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Author Topic: Firefly in the Vineyard [Long]  (Read 5731 times)
Judaicdiablo
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Posts: 43


« on: August 18, 2005, 07:34:41 PM »

This is a new topic that is based off the one started here
*****
After I watched the Firefly boxed set, I began working on a Firefly RPG almost immediately.  It quickly fell to the wayside though because each of the systems I knew just wasn't right.  Generally speaking they were to rigid or too complicated (D20, Tri-Stat, Traveler.)  They were too rigid and did not get at the core of what the game was really about. 

There is one aspect of this conversation that I think has been overlooked and that is simply the mechanics of Dogs.  While the setting is important, it is really how the mechanics are setup that drive that setting.  I could do the same setting of dogs with Deadlands or D20 and all the real flavor of it would disappear in a puff illogic.  Much like poetry, the structure that you impose on yourself has a powerful impact on what is created.

So taking that into account here is my pitch for Firefly: Dogs in the Vineyard Style

You are a member of a tight knit crew struggling to live life your way on the fringes of space. Each day is a struggle to maintain your life, your ideals, and the lives of your friends.

One (or more) of the PCs owns a ship. He is the captain. How he captains is up to him, but ultimately it is *his* ship with all of the good and bad that comes with. All of the Players should agree as to who is the captain during character creation.

Character Creation is pretty standard for Dogs, but it is an important departure from your more typical RPG where stuff and skill specifics are very important.  These creation mechanics are very appropriate for Firefly and help establish the feeling you are trying to get at.  Here is my view of the breakdown:

      • Stats – Standard (no explanation)
      • Traits – Rather than having to specify exactly what you character can do (4 Ranks in Starship Engine Repair) you can describe what you are good at and then apply it as appropriate ("I am an amazing mechanic.  3d10.")
          o This is a subtle but important difference because D20 bogs you down in skill checks that are generally not important to the game, but this method allows you to get straight to "I repair the ship" which the GM can counter with "The ship is old and is a mishmash of patch jobs and used parts."
          o As with Dogs, you should have a trait, “I am a Member of the Serenity’s Crew” or have a relationship to someone who is.
      • Relationships – The first real departure from standard creation methodology and the one that sold me on Dogs for Firefly.  Watching the show, you get a real sense of how everyone interacts and what relationships they have with each (and with the places they go/have been.) 
          o This solidifies the stakes for the characters.  The mechanic takes what is usually an arbitrary decision by the GM and gives weight to the role-playing.  This allows a min/maxer or powergamer to see real value in playing his role properly.  Not that I would know anything about that.
      • Belongings – Stuff is generally not important in Firefly, except when it is really important.  Examples include Jayne’s Favorite Gun, the Doctor’s Medical Bag, and the Serenity itself.  This allows you to take what you need (and what is appropriate) and not get bogged down in the unimportant stuff (50’ rope, 10 lbs of feed, etc …)
      • Accomplishment – What a great way to do back story.  Heck, sprinkle extra Accomplishment scenes throughout regular play to simulate flashbacks.

(On a side note:  Try to make yourself into a D20 character and then try to make yourself into a Dogs character.  Which one sounds more like you and which character would you rather play?)

The GM creates Jobs instead of Towns. The Players arrive somewhere for a Job. Here are the details and some NPCs. What aren't they being told? What is really going on? What are the complications?  Use the Town creation section for guidelines.  Refine as necessary.

Adapting the Faith:  For the most, you can skip this entirely.  Although, there is no reason that there couldn’t be several sets of faith for different “factions.”  A Shepard’s Faith, The Law of the Alliance, or the Code of the Brownshirts.  Since Ceremony is meant to be used as a weapon against demons (since you can shoot blighted crops), it is not necessary per say, but a well thought set of Ceremony would definitely add flavor and could be used in appropriate circumstances.

End Notes: It looks like there is going to be a Serenity RPG coming out, which would be useful for Source Material (the system looks fine, but definitely more cinematic than gritty.)

Also, If people are interested, I will post some example Dogs Characters using some of the Characters from the Show.
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ScottM
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Fresno, California


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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2005, 07:22:30 AM »

Funny, the topic (Firefly via Dogs) is the subject of this thread from just a few days ago.

Hopefully the dialogue in that thread will help you figure it all out-- or the problems you identify will be helpful to the people in that thread too..
--Scott
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Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.
tonyd
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« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2005, 08:32:38 AM »

Judaic, I love this idea!

If I understand you correctly, you're aiming to use Dogs to make a Firefly game because Dogs is the most serviceable system for this you've found. That means you're going to be adapting Dogs rather than adapting Firefly. I think there are a few difficulties to get over.

The Faith is very important in Dogs, and has no real analog in Firefly. The faith kind of holds things together in Dogs and provides a common matrix within which to frame towns and conflicts.

What if each character in Firefly-Dogs had a "moral code" area, much as they have Relationships and Possessions? Not only could this capture the spirit of Firefly, but it can provide a great frame for conflicts. Say Mal has "I do my job, I get my pay 1d10" (as, I beleive, he says twice in the first episode). The GM puts him up against a person who beleives that "I never pay for something if I don't have to" (Prudence in Episode 1). You've got conflict.

Some other examples:

- If they try to fence me in, I just keep moving further out
- I beleive in profit
- I beleive in reputation. Now my reputation, it is not just rumor to you
- No matter where you go, I will hunt you down
- This medicine belongs to the people that need it
- We bring law and order to the frontier
- Those reavers ain't human
- The reavers are just men

Isn't it great the way that Joss Whedon's characters tend to put their moral codes right out there by speaking them aloud? Just like a Dogs character (or NPC).

What if when your moral code fails (i.e. you us it in a conflict and lose) you, there's a consequence. In episode 1, the Doc swears to protect the lawman, perhaps reflecting a moral code to defend the lives of others. When he fails in this task, he is definitely troubled as a result. Perhaps you could add a 1d4 to a code that's involved in a failed conflict. Does anyone with more Dogs experience want to comment on this idea?

If I can quote Lumpley from the "other" Firefly thread:
Quote
Dogs isn't about religious judgement, in other words. It's about the social and personal ramifications of violence; it's about its characters; it's about living up to your ideals - same as Firefly. Dogs uses religious judgement to get at those real questions, where Firefly uses its hardscrabble Robin Hood criminality - so swap them! No biggie.

Also, someone from the other thread suggested using the introductory conflict to show how the characters become part of the crew, which sounds like a great idea!
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"Come on you lollygaggers, let's go visit the Thought Lords!"
ADamnFox
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« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2005, 02:22:26 PM »

  Seems like rather than creating an entirely new section of traits chosen at character creation, you could simply adapt some of the supernatural rules that you'd otherwise not be using.  Brainstorm up some of the moral codes you see the Firefly crew as having (your list works fine) and assign them dice values.  Anyone in the group can call on these just as anyone in Dogs can call on ceremony, but not all the time.  Vincent commented (I think in the other thread) that Dogs can work with different trappings because possession and the like are just "jerks."  So you can only use your good morals against those who've invoked bad morals (represented with the possession and sorcery rules).  This way no one has to decide up front how moral their characters are (unless they want to with traits as normal) and always gives them the option to take the high road, if they want to take the risk.  Ceremony has it's own fallout, so I would suggest higher fallout on these since they might come up more often.  Likewise, possession and sorcery don't make your eyes glow red and your head spin around, so crew members would have the option of going the other way and being a "jerk" more often than Dogs would.  If a Dog starts calling upon demons in front of other Dogs, there's a good chance he need killing (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=14494.0).  If a crewmember is a jerk in front of others (albeit an extreme jerk, if he wants dice) than he might only warrant a stern talking to.  Possibly in an airlock.

  If you want to have morality in character creation, you could have the entire group work out the above list of morals their particular crew holds to most.  Individual trait choices could still distinguish individual's morality where it differs from the whole ("I provide a valuable service 1d6" "That's just whoring 1d8").

  Still, I don't think such morals would "replace" the faith as suggested above.  Part of the Faith is a standard moral code, but it seems that players always end up defining the specifics through play anyway, so it's moral side isn't the most important aspect.  Rather (again stealing from earlier Vincent lore) it's a reason they can't just say "F this noise" and walk away.  The best analog to this is running costs on the ship combined with a crew that might not want to stay together without being paid.  I think it would be good to come up with a mechanic to define how well the crew is doing.  Perhaps if the crew succeeds at it's job they get another pick off the xp list to reflect their getting along better, being in a better mood, and/or their equipment being better maintained.  Failure to complete the job would increase the "demonic" influence at the next job, reflecting bad moods, flaired tempers, and equipment failure.  That's the closest I can get it to the existing system.  This is probably the best place for new rules, as I'd rather have something where the crew needs jobs badly at first, but, if moderately successful, they can still choose not to take the money or not to finish the job occasionally without being grounded.  All this could probably just be narrated during the reflection part of the game, but I've always liked how Dogs' mechanics backed up the themes of the game.


Anywho, I'll just stop pretending I know what I'm talking about now...
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-Adam Fox
"I've never been good with words, which is why I'm in such a delicate conundrum."
Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2005, 08:33:03 AM »

A thought:

The Faith, and being a Dog, serves (as Vincent has said) to push the characters into the thick of the community's problems and force them to engage instead of walking away. So what's your "can't walk away" with Firefly? Well, if you look at the episodes, sometimes it's simply that one of their own is in jeopardy and needs rescuin', but very, often, the reason they have to get involved is the money.

"Sure, we can walk away from this whole horrible mess, but darn it, we need the money" is structurally similar (though morally, uh, a bit different) to "Sure, we can walk away, but God doesn't want us to." In either case, the option of walking away is still there, but, crucially, there's a high price attached.

I think the main thing you'd need to rewrite are the rules for town creation, or rather planet creation. You have a way to get players into the mess (money), what you need is a nice tangling mess to get them into. In Dogs, all a community's problems start with a small seed of pride; in Firefly, I suspect the corresponding moral rule is that all problems start with greed and power, but that's just an initial thought.
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Judaicdiablo
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Posts: 43


« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2005, 11:30:04 AM »

I love the suggestions so far.  Here is the direction I think I am going to go for the first play test or two.

1) No Ceremony - Since the PCs are likely to have very diverse backgrounds and training (unlike the Dogs) I don't think it is appropriate to worry about Ceremony or Ceremonial Fallout. 
2) Adapting the Faith - During character creation the players should agree to a Crew's Code.  This is the general list of beliefs that the crew (as a whole) follows.  It is meant as a guideline for conduct but does not have the same weight as the Faith does in DitV since everyone follows the same Faith. 
    a.  Each member of the crew is going to be expected to follow the Crew's Code, but that doesn't mean that they will.  Jayne generally follows the Serenity's Crew Code, but when he doesn't things get interesting. 
3) Job Creation - By its very nature, the Crew will receive Jobs in which there are 2 or more competing interests.  Whether those jobs are legal or illegal in nature does not matter.  Someone is going to effected positively by the Job and someone will be effected negatively (even if that person is a Pirate who doesn't get to steal your cargo.)
    a.  Example:  Train Job - The crew steals unknown cargo from a train.  Complication - PCs do not get off train.  Moral Dilemma - Cargo is valuable medicine.  Take it and people die but Job is successful.  Don't take it and make Mobster that hired you very mad AND you Job is unsuccessful.

As with Dogs, the PCs are a catalyst for change.  They are outsiders, which makes their presence very powerful.  They do not have to live there when the job is done.  They have no direct affiliation with the job.  While they hold no direct authority (as the Dogs do) they can effect powerful change on the community in who they support and how they do their Job.

4) Job Success or Failure - Keep the Crew on the edge of survival and they can not walk away without consequences.  Make sure that the PCs understand the stakes of getting paid for the Job and what it means if they walk away.

5) The ship is a possession (and an expensive one at that) - This possession has dice, but those dice may not be increased or decreased normally with regular experience.  Only Job income (or in game happenings) can modify the dice that the Ship receives.  I am currently undecided on whether to build the ship with simplified character creation methodology or to simply assign it a couple of dice stats (Serenity 2d8 vs Serenity Maneuverability 3d8, Serenity Hull 2d6, Serenity Speed 4d4 vs the Serenity having Traits and skills, etc ... )

If the Job pays, then the ship gets experience and the Captain can modify its dice as per normal.
If a job doesn't pay then the ship takes Fallout, (specific mechanic not defined yet.)

Example In game happenings: 
Space Combat - the ship takes Fallout as a player and can lose dice as per normal.
In Game Repair - the mechanic can test against the ship to repair it.

That is my initial outline.  I also have some Character Creation Guidelines listed over here. http://attacksofopportunity.blogspot.com/

I look forward to further comments
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2005, 11:33:08 AM »

...very, often, the reason they have to get involved is the money.

And, of course, Vincent already said just that, only better, here.
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John Harper
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flip you for real


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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2005, 12:23:39 PM »

Damn that's a good thread! Thanks for the pointer, Sydney.
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Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!
lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2005, 07:19:52 AM »

Hey Judaicdiablo, welcome! What's your name?

One thing you'll absolutely want to do is use the demonic influence rules as written, plus use the possessed person rules for thugs and the sorcerer rules for villains, even though you'll have no supernatural special effects associated with any of 'em. If you don't, your thugs and villains will be kind of pathetic and the players won't engage. Just announce at the table "this guy's a thug so he gets to inflict fallout one die size higher," "this guy's a villain so he gets these 4d8," and so on.

Ask my friend J - GlyphMonkey around here - he'll back me up.

-Vincent
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Judaicdiablo
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Posts: 43


« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2005, 11:29:09 AM »

Hi Vincent, I'm Brandon.

Even though, I don't plan on using Ceremony, I will still have "supernatural" effects.  It is still technically Science Fiction and that gives the villians some extra options that may not be available to the players.  The  Reavers, the guys with Blue Hands and River are all good examples of extra-ordinary "individuals".  The players just won't have the "luxury" of using Ceremony to fight them.

I will be playing my first actual game of Dogs this weekend, so we'll see how that changes my views on things.

"See, this is another sign of your tragic space dementia, all paranoid and crotchety. Breaks the heart."
  -- Mal, Firefly
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