Recent dishes, plated up and ready to eat

IMG_0441 Chicken chalupas, green salad with orange, roasted baby artichoke and asparagus.

IMG_0444 Carrot Muffins, fresh from the oven. Lots of carrots and exceptionally tasty. I added extra cinnamon, a good choice.

IMG_0449 Swiss Chard Frittata, Spring Pasta Salad with Walnuts & Feta Cheese, and chicken (for the Salad).

Taco Salad Taco Salad, rice, and beans. Quick and easy– used up lots of lettuce.

New Game: Serenity, Friday May 1st

We’re looking at creating characters for the upcoming Serenity game, run by Dad, on Friday. If you’re not going to be able to make it, please let us know! Ben plans on bringing Emily; Kev can you arrange for Christian’s evening?

If you have ideas for character concepts, please share them in comments. So far, Mike mentioned an interest in playing a “Jayne like” character– which part interests you Mike? Are you looking to be the gun bunny with a love of grenades, or are there other aspects of the character that you’d like to bring over too? [Obviously, all of the concepts we offer up– particularly for me– are subject to change to fit the group.]

More Notes: Jennifer is looking at playing the Captain, probably with an ex-military, the bed should have hospital corners, type personality. I think it’ll be fun to have one of our quieter people step out and lead in the new game.

Dad is talking about looking for more complex backgrounds and characterization this game. Be ready to spin outlandish stories about your past… we’ll obviously help if you’re stuck on place details or something. Another change Dad mentioned is that we’ll play a little less “open table”– Advantages and Complications will be separate from your character sheet and only known to you and the GM. (Though some, like quick draw, will be obvious the first time a fight brews…) We’ll also try to spend more time in character, even when we’re discussing a job and how to deal with opposition.

All in all, it sounds like a very different game than our current D&D game– with great variety between the two.

Firefly Resources

Listings:
Fireflywiki.org
John Kim’s list

Cortex System Forums Lots of useful threads, requires registration.

Sites:
Fireflyrpg.com, a great site with lots of useful information. Fan ships, vehicles, quick references and more.
Dragonlairdgaming.com, site of Jim Davenport, a Serenity RPG designer.

Waves in the Black: Cargo Hold (Lots of useful downloads– character sheets, sample crews, plots, etc.)
Scott Metz’s link page, with links for Serenity, D&D, and more.
Serenity themes and premises, an investigation/discussion.
Ki_Ryn’s ships
Peracles RPG, several scenarios and extensive campaign logs.
Serenity RPG 101 Links, merchandise, and info.
Sean’s Gallery, lots of ship pictures.

Brightwater Castle
Wydraz

34 Firefly plot ideas
Serenity RPG Yahoo group

“Challenge Me” or making your own Firefly

Last night we were discussing Firefly and flaws that affect the group. One example was Jayne, and his motivation to sell the group out. We were discussing how a flaw like that would work– how do you have someone with a group destroying flaw and how can they bring it into the story without destroying the game.

I had an epiphany, and it really centers the show around Mal. From here on, I’m going to use the initial letter to indicate the player of the character. So Mal’s player is M, Jayne’s J, Inara I, etc.

So the group is sitting around the table, and they’ve sketched out their characters to each other. K says she’s going to play Kaylee the group’s Mechanic, M has talked about playing a businessman type ship’s captain, J says Jayne’s going to be good at blowing stuff up.

So around the table, they’re ready to pick out Merits and Flaws. (Or whatever Serenity system calls them.) They are throwing around ideas– maybe the ship is always short on cash, maybe they’re all outcasts from society, etc. Then M (playing Mal) says: “I’m going to be all about loyalty to my crew. Challenge me.”

Everyone around the table gets excited and thinks up ways to challenge this Merit/Flaw. J says, “Well, I was thinking that Jayne’s awfully mercenary– maybe the loyalty Mal feels toward Jayne isn’t really reciprocated. So I’ll challenge you by betraying you every once in a while.”

M thinks for a minute and says “Awesome, give me more.”

D says, “Well, Doctor and his sister could be in trouble with the law and start off outside the crew. So we’ll challenge you to stick with us even though we’re outsiders and cause you trouble.”

R chimes in, “And we’re talking about the Doctor being very protective of River, so he’ll want to protect River first, so our loyalty is to each other.”

Z says, “Well, Wash and Zoe are married, so our loyalty’s going to be to each other.”

I says, “What if Inara and Mal are in love? And she’ll get in trouble away from the ship, so you’ll have to debate risking everyone for me personally? Let’s keep our relationship stormy and conflicted, so I’m often doing other stuff.”

Later, J is looking at the flaws he’s debating taking for Jayne. He says, “Jayne’s very mercenary– how do we want to challenge that?”

R says, “Well, there could be a big reward for the capture and return of River. Maybe even payouts for information about me.”

M says, “Let’s make the business really marginal– Mal won’t be able to pay Jayne much, and when things go wrong, he won’t be able to pay at all for a while.”

K chimes in, “And the ship’s old and always seems to need new parts to stay running, so Mal has to pay for repairs first, or we don’t go anywhere.”

This is still sketchy– I’ll come back after some sleep– but this is the insight that woke me up last night. Basically, the insight is that flaws that challenge the group’s stability only come about in response to another player saying “Challenge me”. Jayne’s mercenary behavior is a bad flaw for the group unless it responds to someone else’s Challenge. If no one was playing Mal, then the debates about loyalty to the group shouldn’t be brought up.

Jayne’s mercenary flaw accents the challenge, and encourages players to twist their character’s problems or challenges in ways that will tempt Jayne. That will help make Jayne’s flaw and Mal’s come into conflict more, making them both happy.

“Challenge Me” or making your own Firefly

Last night we were discussing Firefly and flaws that affect the group. One example was Jayne, and his motivation to sell the group out. We were discussing how a flaw like that would work– how do you have someone with a group destroying flaw and how can they bring it into the story without destroying the game.

I had an epiphany, and it really centers the show around Mal. From here on, I’m going to use the initial letter to indicate the player of the character. So Mal’s player is M, Jayne’s J, Inara I, etc.

So the group is sitting around the table, and they’ve sketched out their characters to each other. K says she’s going to play Kaylee the group’s Mechanic, M has talked about playing a businessman type ship’s captain, J says Jayne’s going to be good at blowing stuff up.

So around the table, they’re ready to pick out Merits and Flaws. (Or whatever Serenity system calls them.) They are throwing around ideas– maybe the ship is always short on cash, maybe they’re all outcasts from society, etc. Then M (playing Mal) says: “I’m going to be all about loyalty to my crew. Challenge me.”

Everyone around the table gets excited and thinks up ways to challenge this Merit/Flaw. J says, “Well, I was thinking that Jayne’s awfully mercenary– maybe the loyalty Mal feels toward Jayne isn’t really reciprocated. So I’ll challenge you by betraying you every once in a while.”

M thinks for a minute and says “Awesome, give me more.”

D says, “Well, Doctor and his sister could be in trouble with the law and start off outside the crew. So we’ll challenge you to stick with us even though we’re outsiders and cause you trouble.”

R chimes in, “And we’re talking about the Doctor being very protective of River, so he’ll want to protect River first, so our loyalty is to each other.”

Z says, “Well, Wash and Zoe are married, so our loyalty’s going to be to each other.”

I says, “What if Inara and Mal are in love? And she’ll get in trouble away from the ship, so you’ll have to debate risking everyone for me personally? Let’s keep our relationship stormy and conflicted, so I’m often doing other stuff.”

Later, J is looking at the flaws he’s debating taking for Jayne. He says, “Jayne’s very mercenary– how do we want to challenge that?”

R says, “Well, there could be a big reward for the capture and return of River. Maybe even payouts for information about me.”

M says, “Let’s make the business really marginal– Mal won’t be able to pay Jayne much, and when things go wrong, he won’t be able to pay at all for a while.”

K chimes in, “And the ship’s old and always seems to need new parts to stay running, so Mal has to pay for repairs first, or we don’t go anywhere.”

This is still sketchy– I’ll come back after some sleep– but this is the insight that woke me up last night. Basically, the insight is that flaws that challenge the group’s stability only come about in response to another player saying “Challenge me”. Jayne’s mercenary behavior is a bad flaw for the group unless it responds to someone else’s Challenge. If no one was playing Mal, then the debates about loyalty to the group shouldn’t be brought up.

Jayne’s mercenary flaw accents the challenge, and encourages players to twist their character’s problems or challenges in ways that will tempt Jayne. That will help make Jayne’s flaw and Mal’s come into conflict more, making them both happy.

Planet of Exile by Ursula K. LeGuin

This was my first time reading this book; a chance find at a local used book store. It’s from early in her career, 1966, but has beautiful prose and spare lines. It’s a part of the Hanish Cycle— her space anthropology series.

I liked the characters, and as always their interactions, quirks, and hesitations felt authentic. I’m very happy to have found and read this one.

Heat Signature by Lisa Teasley

This was a reread; while I didn’t recognize it by title, I suspected it was a reread as soon as I saw the cover. It took about a half a chapter to be sure, but memory was hazy and I remembered enjoying it, so I continued.

It’s a good book, slightly mystical, but all in entirely discountable ways if you want to cling to rational explanations. The star of the book is Sam, who is being a shit to the people he loves. He drives off to drive up the coast and get out of the sun. In alternating chapters, we see snippets of his mother July’s life (and eventual death).

Both POV characters are sympathetic, even when they’re being terrible. The author did a great job of writing them as engaging, very flawed but very human. Along the way, the minor characters are all interesting and slightly skewed from normal. Haley and Sam finish the novel in a potentially good place, but their history makes me wonder if they can last.

The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure by Storm Constantine

I enjoyed this book, despite wandering into it with doubt. I’ve internalized many of the “perfect people” and related attacks on the series, but enjoyed this book all the same.

The scope is less sweeping, and the characters are well developed and grow in complex and realistic ways. I like Flick and Ulaume, and they really benefit from the extra attention. I’m curious again about the evolution of the world, and will probably pick up the next book in the series sometime soon.

Next Game and Discussion: April 25th

Update: We’ll get together Saturday night at 7 pm (or so), have a BBQ, eat, and discuss our plans.

Since the discussion about “Are people too busy?” was canceled for people being too busy, it looks like a discussion we should have. Let’s have it on April 24th [the next day everyone currently expects to be available]. If you can’t make it, chime in and let us know!

End of the World

Recently I’ve had strange thoughts cross pollinating and thought I’d share. The common theme is the end of the world– in a transformative way.

The idea was inserted into my brain by Joshua’s quick overview of Children of Men. That, in turn, brought back memories of Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, a different book about a humanity that just stops reproducing and slowly dwindles. It’s a cool look at cloning and social biases– not on the same point as Children of Men (as I understand it), but closely related.

Recently I’ve been reading The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure, a book about the Wraeththu. After reading some good critiques of the original series and overall setup, I know I’m reading the new book with a somewhat tainted mind, but it’s still interesting. In the backstory, a successor race (the Wraeththu) emerges from the midst of humanity and starts competing and killing it off. It’s kind of a “vampire/zombie plague” like spread, and is a fascinating look at the struggle between humanity’s remnants and its heirs.

In that, it reminded me of Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear. In Darwin’s Radio, a few people giving birth to Homo Sapien’s (assumed) successor, strange children with talents as different from us as we are different from Neanderthals.

The other thread it sparked was the fantasy twist– the Patryns and Sartan from the Death Gate Cycle. They too are descended from humanity, grow up in its midst, and eventually blow up and recreate the world in a new pattern. (That’s all backstory!) The Deryni series is another story of insiders… thinking of the Wraeththu and Patryns and Sartan makes me wonder if their history, shadowed and paralleling the larger humanity’s, would also work.

So, five or six threads came to mind, none of which match together smoothly. The Deyrni are different from the rest– but always close to my heart I guess– I’ll set them aside. The rest are about a huge upheaval, the changing of the world.

On further thought, I can think of one RPG that kind of fits this mold– including the ambivalent role of a newly emerging superrace. White Wolf’s Aberrant is reputedly straight on target– super beings emerge in a relatively “realistic” world of today. It’s a bit like X-men (at least the movie versions I’m familiar with), with their interactions in larger society a little strained, with everyone trying to figure out how to pigeon hole them.

I wonder if an interactive history style game would work. For the first four ideas (humanity dies out, what replaces it), it’d be interesting to have a general timeline [maybe play out society wide stuff Reign or Aria style], then dip into specific characters at times of crisis in the history. So maybe start with a short series centered on the eruption of the alternate race, with the PCs playing both sides of the fence. Then hop forward a few decades or centuries and play characters in the new situation, as the balance between the new and old changes.

Anyway, I’m not actively planning anything along these lines at the moment– strangely, this came up just as I was studying the very heroic Spirit of the Century. I wonder if my interest is as a balance to the optimism of the pulps. Or just getting hit with similar plot ideas several times in succession.