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Author Topic: [PtA Voice Chat] The Pitch (Unnamed Show)  (Read 8401 times)
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


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« on: September 14, 2005, 04:57:59 AM »

Hello, all,

This is the first thread of Actual Play I’ve ever created, and the first gaming I’ve done in around nine months. Since moving to Cairns, finding other gamers has been a slow and painful process. Initial contacts seemed hopeful, but our tastes turned out to be largely incompatible. Then there was the fact that I haven't had a steady job until recently, which meant I wasn't really willing to commit to a campaign when my schedule could well change at a moment's notice. (As I'm now in a steady job, I'm trying to get some solid face-to-face gaming going again, but that's another story.)
 
A few months ago, I got to the point where I needed to game, so I got in touch with my old friends in Sydney and proposed hooking up online for some Primetime Adventures. I didn't want to play via text chat, though - I proposed handling play via voice chat. If possible, I wanted to run a second game over text-chat for those who didn't have broadband or were international.
 
Of the broadband crew, I knew two didn't get along with each other, so I was juggling teams for a bit until a few weeks ago, when one of the two dropped out due to a surprise occurrence which could potentially be very beneficial career-wise. I was able to bring the other broadband-enabled friend in, which firmed the Broadband team up. Those I'd invited for team two weren’t particularly responsive to the subsequent e-mails I sent, so I've left them be for the moment.

This crew consists of:
  • First and foremost, my wife Vickie. We've been together for over four years and married for just over one of those. I got her into gaming a few months after we moved in together and, thankfully, she quite enjoys it (although she grumbles a little in the lead up to any session), especially if there are few limits on her (prodigious) creativity. Vickie's very clever and witty, and I'm pretty sure that of the two of us, she's the reigning champion in the punster stakes. There’s also an age gap of a few decades (I’m the younger). Vickie will be the only person actually in the room with me, but any advantage that might grant will likely be offset by her discomfort with rule systems in general.
  • Next is Gav. I've known him since, I think, 97/98. He's a mad gamer from way back, and don't let his long hair, penchant for dark clothing and taste for Black Sabbath and Henry Rollins fool you; he's one of the nicest, best-mannered guys around. He has a penchant for hard-drinking Norse warrior type characters, and his Big Thing at the moment is the literature of Robert E. Howard (needless to say, his favourite game line right now is Mongoose Publishing's Conan).
  • Thirdly, there's Seth. He's the enigma on the team, a mystery shrouded in myth, who - okay, I'm exaggerating, but I met him for the first (and technically only) time late last year, when he came along for my Last Ever Game in Sydney. I ran the adventure out of the back of Paranoia XP for him, Boots, Gav and a few others (Vickie reckons Paranoia isn't her cup of tea). He's a pretty cool cat from the US, and even used to be in the Marine Corps.

Then there's me, Rob. I've been into gaming since the early nineties, although I've never really gamed consistently. The longest campaign I've been in, whether as player or GM, was six, maybe seven sessions. I mainly like games with lots of toys, like Heavy Gear or, most recently, Starship Troopers. I blame Jared A. Sorensen for getting me involved with the Forge - not that he did personally, but it was buying InSpectres and octaNe that brought the Forge to my attention.

Almost all of us have a little indie-RPG experience; a few years ago I ran an InSpectres game at a local (well, Sydney was local at the time) con and Vickie, Gav and Boots were play testers. I also ran an octaNe game for a then-friend’s birthday which Vickie and Gav played in.

The technical side provided some challenges. At first I wasn't sure what program we would use to handle the voice chat. I've had experience with the TeamSpeak and Ventrilo game-voice-chat programs, but both require a server to be set up that the chat clients can connect to, and setting up servers can, I've discovered, be a finicky process. Then a friend introduced me to Skype, with its easy-to-use Instant Messenger-style interface and its excellent sound quality over the great distance between Sydney and Cairns. It seemed the application of choice until what was meant to be the first session a couple of weeks ago. One of the three Sydney players who signed up had to cancel at the last minute due to urgent family matters. The rest of us (two other mates from Sydney, my wife and I) decided to hold off starting until he was available and use the session to test Skype instead - which was handy, as the friends from Sydney kept dropping out. Whether this was a bandwidth issue or something else, I'm not sure - my wife and I share a single 256/64 ADSL connection, which may be an indicator - but the Sydney player who had to go later offered to host a Ventrilo server on his PC and fat broadband connection. We set the date of our "actual" start session at Wednesday, September 14th.

A fourth player did put his hand up, but right before we were due to start this evening, he decided that voice chat wasn’t his cup of tea and dropped out. He’s been put into team two, and he’s still rather keen, so we’ll see whether that motivates another game. It also makes life a little easier for the rest of us, and I must admit I prefer the idea of managing a three-man team via voice chat.
 
Then there was a communication issue concerning Vickie and I. As the original start date got closer, Vickie began to express frustration - although I thought I'd given everyone a pretty good idea of what to expect and what we'd be doing via the e-mails I'd sent (all of which Vickie had been copied in on), she told me that none of what she'd read made any sense to her, or at least, she couldn't translate the text of the e-mails into a practical expectation of what-we'll-actually-be-doing-and-why. (I remember she had a similar reaction when I started talking about Blue Booking in the Heavy Gear campaign I was running in Sydney before we moved.)

I tried to explain, and eventually suggested she read the Primetime Adventures book (another instance of misunderstanding there - I'd not offered it to her because she'd previously rolled her eyes at reading the Heavy Gear game books, although I think that was mainly due to their size rather than being gaming product, and she'd not asked because she thought I'd offer it to her if I thought she needed it). This weekend gone, Vickie asked me when we'd be playing, and I took the opportunity to ask whether she had more questions. (Who says I never learn?) She did; she wasn't sure whether we were meant to be coming up with characters or the show itself first. I explained that the show came first, as that would define the sorts of characters that would appear in it (although I didn't think to say that it would also define what the stars would be doing as a team).
 
Now, I've had a tendency for ages to not tell people things on the assumption that (a) they already know those things or (b) I've already told them those things when in fact I haven't. But Vickie commented once that it often looks like I'm writing in some sort of gamer code, even when I think I'm writing in plain English – that I'm communicating based on a set of assumptions ingrained through years of gaming (well, reading gaming books) that she simply doesn't have. Then again, the two mates from Sydney who hooked up for that Skype chat reckoned they weren't sure what was going on either, but would figure it out in play, so maybe it's just a "me" thing rather than a "gamer" thing. If I can get Vickie in here, I’ll ask her to comment on that herself.
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2005, 05:00:03 AM »

The session finished about half an hour ago. I had some trouble with Ventrilo – mainly in that the only way you can actually talk is by holding down a hotkey – so we went back to Skype, with Seth hosting the conversation. Thankfully, there weren’t anywhere near as many drop-outs this time around, although Seth couldn’t participate in the voice-chat as the mike he borrowed needed an adaptor to plug into his PC. He wound up contributing well via text chat, but the experience hasn’t soured me on using voice chat.

So, we started batting ideas about. Seth came up with “Pirates”, then “Space Pirates”, followed by “Space Pirates displaced by time to ancient Greece”. Gav and Seth started kicking the idea back and forth, and Vickie was fairly amenable, but as a Producer I wasn’t exactly comfortable with it. My knowledge of general history is cactus, let alone ancient cultures; I had serious doubts about my ability to introduce conflicts appropriate to the setting. I mentioned this, and the crew were okay with shelving the idea for the moment.

Seth then jestingly suggested “giant bunnies that are trapped in a forest that is constantly being destroyed by the evil man creatures”, then followed up with “the vampiric knights of the old west, who ride through the night seeking justice”. This latter got the veto from Vickie, who hates vampires and vampire fiction in general.

Gav re-raised the idea of time travel, and Seth started talking the Space Pirates back in, as well as introducing some pretty interesting metaphysical ideas he wanted to tackle. A notable quote: “imagine that we know that the space pirates are going to get home.. but wha if them getting home is dependant on them actually travelling into the past and causing themselves, younger selves, to travel back into the past”.

I’m not sure how that would have worked as a show, but note to Seth: Maybe buy a copy of PtA and run your idea for your Sydney crew sometime? I would be interested in seeing the results!

Then Vickie came up with an idea – inspired by that Paul Bettany/Willem Dafoe movie, The Reckoning, she suggested a troupe of travelling actors. I suggested making it space-based, because I like the idea of being able to come up with ideas for cultures and civilisation without feeling tied down to historical authenticity (and I really hate the idea of being another one of those shows that throws historical accuracy to the wind in favour of ratings). Also, we’re all big fans of the travelling ship idea, a’la Firefly.

We started nutting specifics out, like travel, supplies, how big the ship was, who was on it. There was some talk about borrowing someone else’s universe – Seth even came up with using the Aliens universe at one point – but I’m about as comfortable with tying a show to someone else’s mythology as I am with tying it to history. Vickie came up with the idea that there’s little interstellar conflict; any wars happen strictly planet-side, solely between the nations on that planet with no outside interference / invasion. We also went with it being our future, rather than some unspecified alternate dimension / galaxy far, far away. Vickie also threw in the idea that the actors in the troupe were chameleons; thanks to wearable hologram systems, they can look like anyone; allowing them to be a whole cast in three people. They also have the acting skills to carry such changes off.

We were getting close to time when I asked everyone to come up with some character ideas. It was pretty much a given that the three lead roles would be the actors of the troupe. Seth wanting to be the engineer gave rise to the idea that each person would have an additional responsibility as ship crew. We’ve nutted out some basics, and have enough detail to feel as though we’re not treading on each others’ toes. I explained Traits, Issues and (briefly) Screen Presence to the players, and advised them not to worry too much about detailed backgrounds. We decided to do some more over e-mail, saving planning out Screen Presence (and naming the show) for next session. You can find what we've done so far here.

For the first session I’ve ever done online, it came off quite well. I have the feeling it was missing something – possibly because Seth wasn’t quite “there”, possibly because we weren’t all actually in the same room and couldn’t fully fire off each other – but overall, everything was friendly and fun, and I’m very interested to see how we do with completing the Pitch in our next session, which should be this coming Wednesday evening.
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Always Plenty of Time!
Georgios Panagiotidis
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Posts: 83


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« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2005, 05:14:01 AM »

Purely technical question:
One of the problems I had with voice-chat was that people kept interrupting each other because they had no visual input, when somebody else had finished making their point. I noticed that you used a moderator of some sort. Can you explain this a bit? PM is fine, if you want to keep this thread focussed on the game itself.
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Five tons of flax!
I started a theory blog in German. Whatever will I think of next?
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2005, 04:13:32 PM »

Hi, Joe,

I dunno, I look at how the chat is managed as being part of the Actual Play. Heck, I've never done this before, so I'm really learning as I go!

Now, it's worthwhile noting that effectively, from my perspective anyway, there was only one person on voice, and that was Gav. Vickie was, as I mentioned, right there in the room with me (we wound up sharing a microphone), and because Seth didn't have a microphone, he was relegated to texting. So I was listening and watching (or at least, trying to) at the same time.

There also wasn't really a moderator as such; things generally seemed to work well. Again, that my have been because, as mentioned above, there weren't as many people on the chat channel as there should have been.

I'd be interested to read Gav and Seth's perspective, especially Seth's as he was coping with three voices, on how last night went. I'll see if I can rope them in.

Now I think managing the flow of the game won't be too much of a problem, as Primetime Adventures has that built-in, round-the-table procedure for setting scenes. In terms of general chat, I'm also thinking of keeping a text-channel or IM partyline open so someone can request the floor quickly and easily (say, by just typing "FLOOR" into their text client).

I'm also starting to wonder whether the push-button-to-talk bit wouldn't be such a bad idea...
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2005, 05:04:39 AM »

I’m very interested to see how we do with completing the Pitch in our next session, which should be this coming Wednesday evening.

Which, of course, didn't happen. My fault; I clean forgot we had it planned tonight. I have the feeling everyone else forgot as well; Vickie thought we were on for Saturday and I didn't have any e-mails from Gav or Seth wondering where I was.
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2005, 05:24:30 AM »

Thankfully, we were far better organised this time around (although I forgot to record House). The overall feel of the session was quite a bit more relaxed - including Vickie, who was very grumble-free this evening. Once again, Skype started giving us grief as general Internet traffic picked up, so we closed the chat down and logged onto Seth's Ventrilo server (with a wait as Gav had to download the latest client).

The switch from Skype to Ventrilo helped enormously; although the sound quality wasn't as stellar as Skype, it was better than a phone call and there were virtually no dropouts and little lag. We all got used to using a press-to-talk button on our keyboards very quickly, and there were very few instances of people talking over each other.

Vickie was the cause of probably the major development this session - changing the troupe from travelling theatre players into a travelling TV studio (videoed before a live audience, the final edited product broadcast across several galaxies). Interestingly enough, the suggested the show be a Mission: Impossible-type show. We didn't go much into what that precisely meant; one of the decisions we later made was that on our PtA show, we'd never actually see what went on in front of the cameras. All of the action would occur behind the scenes and outside the studio.

I had the feeling that we might've been biting off more than we could chew. I proposed first that we shift the show from far-future on a starship to modern-day on a studio backlot, and then that instead of doing a show-within-a-show, we threw out everything else and went with a straight-up spy-action show, no two layers required. My thought was that it'd allow all that TV-show-based human drama (from fans to agents to ratings to conventions to Lives of Stars) without spaceships and bumpy-headed aliens getting in the way.

Neither Gav nor Vickie nor Seth were keen on either idea; they all liked the concept of the travelling players (let's face it, so do I; I just thought the shift from theatre to TV show would muddy things a bit), both because it was so different from the usual RPG setting fare, and because it looked like a new and interesting challenge. (Damn, do I have a good crew, or what?)

Of all of my players, I noticed Gav had a tendency to vanish into the silent background while Seth, Vickie and I played racquetball with the show's Big Ideas. I caught us letting him get away with it with about an hour of session time remaining, and started asking Gav some explicit questions abut what he was thinking, what he felt comfortable with and what he wanted. It worked, thankfully, and Gav was pretty well involved from that point onward. As a result, his was probably the most kibbitzed character of them all, with all four of us having a hand in it (Seth and Vickie came up with their characters largely on their own, with a little input from me). We still weren't able to get a Nemesis or Personal Set for him by the time we finished, but I figure the former is optional (although Vickie came up with a neat idea in that regard which Gav is letting percolate), while the latter probably doesn't need a group head. Still, I might have to keep an eye on him during the campaign.

The biggest surprise was the direction Vickie began developing her character into. She added a real mean streak to her; one of her edges is "Knows Where The Skeletons Are." She also has her hooks into the wife of her Nemesis, who's no less than the director of the show! She initially saw her character as a "Norma Desmond" type, trying to reclaim her faded glories, but I suggested Heather Locklear's queen bitch of Melrose Place (which I have never seen a whole episode of in my life, I'm proud to say) and it clicked with her. I have the feeling her character will be played by Heather Locklear. (That's something I'll have to ask Gav and Seth: Who do they see as being cast as their characters?)

The place of robots and AIs on board ship and in the galaxies in general was briefly kicked about, but not much came of it, and I figure it'll get filled in (or not) as the campaign continues.

We had some intense discussions about how the intergalactic TV network works, but most of that detail can be left for hasing out during the series. One of the things that stands out is when I was arguing against the spaceship-based TV show with a live audience, and Seth countered that with the idea of combining the SF convention mentality ("We get to see them live!") with actually bringing the whole show itself to the audience, not just the stars.

Right near the end, we sorted out Screen Presences. We're starting it easy, with an SP2 pilot followed by a five-episode season. Seth and Gav's characters will have their spotlights in Episodes 2 and 3, respectively, whil Vickie is going to be a slow burn all the way to episode 5, which will probably result in her causing a cliffhanger of some kind.

We decided that the pilot episode would feature the introduction of Gav's character being brought in to replace a previous actor (Got a Better Offer? Quit in Disgust? Retired? Died?), and the other two reacting to that. I'll be working on the episode's big Problem.

Finally, we set the date for the pilot: this coming Saturday, at eight PM. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm pretty damned sure everyone else is, too!

Oh, yeah, the names of the shows? Well the Mission: Impossible-esque show is Agent 66. Our campaign is now called
Stars on the Move.
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


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« Reply #6 on: October 01, 2005, 04:25:42 PM »

Unfortunately, Seth was having some technical problems last night, which meant he was unavailable. A couple of hours before we were due to hook up, though, I realised I had some problems with the basic premise of the show we'd come up with so far. I've detailed my issues here and here.

So, Vickie, Gav and I wound up creating characters for Dogs in the Vineyard instead. The details of that will be another thread!
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Always Plenty of Time!
ScottM
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Fresno, California


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« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2005, 09:46:35 AM »

So, after the panic subsided (and as you grow more comfortable with the PTA game, as shown in your Dog Eared posts), what are you going to do?  Will you continue with PTA now, or continue your shift to DitV?
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Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2005, 01:23:25 AM »

Barring any more technical hitches, Stars on the Move should still go ahead in a couple of weeks.

Re. the panic: I had a few experienced PtA players/GMs smack me upside the head on that in the Non-Action Issues thread. Which helped. Still want to have a good think about the Problem, but rest assured, further Actual Play will follow.

Barring any more technical hitches. (Please, God, don't take Seth's connection out again...)
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


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« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2005, 01:26:07 AM »

Ooops! Forgot to mention: In the meantime, I'm hoping to run Vickie and Gav through a Branch or two in DitV. Never too much of a good thing, I reckon...
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2005, 03:45:45 AM »

Once again, no luck. Not technical hitches, this time. Unfortunately, my wife Vickie has been feeling ill all week, and hasn't felt much better today; Gav had also had a workout at sword class on Friday night and is still sore. Seth and I were okay, but rather than force a game on Gav and Vickie when they were both out of sorts, we've postponed again, until the end of October. (Seth and Tam have a face to face gaming night of their own every other week.)

There was some talk about getting Seth's wife, Tam, involved in the proceedings, and I thought of running them through some Dogs in the Vineyard this evening, but I wanted to get Vickie a video first (she didn't feel like lying down, and there's nothing but shit on TV this evening) and by the time I got back, Seth and Tam were busy.

I'd love to get a face-to-face night of my own sometime, but my troubles with finding gamers in Cairns would be a whole other thread!
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Always Plenty of Time!
IMAGinES
Member

Posts: 141

AKA Rob Farquhar


WWW
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2005, 02:14:15 AM »

And, yet again, no luck. Seth got some overtime doing cabling today, which means he's buggered this evening - he barely has enough energy to keep an eye on his young 'uns while his wife gets some supplies in.

Depending on Gav, we may be able to do some Dogs, though. As Barstow's Run feels a little intense right now, I think I'll dig up one of Jason Morningstar's towns and run it for them. If things go ahead, I'll post in the Dogs in the Voice Chat thread.
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Always Plenty of Time!
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