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.