January’s Featured Campaign: Honour Among Thieves

Friends, it’s January. It’s the far-flung year of 2011. It is the future. A future filled with spaceships, blood thirsty Reavers, and dashing pilots who may or may not be in love with space hookers. It may not be our present future, but it’s definitely the time-setting of this year’s first Featured Campaign Honour Among Thieves by DM BrandonSweet!

BrandonSweet was kind enough to answer some questions for us all about his chosen campaign. Read on for advice, tales of glory, and space cowboy shenanigans!

Obsidian Portal: How much of the campaign is original content developed by you and your players?

BrandonSweet: The overall campaign concept is original, but I’ve certainly had outside help pulling together the actual nuts and bolts. I’ve borrowed a fair amount of setting information from the official MWP sourcebooks, fan-produced RPG modules, and various Firefly/Serenity wikis, and put my own spin on some of the text. I have to give a shout out to the dedicated Serenity RPG community at cortexsystemrpg.org. There are some talented people there who have come up with compelling material that I’ve happily modified to suit my purposes. I’ve also taken elements from old D6 Star Wars and Cyberpunk 2020 modules and adapted them to the Serenity ‘Verse for a couple of our shorter, episodic adventures. One of these days I’ll have to post a bibliography!

I’ve also trolled the Internet extensively for images. If you search hard enough you can find my own illustrations posted in a couple of places and you can tell I’m no graphic artist. A talented friend of mine rendered the player character portraits and campaign banner, which turned out really well.

The adventure logs are a synthesis of my own pre-game write-ups, scratch notes made during the game, and audio recordings of the game sessions, which come in handy when trying to piece PC and NPC dialogue together after the fact. I’m happy to say that the best lines come directly from my players. They’re a very witty bunch! I’ve considered posting the audio, but I would have to make some serious edits first.

Obsidian Portal: Where do you get your inspiration the story and the world?

BrandonSweet:Where to start? For a short-lived TV series, the Firefly universe is pretty robust – you’ve got the original episodes, the Serenity movie, and the Dark Horse comics that have come after, plus licensed spinoffs from Quantum Mechanix and the reams and reams of fan material posted online by Browncoats far and wide.

That said, I’m not afraid to broaden my horizons. The works of Elmore Leonard (his crime novels, but particularly his westerns), Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled noir, William Gibson’s entire oeuvre, Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels, and films like Blade Runner, Outland, Tombstone, Maverick, Midnight Run, Event Horizon, Rio Bravo by way of Assault of Precinct 13, and Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns also factor in.

Serenity is a space western, but Honour Among Thieves is more Cowboy Bebop than Cowboys & Indians.

Obsidian Portal: How well do you know your players?

BrandonSweet: I’ve been gaming with some of the guys in my group for 20 years, so I know a few of them very well. Gaming is a hobby we’ve all grown up with. In the late 1990s and early 2000s I ran two lengthy Star Wars campaigns with some members of the group, and we were definitely ready to try something different.

When I finally got around to watching Firefly on DVD, I was hooked, and not just because it was a great piece of TV Sci-Fi. Firefly was pretty much EVERY role-playing scenario my gaming group had ever played rolled into one: complicated shootouts, deliberate bar fights, wheeling and dealing with crooks of all stripes, salvaging junked spacecraft, smuggling contraband, again with the shootouts, surgery by numbers, and all the dry humour you could ask for. I knew that the Serenity RPG would be a perfect fit for my players, and we haven’t looked back.

Obsidian Portal: What kinds challenges are you faced with in your campaign setting?

BrandonSweet: How to keep the players interested in the game when there aren’t piles of treasure to be divided up and spent! Serenity is all about living close to the edge, and always coming up a dollar short. If the rewards aren’t monetary, they have to be something equally gripping. So I’ve tried to make the game very personal. The members of the crew are trying to stay one step ahead of his or her past as it tries to catch up with them.

One character is on the run from his former partners in crime, so that plot point came up time and again, culminating in a pivotal confrontation. Another character is hated on his home planet, so I can’t help but find reasons for the crew to need to visit his old homestead. And another character’s credo resulted in her getting shot and kidnapped, and her rescue has formed a substantial story arc within the campaign.

All the characters on board Shenmue have their own personal goals, but there’s one that overrides them all, and that’s “keep flyin.”

When a player is happy after his character has traded a few bullets for a bottle of whiskey, or when the crew decides all on their own to get revenge on an NPC who screwed them almost 20 game sessions ago, that’s when I know I’m doing my job correctly. One of my players recently told me how much fun he’s having being broke all the time in-game, when in any other context his character would be happier scooping gold coins into bags of holding.

Obsidian Portal: What aspects of your campaign are you really proud of?

BrandonSweet:The players all came up with really rich back stories, which is a plus for me as GM because I can weave those background elements into the storylines, and give each character a chance to be in the spotlight so to speak.
I’m also proud of the adventure logs, and I tip my hat to anyone with the patience to read through them! It’s nice to know they’ve caught a few people’s eyes.

Obsidian Portal: What’s been the highlights of the campaign?

BrandonSweet: Being able to literally railroad the players with a train job. The “Freedom Train” adventure took the crew members way out of their comfort zone, and the players made magic happen, turning the mission into an entertaining comic farce that had everyone around the table laughing uproariously.

Obsidian Portal: What future plans do you have for your campaign?

BrandonSweet:I’m looking forward to completing the current story arc, which has taken on quite the life of its own as a mini-campaign. There are also elements from the Firefly/Serenity universe that I’d like to explore – the crew hasn’t yet taken a job from crime lord Adelei Niska, for example – and there are always Reavers lurking about. Cue my evil GM laugh…

MWAHAHAHAHA, glorious. Thank you BrandonSweet for taking the time to tame the white space of Obsidian Portal. What will next month’s Featured Campaign be? It could be yours! Let us know about how awesome your campaign is here!

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Gold ENnie for Best Website 09'-11'

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