Serenity, the RPG

Got a look at the Serenity rpg last night.  Overall, it looked pretty cool and I was favorably impressed, but there were some nitpicks.

The system appears to be that you have some target number, which you must equal or exceed in order to do whatver you’re trying to do.   All of your attributes and skills are assigned a value by way of the size of the die you roll when you use them–that is, if you’re Jayne your brawn gets d10 and your smarts get a d4; if you’re Simon it’s vice-versa.  Bonuses and penalties happen by changing the size of the die some number of steps.  I have never encountered this mechanic before, but I rather like it; it makes it so an expert can still fail, but does so less often than a novice, and that this happens with a frequency that’s easy to see.  It’s pretty clear that someone rolling a d4 is only going to beat a 3 half the time, while someone with a d12 will do so 5 times out of 6.  I’d have to see it in play to know how well it works, but on the whole it looks promising.

I must also confess a liking for any game which includes such ads and disads as “Leaky Brainpan”, “Moneyed Individual”, and “Sweet and Cheerful”.  But this leads into one of my problems: the whole book is written in the Ole West Hick dialect, including explainations of mechanics and examples of play.  It gets gratin’ right quick, if you catch my drift.

I didn’t have time to take a thorough look at all the background info they provided, but one bit I did see was the money system.  Turns out a Firefly “credit” has about the buying power of $25, for shades of B5 (though if I recall correctly the disparity there was less).  There’s also coin, which disdains such intuitive systems as “straight decimal” in favor of something that works out to the smallest coin being worth 40 cents–it was along the lines of $25>1 credit>2.5 platinum (1 p=$10)>5 gold (1 g=$5)>62.5 silver (1 s=40 cents).  I may be misremebering, because, well, nonintuituve.  I know that the British Empire got along with a horrendously nonintuitive currency for literally a thousand years–remind me again how many shillings in a guinea?–but still.  This is gaming, I don’t want it to be accountancy too…



[Simon in the blue shirt]

 You scored as Simon Tam. The Doctor.  You have a gift for healing that goes beyond education.  You took an oath to do no harm, even when your patients have tried to kill you.  You are out of place where you are, being used to refined society.  However, if you take that stick out of your arse you should be fine. 

Hoban ‘Wash’ Washburne 63%  OK, yes, I am wimpy.

The Operative 63%  Huh?

Simon Tam 63%  Makes sense, I guess.  Though I wonder why the one I came up as is listed 3rd.

Zoe Alleyne Washburne 56%  I am nowhere near cool enough to be Zoe…

River Tam 56%  And also?  I can kill you with my brain.  I really want to be able to say that…

Inara Serra 50%  I want to be a geisha because they make more money than street hookers.

Jayne Cobb 44%  Jayne is cool, but I don’t want to be him.

Capt. Mal Reynolds 38%  I am not traumatized enough to be Mal.

Kaylee Frye 38%  Nor am I good enough with machines to be Kaylee

Shepherd Derrial Book 31%  Look at him not being anything like me.

Which Serenity character are you?

created with

Serenity–The Real Review

Now that my seething hatred of Joss Whedon and all his works has subsided a bit, I’m going to actually review the movie.

Setup: Malcolm Reynolds fought on the losing side in a civil war.  Eight years later, he has a rundown ship, with which he and his crew take on not-very legal jobs on the outskirts of the society that beat his side.  Two of the crewmembers are fugitives from the government: a doctor and his little sister, who was experimented on by a Top Sekrit Project to produce a telepathic supersoldier.  The experiments suceeded, in that the little sister is very dangerous and telepathic, but she’s also a whack job on a fairly regular basis.

The plot revolves around River, the sister; as the Operative sent to retrieve her says, “You had ‘key members of Parliament’ here, and you put them in the same room with a telepath.”  She’s discovered a secret that the government doesn’t want known, that being that they killed 30 million people on a colony planet, essentially by accident.  They put a drug in the air supply that was supposed to make people calm and passive…and it did, so much so that all the colonists just sat down, stopped eating and starved to death.  Except, of course, for the small percentage who became utterly mad, psychopathic flesh-eating Apache/zombies.  (The Firefly universe is essentially a western, and in this western the Indian-analogues really are going to eat you alive, rape you to death, and use your skin for leather.)  In the end, the crew manages to get evidence of this atrocity out to the public in general, at the cost of several crewmembers’ lives.

I have already mentioned how angered I was by Wash’s death, so I am not going to go into it further except to state that I wonder what it is about Joss that has made him decide that no happy relationship can go unpunished.

Granted that the diagram we’re shown of the solar system they inhabit is inside the head of a young lady who is not precisely sane; still, River’s the type who would have that sort of thing accurate even while her fantasy teacher is stabbing her in the head.  We must assume that the clearly-out-of-scale system circles a large, young, hot star with a habitable zone several dozen AU in radius, starting much further out than Sol’s.  I still suspect that the orbital dynamics just aren’t going to work.

We also have to say that the colonists left Earth before developing their terraforming technology; otherwise they could have fixed whatever went wrong.  As there is no evidence of FTL travel, there’s plenty of time for the generation ships to figure this stuff out on the trip.

Next: Miranda and the Reavers.  Explain again how the death or madness of 30 million people was covered up?  I didn’t quite get it the first time.  Not to mention that Miranda is shown to be out on the edge of nowhere, but it looks like a Core planet in terms of buildings and so forth.  Perhaps it was settled on the sly for the express purpose of testing this drug, with a population drawn from those willing to leave their old lives behind in return for comfort?  Plus, if it’s a drug that made the Reavers mad, how can they make new ones (Bushwhacked)?  Maybe they start secreting the stuff themselves; maybe it really is psychological.

Mr. Universe.  How can a character be a problem, you ask?  That’s exactly it: he’s not a character.  He’s a plot device.  I didn’t care about him, and in the words of Wash “Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal!”

River’s final fight with the Reavers was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I am willing to buy that she could take several dozen zombies, even in a space that small.  What bugs me is that she did it starting from what was, for her, the worst possible state: already grabbed.  These (5 or 6) guys should have been chewing on her ankles even as they pulled her away from the door, and someone who weighs less than a hundred pounds has to have a fighting style heavily based on Not Being There–which River does, as witness the bar fight; the one time she gets grabbed, from behind, she kicks the guy in the head to make him let go.  This isn’t going to work on Reavers, who beat PCP users for not noticing when they’re hurt.

That being said, the movie rocks.

It’s got all the things I love Joss for: great characters, great interaction, nonstop action (in the sense of “interesting things happening” rather than “stuff blowing up”) and interesting visuals.  All these little plot nitpicks?  Didn’t occur to me till after the movie.  Even when I was so furious I could hardly see, I wasn’t thinking about the movie as a movie.


Don’t read this if you haven’t seen Serenity yet. No, I really mean it, don’t read this.

No holds are barred; I’m going to be very very explicit about the movie and why it angers me.

Yet more spoiler space.

Don’t read it. Really.

OK, I warned you.

So Joss Whedon, the one-trick pony, has done it again. Let’s make a list of characters who committed the cardinal sin of not being indispensable enough: Doyle. Joyce. Tara. Anya. Fred. Wesley. Book. Wash. Goddamnit, Wash. I’m told that Ron Glass, who played Book, came back to do the movie on the condition that he be written out. He didn’t want to do it anymore, which I can sort of understand, though it’s too bad we’re never going to get any more of that character’s back story. But I have not heard anything along those lines from Alan Tudyk, AKA Wash. Wash had to die because Joss, every once in a while, needs a pointless death just to show us that he’s not some pussy who lets his characters live because people like them. There’s something in his little brain which insists that if someone the audience cares about doesn’t die, they won’t take him seriously. And it can’t be a death that means something, a death that accomplishes anything, oh no–it has to be “Oh look, a sharp pointy thing just rammed through the front viewport for no particular reason, just when we thought we were down and safe.” Only Tara had a death so completely pointless, though at least Joss drove plot with it. Wash doesn’t even get that. I can’t say that I’ll never watch anything Joss produces again; I know myself better than that. But this movie has finally driven home the concept that it’s not safe to get involved with the characters on his shows; it’s not a good idea to invest any emotion in them, because the instant Joss feels he’s not being appreciated as an artiste, down they go. It’s a cheap trick, but it seems to be the only one he’s got. He should be ashamed of himself.

A Couple of Shorts

RIVER: If you go there, you will die.


This Is Just To Say
I have given back
the merchandise
that you hired us
to steal

and also
I am returning
the money
you paid us

Forgive me
you didn’t
tell us
it was medicine