Browncoats and Hands of Blue

Okay… Firefly-Serenity seems a good fit for a MG Hack:

Premise: do the job. Get paid. Keep flying.

Missions: smuggling, robbing, protecting, defending… lots and lots.

Conflicts: there are enemies (the Feds and corporations, plus all sorts of mean people on the outer planets and moons, and one nasty gangster).

Weapons: fists, improvised stuff like pool sticks, and, well, guns:)

Overarching Conflict: survival out in the black.

Territories: specified inner and outer planets and moons. In local terms, ships?

Denizens: hoo, yeah: Reavers, humans toting shotguns… incredibly powerful corporations…

Skills: pilot of course, gun-oriented skills, some stuff that is western oriented such as riding, perhaps disguise…

Abilities: obstacles–think of stuff from the shows; what would you do here?

Traits: hmmm, Browncoat is obvious… how about Courtesan? And of course, Psychic…

Recruitment: anyone care to take a stab… let’s see if we can flesh out a hack that works well and captures the feeling of the 'verse??

For hazards, I would say: space, the ship (its systems), humans, enemies (Alliance, Reavers, whatever). Space would replace environment, while ship would replace weather (systems failures, etc). Humans replace mice and enemies replace animals.

In terms of skills, I don’t think you’d need to add much. Maybe make Hunter into Gunslinger, and keep Fighter as Fighter (or make it Brawler). For riding, just have Rider instead of Insectrist. Some of the craft-type skills probably need to be removed. Fill those in with necessary skills for the setting, like Engineer, Technician, etc. Harvester becomes Salvager, etc.

The best way to do a hack is to not change much. If you can just reskin, do it. Better to substitute names than try to create too much new stuff.

The big question is this: What would Nature look like? Once you have a good idea of Nature descriptors, the rest is gravy. The key to Nature descriptors is to have things that are in a firefly ship’s crew’s nature… but which stand somewhat opposed to what they would likely be doing during a mission.

Luke said it really well when we were working on the Realm Guard hack:

Sparked after reading the two posts: Coincidence?

"Grief – the weight of the tide of time upon the immortal and long-lived
Tradition – the rituals, etiquette, mores and values of this most venerable culture
Family – the deep-seated instinct to build families, dynasties and lineages. "

Do the Job -
Get Paid -
Keep Flying -

Too much of a stretch?

The Bane

Not too much of a stretch, but the issue is that those three Nature descriptors are too in line with what the Browncoats will be doing each session. They’ll just use or tap Nature for half of their tasks. The key is to find 3-4 Nature descriptors that are in their nature as former Browncoats, but in some ways contrary to what they’ll be doing out and about as freelancers or mercenaries.

Of those, I think Get Paid or some variation of that would be a good descriptor. Do the Job could be used constantly, as could Keep Flying.

This is the hardest thing about attempting a hack.

Might I suggest:


Those are the features the Alliance would pride in their citizens. The Nature of humans in that era would be to keep their heads down, play it safe and not make waves.

Might I suggest Browncoats Nature:
Killin the Alliance
Big Damn Hero!
Helpin’ the Weak

All three are things that will get them in trouble.
1 with the alliance
2 with the local studmuffin AND the alliance
3 with the local studmuffin.

But then you’re setting up Browncoat Nature as directly in line with where you expect play to be. In particular, “Big Damn Hero” seems like an excuse to call on Nature any time you do anything at all risky. I’d suggest that your Natures are Citizen/Independent rather than Alliance/Browncoat, just as it’s Mouse Nature not Guard Nature. The posted Alliance writeup looks reasonable to me, and for the Independent side:

But Loyal to His Own
and something about space to live in, maybe.

Depends on when you’re set, Zabieru…

durin’ the war, yeah, it’s exactly what makes them into Jain. After… well, let’s just say Mal’s desire to be a Big Damn’ Hero is 90% of his cashflow issue…

And don’t forget, end the year at 7, or hit 8 ever, and you go off the deep end… and become that Alliance killin’ big damned hero who burns out like a meteor… Bright, hot, maybe a big bang, but in the end, a fizzle in the atmosphere. On the other hand, Nature 0, and you’ve lost the edge that makes you a browncoat, and you give in to that alliance conformity…

Depends on when you’re set, Zabieru…

durin’ the war, yeah, it’s exactly what makes them into Jain. After… well, let’s just say Mal’s desire to be a Big Damn’ Hero is 90% of his cashflow issue…

And don’t forget, end the year at 7, or hit 8 ever, and you go off the deep end… and become that Alliance killin’ big damned hero who burns out like a meteor… Bright, hot, maybe a big bang, but in the end, a fizzle in the atmosphere. On the other hand, Nature 0, and you’ve lost the edge that makes you a browncoat, and you give in to that alliance conformity…

I really think you’re better off leaving that off the descriptors. I see it as an emergent property, coming from the conflict between Mal’s needs (get paid, keep flying, etc) and his Nature (approximately as I outlined, though I don’t think those are the best possible descriptors). Are you familiar with the term “fruitful void” in game design?

It also creates problems because now you’ve created a situation where Mal and a few members of the crew have this Nature and literally no one else does. Patience, for instance, sure as hell doesn’t have Alliance/Citizen Nature, but she also has zero interest in heroism or helping the weak. She is, though, Contrary and interested in her own Breathing Room (though her Loyalty is questionable). So Browncoat Nature fails for her but Independent Nature works nicely. There are lots of other examples of characters who don’t fit Browncoat Nature but do fit Independent… Arguably the sheriff from ‘The Train Job.’ Jayne’s betrayed partner from Jaynestown. Tracey from ‘The Message.’

In the Firefly universe, your Nature could be something like “Citizen.”

Go too low and you can’t get along in society (REAVER!). Go too high and you never leave your homeworld.

So a Citizen’s stuff would probably be, like, “law abiding,” “consumer” and “patriot” or something.

Hm…I see Verrain got there first. Same idea. I think the problem with doing the hack this way is that it’s not, you know, exciting to be a law-abiding patriotic consumer the same way it is to have to resort to being mouse-y to get yourself out of trouble.


I think “citizen” misses the point. In MG, you can have a Mouse Nature and all mice have it. In a Firefly game, who are the characters? They aren’t citizens, at least not in the way described above. They’re misfits thrown together. They’re Independents, or the dregs of society.

I like Verrain’s Alliance descriptors (Conformity, Safety, Obedience). I think zabieru is on the right path for Independents. Contrary is a good one. I also like what Loyal To Our Own is aiming at. Not sure about a third one. Pragmatism, Idealism…

How about Do the Right Thing (or Nobility)? That seems to be a constant for many of them, and comes into conflict with theft, etc. Hell, the conflict between get-paid pragmatism and moral righteousness forms the basis for most of the episodes.

Just tossing ideas out there. I definitely think that the Alliance should be seen as Weasels (with their own descriptors, as Verrain listed) and Independents (the characters) will have their own.

I guess it depends on your taste and perspective. For example, I’m totally not feeling the take that, basically, reinforces all the cool stuff about any given faction – like the whole contrary/independent/pragmatic thing for the Independents, for example. Where’s the tension? How are you playing against your Nature? What does either end of that spectrum look like?

My argument in favor of a “Citizen” type Nature is that it’s directly at odds with being an Independent. It’s the stuff you don’t want to rely on to get you out of trouble. So like…Jayne and Mal are going to be low-Citizen characters, while Simon and Inara are going to be high-Citizen.

Granted, my particular list isn’t thrilling. It’s a first go. But I do think there’s more drama juice to having a Nature to play against than there is when you treat it like a BW Emotional Attribute (which, in a related way, was my problem with that Star Trek hack that treated Star Fleet Training like an EA, and not a Nature that needed to be carefully balanced).

So back to looking at civilized-ness being the source of tension, a revision of my first list: Spending Money, Working Within the System, Laying Low. Now that’s got some potential.


Yeah, I like those three, Paul. Only problem is “Working Within the System.” Alliance folks will get ridiculous mileage out of that one, unless you’re leaving the “system” part purposely broad to allow for more Independent types to define what “system” means to them.


Well…Alliance folks will get a lot of mileage out of that as long as they’re working within the system, yeah. But that means being law-abiding, upstanding, all that stuff. That strikes me as pretty restrictive. As an example, I’m not sure the hands-of-blue agents, or the unnamed badass agent in Serenity, would necessarily be using their Citizen nature to get shit done.

There are also all the other built-in counterbalances to Nature that work to keep high-Nature mice under control as well, like the fact that you don’t earn tests when you’re using your Nature. That might matter. Also, it costs Persona.


So I was thinking about how I’d want high-Citizen characters, like I’m envisioning Simon, Inara and Book, to treat their Citizen nature. In each case, they rely on their status, right?

  • Simon’s a rich guy (hence my “spending money” thing) but he’s also a doctor, so he knows high society and medical stuff – his career is what makes the hospital heist possible, after all.

  • Inara uses her role as Ambassador to get the ship onto and off of tough planets, open doors, etc.

  • Book uses his role as Shepherd (and as mysterious-past-with-Alliance-ties guy) to broker peace, intermediate, etc.

And then in comparison I’m thinking about how that looks on the other end of the spectrum, the low-Citizen characters (Mal, Jayne, River, Kaylee):

  • Mal’s hampered by his role in many cases. He can’t talk directly to rich people (although he’s more respectable than Badger, who must be a very low Citizen indeed). His Browncoat past regularly complicates things.

  • Jayne is, in my mind, about on-par with Badger: an unrepentant criminal. No class, no etiquette, no manners.

  • River is just a clueless freak, although she can fake it extremely well (not really sure yet how I’d go about modeling the River factor).

  • Kaylee I think is sort of middle-ish. Maybe about on-par with Mal. But she’s young and she simply doesn’t know the rules of etiquette. I’m thinking about the episode on the plantation planet, where she wears the wedding-cake dress.

So I’m thinking about alternatives to “Working Within the System”:

“Knowing Your Place”
“Matters of Status”
“Etiquette” or “Rules of Society”

Anyway, just more riffing.


See, I disagree about Badger. He knows his place (he’s a businessman, roots in the community, you know?) He can’t talk to some people but he also knows how to use what he has without being arrested. I think Badger’s actually middling to high Citizen, but low status. He successfully controls and interacts with a network of informants and agents, he can sell stolen goods, and so forth.

I don’t think Citizen is strictly about social standing, I think it’s about how well you fit into your social standing. Kaylee probably has about the same social standing as the servants who made the other girls’ dresses in ‘Shindig,’ but she has a lower Citizen rating than they do because they wouldn’t show up at the ball like they were meant to be there.

As an analogy, a high-Nature mouse could be a woodland scavenger, very close to a pure wild mouse. But they could also be a settled Lockhaven potter, for instance. It’s unnatural but not un-Natural, if you will.

Otherwise, though, I like where this is going!

Right…right. And of course “status” is gonna be reflected in the Circles rules in any case. Maybe. MG Circles is different in ways I can’t immediately remember…

So the first one – “Knowing Your Place” – might actually be a better fit.

Back to the low-Citizen folks, the folks who care less about being a Citizen. I do think Jayne, as a low-Citizen character, does a poor job of knowing his place. This also moves Mal up one rung, since he knows his place fairly well (i.e. he sees eye-to-eye with the Badgers of the world).


Ok, well since it has been pointed out to me that this is the newer thread for this discussion, I’ll repost my thoughts from the other one.

I like the idea, and ironically I was just looking at my Mouse Guard book while re-watching Firefly episodes, so both are fresh in my head.

It seems to me that Nature is not intrisincly something you strive against, after all there are things about Mouse Nature that still came in handy for Guardmice. Climbing, hiding, and even escaping is sometimes the right course of action.

What we should focus on, is what features are inherent to all humans through out the 'Verse. My suggestions would be as follows: Loyalty - all types of humans seem to cling to their respective groups; Survival - the instinct to perserver through all trials is also common to humans everywhere; Ambition - the drive to better one’s self or situation; and Stubborness - seems to me that people will often stick to their decisions long after they should.


I think Nature words might emerge in play, especially as this is a new setting to work with this system, but the idea of Nature vs. character duties/necessities is a core concept.

[i]Browncoat Nature (after the war):

Individuality - belief in the primacy of individual judgment
Grief - over the loss of the war and the catastrophe at Serenity[/i]