The show must go on

We have now played our 3rd Episode and it was absolutely fantastic. That is if you sat at the table at the time. I am rather happy that I’m only the Producer, neither the director nor the cutter of this series. How our enthusiasm translates to the screen is something you have to decide for your own. But I really hope it does.

(See Let’s put up another TV show for the first post about this game.) As you can see from the diagram we are now more than halfway through the season and the pace is certainly picking up. From now on there will be one protagonist in the center of each Episode. I really enjoy how the outcomes of conflicts and things that have been said and done in earlier episodes influence what is happening now. This game really encourages all around the table to develop their TV series by contributing, listening to each other, and reincorporating what happened into their narration and new scene requests. When we call a conflict and the stakes are announced those are things that count. They will influence the future of everybody involved.
Keep in mind that a conflict doesn’t mean players are up against each other when drawing cards. When a conflict is declared a player describes what’s at stakes for their protagonists. The cards determine whether that will be part of the outcome of the conflict or not. For example:
Rune and Manne (one of the support cast) are in a conflict, Isabella is in the scene too as are a couple other support cast. Runes player declares what’s at stakes for Rune, Isabellas player is free to declare something that is at stakes for her or to say there is nothing at stakes for her in this situation. Important, while I as the producer will draw cards too I can not declare any stakes for Manne or anybody else! Ignoring the details, for example others around the table may draw cards too and support whatever/whomever they like, the cards drawn for the different stakes are separately compared to the cards drawn by the producer. The results can be any combination of none of the protagonists have things going their way, one of them will have things going their way or nobody will get what they hoped for. Whoever then has to do the narration may need a break to figure out how that has happened. As you can see there is no way a single person can steer “the story” in a certain direction or predict what is going to happen. This is one of the reasons why I do like the game so much.
We do have a relatively small cast, it just so happened. In theory both the producer and the players can request new cast members to appear when requesting a scene. The producer can have cast members appear in scenes unannounced due to things happening of screen. Despite that we so far have mainly seen the protagonists Connections acting as supporting cast. Nobody seems to feel the need for more people out front. Instead everybody happily tries to figure out what happens to protagonists and other cast members due to unexpected events and developments.

For this Episode we were joined by some guests and that really made the show better, so I hope they’ll stay for the rest of the series. The game actually provides tools to let Audience members participate in play. It’s just a small paragraph at the very end of the appendices, easily missed if you don’t look for it. Audience members can request scenes and give, receive and use Fan mail. In conflicts they get one card (covered) and have to decide what stake they want to support/oppose before turning it around. It didn’t take our guests long to figure out what is going on in the series and they really contributed to an extraordinary Spotlight episode for Rune.

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9 responses to “The show must go on”

  1. Episode 4 is now added to the playlist; go directly to it if you’d like here. This is Wille’s Spotlight episode, and the next, Isabella’s Spotlight, will be the season finale.

  2. Closing the books

    Now the season is over – and I never planned this show to have more than one season – it is time to see how it went.
    So the premise of the show and what we made of it, I think we did really well all considered. As a group I’d say we developed a lot during this game. It has been really great from my perspective. I knew from the game we played before (Trollbabe) the others would give me room to think and get my feet back under me if I needed it and it worked as well now as it did then. In fact, at this point it is not only me getting special consideration, we give each other room. Suggestions are just that, and often only offered when asked for, otherwise, at our table, you get time to think. We transition from “table talk” to play and back without missing a beat and we are supportive of each other at all times. Most of all, even if our roles in a given game are different we are equals around the table, nobody is there to mess with others authorities or to lecture them or to tell them the “best story ever”. Not that we don’t have good days and less good days, but in the end things work out. We listen to each other and we take what we hear into account. Which isn’t very easy if “real life” presents you with 2-3 week breaks between episodes.

    Am I as a Producer willing to invest into another show? Yes, certainly, but …
    I will have to work on my situation skills. I did know that’s one of my weak points before but this game made it very obvious for me. I do have difficulties to imagine an overarching concept of opposition or adversity. When I do at least have an embryo of that I have difficulties to bring it into play naturally. That puts a lot of strain onto the other players who in essence have to take over part of what would be my job.
    Something else, I do have to have an eye out when it comes to players awarding fan mail. Just reminding them that there is a stock of fan mail to take and give but also that there are different kinds of great play to be honored with an outpour of fan mail.

    Which brings me to the more technical aspects. I plan to change some rules for the next time I run this game. More specific, the rules for Budget and Fan mail.
    – The Budget for the episodes is to big. The formula for calculating it is twice everybody’s Screen presence plus an additional tree tokens. The first game I’d been a player in had more conflicts than this one but I think even then the Producer never was without some Budget left. When playing the way we did, with approximately 3-5 conflicts per session, the situation is even worse. It easily leads to the Producer spending an excessive amount on cards. So, next game around the plus three tokens will not happen. If that doesn’t help I’ll try “everybody’s screen presence plus three” (no multiplier). Maybe before then I’ve had time to take the Numeracy class and can make a more well grounded decision to archive what I want, we’ll see. Part of the problem is that a lot of the tokens will go back into the Budget, so “money” will never be scarce, not even if all protagonists have a Screen presence of one and you constantly spend 3-5 tokens in a conflict.
    – Fan mail at the start of an Episode. Not forcing conflicts means there may not be any Fan mail to give for a considerable amount of time. In the end people will rightfully send Fan mail retroactively – and I really can’t blame them. Not doing so violates the whole point of giving it. So, next time around I’ll start each Episode with one Fan mail token per player available to give out.
    – I vaguely remember that in the Primetime Adventure game before this our Producer got narration rights (the highest value card) very frequently and that I wondered if that is something to “correct” but this time narration rights were more equally distributed so that first experience wasn’t part of a pattern. Which means, I am not going to change anything about that and I’m happy I don’t feel I have to.

    Last but not least, a big thank you to Ron who both recorded and edited play, and I can’t believe that was easy given how lively we can get sometimes.

    • I think you’re completely on-target regarding the math of the game system. Somewhere along the way, either the author or his associates developed some sort of fear about running out of Budget, as if it were a problem. I suspect it’s related to the contemporary fear & trembling about losing pool dice in The Pool.

  3. I’ve been thinking about when and why conflicts come about in my play a lot recently. I’ve realized that I have a tendency to jump to violence or other shocking events when I feel my faith in our ability to keep this thing interesting wearing thing. Suddenly, one of my NPCs (or my player character) is doing something shocking, and later on I’m left wishing I would’ve had the guts to relax and wait. And I’ve been pushing myself to have more faith and take scenes without inherent conflict more seriously.
    I’ve noticed that if I push just a little bit through the terror of “what if nothing happens?” that everything falls into place. Sure, Exciting Conflicts! will happen eventually, but I’m talking about strong social interactions between characters emerging. Watching a few sessions of this game really pushed this to the top of my desires for roleplaying skill improvement. I am interested in hearing any reflections you have on how you felt while playing.

    • (specifically related to “pacing” or “intensity”, or anything other emergent properties of how characters were played)

    • I had a tougher time playing Wille regarding this exact variable. One of the tenets we agreed upon initially, not of my suggestion, was “ancient dark powers,” and as it turned out, I was the only person who used it for my character … so instead of one of three, Wille was the odd man out with his mystic-magical content. It left me with too much gun relative to the others and also, bluntly, feeling as if I’d been bait-and-switched.

      I’m not sure it worked out too well. Maybe it turned out well as resulting content, but not as well in terms of enjoying play. I often found myself “fighting my own character sheet” instead of interacting with others … too much conflict and not enough interaction as just a guy. I wouldn’t have minded less conflict-heavy moments, or at least, not as focused.

      Here’s another point: that the game text and even design never really gelled. Basically, you need conflicts in this system, as they reduce the Budget, get fanmail going, and generate rising action. The text really hypes conflicts to be about protagonist issues … but at the same time, you’re supposed to reduce the issues’ presence to minimum at Screen Presence 1, and to invoke them variably or non-consequentially at Screen Presence 2. It’s a mixed message, and given Wille’s over-amped Trait (the magic) and fairly specific issue (affection), I tried to play in a relaxed way to discover conflicts as we went, but had a tough time of it in most of the episodes.

    • As far as I’m concerned, letting things take their time and not pushing for conflicts simply is my way of playing. I don’t really plan for it. Also, I really like it if conflicts are more of the social kind, giving the characters in the game time to develop a personality.
      Actually, pushing or opening up for conflict where it would be appropriate and the situation fairly begs for it is my weak point. I really have to work on that.

  4. I was interested in Daniel’s reflections on playing Primetime Adventures: audio file here. [edited – now public access]

    He had a lot on his mind! Including listening to vs. listening for, vulnerability of NPCs (whether in Traits or not), assumed fallacious notions of narration, the concept of “character concept,” whether Traits might shift in and out of card-gaining status, and more.

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