Firefly RPG rules summary and characters(3 min read)

Following on from my Mouse Guard summary, here is some similar material I created for my 2017 Go Play game, running the What's Mine scenario from the Firefly RPG.

I prepared a Firefly RPG rules summary, with a summary of how to build dice pools and various game rules, how plot points work, a summary of skills and attributes, and then some notes on Game Master dice pools and plot points.

Pre-generated characters and ship

For the convention game, I also took several of the character templates from the book and completed them to ready-to-play characters, along with an appropriate ship.

The characters are all collected in one file, Firefly RPG - crew, with some funky PDF editing to complete the characters using the same styling. The characters are the crew of a salvage ship:

  • Sam Courtright, small-time trader — captain of the ship
  • Jesse McDonnell, high stakes gambler — first mate
  • Carrol Archer, battle-worn bounty hunter — main pilot
  • Sinclair Tate, alliance engineer — ship's engineer
  • Gabrielle Ndiaye, cortex hacker — salvage operator
  • Andy Borne, security professional — hired muscle
  • Yu Wilson, former companion — permanent passenger

Also included is a sheet for their ship, Thunderbird One, a Road Runner independent blockade runner. An ex-military ship, outfitted for salvaging.

The Firefly RPG Cortex system

The Cortex Plus RPG system actually has quite interesting mechanics.

It is a dice pool system, but rather than number of successes, it is "keep 2", where your result is the total of the highest two dice (with some variation).

The pool size is only one factor, and is usually 2 core dice, plus a few others, so maybe generally 3-5 dice, with a key factor which dice are in the pool — a pool with d10's and d12's is better than a pool with d4's and d6's.

For example, which pool is better: 1d12+1d10 vs 3d8+1d4? Answer: the 1d12+1d10 pool will "raise the stakes" (get a higher total) 51.4% of the time.

As well as the number of dice, and the type of dice, there are also ways to include more than two dice in your total (or if you are injured, you may only get one die), so the number of results you get to add is another factor.

Complications are also counted separately from your results, so you could both succeed and have to pay a cost. In some cases the degree of success (or failure) is based on the highest rolling dice in the opposing pool, adding even more combinations of result.

The system includes a lot of trade-off points, for example when adding a character's Distinction to the dice pool, you can add it as a d8 as a positive factor, or as a d4 and gain a plot point as a sort-of-negative factor.

Usually a d4 won't be one of your highest rolling dice, so it statistically adds only a very small benefit to success, but it significantly increases your odds of rolling jinxes (1's), although it does decrease the chance of a botch (all 1's).

Jinxes (rolling 1's) are another trade-off point: the GM can turn them into complications, but only by giving you a plot point. (And the reverse; if the GM rolls 1's, players may spend plot points to reduce complications.)

Another aspect of the system, following the tropes of a TV series, the heroes can be "taken out" of a scene (including by non-physical tests, such as social conflict), but can't actually die (unless the players wants them to).

The Firefly RPG version of Cortex Plus is still fairly traditionally structured, with attributes (mental/physical/social) and a skill list, but other games in the Cortex Plus family taken that even further and can have other emphasis, e.g. Smallville is based more around relationships and values.


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