Role Playing Game Review – Serenity

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A few years ago, there was a little known TV show called Firefly.  Unfortunately like all the best shows, it was cancelled after one season.  Thankfully though, there was enough fan support that a movie was made to at least wrap up the series, called Serenity.  A little further down the road a roleplaying game was developed based off of the show & movie.  Today I will be sharing my review for the Serenity Roleplaying Game.

Serenity Role Playing Game Books
Base Rulebook, Players Handbook, & Adventures

The overall theme for the setting is that Earth had been used up and humanity was forced to migrate to a near by star system that had several local stars and many planets and moons.  You have a central core system that is highly technological to planets out on the rim that are very old western in nature.

About a year ago…

Introduction, Here's How It Is
Chapter 1 – An Introduction

My friends and I decided that it was time to get together a gaming group and try out this RPG (Role Playing Game) called Serenity.  We all had loved the show, and thought that we could run a pretty cool campaign in that setting.  My buddy and I also wanted to get our oldest sons some experience with a RPG before they finished up High School and left the nests.

There was six of us in total with three of us having plenty of prior roleplaying experience.  We got together a couple times first to review the books and to discuss how we would set up the campaign and what roles each character would play.

My initial thoughts on the system were positive as the books kept in line with the spirit of the show.  They used a lot of the lingo from the show throughout the books and I really liked the humor in that.

Overview

  • Age – Mature Players
  • Players – 3+
  • Playtime – Epic (several hours per session)

Game Mechanics

  • Dice RollingMy Set of Dice
  • Abstract
  • Risk & Reward
  • Memory
  • Cooperative Play
  • Roleplaying

Character Creation

Find a Crew
How will you build out your crew?

I have played some games where it involved advanced mathematics to create them, but fortunately the Serenity system made this an easy process.  Matter of fact, I think that was the thing that our group really enjoyed about the game and that was how easy it was to learn and play.

We had decided that we wanted to play a campaign that mimicked the show, so we would be a crew of a firefly freighter.  We picked roles out for our characters covering the Captain, pilot, mechanic, muscle, doctor, & face man.

One thing that we found to work well in the past with character creation was to have a session where we all sit down as a group to create our characters.  We believe that this helps us all understand each other’s characters better.  It also allows us to tie our characters’ background stories together better.

Playability

The Rules of Serenity are fairly loose and is designed to be a player character driven story.  What that means is that the players are suppose to help create the storyline as it goes.  To help facilitate that players start with and can earn plot points which they can use to effect rolling the dice or to directly effect what is happening.  Players can accumulate up to 12 plot points maximum and can use them one at a time or in bulk.  The more points you use the greater the effect can be.

Example:  My character went to visit some long lost family even though he knew the authorities were probably watching for him to go there.  When I got to the front door and my uncle answered I could tell by his face that they were in fact there.  Now surrounded by the police inside and outside of the house I barged in to face just the ones inside.  They decided that I was a hostile target and were just about to shoot…

But alas, I had a stack of 10 plot points saved up and an idea in my head.  As the GM was picking up his dice to roll his attack, I stopped him by handing him all my plot points and declared as I mimicked pulling my shirt open, that I had a bomb strapped to my chest!

Needless to say, I used my plot points to drastically change the story at that point.  This is an extreme example of how the points may be used, but I think it gets the point across.  This also went down as one of our most memorable moments in the campaign, and our role playing history in general!

Combat System

The combat system in Serenity was good, but we did struggle a little bit overall to really get a good flow with it.  It took us several times using it until we really started to get comfortable with it.  However once we did get a comfort level with it, we found it flowed pretty quickly.  This generally kept combat short and sweet and we did not get bogged down with logistics like some other games.

Serenity Combat
How much combat will be in your campaign?

A word of caution with the combat system.  Guns were brutal (as they should be) and we were caught off guard by how quickly they could dispatch of someone.  This led to some interesting plots twists early on that we were not expecting.  Overall though, I thought the combat system did a good job relating to how it took place on the show.  Fist fights were one thing, and gun fights were another thing all together.

Being the Game Master

Storytelling in the Black
Let the players drive the story!

I had been Dungeon & Game Mastering for many years when I sat down behind the screen for Serenity for the first time.  The first night I sat behind the screen I came prepared as I usually did for running the show and quickly found out that Serenity was different.  With the players driving the story, we ended up going a very different direction that what I had intended.

What I learned from that first night though was that being a GM (Game Master) for Serenity really fit with how I like to play.  What worked best was to have more generalized ideas and themes.  I would create NPCs (Non Player Characters) and give them a short list of what motivated them and there basic personality.  For Settings I would know what the points of interest were and have some minor NPCs associated to them.  In doing this, I could really let the players guide the story.

Being the Game Master for a gaming system where it is heavy on player driven storyline did take some getting used to.  In the end however, I think that I totally enjoyed this method better then any I had used before.  The technique that I ended up using looked a lot like a memory map (see examples here) and that helped me stay with the players flow much easier.

Overall

Thumbs UpMy gaming group really enjoyed the Serenity Gaming Systemand were hard pressed to come up with challenges or cons when I asked them.  Everyone really enjoyed the “player driven” aspect of the game and we had a lot of fun with that.

If you are looking for a rules light &  player driven roleplaying game, this could very well be the rule set for you.  The setting is also very flexible from the Hi-Tech Core Worlds to the Old West feeling Rim Worlds.

For your convenience I have provided links to where you can purchase the core books for the Serenity Role Playing Game at Amazon.  I appreciate those that help support this site with their purchases.


 
If you have any questions about the game or our campaign please do not hesitate to ask below and I will get you the answer.  Don’t forget to check the box so you get a notification when I reply.  Also, if you have played this system and have any feedback or stories to share, please do so!

Thanks for stopping by,

James W D
james@familygamenightideas.com

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26 Replies to “Role Playing Game Review – Serenity”

  1. Hi James, Every time i visit your site it brings out the happy emotions which i experienced playing board games during my childhood. This game sounds fun..never heard of it before

    • Thanks for stopping by again Lawrence I really appreciate that. I am so happy to hear that you are enjoying the site and I hope that I can continue to bring value to you!

  2. I love Firefly! I’m lucky enough to still be working my way through the episodes, and I’ll be sad when it’s over. I’ve always been interested in RPGs but never really had the chance to try one. This looks like a lot of fun and I may just have to check it out sometime! Thanks for another great post.

    • Don’t forget to watch the movie Serenity then after the episodes. It at least wraps some of the things going on a bit. If you need any help getting started in RPGs let me know and I will do what I can to help you out. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. This post was out of this world experience. You really took me to a galaxy that I never knew existed. I loved it and I can read the enthusiasm in the game. Wonderful way to really enjoy a game. It makes you to never wanna grow up.

    • In a way I never have nor will I ever grow up! I have learned that it is healthy to embrace the inner kid in yourself! Thanks for stopping by!

    • I totally agree with you. I know playing RPGs had a very positive effect on my life and one that I enjoy sharing with my children. If you get the game and have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask me! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Your website seems very interesting and something that my eldest child would like to try out. I’ll have to recommend this website to her and I must say, very interesting.

    • Thank you very much. I am a firm believer that the best compliment that someone can pay me is to refer someone to me. I really appreciate it!

  5. I have two kids just reaching the stage when role playing games will become fun…certainly, you `ve given me some ideas! Great site, will come back.

    • Thanks for stopping by. If you are interested in details for any other RPGs that you haven’t seen here yet let me know. I have played quite a few different systems.

  6. Hi James,

    I vaguely remember hearing about Firefly and Serenity.
    However, when I was growing up, our family always had Friday as family game night and it was either card games or most of the time it was board games. These kind of games would’ve been a really good idea to bring out the creativity in us. As I’ve grown up and my kids have grown up, I hope that I can take some of your game ideas and spend some quality time with my future grand kids.
    Keep up the good work and fun ideas.
    Thanks Deb

    • I attribute a lot of the skills I used in my business life to growing up playing roleplaying games. They help you learn to put things in perspective very well. Good luck on getting those future grandkids!!!

  7. My family has never been much interested in game playing with so many outside activities going on in our lives. Your information has really stimulated my interest in trying the games on this website.

    • Thanks John, I really appreciate hearing that. I will be getting around to some outside things to do when Spring rolls around for me. Right now its just to cold and wet out here!

  8. I liked that show! Too bad it was cancelled after one season. Though I liked all of the cast my favorite male character was Jayne, a badass with a gun and my favorite female character was Inara. I’m sure that doesn’t come as a surprise as I’m sure most men liked her, on and off the show. lol

    Great post James. I didn’t know there was a game based off of the show/movie.

    • I think my favorite episode was when the discovered Jaynestown… He played that role so well. I hope you give the game a try someday!

  9. I keep watching Firefly over and over on Netflix. Why oh why…
    Anyway, I have always been interested in RPG games but never had the opportunity to play one, or even learn to play one. I may have to pick this up. A lot of my family are Serenity fans so maybe this is the year to learn. Great review.

    • I hear yah Max, I could watch Firefly all the time. The humor in the show is just classic. When I introduced the idea to my son and showed him the first episode, we ended up watching half of them and he loved it too. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Love the post and the website! My friends and I are always looking for great role playing games especially since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and this is the time of the year, my house is THE house. It’s usually about 8 of us, So I plan to get all of them together and force them to play this one. 🙂 Great review!

    • Jasmine, Thanks for the feedback I appreciate it. My buddies and I really enjoyed this especially with it being player driven. I hope you and your group of friends enjoy it!

  11. I absolutely love Firefly and was very sad when it was cancelled 🙁 I had no idea though that there was an RPG for it. Very glad I came to your site and found this. I may have to recruit some people into a campaign 🙂

    • Stacy, I agree was a great show & movie. I was super excited when my buddy got the books and wanted to get a group together. The best part is how well the books are written to be aligned with the show. If you like RPGs and Firefly, you will be happy with this.

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