Monday, May 12, 2014

Firefly RPG, Episode Three: "Humped" (Pt. 2: Commentary)

Seizing the opportunity Cortex Plus' flexibility gives me, I have tried to do something different with every episode. Episode one was all about starting at the ending, then trying to get there over the course of the adventure. Episode two had a meta-game puzzle the players had to solve (discovering Q's kill switch) while they dealt with a problem onboard the ship. And now, episode three was a "sandbox" style adventure where I gave the players a straight-forward goal (get the keycard and get out) and a static setting for the whole adventure (the mining complex), and just cut the characters loose to accomplish the mission any which way they wanted.

In some ways, this seemed like the most successful episode yet. There was a great contrast between the pseudo-railroad adventure of the second episode and the "by any means necessary" approach to this third episode. I think all of one or the other would get old quickly, but changing it up so dramatically in the space of two sessions keeps the players guessing and makes every adventure feel like something completely different, yet still connected by character and story. This has always been one of my biggest problems with running a campaign-length game: after the honeymoon period of learning a new game ends, I'm left a little bored and listless just running adventure after adventure. Here, though, I'm always trying something new. Whereas in other campaigns I would feel like prepping an adventure was like doing homework, here I'm actually excited to see how I can change things up next time!

There is still some homework involved in this, though, and, slacker that I am, I didn't do it. If I had taken the time to fully stat out Commander Austin, she would have been a worthy nemesis to Jack. Instead, as I wrote about in my superhero RPG entry, Commander Austin was just another living obstacle that a particular character had to hurdle himself over to get to the adventure's end point. Jack's player deserves better than that. I will endeavor to do better with that next time. Likewise, a more fully-thought out plan about what the Alliance capabilities were in the facility, stats for the soldiers, gunships they brought out, etc. would have made the adventure more challenging and thus more fun. I didn't do any of that; instead, I simply relegated the entire Alliance presence down to one big environmental challenge, no more dynamic or interesting an antagonist than fire in a burning house, or a storm for a ship at sea. It was still fun and exciting, of course, but it could have been more. 

It's also time for me to hit the Firefly RPG corebook again and practice some of the rules some more. Though I still fully understand the general concepts of the game, little stuff like ship combat and how to handle certain situations were just being winged. I'm pretty sure I was doing it well enough, but I'd like to have the system down a little more cold next time. Due to scheduling conflicts, the Firefly season will not continue till June 8th, so I should have plenty of time to prep!

I continue to really enjoy the flashback character mechanic. It serves as a great way to control the pacing of an adventure. Jack had four shorter flashbacks, as opposed to the doctor's three, but it still worked out fine in the end. Since Jack and Sally had the smallest roles in episode two, they got more spotlight in episode three. Jack had some of the most dramatic moments in meeting Commander Austin (and ultimately killing her); and Sally's player did a bang-up job roleplaying as Commander Austin. Kitt and Enzo now seem on the dimmer side of the spotlight, but they'll get their moments, soon enough...

So now Firefly is on hiatus for three weeks. In the meantime, I will run some one-shots of a couple of other RPGs. Stay tuned for details!

1 comment:

  1. One of the interesting things about Cortex Plus, particularly Firefly, is that it's generally low prep. It's easy enough to adjudicate and run that it can be run with only a few moments of thought ahead of time. Even a Major GMC only takes a few moments to create. But where the game really shines is when more prep has been done and things like the Major GMCs are carefully crafted for the needs of the story and characters. A Major GMC whose Distinctions were chosen (or written) with those goals in mind will engage the mechanics at the right leverage points for them to be both a major obstacle to the Crew and a compelling antagonist for the story. The GM still needs to play the GMCs to the hilt but having the right Distinctions (and skills, specialties, and signature assets) really helps mesh the story and mechanics so they feed off one another for a richer narrative. And that is where Cortex Plus really shines.

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