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Serenity Roleplaying Game Preview


Saint Varden
Validated User

Margaret Weis Productions is going to publish the Serenity Roleplaying Game, to be released at GenCon Indy in August. They ran several preview games at the Origins game convention in Columbus, Ohio on July 2. I played in one game and sat in on another.

If you're a gamer and a Browncoat, you'll wanna read this...


I think we're gonna like this game just fine. The task resolution system is straightforward and pretty simple. The game seems to stress role playing because they've written in rules to reward you for playing your weaknesses and quirks. Also, the scenarios they ran at Origins had a perfect Firefly feel to them.


The game mechanic is based on the Sovereign Stone system, which reminded me of the old TSR Alternity system. Basically, the GM gives you a target number to tie or beat, and you throw a bunch of dice at it. The better you are at something, the bigger the dice and the more you get. Characters' six attributes are rated as dice, like d4 or d10, not numbers. They also have a list of skills, also rated as dice.

For example, in my game I had to fix the water purifier. I had an intelligence of d10 and a repair skill of d10. I rolled d10+d10, hoping to roll over the target number the DM gave me. I also had an agility of d6 and a guns skill of d4, so I knew I was gonna run and hide when the bullets started flying! They did.

The shooter rolled an attack with his agility die plus his guns skill die. I made a defense roll (agility + dodge). The shooter beat my roll by one so he just hit me. That point came out of my body points. Those consisted of 18 wound and 18 stun points. The difference between the attack roll and the defense roll is split between wound and stun, the odd point going to stun. On top of that, the shooter rolled a damage die, d10 I think, and that went to my wound points. As those wear down, you take penalties to all your actions, pass out, or just die.

Realstic, deadly, and a bit more complicated than, say, a D20 System attack where there's one die roll to hit, one for damage, one set of hit points, and the defender doesn't have to roll anything. Still, I'm ready to try it because a Firefly-style game has to be deadly.

I didn't get hurt, though, because I spent a couple of plot points to raise my defense roll.

Plot Points

Plot points are those rewards for roleplaying your weaknesses ('complications,' as Serenity RPG calls them) that I mentioned before. You can spend them before or after a roll to raise a die roll or even change the story itself, like buying yourself a convenient coincidence.

My character had the complications of 'Honest to a Fault' and 'Pacifist.' If I had used Honest to a Fault to, say, pay more for a piece of salvage than I had to because I didn't want to cheat to junk dealer, that would have complicated our captain's plan to save money, but it would have earned me a plot point.

'Doing something cool' also earns you a plot point.

In the game we played, instead of shooting at the guys trying to hijack our ship, I caught one in the airlock, vented the air and knocked him out. That's the way a pacifist would deal with someone and that's how I got a plot point.

I saw guys spend five or seven at a time to make sure a shot didn't miss, or to make a piloting roll through an asteroid field.

I loved having that kind of control over my actions. Plus, that'll get the worst min-maxer or hack-n-slasher to at least try some role playing.


Without spoiling the games for the Browncoats at GenCon and DragonCon, I can say that the scenarios we played were smart and fun. They fit Firefly perfectly, and finished up well in their 4-hour blocks.

They were written by gaming demi-god James M. Ward, whose resume goes back to the original “three little books” version of D&D.

Each game had plot elements you might recognize from Serenity (the TV pilot), Ariel, Bushwhacked, Shindig, Objects in Space or Safe. We had to get a job, fly the clients and/or their cargo there, deal with double-crosses, shoot bad guys and keep flyin’. There was plenty of dice rolling to get us used to the system, and each crew member seemed to have a part to play.

I’m going to contact the Serenity RPG crew, and see what kind of details I can reveal.


I can tell you that watching the second game with the original crew was almost like watching an episode of the show. When I was playing the first game, I almost felt like I was IN the show.

Now, they didn't have anything published for us to look at, except deckplans for Serenity and Aces & Eights, but I'm really fired up about this game. It looks like it's gonna be flexible and cinematic. It's going to give the characters a lot of control over what happens and encourage them to role-play well and come up with a Joss-worthy story along the way.


See pictures from the games, including deckplans, character sheets, handouts and us gamers:


Registered User
Validated User
Sounds nifty - thanks for the info / update.

The link you posted is providing a response that its bandwidth has been exceeded (so, it appears more than a few folks have been taking a look).

Bootleg Girl

RPGnet Member
Sounds awesome. The setting isn't really fleshed out enough for a game, in my opinion, but the system sounds amazing.

I wanna see a Star Wars conversion!


More Ullish in Hue
Validated User
This goes against what we've heard from the playtesters, but it is good to get the opinion of someone outside the development process. Glad you had fun and it doesn't sound too bad.

And you, young Serenity RPG...we will watch your career with great interest.

I'm hoping the RPG book is more setting than mechanics, but if the mechanics are good, cool. Not sure if my group would ever get into this game or not - what makes Firefly good is the interaction between the characters, and you get that from a script or from people who are good at roleplaying. My group is hack-and-slash with a lot of friendly bullshitting, they aren't deep roleplayers. That wouldn't make a game based on Firefly or Serenity any different than Generic Space Setting #482. For a group a little less set in their ways, though, could be a lot of fun.



What Are You Afraid Of?
Validated User
Cool, thanks for the recap and mini-review...I'll have to check it out a GenCon. I'm just getting into the Firefly series and it looks promising. I'm hoping for a good game and a good movie when it comes out...




It looks interesting, but I'm kinda leery of the different-dice-for-skills-and-rolls approach. Still, I'll take a good look at it during GenCon, if it's there.


Validated User
Thornhammer said:
I'm hoping the RPG book is more setting than mechanics, but if the mechanics are good, cool.

I'm much the same way. I can play Firefly using just the DVDs for background and any number of systems for characters - Unisystem, Silhouette, GURPS, Fading Suns, hell I could even dust off the ol' Star Frontiers stuff. What I'd be looking for would be stuff that I can't get from just watching the show or the movie. Otherwise I doubt I'd see much value in the book, even if I am a raving Firefly fanboy. ;)
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