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|Publisher(s)||Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd|
|Publisher(s)||Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd|
Serenity Role Playing Game is a science fiction role-playing game released in 2005 and set in the universe of the movie Serenity and television series Firefly. It is produced by Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd, and its mechanics are the first iteration of the Cortex System.
The themes of Serenity are similar to those presented in the original movie as well as its precursor, the show Firefly. The science fiction background is tempered by the feel of an old western movies, as aspects of high technology mix with frontier life on newly terraformed planets. The primary focus of the game is on constantly moving to the horizon and avoiding being tied down. Secondary themes are created through character interaction and there is plenty of leeway to allow for a Game Master to create their own themes within the setting.
The book is in full color and also includes biographies of the characters, in the words of Mal, and statistics of the crew. Each chapter opens with a narrative to give the mood and feeling of the setting. These narratives alternate between a crew created by MWP and the crew of 'Serenity'. There are many photographs used as illustration throughout the book, but all are sampled from the film Serenity as opposed to the show Firefly. This is due to MWP acquiring their rights from Universal Studios rather than 20th Century Fox. For this reason as well, the previously mentioned narrative text may come close to something that happened in an episode of Firefly but will diverge in some way to stay within the license purchased through Universal.
The first chapter introduces the character and setting, giving a brief history of "The Verse" and the basic concepts of play. The next few chapters deal with character creation as well as details on Attributes, Skills, and Traits. Following the character creation chapters are chapters on more detailed play systems, additional setting information, equipment, and running the game, including profiles for many pre-generated non-player characters, a sample crew other than the crew of 'Serenity', several sample ships, and stats for some of the secondary cast of the film. At the end of the book there is an appendix which goes over Chinese as it is used in the setting and a short primer for those who want to insert it into their games.
Two more books were released in 2008, with a third in 2009.
Much like Firefly itself, Serenity has thrived on its community producing new content and variant rules while MWP has had their hands tied by license negotiations. 'CortexSystemRPG.org' (which replaced the now defunct 'Waves In The Black' site, and includes discussion forums for all Cortex system games rather than just Serenity) is the primary focus of this community and is frequented by both the head developers as well as some of the freelancers working on the project. In particular, several high-quality and freely available adventures put together by members of the community are available in the site's Downloads section.
The Cortex System is based on the Sovereign Stone System. The system described here is the one detailed in the Serenity core rule book. Margaret Weis Productions, Ltd refined and expanded the system for their Battlestar Galactica role-playing game.
The system uses dice with 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 sides, described with the standard role-playing game notation of d2, d4, d6, d8, and so on. Each of a character's attributes and skills is assigned one of these dice types, with larger dice representing greater ability. So, for example, a character might have Strength d6, Intelligence d8, Athletics d4, Guns d10, and so on. When a character attempts an action, such as piloting a spacecraft, shooting a gun, or punching someone, the player rolls the die for the character's applicable attribute and the die for his/her appropriate skill, adds the results together, and compares the total against a difficulty number. Tasks of greater or lesser difficulty are represented either by increasing or decreasing the difficulty number or increasing or decreasing the dice the player rolls by "steps," with each step raising or lowering the die type by one. So a d10 with a two step penalty becomes a d6, a d12 with a one step penalty becomes a d10, and so on.
The game uses a system of Assets and Complications to round out characters and give them various bonuses and penalties. This is similar to the special abilities and character flaws used in a variety of other role-playing games, such as Merits and Flaws in White Wolf Publishing's original World of Darkness, Advantages and Disadvantages in Steve Jackson Games' GURPS, Qualities and Drawbacks in Eden Unisystem, and Edges and Hindrances in Pinnacle Entertainment's Deadlands and Savage Worlds games (to which the Serenity system bears a strong resemblance).
The Cortex System also includes Plot Points, which increase characters' survivability and give players greater control over events in the game. Players can spend Plot Points to gain extra dice when making a die roll, reduce the damage from an attack, or even make changes to the storyline. Some Assets also require the expenditure of Plot Points. At the end of a game session, excess Plot Points are converted to Advancement Points, which a player spends to improve his or her character's abilities.