Out in the Black, every man has to look to himself to survive. The Alliance surely won’t look after you, and nobody else has your back. It’s just you and the ‘verse, as it was meant to be. God? Some folk talk about God, as if he will whisk you away from the way of things into a never-neverland. Me? I just have my sidearm and my ship, two things that are a might bit more real, and reliable.
-Jeb McMillan, Former Browncoat Chaplain
The shepherd has his work cut out for him. In an unscrupulous world filled with killers, rogues, and thieves, a man of conscience has a hard time finding his place. He has left the relatively safe environment of his abbey and journeyed into the ‘verse to offer religiosity where he can. Playing a moral character in an immoral world can be a challenge, yet can be a rewarding role-playing experience as well.
When playing a shepherd, remember that he’s very much a fish out of water. Your companions are not looking for God. They just want to get paid, and fly another day. Your job is to show them that there’s something more.
SERENITY AUDIO QUOTE: Shepherd Book telling Mal that he doesn’t care what Mal believes in, so long as he believes.
As a shepherd, you are offering a conscience. You’re not a Bible-thumping missionary by any means. While you may talk about God, your role is to provide a guiding light for those who walk in the dark.
So why is your character doing this? It may be that your character has walked the path of darkness himself, and he’s trying to keep others from making the same mistakes. This sort of shepherd is searching for his own redemption, making amends for a past tragedy he would rather not talk about.
The shepherd may also be the victim of some tragedy, and has decided to venture forth into the Black to offer balance to the ‘verse. Perhaps he has lost a relative or friend. Perhaps his abbey got in the way of an Alliance operation, and he’s the only survivor.
However you decide to approach your shepherd’s background, there must be a reason for him to have found faith and a purpose for him to direct faith and belief to others. Some research into real world religions may offer various ways for your shepherd to approach the world around him.
Of course, not every shepherd is a man of God, despite claiming otherwise. Some are false shepherds, taking advantage of their flocks. These false shepherds make for great non-player characters for game masters, providing memorable villains. What happens when the false shepherd hires the crew to do a job, and they find out that it’s at the expense of the folks on a small moon? What happens if the crew already has a shepherd on board?
Some characters might even be former shepherds.
Jeb McMillan didn’t fight during the Unification War, but he did serve as a chaplain to the Browncoats. He moved from unit to unit, offering up religiosity and a powerful faith to those who would listen. Most folks said that it was McMillan who got them through the war, made them believe that winning was possible.
Then came the Battle of Serenity Valley. McMillain prayed like he never prayed before, asking the good Lord for a miracle. It didn’t come. Those who he had preached to went into battle with faith that the good Lord would pull them through. Instead, they met their maker. On the battlefield, the shepherd was the only person left standing as far as he could see.
That day, Jeb lost his faith in God and in all things religious. He learned real quick that the only way to survive in the ‘Verse is to make your own way. The Alliance won’t take care of you, and certainly not God.
Jeb has recently purchased a ship with money he took from his abbey. He figured that God wouldn’t be needing it anymore since He wasn’t doing anything with it. He calls the ship the Fallen Angel and is currently looking for a crew.
Jeb McMillan was once a man of God, but he lost his faith in the Battle of Serenity Valley. Such a character might deny his faith, but has to deal with the fact that it is deeply buried. The rediscovery of faith can be a wonderful direction to guide a character, though be sure to add the right touch of bitterness when you first play the character.
Playing a shepherd in the ‘verse can be extremely challenging. As a fish out of water, you will have to contend with a ‘verse that is very strange and not accepting of God. Yet the experience can be a rewarding one, offering the chance for not only your character to grow, but the rest of the party as well.