Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Firefly, Flashpoint, Futures, and Friends


I'm thinking about how to do Firefly using FATE. I like to have a handful of throw-together scenarios on hand in case I need to run something. Most people around here have played at least one of my two AFMBE scenarios and/or my Conspiracy X game. Anyway, going through the various versions of FATE really struck me. I like our homebrew system, but even with the pick-up draft mechanics I came up with, it still takes some work on the GM's part. I like the idea of FATE for that- for games which aren't going to be ongoing campaigns, but maybe a one shot or a short arc. It has a lot of the feel of the other games we've been playing, along with really fast character creation and easy methods to create skins for it. At first blush, it resembles Savage Worlds for the simplicity of applying it to another setting.

I don't care for the mechanics of Serenity (now OOP). But I do like the reference material there. I've looked through the list of “Advantages” in the core book and the Big Damn HeroesHandbook . All of those could be easily ported over. Most of them have titles which could easily be aspects. I might consider doing something like the Role tracks and groupings which Spirit of the Century has. And there's space combat in Diaspora- although more realistic and crunchy than perhaps would be useful here. Ideally all I would have to do is work out a basic set of space combat rules, plus the list of advantages. Maybe a couple of hours of work. I have the Serenity Adventures book so I could lift and put together something from that. So that's another project in the GTD Gaming queue for me.


Flashpoint: Project Superman #2 came out last Wednesday. I think the book came out really, really well. The pages for #3 look amazing as well. In any case, I feel obliged to toot my own horn here for a minute. MTV Geek picked the book as one of their Top Ten Comics for July:

I wasn’t a huge fan of the first issue of this series, or a lot of the Flashpoint minis in general, so it’s as huge a surprise for me to say this, as for you to read it: Project Superman #2 may be the best Superman story told in the past twelve years. Yup, since Superman For All Seasons, which is my own personal high for Superman stories. If you didn’t pick up the last issue? Doesn’t matter. This is a beautifully written and drawn story that gets to the heart of Superman, and who he is: even in extenuating circumstances, even after he is tortured, driven to the brink, and cut off from all human contact… He’s still not just a good guy, but the best guy. This is, by the way, also an excellent Lois Lane story, with great understated moments throughout. What writer Lowell Francis and artist Gene Ha do is tell the story as much visually as they do through the words. You know, how you’re supposed to do in a comic book? But really, here it works magnificently. Even if issue three is more on par with issue one, this will stand heads and tails as a masterful work of its own.

Scott Snyder also said some really nice things about Gene and I. “So proud of you guys - I keep saying it: ALL GOOD THINGS IN FP: SUPERMAN ARE OWED TO LOWELL AND GENE! I was involved at the beginning, but it really pains me to take any credit for the great story they've created since. Lowell Francis is a rising star and should be praised for all his work on this and Gene Ha is a risen (rock) star with whom it's a privilege to work. Always :)"

There were some lukewarm reviews, but a number of quite positive ones. Since it is my blog, I'll focus on the positive.

Weekly Comic Book Reviews

Comics Nexus

Big Kids Big News Network

Comics Alliance


I really love the Microscope RPG. As my wife said, it is a game which makes you want to find an excuse to play it. I like the tangible element of ending up with a solid timeline you could play in. But more than that I love the chance to see real collaborative creative work from the group. We talked about a few things we'd like to try out with it.

I'd like to see a secret history of the 20th Century timeline- one with super-secrets and high tech spies. I don't know if it would necessarily be a supers world, but one with weird powers and arcane hidden magics. Perhaps something like Planetary or Nick Fury? Spycraft went this route, breaking away from a lot of real-world conventions and out Bond-ing James Bond.

I've mentioned before that I'd like to see a game which took a historical approach to the Harry Potter setting. We know that the big four people founded Hogwarts at some point in the past. What if you put together a session of Microscope with a starting point of “A War Between Muggles and Wizards” and ends with “The founding students enter study at Hogwarts.” Then the campaign could be Hogwarts: First Class. The Microscope timeline before that could set things up. You might find answers for why Slytherin is necessary. How did they get the Centaurs to agree to have the place so close to them? Did they build Hogwarts or was it already there? Were there perhaps other mages beyond those original four? If so, what happened to them?


Lastly, I'm jealous of people going to Gen Con and seeing all the cool new stuff. We have to bump our Friday game this week as we'll be short two players. The Saturday game continues on, and we'll make that “the best session ever” as we always do when someone misses a session.

Also, I'm getting going a little on Goggle+ so feel free to reach out to me there. I haven't yet figured out the tools, but Greg Christopher (who I respect hugely) says that it has been fruitful and empowering.


  1. "Hogwarts: First Class" or the secret history of the 20th century: Awesome.

    "...best Superman story told in the past twelve years.": Double Awesome! Congrats!

  2. I've never run a Firefly game (mostly because I don't think I could adequately capture the feel of it, which is essential to the experience), but if I did, I would use the system from Unknown Armies. The ad-hoc skills and the casual brutality of the combat system seem to fit the sensibility of the 'Verse.

  3. First off, congrats on the Superman reception. With a brand new iPad, I hope to get a digital version soon.

    Secondly, those are some fine Microscope ideas and ones that I'd to try as well.

  4. I like the idea of prefacing a Microscope session with questions you'd like answered. I don't think that's in the original rulebook, is it? It's a clever twist. You can set out to answer a question in session, but that's different. In this case, you're trying to help create a palette but you're not nailing it down before the session.

    For Hogwarts: 1st Class, here are some others I'd love answered.

    1 Why does England have no native dragons?
    2 Who are the Muggle allies? They must have been formidable. (Grant Morrison's Golden Knight war between Camelot and Faerie could be seen as an inspiration for your war between Muggle & Wizard)
    3 Did Wizards begin with Hogwarts style magic or is it an innovation? Is is more powerful than previous techniques? Less easy to subvert but weaker than techniques that were abandoned? Neither, but easier to teach? Is it even stolen from another species during the war?

    From the fact that Harry could cast powerful enchantments without a wand when he was angry means that anyone could do it. There must be other techniques for using magic, but wands offer an advantage.

    Also, congrats on your hard earned kudos! I've seen what hurdles you had to leap to get such a great story past, and it was an impressive feat.

  5. I've definitely got to actually sit down and read Microscope. I've heard so many awesome things about it.

    For your FATE/Serenity mashup, have you heard of Bulldogs! It just recently finished its Kickstarter. It pretty much is Firefly, now done with FATE. Might be worth a look for you.

  6. I just realized that the most interesting things leading up to the end of the War Between Muggles and Wizards happen before the war starts. The Microscope players need a chance to establish who the different actors are, and why they eventually went to war.

    If you don't do this, it's just standard Muggles getting slaughtered by standard Hogwarts wand wielding wizards. That's what the initial statement "War Between Muggles and Wizards" establishes a priori.

    If you start LONG before, you can create the culture(s) that created the war.

  7. @Erin Palette: That's an interesting idea. I did stuff with Unknown Armies before, but mostly as background or ideas to throw into other modern fantasy campaigns. I recall the combat, but not the skills system. I remember the Stress tracks there being pretty devastating- one of those games like CoC where players have to accept a certain amount of punishment just for playing.

    But what struck me is that I'd had a slightly different concept of Firefly in my head- a pulpier, more two-fisted idea, with some of the concepts from Spirit of the Century really fitting. However when I stop to think about it, you're more accurate in your assessment. The violence and danger within Firefly are not set-piece, are not simple obstacles to be overcome. That combat's pretty visceral and dangerous. I re-watched a couple of episodes with that in mind and saw that was the case: less cartoony and more knife to the shoulder.

  8. @Gene: Lots of good ideas. I think all of the points you suggest could be addressed by a Microscope game. I'd actually like to see something where multiple groups start from the same initial premises. How different players roll from there could offer a nice compare and contrast.

    A War between the Muggles and the Wizards I don't think presupposes an outcome. I think the players would decide how that fell out- perhaps the wizards do badly- due to low numbers or undeveloped systems of magic. Perhaps it is the first war, or one in a series of wars- depending on how your players set things out, it could come either way. I do think you want to most open approach to this- and I think suggesting a time of open conflict between Muggles and Mages gives a solid foothold without determining too much. There aren't as many assumptions built into it.

  9. @Marshall: Was surprised I hadn't heard about Bulldogs- as a fan of the other products from them, I should have seen that. I will have to hunt that down.

  10. Lowell, you wrote something a while back about how you suspected there were other magic using traditions before the modern age. I'd love to see that explored. Before the modern Enlightenment age of science, some of these traditions might be considered Muggle by the precursors to our modern Hogwarts style wizards.

  11. Other questions for the Microscope thing:

    Why can House Elves get around Human magical restrictions?

    Why are non-Humans banned from using or carrying a wand?

    Speaking of which, how are Humans able to enforce this?

  12. Almost too many good ideas there. The wand thing for non-humans is something I'd forgotten about: especially the concept that it isn't that they can't use them, but that they're banned from doing so. That's interesting- suggesting some kind of settlement earlier? Or an enforced accord? Perhaps there's something humans are equally restricted from using?

  13. "Before the modern Enlightenment age of science, some of these traditions might be considered Muggle by the precursors to our modern Hogwarts style wizards."

    Maybe the current wizarding paradigm is just the one that won out for political/cultural reasons rather than anything else?

    Anyway, both Microscope ideas sound great.

    Congratulations on the reviews. I confess I had not planned to read any Flashpoint tie-ins, but I'll check this one out. :)