Mr. Leighton Plom asked me to do a review of one of my recent acquisitions; the Serenity RPG rulebook from Margaret Weis Productions. Not being one to refuse a reasonable request like that, this is my review; which will be in multiple parts. This is part one.
What do you get for your $35.99? Firstly, you get a shiny artistic hardback front cover with a nice picture of Serenity flying through space, while the back has pictures of the entire gang that aim to misbehave. You get 232 full-colour slightly bigger than A4 pages. The book is heavy enough to be used as a weapon; not that I'd personally advise that.
The book has lots of photos from the movie, although not the TV series due to licensing issues.
After a few pages of introduction, you get yourself character data for all the crew in case you wanted to use them in your games, with a picture and some background notes - later in the book, there is information for an alternative crew of a ship called Aces and Eights. The first three chapters cover character creation, which I'll talk about now.
After picking the appropriate level for your character (there are three), you need to give them Traits. You have a certain number of points, which you can spend on buying Minor or Major Assets (for example, Zoe Washburne is a "Fightin' Type Major Asset, which really helps her in combat). You can gain additional points by giving your character complications (Kaylee suffers from Combat Paralysis; as any Browncoat knows, she is not comfortable in kinetic situations). You need at least one of each and can have a maximum of five in each category.
Once you've chosen your assets, you need to "purchase" your attributes. The system uses various types of dice, but that's nothing you can't get around with by use of a dice rolling program. There are six attributes and you can go from d4 to d12 + d6; Wash has a d10 for Agility for example. Once these are done; you can figure out your Life Points score and Initiative dice.
Lastly, you buy skills, with a set number of skill points based on your level. There are basic categories you can get; once those have been maxed out, you can specialise - Mal Reynolds himself has the maximum d6 in Guns and goes up to a very good d12 in Pistols. Skills vary widely in this book and you can get further ones in the expansion volumes; some examples include parasailing, siege weapons and negotiation.
Once that's done, you can buy your gear, based on a certain value that the GM will set (or he/she could just do something arbitrary, like stick you all on a convict ship called London); goods include modular operating theatres, stun batons and ship repair, along with the more standard slug throwers.
Chapter 4 covers vehicle and spaceship rules, with stats for a number of ships, including Alliance Cruisers and cargo liners; there are even deck plans for a few of them, including Serenity (a slightly improved Firefly - for which stats also exist; Kaylee's presence has made the ship better in a couple of areas.
Chapter 5 and 6 are more orientated towards a potential GM; with the standard advice on plots etc, as well as a list of possible NPCs, including Mr. Universe and the Operative.
The book is rounded off by a large section of background information on the 'Verse, including key worlds and cultural stuff (such as Blue Sun). Then we get a slang section, including a short English-Space Chinese dictionary.
To be continued...