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.
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…
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.
- Age – Mature Players
- Players – 3+
- Playtime – Epic (several hours per session)
- Dice Rolling
- Risk & Reward
- Cooperative Play
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
My 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.
Thanks for stopping by,
James W D