Firefly Role-Playing Game Core Book Review - Into the Black

Marshall Lemon | 4 May 2015 16:00
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Find a Crew. Find a Job. Get Paid.

Firefly has three different ways to find your player character. The first is simply using the Serenity crew's character sheets and playing new adventures it the Black. There's certainly an appeal to that - after all, it lets you create a personal Season 2 while pretending this never happened. The second option is to choose a character archetype that interests you and spend points to upgrade their abilities. Since Firefly's core book alone has 24 to choose from, it's a great way to build crew members without doing the heavy lifting. Finally, players can roll up their sleeves and design a character from scratch, assigning all the attributes, skills, distinctions, and more to a blank character sheet.

Each approach will give you a balanced starting character mechanically, but what sets them apart from each other are distinctions - the personality traits, ship roles, or historical backgrounds that define your character as a person. They generally help track how a crew member should behave in-game, but also have mechanical rewards. For example, one of my players had a "Cocky" distinction that drove her to overcompensate, and anytime that attitude put her crew in danger? She'd be rewarded with plot points. Needless to say, this crew often found itself getting into trouble, but it wouldn't be a Firefly game if things went smooth.


The actual dice-rolling mechanic is straightforward but takes some getting used to if you're only familiar with d20 systems. Every statistic on your character sheet, be it an attribute, skill, distinction, or equipment asset, is represented by individual dice - ranging from four-sided to twelve-sided. Anytime a character attempts an action, they take all the relevant dice and roll them at once, putting the highest two results as the total. But in Firefly, you aren't rolling against a difficulty number - you're rolling against defending dice that determine the difficulty on the fly.

Let's say you're an engineer trying to repair a damaged ship while it's flying. The GM could decide the ship's damage is represented by a d10, and add another d8 to represent fixing the engine while it's running. The engineer would roll their Mental attribute, Fix skill, Ship's Engineer distinction, and maybe a Repair Kit asset. But if the engineer has any complications on their sheet - like say, a d12 shaky hands - the dice could be added to the defender's dice pool. This process adds mechanical weight to every task, but means the GM doesn't need to worry about fixed difficulties while giving characters a chance to succeed on the first try.

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