Okay, I believe I need to do some schtick tweaking. Normally a mook with a Gun pool of 5 is nothing, but when all the characters have a Defense of 1, that stacks up big time. None of the schticks really do much for Defense except for Bullet Time and Eye of the Storm and Close Quarters Gunman, and by extension Bodyguard does basically nothing if you don't have any of those.
Then again, gunfights are not particularly drawn out in the Firefly 'Verse. It all needs looking at.
So keep an eye out for that, I'll announce when I've made changes.
Fights in the 'Verse are fast, but not because it's easy to land a hit. They're fast because they are shooting each other, and when you shoot someone with a futurustic space bullet fired from a futuristic space gun, they generally go down for the count. But shooting someone is tricky- moving targets and folk behind cover, especially. But one bullet per target takes out almost all of the combatants in the show, with only Mal and Jayne, to my memory, being able to take a shot of any type and keep fighting. Even Zoe got taken out of action after a single shot, and she had armor on.
I think this is because both Jayne and Mal were either using cover, or actively moving. Jayne was taking advantage of corridors lined with protrusions specifically placed to give cover during a firefight, and Mal was walking and gunning when he took his first shot. Zoe, on the other hand, was just standing there and blasting folks, and look where it got her?
So, on that note... I'd suggest altering the combat system to reward players for describing movement, cover, etc., and threaten them with catastrophic damage should they fail to. After all, Firefly's fights are great because they look cool, and because they're fast and well-done, visually: might as well try to bring that into the game, too. If you want help coming up with a good way to do this, I'd be glad to help... though be warned: I'm very much used to complex gaming systems.
However, now that I've written this, I am vaguely remembering that the 'damage' system this game uses is of the dramatic variety- a successful attack that inflicts damage might be a nerve-shaking near miss, a just-a-fleshwound shot to the leg, etc., with only the last few actual attacks causing incapacitating physical injury. If that's the case, then a character's Defense score is both a combination of their toughness, agility, cover, and calm in the face of danger- their ability to avoid being affected at all by hits, avoid being hit, and avoid being psychologically affected by near misses. And the maximum damage we can sustain is just as broad in scope, too. Maybe I'm too used to more complex systems, but isn't that too many very different things for one number to represent, particularly when that number isn't even modified by things that would, logically affect those values?
Another possible solution, one that might not lean towards a rewrite of the entire combat system, would be to have one's Strength, Agility, and Willpower add to one's Defense in some way: tougher guys can soak more of those fleshwounds, nimble chicks can dodge more bullets, and folk with nerves of steel are more resistant to the pain and stress of combat.
Anyways, I've gotta run: I'll edit in the rest of the details if I can, or follow it up with a double-post if I can't. Apologies in advance.
Damn. Missed the edit deadline by 5 minutes. Oh well, might as well make this post just as massive to compensate.
Well, as I was saying: some modifications to the system might both speed up combat, make it cooler to read and write, and help it fit the show. Either passive bonuses from Stats or active bonuses from descriptions would help boost Defense rates to keep supposedly small dice pools actually small, and keep characters alive. Reducing the amount of damage people can sustain would greatly speed up combat.
For 'passive' bonuses, I might suggest giving a +1 or +2 bonus to defense based on possible cover, with up to a +3 from other stats- for every two points over 3 between Strength, Agility, and Willpower, rounding as appropriate. In that case, someone with Strength 3, Agility 4, and Willpower 3 would have a bonus of +1. Not too major, but likely to keep that five-die pool from landing hits as reliably. Plus, it makes exceptional people even cooler.
For 'active' bonuses, it's all about the description. This is significantly easier than it sounds, because it's a PbP game. Taking 15 minutes to write how, say, Mal drops behind a barricade when the Alliance trooper raises his rifle, holding his pistol over the concrete block and firing a few shots towards the sound, may take fourteen minutes longer than just saying "I shoot back", but when we've got hours between posts, it doesn't really matter whether it's five or fifteen minutes. Much more subjective, but could be really quite cool if we run with it.
Anyways, gotta bail before finishing my thoughts again- but now my excuse is that I have to actually start paying attention in class.
...Sorry for the triple post, but I realize I left out the critical sentence that explains all of what I've been trying to say:
Transferring some of the dramatic damage effect from characters' health to characters' defense, decreasing the former and increasing the latter, allows for faster combats, increases attack difficulty, and increases the value of Schticks.
If damage levels taken becomes actual physical damage, and a character's Defense takes over the roll of dramatic damage absorption, then attacks will either miss and be resolved quickly, or hit and usually remove a target from play. Characters will need to have higher dice pools to make successful attacks, as well. And, finally, when each attack becomes a tricky proposition, every single bonus die counts, every point of additional damage is critical, and every little edge is needed, making the Schticks that provide those advantages that much more useful.
Likely I would take the 'altering schticks' route to cover Defense, and provide schticks that offer a decent defense in addition to some sort of mild offensive bonus. These schticks would also offer a sort of style; for example, one I have in mind, "Stand and Deliver" would be Eye of the Storm-esque in that the player's character would be more the steadfast one standing calmly in the midst of a firefight, whereas there'd be one rewarding quick movement, another for another kind of fighting, etc.
You are correct about the damage system, though. Everything is near misses and your character wearing down in the fight until they take an actual hit. I was thinking of maybe lowering damage capacity but I don't think I will.
I've actually thought of the 'descriptive' bonus for another game idea I had, where whoever came up with the best description of their move in the turn would be rewarded somehow.
As for cover, it effectively acts as a point of Parry for every point of cover you are in. Parry takes a successful dice from your opponent's shot and cancels it out, so if you had 1 point of cover (as Gabriel does in this current fight), they would need to roll two successes to actually hit you. As he's also got Eye of the Storm, they need three.
I think I am going to rule that until I change the schticks, Bodyguard will actually ADD your defense to someone. So if Toki has a Defense of 1 and decides to cover Shatfoe with it, Shaftoe will have a Defense of 2. Otherwise I realize that's unfair to you, having bought the schtick.
Yeah, I might end up dragging some schticks over from there, but I was thinking of doing something similar to the Lightsaber Guards from the Star Wars game. Similar, but not the same. The Guards are a completely different matter because they deal with lightsabers, after all.
Also considering lowering Stamina for the player characters. In the Firefly 'Verse, people getting shot at is typically a huge deal and gunfights don't last long.