Author Archives: Rebecca M. Horner

About Rebecca M. Horner

A spinner of yarns (of the story sort, though I do crochet...and sew, and learning to make armor...)

RotLC 004: Rest

Author’s Note: Winter storm nonsense part 2 has thrown off my schedule, lol. Oh well, just in time for the monthly flip. That’s right, starting next week, update days are Tuesday and Friday, possibly Saturday depending on what happens with my DnD group any particular Friday, since I sometimes don’t have much time from work ending until start of game.

Disclaimer: Eira, her family, and all associated characters are mine but they are playing the sandbox created by the comic Hurrocks Fardel, now available on WebToons (it’s catching up to where we were, old pages are being redone so it is a consistent look). Whether any of this ends up canon depends entirely on the artist, but I’ll try to be consistent with what information they have provided. ^_^

*****

Only a few days later, and the house was quiet. Eira tip toed around, gathering some of the recent apples pulled out of the cold lake and a hunk of cheese out of the cabinets in the kitchen. She couldn’t reach the cups for her usual milk, but that’s what the pitcher of water and glasses on the table were for. Those were kept where she could reach as soon as she proved she could be careful.

She kicked the air as she helped herself to her breakfast. She’d helped! Mama and Papa could rest with the new baby now.

*****

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RotLC 003: “Pickles are gross.”

Author’s Note: This is the first from a short list of quotes I’ve got as a secondary prompt list. Some of these won’t work until Eira is older, but some are good for when she’s younger (also my generator is very…modern. I need more lists). Also, ToC is going to be built it looks like Saturday evening while I’m sitting on a virtual TTRPG session.

Disclaimer: Eira, her family, and all associated characters are mine but they are playing the sandbox created by the comic Hurrocks Fardel, now available on WebToons (it’s catching up to where we were, old pages are being redone so it is a consistent look). Whether any of this ends up canon depends entirely on the artist, but I’ll try to be consistent with what information they have provided. ^_^

*****

Egor eventually found his daughter’s hiding place. He’d fixed her a plate of food the cousins and neighbors had brought to keep Senta from cooking for this last push. He set it on the step next to her. “You okay, snowflake?” he asked. He worried it was a late case of jealousy for the new baby.

But her glare was soon directed at the plate of food. Specifically, one corner. “Pickles are gross,” she pronounced with the authority of all seven of her years.

Chuckling, Egor knew that his wife would deeply disagree, but after ten months? “Ditto,” he said.

*****

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RotLC 002: Neighbors

Author’s Note: I know, I know, I forgot last Thursday. Still working on getting on a schedule, it should get better. This one is late due to winter storm shenanigans yesterday, but all is well now!

Disclaimer: Eira, her family, and all associated characters are mine but they are playing the sandbox created by the comic Hurrocks Fardel, now available on WebToons (it’s catching up to where we were, old pages are being redone so it is a consistent look). Whether any of this ends up canon depends entirely on the artist, but I’ll try to be consistent with what information they have provided. ^_^

*****

Eira felt like their house was somehow three times smaller than it had been yesterday. It was because of all the people—everyone within a day’s travel was here.

She hid at the top of the stairs that led up to the big loft that was all hers. It was the only safe place. Besides with Papa, but he was out in the barn. She wasn’t allowed there yet.

She wrinkled her nose as another woman came in to join the mass of swirling skirts. Though not out of any feelings for the stranger. It was what she was carrying.

*****

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RotLC 001: Beginnings

Author’s Note: So it begins! I’ve decided to title this drabble series as Rise of the Lunar Champion. We’re starting pretty young, but there will be time skips. I just thought it seemed like a fun place to begin following Eira growing up. I’m a bit late starting due to a bug hitting me during Christmas break and then again when I went back to work, but I’m back on schedule now. I’ll put together a table of contents for all the prompts at the end of the month to link back to at the end of each post. For now, enjoy and see you Thursday with the next part!

As a reminder: each of these drabbles is a “perfect” drabble at 100 words. Which has been a creative challenge for me!

Disclaimer: Eira, her family, and all associated characters are mine but they are playing the sandbox created by the comic Hurrocks Fardel, now available on WebToons (it’s catching up to where we were, old pages are being redone so it is a consistent look). Whether any of this ends up canon depends entirely on the artist, but I’ll try to be consistent with what information they have provided. ^_^

*****

Her first memory was hazy, but held dearly as the decades passed so it wouldn’t fade. It was a simple moment, one of a dozen common memories. Eira wasn’t sure how she’d hurt herself—she was seven with too much energy. Her mother had picked her up and sat her on the kitchen table to clean her scrapes.

“You’re going to be a big sister soon, Eira,” Senta had scolded. “You need to settle down so you can help protect your new baby brother or sister.”

Eira would hold on to that word for the rest of her life. Protect.

*****

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Soft Reboot, Ish?

Yeah, that’s what we’ll call this. Obviously the pandemic, new work, and cat drama made it hard for me to focus on the blog. I also don’t know if I have enough to talk about on a regular basis? I don’t want to bore anyone who reads this blog, I also don’t want to make this a bundle of stress for me to manage. This led to me deeply considering what I’m doing. I’m not going to take anything down at this point, but sort of change what is going on when. I did publish more, but updating the website just didn’t happen. (And then WordPress updated and I’m not 100% sure my theme is fully supported anymore, so if you see something broken, please yell.)

In terms of blog posts, it is going to be pretty quiet here until after the new year. I’m going to use that time to build up a buffer. There will be a post in December I hope because I’m doing a hardback anthology for the first three books in Sun’s Guard, but I need to hear back from Johnny about cover art to set that date in stone. There’s not a huge rush, I’ll get the text formatted and then once he’s good, we’ll go, so putting a pin in that.

I’m going to try to do some things seasonally so I can kinda work ahead in some regards. There would basically just be an update from me whenever something is confirmed going to be out. So like I’m starting Sun’s Guard: Queen this month, I’d post when I finished the rough draft to confirm the publish date, and then obviously a post when it does come out announcing it’s available. (And updating the various pages to show it.)

So summer I am going to do a month where there’s a review once a week for a month (so 4-5 reviews depending on which month I do it in, I haven’t decided yet, and the calendar), so I can borrow books from the local library in support of that service, as well as try and be positive? I want to be more positive about my review process. So we’re going to try for that.

Autumn is going to eventually be Nuzlocke updating in November, I am hoping to get back into that game in the spring so I can pick it up again. We’ll see. I don’t want to over extend myself, which is obviously where so many of my problems are coming from. I do have a very rough idea of where I want elements to happen, but finishing the game first is my best bet to know when to weave those in.

Spring is going to seem like a dead season because that is my busiest time at work. Right now, I do not see me having time to do anything extra on the blog unless I also manage to finish a book in the spring. That may change as programs shuffle around and if we get to add new positions, but I’m not going to count on it with this plan. If it does happen, I also don’t know what I’d do. It depresses me to build DnD characters I’ll never get to play, so that’s out. I’ll think about it.

The only thing that isn’t going to be annual is what I’ve been working on to build up a buffer. I’m getting inspired by Lord Mettlebright’s Man over on forthright’s blog, only I know I don’t want to do that with Sun’s Guard. That’s part of a bigger universe that could become a tangled mess if I let it. No, I’m going to do something with my swan maidens, especially to celebrate that Hurrocks Fardel is posting again, albeit it’s having to build up the backlog again and the creator has decided to redo the earlier pages so it all matches where it left off better.

So twice a week there will be a 100-word drabble posted featuring Eira and the swan maidens. There will be time skips, but so far the first 100 are set in Eira’s childhood, I think the next 100 will be her adolescence, etc. If something else happens that week, such as my update post or it’s time for summer reviews, then there will only be one drabble that week. Update days are probably going to line up with my work from home days, that just seems like it will be easiest.

Hopefully this new schedule will make sense and be something everyone can enjoy. I’ll see you either with an update on the anthology or the first swan maiden drabble, which ever happens first.


Tabletop RP: My Top 10 Spells (Part 2)

Last time, I talked about my favorite spells, specifically arcane, and promised to do my favorite divine spells later. Well, it’s later. (Finally, I know.) I occasionally play oracles, which isn’t quite the same thing as your normal cleric, so I definitely just wanted to focus on the spell list rather than on the other tricks of the cleric class since… I wouldn’t know what I was talking about.

(What can I say, I hate having ALL THE SPELLS KNOWN but like five slots.)

So same as last time, I’ll be listing my favorite spells, at least one for each level (sorta), and why I enjoy them so much, therefore why you might like them for your character. You’ll need to double check domains and such to see if they will work for you. Now, when I play an oracle, I am usually filling a specific role. Healer, yes, but also seeing what other stop gabs. Sometimes I’m an overly practical and uptight kitsune which gives me mending-type spells, sometimes I am blasting as much as I am healing since we need magical back-up. So keep in mind, your build may vary, especially depending on the deity involved. Also, no healing spells listed because you basically can cast them without taking up slots for spells known in most campaigns we’ve run.

Zero Level Spells/Cantrips
….No one likes these, why would I pick one here…? These are little spells that really, I pick based on the campaign.

1st Level Spells
There’s a plethora of useful spells in here that you need to really cater to your party needs and wants. But something I always take is Shield of Faith. Some oracles/clerics can’t wear armor and cast spells. Shield of Faith gets you around that, big time, and grows stronger as your character levels. While your fellows may not need the bolster from a mass spell, you definitely need the protection of the self-aimed.

2nd Level Spells
Much like with arcana spells, about the time you start getting second level spells, you are trying to cover your bases with your party, especially in terms of needing mass protection if you’ve made an enemy. That being said, I have a personal attachment to Enthrall. I have used it once to great success and screwed over my DM in an epic but hysterical thing, and I think once or twice else wise in a way that was maybe not quite as epic but also useful.
My second favorite spell is Make Whole. I had a DM throw out a bridge, and while the rest of my party was figuring out how to down a tree and pull it over in a make-shift bridge, possibly several trees because of my blind Oracle self… So-said blind kitsune oracle toddles over in her kimono and starts casting Make Whole spells to repair the bridge. It was brilliant.

3rd Level Spells
OMG, Daylight. Remove Curse is also good, but definitely add Daylight to your needed list because of various undead, it is the only way to defeat them, much like golems require sonic damage. One of my DMs is big on undead and another uses them when appropriate, and I like having the weapons the second I can get my hand on them when appropriate, or else I pay the tax later and have to roll up a new character.

4th Level Spells
This is where you really have to cater to your campaign and your character, and it’s harder for me to give a more general “best spell” of the level, because if you are dealing with a lot of undead, there’s spells specifically to help with that, or if you are dealing with other enemies, again, spells specific to that. But there are two good options for almost any campaign: Air Walk or Water Walking (Mass). Obviously if you are in the desert, the latter doesn’t help you much, but otherwise both can be used to benefits otherwise in almost any campaign or character. I like Air Walk more just because of it being more universal.

5th Level Spells
Finally, powerful spells that aren’t related to healing or undead as much, lol. Depending on character aesthetic, you can go different routes. Me being me, I am almost always going to go down the realm of ice, so that means I take Holy Ice, which as a bonus, does two different functions–either a wall or javelins, so it’s both defensive and offensive. If I’ve taken a Bless Water as a first level spell at some point, and I should have, it’s even almost a freebie spell.

6th Level Spells
I actually really like Word of Recall. If your party doesn’t have a fast means of transport yet, this is a great way to cut travel in half as you level. It also serves as a good way to avoid a complete TPK, which is always a threat since dice can mess up any plans.

7th Level Spells
Restoration Greater, omg. Like, it seems really obvious, but I know people who forget and then one of their party members gets permanent ability score damage and it’s screams around the table. You would be surprised how often it comes up, at least in the games that we’re in, where one of the Restorations is needed. I mean yes, resurrection spells can be useful, but being able to prevent someone from dying by restoring them first is better.

8th Level Spells
For 8th Level, your spell options really start to narrow down. But in turn, you get to start doing some really awesome stuff. I like Discern Location, just because it cuts out a lot of trucking all over the place to find an object, only to find out it moved like three months ago and our intell was out of date. Nope, now I get to double check the DM, lol.

9th Level Spells
Much like with arcane spells, I only got here once before with a gestalt arcane/divine castor pairing, so I’m not as all-knowing about what is the most helpful or useful. Usually, I go straight for Miracle since it’s kind of a great catch-all. Unless my deities are known asses. Then it’s just an invitation for trouble, and I’m better off getting something like Overwhelming Presence or True Restoration. Of course, if you are playing a supreme loaner, being able to carve out your own demiplane can’t be spat at.


News: Back from Quarantine and Book Signing!

Thank you all for being understanding as I dealt with my various levels of stress, anxiety, and the various fall outs lately (among them involving a lot of my hair going into a fast shed, it was awful). I did okay with the whole shutting myself up in the house part, I’ve been sick the least amount I’ve been in the last few years actually, so you know, small bonuses. Karu and Kari are loving me being home, less so that they are being switched to pure-adult food because it is time they got off the combo kitten/adult food. Once I got a Switch and Animal Crossing: New Horizon (yes, I am one of those people) to be a stress relief and calming mechanism, things leveled out.

Originally, I had a book signing scheduled for April which canceled for…obvious reasons. Thankfully, Full Circle Books offered those of us in April first-dibs at slot for the June New Ink signings, and I jumped on it. I will hopefully be there in June (with a mask!!!) if things don’t spike outrageously here in the metro. I have the box of Sun’s Guard: Ten copies ready and everything… Oh shoot. Dara still has my good pens. I will buy new pens, and then I’ll be ready, lol. I’ll post announcements on Twitter and details on the homepage once I get them, right now I don’t know anything besides…June.

Speaking of book signings though, I am available for those and school visits if anyone wants to drop me a line at rebeccamhorner@yahoo.com to discuss details in the future once Covid isn’t making everything a nightmare. I’ll post that in the FAQ section at some point along with those details. We might even try some virtual meet ups!

I’ve also started to work on an audio reading of Sun’s Guard: Ten, which got waylaid because my desk chair revolted after working from home started with my day job. (I had to sit on a pillow to avoid splinters while tracking down a replacement.) But I have a new chair, so I’ll use this weekend to catch up on that, start getting some recording going on, and then hopefully we’ll have that ready to come out this fall. I’m excited to do a full-cast reading, inspired by Bruce Coville and Tamora Pierce because I am trash like that. And also theater trash, because I want all the characters to have different voices, drat it!

(I can’t get a braille copy going, but by golly, there will be an audio version going. Though if I spot typos in the original text, I might be updating the print copies to correct those because they may drive me nuts…)

Otherwise, I am poking away at a few projects. Right now my focus is on a fanfic that Ginny has outed me for writing on Twitter for Sly Cooper and getting an installment of that out, and then I’ll probably either work on the game or on Black Lark. Page is still on stand by, I believe I’ll start editing work in July…which means fixing my printer, joy. I also found the Ginny box! I need to pick a book and review it for you all, or watch a new movie instead of rewatching things. Sigh, that means making room for new characters. I think I’m still suffering from such high disappointment from Miraculous Ladybug turning sour after season one that it’s hard for me to make that leap again. But I’ll look!

In the meantime, I’ll see you all next weekend. Stay safe, stay inside if you can, and if you can’t, wear a mask and wash your hands.


Writing: How Many Drafts Is Enough?

The most recent controversy I’ve been seeing in my twitter feed is a lot of people complaining that other writers don’t go through enough drafts. It makes me ask questions, though, because I’m not sure I understand the problem. Is there a numerical requirement on the number of drafts you should have? Is there a limit? There’s a danger of applying a uniform writing process to everybody because it doesn’t always fit everybody. It’s like saying you have to outline, or outlining is a waste of time, or you have to write everyday. It also creates a false us vs. them paradigm that as aspiring writers or indie writers, we really don’t need to have to each other.

(Several traditionally published writers I’ve talked to like this war and already feel that way with them versus indie, on top of being a wee bit pretentious, so I have washed my hands of them. But the rest of us should make an effort!)

When it comes to the minimum of drafts, I always say at least two drafts are needed. Your first draft, you are just getting everything laid out that’s been up in your head. The second time, you need to look at it like a reader who doesn’t have the knowledge you do up in your brain. Do you explain everything, do you have a glaring hole in logic? Also, are you characters consistent, is your world explained enough? Your second draft can let you fill all that in, plus start on copy-edits. (No, I don’t count the various integrations of copy-editing as drafts.)

I do at least two drafts, though Sun’s Guard: Ten went through a handful as first I struggled with opening in the right place, then I cut out a subplot to save it for a later book than crowd the first book with characters who weren’t entirely needed yet. First draft I’m not worried about structure, I’m not worried overly much about descriptions for old characters or places, I’m not paying attention to my logic. I’m following the character and her goals, I’m following my villain and their goals, and the resulting conflict. That’s what I want written down. Then on my next read-through, I check for those things–descriptions, tags, logic–this one mostly summed up in making sure the reader is aware of Caley’s goals and also on Caley’s emotional positions in key scenes, which sometimes require some elaboration–that all the places are described in ways that invoke more than the visual senses if I can.

One person even asked a question (that I answered, though I suspect it was rhetorical) about why people do detailed outlines. Well, this is a form of drafting! I can use it as a sort of preliminary draft, to block out my character’s actions and know who goes where, or notice if we haven’t seen a side character in a while and I need to fix that. Remember, I’m holding two opposite goals in mind that I have to dovetail together–that requires planning, whether you do it in the moment or before you get started. By doing some very rough outlining, and then filling in more details with each “act” as I go, I can keep pace of myself as well as spot good places for emotional gut-punches. It also lets me treat my first draft as getting the story out, and then the second draft as adjusting the fit of the story over the outline. This keeps me from, to paraphrase another writer I heard speak in grad school, from having to change all the bones and organs under the same skin.

I don’t expect everyone to outline though. For some people, they can’t do it–I had grad school fellows who just couldn’t do it and that’s why they didn’t go with the advisor I did. Some have to outline more deeply than I do. I’m sort of a joint pantser-plotter (referred to as a plantser) at this stage in my writing career. I start with a paragraph of rambling that I know happens in the book, roughly. And then I plot each “act,” from Act I to Act II Part 1 to Act II Part 2 (which are divided by the midpoint where my protagonist’s goal has to change or their path to it alter) to Act III, one at a time, write it out, then plot the next while consulting my rambling paragraph and how the structure of the plot is working out. But that’s my approach. I’m not going to force it on someone else.

Much like I’m not going to tell someone they have to have at least four or five drafts of their book. They may not need it. I say at least two so you can at least objectively review what you have and see what needs changed (something always needs changed, whether that’s more description added or a plot hole that needs filled or a conversation that has to be restructured), but otherwise… It’s going to depend on you and your story. Ten took easily six or seven drafts by the time it was all said and done with all the restarting I did and an experiment to add length that ended up failing. Sun’s Guard: Page…doesn’t look like it’s going to have that problem, so I’ll probably just have my outline-draft and then the two normal ones. Some of my other stories I also don’t think will have that many drafts.

You know what my biggest piece of evidence for only two drafts being required is? None of my professors ever expected more than that in grad school. You’d submit the original story, get feedback, edit/adjust, and submit the second draft for your grade. Oh sure, you may still get notes back, and that’s not to say you didn’t do six or seven or twelve drafts on the side (…my horror short story and I were not friends…), but all you had to do was two, because my professors knew what I know now–you miss things in the first draft, so you got to do a second to fix them. Even the English professor I hate to this day only made two drafts a requirement…and then screwed your grade over so you had to do the third draft, but my point is made.

So how about we lay off of each other? So I only do two drafts and an outline, and someone else does eleven. This doesn’t mean there book is necessarily better than mine, or mine would be better if I worked at it more, or anything like that. All it says is we had a different experience writing our books, neither positive or negative unless we chose to view it that way.


On Writing Dumb Characters Who Aren’t Actually Dumb

(The title is weird, work with me here.)

So one of the “flaws” I’ve given my main character is that she’s a C student. She’s not in any honors classes, so I knew right away that half of the problem is effort since I didn’t give her a learning disability. Considering her defensively prickly personality, I knew it was a matter of whether she cared about who she was with or not. Most of the time, she doesn’t, so her grades are just enough to keep her out of trouble and then the rest of her time she can do what she wants. But I also knew even if she did try… That would get her to B with the occasional A territory, not Honors or AP courses. Just because she likes Shakespeare doesn’t mean she likes analyzing it or higher sciences/mathematics.

As a writer, I like this. Things like having your protagonist be a Dumb Jock (TM) so their Smart Friend (TM) can do their homework and you don’t have to think about it DRIVES ME NUTS. It also means you have to keep the action moving because those aren’t characters that sit and think about what to do, usually. Ginny loves action movies and their plots. I find them good brain relaxers, but they aren’t what I want to write. I want to write about characters who are balanced and like real people we see in reality, which means while some tropes are welcome, some aren’t. So even though I have a core trio (or two, depending on how how you count Moonshine), they all have to pull their thinking weight in different ways.

So for me this is a lot of balancing with my writing. If I make something pretty darn obvious, like it might be with one of my plot points for Page, I have to show that Caley is distracted is all to hell by something else because she has enough intelligence to add two and two and get four. She’s aware of human nature–she knows when someone feels wrong, and she’s good at figuring out what sort of awful things people will do to meet their goals because she’s seen a lot (she calls it having a doctorate in life). So sometimes, she’s more than smart enough to figure something out…she’s just distracted by someone being up to something that threatens her own choices in some way.

When I was building my trio (because YA series having a trio is a staple that I can respect and I’m not tossing out), I decided each character was going to have a different type of intelligence. All three have a heavy dose of common sense, though each can be distracted from it. One character is more emotionally intelligence, one is more book smart, and the other has social smarts. That isn’t to say the others don’t have the other types of intelligence, it just isn’t as strong with them or it’s in specific areas. Quiz Caley on types of dance and famous ballets, you’ll get a wildly different set of answers than you would out of the other two.

What I’m saying I guess is that I don’t like writing a character who is a smarty pants who has all the answers, because then it makes it hard to surprise them, but I don’t want to write the dumb jock who just punches his way through the plot. I think there should be balance, and sometimes that gets tricky to write. It’s hard, but I find it rewarding because I’m not just sticking to tropes or continuing to produce the same story that someone else has already done. (No shade meant.)

This probably comes from my own teen years. While I was in Honors classes, I didn’t always feel like I should be outside of the English or History classes. And while I have writer brain and know how a lot of things are going to end when I watch them, that only applies to genres I’ve analyzed. So when I’d go to a movie with friends and I’d get “caught,” by the ending…I’d feel really dumb when they’d tell me it was super obvious so they didn’t like the whole movie. Because they were used to consuming those types of movies, and they wanted the tropes they were highly familiar with to be subverted or changed. As someone who didn’t, the tropes played straight got me.

All of us were smart, my intelligence and consumption of media just shaped me differently. I shouldn’t have been made to feel stupid because I didn’t always follow the math or science that was math pretending to not be math, or because I didn’t track a twist to the story because it wasn’t my type of media. And I didn’t see this being portrayed in many YA books. So many just lump all the intelligence types together, so either your character is a genius and you’re beating emotional sense into them (which gets old fast), or while some characters do try and deal with the fact they aren’t considered bright, they don’t address a character who is smart in some ways and isn’t in others.

So even though it makes writing an absolute chore because I know I can only distract/drag out mysteries so long before getting Caley wise to them but I also have to give the right kind of clues or she won’t figure it out…I think it’s important to remember no character is truly dumb. Even the Dumb Jock (TM) knows things and skills that the Smart Friend (TM) doesn’t, and should be given the chance to show that instead of being spoon fed the answers.


Tabletop RPG: Serenity the RPG System Thoughts

(After a long drought, finally an RP post! Sorry ya’ll, I had the plague and it will not go away.)

So I had bought the Serenity the Roleplaying Game’s book ages ago, along with a big old Verse map and a giant book about a specific cargo run. Why? Because I was interested in seeing how playable it was. Now, the book itself isn’t laid out in the most logical of senses, and sometimes it seems a bit screwy to me. I’m not going to critique the system as a whole, but instead, talk about how it plays.

I ran it this last weekend for a group of three players. It was specifically meant to be short, one or two sessions, three at an absolute maximum that I didn’t see happening, and so in an effort to keep it short, I chose to use one of the episodes of the series (“The Train Job”) as my framework. Bonus, most of my players had either never seen the show, seen only a small percentage of it, or hadn’t seen it in well over ten years and had since forgotten a large chunk of it. I had no worries about them actually recognizing what I was up to.

The game started off a little shaky–I’m not used to DMing, and I was trying to think of how to describe something I had seen in a show to convey exactly the right tone. But as the players started to make their plan and I got comfortable, we all started to enjoy ourselves. This is where the good parts of the game really started to show themselves. It isn’t loaded down with rules and schematics, but instead relies on the imaginations of the players and the DM, and on the way that they RP things out. It also gives some players a bit of flux.

What I mean by that is the use of Plot Points. I know of other DMs who will deliberately fudge rolls if a character rolls poorly and it may lead to someone having a bad night, or for similar reasons. Serenity makes that almost unnecessary with the use of Plot Points, provided the characters haven’t been just slinging them around. By really using them when they can tell a roll is important, it lets them get the desierable outcome without some…somewhat shady but good intentioned shady…actions on behalf of a DM, which I can appreciate.

That being said, 1’s still happen, and critical failures can lead to problems. But I’ve taken the stance that just because you failed the roll it doesn’t mean something catastrophic has to happen, and depending on what it is, the party isn’t screwed. In my most memorable case from this last weekend, one failed the hiding roll with a 1 while the other did really well. So I did something like you’d see out of a comedy skit to explain how both got hidden because of how well the other person rolled covering for both of them. Everything still proceeds, and everyone at the table got a laugh out of it. Failures don’t have to mean instant-death, and I was glad to get to DM something like that.

Is the lack of detail sometimes annoying? Oh very. And the rate of lethal damage applied to the weapons, while realistic, means that combat is never going to go well, and I’m still thinking about how to balance that out in a longer game. I also have to figure out whether I’d want to do something similar to Whedon’s work, where there is a long arc that we’re building to but a lot of it plays out in small moments, or if I want the long arc to be the focus with occasional side jobs. But that comes back to the flexibility of the system. It really lets you run the type of game that you want to run.

I don’t know if I would recommend this system for a newbie DM and newbie group of players. It’s not laid out in a way that’s neat, there’s a lot of holes, and the combat is harsh. But for a group that has messed around with a few systems, it is pretty forgiving to let them let their hair down for a bit. As a newbie DM, I had the advantage of knowing the world best, which gave me the measure of control that as DM I need to have any kind of confidence. With a group of die-hard Firefly fanatics, that isn’t going to be the case…but other new DMs may not have my anxiety crutches, so your mileage is just going to vary on that front.

If I can trust my players to stay off my blog, I might talk about the planning I go into for longer campaigns, but that’s a big maybe. I wouldn’t want to accidentally spoil anyone’s backstory or arc for them, and that will cause sour feelings. (Plus some of the players are uber private, which I respect.) In the meantime, if you can get your hands on the book or a PDF of it, it’s worth a page-through at the very least.