Let’s put up another TV show

After having played Primetime Adventures (the 2nd edition, the one with the blue cover) a while ago … looking up when that was … wait now, that’s two and a half years ago? Anyway, here is the link to the old stuff if you want it … okay, let’s restart this:
Ever since I’ve been a player in a game of Primetime Adventures I wanted to play it again. I finally realized that the only way to do it any time soon will be to run it for others. I’ve for a while being on a quest to learn to run games for others. I’m slowly gaining inside into my own ways and needs when doing so – as well as a little more confidence in myself and more than a little confidence in the others sharing the table with me. So I put out a request for players in the Spelens Hus corner of Ron’s Discord server.
I ended up with the same group that played Trollbabe with me which felt nice and encouraging.
At this point in time we have had our initial session where I’ve been trying to explain the basics of the game to everybody and they got to propose what TV series they think is missing among all the ones out there. I thought I would simply pick one of the ideas and run with it but in the end combined a couple of things that seemed promising to me. After that everybody made their characters and we called it a day. Somebody at the end of the session mentioned a show they thought was reminiscent of what we were planning to do. Being me (TV? No time, no interest.) I had no clue what he was talking about. Well, I looked it up and had a moment of “you have to be kidding me, how am I supposed to not accidentally copying that”. For starters, me the Producer has decided: We will not have Norse mythology (being tired of any TV/film adaption of that anyway and I don’t even watch those things, just hear about them) and avoid Climate change as a plot device too. The later one may prove to be difficult in a contemporary setting, but there are no plans to make it a prominent feature.
I had two weeks to come up with enough material and backdrop to enable me to start us on the pilot episode. Play is slow, due to me still easily tiring when having to be on constant high alert. Also because that seems to be the kind of play best suited for us if I’m running the game. After everybody had the possibility to request one scene we realized two things. One: We want to continue the pilot into a second session. Two: I seem to have picked up enough of what was provided to grasp what we want our show to be like. This resulted in the “executive decision” to make the pilot part of the season. The only change that happened was that one of the players rewrote their character somewhat – which is an option the game provides after one has played the pilot episode. I like sticking to the rules as written as much as possible, but I really did not see any reason why he should wait for the second half of the pilot. Also, as everything went so smooth and nice I proposed we try playing every week, we’ll see how that goes.
What you are going to see? Oh, you know, it’s just some classic coming of age story, nothing fancy, set in northern Sweden, so far I found most of my inspirational pictures in Jämtland. Not so far west that it would put us into the Fjäll, because I don’t know enough about Sami culture, but adjacent. Seasoned to taste with a sprinkle of “mythology” and a drop of “potential clash between nature and human industriousness”. Especially as we recently had a lot of talk about the potential of mining rare earth elements in this country. All of which might not come into play during the pilot, I do like to take things slow and up there it still is very much winter (I also like keeping seasons close to what is happening out there in reality).

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24 responses to “Let’s put up another TV show”

  1. Watching this it’s interesting to think about how Primetime Adventures and a lot of other games got connected with this idea of (1) the concensus play where we all throw out ideas and no-one really owns anything and no play really ever exists (at least that my feeling of it) and (2) this focus on conflict conflict conflict and if not pre-scripting what a scene was about and what conflict we all worked towards. I never understood why that way of play became such a big thing, and maybe it’s not that important to dive into the why’s and instead focus on how good functioning use of the medium can be.
    A joy to watch! Just the ease and light touch, no force, no diving straight into conflict mode but then no staring away from it when it comes up naturally in play. Just really functioning and relaxed play! I really enjoyed this and looking forward to the next half!

    • Hi Christoffer,

      I think that at least partially, the abuse in the usage of conflicts may have come from the discussions on the importance of conflict at the Forge (Matt, the designer, was there). Matt may have taken it a bit too much to heart. You can see it in such statements as the following in 2nd ed of PtA (page 28):

      “Likewise, if a scene continues along with no sign of conflict in sight, it’s the producer’s job to narrate events that promote conflict, and then to bring the conflict into play.”

      That statement, if taken in a chill way, is not problematic, but if taken literally and in extremis, you end up with a GM sweating and trying desperately to bring a scene to conflict point “because there has to be a conflict” instead of just letting the scene develop naturally and identifying conflict when and if it occurs, without undue stress.

      Another potentially problematic point in PtA is the Agenda and the Stakes. The latter, in the text, refer to setting the consequences of conflict when it occurs during a scene. But for some reason, it seems that people have confused it for the Agenda during scene creation, leading to creating explicit conflicts (and sometimes negotiating consequences!) even before the scene starts. As for the Agenda, it veers a but too much into stating a priori what the potential scene conflict is, while I think that it would have been better to call it something else and let it simply be about what the characters are doing at the start of a scene. Players would then very naturally start scenes with potential for conflict but without any pressure (and indeed forcing) a conflict into it right from the start.

    • Interestingly my attention is attracted to the same phenomena.

      Helma you didn’t run into conflict mode at the first scene. It speaks to my experience of the Clay That Woke where I got no Inflexions during the whole first session. The variable at work here, I think, is the quantity and quality of fictional content produced (or not produced) related to the conflict.

      You can have a very conflict right at the beginning of the first scene – if all the backstory, fictional elements, fictional context and NPC interests are clearly informing us that there is an uncertainty of outcome when a character does something. But if everyone is still trying to get sense of the social environment and positioning in the fiction, rushing toward the conflict will not help creating those elements – it’s like running a hamster wheel in emptiness.

      I’m pleased to see Helma not falling into that trap!

    • What trap? I was lucky to meet the right people when I started playing, had that not been the case I would not be a player today. By now I have a little experience and that means I have an idea what a good game is like for me.
      In my eyes there is a big difference between rules and GM-advice. I’ll try my best to stick to (my understanding) of the rules in a game that I decide to play. At least for the moment, games that need a fire ax approach are not something I am considering to run. I might make minor changes though, like not prompting for Focus but prompting for Characters present in a Scene request. I might let things slip a little during the first sessions , like the Producer being the one narrating the beginning of a scene, to let everybody ease into play. I might ponder changes to the rules for “next time”, like having a starting Audience pool of 1 point per Protagonist, to balance the fact that I will not push for conflicts during the Pilot episode.
      Now to the second part of this, following GM advice in my eyes is not mandatory, it is voluntary.That kind of advice reflects at best the authors own point of view concerning the person who runs a game. Either born from their play experiences or, as Pedro points out, by what happens in their environment at the time they write their game. I do spend time on reading and pondering the advice before launching into play. But what I do at the table is a consequence of me playing in a different time and a different environment.
      Concerning Agenda, which is part of a Scene request, and Stakes, which is part of a conflict setup. The meaning of these words has gone through some evolution since the game was written, but I found the description of what they are for sufficient to explain what we should have in place before I start a scene or we all draw cards and launch into conflict resolution. How good I’m at explaining – well, that’s an entirely different point.

  2. My previous comment had more but I think it’s worth its own thread.

    I’m interested into two things :
    – What did players (Helma, Ron, the others) enjoyed, subjectively, during the session, skill-wise? What things did they specially appreciated that were done by the other players and that created some form of engagement into the content for them?
    – Is there any moment where someone was surprised by him/herself, like “I did that, I didn’t anticipate that I would, and I enjoyed it” ?

    In any kind of sport, for instance chess, I think we would talk of “a good move”, or “beautiful move”.

    • I think we can’t talk about those moments without thinking about the qualities and rules-in-action regarding all of the experience, meaning, its baseline or basics. The moments or notable inputs/responses don’t happen in a void, or in an ongoing context of zilchplay, or because Mr. Brilliant bided his time and delivered his perfect speech or applied the system’s killer app.

      So, given an understanding of the baseline and taking all the interactions and development into account, I can say what put this session over the top for me: when Emil provided his character Rune with a positive, personal side, in wanting to get out of being the constant trouble-maker and into learning music.

    • Yes, that’s what I had in mind. Not “brilliant inspiration”, but just use of of the system and “doing its job”, exercising its authority. It could be something that appear to be a trivial thing, not the “oh what incredible twist!” thing, but just something memorable that elevated self-engagement in the game.

      Your example is excellent!

    • To try and answer Greg’s questions(s): For me it is how we develop as a group, support each other, listen to each other, enjoy each others contributions, get carried away into happy table talk and seamless getting back into play again. A feeling of comfort and trust that is really important to me.
      Surprise moment: How I handled Daniels (he is the player of Isabella) scene request in the second session. He launched into narration and play with Emil (Runes player) and I decided to not interrupt and “correct” this – setting the scene is the Producer’s task – on a whim. Instead I provided what I had in mind through little “interruptions” providing environmental descriptions in as unobtrusive way as I could. I did enjoy it thoroughly but was astonished that I could pull it of without any problems. Seems I’ve grown a lot since I started playing.
      Another surprise: realizing I had an image for the Personal set of Wille (Ron’s protagonist), but my mental picture was taken in the wrong season. Even there, though it took me a second or two, I was able to handle it. Both of these somehow resulted in me feeling rather happy and pleased with myself.

  3. Primetime Adventures is one of many games which I have never played, and the closest I ever came to playing it was farcical- I was accused of being a sockpuppet on Google+, the person whose sockpuppet I was accused of being showed up and joked that this was all part of a Primetime Adventures game he was prepping, and now I fully get the joke.

    The impression I had of it at the time (first half of the 2010s) was that it was in a category with My Life With Master, Polaris, or The Mountain Witch- games that had little hype but would emerge suddenly and intrigue me, before I concluded that it would be too difficult to actually play them given the lack of hype online and the circumstances of getting people to play games in person. I honestly found them a little intimidating- “this seems like it surely must demand a lot of me”- or so I believe in retrospect.

    So it’s really good to see actual play and have all that mystification torn away. This is a game, and not the phantasm I’d built up, and I understand better that this is something I could play without anxiety.

    • First and foremost, thank you Effy for being my sounding board and mentor for this “Trying to GM Primetime Adventures” journey. To everybody else who never has run a game and doesn’t know if they will ever dare, I warmly recommend to reach out to somebody experienced whose posts vibe with you and ask them if they would mind to be there for you for a while. I needed a little push both to try running a game and to look for help when I needed it, let me be the one who gives you that push.
      Second, you saying that we were able to demystify this game for you. That makes me very happy. An anecdote for an anecdote: Three years ago, during “real” game (meaning people stuck to it and we finished playing it) Ron asked if recording and publishing play would be okay. We were a whole different group then and playing Runequest (2nd edition I think people call it). I didn’t know a thing about role playing, conventions, expectations about how to behave, nothing, and I only very slowly started to grasp who Ron was to others, to me he was “the person who introduced me to this fun new experience”. I’m not a public person (to put it mildly) but in the end I thought, maybe seeing me just play as good as I know (without knowing all the history, the unspoken rules and expectations) can encourage others to try it too, so I said yes.
      While I still don’t like the “publicity” I know a little bit more today, I learned a lot from Ron’s classes and from playing with a lot of different people but I still hope that, when you see me play, you see that it isn’t complicated to play those games.
      Oh, and by the way, Mountain Witch is a great game too,I think you should give it a try, but I have to admit, so far I only experienced it as a player.

    • For the next session, I’ll draw a schematic of resolution and narration on the whiteboard, with something like this.

      Note as well that when more than one player is involved, they draw against the Producer, never against one another.

    • I am really appreciating this play. Not much to add other than I am delighted by the way conflicts arise naturally and are never looked for. I have been playing some pretty intense sessions for a while, and this has got me reflecting. I wonder when I push for conflict. I wonder when I get antsy and start searching for someone to kill or a bomb to drop.

    • Some quick corrections to the schematics:
      The text about ties in the Narration box should be in the Resolution box.
      For Narration there are no ties, cards of the same value are ranked hearts > diamonds > clubs > spades.
      Narration goes to the player as he has a red 10 while the producer has a black.

  4. It may seem odd from the author of “get to the Bangs!” but I think you are very much on the right track wth these musings. I’ll have to address this in some detail, especially given what I’ve learned from teaching Situation and Story twice.

    Also, in reference to my rules-reference comment above, Helma pointed out that I’d screwed it up! That diagram isn’t correct. Since we’re playing tonight, I’ll redesign a proper version and post it when I get the chance.

    • I’m about to start a game of Legendary Lives up. I’m the GM. I’m going to focus on playing to realize that conflict has arisen rather than seeking it out/pushing for it. This seems very important. I think I did well in my game of Sorcerer but I wasn’t thinking about it actively, and this time it will be my number one priority. I’ll make an effort to reflect here/in a post on how it goes…

  5. We are now half way into the season and I guess it’s time for the Producer to speak a little more about the series and related things.
    First and foremost, thanks to everybody for your kind words and to the Actors for being a great and supportive group. The decision for me to lead a game will probably always come out of the feeling that others should have the possibility to be players too. Playing just one protagonist / character is where I feel most comfortable. That you all seem to enjoy my way of getting the leadership role in line with my own abilities and preferences shows me, and hopefully others, that there is no one right way to do that and that you do not have to do it perfectly. Most important, you do not have to be a story teller or entertainer, on the contrary.
    Second, the story developed into directions I’d never even thought of but to my surprise my little northern Swedish town and it’s citizen are doing just fine, I just have to check in once a week to see how everybody is doing, how the weather changes and what is happening in the environment independently of what the protagonists may be up to. Even the inspirational pictures I did choose before we started playing do their job, so far I haven’t felt the urge to look for more or others. During play I only have to handle the individual responses to what happens in the scenes to update life for everybody to now.
    Which brings me to my third point, the curse of real life interference. Production has been excruciatingly slow. We had long breaks (2-3 weeks), that were not always planned, due to real life interference. I’ve become better at handling it but I’m certain it does impact play. Especially my initial scenes for a given episode sometimes to me seem not as rooted in previous play as I would like them. The reason for that is me not being able to properly remember the last session and my notes being sketchy due to tiredness. But I’ve accepted by now that this seems to be something that only bothers me so I try to live with it. What I find really positive and assuring at this point is that our relatively short sessions, we usually play for about two to two and a half hours, are resulting in good and solid Episodes whose content counts, it seems to me just right, not to much fluff and not to little impact.
    Anyway, next Episode will be our first “Spotlight Episode”, meaning one of the protagonists will become the center of the story for that episode. I really look forward to that. I spend some time rereading the rules, a couple of them are only relevant in connection to Spotlight Episodes and also I needed a reminder of what actually is written so I don’t unintentionally change or ignore rules just because I don’t remember them.
    Last but not least, I start to have a list of changes to the rules I will make before running Primetime Adventures again. Some of them general, some of them connected to how I run the game. I may write more about that (if I don’t forget) when we have finished our game.

  6. I watched both halves of the pilot this week and really enjoyed everybody’s play. With two new games starting recently, I’ve had beginnings on my mind. A thing I loved to observe here is your group’s transition from tentative half-play to full-on action. In the first couple of scenes, it was like hearing the symphony tune up – everyone’s getting used to the procedure for setting scenes; Daniel goes for a conflict (if I remember correctly, between Isabella and the musicians) that doesn’t quite click, and Helma has to do a bit of thinking about exactly what shape this conflict takes, or if there even is one.

    However, by the time the second round of scenes begins, everyone’s much more alert. It felt like the symphony played their first, big chord when Daniel set the scene with Isabella ambushing Wille in the coatroom, without any prompting, just because that’s what his character would do. You can see Isabella’s invitation to skiing take Ron by surprise, and then a few moments later Helma is jumping in with impromptu dialogue from Wille’s mother, and from that point on everyone’s responding to each other’s authoritative input without any prompting. It’s really wonderful to see that moment of blossoming.

    (Also, thanks Helma for sharing everyone’s first names – definitely makes it easier to discuss the game.)

    • Thank you Noah for your thoughtful comment. I enjoyed it very much, especially the musical parallel. I think it always takes a while before a group finds its pace with a new game. One thing I take with me from this experience is that I want to start playing the same game in the same “position” – as a player amongst others or as “the leader of the pack”, just to see if it will make a difference in how fast we are picking up on the game and how hard it is for me to fill my position (especially when running games).
      I like it very much when we all together figure out how a specific game works. It really has it’s sweet moments too and for me it establishes an amount of trust and common ground that I don’t think is easy to achieve without this moments of collective learning.

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