It’s Friday! And you know what that means – a new installment of Firefly Friday, and like I said last week, we’re going to start digging into alien races. Now, I know what you’re thinking, and I totally just lampshaded right through this, but G’Kar is an alien race, right? Why go into a new character for that? So we can examine two techniques, of course! This week, we’re going to discuss Samus Aran, but before that let’s explore what makes G’Kar alien.
You’ll note on G’Kar’s character sheet, that there’s not a designated spot for “Race” or “Species” – nor is there a list of racial features. Not even his Distinctions explicitly say “Species: Narn” or something of the like. Instead, it’s baked right into all three Distinctions, implicitly and subtly. There’s really only one Trigger which directly anchors his species (“Narn Rage”), but they all support the concept. With G’Kar though, the Prime mix-in of Affiliations gives a lot more to tie his actions and connections to the concept of being a Narn.
So how does Samus do it? In fact, if you’re not deep into Metroid lore, you might just be asking how is Samus even something other than human? Turns out she was – human, that is. Until she was adopted by the mysterious Chozo as an orphan – in order to ensure her survival, the Chozo actually augmented her DNA with their own. The result is an entire Distinction devoted to that truth: Chozo DNA.
How does this affect play? Well, in addition to their role as a double-edged sword, Distinctions also function to establish truths of the fiction. Mal and Zoe’s mutual Veteran of the Unification War Distinction establishes multiple things – there was a war, they fought in that war (they were in the right time and place to do so), and it affected them enough to commit a whole Distinction to it. With Samus, Chozo DNA asserts that Chozo exist, that they have the technology to genetically modify humans (or at the very least, one very special human), and that having it is a core part of her character.
Clearly, any Distinction that changes the game world dramatically is something you need to discuss with your GM. Chozo DNA is unlikely to win any favors at a canon Firefly table, for example. But hey, what else can you think of for a racially defined Distinction in other settings? Ork via UGE perhaps? (I think Firefly is totally capable of carrying a Shadowrun story) Adolescent Wookiee? (uh, let’s put that particular galaxy on a back burner, ok?)
How about Kryptonian Heritage? Well, ok, that might take a bit extra doing than just a Distinction. But it can be done! There are all sorts of character traits to tuck racial/species hints into. Distinctions, Triggers, Specialties, and Signature Assets can take care of just about any special abilities and aspects, within a certain power range. Someone with Kryptonian Heritage might, in the process of unlocking their potential, build up multiple Signature Assets with impressive Triggers attached.
As for the rest of Samus? Pretty standard character. It looks like, despite the name of Bounty Hunter, that Distinction’s a little off-book. (I’ll be honest, I put this character together a year ago, it’s a mite fuzzy) Infiltration Training reflects her relationship with the Galactic Federation, and gives her a little more access to tight situations. All in all, she’d be a solid addition to any crew. Even as one-dimensional as a video game protagonist might seem at first, kitting her out as a Firefly character shows just how much the system brings to starting characters.
Next time, we’ll be looking at one more point of differentiation you can bring in, without bending the intent of the rules all that much. I’ll even let slip a bit of a teaser in the form of a Distinction: Human Vulcan Hybrid. Uh oh, I may have said too much…