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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 76 - most online ever: 565 (October 17, 2020, 02:08:06 PM)
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Author Topic: "As Seen As Tv": The Television Drama RPG  (Read 7022 times)

Posts: 67

« on: February 12, 2006, 05:58:54 PM »

The idea behind this is, even more so than the maniacal impulse to create a game where you could play your typical daytime television soap opera, is to remove the focus in RPG's from success to creating drama. This is why cast members (characters) in ASAT don't have attributes or skills, and why the Producer (gamemaster) doesn't roll die to simulate the randomness of fate and probability. Because I beleive that in a game, as with on television, you don't want reality as it would be but as you want it to be. The idea of playing a scenario is not to test out a hypothesis through a logical simulation but instead is to entertain everyone involved. This is why ASAT goes the route it does, which hopefully will encourage more and better characterization of the roles the players play, more enjoyable quotes in game, and more memorable moments. Towards this goal ASAT also uses the already present in many great RPG's idea of cooperative storytelling and dramatic editing between the gamemaster, in this case Producer, and players, in this case the Cast Members.

Without further ado, I give you "As Seen On Tv".

Part One:
Campaigns in ASAT are called Series and have several components-
The Episode, or single adventure, which may be played out in one session of OOC play or more. It's a self contained story that may or may not (in the case of a one shot) be part of a greater narrative.
The Plot Arc, which consists of several episodes that have an interelated component that starts in one episode and resolves in another.
The Season, which is a collection of Plot Arcs that together form a beggining, middle, and end. This is the superstructure that holds individual episodes and plot arcs together. A season should be able to be a campaign in itself, but might not be, or might lead to a sequel season in the same series.

Part Two:
Drama Pulls are metagame hooks that help either complicate or resolve plot threads in game, hopefully causing more dramatic tension and opportunities for the creativity and characterization of the Producer (controlling the Supporting Cast of NPC's) and Cast Members.

Each Cast Member and the Producer receive the same number of each of the different Drama Pulls, some being dolled out per episode, some per plot arc, and some that have a number of uses limited for the entire season being played. The number of uses for each Pull can vary, but are consistent for both the Cast Members and the Producer. To keep things from getting too chaotic with constant melodramatic changes in game 1 use per pull until the time its restored (be it the next episode, next plot arc, or next season depending on which pull) is probably best. However as many as three could potentially be used, especially if you were trying to recreate the constant plot twists of a daytime television soap.

The Drama Pulls are...
Dramatic Failure (*blank* uses per episode)
Dramatic Success (*blank* uses per episode)
Deus Ex Machina (*blank* uses per season)
Plot Twist (*blank* uses per arc)
Helping Hands (*blank* uses per episode)
Ultimatum (*blank* uses per arc)

The use a Pull, the Producer or Cast Member doing so declares that they are using one and which Pull it is they are using OOC, and then dramatizes IC their use of the Pull.

Cast Member's Dr.Rodriguez (Jim) and Nina the Nurse (Sue) have a man dying on the operating table
-Jim declares that he's using a Dramatic Failure to create a moment for Rodriguez to really emote and stretch those melodrama muscles. IC: "No matter what I did I couldn't get his heart beating again. I couldn't...(Rodriguez stares directly into the camera) save him."
-Jim declares he's using a Dramatic Success. IC: "Live you son of a bitch, live! (as Rodriguez pounds the man's chest with the elecrodes)"
-Jim declares he's using a Deus ex Machina after he's already failed to save the man's life. IC: (Rodriguez walks out of the OR) "He's alive, but not because of anything I did. It was his amazing will to live that saved him."
-Jim declares he's using a Plot Twist to complicate things and create a new situation as he's getting tired of the current one. IC: "This isn't a heart attack, this is...cancer!"
-Sue declares that's she's using a Helping Hands after Jim has failed to save the patient. IC: "Doctor, a shot of adrenaline might still save him!"
-Jim declares an ultimatum to put the potential of a major change in the series in the Producer's hands. IC: "If I can't save this man's life, then well to hell with medicine!"

Part Three:
There's more to Cast Members than just the Drama Pulls their players use in game. Cast Members start with a set of a characteristics in this game, as in many games. However in this game these characteristics, called Baggage, are a combination of advantages and disadvantages to the Cast Member's situation that either way provide the Cast Member, the Other Cast Members, and the Producer with hooks to build plots off of. The Producer will specify how much Baggage the Cast Members are supposed to start with.

Example Baggage-
Not Dead Yet
Tragic Love
Hidden Shame
Dark Past

So besides tracking how many of each Pull they have left, the recorded component of a Cast Member might look like this-
Cast Member: Dr.Rodriguez
Concept: Firey latin medical genius
Baggage: Expertise (Rodriguez is a world reknowned surgeon), Obsessed (with saving lives, no matter what the cost), Not Dead Yet (in the event of Rodriguez's death, his twin brother Hernando will show up, with the same Baggage, save for this one, and personality)

Hopefully ASAT bridges freeform and system play and could be used to depict everything from House, to Battlestar Galactica, to the Sheild.

Eric Provost

Posts: 581

« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2006, 06:07:14 PM »

Sounds an awful lot like Prime Time Adventures.  Are you familiar with it?



Posts: 67

« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2006, 06:15:34 PM »

Not really, but I'v heard of it in the same capacity as I'm aware there have been games that have dramatic editing and narrative cooperation between the players and gm.

Posts: 67

« Reply #3 on: February 12, 2006, 09:33:44 PM »

I know it's very...minimalist, but I'm hoping that it makes freeform roleplaying more palatable to your average numbercrunching systemjockey gamer by admitting to a very specific focus as in the creation of dramatic moments rather than the success in the endeavors of the characters. I'm hoping that it's not a skimpy peice of already treaded out design theory wank but instead an elegant little toy. More than that however, its a rules lite game meant not for one shots but entire campaigns.

And, if it matters, I made it in one sitting and in far less than 24 hours. It's not some idea I'v had for a long time that I was too lazy to flesh out more. This is the complete idea I sat down and had.

Arturo G.

Posts: 333

« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2006, 05:09:33 AM »

I should really recommend you to read Primetime Adventures. It is a full and functional game with the same premise as yours, and you share many ideas and definitions (series, story-arcs, the cast, the producer, etc). Your mechanics are somehow different, but I think you may get consistently what you want using PtA. You may easily add your Drama Pulls concept to the PtA system if you wish, And you will get much more if you assimilate the strong  reward system inherent to PtA through something called fan-mail.

Hope this helps you,

Posts: 67

« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2006, 08:33:13 AM »

I admit that this being my first attempt into this specific sort of thing it's a bit rough and I bet that Primetime Advnetures has a far better dramatics system, but thats outside of my whole point. I don't think you need a "fully functional" game, the classical sense of stats for how strong and fast and so on you are, tracking health, and have point values or any randomizer at all. I think an RPG these things do not make. My whole goal is to create a rules light system with style, with class, so to speak. Rules lite but not beer and pretzels. Rules lite but for campaigns, not one-shots. And my basic logic at the moment is that this right here is playable, but could very well be changed and expanded to be better. But that expansion doesn't involve attaching a "real system" to it. That's entirely against the point.
Trevis Martin

Posts: 499

« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2006, 09:29:18 AM »

Hi Crackerjacker,

I think you're ideas are interesting ones so far.  Don't mistake what Arturo and Eric are saying.  Many of the folks here, myself included, firmly believe in knowing your material, and being familiar with games that do or have done similar things to yours.  PrimeTime Adventures is coming up a lot because its been a very celebrated design.  This is for good reason. Like your idea it has very few stats and none that might be considered traditional, its system is very uncomplicated but elegant and it has a very good mechanism for inter player reinforcement and reward.  It's just plain fun.  It is well worth checking out and playing to compare and contrast it to your own ideas. 

Another game you might consider looking at is Theatrix, which is a less successful game IMO but tries to approach the same territory.

The reason I think that people have suggested games is because while you've presented the above you've given us very little idea of how you want us to respond to it.  Do you have questions about parts of your design that you want people to discuss?  Many of us want to help but need to know what you're looking for.  Without that all we can say is "cool, dude, here's some stuff which if you look at it might help you."  What stage of design are you in?  Are you just getting ideas down or is there a full document somewhere where I can get a clear idea of how this all works?

One of the best things you can do is post about your actual play experiences that led you to want to design this game.  Another, if you feel you're ready for it is to try and answer the Power 19.  Which is something a few of the game designers around here have done.  You might do searches for Power 19 threads to see how those are going.

Can we get your name too?  Maybe put it in your sig?  A lot of people around here like to use their real names, it makes us feel more friendly.



Posts: 67

« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2006, 10:11:01 AM »

I'm sorry if I come off as ultra-defensive, but I'm paranoid about being compared to existing things. I'v had weird moments in the past where things I came up with were incredibly like specifically simmilar to other things, to the level where I must of seen them before but forgotten. Since I worry that I have that kind of brain, where I recall things and copy things without knowing, thats why I just come up with ideas to share, yaknow? I'd never seriously try to make money from any of my ideas, because chances are they aren't really mine. I'd rather just give advice on how to fine tune existing concepts anyways.

And anyways, my real name's Nick Dowbiggin. I'v been a poster here for a while, but it's been a long time since I last posted. I never was incredibly prolific.

In more recent time I'v contributed to a series of articles on RPG.net and I'v tinkered around with a few ideas that didn't really go anywhere. Mostly my whole platform towards gaming is trying to figure out a way to get the average gamer to play freeform.

Adam Biltcliffe

Posts: 56

« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2006, 02:15:04 AM »

Why do you want to "get the average gamer to play freeform"? What is it that you think freeform gaming has to offer them that's better than what they're already doing, and how is your design going to help achieve it?

(Also, you seem to have misunderstood "fully functional" as meaning "has stats and skills and hitpoints". Primetime Adventures doesn't really have any of that.)
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