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Saturday on PTA: Quicksilver

Started by lumpley, November 21, 2005, 01:49:34 PM

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So I had the awesomest weekend ever. This game was part of it.

Here's me, Clinton, Judd, and Joshua playing Formula De on Saturday afternoon, and Judd wins, and Clinton's like, "there must come to be a narrativist rpg about race car drivers and the rpg happens between races and we play Formula De to resolve the races themselves and what happens in the rpg can change the setup of the races and vice versa, like maybe I have only 15 LP because my wife left me because you won the last race, and maybe you have only 10 LP because your backup driver's driving your car because I shot you in the Motel 6!" And we're like, "awesome."

And later it's the four of us plus Tony sitting at the table. We're going, "I dunno, what do YOU want to play?" And we're like, "well, there's always Primetime Adventures." And we're like, "oh yeah, come to think of it we COULD play the most reliably fun roleplaying game in the history of fun, couldn't we? That seems pretty smart." And Tony's like, "what's Primetime Adventures?" And I don't think we even tell him, we're just like, "what show would we do?" And we go back and forth for a little while, and Joshua's like, "remember that racing rpg we were talking about? Well, stock car racing comes from bootleggers running booze from Canada into the US in the 20s, and from moonshiners running booze into dry counties in the South in the like 30s, all the way up to hell the 70s, how about a show about them?" And we're like, "yeah, okay."

Tony's a friend of mine from around here. I used to roleplay with him a little, and he was in an early one-session playtest of Dogs, but other than that I haven't played any rpgs with him at all since the Forge. Just by coincidence - he's been in Thailand and the like. He plays mostly board games these days.

From my right:

Judd's character is ... I forget his name, I called him "dad." The crime boss, the organizer of the trafficking. His issue is that he wants to go legit but doesn't know how.

Tony's character is Glenn, the boss's best driver. He says his issue is that he has to please everyone, but really his issue is the extremely precariousness of his position.

Joshua's the producer.

Clinton's character is Seamus, the vice detective, the good cop. He says his issue is that he's gay in the south in the 40s, but really his issue is that he's the one good cop, and being gay in the south in the 40s isn't making it any easier.

Seamus and Glenn are steady lovers. Seamus doesn't know that Glenn runs moonshine. Seamus also doesn't know about Elizabeth:

My character is Elizabeth, the crime boss's daughter and Glenn's girlfriend. Yes, Glenn - working for the crime boss, dating his daughter, and in a long-term hidden relationship with the one good cop.

Elizabeth's issue is that everybody keeps her in the dark and she hates it.

I don't know everybody's plot arch. Mine's 1 3 1 2 2 for sure. Judd's is like 1 2 1 2 3, Tony's is like 3 2 1 2 1, Clinton's is like 2 1 2 3 1 - I'm just making those up, but the point is that we play episode four. It's Clinton's spotlight, the rest of us are at 2, with my spotlight and Tony's in the past and Judd's coming up next in the season finale. As always, whose spotlights are past and whose are coming are significant to how the game plays - I'm always blown away by how that works.

Tonight, on HBO: Quicksilver!

Seamus the good cop busts Glenn the gifted driver. "Hi honey. I thought you were off today." Seamus shoots his gun into the brick wall behind him and lets him get away on foot. Seamus is shaken to the core by the revelation that his boyfriend is a criminal. There's a chance that the other cops will see him letting Glenn go, but they just miss it, and Seamus excuses his being shaken by saying that the perp fired at him.

Dad fires Glenn, because this whole thing where he loses a car full of goods but gets away on foot? It doesn't add up. "What, Glenn, you're in bed with the cops now?" He makes Glenn take off his shirt to show there's no wire before he fires him. He tells Glenn that for his daughter's sake, my character's sake, he's not going to kill him, just put him out of the business for good. "If you ever go near another car you're a dead man. I believe the words you're looking for are 'thank you.'"

Tony, here, is starting to go "whoa, this game isn't fucking around!" He's not satisfied that his character's so far been a) a bad liar and b) on the bottom of every interaction, so he starts looking for something strong to do. (Note to self: do not point out "on the bottom of every interaction.") (Dammit, self.)

Dad goes down to the impound yard behind the police station to get his car back. He'd reported it stolen; he's feigning upset that his car was stolen and then used to break the law. Seamus, meeting him there, is like, "yeah, it must be really upsetting to you how your cars get stolen and used to transport illegal material all the time like this." Seamus keeps at him until he provokes him into betraying himself: "listen, you'd better indict me and make it stick, and you'd better do it soon, or your life won't be worth the shitpaper it's printed on."

Glenn meets Elizabeth in a restaurant. He says that her dad fired him but won't tell her why, which she hates. He tells her that there are dangerous men in the world. She's like, "whatever, why did he fire you?" He asks her if she knows what her dad does, and she's like, "he's in shipping, of course. [with irony] That's why he has a gun in every room of the house." Glenn tells her that he'll level with her if she'll help him out against her dad. She's like, "if you'll level with me, I'll help you." She says that she knows who her father talks to on the telephone in the middle of the night and gives Glenn a piece of paper with a phone number on it. He doesn't level with her, just tells her something slightly true to get her off his case.

She doesn't break up with him, though.

Seamus goes home at the end of his day to find Glenn poking around in his apartment. They have a fight, of course. Seamus is like, "I can't believe you're a bootlegger." Glenn's like, "baby, if we play this right you could be police commisioner." Seamus is like, "if you're going to keep breaking the law, you can't be here." Glenn's like, "whatever you need, baby. Done." Tony hopes that Seamus believes Glenn's lies; Clinton hopes that Seamus has the will to follow through; both lose the conflict. Seamus doesn't believe Glenn's lies but doesn't have the will to follow through. He doesn't break up with Glenn either. They don't fuck, though.

Next day:

Elizabeth meets her dad in his place of business, where she's not welcome. He's rude to her. He tells her that no, Glenn quit, he must have lied to her about being fired to keep her from being mad at him. She's like, "dad, this sucks, do you realize how unhappy this makes me?" and he's like, "this isn't about YOU, Elizabeth, and you can do better than him," and she's like, "you DID fire him. This IS about me. Dammit, dad!" Dad's like, "I fired him because we caught him in bed with someone else. You can DO BETTER."

Judd plays him awesome - this is before his spotlight, right? If this were a real TV show, most of what we'd've seen of him so far would be in my spotlight, emphasizing him keeping me in the dark, and in Glenn's, emphasizing how dangerous he'll be if Glenn's real relationship comes out. But now what we start to see is how he wants a better life for Elizabeth, at least, even if he can't have one himself - this is apparent to us the audience, but of course not at all to her.

That night, Glenn calls the number Elizabeth gave him. It's a) someone up the supply chain from dad, and b) the police commisioner. Heh. It was Tony's idea that it be the police commisioner, and Clinton points at his character sheet: "dude, I go to CHURCH with the police commisioner. Awesome!" Anyway Glenn calls him in the middle of the night, introduces himself as his new business partner now that dad's going down, and says that they should meet. The police commisioner agrees to meet him - Glenn names the spot, such-and-such a cabin by the lake, but the commisioner insists that they meet tonight, in an hour and a half. Unbeknownst to Glenn, but fully beknownst to us the players, he's going to come heavy.

Clinton's like, "you're meeting him in our cabin?"

I'm not certain that everyone at the table got how Tony'd had Glenn seize control of his own fate, but I sure did. Like I say, Tony'd never played PTA before, he's very unfamiliar with narrativist games, and he'd chosen a safe, passive issue during character creation, "I have to please everyone." Confronted with the game in action, though, he ditched his passivity like the liability it was. It was cool to see.

Next, Seamus picks Elizabeth up driving out of an underground bar. She's drunk, she's driving, and she's under 21. He pulls her over and has her get into his car. He's hinting at how maybe he doesn't have to fill out the paperwork - the joke is that it sounds like he's pressuring her to give him a blow job. She's more unhappy about the hinting than about the pressuring itself - she's like, "will someone, once, somewhere, just be straight with me?" (Heh.) She's like, "you met with my dad yesterday, did you know? He hates you. This is the last thing I need. Jesus. Just let me off, okay? You even cost my boyfriend his job." He's like, "I what?" She's like, "yeah, you pulled him over." He's like, oh no oh shit, "no, no, I'm sure you're mistaken about that. You must be thinking of some other time. I'm sure you are. We pull over lots of your dad's drivers." She's like, "did you pull over lots just yesterday?"

Waa! It was awesome! At the end of the scene, Clinton's like, "I didn't expect you to drop that on me. Oh my god I did not." I was like, "I know - I watched you not expecting it. I was like, la de da, here it comes! kaaaaaBOOM!"

Funny and excellent: Clinton thinks that this is Seamus' scene, that he's the boss of it. Turns out that Elizabeth has her power too - which catches both Seamus and Clinton off-guard. Turns out that the scene is a whole different, more awesome one than the "Seamus gets it over on dad at no cost to himself" one Clinton had expected going in.

Anyway, Seamus levels with her, at least about the non-sex parts. "Your dad's a bootlegger. I'm going to bring him down. You're going to help me, one way or the other." And she's like, "I'm not shocked, I figured most of that out already, but man you're the first person ever to tell me the truth. I'll help you. Give me the wire." And again Clinton's like, "dude, that's not what I expected AT ALL."

Seamus goes home and throws a bag in the back of his jeep. Screw this, he's thinking. Screw being a vice detective, screw my cheating boyfriend, screw dirty cops and the whole rotten deal. I'm going to spend the weekend ... ready? ... out at the cabin.

The dirty police commisioner shows up at the cabin with a couple dirty state troopers to kill Seamus' cheating boyfriend. Glenn has Max, his own dirty cop, hidden there for backup. (We see Seamus in his jeep pulling off the state road onto the dirt road.) Glenn makes his pitch - "Dad's been skimming money off you, look, I have it in cash in this briefcase. Throw in with me and we can take him out and you'll get your whole cut." (We see Seamus turn off the dirt road into the driveway.) The commisioner just says "drop him" and goes outside to smoke his pipe. Seamus pulls in like "whose cars are all these?" just in time to hear the gunshots. He rolls out of his jeep with his shotgun and kills two of the state troopers; Max got the other. Glenn's down, shot three times but not fatally.

The police commisioner comes back in from the porch thinking that he's still in charge. He gets Seamus to put down his gun, says he'll explain the whole thing, makes himself and Seamus screwdrivers. But when Seamus sees Max, he flips out. "Glenn, THIS is why you're up here? You cheating BASTARD." He puches Max, Max punches back, down they go, struggling to get at each others' throats. The stakes are, does Seamus come to his senses or does he squander his opportunity to get the advantage over the commisioner in fighting with Max? Clinton wins and Seamus comes up from the floor with Max's gun.

When the commisioner finally works out, at gunpoint, that things are not going in his favor, he drinks both screwdrivers himself.

Elizabeth comes into the kitchen where dad's making hot milk. He's like, "are you drunk? That's irresponsible and inappropriate." She's like, "your favorite cop says so too."

He pours out the milk and turns to make coffee.

They have it out. She's like, "you're a criminal? You have been all my life? And you lied and lied to me!" He's like, "I did it for you. I'm doing what I have to do to keep this family alive." She's like, "well dad, it's not working out. This really isn't about me now - it's not working out for you." She doesn't say, and I'm wearing a wire that proves it. He's like, "great, just great. Give me your critique, I can hardly wait, oh world-savvy 18-year-old drunk girl." Then he's like, "you can't just walk away from this. I did your crappy ex-boyfriend a FAVOR." And she's like, "first of all, that 'ex' thing isn't a done deal, but dad, the person you need to do a favor is YOU." KaBOOM!

Judd's stakes: does he bring her in, to eventually pass the business on to her? Judd's on the side of yes, with a big stack of cards. My stakes: does he find the wire? I'm on the side of no, but... Judd's like, "dude, that's only two cards." And I'm like, "yeah! I know it! Sweet, huh?"

Dad says, "okay, you want in? You're in." He hugs her - and then steps back and tears her shirt open. Boobs, plus the wire. Did I mention that her edge is "unflinching"? She pops open the recorder and hands the tape to him. She doesn't say it but: yeah dad, you see now how close you were?


Seamus and Max are sitting outside the confessional in Seamus' church, Saturday morning. The commisioner's inside the booth, we hear him mutedly. He's been talking for a long time in there. At the end of his confession, the priest gives him his Hail Marys and then makes the call. We don't expect the commisioner to live much longer.

Anyway, Max is field bandaged. Seamus and he are beginning to piece together their relationship, as it goes forward from here. How's this for a conversation outside the confessional booth: "You realize," says Seamus, "if you want us to work, you need to get out of the business. You really do."

"Yeah," says Glenn.

"And hey," says Seamus. "Was that stupid girl telling me the truth?"

"No," says Glenn.


Play notes: play was awesome. Scene framing worked fine. Fan mail clipped along in both directions - everybody got theirs, everybody spent it, sometimes in their own conflict and sometimes in each others'. The new "everybody has different stakes" thing is hot.

Tony was like, "oh my god, I haven't played a game that good for YEARS. That was like a MOVIE."


Alex F

This play account puts Prime Time Adventures on my Christmas list. Thank you.


The brainstorming stage was a struggle and I was frustrated that I didn't put forth a single idea, not a one.  Ugh.  I was just running on empty.

Clinton put an idea on the table early on, about what happens in a dungeon when the adventurers aren't around and I was diggin' it.  I got an instant character idea, the ghost of a dead adventurer who got nailed by a stupid spiked pit trap but the show got vetoed right off.

I wasn't feeling the rum-running either, so I asked that we make the show in an indistinct place, in an indistinct time like in Streets of Fire (but no one's seen it...shit).  Fedoras, revolvers and cell phones and cars with fins was our kind of motif.  Clinton named his character Seamus Vasquez, so I picked up that ball and picked an Italian and a Japanese name.  Alfredo Tsamagachi or something.

Were we running gin, drugs...who knows?  Its illegal, it is called Quicksilver, Clinton said, the name of the show.  Hells yes.  Suddenly, for some reason, take it out of history brought me on board right away. 

And after that, like Vincent said, it was all gravy.

Joshua A.C. Newman

Alex, you have no idea.

When Tony said, "This isn't really like a TV show. It's too dense! This is more like a movie!"

I said "Tony, man, every episode's like this."

He said "Ooooohhhhhh..." with this 'I want games to be like this more!' look in his eyes.

The pitch session is always painful. It's because there are no mechanics behind it, I think. I bet every pitch session is about the same length: what gets chosen, run with, and declared as Awesomest Ever is the thing that comes 30 minutes into the Pitch when everyone's tired of arguing and gets down to business.

There was an additional painful bit when we first started play where Clinton and my ideas radically clashed. Not because of anything serious, but because I was Producer, I was setting up the first scene, it was Clinton's scene, and he was imagining something wildly different. Once I knew what he wanted, it was easy peasy.

Here's a good guideline: ask the player with the Spotlight what they want if they're jumping up and down.

I loved the timeless time that the story took place. The unidentified Quicksilver, not so much; I have a hard time setting up situations when I don't know how the character motivations work; Quicksilver is probably a drug, but no one's addicted to it, we've never seen anyone use it. We just know that people want it. That means that, were we to play this for a whole season, the mystery would get thin as the players dodged around specifying it. It was proposed that the Sci Fi Channel would pick it up after it was cancelled on HBO, and they would bring in new writers who would determine that Quicksilver was alien technology, and the last four fans would stop watching.

That game was H.O.T.T. HOT. Pre-tangling the relationships really helped us set stuff up and the new "3 total Edges/Contacts" rule really sang: nothing went unused.

Interestingly (and this is a big deal for running PTA one-shots): the Pilot has an interesting exceptions that you should bring in when doing a non-pilot one-shot:  Let people change their issues once they see what's going on in the stories.

However, when running a 1-shot, I also really think the "everyone has a 2 screen presence" rule doesn't fly; you don't get to see the good stuff about SP. It's great when you're getting set up so that you'll hit the ground running next episode, but for a 1-shot, having mixed SPs is very helpful. In particular, I think it's probably best when it's one 3 and the rest are personal preferences. Doing this by having everyone establish plot arcs then choosing the best episode to play also gives you input into the story at hand: we knew the season was wrapping up, we could look back and give one-shot summaries of previous spotlights to figure out what characters were up to.

Matt, it's a really great game. Vincent, Clinton, Tony, and Judd, thanks for playing.
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

Clinton R. Nixon

Quote from: glyphmonkey on November 21, 2005, 03:01:13 PM
There was an additional painful bit when we first started play where Clinton and my ideas radically clashed. Not because of anything serious, but because I was Producer, I was setting up the first scene, it was Clinton's scene, and he was imagining something wildly different. Once I knew what he wanted, it was easy peasy.

That was awesome, actually. You're all "the conflict is: do you catch him?" and I'm all "Of course I catch him. Question is: what happens then?" We had to wrestle with it a little, but it set the tone for the show. Hardly any conflict was over "can I do this?" Most was over "what happens when I do this?"

I really enjoyed my character in this game. It was a pretty spectacular experience.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games

Joshua A.C. Newman

Yeah, what was interesting to me about that was, I was figuring that, if you caught him, you'd have to figure out what to do, and if you didn't catch him, you'd still have to figure out what to do, so whether or not you caught him had little to do with whether you recognized him.

Communicating is a remarkably powerful tool when, you know, communicating.

Hot damn, that game was fun.
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.


Great writeup, thanks all.  What was especially cool was reading Vincent's, play post, and then getting to Paka's explanation of the color, and instantly reimagining everything I had just read with a whole different feeling...

Matt Wilson

Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon on November 21, 2005, 03:49:04 PMHardly any conflict was over "can I do this?" Most was over "what happens when I do this?"

Yes Yes Yes!


Very cool, guys. Thanks for playin' it.


May I also say that Clinton's character was a great one to have for the spotlight episode.  That man drives his characters towards self-destruction like a fiend.