All posts by Dragonhelm

Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Cute

There is no denying that Star Wars is a sci-fi icon. The series changed the way that we looked at scifi, both on-screen and behind-the-scenes. Yet for all its accomplishments, Star Wars takes a lot of heat. Primarily, the critics love to bash the Ewoks and Jar-Jar Binks.

Let’s start with Jar-Jar. Okay, I get that some think he’s annoying. Not everyone in life can be likable. I understand that many don’t like the way he talks. So what? We don’t bag on Yoda for the way he talks.

Perhaps, though, we should paint Jar-Jar in a new light. First, he’s comedy relief. Humor has always been a part of Star Wars, and he offers it up in spades. I don’t know about you, but I laughed quite a bit when Jar-Jar’s tongue went numb in Episode I.

Second, has anyone ever considered that Jar-Jar might be an adolescent? He’s clumsy. Well, what happens to teenagers in adolescence? They become a bit clumsy and start tripping over themselves. Jar-Jar obviously lacks a certain sense of maturity, demonstrated by the much more mature Captain Tarpals. Obviously, Jar-Jar is a duck out of water and isn’t quite sure how to act within society. In Episode II, he’s much calmer, showing that maybe he grew up some.

Now, what’s up with the Ewok hate? Is it because a bunch of primitives beat up the Empire? If so, then I’ll just say that technology doesn’t always win the day; smarts and heart do. Did the Ewoks take away from Return of the Jedi? By no means. In fact, I think they helped make it so much fun. Like Jar-Jar, they’re comedy relief. They showed that the little guy can win over the big guy. And they showcase the tragedy of war, as seen when the one Ewok died and the other cried over his dead form.

Do people all over hate the Ewoks? Obviously not considering there were two Ewok movies and an animated Ewoks cartoon. Something had to spark that. They did well enough, too, that they’ve been released on DVD.

“They were originally meant to be wookiees.” Okay, so George Lucas changed his mind. I think the guy is entitled to. Yes, wookiees would have been fun, but then we would have lost the bit about a primitive society winning out over a much larger foe.

Then there’s the “cute argument.” You know, where someone has to say they don’t like something because it’s cute. I find this argument to be extremely subjective. I also don’t understand why people hate cute things. Does it harm anything? No. Do cute characters appeal to the kids? You betcha! That makes for more ticket sales. Members of the female demographic like the cute too. And hey, some of us guys are cool with cuteness as well – so long as you don’t tell our friends!

The Ewoks and Jar-Jar are but two of Lucas’ creations that have had a lot of flack. In my opinion, the flack the Ewoks gets is undue. Maybe those elements aren’t to everyone’s liking, but there are fans who do enjoy them. Perhaps it is time to look for the good in Ewoks and Jar-Jar, rather than focusing on the downside.

Dragonhelm’s Gamma World Game Day Report

gamma-world

While I have known about Gamma World for many years, I only got to play it for the first time today at the Gamma World Game Day. Basically, you go to your local participating game store, sit in on a game, and get to experience what Gamma World is all about. I took my 13-year-old son with me today, and we had a blast.

Does Gamma World measure up to past editions? I can’t say either way, as I’m not familiar with those prior editions. What I can comment on is this version of Gamma World. It’s a variant of the 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons rules that combines classic role-playing, a card game element, and incorporates tactical game play.

The Gamma World boxed set claims to be, “A wacky, wily roleplaying game of post-apocalyptic peril.” On this, it delivers. Your character begins with two origins. Basically, you pair up two mutations to see what you can be. My son was a speedster doppelganger. I was a radioactive mind courser. Since radioactive characters can shoot radioactive beams from their eyes, I decided to take some X-Men inspiration and have only one eye. My character’s name? Psi-clops. My son got to make copies of himself, who could go into situations, attack bad guys, and keep my son’s character safe. Think Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man, from the X-Men comics.

The adventure, Trouble in Freesboro, had the party being hired as mercenaries to take out these bad guys who set up shop in town, and are creating some super-weapon. It consists of three encounters, with an optional third encounter. The first encounter was all combat.

The second, though, went very differently than I thought would happen. I came in expecting a lot of combat. But in this encounter, a little fast-talking had us making friends with humanoid cockroaches who had a Mexican accent. This was more than an encounter. This was role-playing. We didn’t fight, and we convinced these guys that we were the new hires, sent to work with them.

We worked our way up to the top, where we faced the final enemies – a group of porkers and other assorted mutants. The big boss-man was a toughie, but we dispatched of him.

The game includes Alpha mutation cards, which function as Gamma World’s variant of encounter powers. It also has Omega tech, which functions as magic items. There’s a certain suspension of disbelief necessary to really get into these, but once you get into it, it’s fun. Gamma World assumes that random mutations happen, so that’s how you get your Alpha mutation cards. Then it’s assumed that the collision of realities (kind of the background to Gamma World) leads to Omega tech lying around.

I should mention at this point that my son has only gamed a handful of times. For Gamma World, he says that character creation was hard, but once that was over, he was fine. He says he really enjoyed this game, more so than playing D&D. He told his mom that she should play, and he has asked me when we will play next. In my mind, that’s the sign of a successful game.

For me, seeing this sort of positive reaction in my son is all I need to have me sold on the Gamma World game.

Dragonhelm’s Essentials D&D Encounters Report

For the first time tonight, I got to play Encounters. This season, the adventure is none other than the classic Keep on the Borderlands. I had never played it before, so I was excited to do it.

My friend Curtis and I were it for our table, so we were going to play two characters each. Another group was also short, so they combined us. What’s funny is that we had a lot more role-playing when it was just me and Curtis. The others were probably half our age (or close to it) and only out for the combat. One guy was metagaming like crazy, and another guy kept rolling his eyes any time anyone else did something.

We basically had a bit of setup, then proceeded to the encounter. We battled some dragonborn and various other reptilian creatures, all servants of Tiamat. The DM was a lot of fun, and pulled no punches.

For tonight’s game, I played the pre-generated fighter, Quinn. Quinn utilizes the new knight build found in Heroes of the Fallen Lands. I have to say, the pre-gen felt like a knight to me. Of course, I played up the part. One might even say I hammed it up.

At one point, I had a battle with a monster that kept trying to throw a net over me. He got me in a pit, but I climbed out. Another player moved him into the pit. I went all Hollywood, and jumped in after the monster, pressing my advantage. Eventually, I defeated him.

I have to say that I really enjoyed playing the Essentials fighter. It felt more like the basic fighters of prior editions. Yet the cool stance and aura abilities made for some fun possibilities and nice visuals. I miss having the daily power, but the rest made up for it.

While the Essentials fighter was good, I can’t say that I was terribly enthused about Encounters. It’s a neat idea, but the name is self-explanatory. You’re just playing encounters. Our DM commended the role-playing that Curtis and I did and said that they didn’t have that much role-playing the entire time they did the Dark Sun encounters. I just found that sad.

Now, I’m debating on whether to go back or not. Did I have fun? Yeah, it was a good time. But it wasn’t a great time. I haven’t made any decisions yet, but I think I prefer games where we can get into our characters a bit more.

The Mark of a Successful Game

How do you know when your game is successful? How do you know that you have one of those games where the players are really into the story and action? How do you know that your game isn’t just good, but great?

These are hard questions, to be sure, ones that don’t always have clear-cut answers. Sometimes players won’t tell you if they’re not having fun because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Sometimes you misread your players and think they’re really into your game when they might not be.

I believe the mark of a successful game is when players give back. Perhaps they want to create something for your setting, such as a new technology for your sci-fi game. Or maybe they want to expand their character’s backstory to fit in better with your game, which in turn gives you new NPCs to use in future games. Maybe they want to build a new fortress or space station.

It’s at this point, when players give back, that you know they are invested in your setting, and you have a successful game.

Games of the Imagination

Earlier tonight, I interviewed Tracy Hickman for a future episode of the Dragonlance Canticle podcast. During the conversation, we talked about gaming, and an interesting topic came up. The basic gist is that role-playing games have become very good at being simulations in nature, but have gotten further away from narrative storytelling and creativity.

Is this the case?

There are those that say that story is independent of the rules. We as gamers bring the story to the table. There’s a lot to be said for that. I know that, no matter the game, I bring the same killer storytelling to the game table.

Can rules be a deterrent to storytelling?

Frankly, yes. Want proof? Look no further than 4th edition’s Character Builder. Don’t get me wrong, Character Builder is a wonderful tool. Yet at the same time, I find that Character Builder is not the most conducive to house rules.

Many rules systems have a mechanic like feats that show extra-special abilities characters can do. They’re faster, they have new powers, they’re great with a sword, etc. etc. If the ability is not listed on the character sheet, do we even try it? Probably not. Yet it may be more dramatic to the story of the game if you can at least try things not on the character sheet (within reason, of course!).

For example, let’s say that you’re playing a rogue. Your rogue is running from a local thug who is out for blood, and the alley dead-ends just ahead. There’s nowhere to run. As the thug comes in, the rogue jumps against the wall, bounces off and does a mid-air flip, landing on his feet on the other side. He’s then able to attack the thug.

Now, in this scenario, we could look up a bunch of rules and find that there isn’t a specific rule covering this. Perhaps you, as the player, were also recently frustrated when you discovered there were no rules for fighting on a tightrope.

Rules can not cover every possibility. They can serve as guidelines. We, as gamers, can easily be drawn into the idea that if the Rules As Written (RAW) doesn’t offer an option, then it can’t be done. Yet this is a restriction on creativity and storytelling. The game suffers in the process.

My advice is to find the rules you want to use, and then approach them in broad strokes. Sometimes, a simple skill check or ability check is all you need. Our rogue from up above may have made an Acrobatics or Dexterity check to pull off that amazing flip. The DM sets an appropriate target number. If the player makes it, then you’ve got Hollywood action in your game.

Allow for the player to be creative and loosen up on the rules. It will allow everyone to have more fun and be a creative boon to your world.

Broadcasting: A Farewell

I had grown up watching WKRP in Cincinnati. Loved the show. The characters were great, and who didn’t want to be Dr. Johnny Fever?

It wasn’t until high school, though, that I fell in love with broadcasting. I was approaching my senior year, and had already taken some journalism classes. I got the chance to tour KMOS-TV and KCMW-FM at Central Missouri State University (CMSU) around my senior year. It was love at first sight. I knew from that moment what I wanted to do with my life. I was going to be a broadcaster.

I spent over three years at KMOS-TV and even a short jaunt at KCMW-FM (now KTBG-FM). During the time, I learned my craft and met many friends. The broadcasting program at the school had its flaws, but the stations were great. I was lucky enough to have a good mentor in the form of Fred Hunt, a man whose passing has been way too soon. I wish he was here now so that I could seek his advice once more. I was lucky to have him when I did. He was a role model and an inspiration. This was a time when I did broadcasting in a pure form.

wb62Afterwards, I got into corporate broadcasting. This was a time of growth, and an understanding of the real world. I had some good times, but my young naiveté didn’t prepare me for certain realities. It was during this time that I moved into traffic, as our traffic manager at KSMO suffered a horrible accident that paralyzed her. Her sister, Libby, was also in the department. Libby became a good friend and taught me all I knew about traffic. Libby eventually left the station. I was on my own, and advancement up the ladder seemed the natural course. I came to realize that the American dream of climbing up the corporate ladder was false. My faith in the system was shattered. Promises of advancement were broken, and for the first time, I encountered betrayal.

I moved over to KCWE-TV. They offered me an out from KSMO and a pay raise. I took it. The environment wasn’t quite what I expected. I was in a place where there was me and seven women. Normally this is not an issue, saved that they had certain discussions that really shouldn’t have been in the work place. I met my friend Donna there. Donna taught me much. She had a singular wit, and gave me strength to stand up to oppression. I discovered courage.

Donna also gave me the idea to work in advertising. I eventually went to work for Barkley Evergreen and Partners (now simply Barkley), again in traffic. This was my longest stint ever at a job, lasting 7 years. It was a fantastic place to work. It was also at this time that I learned there was a life outside of broadcasting and advertising for me. I discovered the online Dragonlance community, which led to one of the greatest accomplishments of my life – the Dragonlance Nexus. My career really stalled at this point, but I grew as a person exponentially. I became a writer, an online administrator, and a game designer.

All good things must come to an end, and so I moved on. It was a career disaster, and I found myself without a job. I decided to go back to school, learning web design at DeVry University. I began to reinvent myself. It was at this time that I got a job at KKFI-FM as Chief Operator. Suddenly, I was working in the same position that my mentor, Fred Hunt, had worked. I had value as a broadcaster again. I was a broadcaster reborn. I still had to do some traffic duties, but it was a far cry from what I did at other stations.

KKFI had its own unique climate. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some fantastic programmers. I’ve had my downs as well. I am proud, though, because I stayed out of the inner politics and focused on my job. Based on the reactions I got when I turned in my resignation, I feel that I did a good job and had earned a great deal of respect.

Now, after 19 years, half of my life, I have said farewell to broadcasting. This was a hard decision for me, as I’m saying goodbye to a field I’ve worked in since I was 19. Looking back, my degree provided for me. And yet, I landed up going directions not intended. I’ve had some really good times, some bad times, and many times in between. I’ve learned much about the world and have grown.

Now, I have a new love in web design. It’s a love I developed working with the Dragonlance Nexus. I was afraid at first, as I wasn’t an artist and this was all new. But now that I’ve done it for a while, I found something else that I like and I’m good at.

It’s an exciting time, but one that is fraught with a sense of uncertainty. I believe that there are more opportunities in web design, and I believe as well that online media is the future. So maybe I’m saying farewell to broadcasting, but at the same time, perhaps I’m just moving on to a form of media that rivals radio and TV.

With all my love to my fellow broadcasters…

Trampas Whiteman

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Unification War

BROWNCOAT (Trampas): “Michaels, you take point. Smith, you’re with me. Okay, let’s go!”

OFFICER (James): Freeze, Browncoats! Lay down your weapons. Nobody moves!

BROWNCOAT (Trampas): Well, now. Looks like we’re gonna have ourselves all sorts of fun.

SFX: Gunfire.

The ‘verse is a vast place, filled with all sorts of adventure. Though most adventures take place flying a rusty old boat from world to world on the Rim looking to find the next job, there are other ways to adventure in the ‘verse as well.

Six years before the Firefly TV series, the ‘verse was at war. It would later be known as the Unification War, as wars are often named by the winners. It was a time of great loss, and great sadness, but it was also a time of heroes and adventure.

The Unification War can serve as an alternate backdrop for your Serenity game. Though it is the same setting, there are some differences as well. The heroes will likely be on one side of the war or the other.

Those fighting on the side of the Browncoats are fighting a losing war. Game Masters should feel free to allow the occasional victory, but keep the feel that of a losing war. From the Browncoat point of view, the Alliance is unjustly trying to take land and tell people how they should live.

Those fighting on the side of the Alliance believe that their cause is just. They seek to improve the quality of the human condition, only to have Independents stop them from helping others.

As Firefly is modeled highly off of the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, it may behoove a Game Master to look into the American Civil War for themes to use in his game. One of the greatest themes from this time is “brother against brother.” The Unification War undoubtedly split up families who were torn between the side of the Browncoats and the side of the Alliance.

Despite the conflict, there will always be those who seek a profit during a time of crisis. Those that do may have adventures more like a typical Serenity game, save that there should be a constant threat of war making it harder for a dishonest man to earn a living. Eventually, the war may force a crew to choose sides.

What can also be cool is if a Game Master uses a Unification War campaign as background for the modern era. This can be done in-game with a time jump, or when a Unification War campaign has ended, a new campaign in the modern era can begin that uses the Unification War as background.

For those that like miniatures battles and wargaming, this is the perfect era for you. Mock space battles and troop movements during the war can be simulated with the right gear. While there are no Serenity miniatures, you might look into miniatures from other sci-fi shows. Mongoose Publishing produces miniatures for Babylon 5, and Wizards of the Coast produces miniatures for Star Wars.

So have fun with your Unification War campaign, and with all your Serenity games. Stay shiny, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: Send in the Clones

Author’s Note: This is the script for the final, unaired Gaming in the ‘Verse segment. The producer at the time was a noted atheist who took exception to me using the phrase “playing God.” I, in turn, felt the phrase was very important to the script. Unfortunately, this conflict led to me leaving the Signal podcast.

Mal rounded the corner, Zoe and Jayne right behind him. Entering the lab, the trio spotted the scientist they were hired to “retrieve.”

“Ah, so good of you to join us, Mister Reynolds. You’ll have to forgive me, though. I already had guests.”

Mal (not sure which episode): “I’m Malcolm Reynolds.”

Mal (not sure which episode): “I’m Malcolm Reynolds.”

Mal (not sure which episode): “I’m Malcolm Reynolds.”

Mal (not sure which episode): “I’m Malcolm Reynolds.”

(Same phrase repeats, to give the effect of clones.)

Trampas (as Jayne): “I’ve been waiting a long time for this.”

SFX: Gun shots.

The subject of cloning has come up in many science fiction shows throughout the years, perhaps most notably in recent years in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. While Firefly is a space western, we should also remember that it is a science fiction show as well. Combining elements of science fiction with western gunplay can lead to great fun.

Cloning is a controversial subject in our own times, and should remain so for purposes of your game. Is it right or wrong? Are we playing God by cloning? What happens when someone is cloned against their will?

Your crew can have great fun with figuring out all these moral dilemmas. Remember to try to present both sides of the situation and let players decide for themselves what their characters’ moral stance is.

So how do send in those clones, anyway? Perhaps your crew was hired to investigate a secret scientific facility the Alliance has on some backwater moon and steal the technology for their employer. While the crew is there, they discover that it is a cloning facility. Perhaps the facility was made for the purposes of creating an army, or perhaps some sort of black ops team. Maybe the scientists are trying to clone an individual in hopes of replicating memory and discovering some lost secrets. Or possibly, they’re trying to create their own River Tams, minus the baggage.

If you really want to throw the players for a loop, have a few clones of one of the player characters join the fray. It’ll be pure chaos, to say the least!

Be careful how you approach this, though. It seem like fun to see the look on players’ faces if you tell them that they’re clones of the real deal. However, players may not react the best to this. In the Spider-Man comic books, there was a storyline where it was revealed that the Peter Parker we knew and loved for years was a clone. It was not received well.

Don’t be too concerned about the technical side of things, though having some technobabble handy might be good. Consider that there are many ways of applying cloning technology. Perhaps DNA is being combined to form the ultimate soldier. Are memories being transferred in the process? If so, can that become a dangerous technology in and of itself?

I highly recommend J.C. Hutchins’ podcast novel series, 7th Son, as good research into the possibilities that a cloning story can offer. There are several scenarios in the series that can be adapted to your Serenity role-playing game.

So send in the clones, watch your players as they’re beside themselves, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Hired Gun

“Cash looked at the man on the ground, throwing him a gun. “Get up, you gorram piece of gos se. Go on, grab the gun! When I kill you, I want you to die looking me in the eye with steel in your hand.”
-Cash Younger, hired gun

The Black can be a dangerous place. No tellin’ who’s aiming to put a slug in your back. One minute, it might be your enemy; next it might be your friend. Best that you have someone to take on the opposition. Yer gonna need a hired gun.

The hired gun is the mercenary of the group, a gun-for-hire who gets paid to do the dirty work. It’s often best not to ask him how he gets the job done, so long as it gets done. The hired gun puts morality aside for coin. Feelings just get in the way of what needs to be done. Coin is what pays the bills and keeps you flying.

Coin can keep a hired gun on your crew, but beware of when someone else has more coin than you. Your ally may quickly turn upon you. In role-playing terms, you typically want a cohesive group. Yet a group that never has spats is a might bit dull. Game masters should consider throwing a chance at a hired gun to turn upon his crew. The hired gun is not obligated to take the job, but the temptation will help develop the character. In Firefly, Jayne quickly gained a newfound respect for Mal when Mal threatened to blow him out of the airlock.

The hired gun is typically a character that has more brawn than brains. He may not have much in the brainpan, but you certainly don’t want to cross his path. This may make the hired gun more dangerous, though other characters may be able to take advantage of him.

This stereotype can often be misleading. A character may pretend to be the idiot gun-for-hire when, in fact, he’s smarter than he looks. Such a character may prove to be a good non-player character for game masters to surprise their players with. Likewise, a player may take this role to get the jump on folk he encounters.

In order to do his job, the hired gun needs to have the right equipment.

FIREFLY QUOTE: From Our Mrs. Reynolds, Jayne telling what type of gun Vera is.

The hired gun is never without a weapon. Typically, he will have a sidearm as well as a rifle or automatic weapon (if not both!). A knife can come in handy as well, giving the hired gun an edge in melee combat. Word of advice: never go on a job without grenades.

Players have several options when playing a hired gun. The first question to ask is why your character became a hired gun to begin with. In Firefly, we learn that Jayne sends money to support his mother, showing that beneath his insensitive exterior, he actually cares for something.

Perhaps your character was bound by law. A character could have been falsely accused. Perhaps not. Either way, your character is on the run from the Alliance. Best to keep that bit of info to yourself, unless your captain finds out. Game masters, use this bit of background to help further the story, whether an Alliance operative is seeking to kill the hired gun, or the hired gun is seeking to clear his name.

Be careful that the hired gun isn’t too serious. Serenity may have dramatic moments, but they are often broken up with bits of humor. The hired gun can have a quirk that helps to offset his dangerous side. In Firefly, Jayne often wore hats made by his mother. Try to think of ways for your character to bring a hint of humor to the game, though not at the expense of your dangerous side.

Consider as well how you want your hired gun to develop. While he may appear amoral at first, the hired gun may develop a sense of morality as the game develops.

SERENITY QUOTE: “Shepherd Book once told me that if you can’t do something smart, do something right.”

The opposite may happen as well. The hired gun could try to live as good of a life as the ‘verse will allow, only to find out that he has little choice in the matter. Over time, he may forget the man he once was.

The pitfall to consider is that the hired gun may take away from a cohesive party. This will largely depend on the makeup of the crew. While you want to see a roguish sort of mercenary, you want to make sure the group works together towards the goal.

Coin may be what the hired gun works for, but with proper development and equipment, the hired gun can prove to be an interesting role-playing experience. Keep flying, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Gearhead

FLAVOR TEXT (female voice [Miranda?], perky)
“Now no need to fret, cap’n. Everything’s shiny. We just blew a stabilizer circuit. I’ve bypassed it through the Jensen board. She’ll run a little hot, but she’ll see you home. Just don’t be pulling any Crazy Ivans!”
-Tawnie Malone, ship mechanic

ANNOUNCER (male voice):
Gearheads live in a world of machines, more at home in an engine room than anywhere else. Gearheads keep the ship flying, even when it has no business doing so. Your ship may not be a technological marvel like an Alliance ship, but you wouldn’t have it any other way. Alliance ships may be fancy, but they don’t have the hum and lifebeat of an engine that you put your heart and soul into. You can feel the vibrations in the deck and know when your ship’s in trouble, even before it shows the signs.

Gearheads come in all shapes and sizes, some of which can be surprising. Kaylee was a young, innocent girl who had a natural knack for mechanics. At a glance, you wouldn’t think she would be a good mechanic. Once she started talking shop, no doubt remained. Perhaps your Gearhead used to work for the Alliance, and is now on the run. Maybe he skims parts off the top, selling them on backwater worlds to make some extra coin. Whatever you choose as your background, it is key to focus on skills relating to mechanics, engineering, computers, and electronics.

A Gearhead is not only good with technical issues, he also excels at jury-rigging. While the rules system you use can define how this is done, game masters should focus on describing the situation with a bit of style. A successful skill check is fine, but telling the player that they bypassed a primary system to get the job done makes it all the better. Players and game masters should work on the “technobabble” to try to add a bit of mechanical flavor, though be careful not to overdo the “level one diagnostics.”

While a Gearhead may be great with the mechanical, he may prove to not be the keenest in social situations. Kaylee was extremely shy around Simon. A Gearhead may be quite crude, having no sense of diplomacy. This can be fun when your crew loses a job due to a crude comment. Be sure to make comments, good or bad, about other peoples’ boats.

FIREFLY QUOTE: Kaylee in the episode where the crew is on the Alliance ship, talking about what a hunk of junk the ship is.

While a gearhead primarily works in the engine room, he needs to be able to work with the group outside of the bounds of the ship as well. Gearheads can gain you entry into ships you might be boarding, opening doors and bypassing security. Gearheads can make their mark by foiling Alliance or Blue Sun computer systems, allowing the heroes to get in and get out. Gearheads can set your crew up with the necessary mules and rovers needed to get jobs planetside done. Game masters, be sure to include elements in your story that will draw the Gearhead out of the engine room, and into the heart of the action.

Game masters should consider the idea of having a gearhead as an opponent, either working alone or as part of another crew. The Alliance may have spotted your vessel and is using one of their top hackers to shut your boat down. Pirates may try to board your boat using a Gearhead to gain access through the airlock. Either way, the first line of defense against an enemy Gearhead is to have one of your own.

QUOTE: Some quote from Star Trek by Scotty on repairing something. Maybe from Relics from TNG. O’Brien from DS9 would also work. This quote can be dropped if necessary.

Players can look to a variety of sources for inspiration for their gearhead. Scotty from Star Trek is a prime example. This Scotsman was known as a miracle worker, pulling off the impossible. Remember, estimates on repair time should always be multiplied by four. When the job gets done faster, your character will be a miracle worker as well.

MacGyver is another great inspiration. While it would be unrealistic to repair your engine with a paperclip, his resourcefulness can make for a good model. Always look for unusual ways to keep your ship flying, and use all resources at your disposal. Make sure to ask your Game Master for detailed descriptions of the locales you visit, then take a variety of items that can come into play later. And always have your duct tape!

Not every gearhead has to be good at what he does. Tim Allen’s character from Home Improvement might serve as a model for a bumbling gearhead who means well, but goes a bit overboard. How will your captain react when he finds out that you’ve re-wired his boat? Can you make improvements, or will they blow up in your face?

Wherever there’s a boat in the ‘verse, there’s going to be a Gearhead to keep her in the air. Keep her flying, and you’ll have a place with your crew. Stay shiny!

SERENITY QUOTE: Mal at the end of Serenity, talking about how love keeps a boat in the air.