As most of you know or some of you (who reads this?) I run games using Cortex, most with the Serenity RPG rules. Running games in ‘Verse is, well, problematic at best. After all this is an unfinished universe spread across various media. I’ve been thinking of the do’s and don’ts of playing in this sandbox. YMMV but this is what I’ve learned.
1. Don’t use the main characters from the show, movie or any other media.
People love Mal, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Book, Jayne, and the Tams. They don’t want you fucking with them. Oh they may want to play them, but only in delicate controlled situations where there is no growth, death, or mental break downs. It’s best just to make new characters (for con runs) or have your player’s make their own. Then you can act like a normal GM and
screw them hard gently guide them on the road of life.
2. Decide where your fandom stops.
Serenity is an unfinished universe, but it is a continuing one, like so many, in the realms of comics, errata, essays and fanfic. You can get lost in this and worry about the details and who has the right to the details. The thing is, in the sandbox, you cannot be limited to what exists. I loved the show and the movie. I have a few comics, and I like the official map and the white papers behind it. I don’t do fanfic, my comic buying is sporadic at best and limited to what catches my at the appropriate time my wallet is full, I approach critical essays with caution, and frankly I don’t have the money to spend on a map and various system books that are attached (Though I dearly wish I did. Please stay in print). For me Serenity is the show, the movie and stuff in the RPG. They inform my world building which means I know shit about the war, a little bit about the planets and just about nothing about government. You don’t have have every detail fed to you. Everything else I fill in, which brings me to my next point.
3. Write this shit down.
I generally start my games around the time the war ends. I stay out of post Miranda territory. I write down every person they come across, how different government functions work, and I keep a log of planets visited, prices paid and cargo found by my players. I did not create a world for my players to play in, but I still have to work hard to keep it consistent.
4. Be flexible.
The chances that player shows up at my table because they breath Joss Whedon, morning, noon and night are high but the same chance applies to players that just wanted to play in a space game and have no idea what Firefly was, (yes, I make them watch the show and movie, I’m not insane) much less the Whedonverse.
So people are going to role play inappropriate subjects, set off any bomb they come across and decide high tail it to the core the moment they have money and ship to get them there. The key is to let them have a good time. Cortex lends itself easily to high drama without any help from the GM or NPCs. It can be as loony or grim as the characters that play in it. As a GM you just have to give them the opportunity. Let them run the game and give them food to gnash in the form of NPCs and worlds to step on. Don’t be afraid of the leaky brainpan’s or the chip’s on the shoulder, they work themselves out (Either they get help or the PC’s space them. Hey now, that’s still working out.). Through out plot points and let them role.
And if you really, really need those PC’s to stay put? Break their ship. When your ready to let them fly again, let them gamble. And when they’re just being paranoid? Smooth sailing. Keeps them on their toes.