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Primetime Adventures: Epidemonology ep2

Started by lumpley, February 24, 2005, 12:12:15 PM

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Here's the pilot episode's thread: Primetime Adventures: Epidemonology. The pilot episode was (retroactively) called "Hello, Hell."

Somehow I didn't manage to post about episode 1. I have half a writeup here on my hard drive. Episode 1 was called "Snap Shot."

Anyhow now episode 2, "Demon in a Bottle," our third session.

The characters, their Issues and their Screen Presences:
Cyrus, Epidemonologist, Issue: grief, Screen Presence 1. Played by Emily.
Frank, buddy, Issue: am I useful?, Screen Presence 2. Played by Meg.
Joe, cop, Issue: self-hate and violence, Screen Presence 2. Played by Carrie.
Vicky, reporter, Issue: vengeance, Screen Presence 1. Played by Joshua.

Last episode was Joe's 3, and his wife left him. Next episode is Cyrus' 3, and I've announced that it's going to be massive flashbacks.

Here's the briefest possible scene summary of ep2:
    [*]Cyrus questions the demon. He pulled the demon out of Joe at the end of ep1; the demon had tried to get Joe to kill him. Anyway under pressure the demon fingers "the ghoul," Eddie.

    [*]Frank meets his padre in a bar. He needs spiritual support and guidance as he undertakes to help Cyrus. Will the priest believe him? Turns out that yes, with evidence, the priest will believe him.

    [*]Joe's brother Brent shows up at Joe's place. Joe's wife has gone, we don't know where. Brent is like, "I told you so, you treat her like shit, she's probably shacked up with some other guy treats her better." Joe points his gun at Brent's face. Brent says he'll talk to some guys and Joe can decide what he wants to do after they find her. He takes Joe's gun with him when he goes.

    [*]Vicky's editor (guest-played by Em) gives Vicky grief, then hits on her. Vicky is too cool for any of that. She wins the front page in two weeks. This is going to be very problematic; she's going to want to put stuff on the front page that Cyrus doesn't want there.

    [*]Frank checks out Cyrus' place while Cyrus isn't in. The demon talks to him about hell, appeals to his sense of decency. He doesn't let the demon out of the bottle.

    [*]Cyrus and Vicky arrive, Frank's there awkward. Cyrus agrees to give Vicky photos and stuff she can publish. The demon interacts with Vicky, significance unknown.

    [*]Joe takes bodies from the warehouse to the morgue. (There's sinister quid pro quo: last episode, Brent tipped Joe off to these shady dealers setting up in the warehouse, clearly Brent's competitors in the shady deal dept. Joe's iffy about it. Now Brent says he'll help Joe find his wife - and what do you know, Joe takes out the warehouse criminals.) Anyhow Eddie the morgue guy, the demon's "ghoul," is weird. He menaces Joe with a scalpel; Joe doesn't have his gun. Cliffhanger! [/list:u]
    It was a good session. We threw the Fan Mail around, we advanced the Issues, we laughed a lot, we sometimes held our breath, we had very much fun. Dunno what to say about that, except that as usual everybody should play PTA. You! Person reading this! You should play PTA, if you haven't. The game's genius and it'll make you happy.

    We had a live studio audience! It was Ben Lehman, visiting for the weekend. He didn't play a character, but a) he awarded Fan Mail, b) he called for scenes, and c) he participated fully in the table talk and narration and description and framing and stuff. He contributed a lot to the game, he contributed as much as anybody did, and he seemed to have as much fun as the rest of us. You! Person reading this! If you have a friend drop by on PTA night, try this, it's fun easy sociable and friendly.

    Ben, please tell us about it!

    We play with cards instead of dice. Red cards are successes, high card has buck-stoppage. This is going to be hard to explain, I think, but playing the game with cards is more fun than playing it with dice. I expected it to be just as much fun, but nope! It's more fun. I think it's because the interaction is streamlined. With dice, we count up how many dice everybody gets, then we roll them, then we count successes etc. With cards, dealing them out takes the place of both the counting up and the rolling. I'm like, "how many cards, three? Four? Okay, fwap fwap fwap fwap." It's a good little interaction. So I'd recommend playing with cards to anybody.

    We talked a little bit about having had our first episode be Joe's 3, and how it was unsettled but it worked out okay. Matt, the rule that you can't have a Screen Presence 3 in the first episode is a good rule.

    We also talked about me playing demons. There's something I need to say about demons and people and I haven't managed to say it yet. I suppose I should GM Sorcerer!

    And finally, this was the session where I figured out when to roll dice (that is, deal cards). There's this moment in the conflict where I start to feel off my feet, right? Where I start to really want to know whether I'm winning the argument or losing it, how hard to press, whether to back off or what. That's when!

    If you'd told me that three sessions ago, I'd've been like, "sure, naturally" - but it probably would have taken me this long to get it right anyway. I had to learn to notice the feeling and act on it.

    Now that I've noticed it, I realize that it's familiar to me from our Ars Magica game. Read between the lines and you can see it way back in Adventures in Improvised System. There, it was like "uh oh, I'm off my feet, Meg is too, this is getting skooshy, I dunno about this..."


    Ben Lehman

    It was a lot of fun.

    What I said to Emily later that night:  "Y'know, despite not having a character, I felt that I could participate more in that game than I could in half the games I've ever played in."  (This is because PTA is awesome.)

    In some ways I felt like a "little GM" in that it was my part to poke at the characters with high SP and see what made them go, without having to worry about anything 'cause they could still block me.

    It really helped that I had read the other thread.

    I guess that's all I have to say.  PTA works really well for this!  That game just has more capacity than I would have thought!


    P.S.  Cards are just better.

    Emily Care

    Quote from: lumpleyNow that I've noticed it, I realize that it's familiar to me from our Ars Magica game. Read between the lines and you can see it way back in Adventures in Improvised System. There, it was like "uh oh, I'm off my feet, Meg is too, this is getting skooshy, I dunno about this..."

    Hunh.  That must be what I feel like when I reach for the smileyface dice or the general dice bucket these days. Ever since Ron pointed out that unstructured drama can suck bigtime (it's price being major character concept squashing and concensus breaking), I've started paying attention to that same feeling you're talking about, V.  Have to pay attention next time we do PtA.

    I wasn't sure about the cards, but I think I'm convinced. They make it easier somehow.  Still gotta nail down how we deal with ties. We did one thing this time, dif from what we did last time.  I think it was look at high red card vs. draw again last time. I like the high card thing, but I dunno how all these probability thingees work out.  Drawing again was a pain.

    Also, we were more specific about asking for a character or plot scene this time.  I don't know if that made a big difference in the end, but I still think it would have helped last month with Carrie's spotlight session. And we continue to frame the scenes our own selves or collectively rather than requesting them from the gm.  It's such tasty collaborative goodness.

    I'm wicked looking forward to the flashbacks next month.  I think this episode should be called: "The Collector".

    Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

    Black & Green Games

    Matt Wilson

    You guys are cool.

    Cards will go in as an official option in the whenever-I-get-around-to-it edition, which will probably exist as a pdf first.

    I love the guest star player thing. Did Ben get any fan mail to start? Or at all during the game? I might rule that a visiting player could be an actual guest star like how Fred Astaire was once on an ep of the original Battlestar Galactica*, and starts with at least a die of fan mail. You can only contribute to conflicts with fan mail (you don't have your own SP), but you can earn it just like everyone else. And you have to pick a famous actor to be the guest star, like you have to be Angela Basset or Edward Norton or someone that everyone at the table knows about.

    Also, V, I like your explanation of realizing the moment when you throw down. And I'm glad someone else will back me on the "you'll just get it after a while" thing.

    *which is totally surreal.


    I wish we'd thought to give Ben fan mail even though he wasn't playing a character, so he could go in on conflicts. That would've been even better.


    Ben Lehman

    See, I think a guest star would have been a little disruptive to the story-arcs -- maybe in a less tightly plotted (9 or 13 episode) show, but in a 5 ep season there's not room for extra characters.

    I was really happy with my level of participation, actually...  Didn't feel like I needed a character at all.

    And I never got fanmail.  Don't know if that's because I couldn't or just because I wasn't cool enough ;-)



    Fascinating all round.

    I have some trouble conceptualising scene calling mechanisms, would anyone mind offering a representative dialogue?
    Impeach the bomber boys:

    "He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
    - Leonardo da Vinci

    Emily Care

    Quote from: contracycleI have some trouble conceptualising scene calling mechanisms, would anyone mind offering a representative dialogue?

    Lessee...well, this is mostly how it happened/s with us:

    Vincent: Okay, we got through the intro scene with Cyrus talking to the demon in a bottle, now what's next?

    Meg: I'm seeing my character Frank talking with his friend who's the chaplain at the VA.

    Vincent: Okay, set the scene.

    Meg (cracks her knuckles, this is her fav): They are at the VA, sitting at the bar. It's a hot day, people are coming in and out.  Frank's buddy, the chaplain, is sitting with him, getting a drink.  The chaplain is wearing his collar.  

    Joshua: Hey, I liked how we did that stuff with introducing people via a close-up in other episodes. We focused on shoes for the first scene with Frank, how 'bout we have shots of their necks, in this scene. First the chaplain's collar...

    Meg: Yeah, then Frank's adam's apple, bobbing up and down as he deals with telling his buddy about all this crazy stuff he's been experiencing.

    Emily: Is this Character or Plot oriented?

    Meg: Hm..I'm not sure.

    Vincent: Do you think the plot will affect you? Would a demon show up here?

    Meg: Nah, I guess this scene is character focussed.

    Vincent: Okay, so what's the Agenda? What do you want to happen?

    Meg: Frank's going to talk to the chaplain about what's going on to try to get some support: moral and otherwise...

    So, the three things to establish are: Location, Scene Type (Plot or Character) and Agenda.

    Trad form is to have the players state that to the GM and let them set the scene (briefly) with said information. Also, scene framing is supposed to begin with the player whose character has the highest Screen Presence and then rotate around, but it may make sense to follow what seems right too.

    Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

    Black & Green Games


    Quote from: GarethI have some trouble conceptualising scene calling mechanisms, would anyone mind offering a representative dialogue?
    Sure. This'll be non-verbatim and all wrong, but it'll convey. I'm going to include a whole scene because does "calling" mean beginning or ending?

    I'm like, "so clearly the first scene needs to be Cyrus talking to the demon in the bottle, is anybody else there?"

    Emily's like, "no, I wouldn't question the demon with anybody else there, so no." We're all like, fair enough.

    Then Emily's like, "y'know, I want this whole scene to be in full color." Normally only key bits are in color, but we think this is cool. We're like, ooh. Emily describes some color things - the demon's like this green fog, swirling in the jar. I ask what the jar looks like and between them Joshua and Emily describe it. It's a big jar like a 15-gallon still jar or something.

    That sets the scene. Then we have to get to a conflict, so I'm like, "so Cyrus, what do you want out of this demon?"

    Emily said "I want it to tell me what's going on. What are they up to. What's behind it."

    We play out that conversation. At that off-my-feet moment during it, we resolve. Emily wins, so I have the demon cave under pressure. Resolving breaks the conversation into two pieces: the before, where we're building up, and the after, where we reveal.

    At a suitably final moment - the conversation could maybe continue, but the issue is resolved, Em has the info she wants and I've said my sinister thing about "pitiless" or whatever - I lean back in my chair. "Opening credits!" I say.

    Someone goes pee, we make tea, we chatter a little.

    If there were a character with a 3 this session, I'd turn to that player. Instead I turn to Meg because she's on my left and her character has a 2. I say, "a Frank scene?"

    Meg says, "sure ... I'm talking to my friend the priest."

    Ben's like, "is this a character scene or a plot scene?"

    There's some discussion of Frank's issue. Some people aren't getting it. I'm like, "no, it's wicked easy, his issue is 'what good am I now?' right? But he's put himself at Cyrus' service, right? So a couple of sessions from now, easy, we find out whether Frank is up to it. Is he up to it?" Anyway we conclude: a character scene.

    Someone describes the camera work: we see the priest's collar and then Frank's face. Carrie, I think - and away we go.

    edit: Crossposted with Emily's!


    Emily Care

    I made mine up too, I think. The arbitrariness of memory at work. : ) Mostly same events, narrated by random contributers.  Ah, well. Interesting the different views of same, anyway.
    Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

    Black & Green Games


    Impeach the bomber boys:

    "He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
    - Leonardo da Vinci


    Very cool writeups.  I'm trying to get a PTA game off the ground at, and I'm definitely pointing people to this thread to show them "how it works."
    I believe in peace and science.