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[PrimeTime Adventures]: Spacehunter

Started by Alan, April 10, 2004, 02:29:50 AM

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UXG Production Co. to air Spacehunter in prime Thursday night slot!

The night of April 8, four of us here in Seattle played the first of seven sessions.  PTA divides play into "Seasons."  A new series starts with a design session, the next session is the pilot, and then the Season - we chose the short season at 5 episodes.

Participants: Mark, James, Matt (the game designer), and Alan (myself, the producer [aka GM])
We're ages are in the 30s and 40s.  

What is PTA?
Matt Wilson's RPG, Primetime Adventures (" > is near final draft.  (You have to email Matt for a playtest copy.)  The game is designed to support narrativist play and emulate weekly TV shows which put character's in a situation but also explore personal issues.  (Examples are Buffy, Six Feet Under, Alias, etc.)  The game substitutes many TV writer/producer terms for common RPG terms; for example, a Producer is the GM, a protagonist is a player-character.  I'm going to use these terms without explaination when I think the translation is obvious.

Advance Preparation
I offered to produce a series and  proposed a series premise by email.  
(I got inspiration from an actual, if obscure, TV show called //" >Starhunter.)  I also collected a list of planets and moons in the solar system for background.
- Alan

A Writer's Blog:


Session 1: Series Design Conference
James missed this session so there was only three of us.

Premise Pitches
PTA text recommends that in the planning session, everybody should have a chance to pitch a series idea, discuss and choose.  For various reasons, I had already presented a strong proposal and everybody came focused on it.  However, I did start the session by asking that we back up and open things to other proposals.  We hashed it over for five minutes and the guys agreed they wanted to go ahead with my proposal.

I think we spent over an hour brainstorming series development, then moved on the characters and their details.  Details about the character's ship came last and are still a little up in the air.

Here's the beginning of the Spacehunter Series Bible:

Series Premise
Earth has been destroyed by ecological disaster and humanity has moved out into the solar system. Faster than light drive is not available, nor are there any aliens, so humanity lives in orbiting stations, or on hostile planets and moons. There's no interplanetary law, only various levels of local control. The Protagonists make their living catching and transporting fled criminals.

- Earth was destroyed or rendered uninhabitable in some disaster about 200 years ago.

- Some survivors who had longevity treatments before the disaster can still be encountered.  Most of them are in positions of power or authority.  Longevity treatment, which slows aging at a 5 to 1 ratio, remains available but at very high cost.

- Humanity is restricted to the planets, moons, and other bodies of the Solar System.  No stardrive is known nor have any aliens been detected.   Hyper-efficient fusion drives allow ships to maintain constant 1 G acceleration for travel around the solar system.  Space stations use spinning sections to simulate gravity.  

- The solar system is an anarchy of "city" states, each dominating their own little world or space station.  "Everyplace is Switzerland" - they don't share information with authorities from other polities.  There's no interplanetary authority, though widely accepted agreements allow bounty hunters wide latitude of action in foreign territory.  

- Pirates, corporations, free traders, privateers, and pirates are all possible encounters in space.

- Most environments in the solar system are hostile and require environment domes, clothing, etc.  The only exception is the bottom of Valles Marenaris on Mars, where the partially terraformed atmosphere is thick enough to support humans with only a little supplimentary oxygen.  This is the garden spot of the solar system. Many colonies have both poverty and extreme luxury.

- Mars has a beanstalk rising from Mons Olympus and a maglev railway leading into the great valley.

- Titan is the last outpost of major civilization.  It has extensive organo-polymer production, based on it's oceans of ethane.  It also has a noted Technical Institute.

- Slug throwers remain the weapon of choice, though sophisticated tasers are available.

The Ship
The protagonists are crew on a repossesed yatch bought at auction.  The yatch has many luxury features, many of which, like the zero-g hottub, no longer function properly.  The ship has an AI computer and packs a high acceration fusion drive.  The AI needs a name and personality.  The ship still needs a name.  We don't know yet if it's the cast's primary base of operations, or whether they check in somewhere on a regular basis.

The Cast
I showed James' email to the other players so they knew what interested him.  Halfway through character creation, Matt noticed a theme motif: chasing someone or something while running away from something yourself.  We emphasized that as things progressed.  

Gabriella (Mark)
Early twenties daughter of upper class family, mechanical genius, perhaps on the edge of solving the star drive equations, when something went horribly wrong with her doctoral research.  Serves as the ship's engineer.  Somehow, she's always clean and crisply groomed, even after grubbing in tubes smeared with leaky coolant and lubricants.

ISSUE  Fear of Failure
Trying to finish a major porject blew up in her face.  She doesn't want that again.

Mostly academic, with some worktables.  One curved space window is marked with meticulous equations in white - the completion of the sequence is notably absent.  The ink only shows up in raw starlight.

NEMESIS  Claviius Cartel
This mysterius group has some interest in her work at the Institute.

Mechanical Genius - Everything from engineering space time to souping up a taser.
Daddy's Girl - Socially suave with positive cache in upper circles.
Giovani's Student - Rigorous study of an elegant style of Kung Fu under her butler's tutelage.

Dr. Gromko - Doctoral advisor at Titan Institute.  He may unwittingly be a pawn of the Clavius Cartel.
Giovani - Her butler, who's an unassuming Kung Fu master, travels onboard with her.

David Guiterrez (Matt)
An ex-detective become bounty hunter to get away from his old life, but it just won't let go ...

ISSUE  Running away from Failed Marriage.

PERSONAL SET  Observation Deck
Clear dome with cheap vinyl strap lounge chair and little round table.

NEMESIS    None?

Ex-Cop - Former detective with investigation training, combat training, and a little bureacratic skill.
Life of the Party - People like to have him around and remember him.

Ex-Wife owns the ship and sends good bounty contracts.
Ship's AI
Brother, a self-made shipping magnate.

Name? (James)
Here's what James emailed me before the session:

... was hauled on board as a captured criminal, but was pardoned by the governor of Io shortly after takeoff. Somehow he gets accepted into the crew (through his bravery?), and proves to be a valuable contributor because of his knowledge of the underworld and criminal practices. (There are still some suspicions, though...) He is considered to be a snitch by several crime families, and feels that this new life is safer than being a sitting target on a moon somewhere.

I think he could be the communications officer while onboard the ship. Dirtside, he's their underworld contact. He calls himself the cultural attaché, and he likes to smooth over differences with subtle threats and the occasional venomous outburst.

I think the ship should have a swimming pool, filled with lots of muck and the only remaining koi in the entire universe. It's tended by an ecologist who is an extremely dangerous man, who everyone on board knows to keep far away from. No one has warned my PC, however.

Story Arcs
We made some tentative decisions, but left it open.  In PTA, the protagonist's primary score for affecting play varies from episode to episode - 3 being spotlight and 1 being supporting role.  In the Pilot, everone gets a 2. The arc is guideline for group development of story.

-Gabriella's arc would probably be a slow build, probably 1,1,2,2,3
- David's might be middling, 1,2,3,2,1
- James's character story arc might peak early or in episode 4.

Franchise Expectations
The rules encourage the group to think about what happens in a typical episode.

- Most episodes will start with a mission to catch or transport a criminal.
- Exotic locations, cultures, and political systems will often be background.
- Gritty environment a la Outland and Alien
- High quality special effects, but no wire work or wild martial arts.
- Alan

A Writer's Blog:

Matt Wilson

Thanks Alan, that's a great writeup.

While my personal feelings toward the game can fluctuate between "it's total crap" and "it's awesome," I haven't had a bad experience yet with any group creation process, for this game or any other.

It makes me not want to go back to any sort of "create characters in a vacuum" approach.

I also think - and this is also not particular to PTA - that games where no one player (like the GM) has a double fistful of power make it more likely that players will toss ideas back and forth, and more likely that they'll be accepted. For example, I think Mark suggested that my char's ex be the owner of the ship, and I suggested that Gabrielle have a butler of some kind. I think that gives us all a small investment in what everyone else is doing, and motivates us to promote everyone else's story.