Actual Play – Choshky’s has Fallen… Steampunk Rises from the Ashes (4/1/2009)

Not sure if I can call this actual play or not but here goes. We got together for lunch to figure out what to do now that the season of Choshky’s has ended. We agreed that we wanted to keep playing PTA but that Choshky’s probably wouldn’t be renewed. So… time for another pitch session.

One of the players who has run PTA for another group had luck with the pitch by having everyone throw in one element they wanted to see in the show. This rocked for getting our juices flowing. We ended up with Janitors in a Strip club and another pitch for normal kids in a school for gifted, I think sent from the future. Both of those got shelved however, but the promise of Steampunk.

Set in some anachronistic time, inside some metropolis where power has been put in the hands of heartless people, our band of rebels stands for justice, freedom and sheep. The game will be more action oriented and focus on the man vs. man and man vs. machine conflicts. I think, what makes a man will become an important question to ask.

We haven’t thought of complete cast yet but some ideas that have already been thrown out are a shepherd with a flock of clockwork sheep, a deep sea diver who never removes his dive helmet, and perhaps a clockwork solider. Given that we’re part of a rebellion, this motley group will probably work just fine.

What rocked

We laughed our asses off thinking of different pitch ideas.

I’m excited to play in a somewhat less slapstick game. I already have plans for torturing my character.

What could have been improved

It took us a while to start pitches so we didn’t complete the session, I want to make sure before we start we’ve got a story to go with. That will probably come out next week.

Actual Play – PTA Finale – Mr. Bawls is dead

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

We began the game with a flashback to Mr. Bawls’ high school years when his then sweetheart girlfriend told him she was pregnant. Mr. Bawls (who had a different last name back then, apparently he’s changed it) melted down and ran away. From his girlfriend, family, school, everything. As the scene flashes forward Mr. Bawls sees Eva with all the pregnancy tests and his face turns white. Next thing we know he’s picked up his dog (which died at some point but the audience just found out), his Vaseline filled boots and made for the bathroom to hang himself with his dog’s leash.

Meanwhile Kevin took this opportunity seize his nemesis while she was weak, and convinced Eva that he wouldn’t tell Bawls (who was in the process of hanging himself) that she was pregnant if she was his next porn star (we’ll see where that one goes next season).

Finally, Vern, seeing that Bawls was dead, made some executive decisions. First he hired Casey to work in the hoses isle, then he promoted Richard to Manager and then he quit. Only because he signed a contract 15 years ago, which had been grandfathered in when Osh was bought, Richard told him he wasn’t at liberty to quit and his resignation was denied. Instead, because his position in the hose isle was taken now by the hot Casey, he would take Kevin’s job as short order cook, which of course made him loose his mind.

Finally in the end we see that Bawls was never dead (nobody really looked) but only knocked unconscious as the water pipe that he hung himself broke and he cracked his head on a sink. He ended the season with marginal lucidity, I doubt much more can be said for the others.

What rocked

Mr. Bawls really took this one by storm. His suicide attempt really got the game going at a fast start. The conflict was a good one too. Will hanging himself allow him to dodge the Eva bullet. He won and as a result Eva (who was never pregnant in the first place, she kept taking the test because she kept “failing it”) is now involved with her old fling Casey.

The story has the kind of loose continuity that the Simpsons does. Some shit happens that we just forget about while other things linger on from episode to episode. I really like this relaxed episodic feel.

What could have been improved

I realized that I was uncomfortable in the scenes with Eva because while I’m fine with Transformer Care bear porn I’m not comfortable with forcing a person to make porn. In fact I find it pretty reprehensible. Now, there is no doubt that Kevin Mewes is a reprehensible person but I still don’t want it in the show. I think that next season (if we opt for another one) Eva will start out chasing Kevin with something very large (maybe a frying pan, maybe a shotgun) to make the point that while she agree about it in a time a weakness there is no way that pervert is getting her to take off her clothes. I’m sure that will make a funny scene itself.

So this was my first PTA campaign. Overall, I think my only concern is that the conflicts have usually felt kind of artificial, like I was trying to create urgency where there wasn’t any. Part of this was because we were playing at lunch and to get three scenes in 30 or so minute I really need to push, but also because I just couldn’t always think of some good opposition. I think I need to ask the question “So your goal/intent here is to ____?” more often till I figure out what the player is going for and offer a counter for if they fail. I’ll keep working on it.

Actual Play – PTA Recap (3/11/2009 and 3/17/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

We’ve had two PTA game that I haven’t covered. Work has been busier, my personal life more hectic and my reflections fewer and further between.

I’m wrapping up the end of Kevin’s spotlight episode where he found that there was just no joy in crushing Silas (and coincidentally Silas found that Transformers and Care Bears are weak, to be strong one must follow the code of Joe, as in the G.I.). Also this includes the first half of Mr. Bawl’s spotlight, focusing on commitment.

What rocked

As usually, I find the antics of the show what brings me back to the game. Vern’s “in my time” talks, Kevin’s over the top pranks and Mr. Bawls ability to look past it all and ignore the ridiculousness of it all. In short, the players are awesome.

I think the fan mail distribution has been flowing smoother. We’re quicker to dish it out, use it and get it back into the cycle. The moving of fan mail is really critical to the excitement of the game.

Some of the NPCs have really become interesting. I have to say that I really like Richard (he’s a total douche), Borris the Paintball Dodger (he’s a communist Jayne) and even Silas (just because he’s such a toadstool). Eva, Juan, Gerald, and the Drug Dealers, however I still haven’t figured out what to do with. I’m working on it. My fear with the drug dealers is not being a Jay and Silent Bob rip off, but as is now, they are just a bunch of stupid stoners. More to come I’m sure.

What could have been improved

I think episodes really need theme to serve as a backbone when the character development isn’t going anywhere. The theme can be really minor but it needs to be something that anyone in the episode can touch on. In the last two the theme has been tacked on as the game started. First it was Mr. Bawls’ birthday but really only Kevin interacted with that. In the current episode it’s Eva’s ex-girlfriend comes back to town to make up with her, but so far only Vern has interacted with her. We’ll see if that gets more interesting and I’ll try to make sure we’ve pick a theme we all like before the show starts next time.

Somewhat flat stakes. The first set of stakes, on the start of the spotlight no less, were “will you take your job seriously and go look to see we’re low on stock.” It tackled both Bawls’s commitment issues (his girlfriend and his job) but it still felt very “meh”. I was looking for a way to spice it up, but got nothing.

All your narratives belong to me. As the cards had it I narrated every scene in the last game. That isn’t horrible but I really prefer to spread the narration rights around as I think the stories are funnier and more engaging the more people take part in telling them. Luck (or unluck) of the draw.

Actual Play – PTA Today – Hooray! (2/23/09)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

This was one of our better PTA sessions. It started with Kevin having a very clear idea about what was going on (which is good, it’s his spotlight episode) and everyone else kind of wondering what to do. Quickly though we added in some details (It’s Mr. Bawl’s Birthday… and he doesn’t know it… and it’s April 1st) to get the story a little more texture, something to bounce off of besides just Kevin’s torture of Silas.

Opening scenes

Kevin slowly but surely wearing Silas down until he has no sense of self, no will to live, etc. Vern and Mr. Bawls seem apathetic to Kevin’s actions so far.

1st Scene – Kevin opens it up, torturing Silas and getting his Transformer porn site ready. Kevin needs to “procure” some more supplies but when it comes to taking a hose, Vernon sicks Richard on Kevin to put him in line. Unfortunately, Kevin has grown into a giant in the store. Not only does he have his (mostly useless) stoner buddies but now Borris, the paintball dodger has moved in as well. With Borris help (and a airsoft bullet to the head) Kevin cows Richard into peeing his pants and fleeing.

2nd Scene – In the bathroom. Mr. Bawls talks to Richard about the necessity of pants (Richard is washing his in the sink while wearing an apron) and tries to send him home. Eva breaks in an gets mad at Bawls for not telling her he couldn’t eat dairy products, which she doesn’t realize is the same thing as being lactose intolerant. After she leaves Richard confronts Bawls on Kevin and tells him he needs to do something about him. Vern comes in to aid by telling Bawls that he has to clean up urine in the hose isle. Stuck with a mop in his hands Bawls folds and realizes he’s got to do something before Choshky comes down and makes his life miserable.

3rd Scene – In the parking structure / tough shed. Vernon corners Silas who was crying in the shed and tells him to man up and face Kevin. There is much confusion about whether Vernon is insulting or encouraging Silas but in the end he walks into the break room to “confront” his master.

And that is where we left off.

What rocked

Higher stakes. It seemed like people really WANTED the stakes, which is awesome. It doesn’t really matter if you win or lose, but I like it when the characters really care.

Excellent performances. There was a lot of passing fan mail around. I really dug people’s encouragement of each other.

As before in Vernon’s spotlight, we really know what this episode is about and it shows. I felt everyone contributing to Kevin’s issue and making interesting scenes out of it.

Seeing the result of a completed spotlight. Since Veron’s spotlight he’s gone from the underappreciated old guy who won’t stand up for himself to the underappreciated old guy who doesn’t take any more shit. He’s become the personification of the underdog you root for and I really like that change. It didn’t happen immediately but I’ve been seeing it in the last couple sessions. I’m really hoping that Kevin’s change is as dramatic after this episode. Character growth rocks.

The NPCs are all different now. I haven’t tried to flesh out too many of them but Eva, Richard, and Silas are all different people now, instead of just amorphous blobs. I’m happy about this as they have become more interesting for the players to interact with.

Players being really explicit about what they wanted. Mr. Bawls told me what he was hoping for in preparation for his spotlight episode. Kevin told me what kind of conflicts he wanted to face in his. This is GREAT stuff.

What could have been improved

As I said in the beginning the other players were searching a bit to figure out what they are doing. We’re really got to set up some “episode themes” that are easy to grab onto before the show starts, otherwise the players can feel lost when they are told to frame a scene.

Time… I got to lunch late which meant the game was short. The upside of this, however, was that I was very mindful of the time and tried to really push each scene to its conclusion quickly. Less fluff, more action.

Looking forward to next week.

Actual Play – The Vending Machine(s)? (2/18/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

We ended the Vending Machine episode with Vern flying under the radar and having Richard (the ambitious suck up) order from Juan’s cousins and have them sneak one it. It only made it as far as Kevan’s office but the scene involved the INS, the police and an ambulance.

The show was fun but lacked in energy. I thought we were all feeling a little uninspired. Kevain Mews brought some crazy (random) Transformer/Care Bear porn fun in but otherwise we floundered a bit.

I think I need to have more motivations from the other cast members to create interesting conflicts. Maybe that, or maybe we were all just tired to day. I know I am.

Actual Play – The Vending Machine (2/11/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

PTA! Ha! That was fun times. One of the players came a little late AND I was messed up the “spotlight” episode. I thought it was Mr. Bawls’ turn but it turned out to be nobodies. So, since one of the players has just been going through getting a vending machine installed (and all the politics around that) we opted for an episode on the vending machine.

I threw in some random flavor bits of “Transformer-con” coming soon, and Silas putting up posters all over the place for it. This of course resulted in Silas being further tormented by Kevin… Big shock there.

We chewed through three scenes; a staff meeting on the discussion of grape soda, a horrible abomination of care bear / transformer porn and the rearrangement of the break room and by rearrangement I just mean the “messing with Vern’s stuff”

What rocked

We got to vent some real life steam. I know the topic was one that caused some real pressure on one of the player so I hope this was cathartic.

One of the players had us in stitches as he narrated Silas going into a transformer coma. Hmm… that might have to turn into something.

What could have improved

I felt a little lack luster in the conflicts, like they weren’t charged enough. I thought Vern’s was good because it had clear opposition but the others didn’t have any real resistance. That is why in Kevin’s I had Silas go crazy with anger. Have to think on how to make this more tense so people are more vested in their chips. At the same time, failure should always be as fun as success. Hmm… gotta think about this more.

We started late which meant we were rushed and I missed the desert hang out time. Man I wish I wasn’t using a timecard. I really need 1.5 hour lunches.

Actual Play – The Surplus – Part 2 (2/2/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

So I ripped it right off from The Office, I know, but it made for a good story. The manager gets some extra money to spend and everyone has an opinion about where it should go. This was the end of the show and I had a lot of fun. Kevin held his nemesis hostage, Mr. Bawls went Rambo to rescue her (reminder of his old football days) and Vern busted the key machine for good.

What rocked

Kevin’s player has really stepped up the game after his experience playing it with kids. He’s brought a lot of energy and creativity that I didn’t notice lacking before but I’m very happy to see now.

We had some nice progression towards Mr. Bawls’ spotlight episode. Eva in danger, rescued by the hero. It will make for some good scenes in the next episode.

The store changed. That is important to me, I want to see change. Little artifacts of previous episodes are really fun. From Vern’s episode we have “Vern’s Way” on the hose isle and never ending respect from the head cook Juan. From this one we’ve got a parking structure for Choshky, a new entertainment center in Mr. Bawls office and no way to make keys at all. I like seeing the cast, store and show grow this way.

What could have been improved

I’m still figuring out how I want to do budget. By starting the game with everyone having 1 fan mail and having 3 in the pot (thus taking 6 from my budget) I ended up running out of budget in the end and had to do something of a run around (pitting the players against each other instead of against me). It worked out ok, but I think I’ll need more in the future. I’ll keep playing with the numbers.

Conflicts with different stakes seems to be somewhat awkward to resolve. I was trying to pit the cast against each other when in truth they had different agendas. For instance in the end, it wasn’t really important to Kevan where the money was spent, he had sewed his chaos, but for the other it still mattered. Hmm… have to think on this more.

Actual Play – Surplus (1/26/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

For today’s inspiration for Cho-OSH-ky’s I stole from the episode “Surplus” from the office. The theme we agreed on was that there would be a surplus that had to be spent by the end of the day, otherwise it would be lost. Various characters wanted different things like: Advertising for the store, A new Key making machine, A ramp to the ceiling for their paintball course, a home entertainment system for their office, etc.

Kevin started the show off with a bang… literally. He got some high powered paintball gun and tried to shoot some apartment lady manager through the vent shaft. Of course, crap hit the fan and the show started spiraling from there.

So far so good.

What rocked

Kevin really started the game off with some fun. He’s a complete fucker and started all kinds of shit. Including hitting the apartment manager in the ass and Silas in the face, and of course breaking the vent shaft. That scene was golden.

Instead of having all the budget in my pile at the beginning of the show, I gave each character one point of fan mail and put three in the pot. This helped the flow quite a bit.

We didn’t worry about staging the “conflict” when setting the scene, we just let then arise through the narration. This seemed to work much better than deciding on a conflict before acting out the scene.

What could have been improved

I didn’t feel like we had a great challenge for Mr. Bawls. Mostly because I was pushing the “surplus” agenda on him when I think he would have rather done a personal scene. I think next time when we have a “what this show is about” I’m going to also offer a point of fan mail to someone who will introduce it for me.

Actual Play – Vern’s Way (1/12/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

We had our first session where I really felt like something clicked. It may have been that it was a spotlight episode and I kept asking the player “Has your issue changed or developed?” Every time he said no I told the next player they had to open a scene that would push the envelope on his issue. Eventually it broke and awesome ensued.

Vernan is the lifer who has worked at Osh for 40 years. He’s an out dated relic and nobody respects him. Now that it is Ch-osh-ky’s his job has become even more demeaning as he’s expected to do crap work in the restaurant as well. His issues are about self worth and everything in his life seems be a reminder of how little he’s accomplished. He’s been pushed around and abused and he finally cracked. With the help of his nephew Samuel L. Jackson, Vern tore up the store, cruised around in his borrowed Maserati, got arrested and then finally told off his new boss. He’s NEVER flipping burgers or working the register again. Woot!

What rocked:

I really saw the players taking off with this direction of the show. I’m really there just to fill in flavor bits and drive scenes toward conflict, not to create “the story.” I was really happy when I was trying to figure out a way to engage one of the players and another just jumps into create the conflict, the humor and the advancement.

Vern’s issues of self worth are improved. There are still a number of people who don’t respect him, but he’s got a permanent sign of “Vern’s Way” on the hoses isle, the head cook Jose will never let him flip another burger and the earnest kid wants his autograph for the so called war’s he’s served in.

What could have been improved:

The only think I feel that is lacking from this game right now is time. We squeeze the game into about half and hour and it feels a little forced. I really like the idea of doing the lunch hour game, but I’m frustrated when I feel like I need to push all the time to make it come out on time. Maybe this is a good experience for me. In my regular games I’m constantly running behind schedule, so this is a good way of me practicing my pacing.

Actual Play – Choshkys (12/22/2009)

GM: Sean Nittner
System: Primetime Adventures

Played PTA at Baker’s Square last time. We’re getting the groove of eating and playing in one hour. Also, we got to have lunch with sunnysmilixer which is always fun. We can do about half an episode per lunch.

This episode was focusing on Vernon’s issues of self worth. As being someone who has prided himself on putting in a good days work every day of his life, he’s seeing that none of that means anything. Nobody respects him. His boss doesn’t, his co-workers don’t, even his friends don’t. However, the one person that does is his nephew Samuel L. Jackson. Who made an appearance at the very end of the game (i.e. middle of the episode). He told Vernon he need to stop being stepped on and stand up for himself. The game ended with them thrashing the place.

I’m not going to do a what rocked/could be improved because I think we’re still getting a hang of the mechanics and running in the same pacing issues as we were before. Overall though, still having lots of fun.