Community Post #160 Watch out: I've been studying RPG manuals again... Unlike a few others I could mention for various reasons; such as a d20 Mass Effect system I found floating about or Everyone is John, where you play as the voices within the head of a man called John, who is a man that has no free will of his own and will blindly follow the orders of his head voices. Both are real and that second one seems like a riot with a few horrible people you happen to call friends and a crate of decent cider. But, this offering from my research into Tabletop RPG's is Firefly RPG. Yes, an RPG system based on the TV Show that was canned just as it was building up speed, Firefly. The funny thing is that there's actually two of them. One based on the TV show and one based on the movie to cap the show off, Serenity. I've been looking at the TV based one. Even stranger for me, this is the first RPG manual I have purchased. Yes! It is an actual, physical manual rather than a jumble of long, complex PDFs like Pokemon Tabletop United. On one hand, I have a lovely book to flick through. On the downside, it costs about £31 for an extra copy rather than the effort it takes to hit 'Ctrl+C' then 'Ctrl+V'. While sharing one copy among many is a pain in the rear, considering what's in this thing, I'm pretty happy with my new book. For those not familiar with the TV show somehow, the idea is that it's The Future. Kinda. The future ahead is basically a western in space. After a huge war across the galaxy for control over the people living there, the Browncoats, who are fighting against the Alliance, have been defeated. Many years later, the show follows veteran of this costly war, Malcolm Reynolds, and his crew as they try to make it in this big, harsh 'verse. They fly from odd job to odd job, looking to get paid and keep their ship flying. Don't forget the ability to do a good photo shoot. Very important skill. Think post-civil war America stretched out over a galaxy, with more swearing in Chinese and spaceships. And following this universe's equivalent of Confederate veterans. I guess all things swing back around at some point? It was popular enough to spawn tons of stuff despite getting canned about 14 episodes in. Heck! There's a special loot crate for it now. I own both the RPG and the boardgame. The board game in particular is pretty epic in it's attempted scale. They wanted to model the feeling of working in this environment as much as possible. The board is huge and has about 15 different decks of cards to represent every aspect of the game. Then there's expansions. Very fun if slow game. The RPG? Well, got some idea of DnD in your head? Right, throw that out. Firefly RPG is based on Cortex Plus and that's what we could call a 'Roleplay Focused System'. No need for complex formulae or number crunching. The only things you need is players, a GM, a stack of poker chips and imagination. Imagination being key to make up excuses and sly reasons why you're suddenly throwing more dice at a problem than EA. Ha! I think that joke works. If you squint... All game systems model something, taking their own slants and skews on what's happening to give it a different feel but ultimately basing themselves on some core thing you can actually do. DnD has all those numbers to make combat feel like a tactical fight, letting you pick and choose the best way of laying on damage or conspiring against people or whatever. Firefly RPG is looking for roleplaying above all else so simplifies it's maths. Instead of formulae, you build a 'dice pool', made up of dice you gain from abilities applicable to the situation. The GM does the same and then you roll them, putting the two highest dice first in a bid to outroll your opponent. In essence, adding dice increases your chances of getting a higher number than your opponent. The game uses d4 to d12, so higher numbered dice increase the upper bounds of what a roll can do. More and bigger dice mean better chances at success. Think of it as the Free-Form Roleplay we do in the Roleplay Section tied to some logical dice rolls for a little extra spice of chance and rigid mechanics so the experience feels like a game you can swing to your advantage. A game where even when you have nothing but your sizable attributes, you can succeed. So, say I want to...I dunno, convince Ridley to bake me a cake. Ridley might say 'No', so, we need to resolve who would win out here. Well, I have dice I can use to make up an action. Typically Cortex Plus works on a 'Attribute + Skill' setup for basic actions. So, I might try using my Social die and combine it with my Influence die to make a Social Influence action then roll those two dice to attempt to convince Ridley to make a cake. If I wanted, I could attempt to intimidate Ridley by using my Physical attribute die instead of Social. Or I could attempt to trick Ridley into it by using my Mental attribute die and my Trick skill die to Mental Trick action my way into sweet, delicious Ridley cake. Literally no reason I'm picking on Ridley other than it seemed like someone everyone here would be familiar with. Plus, everyone likes cake. If you don't, there is always cakes cousin, pie or blancmange. That's the basis of a dice pool but in order to get the most from a roll, you need to invent excuses to throw in more. This is where Plot Points come in. Yes, literally, you have a little bank of Plot Points to spend to influence the story of the session. Every player starts with one while the GM has as many as they want. The GM will hand you a Plot Point when a player has done something awesome or clever, or as a balance to some disadvantage a game mechanic inflicts on the player's character. For example, all characters have 'Distinctions' which are a sort of biography based skill the character can call on. So, my distinction could be Everypony Admin d8 (pretty much all distinctions are worth a d8 initially). That comes with a series of Trigger abilities. All Distinctions are voluntarily used by the player. Every distinction has this: Gain 1 Plot Point when you roll a d4 instead of a d8. I think the idea is that your character is holding back or when the distinction is applicable but the player is attempting to set up something risky for later. Using this distinction now has a much higher risk of stuffing up your roll, failing the action and having to deal with the consequences, but you are given the opportunity to do something about it with the game's own bargaining chips. This isn't the only trigger a distinction can have, allowing it to beef up or downsize certain dice when you think you can get away with it, allowing a certain degree of control over what you're trying to do. These distinctions are specific skills a character can display, much like how a Mage can perform magic, a Shepard can share compassion or a Thug can beat their chest to be as scary as possible. Regardless of headgear Back to the example, I could attempt to throw in a d8 from my Everypony Admin distinction to ask...Rex to deal with a site report. But, I could attempt to use this as a chance to get a Plot Point to use later for my ceaseless need to try Ridley's delicious Scorn Cake, made in pure spite and said to be utterly delicious but only given to people in the hopes of gaining vengeance on others. So, I scale back my d8 to a d4 in exchange for a Plot Point because I'm confident I can get the job done with a smaller set of dice. So, what to do with these Plot Points? Well, they create excuses for extra dice to be added to your pool. These are called 'Assets'. You spend a Plot Point to create an Asset for a scene, usually creating something that will grant a d6 if applicable. So, you might knock a guy out but then pick up his gun. To use his gun, you spend a Plot Point and then turn it into an Asset. Now, if you attempt to use this gun in an action, you can add the die associated with it to your dice pool. If I've got the rules down right, they can really be anything from objects to just vibes or moods put out by the character. It appears equally valid to create a Bar Stool d6 Asset as it is to create a Mad as All Hell d6 Asset or a Sunny Disposition d6 Asset. Spending more Plot Points lets these Assets stick around for longer than a scene, if you think they're worth keeping. So, I might have a Cute Bunny d6 Asset to help me convince Ridley to bake a cake when I make my action roll. If I try a Social+Influence action I could throw in my Cute Bunny to help make my case, adding that d6 to my roll, hoping to bank on the adorable eyes to sway Ridley. I can spend a Plot Point to make a deal with the Bunny in order to extort more cake from others later, allowing me to hold onto my Asset for longer as they would normally be discarded as soon as a scene ends. A sort of currency you use to create your own 'Everything Proof Shield' and 'Kill Everything Raygun'. Though, it seems like scaling stuff back so you only use what you need when you need it is best. Like just the shield and make do with a butterknife. All characters also start with Signature Assets, which are personal items or things the character has that only they can utilise as effectively. A Signature Asset offers larger dice when used but only for the character it belongs to. So, you take actions and then Assets allow you to make stuff up to give you some advantage. It's all about finding excuses to throw in extra dice when trying to do something. The GM is usually looking to do the same thing and they can create a Complication if you screw up, allowing them a chance to boost their dice pool as well. Y'see, if you roll a 1 in other games, then it's a 'Critical Fail' and GM's will either use it as an excuse to make up something silly or kick your character in between the legs for being so unlucky. Cortex Plus lets a GM make up a 'Complication' for every 1 the player has thrown when they rolled. So, say a player rolled a 1 among their dice. Well, that one is now set aside and treated as a 'Jinx' and cannot be added to their roll total at all as it's working against them now. The GM will now hand that player a Plot Point in-exchange for making a Complication, which operate like a bizarro version of Assets. They lend their die to the opposing dice pool when applicable, working against the player they are being levied against. This can happen regardless of whether you've succeeded the roll or not. Normally, Critical Fails are bad but the GM is allowed to really swing at you when you screw up in Cortex Plus. It sounds so much fun. Huu-hahahahahahahaaaa! So, if I attempted to woo Ridley into making me a cake, but rolled a 1 somewhere, then the GM could hand me a Plot Point but then tell me that I now have the Complication Ridley Thinks You're Too Pushy d6. The GM now has an extra die to use against me whenever I attempt to perform actions with Ridley. If I'd rolled two or three 1's in my dice pool, then the GM, if I have the rules down right, has a choice. They can either use each Jinx I rolled to make new complications or 'step up' an already existing complication. So, the GM could use these Jinxes to make Ridley Is Getting Frustrated d6 and Desperate Need for Cake Rising d6 complications as well, handing me a Plot Point for each one. Sure, dice rolls just got harder because the GM has plenty to work with but I got Plot Points to spend on stuff to help me out. Or, the GM can 'step up' any complication in play at the moment, making the associated die bigger. So, the GM might make Ridley Thinks You're Too Pushy d6 into Ridley Thinks You're Too Pushy d8 or even d10, representing just how up a certain creek without a certain, vital piece of equipment for canoeing the character currently is as problems start to escalate. This is also how 'damage' is represented. Wounds and injuries are also Complications. So, Knife Wound d8 or Cake Induced Trauma d12 would represent HP or Health in other games. It's very fluffy and up to the GM when a player would actually die. In fact, the highest die in the game is a d12. If something is escalated beyond a d12, the GM can decide to add a new Complication to show how the issue has progressed into something worse (Cake Based Coma d6) or declare a character 'Taken Out'. This just means a character has been defeated by the situation and is now out of the scene. They're not necessarily dead, but no longer able to participate in the current scene any more. That could range from anything from being knocked out to being so incredibly angry that you storm off somewhere secluded to calm down. You can typically use Actions or Plot Points to fix Complications or lessen their impact, ensuring you always have options. You have the choice to either attempt to plough on with your task or attempt to fix the issues popping up to ensure things run a little more smooth. What if every die you throw comes up as a 1? Then that's a 'Botch' and congratulations! The Rulebook flat out says that your GM has full reign to bring down hell upon you by not only making up a Complication or stepping one up but also doing it without handing over a Plot Point for you to attempt to counter it with. "Uuuh...I got a botch while washing my clothes. Don't ask." Let's say I botch an Influence roll with Ridley to get him to bake me something. I roll four 1's and slam my head on the table because I know my pain is only beginning. My GM cackles like a madman and gives me a Ridley Thinks Tyro is a Cake Addicted Weirdo Complication for nothing then boosts that Complication to a d12 immediately using the other three Jinxes I rolled to step up the die three times. I screwed up so badly that I made a serious problem occur. And I don't get any Ridley cake; which everyone wants because it's so moist, delicious and full of buttercream. Truly, life is misery. That's just mechanics though, which are pretty interesting in their own right. Cortex Plus looks to make a game out of social interaction rather than physical conflict like other RPG's by making every conflict resolved by dice a power play and gamble. Just as a sure-bet isn't immune to screwing up and dumb luck can win out, Cortex Plus says to spend your interactions wisely, planning your moves and stacking the deck you have dealt in your favour carefully so that your character survives or succeeds as unscathed as possible. Cortex Plus is a game of chance, at it's core, which makes sense when it surrounds itself in human interaction as the basis for it's main mechanics. People can act unpredictably to many different situations and when confronted with possible loss, it makes sense that some people will try to escalate things until they win. This is why we have Plot Points as a mechanic. They're the bargaining chip you have with the game to cash in for something within the game you can use to raise your own stakes in what's happening. Reading through this game's rules and how they convey them, it's clear that gambling is a clear theme. They talk about 'raising the stakes' or even suggesting that the best thing to use to keep track of Plot Points is poker chips which are handed out, literalizing the concept of the game for the player. For a game based on a show about moral grey area and living on the fringes of society where either your mouth or your quick draw could save your hide, Cortex Plus seems pretty awesome. The closest game I know of is Ironclaw which also seems more bent on social interaction than the nuts and bolts of combat like Pokemon Tabletop United. "How did you know I put all my points into Charisma?" OK, OK, I'm done being all analyst on you now. One of the coolest things is how much is in here mainly just to get in character. I've read other manuals and they're pretty focused on what you need to know to understand how the game works and such, focused on the mechanics and what they think the player will need them for and that's kinda it. Firefly RPG knows that it's likely to only be used for games set in the Firefly universe so it layers the atmosphere on as thick as it can. It's mostly written with an American 'Wild West' affectation. Lot's of apostrophes and 'Countryisms'. It's like the entire thing is being explained to you by Applejack. The idea is to give you an idea of how most folks talk in the 'Verse. The notion they got is that if yer read the book like that, you'll try talkin' like that when it comes to playin' your character. Dong ma? Honestly, it's a pretty neat idea but this book finds ways of pushing that further. This is the only RPG manual I know of that has a 'Techno-Jargon' generation table. It's a Sci-fi Setting after all and it makes sense that when something goes wrong on the ship, there's a little bit of technicable babble that needs to go with it. So, when your ship is hit with a case of 'Multi-Modal Reflection Sorting' or what-have-you, you can refer to the chart to come up with a convincing idea of what's wrong. The favourite among those I showed this to was 'The Lubrication Extractor is Bending'. What does that mean? Haven't the foggiest but it's great to blurt out without provocation when you're striking up a conversation. "There is a Neutrino Terminal Emission being emitted from a Peppermint Quasar so that's why you can go get your own tea and leave me alone, you lazy cake obsessed weirdo." Another aspect of this game that I find endlessly fascinating is its dedication to trying to help you sound like a native of this universe in other ways you might not expect. The biggest is its inclusion of Chinese phrases. Y'see, Firefly bought into the idea that we'd all be heavily influenced by the Chinese in the future because of their rise in power or huge population or whatever is supposed to happen in the next hundred years. East Asian culture is swirled in with the Wild West stuff, so almost all characters can speak a little Chinese. In the show, I'm sure it was also an excuse to have characters swear but to satisfy censors as it wasn't in English at least. The book is full of Chinese phrases to utilise to ensure you sound a little more authentic while you play your character. Some are small, simple things like the common 'Dong ma?', which translates out roughly to 'Understood?'. You might reassure with "Fang xin!" (pronounced 'fahng sheen') which means 'Don't Worry'. Or you might offer sage advice with "Xain xaing zai shuo!" (pronounced 'shee-an sha-un zigh shwoh'), which comes out as 'Engage brain before speaking!'. But I also mentioned that the characters would swear at lot. And most of the time, it was in Chinese. Usually they'd use the word 'Goram' but there's also phrases for 'Explosive diarrhea of an Elephant', 'Motherless Goat of all motherless goats', 'Stupid son of a drooling *squee!* and a monkey' and, my personal favourite, 'Holy Mother of God and all her wacky nephews!'. I am disappointed googling 'Holy Mother of God and all her wacky nephews' didn't produce anything weirder but it did come full circle, I guess. I love how oddly specific these are. It's like if the French dictionaries at School had a section of just weird phrases or curse words in an effort to help you blend in better on trips. Because that's the idea: they're meant to be for added flavour and authenticity to the games you play while in that 'Verse. You bust one of these lines out for some cool points and just to stay in character. I love this stuff. It's optional, of course, but you got to give it at least one go. Even just to work 'Holy Mother of God and all her wacky nephews' in Chinese into an exchange for the simple majesty of that phrase alone. I am itching to play this. I've been running my Pokemon Tabletop United campaign for a few weeks to some good feedback from my players so I'm eager to try something new while I come up with another leg of that game's journey. It's something kinda new but ought to be just as interesting to see what my players come up with when presented with verbal skills and weapons, rather than brightly coloured monsters. And hats. Never forget a good hat. - Recommended Reading - Oh bloody heck! There's tones here. Reviews! First, Morphin' looks at Mario is Missing because he's nuts. And I did a thing on Zootopia. Dragonbait talks about a worrying arrangement an artist has with their Patreon account. Honestly, does sound like a crappy thing. Here's some hubbub: writer of Toy Story 2 and Mulan are rumoured to be writing the MLP Movie. Thanks Animation 100, I hope it's true. Slightly unusual Twilight Figurine has been discovered by Parker Izing. If you're into your collectables, maybe you can shed a little more light on this. So, in America, there's new M&M's apparently? Poisonous Nightmare is eager enough about this to ask which you prefer. I do want to try honey nut as well as the recently released Ecto-cooler. Americans I watch online idolise this stuff and I want to know what it's like. I still have my precious Iron Brew though. So, I did a thread where you made up an action figure based on you're own OC. Well, of course, Rockout already has one. Is anyone surprised by this? Anyone surprised by this? I'm worried he'll make one of me and put me in my own comics with the Biker Rats from Mars in the background there. Recommendations for Beer please. Purity Light required liquid bread. I like Doom Bar myself but I don't know if it's sold where Purity lives. Also, it's an ale, but close enough... Want to play with a Sailor Scout maker? Here you go! Hm...A little more self promotion than usual, continuing with be doing a little pixel art stuff. Even Prince of the Night got involved. Nice work! Wondering about commissions...Hmm... Samurai Jack is coming back, apparently. Neat! The original was pretty sweet so why not? Finally, our respects go out to those caught in the Orlando Shooting. If you'd like to discuss it, please go here. If you'd like to discuss Gun Control, we've made a separate thread for that to keep this thread from getting too heated. Why not? It's a huge issue that needs it's own space. I think that's it. I'm wondering about running a Firefly RPG game right here on the site in someway. I think that could be fun. I'm also thinking of editing a cut of the last 'Let's Play Thursday' (held on Friday because of a chicken coop) thanks to Link to the Past being strangely fun to play as soon as I started adding a voice to Link. Sorry! Poobar, the legendary hero of Hyrule. Anyway, have fun, take care and all that good stuff.