serenity

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.

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