Actual Play – MAWS (10/18/2014)

sparksnevadaGM: Mike Olson
Players: Sean Nittner, Arturo Rubio, Gina Ricker, and Jason “JiB” Tryon
System: Sparks Nevada RGP (playtest)

I didn’t expect to play many games at Big Bad Con but when Mike said they had an extra spot in his Sparks game I found the time!

Last time I played Sparks, which was awesome, but I wanted to change it up so this time I took Croah, which I think, was almost better. Croach’s constant exasperation with Sparks is just so much fun to play. Add onus tracking to boot!

Our Cast

Everyone in the game were huge fans o Thrilling Adventure Hour and I think they all had listened to more Sparks Nevada than I have (I’m still catching up and was only at around episode 12o or so when I played the game). They were fan-fucking-tasting.

Gina had Red dead to rights. I mean, I think she could do fan fic TAH recordings and people would think she was Busy Phillips. She was fantastic at being both totally self possessed and saying things that made you think twice which promoted many a “Wait, whaaa-” from Sparks, a request for clarification form Croach, and a patent misunderstanding from Pemily.

Jason had so many “back in punishment soccer” references we could have made the whole show a flashback. He was great at showing how years of trauma on Earth’s Moon had shaped Pemily. I loved seeing her instinct for blood conflicting with both her desire to be a good deputy and her admiration of Red.

Arturo, though, was just over the top. Not only did we have some of the best Sparks/Croach banter (like when Croach told Sparks to ride on the space designated his “lap” as we needed to return with alacrity and Murcury (Spark’s horse, whinnny) was absent) that I could ever imagine happening at  table. On top of that though, Arturo channeled Lycos Bill, essentially playing a character that was not even present as a foil to himself. I chalk this mostly up to Arturo being in love with Lycos (I mean, who wouldn’t be) but somehow it fit in the game, as thought he was a second narrator.


Our adventure started with a typical hollering of Felton “HEEEEEEEELP!” As it turns out there was a great thumping. A thumping which came from a giant sandworm in the wastes of Mars.

After much hilarious bickering the sandworm was found, as it consumed a robot that was using a thumping machine to draw it forth, which he did, and then was eaten by the sandworm, which he had summoned.

Sand Doom

In our second Thrilling Adventure (TM) we faced the Sand Worm of Mars. After much hilarious bickering it was defeated by being given a citation for loitering and being insulted by Sparks, which bruised it’s rather sensitive ego.

Bank Stealers

While bickering over the fate of the sandworm, we got word that a bank was being robbed by Alloy Roy. Not that he was taking the contents of the bank, but that he was taking the bank itself! Sparks and Croach continued bickering whilst Red and Pemily made off to stop the thieves. Pemily riding on Mercury, Spark’s Horse (whinny)!

Upon realization that they had been left and there was marshaling to do Sparks set out, and due to his onus for delaying Sparks in the execution of his duties, Croach the tracker came was well. But how would Sparks get there without Mercury? Croach offered him a ride on his lap, on his hover saddle (gross). But sparks had another idea. He lassoed up the Sandworm and rode it to catch the bank. Sparks and Croach distracted the Robots who had previously caught Pemily and Red, thus allowing the two women to take the upper hand and save the bank!

Thoughts on this game

I really play it more for the bickering and repartee than anything else, which is fantastic, because Mike built that into the rules. The characters essentially “charge up” their powers by talking about them, bickering, showing their reluctant to admit admiration of each other, and otherwise acting like themselves. In this way Sparks saying “I’m…. from Earth” actually makes him better at doing things, as does Croach referring to his 28 sensory organs, and Pemily remembering punishment soccer. Really good stuff here.

I’m guilty of Bromance with Arturo. He’ll always be my Sparks. And for that matter my Lycos Bill!

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.