Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Primetime Adventures Game Report

So we played a spontenous oneshot this evening. We started 10 to 7 and finished 3 hours later.
After discussing on playing something contemporary and 2 of the 4 players coming up with old women as heroes, the other 2 of us vetoed and instead we went for a classic scifi space exploration series. The twist that the ship's captain had between abducted was instantly proposed and excepted.
From that point it was quite fast decided that the player characters would play the doctor, the gearhead and the alien. Further fleshing out brought us a Dougie Houser like doctor and the alien ended up as a shapechanging counsellour with the human cook of the ship as father...
We had it much harder with the name of the series and ended up with the working title "Gilgamesh (Space Putty)".
It seemed to have a Star Trek vibe (which I personaly imagined as Original Series like)

As the director I decided the Pilot Episode would be about the abduction of the captain and the first scene jumped right into that:

1st Scene
The 3 characters are on the bridge with their captain, a mustached Kirk variant in his early 50ies, when suddenly a discus shaped ship appears. The ship's captain, a green skinned woman with little horns and a German accent, tells that the Galactic Federation has decided to take the captain as a hostage.
The same second the captain is frozen in a blue stasis field.
At this point the players reacted the way they were used to from other RPGs. The proposed actions, and I told them that they could just resolve everything they way the wanted, as long as it was not the the conflict of the scene.
The heroes did not achieve anything in the beginning. In the end they got an ultimatum by the green woman to hand over the captain in 30 minutes. Here we had the conflict.
The councellor tried to talk them out of it and failed. Therefore the ultimatum was shortened to 15 minutes. We had not set proper stakes for what would happen in case the character failed. Actually this is not even in the rule book, but proofed to be quite useful to do as we noticed later on.
Then we tried to find the other characters' conflict together by discussing about it, as I was a little clueless myself. In the end we were able to set up that the technician would be able to find out something about the aliens if he succeded. The young doctor would depend on the failure of the gearhead to keep his self consciousness.
They all failed which could have been my fault for spending a little bit too much Budget.

2nd scene
The alien's player decided to go for a flashback: the captain's last brithday party. This was short and sweet: only this character was completely in action. Everyone else was in the scene but not involved. His nemesis (cook father) defined the conflict as he would try to blame failure of the cake on his son/daughter.
The cook's plan failed. The cook was sent off for some time by the captain. And most probably has hard feelings for his child - most fittingly for a nemesis.

Here I remembered the rules wrong, as I let the player build the whole scene till I as producer took over for the conflict. Actually the player was only supposed to decide on Focus, Agenda and Location. But it worked out quite nice and honestly I would have been a little bit overwhelmed doing it alone as I was still struggling with the rules.
What we learned was that if players' want an action based series, they maybe should not base their scenes at a captain's birthday party. ;-) Actually: I could have forced action in there, but the intrique part was more interesting to explore anyways.

3rd scene
A character scene by the player of the gearhead - with his contact.
Another case where the players' were obviously experimenting with the different focus possible by this rule set.
The gearhead and his contact where playing chess. The contact is a young autistic girl. She is somewhat of a genius in a not yet defined way, but mostly just a young girl. In the beginning the agenda was not completely clear here (I have to admit I did not really explain that part to the players). But especially in the beginning it seems fine to have scenes mostly for the color (and obviously to introduce characters which this and the scene before did).
The other characters would walk in. The doctor's player was the first to come up with a conflict. He was kind of jealous for the gearhead. This was already introduced in the first scene. In this case it was because the later one had a friend.
I introduced my idea for the conflict of the central character: the girl had a crush on the gearhead and wanted to tell him that she loved him. As the player created the stakes he actually only wanted to have a possibility for their friendship to grow stronger, but this now created a risk. If he failed it would take him in a direction he totally would not like, as she was probably pissed at him not wanting a love relationship. (I guess the direction that he falls for her would be a little bit too mean, but possible if the player agreed). This kind of shows that you can be pretty mean to your players if I wanted him to loose the conflict (despite seeing the look on the player's face), he would have lost. But in the end he would have probably just used another scene or even his spotlight episode to fix it.
This left the shapechanger and we agreed together that he was inside the room as a simple object. If he failed he would be seen as spying on them. I don't remember if the shapechanger could get anything positive for himself out of the conflict. I am quite sure it was mostly about learning something about humans and himself.

The conflict played out that the gearhead won, the doctor won and the shapechanger lost.
So the gearhead was able to convince his friend that she just misinterpreted her own feelings, while the doctor was able to pull out of the love thingy he watched, that maybe he was not loved himself by anyone at the moment, but that there was something positive possible - even for him.

I to finish the scene I created a cliffhanger: while we were not really able to put the alien in the scene without removing the focus from the others, I decided that someone collected the CCTV crystal to use it later against the spy. This sounded quite cool: As the scene comes to an end and everyone leaves the camera pulls back and we notice that we have seen all this from a screen. There is a shadowy hand that stops the recording and ejects the memory crystal which shows the shapechanger turning from a desk lamp back into something humanoid.

4th and last scene
Finally a plot scene again, as we run out of time. The aliens beam on board of the ship - they actually look like mermaids - to take along the captain.
The conflict is mainly who is able to find a way to track the aliens and/or look cool despite loosing, as it is already decided that the captain disappears. In the end everyone failed, although one of these failures was not revealed to the players and will play out in the long term (as the player wished).

I also added a cliffhanger which sounded really stupid in the beginning, but with creative input of the players it turned into somethin amazing: The AI tells the characters that the Headquarter contacted them: because of the situation martial law has been declared on the ship. The veterans from the Freedom Wars (20 years ago) as the only one with military ranks will be given command. These are the nemeses of 2 of the characters: the cook and the scientific assistent.

We had to finish after maybe 2,5 hours of playing (not counting the 30 to 40 minutes of show and character creation). Obviously we did not have time to play until all the budget was used, but learned a lot and created the sketch of a show I am excited about.

In the end we realised that is really best to ask: what does my character win if he wins the conflict and what does he loose, if he looses the conflict?
I also think that you can easily play PtA with only 2 players and on director.

Note: I think, "Captain, my Captain" would be a good title for the series. This was proposed by one of the players, but taken as more of a joke.

One problem we had was the fact that one of the player's wanted to make her successes dependend on those of another player. You can't really pull that off. But this even makes sense as the success should be something the protagonist achieves and not something he watches...
I think the problem was that the player had imagined a rivalry with the gearhead in the classical Bones-Spock way, but everytime the gearhead achieved something interpersonal this was hard to pull off. The problem is probably that the Gearhead is in no way like Spock. But maybe our Dougie Howser will someday realise that actually he has the Spock position in this relationship...

One more thing: the players only started to understand the fan mail concept in the end. I think in the future the Audience Pool won't be overloaded any longer.

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