Primetime Adventures: Finally!

Dave’s still putting up the AP from the Pilot Episode, but I wanted to get a link up to PrimetimeAdventures / Strange Allies. We finally got to play this game! Woo!
It was a little wonky, getting started, but we hit our groove near the end of the session and I do believe I’m still buzzing from this thing, a day later. Good good stuff. Some could-shouldas to consider, but good, good stuff.


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19 Replies to “Primetime Adventures: Finally!”

  1. The episode description is up here.
    First off, let me say that I just had a freaking blast doing this. In part it was the focus on narration/storytelling in a competitive atmosphere but without a cryptic resolution system (the mechanics are difficult only insofar as understanding how to get to where they come into play). In part, it was probably because we actually finished an episode.
    In retrospect,a few notes:
    1. As observed, the distinction between the hedge magic that Roger can do and the heavy-duty ritual bits that Augustus manages needs to be clearer to the audience. Some sort of tell or mechanism is needed before the series kicks off.
    2. I slipped the v/o of their briefing into the beginning of the Act I because, well, we didn’t really figure it out until the very end, which was a mistake.
    3. We never really addressed, for the audience, who these guys are or why they are here together. Unless handled by a crawl in the main titles (or even if), it probably needs to be made more clear.
    4. Some other conventions — a typewritten dateline of where/when we are, for example — needs to be adopted, just for clarity. Episode title would be good.
    5. We had a lot of problem pre-narrating things. The rules really suggest getting to the conflict as quickly as possible, and letting the narration flow from there. We still had too many just-sit-and-talk bit and wandering around arguing over what the conflict could be. A lot of that is, of course, learning the system and “what works.”
    6. Repeat to yourself twenty times: “Winning does not equal narration. Losing does not necessarily mean defeat.”
    7. I have eleventy-dozen different ideas for this. We can easily have an episode (#3 or after) that takes place in the UK, on our “own turf.” Places other than Nazi-occupied Europe would work, too — Egypt, Italy, Switzerland … South America?
    Overall, good stuff. A very nice system, good player, good setting. Excellent.

  2. Re: 1 — I liked being able to present that problem to the group as “feedback from the test audiences.” In fact, I just GENERALLY liked evaluating the show and the scenes from the point of view of ‘how is this going to play to the audience?’ It provided a valuable (to me) filter for “is this something no one would actually be willing to watch on a TV show, but which is ‘normal’ for an RPG game? Chuck it!
    2. Yeah, it would have been nice to know what the McGuffimicon was beforehand, but I don’t know that it would have drastically changed anything — the way we were circling around each scene, it was better to get moving rather than stopping to figure it out then. At least, that was my take.
    3. Good point. We were pushing hard to get into a conflict quickly in that first scene. Thing is, that first scene really should have been a (perhaps ACTIVE, but conflictless) introduction.
    4. I like the typed-in episode title idea. Typewritten labels for locations when the camera switches are cool too.
    5. Is, as I understand it, a very very very very common problem. The Sons of Kryos (who have a good gaming podcast) also record a lot of game demos that they run, and sometimes whole games that they play. I plan to go back to their Other Recordings page and listen to the three-part recording of their “Life on Mars” PTA game, played at GenCon. My expectation is that this game (run by Judd, who is a great GM with a TON of Primetime Adventures experience) should much more clearly illustrate a good way to approach each scene. It’s the next best thing (I think) to getting to play with a bunch of PTA vets. (There’s a With Great Power demo on there I want to listen to as well, appropos of nothing.)
    6. I’m having problems nailing down exactly how the Character’s Goals and the Scenes Goals get addressed. I plan to take a really close look at the AP thread for “The Line” again (instead of just staring at the great Intro Image), because the GM actually breaks down how each scene was explicitly defined when it opened. http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=2545&page=1
    7. I too could run with this game for several seasons. 🙂
    Finally: loved the start of the game, look forward to getting BETTER at it and, once we get comfortable, mixing the “director’s Point of view” with the more usual scene-roleplaying that we’re all familiar with.
    And I loved the “Opening Credits” you wrote up over on the wiki, Dave: they gave me goosebumps and make me laugh in equal parts.

  3. Also, just mining the internets for ideas and trailer images, I found Gotterdamerung, a line of surprisingly good Weird WW2 miniatures. I particularly like the level of character the faces convey — I could definitely build a character or two off of these guys.

  4. Re: 1 — I liked being able to present that problem to the group as “feedback from the test audiences.” In fact, I just GENERALLY liked evaluating the show and the scenes from the point of view of ‘how is this going to play to the audience?’ It provided a valuable (to me) filter for “is this something no one would actually be willing to watch on a TV show, but which is ‘normal’ for an RPG game? Chuck it!

    It’s an amazing mindset/mechanic. Fact is, most people think of adventures in cinematic terms (in both plot and visualization); PTA recognizes that and lets you play with things from that perspective.

    2. Yeah, it would have been nice to know what the McGuffimicon was beforehand, but I don’t know that it would have drastically changed anything — the way we were circling around each scene, it was better to get moving rather than stopping to figure it out then. At least, that was my take.

    I agree it would not have changed much, and certainly early on it made little difference as we were figuring things out. In future eps, I think it will be more important (and part of the initial “briefing” we get, or flashback on, or whatever). For example, it would give something to talk about or suggest alternate ways of tackling things. Heck, the question of whether we save the McGuffin Codex or destroy it would have been an interesting thing to dialog about before the final scene. 🙂

    3. Good point. We were pushing hard to get into a conflict quickly in that first scene. Thing is, that first scene really should have been a (perhaps ACTIVE, but conflictless) introduction.

    From a TV perspective, leaping into the action (and showing, vs talking about, character aspects) made absolute sense. Being dropped off in a forest surrounded by Nazis, and at the beginning of an episode, would have been absolutely the *wrong* time to do *much* chit-chat (so, yes, ACTIVE).
    In TV terms, it likely would have been, at a minimum, some tossed off lines. “So, we didn’t get much of a chance to talk after the briefing, or on the plane. My name’s Roger,” or something much less awkward than that. Either that, or intersperse that initial run-through-the-forest with “boom” flashbacks during the briefing in which each of us gets the (redacted) dossier of the others, so that it’s established we have some idea of what the others can do, and the audience learns, too.

    4. I like the typed-in episode title idea. Typewritten labels for locations when the camera switches are cool too.

    Standard fare for these sorts of things. Using a typewriter font (either static, or stuff being typed in) gives it a period feel.

    I plan to go back to their Other Recordings page and listen to the three-part recording of their “Life on Mars” PTA game, played at GenCon. My expectation is that this game (run by Judd, who is a great GM with a TON of Primetime Adventures experience) should much more clearly illustrate a good way to approach each scene. It’s the next best thing (I think) to getting to play with a bunch of PTA vets.

    I also want to go through more of the linked PTA logs at the Dog-Eared site.

    6. I’m having problems nailing down exactly how the Character’s Goals and the Scenes Goals get addressed.

    My sense is that the latter are the normal narrative D&D style things. The Agenda is we want to get out of the forest (“If you get out of the forest, you get 100 XP”). The Character Goals are the why we individually want to get out of the forest, or the how (and why) we want to do it. The scene Agenda is what the people at home are saying (“Boy, they better get out of that forest fast before they’re found”), whereas the the individual Conflict Goals are what the fanboys are talking about on the boards the next day (“You can really see that Roger’s got some serious self-worth problems; the producers should really let his powers work more so he can shine”).
    That’s why the the Narration of each scene can have the Agenda point reached or not, no difference; success or defeat is about how the characters succeeded, individually, in their personal goals. Maybe we don’t get out of the forest, but I singlehandedly rescue Marie from a dozen Nazis, so I fulfill being worthwhile. Or we don’t get out of the forest because we discover that the McGuffin is actually hidden *in* the forest. The Agenda is a “failure” but so what? Or we get out of the forest only to discover it’s a trap (the dozen half-tracks with searchlights pin us in their glare as we exit into the meadow) or we get out of the forest but Roger looks bad and Marie looks suspicious and Augustus tortured stray squirrels along the way.

    7. I too could run with this game for several seasons. 🙂

    I would be very happy with explicitly scheduling this thing, rather than it being a backup event for when L&D can’t make it to Petrana.

    And I loved the “Opening Credits” you wrote up over on the wiki, Dave: they gave me goosebumps and make me laugh in equal parts.

    Thanks. I wasn’t sure how coherent they are — but I could freaking see them (especially the vignettes). Other input more than welcome.

  5. Better WW II timeline. And a detailed one.
    Depending on when we are set in any particular, there are some strategic implications. May also drive some plot. So, for example, in mid-November 1942, German troops start occupying Vichy areas of France. Is that because they are looking for something (that we should find)? Or is it because we’ve obtained an artifact or killed a monster that the Vichy government was holding as blackmail over the Germans? (Or was it just because the Allies had broken the German lines in El Alamein and US troops had landed in North Africa earlier in the month).
    Similarly, was Himmler being given internal police control over Belgium and the Netherlands in August an outcome of our raid? Hmmmmmm …

  6. Regarding #6, above, I refer to this: http://random.average-bear.com/PrimetimeAdventures/DealingWithMysteries which is, I think, coming at the same exact problem from a different angle.
    Part of it is… oh.. maybe I just got some understanding here.
    Here’s the mistake I think we’re making:
    1. “The agenda for the scene is Escape from the Nazis.”
    this should be “The Agenda for this scene is to see what happens when the Nazis show up at the landing site.”
    2. Then we go and see what everyone’s personal goals are in the scene.
    3. Then we draw cards and, as Randy says, and I like, “Call.”
    4. Everyone gets a chance to play their guys a bit here, but being a little less specific, so it can all tie in.
    5. Whoever wins narration ANSWERS THE QUESTION of “What happens when the Nazis show up.” We’re already saying at the beginning “when they escape” and that gives the narrators something they can actually DECIDE there — maybe we don’t get away… maybe only some of us do… it’s all good, but we should leave it open ended at the outset.
    Maybe. I think that’s part of it.

  7. I believe the next (or at least “a”) episode will be the Strange Allies “rosencrantz and guildensternization” of The Battle of El Alamein. 😀
    I have ideas. 🙂

  8. Hmmmm. The rules certainly seem to indicate a more purposeful agenda for the scene in the examples given. I’ll have to read and ponder further.

  9. True, but some of the best examples leave some wiggle room there — indicating a conflict-rich environment, without saying “this is what’s going to happen.”

  10. Okay, I added everyone’s character sheets, with pictures, and added a few things to the Pilot Episode, including more pictures. It’s all very sexy now.

  11. The way I see Auggie’s “Golden Dawn” magic:
    1) He was trained to adopt an artificial persona, a “Mask of God” (meaning one or another Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, Roman or maybe even Norse god) to do anything beyond passive sensing. That’s the Man of Power face and attitude.
    2) Ceremonial magic: best (easiest) with candles, robe, incense, other accoutrements. Invoke almost anything he can conceive of as an entity and force, convince or bargain it into doing what he wants. In theory he could invoke the Nation of Germany and coerce it into surrender… if he was Hermes Trismegistus Himself. May be exhausting, may be wonderful and energizing. Moderate concentration (wren’s egg) to full concentration (mental illusion).
    3) One-shot doodads prepped via ceremonial magic. Using them involves the game face. Effort depends on effect.
    4) Straight up Duel of Adepts — something he was taught to avoid. Full concentration, consists of the Adepts willing each other to DIE. Small poltergeist effects — fires, flying small objects, clothing shredding, cracks in the surroundings — are a side effect; what they’re shooting for is a stroke. Probably wouldn’t work well at all on a non-Adept. As draining as serious, full-out boxing, at least.
    5) Very, very few Adepts are good people and most who are stick to one, benign Mask. Baldur, maybe. Aesclepius. Kwan-yin.

  12. I really like that, Randy.
    Incidentally, I posted the Actual Play up at Story Games to share the “Five Deadly Venoms of Awesome” over there. The thread is here.

  13. OK, the husband and I ran through some beginning scenes in a PTA game before bed last night and I think we got it, but I’m still feeling it’s pretty “meta.” I’ll write up more actual play when I come back from lunch on my Gaming Blog.

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