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Thread: Serenity: Out in the Black
Sunday, 4th March, 2007, 04:29 AM #1
The Great Druid (Lvl 17)
Serenity: Out in the Black
Welcome to the Serenity RPGís first adventure Out in the Black. Despite its name the adventure takes place mostly in and around a small mining town. And thatís all Iím going to tell people before giving the normal spoiler warning. This review will ruin the mystery of the module if you are going to be a player in it. So please do not read on and just enjoy the lovely three star rating and know that this is a fun if imperfect adventure.
Out in the Black is a an adventure written by Tracy and Luara Hickman. It is for the game based off of Joss Whedonís Serenity movie and Firefly series. I will admit that I am a fan of the setting, movie and show. But alas the rules for the RPG I find not to my liking. Please keep that bias of mine in mind as you read through the review. The soft bound book is a little over a hundred pages long and black and white. The cover has a great picture of Serenity, the spaceship, on it. The interior art is also fairly good and fitting for the game. The layout is very nicely done and the book is well organized.
There is a good table of contents and a character index. I think the character index is a great idea as the characters are stated in different section of the book. The editing of the book though was not very well done. I am normally not one to notice these type of mistakes or even mention them unless there are many. It is distracting at times a few sentences I had to read a few times to try to figure out what was being said.
I did get a chance to play through part of the module but it long and can take a while so timing was bad for me to continue playing in that game. It was enjoyable for me. The adventure is about a lost Alliance treasure that a few groups are trying to find. The players get mixed up in the treasure hunt after making a delivery and then will probably be seeking out the treasure for themselves. The moduleís first assumption on the Serenity game is that the players will have a ship and be very much like the characters from the TV show. They get hired to do a job and they have issues and problems come up. Not all Serenity games will be that though most probably will.
The module can work with playing the cast members or with ones original characters. The module has a bit of a history to it and in the beginning it has some very clever ways to do flash backs so that the characters can feel more involved with the plot and its cast of characters. The book describes five possible flashbacks for different types of characters depending on which side of the war they fought on or certain traits the characters may possess. The flashbacks are simple and can be done rather fast and I think they have done a great job on them to help establish some background and connection with the PCs.
The adventure starts with an ice run. Is really frozen comet gases then frozen water but the concept is the same. It has another group trying to do a claim jump and is a good exciting opening scene. The real story though happens on the delivery. The planet is blockaded and the town is in desperate need of these frozen gases. I like that there is a good reason for the blockade dealing with a corporate takeover of the mines. On the planet though things get complicated.
There are many groups in this small mining town and all of them are having their strings pulled by the local teacher. Of course she is really Saffron who people might know from the series but the module does a very good job keeping this fact hidden. She goes by different names and has changed her hair and appearance. Of course if the original cast is being played they just might shoot her on sight. I do not think the book did a good enough job with what to do with characters recognizing her. It is addressed but it just says she denies it. It can get a little complex with the different groups but the mining town is nice and alive and great place for players to explore and embrace the local culture. There are many well defined characters here and much role playing can take place. There is even a game fully defined in the book that the locals use for gambling. It is something the players can actually play and try their luck with.
The adventure from here takes the players for a ride. Basically for things to progress plot wise the writers need the players to leave town. They either go transport a new sheriff to the town and then go on another ice run or they get tossed in jail. When they get back the new sheriff turns out to be a psychopath gunslinger and he joins Saffron to get the treasure. The treasure is buried in the mines and they get there first along with the Tongs another interested party though I do like that they are not after the treasure as much as trying to keep it hidden.
In the mines the group can sneak around, fight people, or get killed. It is not that much of a maze but there are issues with everyone there. The vault the treasure is hidden in is secured by a very difficult key. The key is a game piece but it is not a key like a key to a lock. I can honestly see the players getting this far have the key and never figure out how to get in there. There is a small handout of the game piece for the PCs as a prop and with the answer it took me a little while to get the clue.
The treasure is also an Alliance trap that never got underway. They bio engineered a disease and put it on platinum coins in the hope of sneaking the Browncoats contaminated money that would make them all sick and easier to defeat. The Alliance would then come in with the antidote and be seen as saviors as no one would know they invented the disease in the first place. The money though was stolen before it could be distributed and hidden here. The money is still sealed up and potentially deadly. It is very possible the PCs will break the seals and start spreading around all this cursed money and the book goes into that eventuality. There are clues for the group to find so they do not do that. After they gather up some of the treasure they of course get attacked and the mine starts to collapse. There is a time counter in rounds to keep track of and track the slow collapse of the mines. Hopefully our heroes will see the obvious signs and get out of the mines as the rest of the treasure gets buried.
All in all it is an exciting adventure though the middle railroad portion might leave a bad taste in peopleís mouth. I know I have not mentioned the mechanics at all yet but I cannot fully ignore them. The book does a nice job of intergrading the mechanics in the text using the words like easy, hard, impossible that indicate target numbers instead of the numbers themselves. The characters opposing the PCs are amazing at what they do best. The psycho sheriff for instance is an amazing shot and could easily kill a few PCs. The mechanics though are such that people wanting to use this for a GURPS Serenity game, or Traveler, or QAGS, or Unisystem, or any other game system some one wants to play Serenity in should have no more trouble converting this book as they did just converting the game. It is a rules light system so unless one is going into a more complex system like d20 Modern with the Future rules this should be not that hard.
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