level of difficulty and rewards based on a risk vs reward.

Saturday is designed to give each PC ship a scene where they complete “missions”, the groups of PC’s decide on which missions they want to under take. Depending on which crews picked which missions, it’s possible that multiple crews go after the same one.

This is where it gets interesting (hopefully) - those People not part of the ship crew that is going on a mission, can be Crew, or do some Light RP between themselves or other crews, local npcs, perhaps do some research about their missions to make it easier for them, or even just have OOC time, to socialize with others. Basically a bunch of Microscenes take place, putting emphasis on a certain ship & it’s crew, which rotates through the day.

Sunday will RP’ing consequences, outcomes, etc.

Still all basic concepts.


#6

[quote=“TazzyD”]Funny you should ask (specifically re: wellington)

I have basic concepts around running a campaign where groups of PC’s are the Crews of various ships, who have reasons to be in certain places.

A weekend campaign where Friday night is all about RP, various missions are supplied via rumours, notices, hiring of crews etc. Each mission has certain level of difficulty and rewards based on a risk vs reward.

Saturday is designed to give each PC ship a scene where they complete “missions”, the groups of PC’s decide on which missions they want to under take. Depending on which crews picked which missions, it’s possible that multiple crews go after the same one.

This is where it gets interesting (hopefully) - those People not part of the ship crew that is going on a mission, can be Crew, or do some Light RP between themselves or other crews, local npcs, perhaps do some research about their missions to make it easier for them, or even just have OOC time, to socialize with others. Basically a bunch of Microscenes take place, putting emphasis on a certain ship & it’s crew, which rotates through the day.

Sunday will RP’ing consequences, outcomes, etc.

Still all basic concepts.[/quote]

That sounds a great way of running a game.

I was thinking if there’s only one real style of ship in the game, for reasons you can come up with in back story to ease with set dressing. I’d love to see what could be done with a small budget for creation of a space ship, which could then be accessorised by each crew to make it their own.


#7

Awesome idea, Taz.

Just putting it out there… oculus rift. Particularly for ‘in-ship’ time. Set of six for a crew of six, vs set-dressing of a ship? On-world time then gets done in real space.


#8

[quote=“TazzyD”]Funny you should ask (specifically re: wellington)
This is where it gets interesting (hopefully) - those People not part of the ship crew that is going on a mission, can be Crew, or do some Light RP between themselves or other crews, local npcs, perhaps do some research about their missions to make it easier for them, or even just have OOC time, to socialize with others. Basically a bunch of Microscenes take place, putting emphasis on a certain ship & it’s crew, which rotates through the day.

Sunday will RP’ing consequences, outcomes, etc.

Still all basic concepts.[/quote]

Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. You’d probably need some other term for “crewing” though, otherwise there could be confusion about whether you were referring to the PC ships crew or the NPC “monster” crew


#9

[quote=“Catnip”]
Sounds like it could be a lot of fun. You’d probably need some other term for “crewing” though, otherwise there could be confusion about whether you were referring to the PC ships crew or the NPC “monster” crew[/quote]

Yes, that was my thought when I wrote the post.


#10

So, Dunedin is doing a biweekly Firefly game, Honour Among Thieves. For those considering similar games, their rulesset is here:

drive.google.com/file/d/0Byqi70 … NpZkE/view


#11

I’m (NPC) crewing in that game, and really looking forward to it. It’s got a number of firsts for an ongoing Dunedin larp and I’m very keen to see how they pan out. Will keep folks informed, if there’s interest.