I wake up, there’s acrid smoke in the air and flares burning around me in what is the remains of the crashed drop ship that I was travelling in. I’m genuinely disorientated, but before I can check the rest of the crew is alive lights from Alliance solders appear in the dark and we are told to lay down. There are shouts of ‘How many do we have orders to exterminate.’
From the bushes our contact dressed fancy like and his Hillbilly guide wave us over, we run and the Alliance start shooting. We play cat and mouse till we put some distance between us.
Then we just go for it. We stumble through the dark down paths and through bushes, our Engineer tripping and shouting from where his ear drums have been blown out until we get the the town of Redemption. All the while the Alliance dog our every step. I start to work on Boyd the engineer’s ears on the steps of the sheriffs office. I know its the sheriffs office ’cause the sign says so, in English and Mandarin. All the time i have our theme tune from the opening credits while we were in drop-ship humming in my ears.
That was my introduction to The Verse, a new Firefly based Larp. There were times when I expected to run into the crew of the Serenity. Hell that first night I was even caught dancing (or at least a close approximation of dancing) cause i was so swept up in the atmosphere.
The Verse is something special, an obvious labor of love and a hell of a risk knowing how much Firefly fans love their, well, ‘Verse. And that’s going to be hard to pull off in anyone’s book perfectly, because free choice is a thing and you know what pull it off they did with only a couple of issues.
The Verse is set at the same time as the Serenity are discovering the secrets of Miranda, but is set in the backwards town on Unity that goes by the name of Redemption. The Sheriff is a drunk with a heart of gold, the Doctor is a drunk who extorts money from patients. Mr Cypher the Tavern owner is dodgy and Angel the Blue Sun rep is business like and polite enough, while the Local Hicks call Mr Cypher Mr S, ‘Cause, you Syphon petrol and that starts with an S boy.’
All solid western Clichés that aren’t quiet what they seem when you dig a little deeper, just like a certain brown coat war veteran, the Alliance Doctor, the Hick with a big gun and the companion with a heart etc. In other words the writers know how Josh Wheadon writes and are cribbing from his play book which just adds to the ambiance, an ambiance that feels like you have walked into an episode of a new tv show set in the Firefly universe.
That moment on Saturday afternoon when the generators and computers went down because a signal burned the systems out was a nice touch, when we got them back up and running and the logs from Miranda started playing through the comms speakers that was goosebumps time.
So the system is one I love. Two rules. React to everything, don’t expect people to react. Combat is handled in an honour system of not talking the piss and firearms are covered using Airsoft.
On firearms, the safety brief was handled in character. With people having to pass a test to gain their firearms licence. Its things like this that made this game that little bit special. What is normally a tedious experience was turned into an exciting and interesting bit of game with role-play by Matt who was running the safety brief. Hell how many safety briefs have you been on that ended with you blowing a mine up with explosives?
And little touches like this were everywhere. Playing for food in local money rather than sterling, the local gift/ship parts shop run by Tibbs, the Doctors office, tavern, casino and lawmans office in the western village that was just down the road from the local Hick village of Spitswallow that had disturbing teddy bears hanging from trees and dolls heads on the church door.
The computer systems in the banks let us read our data sticks, get printed paper money to spend on the locals and figure out what parts and resources we needed to get to fix our ship, The Deliverance.
As I said, Jayne Cobb could have walked in to Redemption and felt right at home.
Where there any problems? Only one that leapt out which to be honest as they were using Airsoft for the first time was a matter of balance. AEG (electric guns to the uninformed) have a faster fire rate than spring loaded guns even on semi auto. When it came to fights, it was the players fighting dug in crew where the crew had electrics and the players mainly had spring guns.
This led to very static fights (which was not helped by players mainly being Larpers over airsofters.).
I’m just as guilty as I took my AEG, next time I’m packing a gas six shooter for fun over practicality (with Vera being locked in a box till I really need her.) because the hardware was the problem, not the game.
This wasn’t game destroying, but the fire fights felt more like mill sim than ‘Time for some thrillin’ heroics’. This is probably down to the amazing job of being in The ‘Verse that any thing that didn’t feel perfectly Firefly was magnified, this I might add was an issue with Airsoft Electrics, their rate of fire, even when not on full auto, their range, large mag sizes and not the crew or organisers.
The thing is this was a small niggle, and the plot, npcs’s and everything else about The ‘Verse made it clear that this was a Larp that used airsoft, not an Airsoft Larp. Certainly the fact that this was a field Larp, the attention to peoples back stories that informed the plot on the ground (and i some cases the pyros in the game.) meant that everyone had a reason to get involved, it will be interesting to see how everything plays out over time, but it did feel like there maybe a few potential heros of canton or preachers who were just traveling the ‘verse out there like unexploded plot land mines waiting to blow up. It was certainly not playing to win in that field which was perfect for the Firefly universe.
Another stand out was Rooster. An NPC that should damn well get an award for something, if the guy playing him doesn’t bring him and his whole family to play in the Navarr at empire as a steading that has been left alone for too long I will be sad, very very sad (also he was the one who got me dancing, in public, that’s how good the guy playing him is….).
Oh and the other thing that every plot writer who thinks their plot is more important than players fun should look at and learn from. You see the plot had a big fire fight vs the alliance at the end. With pyro, trip mines all set up in the woods around the missile launcher the Alliance had that was stopping the various crews from burnin’ atmo.
We didn’t go for it.
The dodgy folk hid with the Hillbillies and the upstanding folk like the crew of the Penny Black stayed in town and gave up their guns. It ended like a two part episode with a cliff hanger ending as the crews, much like the crew of the serenity, went about things smart and tense rather than the pyro fueled gunfest that was planned.
Lets be clear, they had everything set up, the pyro, their vision of the ending. Rather than force the players into it for the sake of their plot they just cut it and let the players dictate the ending.
Slow clap of approval.
The ‘Verse is off to a strong start, that cannot be followed up fast enough (and there had better be priority tickets for people who played the first one.). It feels like Deadwood in the Firefly universe, which is great. They’ve taken the Firefly source material and made something that doesn’t copy, but builds on, and they have made something special in the process.
Not only can I not wait till the next event, but this time the post event photos will be something a bit special. The rumor is there will be an intro credits for every crew with video and photos. Its a credit to Oscar Plummer the photographer that you hardly ever saw a camera, I never once saw a video camera (apparently up trees!) and at no point did someone with a camera interrupt or become obvious in game, even when in a sci-fi game none of these things would be out of place. On the other hand his companion will haunt my dreams forever, and not in a good way!
I can still smell the smoke from the crash, I can hear Rooster yabbering at his family while they hide me from an Alliance inspection, the smile a certain doctor bought to my face every time she said something cutting and meeting up with an old war buddy while sitting on a rocking chair outside the sheriffs office. Right now I want to be back in that village in Eversley laying down after roasting marshmallows with the crews grounded by the alliance, staring through the trees yerning to burn atmo into the black
I aimed to Misbehave and I certainly aim to do so again.