Firefly: Bucking the Tiger, Part One


I’m running the adventure Bucking the Tiger to wrap up our Firefly RPG campaign. It’s a fun scenario, written by Rob Wieland, that I highly recommend. But if you’re looking at playing through it, you may want to stop reading. I’ve taken some ((Actually, quite a few.)) liberties with the adventure-as-written to customize it for my crew, but there will be some spoilers.


We’re wrapping up our campaign next session ((Which is tonight.)), and I wanted to end with a big, splashy affair. Because Su Jin, our ship’s mechanic, is also a gambler who is always looking for a high-stakes card game, Bucking the Tiger looked perfect. Not only does it giver her her card game, it’s set in a wild-west-themed casino resort, with lots of opportunity to hook the rest of the crew into interesting stuff. I figured that I could easily make it last two sessions.

And it’s going to last two sessions, so that’s good.

We got off to a bit of a rocky start. I don’t know if the energy was low in the room, or if interest is waning because we’re reaching the end of the campaign, or if I just effective in what I was doing, but none of the players were biting at any of the hooks I was dropping. Now, they’d engage when I pushed things into the “unable to ignore this” realm, but they didn’t show the same sort self-motivation that they usually do. It kind of turned the game from a conversation into monologue, as I’d describe something and they’d say, “Cool!” and then wait for the next bit instead of grabbing the description and doing something with it.

That kind of sounds like me complaining about my players, doesn’t it? That’s not my intention. Firstly, anyone can have an off game. Second, if it was just one of the players doing it, I’d say that he or she was having an off game, but when it’s ALL the players, it’s more likely that it was the common element (i.e., ME) that was the problem. Part of it may have been the fact that I was trying to set the scene in a little too much detail, and part may have been that I hadn’t put in enough prep time, but I wasn’t able to snare the interest of the crew as much as I wanted. At least, not in the early part of the game.

Now, the adventure starts with an invitation to the casino resort by an old friend of the crew who winds up murdered. In the adventure, the friend is a singer who used to travel with the crew and has finally made it big. She invites them to come stay for free at the casino to repay them for their help. I changed that to Annie Pan, the marshal that the crew helped out back on Heaven in the first adventure in the campaign ((I like callbacks like that.)). Instead of being hired as a singer, she’s the second-in-command for casino security ((Why would someone go from being a marshal to being a security guard? Same reasons cops in the real world go from being cops to being security guards – better money, less danger.)).

Speaking of call-backs, I also brought in Ada Wilson, the mercenary from the last session. After Walter and Price knocked her out back on Rubicon, Price made off with her Alliance officer’s sword as a trophy. She really wants it back, and tracked Price down to ask for it. Unfortunately, Price already gave the sword to Grandfather, the head of the Jiang Triad, and Price’s actual grandfather, as a gift. So, now he’s talking with Uncle Fung about what to do.

Anyway, I wanted to establish a normality for the casino so that, when the murder occurs, it’s shocking. That meant letting the characters drift a little bit ((Not what I was actually trying to do; in my mind, I was giving them the opportunity to pursue what interested them. But really, it just let them drift.)), seeing what the casino was like on a normal day. In retrospect, I have the feeling I should have started with a teaser – the crew standing over the body of their friend ((Maybe just a body – don’t give away the identity ofthe victim right away.)), as security bursts into the room and orders them to put their hands up. Roll opening credits, then “24 hours earlier,” and cut to the crew arriving. That might have given things a little more focus and energy in the early part of the game.

But I didn’t do that.

When I did introduce the murder, I made the crew work for it, and that started to get them doing stuff again. When Annie didn’t show up for breakfast with them, Price and Jin went to check on her. Price scammed their way into her quarters and found her with her throat slit and almost dead. She was able to mouth the word, “Faro,” before dying. I brought in the whole feeling of dealing with the police then: the slow, methodical questioning, the lack of two-way information exchange, the professional blankness of the security head, balanced by his obvious competence and his request that the crew not mess with his investigation.

Everyone took that real well, of course ((Note: they did not take it well.)).

After that, everyone got on the trolley of trying figure out who killed their friend. Jin bought her way into the high-stakes, private Faro tournament currently running, and Domino partnered with her to keep an eye out for the murderer up there. Price decided to have a chat with the Triad folks who were running this casino. Walter sent a wave back to Heaven to let Annie’s old crew know what happened, which indirectly meant he was telling the Alliance Marshal Service that one of their own had just been murdered.

We wrapped up the session with three quick scenes: Price being surrounded by Triad thugs, because they’re a rival to the Jiang Triad; Walter sitting at the bar when someone slams a marshal’s badge down on the bartop beside him; and Domino and Jin stepping off the elevator into the Faro penthouse and being greeted by Cousin Ori.

That should get things rolling quickly at this, our final session.