Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thoughts on Firefly for Action Cards

Second in my line of postings ahead. A while back I started thinking about games and campaigns that might lend themselves to the Action Cards system. I think at some point in the future I want to run a Mage: the Ascension game using it. One of the other ideas I had was running Firefly with it, especially givne how bad the actually published game system is. Here are some of my working notes (rather short):

Standard action card system-- although the names of the categories may be changed, as well as the special cards. Will have to work out the terminology for that.

Characters will choose a role—and each role will have a set of special abilities which will be accessible to the player. They will choose one (maybe two?) at the start of the game. The abilities will either be once per scene or once per session things that maybe can be activated with tag lines or drama points. I'll come back to tag lines in a minute. Special abilities should be distinct-- they should in some cases do some of the retcon stuff I was thinking about earlier. Just different variations on that.

Captain: Ability to emulate others abilities, Absolute Bluff, Still Standing,

Rogue: Find it when you need it, Coward's Sprint, Unaware Defense

Pilot: Tricky Maneuver, Something New, Fools Luck

Gunman: Strategic Plan, Trick Shot,

Weirdo: Wig Out, Avoidance, Psychic Power

Long Suffering Techie: Jury Rig, Kick It

Liaison: I Know People,

Skills-- allow redraws

Traits-- allow global bumps based on that ability (are going to want to make these a little narrower-- graceful, or example is too wide.



Taglines are quotes which players can work into their actions. If a character integrates the quote into their action effectively, they gain a free drama point (which may be spent immediately, say to activate an ability) and also a free bump to their action result.

Taglines will be both player and GM generated. A player may have up to three taglines available at any one time. Taglines may be freely traded at the beginning and end of any session, but not during play. Players will be expected to generate taglines as the price of experience-- essentially a tradeoff bargain.

The Ship
Who can pilot the ship?

The shared group resource and probably most important factor for the game is the group's ship. The ship is a shared resource which the various party members can contribute to. Edges can be bought for the ship, results can be purchased, certain weapon enhancements, even additional cards. Like characters, a ship may have skills, traits, and abilities.

Most ship to ship fights are run as chases. The primary person controlling the ship is the pilot. Since the ship itself represents the mechanical aspects of things, obstacle tests and such are made by the pilot. Determining the level of success is based on a pull from the ship's deck. So, for example, the pilot wants to try to break away from the enemy, we check his success there and then pull from the ship's deck to determine how far he can pull away-- like a damage check with the enemies own engines as a result. This may change-- I need to think about how this would be handled.

I'm imagining the ship would have four results-- Integrity to represent absorbing damage and handling the stress of difficult maneuvers. Combat to represent weapons and tracking systems. Engine to represent speed, take off and pushing tests. Maneuvers to represent dodge and how well the ship responds to commands.

Perhaps for actually performing tricks and maneuvers-- the pilot has to make a test but so does the ship. Need to figure out how to handle that-- with the pilot having a trumping ability?

Retcon/Monkey Wrench/Set-Ups
A variation of the Operation skill system I had for my Gumshoe Spyworld! variant--

Operational skills are used to explain something that you have set up beforehand while carrying out a plan. It is not used to do something in the present, that is what General and Investigative skills are for. Instead, you use these skills to justify an existing situation. For example-- Rob is crossing through a hallway when he detects a set of guards coming his way. He says that his advance preparations told him of an accessible vent nearby which he can hide in. This is the use of his Advance Team skill (indicating someone who has found the floor plans for him). He spends one point from his Advance Team skill. Once that is used up he cannot call on that. The GM may rule that certain requests are either impossible or cost more points. At that point the player may choose to not use the skill, pay the extra points or attempt to have something more reasonable occur.

Generally players can do set ups with a good explanation and a drama point. Certain roles can also do a set up once per session for free based on their area (i.e. liaisons can have people in place). Should set-ups have a larger cost associated with them to make the role abilities more cost effective? Need to provide a condensed-- no more than ten list of kinds of retcons and examples.


  1. I like most of the ideas, but I think the classes is too much structure. It's a pretty good bet any good gaming group will come up with distinctive characters and ability concepts.

    Action Cards works really well with how Firefly handled plot complications. "Critical Failures" defined the show. Mal Reynolds had some interesting regular "Lawman shows up" and "Betrayal by old friend" failure results.

    I'd suggest making everyone have a 'cover story' about their past. This would hint at their real past, but even the Players couldn't establish a fixed in stone back story unless a plotline proves it. I'm thinking of Simon's claim that he hired men to free his sister (TV show), when really he spearheaded the effort and broke into the govt. facility himself (movie). Much like the show, a lot of character history would be retconned as the story progresses.

    On ships, I don't get the difference between Engine and Maneuver. Can they be combined?

  2. Part of that's to keep the symmetry between four items on the cards. Plus, Engine would be for general speed vs. evasion. But you might be right-- as defined Engine would have fewer uses-- perhaps I can think of another area and combine those.

  3. Gene said: "I'd suggest making everyone have a 'cover story' about their past. This would hint at their real past, but even the Players couldn't establish a fixed in stone back story unless a plotline proves it."

    That would be an excellent way to develop character backstories. Over the course of the campaign, the "truth" comes out. I could see a method where other players and the GM have input into how a character's backstory is created in-game, but also give that player veto power to prevent "blocking", as in stage improv.

  4. That sounds very good. I really like it! But it might be somewhat biased because I LOVED Firefly.

    I like Gene's backstory idea. That is an interesting concept.

  5. I like the class idea now that I've realized this: a "captain" doesn't have to be the ship's captain, and the list of roles isn't exhaustive. 6 in the morning and I finally understand!

    On a different subject, much thanks for posting the recipes. Nom nom nom nom! I feel like Kate Beaton's Napoleon drawing.