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Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: lumpley on August 27, 2004, 06:26:20 AM
I've been telling and telling this story.  Usually I save it for the end of my GenCon story telling because it's so good.  I guess I'm going to lead with it here for the same reason.


It's Saturday.  We've been getting to know each other for a few intense days now, and we've been talking some serious game.  How many of us are there, 25?  35?  But this is in Luke's room after dinner and we're a subset, 10 I think.  Conversation and Ron's telling us about his BDSM-themed PTA game.  Matt Wilson says that all the PTA games yet have been HBO-rated and beyond, nothing even suitable for plain cable.

We split in half.  One group stays in the front room to play Pagoda, the other goes into the back to play PTA.  Ron, Alexander, Gordon, Calder, me.  We're pitching shows to each other and then, "let's play a kids' show!"  Bang! and it's Moose in the City, on account of the moose on Calder's shirt, and the story is that Moose has moved to the city and he's trying to make his way.  He temps for the horses who pull the carriages in central park when they get sick.  He has friends - a businesswoman, a little boy, a little girl - and after we've decided who his friends are we choose who plays them.  I play the little boy.

Calder was always going to play the moose.  I tell this story and my audience invariably says "oh, he was like: 'Moose. Mine.'" but no, we were like "Moose. Calder's." and he was like "oh, okay."  Calder as Moose talks kind of slow and low and folksy and friendly.

Dang this is a long story.  I'm ordering it in my head and there's a ton to tell before I even start.

So now that we've divvied the characters we create them.  My boy's issue is that he doesn't really get how to communicate with other kids, his edge is that he draws well, his connection is I forget.  Everybody else is doing the same for their characters.  Ron the producer says "okay, Screen Presence.  Let's go ahead and pretend we're a regular gaming group, we're going to play this again, and so let's plot out Screen Presence for 5 episodes."  Which we do.

Screen Presence is genius!

We look over our little chart: whose issues we're confronting in which episodes.  Ron says, "well, which one looks fun to play?"  It's no real question.  Obviously the third one of the five, the middle episode of the season, the one where Moose's Screen Presence is 3.  So that's the episode.

Now, I'd love to hear from my fellow players, but knowing my Screen Presence - not only for this episode, but for every past and future episode too - was a thing of pure and perfect beauty.  It was 1.  Last episode it was 3.  That means: the audience knows my character, gets his issue in full, likes him, and during this episode my job through him is to watch, support, and maybe one time contribute just the right thing.  The Screen Presence rules tell me what the group expects of me right now and give me what I need to fulfill their expectations.  Matt! I'd shake your hand again if you were here.

Gordon's and Alexander's characters, the businesswoman friend and the little girl respectively, both have a 2, with their big episodes yet to come.  Thus, during this session they should each get a subplot that'll contribute to their conflict's buildup.  

And of course this is Moose's big episode.

So Ron opens the first scene.  Moose is getting his mail - Calder pantomimes opening it with his mouth - and he's got a job offer!  The carriage company is offering him a full-time gig!  He's getting more and more excited as he reads about the benefits and stuff, until he comes to: the dress code.

Ron, tell us the line from the dress code?

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 27, 2004, 06:56:25 AM

I've been trying to draft my actual play post for this game already, but Vincent beat me to it - and fortunately, too, because it's too big for one person. By "big" I mean important. I hope it is not going to be embarassing to my fellow players to say that I consider all of you potential life-long friends because of our experience with Primetime Adventures. I would literally bring a major life/crisis problem of mine to you for counsel, and if you did the same, I'd do anything I could to help.

Before harpooning the sea mammal that Vincent so nicely brought the boat alongside, I'll tell you a bit more. Matt Wilson (the author of PTA) had already run a demo for me and a few others at the booth, and he showed us how Screen Presence gets distributed across five or nine episodes before you play. This is critical - you do not "just play an episode" of PTA ... even if you do play a single episode and that's all, it is always in the context of the season Screen Presence dynamics as understood by the entire group.

If you have SP 1 in an episode, not only are you obliged to play a supportive cameo (albeit possibly significant) role, but you only get a base 1 die to roll in conflicts. SP 2 = 2 dice, SP 3 = 3 dice.

(more dice are gained by spending fan mail, but more on that later)

Note also that every character has an Issue, which is best understood as why he or she is a protagonist in the show at all.

Characters and their issues:

The Moose (who everyone in the show calls "Moose" just as if it were a nickname) is actually a moose, a quadrupedal antlered mammal, who's moved to the city and is now a working stiff. We decided that he can do "hands" things and is occasionally upright, say while he's making a bowl of cereal or something, but usually is on all fours. Naturally, everyone knows he's a moose but it is not considered weird or anything. No other animals in the city are anthropomorphic.

Moose's issue is Identity: can he find a successful career and city-lifestyle (with all of its aggravations), and still keep the core of why he's a neat person? We wanted the show to illustrate to kids that a city is a very demanding place to live, and that one needed to learn many skills as well as to keep oneself whole and safe - but also that good people can be found too. His connection is Ned (a carriage driver that we decided he had a cool experience with in episode #1), and his edge is "woodsy wisdom."

Jimmy (played by Vincent) is a neighborhood kid, whose issue is Communication: can he learn that others have stuff to teach him? Can he express himself for content rather than for attention? I can't recall his connection, and we might not have used it in play; his edge is Drawing.

The little girl (played by Alexander, so Alex, remind me of her name) is another neighborhood kid, unrelated to Jimmy, whose issue is Self-Esteem - she's so cheerful that others get help from her all the time, but doesn't get help herself. Her connection is her mother, who during play we found out is going through a heavy divorce (my contribution).

Susan (played by Gordon) is the career woman whose apartment is fairly near Moose's, just down the hall in the building. Her issue is Shame (I'm paraphrasing), as she keeps her high-powered time-eating exec life separate from her personal one and has adopted a kind of fake persona at the office. Her connection is her rival at the office, whom later in the game I named Bryce. Her edge is "money matters."

I want Gordon and Alexander to post about playing characters with Screen Presence 2, because that's the tricky role - either you're starting a new story arc for your character for a later season, or running a fun sub-plot that means something but doesn't have to go anywhere, or you're probably setting up very strongly for your own climactic episode for the current season.

In this episode, Susan has a sub-plot about her rivalry, and the little girl has one in which the audience discovers the divorce (neither of these were pre-set before play).

Anyway, so there Moose is, reading his mail, and ecstatic about landing the job, knowing that his connection Ned (a carriage driver) will be excited to work with him ...

... and the dress code says, among other things like keeping one's hooves shined and similar, "No horns, antlers, tusks, excrescences, or other facial appurtenances are permitted."

Susan is too busy to talk to Moose when he tries to bring up the topic casually to her, as Bryce (the prick) has just monkeyed with her annual report papers.

Calder or Vincent, do you want to describe the scene in the park? This was our first big use of the dice, I think.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: lumpley on August 27, 2004, 12:52:12 PM
I don't really remember the meat of that scene, except that my little guy got hit in the head with a basketball!  So Calder, Alexander, Gordon?

And I gotta say:
Quote from: Ron
I hope it is not going to be embarassing to my fellow players to say that I consider all of you potential life-long friends because of our experience with Primetime Adventures.
Embarassing or not, I was telling Meg the same thing just last night.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Lxndr on August 27, 2004, 07:44:57 PM
I had a blast with this game; definitely one of the more pivotal emotional moments of the convention.  I'm not embarassed by Ron's comment about considering us life-long friends, and while I hadn't examined it that far yet m'self, I have to agree with his assessment.  I'm fairly convinced the game (and the whole confab the next night after the con was officially over) has been one of the biggest contributions to my spiritual growth in quite a while.  
I've talked about this game with some people now that I've got back, probably more than I've talked about most of the convention, and although the whole "a moose?" bit seems to be off-putting, there's no mistaking how much I loved playing it, to the point that this is the game I want to try with my gaming group next.

Before going any further, and before I forget, the girl I played was Wendy.  Wendy's episode where her Screen Presence would be 3 was going to come in the immediate next episode, which we kept in mind just as much as we did the fact that Jim/Jimmy's came the episode before.  I can't remember Jimmy's connection either, but some part of me wants to say it was an adult figure - a teacher, perhaps?  I know for a fact the connection did not show up in this episode.

(I should point out at this point, as I found out later while reading the book in prep for running it back home, that PTA characters officially get five edges and connections in combination, 2 of one and 3 of the other; we only did one of each - for reasons I'm not entirely sure; however, with only one episode and what we wanted to do, any more would likely have diluted the experience, so I'm glad we went that route for Moose in the City.)

The park scene involved Moose and Wendy heavily, with Jimmy there mainly as a target.  Moose had come to the park, looking forlorn and wandering, not really wanting to talk to anyone, when Wendy beckons him over and starts talking to him in an overly cheerful manner.  Moose asks Wendy about his antlers, and she gushes about them; then he asks about what she'd think if he got them, well, trimmed.  She mistakes this for a "haircut" sort of scenario (something I didn't express well to the group at first, when I talked about Moose getting "cut", but went over really well afterwards) and asks Moose what he thinks of her new haircut.  

He's complimenting Wendy's new 'do (which I imagine on screen is a minor trim, even though she's asking about it as if it was a major change) when suddenly a basketball comes rocketing out from the basketball court, heading straight towards Jimmy, who's not even noticing, busy chalk-drawing.  Moose attempts to hook it with his antlers...


Moose, of course, gets his whole three dice against... I think the budget was four dice?  Wendy tossed her 2 dice in with Moose, but Jimmy tossed his die towards getting beaned.  I don't believe Susan (or rather, Gordon) got involved.  I also think there was some fan mail tossed about, but not much, as this was before we figured out how to get more, and so we were hoarding our precious stash - I think it worked out to one fan mail die on each side.  Either way, the dice were rolled... and Moose's antlers failed him.  Spectacularly, if I recall the margin of success.  The ball hit Jimmy smack in the back of the head, and Moose's heart was crushed.

That's the heart of the scene, I think.  I can't recall exactly which scene came next, but I don't think it was the hairdresser.  (Oh god, the hairdresser... but Ron has to tell that part.)

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Matt Wilson on August 28, 2004, 05:12:05 AM
This is an awesome thread, and I'm glad to see that you guys really "got" the game from the get go. I was psyched about what you described right after playing it, but this is even cooler. I mean, it's basically my "vision" of the game, nailed straight on.

Regarding the multiple edges/connections, in demos at the con I opted for a streamlined version so that players could whip up a cast and get moving without getting hung up on "I need one more edge and can't decide what it is." Ron may have thought along those lines. But yes, you get a 3/2 or 2/3 combo of edges and connections.

I love this bit in particular:

but Jimmy tossed his die towards getting beaned.

That's really cool. Great example of the conflict rules at work. The producer is where the buck stops regarding whether or not there is a conflict, but the group in effect decides how difficult it is.

Thanks again for playing, guys. I'm really glad you liked it.

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 28, 2004, 06:58:26 AM

The conflict resolution system represents an extremely streamlined cross between Universalis and Dust Devils.

a) There's gotta be a conflict of interest in there somehow, with one player-character striving "for" something (preventing something counts)

b) That player rolls in favor of his or her character; the GM rolls against that character. This is key.

The player starts with his or her Screen Presence dice (1, 2, or 3) and can increase it with fan mail; the GM starts with one die and can increase it from a pool called the Budget (more on budget later).

c) All the other players can bring in their dice as well if they want, on either side. They are also able to spend fan mail to add dice. (Minor point: if their characters aren't in the scene, they spend fan mail for the privilege of rolling.)

The conflict in this case was not with Jimmy, who was oblivious to the basketball, but with Moose. Moose was trying to stop the basketball with his antlers. Therefore Calder had to roll in Moose's favor, no matter what, and Vincent was free to pick either Moose's side or the GM's side to add his die to.

It's hard to conceive that he wouldn't have done so in this case, but since I have observed this very issue to raise immense confusion in Universalis and The Pool (due to a common misinterpretation, in my view), I want to make it absolutely clear here: dice come into play in PTA when one player is rolling in opposition to the GM, in favor of his or her character's interest in the situation.

The Dust Devils like part comes in when the person with the highest numeral on the die is the head narrator for the resolution of that conflict. (note: success/failure is odd/even or even/odd, can't remember which, not low/high or high/low)

Anyway, what happened, system-wise? We tied. Lots. In a tie, you go to a roll-off ... and we tied again, a bunch of times. Finally I won the conflict and little Jimmy took a basketball on the back of the head, doing a dive-smear across his chalk drawing, and demonstrating that Moose's antlers were ineffective in dealing with a crisis.

This scene could have gone either way, not just theoretically, but palpably, considering the extended roll-off. It had everything to do with Moose's next actions. You see, if he had succeeded in protecting Jimmy, I could see that Calder might have gotten Moose into a militant "pro-antler" mode and entered into a workplace dispute of some kind. Or something like that.

But now ... he walks, head down, toward the salon. Calder, did you experience a similar productive-constraint sensation when this scene resolved?

After all this, it was time to get away from antlers a little bit, to let it simmer (and to give Calder a break), so the next scene was Alexander's, concerning Wendy and her mom.

This was hard, because we were all firing on all cylinders about the antlers and their various ethnic implications among others ...

("Well, antlers are good for lots of things, Jimmy," says Moose. "Hanging laundry, holding groceries, subduing rival males, stuff like that.")

... and so this was kind of a wrenching gear-switch, but Alexander did the job very well. His contribution went more toward making this all seem like a series rather than an after-school special, because it was Wendy's first 2 episode in the sequence.

Correct me if I'm mis-remembering, everyone, but I think it was:

Moose 2-1-3-1-2
Wendy 1-1-2-2-3 (classic buildup)
Jimmy 2-3-1-2-1 (can't remember about the last two, actually)
Susan 2-1-2-3-1

I'm almost certainly not 100% accurate with this, but the third episode is right, and the dynamics are right (who'd had their spotlight already, who hadn't).

Anyway, so the whole point is that Wendy has come home from the park and her mom is depressed. The conflict arises that Wendy simply wants some attention from her mom, and ... bummer ... the roll fails. This is dark! One kid slammed with a basketball, another living with someone who's almost clinically depressed, and with divorce papers on her bedside table (Wendy doesn't see them).

Still, we know that the real spotlight on this is coming up later in the season, and so the whole "ecology" of the show, as John Sayles puts it, extends beyond the borders of this one episode and across more relationships that we immediately see in it.

Anyone have any contributions about Wendy's scene? It had a quiet, moody feel for me, but somehow without losing an edge or the sense that we're saying "pay attention, kids, sometimes this grownup stuff is hard."

One last thing: in the demo that I'd played with Matt as GM earlier in the day, characters had one edge and one connection, and I just carried that over into this session without thinking about it much. In retrospect, I think that was lucky. Five traits is great for a whole season of play, but I think it would have been a little rich or crammed for single episode, and that the temptation to bring them all in would have been too strong.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Lxndr on August 28, 2004, 08:52:12 AM
I figured it was something like that - carried over from demo play.  And I agree, it was fortuitous for the Moose game, especially since we were looking for something low-impact, and dithering over 5 choices instead of 2 would have led to a much more drawn-out pre-episode process.

Also fortuitously, I have a lot of Vincent's notes, since he used my notebook.  Here's the actual orders for all the characters:

Moose:  2, 1, 3, 1, 2
Wendy: 2, 1, 2, 3, 1
Jim: 1, 3, 1, 2, 2
Susan: 2, 1, 2, 1, 3

I knew Wendy's 3 was in episode 4, and Susan's was in episode 5, but I'd forgotten the rest.  And wow, I hadn't noticed before that Jim's episode (#2) would have been very Jim-centric - everyone else had ones in that episode.  I think if we'd been planning the whole season I'd have switched Wendy's first two having noticed that, for a 1 2 2 3 1 order.  But that's neither here nor there.  I'm also wondering what sort of episode would erupt if everyone had 1s.  Would that wind up being like "Superstar" from Buffy Season 4?  But I digress.

I also have Jim's connection from these notes, since none of us could remember it:  it was his Big Brother (who didn't show up in the episode, although in retrospect having the basketball coming from the Big Brother playing on the courts would've worked for the big park scene).  I can't speak for Calder, but I know I was waiting the outcome of that extended roll-off because that was the turning point of the episode for poor Moose, and it socked me in the gut when Moose's antlers failed to save the day.  (Ron tossed a huge amount of Budget into that roll, which we joked made the Basketball one of those multiple-angles Matrix John Woo sorta scenes).

As for Wendy's big scene, I know that was scripted with an eye towards the next episode being the payoff.  I'm very happy with how I set up the scene, since I think it those few bits I put in really helped set the stage for the rest of it.  Wendy's mom is home, yet she unlocks the door herself just like she's a latch-key kid... she comes inside, takes off her shoes or whatever, and calls out to her mom, "Is there going to be dinner tonight?"  (or maybe "Did you make dinner tonight?")  The mom tells her to just make more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches... and of course, that's the last of the peanut butter.  Wendy tries to tell mom that they're out, and mom just says "put it on the list."

As a last ditch attempt to get some attention, Wendy says, "You'll never guess what happened at the park today," wanting to tell her mom about Jimmy's beaning.  That was the conflict, and even after spending fan mail dice, poor Wendy failed.  Again, I can't quite recall which players contributed dice to this scene, but I know that it wasn't just Wendy vs. the Budget.  But fortune did not favor poor Wendy, and her mother yelled at her to just go to her room and stop bothering her.  The camera goes to the mom, where we zoom into the papers she's holding in her hand: divorce papers.  (Ron admitted that if it was a success, the divorce papers would still be there, but Wendy would've wound up comforting her mom, instead of being left in the dark).  The scene closed on Wendy, her sunny disposition cracking, closing the door to her room.

I believe the order of scenes after this point was:

Hairdresser (Moose)
Susan (resolution of Bryce)
Park (Moose w/ Jimmy - this is where Gordon's unicorn was)
Moose's Apartment (Moose w/ Susan, and the kids coming in over the credits)

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 28, 2004, 10:31:48 AM

About what happens when everyone has 1's ... that's a whole thread I'm gonna start in the PTA forum, and it is a really big deal to understanding the game as a whole.

But back to our episode, I guess it's the hairdresser now, isn't it? Calder brings Moose into the salon, doing the whole casual-but-astonished eye moments as he enters what is, essentially, a whole pocket universe.

I as GM sit bolt upright. A ton of influences hit me all at once: an episode of Mod Squad I saw five minutes of back when I was maybe 10, one of the subplot-stories in the brilliant comic Hate from about seven years ago, a chapter in the Soviet SF novel This Side of Paradise, my own experiences as a longhair for most of my life ...

It's a modern hair salon, not a traditional barbershop. It's bright, trendy, shiny, hip, and scary. There are all these guys getting their hair done, and in each case, each guy's hairdresser is giving intense personal advice ("You just tell her that's not appropriate," etc). I describe this row using a swooping camera pan, imagining a Kubrick kind of set on my own as I do it.

One hairdresser finishes up, telling the customer, "It is key, it is essssential that you keep this weekly appointment so we can examine the regrowth patterns, it is crucial," etc.

Then he sees Moose. His jaw drops. It's the hairdresser's dream - his desire to cut, to trim, to truncate, and to aerodynamicize will finally be totally satisfied, if he can just get his hands and clippers onto this magnificent rack. [I did not play the hairdresser as effeminate. I played him creepy: Hannibal Lector's gainfully employed and better-coiffed younger brother.]

He swings into action. He explains that Moose will leave the salon not just with a trim or a new style, but as an Entire New You. He explains that success and all your dreams are out there waiting for the right person, and that with this New You, you will be that person. We do not just trim, my friend, we create Identity. All the while unable to keep himself from making slashing, amputating hand motions directed right at Moose's antlers. Ultimately, he tries to draw "where to cut" lines on the antlers with chalk.

Moose, understandably, tries to flee. In fact, it's about at this point during play that I realize that all four real guys in the room are staring at me, personally, in real horror.

As the role-playing turns out, Moose still has a chance, because a "treatment" is going to require extensive preparation, such as an in-house counseling session at the salon, etc. So it's not like he's in danger of getting it at the moment. But still, the other hairdresser have all started to close in, and it's getting real scary, so the question is whether he makes it out of there without a down payment or something similar (can't remember details).

If I recall correctly, by this point we'd figured out the cool rules for how fan mail interacts with the budget, and the players lost no time in hurling in tons of dice on Moose's side. He did succeed, I believe, escaping unscathed, and at that point we decided to give Susan her subplot, as Alexander outlines above.

Anyone who wasn't there, do you have any questions or observations, at this point?


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Calder_Johnson on August 28, 2004, 12:58:30 PM
Hey, folkses.  Moose here.  Sorry this took a while to actually get on the Forge, but I've been taking a vacation from my vacation.  First off, in reply to Ron's statement concerning the bonding experience and friendship-building of that play-session, I say:  Absolutely!  On that note, I hope everyone of you is doing well and life is good.  That segues nicely into what I know has already been said, but nonetheless I have to say again for my own set of reasons:  PTA is completely, supermongus brilliant!  I'm now going to have to own a copy, seeing as I'm training now to eventually become a professional mediator, and I want PTA to throw at my teachers as an amazing example of methods for consensus building that's coming from a surprising direction.  I'll talk more on that subject in some other thread, believe me!  So total kudos to PTA, it's genius.

The session we played felt vibrant, everyone consistently had an opportunity to riff off of everything else that was going on.  I clearly remember looking around that hotel room and clearly seeing that everyone was involved, and totally caught up in the scene.  There were so many moments of interaction that stick perfectly in my mind.  The conversation between Moose in Jimmy while Jimmy's drawing on the sidewalk is something I can't shake.  And I have to bring this up, because it's surreal beauty was so perfect in the moment, the unicorn missing its horn while pulling the carriage is something I can picture in complete detail, and it's a joy every time I do.

Hrm.  I could go on, but if I don't eat lunch, I'm gonna regret it later.  Thanks again, guys, for letting me be part of that bit of living art made in a hotel room.  Talk to y'all later!

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: anonymouse on August 28, 2004, 02:51:38 PM
[quote="Ron Edwards]Anyone who wasn't there, do you have any questions or observations, at this point?[/quote] this how a roleplaying session is "supposed" to go? I don't mean the procedure, I mean the obvious emotional.. don't even have the word, emotionally fulfilling maybe. I've -never- had anything even approaching this level of cool before. Not once.

If this is the kind of thing that people generally experience on a regular game-playing basis, it's making me seriously consider just dropping my attempts at the hobby altogether, cos it's obviously not working for me.

Maybe not exactly the kind of question/observation you were looking for, but reading over the thread as its developed has left me with only this. =/

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 28, 2004, 03:14:15 PM
Hi Michael,

Depends on whom you talk to. If you ask me, then I suggest that role-playing should carry all the potential power of any imaginative/creative interaction, by whatever medium.

But should the experience be a transformative blowout every time? I don't see why. Not every picture is a breathtaking masterpiece, not every song is an anthem, and so on - even when they're fun and pretty good.

My minimum is "fun and pretty good." I don't want to listen to bad songs, look at lousy pictures, or watch sucky movies, and I sure as hell don't want to participate in (i.e. help create) a crappy role-playing experience.

Once in a while, and when you're feelin' like it and moving with the material in the right way, you hit it. The sensation is the same as playing great music with others, or performing a great scene on-stage ... except that the pack of you are the performers, the authors, and audience all at once.

Our HeroQuest (then Hero Wars) game was like this, and you can read about that in the first issue of Daedalus if you'd like. I've had similar experiences with Little Fears and many other games; my own game designs are predicated on helping others reach it. But I don't think this is what a game does, per se, but rather what the practitioners do with the system in action (modified or not from the rules), much as any artist works within his or her medium, or better, instruments.

The nice thing is that instead of once in a blue moon, or happening God-knows-why, such intensity of play can become something of an artistic expectation that we start carrying for ourselves and one another in a group. It's not an expectation to get histrionic and put on funny voices. It's the expectation that we would rather touch one another's hearts than not do so, and when we can, the other person is listening.

All five of us in this instance had reached this point long ago with our respective groups, and we quickly recognized that fairly early in the session.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Caldis on August 28, 2004, 03:28:46 PM
I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of the story but since Ron has asked for questions from the outside I thought I'd speak up.  What really interests me about the story is the strong social bond you've all seemed to make through the game and I wonder about the atmosphere at the table that led to this.  

The subject matter seems to be full of contradiction.   The semi-anthropomorphic moose seems to be a set up for a comedic game yet there are deep issues being played out here.  What was going on at the table while this was happening?  Was everyone deep and intently focused on the drama of the situations or were the comedic elements being played up at all?  Ron says everyone was looking at him in horror while describing the hairdresser eyeing up his antlers, but I know that from the sound of it I would have had a hard time keeping a straight face,  a moose at a hairdressers it's hilarious.  Did this show in the atmosphere around the table?

A more specific question or maybe just comment.  You mention how others can throw their dice in to resolve conflicts it sounds like this can be any conflict whether their character is involved or not, just wanted to check that is true.  That sounds like an incredibly brilliant design idea that keeps everyone focused on what is going on.

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: lumpley on August 28, 2004, 04:06:57 PM
Caldis, I don't remember keeping a straight face once, practically.  The whole game was so funny.  The moments of tragedy, like Wendy's mom's divorce papers, and the unicorn, were surrounded and beautifully supported by hilarity.  In one scene, Moose was looking in a mirror - tipping his head to the left to see what he looks like without his left antler, tipping his head to the right to see what he looks like without his right one, Calder is acting this out with his Moose face on - and we're all falling out of our chairs.  We were gripped by the drama, sure, but it was anything but weighty.

I'll tell what happened after the hairdresser once I've got my kids to bed, unless someone else is faster!


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: lumpley on August 28, 2004, 07:42:05 PM
I have successfully parented.

So there's quite a slapstick chase in the hairdresser's, the hairdresser with chalk to mark where he's going to cut and Moose running away backward in circles, and then Moose leaps out a window to freedom.  He's decided: he's keeping his antlers.  Now consequences.  I don't think we've managed to mention yet that he's got bills and rent due, but he does, we established them in the opening scene of him opening his mail.

But next the scene where Susan gets the better of frickin' Bryce and his little scheme.  He swiped some of the papers she needs for her annual report, to make her look bad, but fortunately she's got backups.  She doesn't give frickin' Bryce - I hate him on account of working in an office, I think - anyhow she doesn't give him the comeuppance he so badly deserves.  I guess that's what episode 5 will be for.

Then back to Moose, making his way through the park with his head hanging down.  What's he gonna do about those bills and the rent?  What's he gonna do about his antlers?  Is he gonna make it in the city after all?  He looks over at a couple of horses with their carriages -

And here's Gordon putting his palm to his forehead.  "One of them has a scar," he says.  And we all go, oh no.  Oh no.

(And here we are telling the story over dinner the next night, and Ron's like, "somebody better pat Jasper on the arm and tell him it'll be okay."  Poor Jasper and his poor ripped out heart.)

After a bit we let Moose come upon my little guy Jimmy, drawing on the sidewalk as usual.

"Whatcha drawing?" says Moose.

Ron is giving me signals.  "Um," I say.  I try frantically to read Ron's mind.  He thinks I already thought of it, but I didn't.  I wonder what it could be.  "I'm drawing Moose, yes."

"And...?" Ron says.  He's trying to impress it into my brain with staring and eyebrow movements.

"And... Um?" I say.  "And me?"

Ron passes me a scap of paper with this ( drawn on it:

Oh my god, I can't even tell you!  We hand the picture around.

"But, Jimmy, you don't have antlers," Calder has Moose say.  "You're just a little person boy, not a big grown up moose."

"Yeah," I say.  I play Jimmy with big drawing hand motions, an absorbed manner, and a little matter-of-fact voice.

"But, antlers, antlers are a problem.  They're funny looking," - I know you can't imagine Calder's Moose voice but please try - "They're funny looking, they're hard to get through doorways, there aren't any rival males around here -"

"Nah," I say.

"But they only get in the way, they get tangled in clotheslines, you can't stop a basketball with them -"


"But, but.  But why did you draw antlers on yourself, Jimmy?"

"I like 'em."


I've tried four times to describe what that beat of silence was like.  No luck.

Then "oh! Well, you like them then!  Antlers!  Okay!" Moose says.  And Calder walks Moose home, swinging his head higher and smiling a little Moose smile.  


Tag!  Somebody else.  Is Gordon here?


edited by me to make Vincent's drawing visible - RE

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on August 28, 2004, 10:43:14 PM
Quote from: lumpley
Tag!  Somebody else.  Is Gordon here?

I am now . . .

Let me join in the chorus of how cool this all was, and how cool all the players were (how cool each of the people I was lucky enough to play this with are), and how simply wonderful it was to have played in this game.  Wonderful.  Full of wonder.  And laughter - to second the earler responses to that inquiry, there was plenty of comedy.

I'll also add, it wasn't always the smoothest RP experience I've ever had.  No one had the game mechanics down pat.  We struggled over what would count as a conflict, and over coming up with a particular conflict within a scene - we'd have the sense that the time was right for one, but not have a strong lead on what it should be.  But that didn't stop it from working.

There's not much more to tell of the actual story.  We can all sense this is the end of the episode, but that it needs a scene to wrap it all up.  Ron calls for a scene where Moose displays his folksy wisdom, and Calder rises to the occassion.  I'll never capture his monologue exactly (Calder, feel free to add a post if you remember a bit of it clearly), but since this seems to be the part of the session I get to type up: he's back at the mirror again, I think, and says (in low, slow, strong Moose-speech) "Well, Moose, you know, sometimes you just have to change yourself to get by in this world, and that's OK.  But sometimes, the change is just too much, and even though part of you wants to do it, you can't.  And that's OK too.  As long as you decide which it's going to be this time, it'll always be OK."

And that was the end.  Except for the going out, interrupting (rudely, oh-so rudely) Matt in the Pagoda game, and beaming thanks at him.

I remember the unicorn scene as after the antlered kid-drawing scene, and being rather hesitant about how to introduce it.  But the idea had struck me about half way through the episode, and that just seemed like the right place for it.  I wasn't sure what else was in the scene besides Moose, the unicorn, and a meaning-laden sadness - and Ron called it just right, by closing the scene just as soon as I'd introduced it.  Everything it needed to be, it was by simply existing, and I can only thank Ron for not letting me (or others) add anything else (dialogue, conflict, or whatever).

Like others have said, the screen presence sequence for each character is brilliant.  The various attributes of the character were just what was needed to guide our decisions: having an issue, a place in our own story-arc, a few resources, a few contacts/nemesis . . . it was enough to guide us, but not so much as to get in the way, which I think is a tricky balance to pull off (I'm contrasting PTA, Nine Worlds, and Fastlane in this regard, and while this uber-cool session probably has an unfair influence on my opinion, I'm thinking PTA nails this a bit better than the others - which I also had excellent, though much shorter, demos of).  It was NOT easy for me-the-player emotionally to ignore Moose when he came looking for advice/support, but it was SO obvious that was where Susan was at, there was never really any doubt in my mind that Susan would be no help to Moose this time out.

I was particularly happy with the missing-pages conflict in Susan's scene, as it sprang (for me) smoothly in mid-roleplay.  Ron decided it was time for a conflict in my scene, and decided it involved Bryce.  Ring-ring, goes the phone, and I'm talking to Bryce, but sh*t, what's the conflict going to be?  "Yeah, I'm working on the reports, but it's hard, because" (he stole some pages I needed, the jerk!  That's it!) "there seem to be three pages missing from June's summary accounts."  Gloat, gloat, goes Ron (quite authentically), we roll the conflict, and Susan realizes she brought that paperwork home yesterday too and so has another copy (that part didn't go so smoothly for me - I had to scamble a bit mentally to figure out what exactly "winning" that conflict meant, and how to RP it out).  Bryce is foiled - but just wait 'till episode five (Susan's screen presence 3) when he uses the bank to finance replacing the horse-carriages with cable-cars . . .

There's probably much more to say, but that'll have to do for now.  Thanks again to Ron, Alexander, Calder, Vincent - and of course, Matt.  I won't be forgettin' this one for a long, long time.


Title: All the makings of a children's classic
Post by: b_bankhead on August 29, 2004, 12:40:52 AM
Wow! I am simply in awe of the story you guys are creating with PTA.   I am rooting for Moose from the bottom of my heart, I really am, for me the poingnace of the story comes through more than the comedy but I'm sure it must be hilarious to experience.  This story sounds like something that would actually make a wonderful chidren's book. I'm actually sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to what happens to Moose...
Three cheers for your roleplaying group and three cheers for PTA I've had my eye on this game for some months now and it sounds like it's turned into a real winner.

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 29, 2004, 07:25:18 AM

There is one phrase that gets repeated by players of PTA over and over. I said it myself about both the games I played in, I heard others say it as we played, and I heard others say it about games that I wasn't in.

It is:
"I would watch this show."

Think about how much TV is crappy and how much everybody really would like to be able, week by week, to watch at least one excellent show. Think about how fast word spreads through our culture when such a show appears.

Every game of PTA apparently has the same effect on the folks involved in play.


Title: Moose in the City
Post by: Meguey on August 29, 2004, 10:14:07 AM
Hi, all. Our kids were totally entranced by the story of the Moose in the city, and wanted to know what happened next. It sounds like it was a lot of fun.

Ron asked for other observations, and anonymouse asked if everyone expected this level of emotional intensity in gaming. Thatís what Iím doing here.

Moose in the City observations:
I think perhaps part of the reason for such deep emotional connection, not only with the story but between the players, has to do with it being a childrenís story/show.  Each player brought to the game his (they were all male, right?) own wounds/issues/baggage from childhood, and was able to address that issue in a safe, supportive and constructive way, because he could also maintain adult consciousness and awareness of how things ought to go, both for literary purposes and for emotional well-being.  Childrenís stories (the better ones at least) address things that are very deep (fitting in, being able to communicate and connect, feeling loved and cared for and heard, being able and competent and free from attack or abuse) in ways that are very accessible to our subconscious.

When we play adult characters in adult situations, we are not as vulnerable because of our years of practice guarding ourselves, and our subconscious comes out in other ways. When we play children (or play for children, as Moose and Susan would be), our subconscious is right there and we are much more open and vulnerable, which would naturally lead to greater connection and emotional weaving between players. Kids make very strong emotional connections and associations very quickly; Iíve had kids cry in real sorrow when  someone they didnít know two hours ago has to leave the playground, because that person was such a good friend. Yes, they may forget that child entirely in two weeks, but still, they are that open, and when we play children, we put ourselves back in that open place. (Itís one of the challenges of parenthood, to keep adult emotional space, because itís so easy to sink back into the familiar emotional space oneís children inhabit, and react to them in that space.)

I would expect the adult mind to have better retention of connection, so Iím not surprised by the emotional impact of the game. Iíd like to know whether other PTA games have had the same effect Ė if so, then most of my theory is obviously wrong.

Emotional depth in gaming:
I look for this level of emotionally meaningful gaming about ľ or more of the time Ė if itís less than that, Iím probably not feeling very committed to the game. Some games are just goofy fun, like what Iíve played of  InSpectres; some are very cool but not as deeply compelling, like what Iíve played of Universalis (although I clearly see where it could be!); some bring up entirely other emotional responses, like My Life with Master and KPFS; some seem to hit every time, like Dogs in the Vineyard or our home-brew of Ars Magica . I have to say, though, if you want more emotionally fulfilling gaming, keep poking at the games available and at your gaming group, because the right combination of the two can be found.

Looking forward to playing PTA as well as serving on the PTA~

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 29, 2004, 04:23:01 PM

In addition to agreeing fully with Meg, I'll highlight this point:

Childrenís stories (the better ones at least) address things that are very deep

We mentioned this right away in deciding on a series premise before playing - as I recall, more than one person stated up-front that a good kids' show was about serious issues. We also tuned into the whole idea of "guy trying to deal with city hassles" would be a good premise for such a show.

To finish up the discussion of our play-experience, the episode ended with a couple of short scenes. Moose and Susan checked in with each other in a nice interaction, in which each was making sure that the other one's crisis, whatever it may have been, had worked out OK. I got the idea as a viewer that either would have helped the other a lot, if it hadn't been for the bad timing of both having a crisis at once.

The whole thing ended with the kids, Susan, and Moose eating popcorn at his place as the credits rolled.

Right after we finished, we all went into the other room of the hotel suite, where a bunch of folks were played a lively game of Pagoda, and I supposed I surprised Matt by just coming up and embracing him for what must have seemed like no reason.


Title: Re: Moose in the City
Post by: Caldis on August 29, 2004, 06:57:38 PM
Quote from: Meguey

When we play adult characters in adult situations, we are not as vulnerable because of our years of practice guarding ourselves, and our subconscious comes out in other ways. When we play children (or play for children, as Moose and Susan would be), our subconscious is right there and we are much more open and vulnerable, which would naturally lead to greater connection and emotional weaving between players.

I'll agree with this and I think that humor acts in a similar manner.  At least in my experience the best games I've ever been in didn't involve people sitting around seriously trying to roleplay they came about through friends laughing having a good time who just happen to role play.  Heck a lot of the time we werent even really planning on role playing just hanging out and someone suggested hey lets role play.  We were already in a state of kidding around having a good time and humor lets us drop our guard and go for it in a way that I havent seen in more serious fare.

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: John Harper on August 29, 2004, 10:34:02 PM
What an amazing Actual Play report. I gotta say, I'm not surprised. PTA just seems to have some special mojo that brings these sorts of experiences out of people.

All of my PTA games, both as player and Producer, have resulted in a kind of giddy, bouncing-in-your-chair kind of reaction from everyone as we grin after a good scene and say "Oh man... I want to watch this show!"

Thanks for sharing the Moose with the rest of us.

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Mike Holmes on September 01, 2004, 01:07:32 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Every game of PTA apparently has the same effect on the folks involved in play.
Yep. We had some problems with some of how things worked when playing (Matt has ironed out these wrinkles since). But even with the problems, we still said exactly the same thing. Not just "I'd watch this show," but "God, how I wish this show existed so I could watch it."

If nothing else, every TV exec needs to own a copy of this game. :-)


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: John Harper on September 01, 2004, 01:58:02 PM
Quote from: Mike Holmes
If nothing else, every TV exec needs to own a copy of this game. :-)

My boss, a two-time Emmy award winning writer for television, said exactly the same thing. :)

Title: Yow.
Post by: Joshua A.C. Newman on September 12, 2004, 02:46:11 PM
This is hot. I've just read the first page here and I see why V. is so into this now.

This kind of experience is exactly the kind of thing I'm often working toward when I play, GM, or design a game. When I play, it often happens, as long as my fellow players and GM are on the same side. When I GM, almost never (or maybe it's just because I know what's going on too much to be too worried for the PCs), and when I design, well, I think I've got an inkling, but it's borken right now.

V., get me a copy of this game. I suspect that's already in the works, but ye gods, man, this seems really fun. And plagiarizable. Did I write that out loud?

Edit, 5 minutes later:
Meg, this is one of the reasons I started to build Under The Bed. The criticisms of the game (which I just mistyped as "mage"...) that don't have to do with the end of the game (or lack thereof) tend to be the "I feel so vulnerable and worried" type. You made a bad face when we played and you realized that our child was not well. That's partly because the game is deliberately tragic, but also because there's not enough potential for collapse toward a particular direction of growth. The child is so torn and dysfunctional that sHe kinda winds up staying the same.

It sounds like Moose In The City is actually a similar type thing (I think it's awesome that there's so much discussion of the content of a session, by the way. Very, very encouraging): it has to do with the metaphorical growth and change we go through, but it sounds like the structure of the game is so good that it solves every issue I have with every RPG I've played, ever. Well, except for Dogs, actually. That is, it helps you figure out what the story's about, what everyone does in the story to illustrate that theme, and what the characters do when they figure out what it's about.

Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2004, 04:25:02 PM
Hi Nikola,

There are a lot of games that are built on this principle, among them:

Dust Devils, The Riddle of Steel, Sorcerer, Prince Valiant, Zero, The Mountain Witch, Robots & Rapiers, My Life with Master, le mon mouri, InSpectres, Legends of Alyria, Trollbabe, Nine Worlds, and HeroQuest

I can say with extreme confidence and much experience that all of these games stand with Primetime Adventures and Dogs in the Vineyard for structurally and procedurally reinforcing what you describe:

It helps you figure out what the story's about, what everyone does in the story to illustrate that theme, and what the characters do when they figure out what it's about.

By "figure out," I'm confident that you are talking about a proactive and judgmental process on the part of all the participants, rather than a telepathic or guessing-based one regarding what another person (the GM) has in mind. If I'm right about that, because that's how PTA works, then again, I suggest that all of the above games are rather shockingly suited to this very thing, each in a different way.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Lisa Padol on September 15, 2004, 08:21:49 AM
Wow. Yes, I'd watch that show.

How does one get into these games at GenCon? They're not on the schedule, and they're not demos. The demos run short and sweet, which is only fair, as the idea is to introduce as many folks as possible to these games so that they'll buy them and play them. I enjoyed the PTA demo I got into, though I was very sleep depped. I'm not entirely sure if we created a show I would want to watch -- it was a Buffy/Angel rip off -- but we were really in Demo Mode. You know, disassemble the watch, look at the cool gears, put it together, rush to next game. I really want to see this, MLWM, Nine Worlds, Dogs in the Vineyard, and With Great Power in play for more than just 5 minutes. We're starting with MLWM this Saturday.

The thing I'm trying to grok is how much space there is in these games for, well, roleplaying. So much stuff seems far more mechanics dependent than I'm used to. Then again, the Pendragon game I played in at Origins taught me how much fun fumbling a Courtesy roll could be.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 15, 2004, 08:55:02 AM
Hi Lisa,

When you say, "how much role-playing goes on," I really have no idea what you mean. Maybe my comments in RP'ing and acting ( are relevant, I'm not sure.

As the GM in Moose in the City, I consider us to have been role-playing throughout every moment of the session, even when we were addressing one another completely as ourselves, not as the characters. We were imaginatively engaged throughout, as authors and audience and often in combination.

Acting came into it occasionally, mainly through voice work most of the time, and in some cases (especially Calder) it was brilliant. I modestly claim my hairdresser wasn't too shabby, as acting.

But the point is that these acting moments were Ephemeral bits being introduced to drive home whatever role-playing they were part of. We were role-playing the whole time.

To answer your first question, the way to get involved with these games after-hours is to maintain a social connection with the Forge folks and make plans to join us at dinner. Usually people broke up into dinner-bunches, with planned get-togethers at various hotel rooms.

A big part of being able to do this, though, means getting away from a sleep-deprived existence. Most of the time, we'd meet at about 8:00 and get to bed between 11:00 and midnight. Some folks took it longer than that, but not many. Hitting the sack and being ready for the next day is important at GenCon.


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Lisa Padol on September 15, 2004, 12:32:15 PM
Mm, yes, sleep deprivation is an issue.

Not that I would have done it any other way -this- time. Josh and I finally made Iron Ref a reality, and we got to play in 2 Deliria games. (9pm-1am, and a by-popular-demand part 2, 8pm-2am) We touched base with Kat Miller, who runs great Everway games. At 8am.

Next time, I may try something saner. Of course, that won't be next year -- we have the Glasgow World Science Fiction Convention that year, and it's not practical to do both that and GenCon. Josh is trying to convince me that Origins is still practical, but I dunno.

As for what I mean about roleplaying, I need to think about that myself. And to play the games!


Title: Prime Time Adventures: Moose in the City
Post by: Lisa Padol on September 15, 2004, 08:35:39 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
When you say, "how much role-playing goes on," I really have no idea what you mean. Maybe my comments in RP'ing and acting ( are relevant, I'm not sure.

It is. I think I prefer a more acting-heavy style than you do.  Without enough of that (and I'm not sure what "enough" is), the game starts to look more like a parlor game / odd kind of strategy game.  Or a storytelling game that isn't an rpg. This is why I need to see the games in action -- until then, I'm just scratching my head, saying, "I don't see how this works."

Fortunately, these games are small. I can pack MLWM, PTA, and Dogs without straining anything.