[Primetime Adventures] - Galaxy's Edge

Started by Morph, September 01, 2009, 11:25:37 AM

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I've always been interested in novel RPG mechanics, but never really got round to playing any. More recently (ever since the RPG Geek website started) my interest has piqued, and I've picked up copies of some of the best sounding games.  First up, I wanted to play Primetime Adventures.

I had no idea how it would go, but I recruited Kate, Rich and Jake to find out. We're used to WFRP and CoC so this would be quite a change.

Creating the show:

Coming up with the show was very straightforward. Rich already had an idea - 'Space Lifeboats' was the phrase he used. He envisioned a sci-fi version of an emergency services show. That sounded good to the rest of us, so we started working it out.

A lot of our ideas did end up a bit vague, and there wasn't a lot of detail on names etc. As producer I wanted to keep things moving and not get bogged down in detail, deciding we could probably come up with things when we needed them in the show.

We ended up with a sort of near-future setting, where man had colonies spread through this galaxy. A large corporation had set up mining colonies in an asteroid belt on the edge of explored space. No actual planets aside from Earth are habitable. Technology levels are such that trips from Earth to the colonies would take weeks or months.

The show is based in one of these colonies on an asteroid. The colony has a kind of dirty, realistic feel (think the interior of the Battlestar Glactica), and houses about 500 people. The people there are a mixed bunch, some of them are trained professionals brought here by the corporation, others are people who wanted to leave earth for various reasons.

The PCs are three members of a crew (of four) who pilot a rescue ship. They have normal, everyday jobs, but respond to emergencies happening in the sectors surrounding the colony.

Rich's protagonist is Eli, the doctor. He has fairly general medical skills, and works as a general practioner on the colony, on the ship he is often more of a paramedic - stabilising the injured so they can be bought back to the colony medical bay. He struggles with a trauma following something that happened back on earth (though at this point we don't know what). This grief also forces him into using drugs pilfered from the medical centre. His Arc is 2-1-3-2-1.

Kate's protagonist is Dan. She started as an Engineer/Scientist though in play she also developed into a representative of the corporation. Her issue was trying to control things, and also trying to keep to the proper procedures and the company policy. Her Arc is 2-3-1-1-2.

Jake played Roy. He works in the leisure area of the colony (where the bar, sports facilities etc. are). He doesn't have any specialist skills, he volunteers for the rescue team as he likes to put himself in danger. Unfortunately as the other crew members do have more useful skills his self worth is not high, and he often takes risks to try and make himself into a hero. His Arc is 2-1-1-2-3.

The characters turned out ok, though the issues started a bit vague (most people had a combination of 2 issues). Dan and Roy had issues that would obviously conflict (following vs breaking the rules). This was nice, but as there were only three protagonists we'd have to make sure Eli's issue interacted as well and the show wasn't just about the other two fighting each other.
Simon Crowe


Galaxy's Edge - The pilot episode

Scene 1 -

The rings around a planet. Ice and rock buffets a small spherical vessel. Inside a scientist is thrown around, he's obviously in danger.

Cut to another ship approaching, lowering itself towards the icy ring and the stranded vessel. Moving into the cockpit we see a female pilot lit by warning lights from the dashboard. Behind her are three other crew, a man and woman looking tense, another man whooping with excitement.

As the slightly larger rescue vessel approaches a huge rock smashes the small spherical one which careers further away. The rescue ship presses downwards into the icy rocks.

Cut to credits.

(My first scene! I decided the show should begin with some special effects to grab the audience. In game terms I wanted an open ended framing scene, the players could go where they wanted from here)

Credits -

Tense music, slow at first. Some shots of comets, planets etc. Then ships, a colony on an asteroid. Music builds as we get some action shots (explosions!) and shots of the protagonists doing their things. Music stops and the credits end with a shot of Dan standing in a field of wheat in a bio-dome, staring up at the stars.

Scene 2 -

A bar, futuristic but slightly dirty. One of the crewmen, Eli, approaches a table where the other two sit (the pilot is not there). As he joins them he says "The scientist will live, but he'll never play the trombone again."

Dan blames Roy. She says he got cocky and deployed the rescue lines too early. If he'd followed the proper procedure they might have rescued the scientist without an injury.

Eli agrees with her, and Dan slinks off moaning. He mutters to his pal, the bartender nicknamed 'Monkey', that Dan has only been here a month and she shouldn't be telling him what to do.

(Kate decided to not carry on with the rescue mission from the opener. Instead a character scene where we get some information on the three protaginists, and also show the issues between Dan and Roy. They had a conflict, which Kate won and so Dan showed she was right)

Scene 3 -

A dark hab-block apartment room. The only light is from a view screen, which illuminates the doctor Eli though is face is mostly in shadow. He's talking to a woman on the screen, the picture is grainy.

He's talking about the mission, how he couldn't save his patient's arm. The wounds suffered remind him of things he tried to forget, things back on earth.

The woman is providing counseling, but she also presses for more information. Eli lets slips. "It reminded me of Tommy." He suddenly gets angry and slams the off button. In the darkness he storms out the room.

(Rich's scene. Whilst Jake and Kate had their issues shown in the last episode, Rich hadn't, so he devised this scene where he talked to one of his contacts. A conflict arose whether Eli would get some counseling without letting slip more than he wanted to. He failed and the name Tommy came up. Who's Tommy? We don't know yet.)

Scene 4 -

An office. The three protagonists and their pilot (who we learn is named Murphy) are sitting down. A large angry man is shouting at them (this is Commander Crane). It seems the team (Alpha Team they are called) were out of their jurisdiction on their last mission, it should have been handled by Delta Team, who operate from another colony.

Roy is particularly annoyed by this. "The scientist would have been dead before Delta Team got their boots on!"

It doesn't matter. Crane gives them an ultimatum, if they stray outside their designated rescue zones again they'll be fired.

(Jake's scene. It looks like a conflict but actually we used this more of a plot point to set up the rest of the episode. Maybe I should have called a conflict anyway but not sure exactly what it would have entailed)

Scene 5 -

The scene cuts between Roy and Eli. Roy arrives at the medical bay and has to deal with a nosy receptionist enquiring about his groin injury. Eli is in a small medical room, rooting through a cabinet. The receptionist points down the corridor to Doctor Jaques office, but Roy misses the exact door to try. Eli pulls out a hyper-syringe. Roy tries a door, but there is a scream from inside - he hurriedly shuts it again. Eli puts the syringe to his arm just as Roy tries another handle.

The door opens behind Eli just as he remove the syringe. It's Roy, but Roy doesn't see what Eli is up to. He says 'hello, wrong room' and backs out. Eli sags down as the drugs wash over him. Outside Roy pauses thoughtfully but then carries on.

(Kate's scene. A good idea to show the other aspect of Rich's character Eli's issue, using drugs to null the grief, plus tying it into another character. The conflict here was - how much would Roy see? Eli got away with it, just, but Roy my have suspicions from now on.)

Scene 6 -

Each of the protagonists is in their various sets when alarms go off on their belts. Eli hurriedly dismisses his patient and runs out his office. Roy shouts at Monkey to finish locking up the leisure area. Dan drops her tools and heads out. Also we see Pilot Murphy. She's lifting weights in a gym when the alarm goes off.

Cut to them running down a corridor shouting jargon. "It's a code 7-23! Sector 13!"

Shot of the hangar, moving round their rescue craft. We can see it has a name. "The Rockhopper."

The four crew enter The Rockhopper. It's not large, only consisting of a front cockpit area and a back medical/storage bay. They hurry into their suits. Cocky Roy doesn't bother to fasten his helmet, Dan narrows her eyes and fastens it for him.

The Alpha Team crew strap in and the ship launches. Eli looks nervous, he obviously hates this bit.

(My scene. Obviously almost all plot here. In terms of a TV show this would establish how this whole lifeboat-crew-in-space thing actually works. Plus in the game it's getting the protagonists to the next bit of action - and obviously this is going to tie into Commander Cranes earlier warning. Some nice little character moments though. No conflict.)

Scene 7 -

The Rockhopper cockpit. Murphy checks her scanners but no sign of the stranded ship. Then suddenly, "I'm picking something up on long range, it's a distress beacon, a mining ship, but it seems ship has been pulled into Sector 14."

Sector 14! That's under Delta Team's area. But the scanners suggest Delta Team are over 14 clicks away. By the time they make it, it might be too late. Murphy pushes the Rockhopper into Sector 14.

Delta Team open a communications channel, angrily asking what Alpha Team think they are doing. Dan takes it, first she tries to claim Delta team's equipment is wrong but they see through the obvious lie. She then tries to reason with one of their members (called Dawkins). She gets them to agree that Alpha Team will head in and Delta will not report this back to Crane, but she does end up kind of shifting the blame to the rest of the crew rather than taking any responsibility for herself.

(Jake's scene, though exactly who was creating the scenes was getting blurry at this point. We were all trying to get the story to work, so it seemed obvious Delta Team would let our protagonists do the rescue. The conflict came with Dan trying to save face. She succeeded - but only on a tie, so we decided she came off fairly blameless herself, but kind of implicated Roy and the others in forcing her to enter Sector 14.)

Scene 8 - 

The Rockhopper reaches the mining ship and clamps on. "Life support systems are off line." Murphy reports of the stranded ship. Eli and Roy head across to the other ship. Inside they find two collapsed miners. Eli professionally uses his medical training to revive them and bring them back to The Rockhopper safely. Roy had hoped there would be a chance to act the hero but he ends up standing around whilst Eli does his job.

(Rich's scence. A conflict, would the miners be ok. Though Rich and Jake combined their cards here, Jake ended up with no red cards. His character Roy's stake had been to act heroic but he effectively contributed nothing. Eli on the other hand tried to be as professional as possible. The protagonists won, and Eli shone whilst Roy's self-worth issue deepened)

Scene 9 -

The two mining crew have been saved, but they reveal their ship is carrying a large amount of expensive Plutonium. The ship is heading towards the surface of a moon on a collision course. The crew realise that The Rockhopper alone is not powerful enough to drag the larger mining ship off course, but if they combined with the Delta Team craft they might be.

As Delta Team approach, Dan contacts them outlining the plan. Delta Team agree but since Alpha Team are in Sector 14 it should be Delta Team who take charge now. Dan agrees, that is the correct protocol. The other crew members are not happy. Roy takes the chance to swear at Rodriguez, a member of Delta Team he especially hates.

(My scene. I introduced an 'Act 3 twist'. The conflict was on who would take charge, Alpha or Delta. This had Eli and Roy on one side, arguing it should be them. Dan combined her cards with me, the Producer, as she wanted to do this by the book. I won, and Alpha had to defer.)

Scene 10 -

Alpha and Delta craft attach to the mining ship as it reaches the moon. Dan's engineering skills get them to a good start as they attempt to pull it out of orbit together but it's barely enough power. Suddenly Roy gets an idea and gets Murphy to roll the Rockhopper to spin the mining ship out of orbit.

But it goes wrong, the attachment cables get caught and one snaps. The Rockhopper has to disengage before it is dragged down. Delta Team also lets go. As they fly away the mining ship hits the moon's surface and there is a big explosion. No one is hurt, but they've lost a big payload, and they realise there's no way Crane and other senior people won't find out about this.

(At first I wondered whether we could just decide whether they succeeded or failed depending on what the story needed. But the players decided a conflict would be more tense - and of course they were right, as producer I should have seen this! I added a load of budget and the players each got two cards, with Dan getting an additional one for her Engineering trait. But we also had Roy's character give a card to me for his recklessness. In the end I won on a tie. We decided no-one got hurt, but they lost the Plutonium.)

Scene 11 -

A large meeting/court room. Some top military-looking types sit at one table. Delta Team are at another, looking wit barely repressed anger a third table, which has Crane, Murphy, Roy and Eli at it, with an empty chair.

A cut to Dan, elsewhere, tapping at a computer hurriedly.

Back to the court room. One of the top men is droning on about the importance of protocol and how serious this matter is. Then a prosecutor stands up and activates a screen on the wall. Just as he's speaking Dan enters the room and quickly takes her seat, to glowers from Crane.

The prosecutor continues, the screen starts showing a mission log for the rescue. "As we can see, Alpha Team were clearly out of their desginated rescue zone, straying into Sector..."

He pauses, the screen is showing that the rescue took place in Sector 13 (though we know it was Sector 14). There is uproar in the room. Eli and Roy look confused at Dan, who sits there trying to look neutral.

A judge figure calls for silence. "Obviously this has been bought before me under false pretences. The case is dismissed."

People begin to file out. As Delta Team pass the protagonists Dawkins issues a threat. "I'm going to find out what happened here, and then you'll pay."

(No actual conflict here, we just came up with the idea. Obviously Alpha team couldn't actually be shut down, so we needed a way for them to get out of it. The indication is that Dan falsified the records somehow. This cleverly ties into the next episode, which is a spotlight on Dan. Her issue was her reliance on control and protocol, and now she's broken the rules. That sounds good material for a spotlight.)

Next Time on Galaxy's Edge

Roy in a bar, arm-wrestling Rodruigez from Delta Team.
Eli standing over a patient, hands on head, a look of panic on his face.
Dan face to face with... herself! "I told you not to contact me." says one of the two Dans.

(Good moments there. One of Dan's contacts was a sibling, she decided to make it an identical twin here, as the spotlight is on her next episode. Eli gets his spotlight the episode after that, so perhaps losing a patient could be a trigger for something big. Roy meanwhile has a slower build up, so he's got a few episodes in the background building his hatred of Delta Team whilst increasing his self destruction).
Simon Crowe


So how did the game play?

Kate, who doesn't roleplay as much as the rest of us, said she liked that you were narrating a story rather than trying to act out all conversations in full whilst in character (as you would do in other games). We generally glossed over conversations, except for some choices phrases. This seemed to be a good idea as the players already have a lot to do coming up with story ideas, snappy in-character dialogue isn't easy.

Rich expressed his dislike at being told. "It's your scene, what happens?" as it feels rather like you are put on the spot. I see his point, especially early on where you're not sure where the episode is going. By the end though there was so much discussion between everyone of scenes that this issues is probably reduced.

I enjoyed it, looking back it made a fairly decent story. Rules wise we occasionally struggled over conflicts and issues, but it all worked out. The game took about 5 hours including both creation and episode, which seemed perfect.

The fan-mail was the biggest rules sticking point. The players were reluctant to hand it out. Trouble was there was so much discussion that it was hard to pick out what was worthy of an award. There were a handful of ideas that I thought worthy, mostly when someone came up with an idea that I thought would make for a great story, but as producer I'm not supposed to award fan mail (maybe I should have ignored this rule). Then again, I didn't spend all of my budget (having 2 points left), so if more fan mail had been awarded the players might have easily passed the last major conflict (saving the mining ship). It all seemed to work out in the end, but there was a feeling that we had played it slightly wrong.

You might note that we merged the pilot episode with the first episode of the series, I was a bit unclear on the idea of the pilot I suppose. I understand it in terms of a TV show, but for an RPG it was a little weird. Then again, as this was a one-off session it doesn't really matter.

But it was only a first game, and we're used to far more traditional RPGs, so mistakes are expected.
Simon Crowe