First Play Impressions: “Firefly RPG”


I’ve been rather discrete about it but I had significant doubts about how the Firefly RPG would turn out and be perceived by gamers. By that I don’t mean the usual jitters of the insecure designer, as I was just one cog of many in an all-star team working on the Gen Con Preview book. What I was worried about is how the rules would fit the genre given how little time we had to design them, and how it would be received by prior Firefly/Serenity fans.

I ran 2 sessions at Gen Con. I didn’t want to run the adventures in the book but I had limited time to write one before leaving for Indianapolis. I decided to roll one up instead so I grabbed the Leverage RPG book, flipped to the Instant Job tables and rolled one with enough cool elements to fuel a 3 hour adventure.

I mashed the results in what I hope would catch the Firefly spirit while still bearing my signature mark (a convoluted plot , head-scratching weirdness and tortured choices). I got Cam and Dave to give me advice on it and I dove in with nothing but a page’s worth of notes and confidence that 30 odd years of GMing experience would help fill the gaps.

Both sessions were a lot more successful than I expected. The players took up to the game within minutes. The rules have an elegant simplicity to them that transcends all previous iteration of Cortex Plus games in my opinion. The low barrier to entry and the existence of 12 pre-generated characters archetypes made the players buy into the story near instantly.

During play, I was amazed how well the rules allowed players to do everything you would expect character on a snarky TV show to do. In fact, I took a more passive approach to running NPCs, making the players roll based on how they reacted to NPC actions.  It worked perfectly!

(Think Apocalypse World. Chatty: “The deathly scared executive levels a short-barreled shotgun at your face and screams that he’ll shoot if you take one more step. What do you do?”)

From hacking a planetary network to move a doctor’s appointment to surviving a shotgun blast to the gut, from removing a virus from the ship’s computers to breaking one’s wrist on a NPC’s face, the Firefly RPG delivered the exact experience I expect from a game that emulates action-oriented TV shows. And it does so without the use of extensive gear rules nor any type of hit points or stress tracks.

There’s no simpler way to say it: It. Just. Works. I hope they don’t change anything major in the core book.

I’ve run a few demos in the exhibit hall and every time, I got the players excited and engrossed in a scene within minutes of picking up their character sheet and dice. There’s no stronger signal that the game will be a huge success at the table of those who chose to try it.

I hope I can get to write about my experiences of the game more as I already have cool stories and advice to share.

If you have questions about the game or wanna share your own expectations and experiences, don’t hesitate to do so here, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Hey, thanks for sharing your GenCon experiences! I do have a question about the new Firefly RPG, but it’s somewhat meta… What’s the relationship between the Serenity RPG and the Firefly RPG? They look like the same company making the same product in the same universe with the same rules base (and when I Google “firely rpg”, I get the one named Serenity).


  2. @Chad: The issue is confusing so let me try to clarify it.

    The Serenity RPG came out about 10 years ago, as a licensed RPG based on the Serenity movie (owned by Universal, or Paramount). That license has expired. The company has since negotiated a new license with Fox, based on the TV show.

    While designing the game, we all decided to create the game based on the most recent iteration of the company’s rules which we call “Cortex Plus”. More precisely, the game owes a lot of its mechanics to the Leverage RPG. We took out some elements from Leverage and added new ones that make it feel like a Space-based game covering a large range of technology (mostly through a large list of skills).

    So while the game are not compatible and are not, mainly because of the different licenses, different editions of the same game… from the point of you, the potential buyer, it may as well be.

  3. While I’m not a tremendous fan of Cortex Plus (I have, however, purchased several of the products) I thought this was one of the better iterations, and was pretty kind to it in my review over on

  4. Thanks for the review. I am LOVING Cortex Plus and use in Action filled games. I miss reading your articles about different aspects of your gaming life but I understand real life interferes.

    I have been kinda worried about the Firefly RPG as well but reading this sells me. Thanks again.

  5. @Scott: Thanks for the honest review. I look forward to seeing what they’ll do with the Core book.

    @Ash: Thanks for the kind words. I too miss blogging. I will try my best to post about the actual Firefly games I played.

  6. Can we get the page of notes, please? 🙂

  7. The adventure itself? It will be part of my next Firefly post, promise, even if it is only that. 🙂

  8. Shawn Connor says:

    One probably irrelevant query, but one which matters to me – the Serenity RPG was written in this fake-Western/Southern/Cowboy tone that made it sound like it was talking down to the reader – like their intended audience was twelve years old. I really tried to read through it but I found the tone of the book grating enough that I didn’t make it and as a result never ended up running it. Please tell me they dropped the badly-affected accent.

  9. The current book does have a “voice” which tends to make it sound like Kaylie. It’s an editorial choice MWP made. To be perfectly honest, it initially annoyed me, but I rapidly grew used to it when I hit the crunchy bits of the book.

    I can’t say about the Corebook since I’m no longer in the project’s team, but I don’t see why that practice would change.