Archive for the 'Serenity Articles' Category

Serenity Articles : Ezekial T. Jonah, Frontier Newspaperman

(Originally posted on on August 23, 2006)

I think a really strong NPC can create all sorts of new situations for an established group of characters. Imagine if the following fellow had booked passage on Serenity for awhile…

First Impressions

Ezekial cuts a striking figure with his long black coat and top hat. He holds himself like an important person and dresses more for appearance than convenience. His voice is strong and really carries in a crowd. When you talk to him or even listen to him, you can sense the energy he has. He makes you wonder why he isn’t a politician.

World View

Ezekial T. Jonah believes that the ‘Verse needs strong voices willing to say the things that ought to be said. Somewhat of a history buff, he became fascinated by tales of newspapers and heroic reporters back on the Earth-That-Was. And that is how he has modeled his life, seeking truth wherever it lies, speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves, dedicating himself to the greater good.

None of this has made him beloved by the Alliance or anyone with a stake in ‘the ways things are’. He craves to be accepted and respected by the very social upper crust that his investigations endanger. But he’d rather tell the truth once than accept a life membership at the Ting Lao Club on Londinum.

Ezekial is also a skeptic. He fervently believes in verifying things and getting multiple sources. Better yet, he’d rather see things for himself. So he has little patience for conspiracy theorists unless they have strong proof.

His belief in the power of the written word is unusual in an age of flimsies and tri-plex video. ‘Tri-plex can be faked,’ he’ll say, ‘But true words penetrate.’ So he will have a small camera with him to capture evidence but his missives to the ‘Verse are either spoken or written.

Gamemaster Advice

Ezekial should be a fun NPC to play. He’ll always have an opinion about something, invariably tying it back to a scandal people haven’t heard of, or some secret he’s trying to uncover. If neither of those fit, he’ll gladly impart ‘advice’ to just about anyone who will listen, coaching the crack engineer on how to care for ball joints, or explaining the defects in the gun-bunny’s favorite rifle.

Adventure Ideas

Good old Ezekial has a great way of stirring up trouble. He’ll gladly pay passage on a ship-for-hire under false pretenses if it gets him to a story. He’s also not one put off by danger, so he could easily drag PCs into quite dangerous situations. And even being associated with him will bring a new cast of friends and enemies to the PCs for being associated with him.

Some of the truths Ezekial would typically try to uncover are: worker slavery, covered up murders, corrupt Alliance officials, neglected settlements, hushed-up plagues, unpublished Alliance ‘programs’.

Game Statistics


Agl: d6, Str: d4, Vital: d6, Alert: d10, Intel: d8, Will: d12

Life: 18, Init/React: d6+d10, BurstStr: d4+d4

Memorize: d10+d8, Resist: d6+d6


  • Covert d6 (Stealth d10)
  • Guns d4
  • Influence d6 (Conversation d8, Persuasion d12, d8 Streetwise)
  • Knowledge d6 (learned)
  • Linguist d6 (smattering of many languages)
  • Melee Weapon Combat d4
  • Perception d6 (Intuition d8 Investigation d10)
  • Performance d6 (Stringed Instruments d10)


  • Allure (charismatic speaker/writer) (M): +2StepSkill for persuasion with words, spoken or written. Plot Points count double spent on such checks.
  • Sharp Sense: Hearing (m): +2StepAlert when trying to eavesdrop.
  • Trustworthy Face (m): +2StepWill getting folks to trust him. Better to get the truth.


  • All Preened Up (m): This concern with appearance is focused on social status. Fusses on appearing ‘proper’ even in the worst places.
  • Allergy (grasses) (m): Minor reaction (sneezes, rash), -2StepPhysicalAttribute in its presence or until take medication.
  • Hyper-Focused (m): Hard to distract when he’s focused on a story.


  • Customized Datapad: A ubiquitous possession in the Core as a work tool and communications hub, Ezekial uses his primarily for data storage and for drafting up his Missives to the ‘Verse. He prefers to use anonymous cortex terminals for research, downloading results or data to the datapad. He’s removed the networking card from it and has to transfer information using a short, old-fashioned cable. He keeps the datapad with him at all times. It has been stolen inthe past by people who didn’t want the truth to come out.
  • Clothes of Status/Cherry Trunk: Ezekial travels with a large cherry-wood trunk in which he keeps several changes of clothes, all proper for social occasions, though tending toward black. He has almost no working clothes or gear that others would think obvious for a traveller on the Rim.
  • Pencil and Pad: A sort of throwback to his Earth-that-Was idols, he can be seen taking notes on the paper pad with the pencil. He keeps the pad with him at all times. It has been stolen in the past by people who didn’t want the truth to come out.

NOTE: Some traits reference Nathan Rockwood’s ‘New Traits’ list available at Cortex System RPG, the best fan-run Serenity RPG site on the net!

Serenity Articles : The Long Reach

(originally published at on August 22, 2006)

The Serenity RPG provides several large organizations for Gamemasters to use but they aren’t described in as much detail as I would prefer. The following organization is a prototype for the style and depth of description I think a Gamemaster would appreciate. Comments welcome.

Common View

“The Long Reach? That’s them doctors, right? Good folk, I guess. Kinda like priests who know how to save more than your soul and that’s mighty valuable out here. Never had to go ‘em myself, but they saved my cousin’s leg back in the miner riots of ’06. Not many folk are willin’ to cause trouble for good folk like that.” – Festus Wright, Street Interview, Eavesdown Docks.

Alliance View

Long Reach Inc is a registered charitable organization within the Alliance and receives the appropriate tax considerations. They have no other formal standing within the Alliance.

Gamemaster View

The Long Reach is a loose association of doctors and other people willing to sacrifice everything to bring medicine and hope to the most destitute and hopeless holes in the ‘Verse. They are primarily a group of doctors who travel the Rim visiting small colonies, settlements, mining towns, and the like, tending to the people as best they can. They struggle to fill one of the Alliance’s most notorious gaps in serving its people.

The Alliance has no official relationship with the Long Reach and usually they have to make their own way in the ‘Verse. (There are rumors of sympathetic Alliance officers leaking supplies to LR groups or giving them unregistered travel to hot spots.) Usually the LR have to hire vessels to ship their gear, medicines, and doctors. They have a few ships that they own, with the crew of each ship counting as Long Reach members.

Adventure Ideas

While initially conceived as a non-player organization, the Long Reach would serve well as a more altruistic campaign theme with characters being all members. They could still have Browncoat or Alliance sympathies, but you would avoid the pattern of “ship for hire” set by the TV show and movie. The PCs could begin as a Long Reach team, catching rides with whatever ships they could, eventually graduating to their own ship either through salvage, a wealthy benefactor, or the like. Their “missions” could be directed or suggested by Long Reach headquarters, or they could be self-directed.

The Long Reach can stick its nose in places where people might otherwise not get involved. Whether the PCs are members or just a hired ship, the LR can get entangled in all sorts of adventures: discovering corporate oppression of workers, uncovering Alliance secret operations or ‘experiments’, even facing down evil men on the smallest scale.

Membership Has Its Privileges

One of the nice aspects of a Long Reach-oriented campaign is that the PCs aren’t alone in the ‘Verse. They can meet fellow Reachers for comaraderie, cooperation, and aid. A Long Reach member can be identified by the leather jackets (bomber-style) with the Long Reach logo on the shoulder. Members can usually find the local clinic and crash for the night, get some fresh supplies, hear the latest rumors, connect with old friends, get a hot meal, etc.

More Details

The Long Reach is technically headquartered on Ariel where it was founded. The offices there are primarily a fund-raising and recruiting face to the organization, snagging young, idealistic medical professionals as they graduate from Ariel’s prestigious universities. They are a fairly successful charitable organization, letting Core worlders assuage their guilt over the plight of the Rim worlders with a small donation. The Ariel offices also house a residential facility for ailing or aged members of the organization (their retirement plan).

On the Border and Rim planets, there is usually a Long Reach clinic or office in the major and even minor cities. Towns and smaller settlements get visited as often as personnel, supplies, and money permit.

Total Membership of the Long Reach is quite fluid, but averages about 100 men and women. There are about twenty staff in the Ariel offices. There are core teams of 3-4 people in the major cities of the Border and Rim planet. The rest are mobile teams, working their way in long circuits across the settled planets.