Firefly Primer

For players who haven’t seen Firefly or Serenity, here is a quick rundown on key differences to different settings.

Quick ‘n’ Dirty Glossary

Firefly
  1. The 14 Episode TV show
  2. Class of ship used by the characters in the show, it is a Multipurpose, Mid-Bulk Transport
Serenity
  1. the 2005 feature film
  2. the name of the firefly-class ship used by the characters in the show
Alliance
the central government and law-enforcement organization of the Verse read more =:
Unification War
a war fought between the Alliance and the Independents from 2506 to 2511, where the outer planets tried to seced from the Alliance read more =:

Firefly compared to Other SciFi

What makes Firefly+Serenity different than other science fiction intellectual properties?

The most fundamental thing that’s different is how low-tech the game world is. There are many things that other science fiction properties have that are absent in Firefly, which shapes why the world is how it is. Basic assumptions that must be checked at the door when entering Firefly:

  • There is no Faster-Than-Light (FTL) travel, anywhere. Travel is sublight and slow. Some ships have faster engines but most vessels are plodding beasts, relative to the distances being covered. It can take hours or days to traverse the length of a single system, much less the entire ’Verse.
  • Because there is no FTL, communications are done tight beam through communications relays, which are in turn owned and monitored by the Alliance. It can take hours for a message to travel from one end of the ’Verse to the other, and just as long for the reply, so interactive communication is limited to relatively short ranges, such as in-system.
  • No aliens. There are no aliens, nor hints of aliens in the Firefly world. One explanation the sense of scale. Since the whole series takes place in a cluster of solar system’s worth of terraformed planets and moons. There isn’t faster than light travel and that makes the lack of aliens plausible
  • There are no light sabers, phasers, blasters, or other fantastic weapons, and what energy weapons that do exist are extremely rare, very hard to maintain, not particularly reliable, and considered contraband in the hands of anyone but the Alliance. Projectile weapons are the norm, even in space, ranging from simple slug throwers to gauss rail guns and missile barrages. Elite Alliance SWAT/Commando units have energy hand guns and rifles, but even they carry slug throwers of some sort for when the energy weapons fail.
  • There are no shields: barrier, force, personal, etc. Ships and personnel alike have to wear armor to avoid damage. There is very little ship-to-ship combat, because building anything with weapons is illegal, especially after the War of Unification. Any vessel found bearing unlicensed arms is impounded immediately. When ship to ship combat does break out, it usually consists of long periods of nothing where the enemies maneuver for advantage, then a fierce exchange that ultimately results in both vessels being seriously damaged and lots of people being dead. The best answer is to run, but sadly the fastest engines in the ’Verse are only manufactured for Alliance vessels, and being in possession of such a ship or component is considered contraband, so running from the Alliance is virtually impossible if they decide to pursue.
  • Things require fuel, and not every planet has the fuel it needs, much less the ability to refine it, so the further from the Core you go, the more primitive the transportation becomes. Even in the mid-range worlds, planes are rare and solar-powered trains and lifts are the norm. Out on the Rim, animal power is the primary source of transportation, because any fuel that can be found or made is appropriated by the Alliance under imminent domain in order to better “protect the citizenry”.
  • Because ships require fuel (relatively often), they have to dock, and because fuel is so scarce there are only so many places to dock for fuel, and the Alliance has a presence at most of them. This means that having contraband equipment, weapons, etc on your ship, or having your ship paperwork out of compliance will catch up with you quickly. There are places to get fuel that are not Alliance, but because they’re not they’re EXTREMELY expensive, and even though the Alliance is not present, there are always those willing to sell info about you to the Alliance for the right price.
  • There are no replicators. This means that ammunition, medicine, and food are manufactured and transported. Some planets have the resources, manpower, and funding to make these things themselves, some do not and are forced to barter/trade with other planets. Those that lack both the resources and the export capability simply do without or are at the mercy of the Alliance’s “humanitarian aid” programs.
  • There are no interstellar scanners or sensor nets that can detect an asteroid 50 light years away. Most sensors are accurate to a few 1,000 km, heavier systems (VLA/Very Large Array or capital ships) can see a few 10,000 km out, but nothing is seeing AU’s away. Out in “the black” there’s a vast nothingness, where it is possible to float in the middle of a system occupied by billions of people and die unrescued and unnoticed. There are no “roads” or lanes, because all of the points of origin and destination move as the planets orbit the many suns. The ‘Verse is 99.999% empty, and as much as the Alliance dislikes it, they know what’s happening in approximately .5% of it at any given time.
  • Mankind has not learned its lessons. Londinium was terraformed in 2220, the current year is 2519, in 300 years the planet is almost out of resources and importing 60% of the resources it needs to support itself. Rim worlds are often terrified of finding resources that the Core worlds value because it means the Alliance often appropriates them with minimal return, stripping the planet of its value without giving any wealth in return, “for the good of the Alliance”.
  • The Alliance is not “evil”, it’s a govt, just like any other, trying to manage billions of people with limited resources. The US govt does all manner of atrocities, visible and noticed only by those they’re being done to, while the rest of the citizenry plods along, grazing, happily ignorant, and the Alliance does everything within its power to maintain that. For those that follow the rules, live within the boundaries the govt supports, life is happy and safe. The problem is, the Alliance does not have the resources or manpower to support 50 billion people spread out over 213 occupied systems. It is barely able to support 30 billion, which is why it’s presence is so sparse out on the Rim. But what it cannot and will not allow is the formation of another government in the same system, so while it will not provide even subsistence levels of aid to some of the Rim planets, they are forbidden from seceding from the Alliance because that would put the core worlds in jeopardy of being unable to support themselves and finding the resource worlds denied them due to another government. The Alliance MUST be able to take what it needs from resource rich worlds to support the Core.

Firefly Primer

Firefly: Echoes of War ramblurr