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Firefly: The Game» Forums » Variants

Subject: A New House Rule in regards to Contact Betrayal rss

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Dalivus Morgan
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We ran into a situation last weekend where a Player picked up Cargo from Lord Harrow and then proceeded to hijack said Cargo to complete another goal. Since my group runs a great deal of House Rules we didn't really feel like we could say "You can't do that" so, after a brief conclave, we came up with a new House Rule to address just such a situation. Thoughts?

Certain Words Were Exchanged, Also Certain Bullets – If, for whatever reason, a Player decides to ‘betray’ his contract and steal Goods that they were supposed to transport all Rep with the Contact is immediately lost as well as 1 point of Rep from all other Contacts. From that point the Player may not take a Job from the offended Contact again unless they reimburse the full pay cost of the Job. In addition all Moral Crew are Disgruntled and any additional Jobs held for that Contact are Failed. There are also specific consequences for each Contact:

- Amnon Duul – Betraying Amnon results in a Warrant if the Goods taken were Cargo or Passengers but it is cleared as soon as he is reimbursed.

- Badger – Badger will turn informant for the Alliance against the Player so place an Alliance Alert Token on the Player’s Haven as well as in every location that the Player completes a Job.

- Niska – Needless to say this activates his Pound of Flesh Special.

- Harken – You may not reimburse Harken. All Crew aboard the ship at the time the Job was accepted are immediately considered Wanted and have a permanent Warrant that cannot be cleared.

- Lord Harrow – Lord Harrow demands both the Pay Cost of the Job as well as $200 for each Cargo or Passenger stolen and $300 for each Contraband or Fugitive. A Player may not gain Rep with Harken or Amnon Duul until Lord Harrow is repaid.

- Mr. Universe – Since he does not traffic in Goods Mr. Universe is unaffected by Theft of Goods. The Player will not lose any Rep with Mr. Universe no matter whom he betrays.

- Patience – Even entering Athens Sector results in a 2 in 6 chance (1 or 2 rolled on a d6) that a Crew member is killed (They’ve been shot but a Medic may attempt to save them.) Even after Patience is reimbursed there is still a 1 in 6 chance that accepting a Job from her will result in a Crew member being shot.
 
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C David Dent
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I really don't see this as betrayal as much as expedience. It is part of the game to literally rob Harrow to pay Niska. Part of why the different contacts pay differently for different jobs is to actually promote moves like this.

Also, as long as you eventually complete the job for all of your contacts (you don't get a bonus for speedy completion after all) why should they care if you get creative in the order in which you fulfill your contracts? The game punishes you by losing solid if you really screw up and get a Warrant.

It seems a needless extra level of "play this game my way" rather than the seat-of-the-pants way I like to see people play.
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George Krubski
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Although I certainly love me some house rules, I'm inclined to agree with you, MrDave.

I like certain elements of this -- including an a larger degree of mistrust between the leaders and the Contacts -- but this actually implies a level of omniscience from the Contacts that seems troubling. (I also don't understand why Moral Crew would, say, be upset with stealing from Niska to feed them).

When I saw the title of the thread, I thought it was going to be about Contacts betraying leaders, not the other way around. THAT idea, I wouldn't mind seeing a house rule for, because we see virtually everyone betray Mal at some point (Badger, Niska, Patience, Harken and the Mingo & Fanty all do it).
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Dalivus Morgan
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Well this particular situation arose because the story card required us to deliver 4 sets of goods (4 cargo, 4 contraband, or 8 Parts) to the Haven to get a goal token.
 
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Dalivus Morgan
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And to answer your question Gwek, I think Moral Crew would oppose the theft of goods regardless of whether its Niska or not due to the fact that they've taken the job and thus given their word. Even in the Train Job Mal attempted to return the money, after all.

I also agree about a House Rule for the betrayal of the Captains by the more unsavory Contacts.. but I can't think of a fair way to do that.
 
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George Krubski
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Dalivus wrote:
Well this particular situation arose because the story card required us to deliver 4 sets of goods (4 cargo, 4 contraband, or 8 Parts) to the Haven to get a goal token.


The fact that the context is that particular story card puts an interesting spin on things. I don't have the story card in front of me, but I seem to remember that it's pretty clearly implied that stealing from your own jobs is an acceptable -- indeed, recommended -- option.

So the question becomes "Should there be ramifications?" I would say no. After all, not having the requirements to complete a job, which therefore keeps the job open in your hand and therefore reduces your options, is it's own penalty.

I would argue that this actually implies that you're already dealing with the contact being angry with you, at least in a general sense. The rules are pretty non-specific as to why you can only have a limited number of active jobs at one time. Although there's clearly a game balance element at play (part of which is exactly the situation you're talking about), "thematically," I think to think that part of it is that there's only so much pressure the crew can handle at a given time:

Rather than planning for a third job, Mal spends a significant amount of time dodging Badger (or whoever) or fielding questions from the crew about what they're going to do about the situation...
 
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George Krubski
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Dalivus wrote:
And to answer your question Gwek, I think Moral Crew would oppose the theft of goods regardless of whether its Niska or not due to the fact that they've taken the job and thus given their word. Even in the Train Job Mal attempted to return the money, after all.


I get what you're saying, but I respectfully disagree.

The game is pretty clear about how it defines "morality," and it generally boils down to "hurting innocent people." (And to me, "innocent people" doesn't include the likes of Badger or even Lord Harrow). Whether you keep your word in the hardscrabble world of Firefly or not is incidental to most folk. Heck, in the story card you're talking about, the situation you're talking about his basically Robin Hood -- stealing from the rich to feed your own poor. That's the definition of the moral high ground (in Firefly context)!

To put a fine point on it, there are quite a few jobs in the game that are very clearly theft -- but they are also not classified as "Immoral." In the world of Firefly, there is no assumption that theft is an "immoral" act. It's all about who gets hurt. Heck, in the series, stealing medicine from a hospital was morally okay!
 
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Dalivus Morgan
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I get what you're saying but to play devil's advocate they also made it a point to state that the hospital would be restocked within an hour or so, making that a victimless crime.

I also don't have the card in front of me but I don't recall the bit about it being okay to break contracts... I took it as stealing from each other.
 
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C David Dent
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Morality, as is seen on the show ("The Bible has some very specific things to say about killing, but it somewhat fuzzy on the matter of kneecaps.") is subjective not absolute. Where it does draw the line, it is clear, is on "hurting innocents" ("...the special hell").

And while most people would agree that taking one man's goods to fulfill another bargain is "wrong" it isn't immoral. Even Mal, who considers himself a reasonable man ("We're not thieves — well, we are thieves. Point is we're not takin' what's his.") knows that taking another man's things is wrong.

But he's not going to lose any sleep over it if he has to. And he'll certainly try to make it up later on ("We may not have parted on the best of terms. I realize certain words were exchanged. Also, certain... bullets. Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character so let me make this abundantly clear. I do the job. And then I get paid.")
 
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George Krubski
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Dalivus wrote:
I get what you're saying but to play devil's advocate they also made it a point to state that the hospital would be restocked within an hour or so, making that a victimless crime.


Except it's not really a victimless crime if you think about it. They're stealing from Alliance taxpayers. But that's beside the point.

I've raised this particular point elsewhere: in ARIEL, we have only Simon's say-so that it's a "victimless" crime. Simon, although certainly one of the most heroic of the crew, will do ANYTHING to help his sister, so I would deem his word untrustworthy here. Just as with the Train Job, Mal opts to look no further because it's easier for him that way.

All of which is also somewhat incidental to the conversation. As Dave points out, the only part of morality that's not gray in Firefly it's that it's not okay to hurt the innocent. And if you look at the Immoral Jobs, that's what the common thread is. Theft if okay, though. Illegal, sure, not not Immoral.

Dalivus wrote:
I also don't have the card in front of me but I don't recall the bit about it being okay to break contracts... I took it as stealing from each other.


Wealth can be measured in many ways. In some parts of the 'Verse Alliance credits ain't worth the paper they're printed on. For those regions, a more practical measure of wealth is required. Hoard a mountain of trade goods and spare parts, through any means necessary. Break contracts, steal from your rivals or just pick the bones. Anything goes!

Pretty clear, I think...
 
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C David Dent
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Dalivus wrote:
I also don't have the card in front of me but I don't recall the bit about it being okay to break contracts... I took it as stealing from each other.

You're not breaking it so much as bending it a bunch.
 
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Jon Snow
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arrrh What is "a point of Rep?" I assume it refers to yet another house rule with which I am not familiar?

While I agree with Gwek about the persiflage of 'a victimless crime,' I doubt many (ex)Browncoats feel that stealing from the Alliance taxpayers is a crime--especially one whose home world was devastated by the war. Just because even Mal eventually laid down arms, doesn't mean he accepts that the Alliance victory was based on a higher cause. Which is why he gets into bar fights on Unity Day.




 
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George Krubski
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Hey, now, let's not muddy the waters by bringing the Browncoats into it.

Of the 30 or so Moral Crew you can have on your ship, a grand total of two (Mal and Zoe) appear to be legitimate Browncoats. (That number doubles if you include Book and Monty, but it's still only a tiny, tiny slice of what makes morality in the game).

For comparison, there are at least 3-4 times as many Moral folk (if not more) who appear to be good, generally law-abiding citizens of the Alliance. I imagine that those Med Staff and Helmsmen, for example, might feel a bit differently about bilking Alliance citizens, and I wouldn't be surprised if Inara or Murphy had something to say on the topic.

The point that I think we can agree on? For sundry reasons, the job in ARIEL is not a great measure of what counts as "moral" in the 'Verse.
 
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Jon Snow
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Firefly Fans are called Browncoats, not Nice Alliance Citizens With Officially Sanctioned Morality. Their view is the central plot of the Verse saga, not a side issue.

BTW, I used to be a hospital administrator before I retired. There are many shades of 'morality' there as well, since sometimes you have to bend some rules to achieve your honorable goals. Especially when you're serving at night as Administrator On Duty running the whole place, and if things go wrong you will not only lose your job in real life, but end up as the scapegoat in a front page scandal in the morning news.

(PS: For those who don't know it, George and I are the best of pals in real life by correspondence, and have even managed to get together to play once).
 
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George Krubski
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Jon, you're on a slippery slope that, at this point, has little or nothing to do with the discussion. The fact that fans of the show are called Browncoats doesn't imply any particular moral or political significance to the large and varied fan base. All of which has exactly zero to do with how the game designers have chose to define "Morality." (Which is very specific.)

If you want to debate the nature of a "Browncoat" we can do that elsewhere, but a discussion thread on one very specific element of a very specific house rule isn't the place.

I'm out before we thread-jack this any further.
 
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