Actual Play – You can go home again (8/16/2014)

sparksnevadaGM: Mike Olson
Players: Jim Peterson, Sean Nittner, Karen Twelves, and Matt Spelitzer as Croach, the Tracker.
System: Sparks Nevada (Playtest)

Shine your astro spurs and don your robot fists, cause it’s time for…

Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars!

Queue up the old timey music because Mike Olson is ready to run outlaw varmints out of town with his in development rules for a Sparks Nevada RPG.

Karen and I, recent fans of the show (because Mike told us about it) were super excited to play… and the game did not disappoint.


The game is still in development, so a large portion of this is subject to change, but here’s some of the awesome things we had at the table.

A basic into to the space western genre, the Thrilling Adventure Hour radio show itself, and a pretty novel form of roleplaying, one the is nearly exclusively dialog and sound effects, as necessitated by a radio show! He then pulled out a small speaker setup and played the theme song for us:

When there’s varmints need a’ catching
And young ‘uns need a’ saving
On my rocket steed I race across the stars
For I’ve sworn by the burrs of my astro spurs
to right the outlaw wrongs on Mars
(Yes he rights the outlaw wrongs on Mars!)

And I’m from Earth!

You can go home again

This time we find our heroes traveling together on a perilous journey to celebrate the Martian holiday Ka-wan-zah (it’s Kwanzaa). This would be the first time Croach the Tracker had returned to his tribe since he set off to fulfill his onus (onus) to Sparks Nevada. The cast of course was Sparks and Croach, accompanied by The Red Plains Rider and Cactoid Jim.

We opened with banter… now that may not seem like anything special, but banter is the heart and soul of the radio show, so the fact that Mike built it into the system (currently a Fate inspired mechanic where aspects are unlocked by playing on your cues, gimmicks, and relationships) was excellent.

Red bickered with Sparks about being crazier than Hot Pants on a Polar Bear, Sparks told Croach he was gross, Croach corrected all of them, and Cactoid Jim was at once wonderful and totally differential to everyone. This was like solid gold material here.

Our story revolved around returning home in which Croach had to persuade Barlok the Wise to allow him back into the tribe despite the protest of Praytrop the Contrary. Thankfully all of Croaches good deed pay dividends (onus) and he was allowed to join them, but before the celebrations could commence Science Aliens, or maybe it was Technology Aliens (ain’t but two sides of the same coin if you asked me) flew a spaceship over them with plans to drill a hole in mars… right through the Ka-wan-zah celebration.

As we had previously asserted when wrangling a heard of disgruntled hypercattle, Red had made some improvements to Sparks Nevada’s lasso. With that, Cactoid Jim issuing everyone to safety, and Croach’s self sacrifice (onus), Sparks was able to lasso up the wormhole generator and open it below the alien spaceship to suck them all in.

Now isn’t that some thrilling heroics!

Left to Right: Cactoid Jim, Sparks Nevada, Croach the Tracker, The Red Plains Rider, and our Narrator.
Left to Right: Cactoid Jim, Sparks Nevada, Croach the Tracker, The Red Plains Rider, and our Narrator.

Thoughts on the game

Mike uses some mechanics that really work well for the game. Specifically the cues and gimmicks, as well as the drama pool. All encouragements to engage in the activities present in the radio show: witty dialog, character revealing banter, and world building via observations of it.

What wasn’t as strong for me was the actual resolution mechanics. There were strong incentives to play the game correctly (bonus dice, check boxes being checked, aspects being unlocked, etc) but when it came to the dice rolling itself, it all just felt a little flat. Like, of course we’re going to succeed, we’ve got this giant pile of dice, and wouldn’t it be lame if we didn’t, so yeah, we win. I’m not worried though, dice mechanics can be worked on, it’s the core action of the game you’ve gotta get down, and this version has it!

Trouble is awesome.

I’m from Earth.

That is all.

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