The FIREFLY Role-Playing Game is based six years after the Unification War. It explores the lives of people who now make a living on the outskirts of society, as part of the pioneer culture that exists on the fringes of their star system. In this world, the only two surviving superpowers, the United States and China, fused to form the central federal government, called the Alliance, resulting in the fusion of the two cultures. Throughout the series, the Alliance is shown to govern the star system through an organization of “core” planets, following its success in forcibly unifying all the colonies under a single government.
The central planets are firmly under Alliance control, but the outlying planets and moons have relative freedom from the central government at the cost of the amenities of the high-tech civilization that exists within. In addition, the outlying areas of space are inhabited by the Reavers, a cannibalistic group of nomadic humans that have become savage and animalistic. The Reavers live on the edge of the human-controlled binary solar systems, rarely venturing deep into occupied space. As a result, most of inner worlds and many Alliance officials believe them to be myths made to cover for violent criminals.
At least on the surface, life has returned to normal. In truth, no one has forgotten and few have forgiven. The Alliance now has jurisdiction over every inhabited planet in the system. The Alliance does not fully control everything within its far flung territory. In reality, the Alliance only has full control over the Core planets. On these worlds, the eyes of the Alliance are everywhere. Federal police can be called at a moment’s notice, and cameras record every citizen’s every move. The Core worlds have the best comforts that money can buy. However, every citizen pays for such security and comfort at the expense of much of their freedom.
The outer planets were meant to be kept under the same level of strict control, but the Alliance is short on manpower and ships. They just don’t have enough people to keep a proper eye on things. They hire security firms to help enforce their laws and maintain order. And they send their hulking patrol ships out to remind everyone who is in charge.
Still, the cracks in the system are large enough for folk to fly a Firefly-class ship through. Slavery for example, although outlawed by the Alliance government, exists as something of an open secret among terraforming companies, mine owners and the wealthy on the Rim. Every so often, the Alliance will bust one of these owners and free the slaves because it looks good in the media from a public relations point of view, but then it’s back to business as usual. It is the same with indentured servants. Indentured servitude is also not legal, but most people on the Border planets accept it as a way of life. If a person is desperate for the money and they have nothing to offer up as collateral except themselves, then that is what they will do.
And that, folks, is the way of things.