Monday, July 21, 2014

Firefly RPG, Episode Five: "Hillfolk"

Yesterday, our season of the Firefly RPG continued with the fifth episode, "Hillfolk."

The episode was named after this week's "signature" mechanic: stealing from the excellent Hillfolk role-playing game, I had the players create their own scenes. I set up the basic situation: whilst traveling the 'Verse, the Serenity had a little engine trouble and crash-landed on the planet Dakota. The crew had to go into town looking for parts for repairs. From there, I cut the players loose: each player created two scenes (except Enzo's player; since it was his episode, he created three). For each scene, the players decided who would be in the scene, where the scene would be taking place, and what the general situation was.

There were some great scenes. Here are some of the highlights:

-Enzo, Q, and Peaches had to enter a square-dance contest in the town before they were allowed to purchase repair supplies They won the contest, earning them the Asset Dance Champions of Dakota Colony D6;

-Several character building moments between Kitt, Peaches, the new guy Ira, and others;

-Enzo's epic DeathMule! Basically the Serenity's mule rigged with all kinds of jiggered-up tools from wherever to create this warmachine that crashed into a bandit's camp to rescue a captured Q...and Jack...and Peaches.

-An accidential homage to Fiasco in a scene where all the players role-played as the bandits who kidnapped the crew members previously mentioned. The bandit leader had been more or less driven insane by Q's psychic whisperings about various betrayals in his gang. The confrontation climaxed with a game of Russian roulette.

Overall, the game was another hit. Firefly continues to make a case for the greatest RPG campaign I've ever run. In the "Roses & Thorns" critique session at the end, here were some of the positives mentioned:

-The freedom Cortex Plus gives me to experiment with different adventure structures continues to be a point of great excitement and fun for the players. From the reverse adventure in the pilot to the "adventure turducken" in last session's episode "Breakout," the players have had a blast all the way through.

-The players came up with some scenes that I never would have thought of (Dance party? Really?) and they were pulled off with great delight.

-The players once again prove to be incredibly skilled and enthusiastic role-players. Last session, they were skeptical of portraying Q's psyhic friends in "Breakout." This session, they readily jumped into repeated NPC roles, creating several memorable characters in the spur of the moment (one player helpfully created an end-boss in a mutant with a gun for an arm!) This particular trick has proven to be very useful, and I fully intend on bringing it to other games.

And here were some of the things I'd like to keep in mind for the next session:

-This was supposed to be Enzo's episode, but due to the scattershot structure of the game, his backstory got virtually no highlighting. I must remedy this in future sessions!

-One concern I always had when reading Hillfolk was that the games wouldn't be structured enough with a group of players who didn't fully buy into it, which would then cause the game to fade quickly. This seemed to be the case here; most of the players expressed a desire to see a more focused story, and wished their scenes were more character-development oriented, rather than carrying any of the plot with it. Part of this was simply in the haphazard combining of Hillfolk with the Firefly RPG. Hillfolk does in fact have several mechanisms in place to make sure the game's collaborative style doesn't sputter out so easily. A lot of if also falls on just needing more experience running a game in this style. However, the biggest takeaway for me is collaborative gaming needs clear narrative structure, just like any other kind of storytelling gaming! 

-As I noted in the last session, one thing I want to continue to work on is to experiment more directly with the Cortex Plus system. I want to reread the various Cortex Plus games and look into new ways to use the concepts within those games. I had some fun with this during "Breakout" when I toyed a little with power sets from Marvel Superheroic, but that wasn't entirely me.

Anyways, it was a good game with great friends, and I look forward to the next adventure!

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