Leveragin’ the Black – Aspects, Resources, and Distinctions

We now have our main attribute pairing for Serenity PlusStylin’s and Values. On their own, however, these don’t paint the complete portrait of our characters.  We need a bit more rounding out of their personality with Aspects, Resources, and Distinctions.


Aspects in Serenity Plus work exactly as they do in Leverage where they were known as Distinctions (see pages 33 and 34 of the core book for more).  Why not call them Distinctions here?  Well, because we’re also going to use the Distinctions from Smallville and frankly, this seemed the easier of the two to rename.  Also, just as with Aspects in FATE-based games, they work best when they are a double-edged sword, presenting both opportunity to be a benefit and a handicap, depending on the situation.

Each character gets to define two Aspects for their character at the start of play, although if you prefer the more “exploratory” play-style of Leverage’s Recruitment Job, there’s certainly the option to leave one or both undecided until during play.  As in Leverage, players decide whether the Aspect is beneficial or hindering to the current situation (with veto power open to the rest of the group if it seems to push the bounds of credibility): if they decide it’s beneficial, they roll an extra d8 in their dice pool; if detrimental, they roll a d4 and gain a Plot Point.

Aspects are a good point at which to define some of the more integral relationships for your character. Simon may have Dedicated Brother, while Zoe may have both Loyalty to Mal and Married to Wash on her character sheet to represent both the conflicts and empowerment those relationships sometimes cause.  Other Aspects may represent your profession, such as Inara’s position as a Registered Companion, or your relationship with the community, such as Mal’s Friends in Low Places.  Essentially, the only limit is your own creativity, but Aspects work best if they are both a source of extra dice and a way of picking up nice, juicy Plot Points.


Again we find ourselves turning to Leverage for our next section, in this case to the Signature Assets (page 52).  These represent the resources available to a character, either in gear, a workspace, or in a more metaphysical manner.  Simon, for example, would have the Resource of the Medical Bay, and Kaylee the Engine Room; other Fixers may have Doctor’s Bag or Toolkit instead, or perhaps a Medical or Engineering Degree.

Captain Reynolds most certainly has Serenity herself as his Resource, while Wash may also have the ship, or perhaps just the Cockpit as his.  Inara may choose to represent a Network of Contacts with her Resource, while Shepherd Book may have as his the mysterious Alliance IdentCard that he carries.  Jayne’s would of course be Vera.

Each character starts with one Resource rated at d8.


In a departure from Leverage rules, our Distinctions rely heavily on those found in Smallville‘s core book (starting on page 90), but with some modifications.  First of all, while each Distinction will still have three tiers of Triggers, we shall drop the d4/d8/d12 ratings.  You still need to have the first level before you can have the second, and have both of those before selecting the third, it’s just no longer necessary to raise a die rating to a certain level to “unlock” them.  The number of tiers available to a new character depends on the power level we are setting for our campaign: Veterans receive three tiers that they can spread between one to three Distinctions, while Big Damn Heroes have five tiers to start.

Up Next

While we can write up a couple of completely new Distinctions for Serenity Plus, if we had a list of guidelines for converting existing Smallville Distinctions from the core book and the High School Yearbook, we can increase the potential character-building options significantly.  As such, we’ll dive deeper into Distinctions next time.

About craggle

Despite being born tone deaf in one ear, Craig has risen above his disadvantage to achieve the lofty position of spending most of his free time mucking around on the Internet, tinkering with RPG rules, and failing on at least seven occasions to finish writing a novel.
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2 Responses to Leveragin’ the Black – Aspects, Resources, and Distinctions

  1. Ian says:

    Good stuff, liking this series of articles. Cortex+ does seem eminently hackable. Worth checking out the Dragon Brigade quickstart for some more variations, perhaps.

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