Category Archives: Gaming in the ‘Verse

Written scripts for my Gaming in the ‘Verse segments from The Signal podcast.

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.