Leveragin’ the Black – Situation Generator

A little stocking filler for Firefly RPG fans this festive season, and a wrap-up of the Leveragin’ the Black series: –

Floundering for that germ of an idea to spark your next epic adventure in the ‘Verse?  Or maybe you were up all night on the Cortex and completely forgot to prepare anything for today’s session, and the group is due to be knocking on your door within the next half hour.  Well, the Serenity Plus Situation Generator is here for your needs: all you need is a d10 and something to write on and you’ll soon be flyin’.

The Client

1 Business mogul
2 Soldier, war veteran, or officer
3 Official or politician
4 The authorities
5 Clergy or cultist
6 Guild
7 Fixer or middleman
8 A town or community
9 An old friend or enemy, or relation
10 Roll twice on this table, ignoring any 10s

Who hired, or at least wants to hire, the Crew?

Business mogul - some corporate type, maybe from the likes of Blue Sun or Iskellian Technology, or maybe something smaller scale.

Soldier, war veteran, or officer - maybe they fought in the Unification War, or maybe they joined up afterwards.

Official or politician - they could be a small-scale local power such as a magistrate or mayor, or maybe they hold a higher political office in the Core.

The authorities – law enforcement of some description such as the local sheriff, or maybe the Alliance have a job “proposal”.

Clergy or cultist – we didn’t see any particularly strong evidence of cults during the show’s run, but there’s likely some out on the Rim worshipping cow foetuses or something.  Or maybe its a more respected member of the clergy, such as a Shepherd.

Guild – not only the Companions’ Guild, although it is one of the most respected, but perhaps the client could be a member of the Traders’ or Miners’ Guilds.

Fixer or middleman – some people, such as Badger, fill a role as intermediary and specifically track down individuals such as the Crew who can help fulfil a need, sometimes people approach the Crew via a proxy.  You may wish to roll again on the table to find the person whose interests the middleman represents.

A town or community – a group of people with a common need.  They may be settled, or perhaps they are a nomadic group.

An old friend or enemy, or relation – sometimes the client may even fall into more than one category (particularly when family are involved).  It may be someone known to the whole crew (such as in Trash) or just some of the crew (such as Heart of Gold, or The Message).

The Job

1 Courier
2 Escort
3 Retrieval
4 Insertion
5 Elimination
6 Investigation
7 Trace
8 Rescue
9 Protection
10 Roll twice on this table, ignoring any 10s

What are the Crew being hired to do for the client?

Courier – pick up some goods from one place and transport them to another, possibly including purchasing/selling the goods at one or both ends, such as in Shindig/Safe.  Alternatively, this job could mean ferrying passengers.

Escort – similar to a courier job, but the task may not have a specified destination at the outset.  It’s the Crews job to accompany the goods, persons, or ships to wherever they happen to go or wish to go, perhaps even acting as tour guide.

Retrieval – the client wishes an object to be collected from a specified location and brought back to them, which could include salvage from a derelict, as seen in the episode Serenity (part 1), but could be the less reputable form of retrieval: theft (see The Train Job and Trash).

Insertion – the opposite of retrieval; the client wants you to take something or someone and put them in place somewhere.  This could be setting up an agent with a cover story, putting a forgery in place before the original is noted to be missing, or maybe they wish surveillance equipment planted.

Elimination – someone or something needs to be removed from play, either permanently, or at least for the duration of some particular event.  Assassinations would be the most definitive form of elimination, but this isn’t to every group’s taste: perhaps the job is simply to delay or waylay the authorities from investigation or attendance while the client performs some other task, or maybe the target to be eliminated is a ship, building, or business rather than an individual and can be removed without taking lives, given a clever enough plan.

Investigation – the client wants information about a person, company, location, or event.  Maybe they want the identities of the perpetrators of a crime, or maybe they need intel and recon in order to pull a job themselves.  Industrial or political espionage could be other possible motivations.

Trace – a specific form of investigation, the client wishes the Crew to track down persons, items, or resources.  Maybe they want to know what’s become of their long lost daughter, or to discover what happened to a boat that fell off the grid.  Maybe what they want is more general, such as finding someone who can break a certain security system, or locating a regular supply of a commodity or resource.

Rescue – someone is in trouble and needs the Crew’s help to extricate them from said mess.  It might even be the client himself that needs rescuing.

Protection – someone, something, or somewhere needs to be protected from someone or something, and the Crew are employed as guards, security consultants, or minders.  Examples include Heart of Gold and the opening to Our Mrs Reynolds.

Why Turn to the Crew?

1 Illegal
2 Secret
3 Highly profitable
4 Feud
5 Revenge
6 Mysterious
7 Righteous
8 Personal
9 Favour
10 Roll twice on this table, ignoring any 10s

Why turn to the Crew for help with this matter rather than going to actual professionals?  (Meaning no offence to your Crew.)

Illegal – for shady dealings, you need shady types so that the authorities don’t get wind of the situation, either because they would put a stop to it, or they’d want a piece of the pie themselves.

Secret – the client just doesn’t want the situation known to any more people than are necessary.

Highly profitable – the return on the job is going to be immense and the client is either looking to minimise the number of people requiring a cut or needs people who can keep things quiet so someone else doesn’t attempt the same scheme first.

Feud – the client is involved in some way with something from a squabble to all-out war and can’t (or won’t) turn to their usual contacts for such matters as a result.

Revenge – served either hot or cold, the client wants to get back at someone.  Not quite the same as a feud as the other party might have no idea that they have even slighted the client, or are unaware of the scale of the animosity.

Mysterious – the client’s motive for turning to the Crew is unclear, or perhaps the  the client is in the dark and needs the players to bring some illumination to a mysterious situation.

Righteous – it’s the right thing to do, at least in the client’s opinion.  This often means it’s either an unpopular task or difficult to find someone willing to carry out the job.

Personal – one or more of the Crew have a personal stake in the outcome of the job, such as Simon’s request in Ariel, or the delivery in The Message.

Favour – the client is someone calling in an old debt or marker: you owe them, and payment’s come due.

Who Else is Involved?

1 The general populace
2 A previous acquaintance
3 Dupes or innocents
4 Organised crime
5 Politicians or community leaders
6 Local authorities
7 Guild
8 The Alliance
9 Reavers
10 Roll twice on this table

Who else is involved in the job?  Maybe they are the targets, bystanders, or rivals.  Maybe they are the victims, or soon will be.  Maybe they’re free agents, or simply in the right place at the right (or wrong) time.

The general populace – somehow, the locals or people in general are going to wind up in the situation.  It could be the residents of the town, or could include everyone in an entire system.

A previous acquaintance – a familiar face shows up, perhaps welcome, but more likely not.  Niska and Yo-Saf-Bridge are good examples from the show.

Dupes or innocents – “innocent” being a relative term; mostly folk you’d feel bad if they got hurt as a result of the job, such as the Mudders in Jaynestown.

Organised crime – they tend to have their hand in most activities that turn a profit and usually react with hostility to anyone grabbing a slice of the action for themselves.

Politicians or community leaders – they have power (at least locally) and sometimes have less scruples than the criminals, which proves a dangerous combination.

Guild – a Guild of some description is involved in some way; again, it could be the Companions’ Guild, or one of the others.

The Alliance – not so much a problem if you’re not a Browncoat, or a fan of free-thinking.  Generally the only thing worse than getting the Alliance involved would be…

Reavers – “If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing – and if we’re very very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.” – Zoe in Serenity.

How Things Don’t Go Smooth

1 It’s more illegal than you were told
2 It’s more dangerous than you were told
3 Someone doesn’t want you to succeed
4 Someone wants to beat you to it
5 A shadow from the past
6 It turns out to be counter to your morals
7 Fate conspires against you
8 The client lied, or changes their mind
9 It’s a trap!
10 Roll twice on this table, ignoring any 10s, but if both come up 10 again, things actually run smooth (or rather, nothing more complicated comes up).

Something’s going to go wrong, right?  It’s just a case of what and how bad.

It’s more illegal than you were told – maybe you were told it wasn’t illegal at all (and you actually believed that) or maybe you were told a partial truth about the real situation, such as in The Message.

It’s more dangerous than you were told – that simple package turns out to be explosives, or that routine salvage operation happens to be in the middle of Reaver territory.

Someone doesn’t want you to succeed – maybe it’s personal and they just don’t want you to succeed, or maybe it’s more general in that they don’t want anyone to manage what you’re employed to do.

Someone wants to beat you to it – you have rivals on the job, either employed by a different client, or possibly even the same client making doubly sure of success.

A shadow from the past – something from the back story of the Crew, either as a whole or for an individual, makes things much more complicated, such as in War Stories.  It could be related to the job at hand, or it could just be coincidental that boxed up issues are coming to a head at this time.

It turns out to be counter to your morals – there’s usually a line beyond which even the most hardened criminals won’t cross, and it turns out this job easily crosses that line.  See: The Train Job.

Fate conspires against you – acts of God (or gods, or nature, if you prefer), or just random happenstance, such as a problem with the port compression coil.

The client lied, or changes their mind - nothing about the job was what it seemed, or the client has second thoughts (often after all the hard work is done), such as Badger’s decision to renege on his side of the salvage operation in Serenity (part 1).

It’s a trap! – the whole thing was an attempt to get the Crew just where someone wanted them in order to kill, capture, or frame them.  Admiral Akbar imitation is purely optional.

Things run smooth – there’s a one in a thousand chance of getting such a result since there is always a slim possibility that things could avoid getting worse part way through.  This is generally because things start out about as bad as they could possibly get in the first place.

The Sets

1 Space station
2 Ship
3 Bar, restaurant, casino, or gambling den
4 Apartment complex, hotel, flop-house, or brothel
5 Scientific or medical facility
6 Office, factory, warehouse, or Guild house
7 Military outpost, or prison
8 Temple, monastery, or religious site
9 Small town, farm, or rural business
10 Roll again and use a deserted, derelict, or ruined version of that result (ignore further 10s).

We’ve kept the Setting table until the end since the results up to this point have already suggested the key “sets” for use in your episode. If not, you can use this table for some inspiration. You may even want to roll a couple of times if the plot suggests use of several locations, such as both a pick-up and drop-off location for a courier job.

Space station – could include bases on zero-atmosphere planets/moons or floating estates as well as the more commonly conceived stations in orbit or deep space.

Ship – another boat flyin’ out in the Black, or maybe your own.

Bar, restaurant, casino, or gambling den – good locations for illicit dealings with either a high or low class of criminal depending on the quality of the business.

Apartment complex, hotel, flop-house, or brothel – places with lots of people around for the night, some temporary, some more permanent.

Scientific or medical facility – includes hospitals (as in the episode Ariel), research labs, weapon developers…

Office, factory, warehouse, or Guild house – places of business, generally with lots of employees.

Military outpost, or prison – forts, bunkers, arms depots, jails; places particularly designed to prevent people from either getting in, getting out, or both.

Temple, monastery, or religious site – a place held in reverence by people, or a location for worship.

Small town, farm, or rural business – places where a handful of people manage to eke out a living.

Deserted, derelict, or ruined… – roll again and used a run-down, abandoned, or broken version.  For example, a roll of 10 followed by a 2 could indicate a crash site or a drifting hulk waiting to be salvaged, while a 10 and a 9 could indicate a ghost town.

Over to You

So there’s our Situation Generator and we’d love to hear some of the ideas and plots that it might inspire from you all in the comments section.  If we get a particularly favourable response to the idea, maybe we’ll even roll up a few examples ourselves to share next time.

About Craig Payne

Despite being born tone deaf in one ear, Craig has risen above his disadvantage to achieve the lofty position of spending most of his free time mucking around on the Internet, tinkering with RPG rules, and failing on at least seven occasions to finish writing a novel.