Actual Play – Pirates in a Wicked PTA (10/25/2014)

In A Wicked PTAPlayers: Justin Evans, Sean Nittner, Dennis Jordan, Kristin Hayworth, Eric Fattig, Eric Bohr, and Bill Miller
System: In a Wicked PTA

I tried to describe this game (system) to Avery McDaldno and it started like this. “Oh, it uses In a Wicked Age Oracles, but with Prime Time Adventures characters and resolution mechanics…but we flip cards one at a time and each card flip includes some of the narration, and we used best interests in from IaWA instead of Issues, and each scene you frame can’t include your character so you act as a director like in Durance, and we use the Element Ownership rules from Archipelago, epilogues from Fiasco, and everybody creates a character to contribute to the group pool , and, and… oh, I guess this is just some hacked together game that Justin made. It works really well!”

We decided on using the Pirates Oracle and from it we drew four oracles that started us with this situation.

  • A drunk shipwright who betrayed his captain lost at sea with only a half full barrel of run to keep him afloat.
  • An aboriginal slave owner who sold out out to the parliamentary government providing cotton and tobacco from the sweat and labor of his slaves.
  • A young girl orphaned in a seaside port, overlooked by all. Enough so that she had obtained an enchanted necklace from the Sea Witch, left behind by someone carelessly.
  • A ship captain, betrayed by his carpenter to the parliament and now carrying slaves for them through waters only he knows how to traverse. Either the slaves make it safely to the plantation or his wife and children will be jailed.
  • A sea witch, supposedly enraged that her necklace was stolen, but in reality had cursed the seas in a rage from a lover that had besmirched her.
  • Said lover, a noble and foppish swashbuckler without a care who brought ruin to those around him.
  • A slave who was the leader of her people in captivity. They had been led by her sister who fought of the parliamentary government and were punished for it. When her sister was murdered the other captives turned to her for leadership. Locked up in a ship hull she plotted for her revenge and all of her people’s freedom.
  • A local officer trying to keep the peace in a harbor full of pirates.

After making the characters and giving each of them an edge, we each selected a character to play (which I made the rule could not be the one we thought of) and then added additional edges or connections. We then settled on a few domains that needed an authority. We decided on the sea, the supernatural, the government, and the indigenous slaves.

We each picked a best interest that was a direct attack against someone else. Some of those were vicious. Someone was going to die, be deposed, or otherwise have their life take a serious downturn before the game was done!

The Play Is the Thing

As we had so many players (seven people is A LOT of players for me these days) we just did one round of scenes (still seven scenes) and then capped it off with an epilogue.

The Captain got free of the governments grip on him. The carpenter failed to take the ship and now a worthless drunk. The slaves smuggled weapons into their holding cell and when they were delivered to the island attacked the few guards their and claimed island of their own. The slave owner was killed. The necklace was returned to the sea witch but as the thing she really wanted was companionship, that’s not all she kept.

Good times. For some at least.

Thoughts on the game

Neither Bill nor Eric Bohr normally play RPGs. I think they’ve each played one game before and didn’t remember much of it. I loved that in this game they thrived. Part of was the rules mechanics being very simple. Describe your actions until you reach a point of conflict and then flip a few cards to see who wins. I also think it helps that at a table where only two or three characters are active in a scene we had four or five people contributing as various authorities, helping the players articulate their stakes in a conflict, or otherwise adding content (even if it was just a bit of description) to the scene.

Justin’s system has everything but the kitchen sink thrown in. It’s got narrative and mechanical systems that are cobbled together from a bunch of games, and it works great. Specifically using the oracles, doing collaborative character creation, and having each player open a scene that doesn’t include their character, directs the players to be invested in each other and in characters in the story besides themselves. I super dig it.

Getting a bunch of people to play an RPG during a bachelor party is awesome! Also we did it for Extra life as part of their 24 hour game-a-thon that just so happened to be on the same weekend as my party woot. Shameless plug I forgot to do during the twitters: If you want to support us (retroactively) here’s the site to do it:


Actual Play – Beyond the Law (4/8/2014)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

After almost a year since our last game, we didn’t miss a beat! Before jumping into the game though, it super exciting to note that Stephen Hood from Storium has asked Lenny to write up Blue Gene as a setting for Storium. It’s a stretch goal for the kickstarter that is, at the time of writing this AP report, $1600 away from funding. So, if you love Blue Gene and want to play in this world too, go kick it!

Before the game (since it has been so long) Lenny sent us a recap of where things are now:

  • Yamamoto has offered Sloane his aid in rooting out internal corruption, if Sloane were to start working with YamaTech, for undisclosed reasons. Devil’s deal.
  • Yamamoto also made the same deal to Frank, but Frank actually took it. Yamamoto now has extensive details about Frank’s black ops past, and Frank has a marker to call in, which he’s used once before.
  • Unknown para-military folks have been responsible for violent incidents across the season. We still do not know who is in charge of them.
  •  Whoever the mysterious hacker is that’s been watching you since Season 1 is still unidentified. We know their access point to a lot of the BCU’s stuff was through Shawn West’s neural implant.
  • Shawn West lives as a ghost in the machine. He made a deal with Frank to bury a bunch of his dark secrets from the IA investigative committee, in exchange for freedom to move outside of the LAPD’s firewalls. Frank agreed, and as a result, got made commissioner at the end of last episode.
  •  The BCU is in direct competition with Lt. Neil Garrett’s own personal trained team of SWAT. At the beginning of the season, he wanted to blue his whole team, but Frank resisted. After the last episode, when you found out that the police commissioners themselves were behind a lot of the racketeering ring for Blue, public outcry led to Garrett getting what he wanted.
  • Danielle went vigilante to try and go after the people fucking with Sloane’s career, in a context where she’d have full freedom to retaliate. She caught Mallory making deals with corrupt authorities and reacted with violence, sending Mallory to the hospital. Those corrupt officials sent a sniper to finish the job, and killed her. Siddig knows that Danielle was the one who hospitalized her, but has not blabbed the secret for Sloane’s sake. 
  • Danielle was offered a deal by the lovely and corrupt Alfonso Alarcon, son of the corrupt Councilman who died when y’all exposed the commissioners.
  • Alisha Cross used her influence to get Sloane and Siddig reinstated after those corrupt authorities tried to have them suspended. There’s a tacit truce brewing between Siddig and Cross, where she’s backing off her surveillance in exchange for Siddig’s more willing participation in her trials. 
  • Sophia was involved in sabotaging Cross’ surveillance on Siddig’s behalf, but has now stopped, and has made a promise to someone that she wouldn’t poke her head into BCU business anymore, but hasn’t said who or why. 
  • It was revealed that Hunter Labs was involved in black market arms manufacturing and sales in order to fund part of their research initiatives.
  •  Frank is now the police commissioner. His first act was to push through the corrupt offer that gets Danielle off the hook. Sloane knows she’s subverting justice, and realizes that Frank’s already playing shitty political games.

coruscantOpening Scene

Flash forward six months since the last game as shown by a montage of news article headings that depict both the BCU and Lt Neil Garrett’s enhanced SWAT team going back and forth trying to out do each other with busts.

When the montage finishes the scene opens with Sloane closing in on a case. Using Indra as his communications (Frank still watching from a far, but in a meeting with the major when it happens) Sloane moves into a complex that hangs above LA, a pod among hundreds of other pods that is 50 stories above the ground, liked 360 decrees with windows, all of them opaque. Hiding in plain sight.

As Sloane move in, Indra guides him and then checks the comm with Siddig who comes back with a wise ass remark about “falling fast”. He is, in fact dropping from an air lift 8000 feet above, slowled only slightly but a hang glider contraption rigged onto his back.

insane-muscles-013-500x800Sloane methodically makes his way in, but when he gets inside, where he expects to find a training facility for illegally blue’d paramilitary troops, instead he finds one insanely muscled man, suited up on power armor, and ready for him with a chain gun.

Sloane yelled “LAPD BCU stand down” and fired a few shots before he dove behind a couch that was shredded by rain gun fire.

The ceiling above exploded and Siddig dropped down, a bit embarrassed that they performed this whole stick for just one guy but ready to get scrappy. Using Siddig as a distraction, Sloane jumped the guy, pounded the desequencer in his neck (literally hand to pound it in because his muscles were so hard) and then injected him with the serum.

The man stood up and picked up Sloane with one hand. We expected at an moment for for the serum to take effect and him to drop. After the moment passed and he was still standing, strong has ever, he looked at Sloane and told him “You can’t make nature a crime.” Then he through him out the window!

Cut to theme music!

Act 1 – Scene 1 (Sloane)

The camera cut to him falling out of a 50 story building, then to Frank in the Mayors office watching this whole thing and bolting up out of his chair, then back to Sloane landing safely on a surveillance drone a few feet below, then to Indra controlling it from a distance and smugly saying “gotcha!”

Siddig raced to the window after Sloane and when he paused after seeing that Sloane was safe the gene freak (or maybe not) jumped him. Siddig was faster, and could hit like a wrecking ball, but the guy didn’t even feel it. The two of them started were in a giant brawl, but it was clear Mr. Power Armor was going to win.  Sloane leapt through the window and fired his taser into the power armor John Blue’s (as we’re calling him for now) power armor, causing it to shut down and lock up, effectively forming a cage around him.

Scene question: Does being thrown out of a 50 story building stop Sloane from bringing the perp in? No, no it doesn’t.

Act 1 -Scene 2 (Frank)

Inside Hunter Labs is the only facility strong enough to keep a man like this held. The scene opens with him already locked up. Siddig is standing right in front of him, staring into his eyes but when he puts his hand through him the camera reveals he’s just staring out a holographic image of the man, who is locked up in a nigh impenetrable cell.

Indra does the exposition and tells us all, though we already know it, that we’ve tried a dozen different methods to desequence him and none of them have worked. As Sloane steps out to smoke he sees Lt. Niel Garrett approach. Garrett has none of his usual bluster and with all sincerity apologizes as he hands Sloane the prisoner transfer orders “If he can’t be deseqeunced, he’s not blue’d.  If he’s not blue’d, his not in your jurisdiction.”

Sloane tells him to wait out side and comes to deliver the news to Siddig and Frank. “Cujo, Frank. We’re about to get fucked.” After all the normal protesting we agree, but Frank has the idea to bug him. Too many people have been watching us. If someone wants him, then Frank wanted to know who that someone was. We agreed to hide a bug on him, which Siddig deliver by means of injection as he told the guy “I’m going to find out how you were made” and he responded “I hope you do”. SO. MUCH. TESTOSTERONE.

John Blue was delivered into Garrett’s custody decked out in manacles and controlled by a shock collar on the end of a long (very long) pole. They took the power are as well. Fuck.

Scene question: Can Frank plan surveillance on John Blue without it being detected. Yep!

Act 1 – Scene 3 (Siddig)

Back in Dr. Cross’s lab Siddig was performing regular tests but his attention was on the viewstream. Headlines all over showed video of him getting his ass kicked. It got to him, he was pissed off that he was beaten, and more pissed that they couldn’t figure out what made this guy tick.

Alisha told him that there were other metrics she tracked beyond just the creepy ones. For instance, she saw there was plenty of people looking for a come back fight… and if the LAPD couldn’t contain this man, wouldn’t that give him another opportunity. But that wasn’t really the whole of it. Siddig didn’t so much want to beat that guy as he wanted to be that guy. Indestructible, and with no Achilles Heel (he sad staring daggers and the de-sequencing controller Alisha carried). “I don’t want to be weak. I don’t want to be a victim ever again.”

Perhaps in a an act of kindness, or simply because she believed it when she said “In war, there is always escalation, and this [the desequencer] is now just a liability.” She handed it over to Siddig.

Scene question: Can Siddig deflect Alisha’s questions and keep his cool. Nope!

Interstitial Scene

A court scene where John Blue is let off. It’s revealed that biologically he is only 17 years old and they deferred from charging him with the array of his offences given that he was not re-sequenced and officer Sloane’s protocol while arresting a minor.

Thoughts on this game

So. Damn. Good. I really love this game.

I was a we bit unfocused on in my own scene. I wanted to show that Siddig was really upset about losing the fight, bu also wanted to bring Sloane into the scene (as it’s his spotlight episode) but couldn’t figure out how to do it.

There is a weird co-dependency that I realize Siddig has for Sloane. There was this great scene (in the middle of scene two) where Sloane was outside and Frank asked Siddig if the thought he could take the guy in a fair fight. Siddig was waffling, unsure about it, but then when Sloane walked in, totally changed his tune. “Oh yeah. without the power armor, if I wasn’t distracted by my partner being throw out the window, if he hadn’t sucker punched me. Oh yeah, I could totally take him. Yeah. For sure.” Siddig can’t let Sloane ever thing he is week. He needs to be strong for his partner. On the flip side, if and when Sloane does finally break, does finally surrender that the system is too broken to repair, Siddig is going to lose his mind. He depends, he needs Sloan to ground him. I love it.

Seeing Frank as commissioner and having all this power, but with it coming all this responsibility and scrutiny is great. Like, he finally has the power to make things better, but it’s still a game within a game, there are still so many secret agendas and ways to get tripped up, that he’s almost more tangled up in red tape than he ever was before. Awesome.

Actual Play – You sold guns to who? (5/1/2013)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

This wrapped episode 3, Frank’s spotlight. His authority and his right to have that authority were called into question over and over. After more than a month between sessions, this game still hit all the right notes.

Act 3 – Scene 1 (Frank) – Following right from the last interstitial (which featured Curtis being kidnapped) Scott framed a chase scene of all of us trying to catch his captors before they got to LAX and on a plane. The scene opens with Frank chasing them down in his car only to come face to face with a blockade and one of the captors pointing an RPG (that’s rocket propelled grenade, not role-playing game) right at him. One more of Hunter’s car’s destroyed and he was at the mercy of the first cop to come give him a ride… which was of course Lt. Neil Garrett.

At first we thought the flip was going to be about who shows up who, but we let things play out a bit and that changed. We cut over to the ocean side (deciding that in 2060 LAX had extended out over the Pacific) and Sidding and Sloane are driving a motor boat at breakneck speeds. Sloane, stoic as ever even when being jostled by huge waves and water spraying all over him.

Cut again back to the runway where Garrett and his men, plus Frank are chasing the captors down on foot. They have Curtis locked in an hover container allowing them to move without hindrance to the plane. Garret and Frank are cut off by a jeep with a mounted machine gun, but just as it’s about top open fire on them, the boat comes flying in from off screen to crash into it.

We come to the flip… and realize that now, it is important whether or not we free Curtis. The flip says we do… but we play it up a bit. The get on the plane and we get on just after them. Just as it’s taking off, Garrett orders that it be shot down and we come flying out of the plane, into the drink below just before it is blown to smithereens. I know we have this game set in the dystopian future, but damn I felt like John McClane in that moment.  1980 action explosion!

Act 3 – Scene 2 (Siddig) – I opened up with the aftermath of the chase, still on the runway…when EVERYONE wanted to be the first to talk to Curtis. Frank and Siddig both wanted to know if he was okay, and what happened. Garrett wanted to know what the hell happened with all his swat guys (who got blown away in the last scene trying to arrest him). Then a jeep pulls up and Department of Defense Major Alisha Cross, PhD. hops out and claims jurisdiction over all of us.

In a bit of hysterical irony, for whatever reason we all changed roles. Frank, incensed, flies off the handle at Cross, telling her that is she wanted to be part of the action, she should have been during during the action! It’s revealed that he’s really lost it when Cross says “Cujo, call off your dog.”

We win the flip and Cross agrees to give us time to debrief Curtis, and even to do it off the clock.  It’s all part of that growing trust between her and Siddig. When Curtis does spill the beans it’s time for another role swapping. He finally lets out the Hunter family dirty secret. Before they were doing business with the US law enforcement and armed forces, Hunter Labs, with both Curtis and Frank are still a part of, sold tech to all sorts of shady individuals. People who weren’t supposed to be a threat on our soil but did plenty of awful things in other parts of the world (giving some context the the scene last session with Frank flying a mecha a blowing away terrorists).  This was my time to be the Sloane. “This is simple. There are bad people who illegally have your technology. They broke the law. We’re cops. We’re going to go arrest them.”

Act 3 – Scene 3 (Sloane) – At the DA’s office, Alfonzo “Dirty Al” Alarcon, sitting at what used to be Mallory’s desk is showing Sloane a deal he’s going to give to Danielle to let her off.  Sloane is hammering him for details, while Siddig is trying to get him to back down and just be happy that is wife is going to get off the hook.  Finally however, Sloane pushes it too far when he asks “Frank, look at this deal. Is this a deal you’d give to any scum bag on the street.” Siddig just explodes on him for treating Danielle like that. “You asshole, she’s you’re wife. I can’t believe you’re treating her like this after what she did for you.” – Oh shit. There it was. This was going totally off script. The “Danielle actually got your ex-girlfriend killed trying to protect you” plot was NOT supposed to come out right now.

So we made that the flip. Did Sloane notice that slip, that hesitation in Siddig’s barrage of insults? Fortune favors the screen presence it seems and this episode was not Sloane’s to dominate (screen presence 1). He turned his attention back to the DA and hammered out the details with him, paying no mind to Siddig or his objections.

Act 3-4 Interstitial – Further investigation into Frank, because of Hunter Labs and Curtis’s kidnapping fills the press. The public puts pressure on the city for more re-sequenced law enforcement officers and Garret gets the go ahead to blue his team.

Act 4 – Scene 1 (Frank) – Frank gets and email from Shaun West (which he assumes is some glitch but reads it anyway). The message directs him to server room 103F. Frank finds a screen there with just a cursor blinking, which then start typing to him…revealing itself to be Shaun West. Shaun explains what he knows of his current “existence” as the ghost in the machine and offer’s Frank a deal, to keep his secrets from the IA investigation committee (and thus ensure his position as commissioner) if Frank gives him access to spread to other networks. The deal is struck.

Act 4 – Scene 2 (Siddig) – A huge party for Frank with tons of people there to celebrate his nomination.  Sloane and Siddig are on the outside, unable to get to him. A perfect mirror of the scene earlier where Sidding and Sloane were the only friends he had.

Act 4 – Scene 3 (Sloane) – Frank’s last act as captain, to review the deal with Danielle. He finds it’s totally crooked but passes it along anyway.  Does Sloane realize he’s full of shit? Yep. The ink isn’t even dried on his papers and Frank is already playing the game.

Thoughts on this game

After the game we talk a bit about the first scene, how we let it play out for a while until we came to a point of tension and then flipped on that. We didn’t walk into the scene demanding to know what the scene question was going to be, and I think that was a really strong choice. This led into a discussion about indie-rpgs as backlash against trad, and hammering that point too hard. Encouraging instant conflict and instantly going to the dice to resolve.  More discussion of this is necessary.

We had a high speed chaise on land, air, and water. How bad ass is that?

Someone correct me if I got the deal between Frank and Shaun West wrong.  I didn’t write it down so I may be misremembering.

God damn I love our show. I love that relationship of the cast is constantly in flux and under tension. That the characters themselves change and surprise even us.

Actual Play – Commissioner Frank Hunter (3/20/2013)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

Opening scene – Sidding and Frank in the shooting range first thing in the morning, each doing some penis waving. Siddig by firing a hand cannon and hitting all bulleyes without looking at it. Frank by firing a single round into the target, and then moments later the target igniting in flames. They are interrupted by Indra who runs in and hugs Frank. When he asks her why, she looks a little embarrassed and then asks if he heard the news? He’s been nominated as police commissioner! Siddig makes a snarky comment and then his PDA goes off requesting his authorization for an IA review, as standard with all commissioner nominees.

Act 1 – Scene 1 (Frank) – In the Hunter Labs, having a party to celebrate is nomination. Siddig brings out some dish that’s on fire, but the camera reveals that besides Sophie, nobody else is there. Frank really has no friends. The discussion starts jovially, but eventually it turns to the question of will Frank take the job. He has some reservations but doesn’t want to talk about them. The flip – Does Frank let something slip by accident? No, he opts to say he’ll take the job.

The scene is being recorded by someone, something, but we see in the background that the recording has been traced… by Shaun West.

Act 1 – Scene 2 (Siddig) – In the interrogation room being interviewed about Frank’s leadership. IA investigation team interrogating Sloane and Siddig. Flip: Can Siddig make Frank look good? Yep. Last word: Siddig’s investigator comes out jovially laughing with Sidding, he’s convinced. Sloane’s investigator however gives her partner and stern look, she isn’t convinced.

Act 1 – Scene 3 (Sloane) – Siddig and Sloane in the greasy spoon trying to talk about the interviews but interrupted by the public wanting to get footage on Siddig. A blogger gets right in Siddig’s face and despite having endured weeks of this, he nearly loses his temper. Sloane diffuses the situation and the crowd (quoting the contract). Siddig is beaming with two slices of pie when Sloane gets back.

Act 1 – 2 Interstitial – IA Agent (who interviewed Siddig) entering an abandoned Hunter Labs and starts snooping around. Figure behind him comes in and smokes the guy.

Act 2 – Scene 1 (Frank) – Frank’s background. Frank cleaning up his office (getting ready to move) and he finds some medals “wings”. We next see him on a naval base visiting and old friend, Miller. The guy is hard core. He’s still in the thick of military operations and bitter as fuck. Frank shows him up by doing one last mission with him (in some mecha jet fighter thing) and blowing the hell out of obvious bad dudes (TM) in Ass-crack-istan.

Act 2 – Scene 2 (Siddig) – Siddig talking to Sophie, he’s worried that Frank has gone off radar. He thinks someone is setting him up. Sophie convinces him to stop pursuing lest someone else is going to get hurt. She promised someone she wouldn’t look into it and Siddig needs to do that too.

Act 2 – Scene 3 (Sloane) – Danielle hasn’t been calling. Sloane starts looking after her and finds her doing some vigilante work. Sloane cuts her off as she’s coming back to her car. They fight about what she’s doing (to prevent him from losing his badge)

Act 2 – 3 Interstitial – SWAT break into Curtis Hunter’s home and come to arrest him. He’s ready to go willingly but then someone breaks in through a window and starts mowing down cops.

Actual Play – Blue Gene – Tearing down the system (2/20/2013)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

We picked up from last game to finish the episode and get ready to ramp up to Frank’s spotlight (next ep).


Act 3 – Scene 1 (Sloane) – We open with Alarcon going to the Grand Design. He’s totally flaunting his corruption and wealth. You know, snorting lines of coke off strippers tits kind of flaunting. Shaun West shows up and immediately Sidding and Sloane can tell something is wrong. He looks tense and unstable, and he’s making a b-line for Alarcon… and he’s packing heat.

The flip determines if Sloane can keep things under control…and he can’t. Shaun pulls his gun and Sidding takes a bullet to prevent it from going into Alarcon. Sloane takes Shawn down but the scene ends with Sloane and Sidding (currently suspended) and Shaun (who tried to kill a man)  in a book room. Alarcon walking away Scott free.

Act 3 – Scene 2 (Frank) – The scene opens with Frank  using Yamamoto tech to track the police station monitoring back to a skyscraper in downtown LA. He is interrupted by Indra paging him to come down to booking. He finds Siddig, Shawn West and Sloane (and some others) in the booking office and discovers Shawn West’s neurological implant. Sloane is in holding (not booked), Siddig is sent to the hospital, and Shawn West is taken to Alisha Cross. The doctor, a specialist in modified behavior psychology realizes that Shaun has a neurological implant that is literally controlling his lower brain functions on a primal level. The flip determines if she can remove it… and again Lenny draws the hearts on us. Shaun dies in the procedure, but there is a burst of energy as the chip is deactivated. The audience sees the special effects of of Shaun’s neural data stream enter the pervasive computing in Alisha’s office.

Act 3 – Scene 3 – (Siddig). Cross visits Siddig in the hospital and once the bullet was removed, he was already nearly recovered (thanks to his re-sequencing).  Alisha is clearly upset, as she’s realized what Siddig did to go behind her back. She makes him an offer to lay off the surveillance if he stays away from Sophie, but ends up accepting (yah, the cards were finally in our favor) his counter offer. She can keep her kill-switch on him, but she had to use her influence to get Sidding and Sloane, but mostly Sloane, back his badge.

Act 3 to 4 Interstitial – Paperwork going back and forth and and Garrentt dropping off the badges to Frank. “I don’t know how you did it, but I’m going to find out.”

Act 4 – Scene 1 (Sloane) – All three of the protagonists are together, getting their badges back and and suiting up when they get an urgent message from Malory “Help”. She’s in the hospital and a thug is coming to clean house. We take down the shooter but he’s actually just a targeter for a rail gun. Sloane tries to save Mallory, but his first duty is to protect the patients in the hospital. He manages to clear them out, but just as he’s about to get to Mallory’s bed the gunner opens fire and decimpates everything in the room. Siddig leaps from the building onto the chopper and crashes it into a building.

Act 4 – Scene 2 (Frank) We get the location of the building and have confirmation they have LAPD resources (it was an LAPD chopper). We mask one of our choppers as theirs and land on the room. There is a small skirmish to get in. We bust into the doors of the server room, we see the entire board of police commissioners. Commissioner Jack Steele tells us we have nothing against them. Nothing except them creating a human bomb… Alarcon, who is clearly a toady, panics and a fight breaks out to arrest them all. Alarcon dies and we arrest the commissioners, thought is’s a brutal take down (they are of course, all Blued).

Act 4 – Scene 3 – (Siddig) At Mallory’s funeral Danielle pulls Sidding asside and tells him what happened with her and Mallory, that she was responsibly for her death, and asks him to keep it a secret. He agrees, but make it clear its not for her, it’s for Sloane.

Thoughts on this game

Sloane continues to be my personal hero for all the fucked up emotional shit he goes through. I have retroactively given him another fan mail for that last scene for the secret that is now being kept from him.

For my own part, I get too excited playing Siddig and want to blow shit up and give curt dismissals. I realized I had words for the commissioners, and more for Danielle (specifically that I wasn’t doing this for her, but for him, Siddig fucking can’t stand Danielle right now), but my mouth words weren’t on it. Doesn’t matter, was still a fucking awesome episode.

Actual Play – Blue Gene – Pointing Fingers (2/6/2013)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

The was the twist in the episode (end of act 1, beginning of act 2) where uncertainty is abound. All of our compasses (moral, political, philosophical) were pointing in different directions, specifically at each other, and branding the other our enemy.

Act 1 – Scene 3 – Siddig

It’s Sloane’s episode so I wanted to bring up his issue myself. I see Siddig and Sloane as really having very similar goals: putting away bad guys. But their motivations are different, as are their means. For Sloane, due process matters. It separates the BPD from vigilantes. Siddig doesn’t care about that shit, he wasn’t to get the job done. Both of them are deliciously flawed.

The scene was simple. Siddig showed up at Sloane’s apartment and presented him with a private investigator’s license and a case. Ms. Jacob Alarcon, who still wants to make her husband miserable for not appreciating her enough. Plenty of retired cops become PIs, so long as they were suspected, what was to stop them? I had been thinking about that pitch for a week, as I knew it would get under Sloane’s skin and kick him right in the issue “respect for the law”.

The flip, Lenny hardly puts up a fight and Siddig wins Sloane over (with a bit of help from Danielle). We’re going to bust this case open, as civilians if we have to!

Act 2 – Scene 1 – Sloane

District Attorney Malory Feliciano’s office. Sloane and Siddig walked in with swagger. Malory had done us wrong, tried to destroy the BDP (last season finale), now she was going to make good on it and tell us who she was working for. Really, that’s it. That’s all we had, some bravado and hopes that she was at least somewhat human inside. “It’s the system that’s corrupt Sloane.” (a not unfamiliar line). “You can’t fight it as long as you’re part of it. I’ll help you, but first you have to cut off all ties with the BPD.”

The flip, and holy crap in retrospect was it a big one (will Sloane go rogue), Sloane wins and convinces Mallory to give up source.

The scene ends with Sloane telling Siddig the dirt. Mallory has agreed…and he’s placed a bug on her just in case. He’s no rookie.

Act 2 – Scene 2 – Frank.

Action! Yeah, we needed some. We see Frank Hunter, trying to keep up the work of the BPD on his own. A drone, remotely piloted by Indraa hovers above him doing surveillance, when a man bursts through a wall. Clearly re-sequenced, he blasts past Frank in a flash and boom, the are in pursuit. The perp is moving, of course, incredibly fast, but Frank knows a few tricks, and with the help of his gear, is able to stay on this heels. Just as the man burns from an alley in to the street he is hit with a SWAT van…almost as though Frank was being watched.

L.T. Niel Garret and a handful of SWAT cops come pouring out of the van to take down the gene freak, using maximum possible force to apprehend him, and he is still giving them the a hard time. As they wrestle to get a shock collar around his neck, Frank catches his breath and steps in to re-assert his authority as head of the BPD. He talks to the man civilly, explains the situation and tells him that if he comes peacefully, nobody needs to get hurt. The perp’s head drops and he appears to submit but at the last moment he tries to pull Franks own gun on him. In a heartbeat Frank cracks him in back of the knee, tases him with 200,000 volts, and has the cuffs around his writs before he guy can stop spasming” One of the SWAT officers sniggers that he dropped that gene freak like Cujo would.

Oh the flip? Could Frank re-asset his authority. Fuck yeah he could.

Act 2 – Scene 3 – Siddig

We hadn’t seen any of Curtis or Dr. Cross this episode, so I wanted to go poke that sleeping dragon. Curtis has said he could offer Siddig an immunity to Cross’es neutralizing agent, but to do so he’d have to get in the lab himself. Siddig and Curtis broke into the lab together, and from the looks of their insane data throughput to each other, their genetically enhanced cerebral functions, had to have been designed to worth together.

Though they defeated all the security flawlessly, Cross was waiting for them in her lab. It was hers after all. Siddig started by trying to buy time for Curtis to sneak in an develop the antidote. His bluff, however, turned into a real discussion about who was in the right. Cross, determined that Sophie (although she didn’t know her identity) was trying to sabotage her efforts as a way to separate Cross from Siddig and get him to turn away from the law. Siddig demanding some personal privacy, not as a her test subject, but as a person. And just as they were about to have that very real moment of connection and trust… the flip. Lenny destroyed me and Curtis blew Siddig’s cover. They were there all along to sabotage yet more of her work!

Act 3 – Interstitial Scene

We see Mallory in an alley, looking suspiciously over her shoulder. From the shadows comes Danielle. “You’re not taking Sloane away from me again. He’s a good cop and you’re trying to ruin him. I’m not going to let you do that.” At which point Danielle proceeded to beat the ever living hell out of Mallory, leaving her bloodied and bruised…and missing her appointment.

Somewhere else a shady white guy was wondering where Mallory was and sent a brutish thug to find out.

Thoughts on this game

As players we need a bit of tangibility here. I know, I’ve done this myself as a GM. I’ve had all kinds of shadowing conspirators always telling half truths. But as some point the protagonists want to know they have something solid to go on (even if maybe it turns out to be wrong later, it feels solid in the now). Lenny has assured us that some some people will prove to be right, and other full of shit, soon enough, and I trust him on that, so I’m quite happy for our cast to be confused for the now. My guess is by the next act we’ll be polarized and focused on a target.

I like seeing Frank bust out his moves. I was very glad Scott put an action sequence in there!

Somehow, somewhere, this line became the quote of the episode “he’s not a ‘brain freak'”.

Actual Play – Blue Gene Season 2, Episode 2 (1/23/2013)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

When a game sits dormant for six months, my experience is that it’s dead. People may talk about ressurecting it, but changes are slim. There’s something magical about this game though. Even after six months, I knew this game would still have the fire in it. Before we event started playing I was sure of it.

It totally did. We all got into a hangout, started talking about the last game and I instantly fell in love with the characters. And by the end of the session, I was even more excited about the turmoil they were in.


None of our characters had a high screen presence this episode (Frank and Siddig at 1, Sloane at 2) so we decided that this one would be more plot-heavy, than character drama. It didn’t matter, our characters were still all messed up. I loved it.

Opening Scene

We started with a really long opening scene. Long enough we decided the credits would have to be rolled into the show and the normal. The Blue Crimes Unit was working their way through a list of suspects, up the food chain as it were. They had District  councilman Jacob Alarcon dead to rights for charges connected to re-sequencing and just about every crime you could commit involving abusing your power in office.

And then it all unraveled. Literally, before our eyes, like Amazon recalling a book on Kindle, our case files, holo images made of hard-light, evaporated before our eyes, and moments later Lt. Neil Garret showed up to deliver Frank two notices. Siddig and Sloane were being suspended. Boom! Roll credits.

Act 1 – Scene 1

Sloane was having dinner with Danielle, meticulously cooked by his wife, following his grandmothers recipe. That’s when he dropped the bomb and told her what happened. And, as Danielle would, she freaked out. She was enraged…and wanted to seek the truth to come out. Sloane was the best cop the force had and people should know that!

It was a tender moment, when he stopped her mid-rage, told her her that the dinner she made was fantastic, maybe even better than his grandmother made it, and that things would work themselves out. She was so angry, but relented. It was his call. And we saw them being adorable.

Ace 1 – Scene 2

Frank Hunter payed a visit to Mr. Yamamoto. We got to see our mysterious pseudo-benefactor’s homestead and it was a thing of classic (for 2059) majesty. He lived in an era past, one of chrome samurai, mecha and katanas. The two powerful men struck a deal, Yamamoto would give Frank the access he needed to fight the corruption in the LAPD, and Frank would offer to Yamamoto his personal security clearance, which included otherwise inaccessible details of Frank’s past. As we watched Yamamoto’s eyes widen reviewing Franks files, he momentarily took and nervous glance at the decidedly-not-decorative katana on his wall. Frank’s was more than he expected. “You could have done anything you wanted Mr. Hunter…and you chose to work for the LAPD.”

Next up…Siddig is pushing Sloane’s buttons.

Actual Play – “Kill the Blue Crimes Unit” (6/14/2012)

Director: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

To be clear, the Blue Crimes Unit, or the BCU, is the very small unit of LAPD in charge of solving Blue Gene Sequencing Crimes… in other words, us guys!

Some really cool and interesting things happened in this game.  And, motherfucking all of them were because of us collaborating as a group, including a retcon that REALLY saved a scene. I love it.

Act 3 – Scene 0

Lenny showed us a scientist observing mass manufacturing with a lot of machinery that ended in a substance that looked just like syrup one would pour onto a…

Cut to a father and son delightfully looking at a snow cone as it was being prepared for them. Menacing!

Continue reading Actual Play – “Kill the Blue Crimes Unit” (6/14/2012)

Actual Play – Blue Gene – Season 2 – Hell YEAH! (5/24/2012)

Director: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

This game only happens when we manage to schedule it, and with our crazy schedules, that isn’t very often. But when it does…damn this thing is digital gold.

Talking about the game.

Part of why I love this game so much is that we all talk about it a lot outside of game. And it isn’t the kind of after game gloating “oh shit…remember the time…” (although we are sometimes prone to do that too). What we talk about is what the “show” needs to make it great. This season we need to focus on Franks backstory, where does he get his influence. This season we want the romantic relationships to be positive, as they were such a struggle last season. We’re upping the SFX budget and we needs some big shots of the city. We need reminders of the damage done last season when Wendel wrecked the station. Lets have construction crews. We need to legitimize the intensity of our antagonists, and give them some screen time. We need to show why things are so hard for Siddig in this new life of his. The list goes on. We jam over email, and skype, and gchat.

When we’re doing this I don’t feel like we’re players or GMs, but more like screenwriters that know they have a group of Harrison Fords that are going to improvise not matter what script we give them. We know that we won’t be able to control where the story goes, but we need to throw all the elements on the table and make sure actors and the director have internalized their importance before the shoot starts. We create a space where our collective imaginations can come alive!

Setup for Season 2

Here is the new mind map for Season 2

Continue reading Actual Play – Blue Gene – Season 2 – Hell YEAH! (5/24/2012)

Actual Play – Episode 5 Finale (3/22/2012)

Director: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

Episode 5 (cont)

Picking up the end of our season finale we had to decided how to fight this case and find out who was behind the setup.

Act 3

Frank made a plea to the commissioners to pause the case while he and Sloane went out looking for Siddig. They, for good reason, were concerned that Frank and Sloane might be in cahoots with their partner and suggested that perhaps Lt. Neil Garrett might be better suited to track Siddig down, or at least less compromised. This was when something interesting happened (and it would happen again later in the game) one of the players totally threw a sympathetic NPC (a connection in fact) under the bus. Frank protested that Garrett didn’t know what the hell he was doing if he hadn’t realized in all this time that Siddig had been re-sequenced and that he wasn’t up to the task.

Scott (Frank) won the flip, was given 24 hours to find Siddig (we thought adding a time limit would be good for the tension of the show) and won his stakes. He did so however, with a lot of collateral damage that came strictly from the narrative. Specifically that Garrett hated his ass for that move. I say this is interesting because as players (and director) it was immediately obvious to us  that winning meant making an enemy of Garrett. In a lot of other games that would been considered a partial success or a even an outright failure. I can imagine in apocalypse world, if someone was rolling to act under fire and got a 7-9, something like this would have come up. The point is that this didn’t feel like a clean victory, but it felt like the victory that made sense. PTA doesn’t really have a caveat for that (except possibly having last word) so I thought it was very cool that Scott was down with accepting that as a “win” condition. Because frankly, having our lives complicated is what makes this show awesome.

In Sloane’s scene they went back to the scene of the crime to find out what really happened. This is the first time the camera saw the actual fight scene (last time it has been cut). Lenny was pretty keen on portraying the brutality of the fight. Getting away with all the gore HBO is happy to present (c.f. Spartacus Blood and Sand). The rest of us (me especially) however want to still play Siddig up as a sympathetic character. So mixed in the scene of a massacre were several heroic efforts to protect Sophie when she otherwise would have been gunned down.

Frank and Sloane talked about it, and seeing the situation decided that while brutal, it was done in self defense or in the defense of another. Should re-sequencing be considered legal in the first place (for law enforcement at least) Siddig may just be innocent.

Cut immediately to a high speed chase of Sophie and Shaun West in a van perusing an armored car. After a few scenes of them tearing through traffic in a heavily populated area, and just when it seemed like the car was going to get away Siddig appears from nowhere on his repulsor crotch rocket bike and slams his repulsors into the armored car, causing it veer off course, topple over and go careening into a frozen yogurt shot in the middle of a mall.

This scene required two flashback scenes for it to make sense. One was of Sophie breaking Siddigs bike out of impound (with more explosives) and the other was Sloane and Frank going to the Greasy Spoon and order the rhubarb pie (Siddigs favorite) and it coming with a note that told them where to find him).

Frank and Sloane show up on the scene unnoticed by too late to prevent it from being a serious catastrophe. The men in the armored car, that we inferred from Sophie and Shaun’s chatter were people Shaun had tracked down as part of this conspiracy, were all gene freaks that had taken several hostages, including the FroYo store owner with his ridiculous pale pink chef hat.  The leader of the group had called Siddig out to make him an offer. Throwing his guns (both of them) in front of them, Siddig walked forward slowly, negotiating with him. The leader tried to win him over “It doesn’t have to be like this Siddig. You can come with us and you’re troubles will be over”. That’s when Siddig caught a reflect of Frank above on a catwalk and started advancing slowly on them.

After a bit of banter back and forth, I was ready to see some action so I called for a flip. Could Siddig keep his cool and do something redeeming, when faced with the ass-wipes that were ruining his life? The odds were against me until both Scott and Rich through in fan mail for me. That was was very cool. I won the flip, managed to arrest the leader (rather than murder him) and our collective heroics all were caught on the news by none other than Danielle Covington.

Lenny hopped in with an interstitial scene showing Mallory getting a call, looking very grave and saying “I didn’t think we would have to act so fast. I won’t do it… Okay, I’ll do it.” Next thing we saw was her approaching Curtis Hunter with an injector filled with the neon blue the show got it’s name from.

Act 4

Act four was punctuated by three important events that tied all our characters together.

We opened with Frank visiting Curtis in a hospital garden, presumably where he was resting while the court was in recess. They argued for a bit, the same old saw, till finally Curtis crumpled and asked “why should I argue with you any more Francis, I’ve already lost” and with that he stood up out of his wheel chair, revealing to Frank (and the audience) that he had been cured.

The second scene was a brutal conclusion of our court case. Mallory put Curtis on the stand, which he walked to on his own (showing the commissioners he had been re-sequenced) and she started questioning the stability of his so called “miracle cure”.  Curtis looked worried, but not because of what Mallory was saying. Siddig could hear it; irregular heart palpitations from Curtis. Even from across the room, he could tell Curtis, the man who gave him life was dying from his own creation!

As Curtis condition worsened, Mallory pushed the point that his creation was in fact dangerous and no more than a sophisticated performance enhancement drug.

That is when two things clicked. One, Mallory had played too much of her hand, and with the knowledge we gained from the Mysterious Asian man and his resources, we had proof that Mallory (or her accomplices) had engineered a re- sequencing specifically to poison Curtis as part of a conspiracy to undermine the Blue Crimes unit in the LAPD! Ha!

Oh, and Curtis had a heart attack.

The flip revealed two things. One, Sloane through his ex-lover under the bus. Yeah, we knew she was just a pawn in someone’s larger plan, but she was the only one we could pin the blame on. So there we go, taking another one of our connections (cf Lt Garret above) and turning them into enemies. But more importantly here, we survived by letting someone else take the fall. Sure, she was involved, but she was by no means the mastermind, and we destroyed her. I mean, jail time is a possibility, but even if not, her credibility as the DA is shot. I think Lenny has some plans for how to bring her back, protected by her patron, but completely hateful of us both for destroying her career but also for forcing her to get more in bed with the big bad guy behind it all.

The second big reveal was that Frank saved his dad, and he did it the exact way he had been talking about. Mallory had re-sequenced Curtis with a formula that was designed to kill him, but Frank had the antigen, something Curtis revealed in the fight with Wendell. The shot was saw was Frank asking everyone to have a moment alone with his father in the hospital room and then delivering the re-sequencing formula, and finally answering the question of Franks issue of whether or not he would use blue gene technology to in this case literally save his father’s life.


The season ended with us all partying at the The Gran(D)(D)esign night club (Frank’s set, fitting for this being his spotlight episode). We were celebrating Curtis being alive, Frank winning the case (to have re-sequencing legalized for military and law enforcement use) and Siddig getting off as innocent of murder. There was a bittersweet side to all of this, that Frank had used the cure against his father’s will, that Mallory had to take the fall for us, and that Siddig would not be watched like a zoo animal, but we weren’t thinking about any of that… until the Mysterious Asian guy in a suit (TM) showed up.

He told us that we were pivotal in helping him and that he would like to work with us again in the future. Siddig was all kinds of indignant. “Look man, I don’t even know you are or what your motives are.” He responded that his name was Yamamoto, that too pursue justice sometimes you need to work outside the law, and that he worked for the NSA, as could we if we really wanted to play in the pro-leagues. BOOM!

Thoughts on this game

There is one scene I left out because I can’t remember exactly when it was. Also, it has less to do with the action, and more with the character’s interactions.  We were all at the greasy spoon. Danielle (Sloane’s ex-wife, now back together with him) and the cops were all there talking about the court case. Danielle and Siddig agreed (something that NEVER happens, almost on principle) that she needed to get footage of the court case so they could blow this conspiracy business wide open to the public. A really curious and cool thing happened then. The both, independently turned to Sloane for approval. Like, honest to god, we won’t pull off this crazy shit we have in mind unless you say it’s okay. It was a really tender moment in a lot of ways. Danielle is all about being independent and not being chained down to anyone. And Siddig just assumes his actions are for the greater good without considering the collateral damage they cause. For, possibly the first time, they both stopped and thought about it, and then looked to Sloane as their voice of reason. I thought it was a cool bonding moment all around.

There was another game changer that happened in this episode. For game after game Frank had been trying to ingratiate himself with Siddig and Sloane. And it would seem to work, “we’re all a team” for a while, but then that bond would be stretched again when Frank did some IA bullshit, or when external forces reminded us that he wasn’t really part of the “team”. This session, I believe dissolved that distinction for good. Not only did he put his career (and life) on the line for Sloane and Siddig, but he also may very well now be officially working with them in the future (as part of NSA). I’m very glad this transition happened.

With the end of a season, came some other major “world” level changes. Next season we might be working for the NSA instead of the LAPD. Even if we aren’t, that offer will be on the table and create tension as necessary. Siddig, will most likely be monitored day and night, something I’m sure will drive him crazy. We know there is a giant conspiracy lurking somewhere in or above (more likely) the LAPD to take apart the Blue Crimes unit that we’ve got to ferret out. Finally, two of our connections are most assuredly gone (Lt Garret and Mallory). They may even come back as nemesis next season.

I think that for an end of a season (especially a first season) those are some pretty awesome changes. And they are even more awesome because those big “world” changes reflect the personal issues our characters faced (Frank and his dad, Sloane and his divorce, and Siddig’s fear of getting caught).

Some props for our director:

Revealing Yamamoto as an NSA agent, instead of some criminal was critical to the credibility of our characters (or at least Siddig). To continue being cops with a conscience, him being a “good guy” was necessary. Good call there Lenny.

There were quite a few times when loose ends felt pretty loose. Early on I was like what is this conspiracy? Does Lenny know? Are we just inventing a bad guy here or do they have real teeth, a real motive, etc? I’m pretty sure the specifics weren’t sorted out till later, but I think they all ended up gelling in a tight, believable and compelling fashion. I still don’t know why someone would want to take apart our unit, but I can imagine there are plenty of reasonable reasons in the fiction, so I’m not worried. Very glad many of those open plot hooks were tied back in.

Some thoughts on connections:

I wonder if it makes any sense to have a connection that is an antagonist. I pose this because I didn’t really ever use Siddig’s connection with the Lt, mostly because they were at odds with each other. But in lots of show, and police procedurals for sure, there are regular characters that are antagonistic to the cast. Not enemies per se, but Sir Kay figures whose job it is to be the regular foil to the main characters and make them step up that much higher to succeed. In cop shows that is usually the pair of wise-cracking cops that always show up at the worst possible time to point out that the main characters have mud on their face. Sometimes those cops are kind of second rate idiots that tease but never get ahead (c.f. Elton Hodeges from Good Guys) but they are always their to knock the protagonists down a peg when necessary.

I wonder if having someone like that as a connection makes sense within the context of PTA. Instead of them helping on a flip because they are aiding you, they help on a flip because their antagonism pushes you to push harder than you would otherwise.  I think there might be a good place for this, though it might be hard to tell exactly when that connection could be used (and it might require the player narrating a bit of the connection coming around to antagonize them, which might feel contrived).