Category Archives: RPGs

Articles about RPG settings and systems. Get out those dice and roll!

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Companion

“Perhaps, captain, I can be of help. I once had a client…Mistress Serin of house Sin-Chai, who owns a fairly prominent…well, that’s not important. What is important is that Mistress Serin can provide us with a safe haven and supplies. I’ve arranged to discuss the matter with her over dinner and a massage. Of course, that only happens if you apologize for calling me a whore.”
-Jasmine Asir, Registered Companion

The Companion is a challenging role-playing experience, focusing on diplomacy over action. The Companion is an ambassador, carrying the right credentials to get your crew into places they normally couldn’t go. They are the legitimate face of illegitimate operations.

A word of caution: game masters should be careful on allowing Companions in their games. While this is an iconic role in Firefly and Serenity, the sexual side of the Companion is perhaps best played out by players with a good sense of maturity.

The key thing to remember is that the Companion is not a “space hooker.” Far from it. A Companion chooses her clients. A Companion must be proficient in many forms of entertainment, including dance, music, and storytelling. The Companion is more comparable to a geisha girl than to a simple whore, and carries herself with a sense of dignity. Players should generally choose skills that focus on diplomacy, artistry, and performance over combat-oriented skills.

However, that is not to say that a Companion cannot be involved in combat. While the Companion is more of a support role, there is no reason why a Companion can’t be part of the action as well. Remember that a Companion is not a gunslinger. Leave that for the Hired Gun. Rather, a Companion will have different means of fighting, from martial arts to exotic weapons. Inara used a hair pin that doubled as a dagger, as well as a bolt thrower. Remember that a Companion’s fighting techniques must mirror her own sense of elegance and grace. Combat, to the Companion, is a dance.

INSERT INARA QUOTE (from Shindig, I believe):
Inara: “Attack.” (Mal lunges at her with sword; she sidesteps and swats him on the butt; he grunts in pain) “How did I avoid that?”
Mal: “By being fast like a freak?”

Companions can be either male or female, and have clients of both genders as well. A Companion is completely comfortable in her sexuality. However, sexuality should not be what defines the Companion. Each and every Companion is different, and what they have to offer your crew is much more important than the thing they refuse to offer your crew.

One of the most important things a Companion has to offer is the Companion Registry. The Registry contains a wealth of information, any of which may prove useful someday to your crew. This can give information on individuals, worlds, corporations, politicians, and so forth. A person who crosses a Companion will soon find a black mark in the Registry, prohibiting him from ever hiring a Companion again.

Inara Quote: Inset quote her of Inara threatening to put a black mark in the Companion’s Registry.

When presenting the sexual side of your Companion, it is okay to mention the act of sex in your game, though perhaps you should approach it in what Tracy Hickman refers to as the “boot scene.” In Star Trek, we see Captain Kirk sitting on the bed with a woman pulling his boots on. We all know what happened, but we don’t have to go into graphic detail about it. Keeping that sense of mystery will add to the story.

Companions are also great at getting your crew out of a scrape. When your crew has been detained, that’s the perfect time for a Companion to come in, use her natural charisma, and talk through the situation. Remember, a Companion is subtle in her means, she is not overt.

A Companion can be a challenging role to play, but one that can be a rewarding role-playing experience. Keep flying, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Bard

MUSIC: Eavesdown Docks by the Bedlam Bards as bed music.

“Gather round friends, as I sing you the tale of Mack-Jaw McKay’s daring raid upon the Alliance during the War of Unification, and how he gave voice to freedom!”
-Mack-Jaw Mckay, Bard of the Black

MUSIC: Fades out.

Out in the lonely Black is a ‘verse filled with harsh environments, ne’er-do-wells, and an oppressive government. From this arises a tradition that is said to originate from Earth-That-Was. Enter the Bard, a vagabond who travels the world of the Rim, making a living through entertainment and fun.

The Bard is a restless soul, never content to stay in one place for too long. They travel the Black, making money at what they love to do so well – perform. Bards have a variety of talents, acting as a jack-of-all trades. Many are musicians, proficient in a variety of instruments. Lute, guitar, harmonica, percussion, and keyboards are amongst the many instruments they know. They are also proficient singers as well. Musical styles are as varied as the culture of the ‘verse, blending styles. Country, rock, Celtic, jazz, and so forth come together to form interesting combinations. Folk music has seen a resurgence, especially among worlds along the Rim. Players would be advised to focus on skills involving entertainment.

MUSIC CLIP: River’s Jig (or other suitable music)

Bards may travel with a crew for a variety of reasons. Some will do so just for the thrill of traveling from world to world. Some like the air of danger that one might find out in the Black. Bards can look for inspiration in the daring tales of a crew, romanticizing their exploits. Some bards may even be legitimate performers who rent out a shuttle on a ship in order to have an air of freedom, yet still receive the benefits of flying with a longer-range ship.

Bards will often convey tales of heroism throughout their travels. The Unification War sprouted many tales on both sides of the line. Some may be localized in nature, as Jayne once found out.

MUSIC CLIP: Hero of Canton (Ballad of Jayne) – First few seconds.

Some Bards gain a sense of adventure singing a song they just know will rile up the wrong audience, such as when a Bard tells the tale of the heroic Browncoats and cowardly Alliance in an Alliance-sympathetic bar.

While a bard may perform mostly in bars and other similar dives, some take a high society approach. A crew with a fancified bard may use the bard as a distraction while they pull a job.

Game masters might introduce a group of traveling bards to their crew. Are the bards friends and just there for entertainment? Is it a front for something more sinister, such as a drug-smuggling ring? Do the heroes need to infiltrate the ship of the bards to retrieve stolen property?

There are many ways to approach the Bard in the ‘verse. This role provides a different sort of hero to play. Stay shiny, and sleep with one eye open.

Gaming in the ‘Verse: The Pilot

MUSIC: Leaf on the Wind – Bedlam Bards (don’t recall exact title)

“I don’t plan on running from them, captain. I intend to go right through them. The Alliance won’t be expecting a bootlegger’s turn. After that, we hit full burn.” – Jack Tyler, pilot


The pilot is an essential part of any crew, flying your boat through the Black and out of Alliance hands. Pilots are free spirits who love the thrill of flying. Whether in atmo or out in the Black, the pilot can often be the key component to ensuring that you fly another day.

There are several types of personalities you could ascribe to the pilot. You can draw a lot of inspiration from the movie “Top Gun.” Perhaps the most common archetype is that of the hotshot maverick, who has an instinctual knack for flying but doesn’t like following the rules. He’s got natural talent and has a lucky streak to boot. The maverick is known for his crazy maneuvers, which can on occasion get the crew and their boat into trouble, though it can just as often get you out of trouble. This archetype works nicely with Serenity, though such a character may balk at the authority of a captain.

QUOTE: Wash talking about a Crazy Ivan.

Contrary to the maverick is the iceman. The iceman has ice-cold nerves and plays things by the book. Typically, iceman pilots are former Alliance who are trained as military pilots. The advantage here is that the iceman will know about Alliance tactics. The drawback is that the iceman is less likely to try non-conventional methods of flying. The iceman could be developed, though, to where he learns non-conventional methods.

The maniac is a pilot who is a might bit touched in the brainpan. He’s wild and unpredictable, a trait that can throw the Alliance off. Then again, he may throw your crew off. Craziness can come in several fashions, from fun crazy to truly disturbed. You can’t be entirely certain whether you can trust him. A great example of the maniac is Murdock from the A-Team.

WASH: “I’m like a leaf on the wind.”

The pilot suffers from one of the classic drawbacks of the crew situation – he tends to stay on the ship. While flying offers its own rewards, the game doesn’t always take place on the ship. Game Masters should look for ways to get the pilot off the ship and into the heart of the action.

WASH QUOTE: Something from War Stories, if you have it.

Remember, pilots not only operate spacecraft, they can also operate land vehicles such as mules. Various hover-vehicles and ATV’s could be used. In Firefly, we see Wash using a four-wheeler.

Iceman pilots often have military training as well, so they may be trained in the use of small firearms. Remember, they’re not the muscle of the group, but they can hold their own in a firefight.

In terms of skills, focus on those that deal with piloting and driving, as well as the use of other vehicles, such as mules or sailing ships. Pilots tend to be very dexterous, and are only average at best in other physical abilities. Many are quite charismatic, save for the iceman.

The pilot can be a lot of fun in your role-playing game, and can be the difference between freedom and the Alliance. Fly at full burn, and sleep with one eye open.

Deva Heritage: Elan

The exact origins of elan devas are unknown. Some say that a special enclave of deva, known as the Cullers, seeks out deva with psionic potential. Those who pass the screening process undergo a ritual that causes them to be reborn in the next lifetime with psionic powers.

Physical Description: Elan devas tend to have chalk white skin with dark patterns on their bodies. Unlike other devas, elan devas have red hair. They also tend to wear red clothing.

Language: Elans speak Common and may choose two other languages. Elans are known for adding phrases to their speech from other tongues, such as orc curses, halfling culinary terms, elven musical expressions, dwarven military phrases, and so on.

Elan Titles: Elan devas use a set of titles among themselves to help identify their life’s path after rebirth. Newly reborn elans in the heroic tier are called Newmade. Those elan who have progressed to paragon levels take on the title of Made. Then those who advance to epic levels are known as Eternal.