Friday, 25 January 2013

Tales From The Table: Firefly (Part Four)

The episode began with a quick montage of the player characters being captured by the crimelord's assassin. I had ended the last episode with a scene of the assassin appearing silently behind one of the PCs, aiming her sword at the small of the character's back. For all the players knew, this was their characters being killed one after the other.

The captain, Tess, awakened with a sack over her head and her hands bound. The sack was removed, and the found herself sitting at a table with an enormous spread of luscious looking food.

Tess realized that she was starving - she's probably been locked up for days without food.

The crimelord introduced himself with elaborate good manners, offering her tea, and hoping they could put the unpleasantness behind them with a nice meal. "But before we enjoy our food, we should conclude our business. I have just a few small questions for you, captain..."

And so it began, for each of the characters.

The crimelord brings them in separately, starving, and seats them at a table heavy with the most exotic and delicious food they can imagine. He is polite, he never raises his voice.

He asks questions. He begins to put pressure on the characters when they do not provide answers. Slowly, the pressure is increased until the pretense of manners is gone.

  • Tess, the captain, is threatened via her extended "family" of space gypsies. If they are part of the Underground Railroad, he will punish them. When she denies they are part of the Railroad, he offers her access to exotic longevity treatments that could save the life of Old Joe (whose health is deteriorating after exposure to a radiation leak).
  • Carmen, the pregnant Alliance war criminal, he takes a different tack. He tells her that he knows about her past, her deeds during the war... he is impressed by her ruthlessness. He offers her a position within his organization. A safe place for her child. A safe place from the Alliance.
  • Lena, the Quaker "Conductor" on the Underground Railroad, is given the most extreme challenge. He attacks her close-held religious beliefs. Will she allow her pregnant comrade to die on the cold floor of his prison, allow the child to die, to protect contacts she barely knows?  He sneers that her God is weak or does not exist, if the crimelord is allowed to operate and inflict harm on the innocent.
In each case, the crimelord offers them their freedom without condition or recrimination, on the condition that they turn over their contacts in the Underground Railroad.

The assassin lurks behind each of the characters as the interrogation unfolds, and the implication is clear: if they attempt an attack, the sword will flash out and they will be dead...

 Aside: The title of this episode was "Cold Tea Blues". It's worth noting that, a few years ago, I started using the convention of naming episodes of my RPGs using a protocol suggested (I think) originally by the formidable SteveD of He did an article about 32 Episodes of Firefly based on titles of Elton John songs, and I started using riffs on that idea during my American Nightmare game (in that case, I was using the titles of Bruce Springsteen songs). It seemed to me an effective way of creating a sort of invisible unifying thread -- a voice that resonates with the material of the game, in some way -- inside a series of game episodes.

It seemed appropriate to carry on the tradition for another game in the same universe as SteveD's original article. For Firefly, since we had an all-female main cast on the "show", I decided early on that this was going to be a game that was about women and female power. I always made a point of including female NPCs in positions of power (including a Kennedy-esque female Alliance governor, a female Alliance soldier on their tail, and a legendary Browncoat leader). It was not an accident that the crimelord in this episode was a male. 

My naming protocol for the episodes was to pick the titles of songs which had female vocalists - a strong "female voice" in the background of the series, if you will. The title of this episode is from a Cowboy Junkies song. Check it out.

1 comment:

  1. For the record, you're making me seriously crave that dramatic, emotional kind of gaming.