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[Primetime Adventures] Make a TV show and then act it out

summerycleptsummeryclept Registered User regular
edited December 2009 in Critical Failures
This is Primetime Adventures. It's a game where you create a TV show and then pick characters from it and then role-play it.

Rules are at the end of the OP, but they're not where the fun is. Not that they're bad rules or anything: you're using a regular deck of cards, drawing some, trying to get red cards. But the fun part is making the show.

We're making a straightforward scripted show. No reality shows or gameshows, they just don't work as well. So: drama, cartoon, whatever. Remember, you're trying to make a good TV show, something awesome that you would watch religiously every week.

In playing the game, you'll frame everything as if it were a TV show, talking about how the camera pans around to catch something, or close-ups, or editing or things like that. Commercials happen sometimes. Play it as if the world the series is about is real, of course - just don't forget it's a TV show, and you can use fun little tricks that way.

I want just three players. Maybe four if someone bribes me (I like churros) To sign up, do these three things:
- write a sign up message in your favorite color
- name your favorite TV show of all time. It might be hard, but just pick one.
- give us a premise for the show we're going to play. It can't be a show that already exists. It needs to be fun, creative, amazing, sad, funny, fucking cool, deep, interesting, sexy, and award-winning. You won't be able to resist thinking of TV shows you like, so go ahead, be inspired, just make the final product original.

Your premise needs a name and a quick concept (including setting, one or two characters who are loose and vague and not quite fleshed out yet, theme, genre, tone). Here's an example:

- In present-day Miami, Dexter Morgan works for the city's forensics department to help solve murder cases. But in his spare time, he's a serial killer himself, tracking down the people his department investigates. He must juggle the needs and attention of his emotional and passionate sister Deborah, his wife Rita and her kids from another marriage, and the pressures of trying to remain one step ahead of the police department he works for. It's black comedy with surprising fits of self-examination and an exploration on what makes us human.

Basically, just pitch the show to us, get us excited. If it's unanimous that one idea is goddamn cool over all the others, we'll play that one. Otherwise, I'll pick one at random.

Here's the part where I'd normally say: I'm looking for people to be active and post at least once a day, but people usually don't abide by such a tenet. Hopefully the game will be fun enough that people won't stop participating and it won't just die out. But if so, I can take Actor Reserves who can pick up and play a character someone else left behind.

Okay, here's the rules:
Your characters are called Protagonists. Protagonists are like this:
- heroic and imperfect
- they have interests and needs that often conflict with the goals of the group,
- the big question with them is: how will their personal matters interfere, and what will they have to give up in order to succeed.

Think about the characters who would be on your show. Play those kinds of people. Pick people who work well together, but who can just as easily split apart and not get along. You've watched TV, you know how this goes.

Other players should throw ideas to each other about their Protagonists. I know I sure will.

One: concept of your protagonist.
Make your Protagonist's concept. Define in a quick sentence or two who he, she, or it is.

Two: some notes.
Write down a few quick notes about your Protagonist: apperance, personality, manner of speech, background info, and so on. Just a little to get the brain sparks flying. Don't go into much detail. Leave plenty of room to explore.

Three: story arc.
These are your Protagonist's personal stories. They track your personal struggle over the course of a season. It has two parts:
- The Issue: Your most defining characteristic. That which you struggle against the most. It's not just a flaw, it's insight into how you behave and think. Commitment phobias, obsessive needs to control everything, the desire to atone, romantic problems, temptation, all are good examples.
- Screen Presence: Tracks how much screen time you get in a particular episode. It changes each episode, obviously. It can be a 1, 2, or 3.
1 - You play a minor role, with small amounts of influence on scenes. You do little bits of background action that help SP 2 and 3 characters get the story accomplished.
2 - You play a secondary role in this episode. Your job is to help out the SP 3 character show off how cool they are.
3 - You are the center attention, the star of this episode. This is your Spotlight Episode. This entire episode is pretty much just about you and your story.

We've got a five-episode season. Each Protagonist gets two episodes at SP 1, two episodes at SP 2, and one episode at SP 3. You can arrange them however you like: 1 - 1 - 2 - 2 - 3, a classic buildup you've seen a million times. We know just a little about you, but we learn more over time, and by the end of the show, we've grown up with you.

You could do something like this, too: 2 - 3 - 1 - 2 - 1, where you start out strong, but give way to other characters later on in the season. It doesn't matter, however you'd like to do it. Just arrange your SP to fit each of the five episodes in the season.

Four: traits.
Edges are packaged abilities. They're strengths, flaws, or weaknesses. They can be any kind of skill, priviledge, knowledge, or networking. They also have a story behind them. An example would be Forensic Scientist: Knowledge or skill, and with a story behind it, as we now know your character works for some sort of lab and probably has police connections and knows his way around science. Where did he go to school? Why did he become FS?

Connections are relationships with other people, who will be played as extras and supporting characters. Make Connections that tie into your Protagonist's Issue, above.

You get to pick: either make 2 Edges and 1 Connection, or 1 Edge and 2 Connections.

Five (optional): nemesis.
If you want, you can make yourself a nemesis. Someone who exists just to provide opposition and play foil. Multiple characters can share a nemesis. This doesn't count as a connection. There's nothing else to it besides that you now have a nemesis.

Six: sets.
You know how when you watch a show, there's always a few locations the characters always return to? The Kwik-E-Mart in the Simpsons. Rita's house in Dexter. The control deck on Star Trek, where the captain sits. Those are sets, and they help develop continuity. Your Protagonist can have a personal set, which is a location connection to your character. Maybe an office, house, a bar, a big RV.

Sets should provide cues about what's going on. Personal sets mean something to your Protagonist - does he go here when things are stressful and he needs time alone? This communicates that the Protagonist really cares about the situation, and that he's having trouble with dealing with it. Does she only go to the beach when she's really, truly in love and wants to think it all over? It's all about letting the audience know something important is going on.

Mechanically, using a personal set in a scene lets you uncheck a trait that had previously been used during the episode.


Cool, that's character creation, all based off the show synopsis we got. Now here's about structure.

Scenes provide either information essential to the story or greater insight on the character. It should focus on something new we haven't seen before this episode.

Each player makes a scene in turn. When it's your turn to make a scene, you decide these things:
- Focus: is this scene development of a Protagonist, or advancement of the story?
- Agenda: what's going to happen in the scene? Don't explain how it resolves, but do explain what the likely conflict is. Leave yourself room to expand and change ideas mid-scene.
- Location: where's it taking place?
- Participants: who all is involved in this scene? Obviously, not every Protagonist will be in every scene.

Type all that up and let the Producer (me!) know, and then I'll make the scene for you. The Producer makes the first scene of the episode, and then opportunity goes to the Spotlight Protagonist, and then to whomever.

We'll all make one scene. Scenes end when they're resolved, when what they're about has been accomplished. The Producer can jump to another scene in the middle of your scene, and then get back to you, just like on a TV show.

Remember your Screen Presence when participating in scenes. If you have a SP 3, this entire episode deals with you in some way, and explores your character. Hog the spotlight, you're allowed to! Let's see what your character is all about, what her struggles are, her deepest secrets.

If you have a SP 2, then you play counterpart and sidekick to the SP 3 character(s), helping them to look good, to shine, and asking the questions that get their Issue brought up. Challenge, provoke, and help them - but remember to do so in a way that illuminates your own character as well. If the Spotlight Protagonist has Anger as an Issue, do things that will make then angry. If it's about Trust, do something to either build or break trust. Not maliciously of course - naturally, in-character, organically. You can also create a parallel story that contrasts the Spotlight Protagonist's story, to show it in another light. So if the Spotlight Protagonist's story is about a failing relationship, you can show your Protagonist starting or improving a relationship.

And if you've got a SP 1, then you're mostly in the background this episode. You're setting yourself up for cool things later, and doing the grunt work to get the story and characters advanced and into situations they need to be in. You're like the SP 2 characters, but a lot more subdued.


Conflict in PTA is about what the Protagonists want in relation to their Issues. They are also about tough choices and consequences. We'll do one conflict per scene. Anyone at any time can call for the conflict to occur. Here's what you do:

1. Which Protagonists are involved? You have to be in the scene to be involved. If you're not in the scene, you can spend a point of Fan Mail to enter the scene.

2. What are the stakes? The stakes are what the Protagonists really want out of the conflict. Each Protagonist must clarify what their personal stakes are. They must also list what they're going to do to get those stakes.

3. The Producer spends some of his Budget to draw extra cards for himself. He gets one card for free.

4. Involved Protagonists then decide how many cards they get. Each player gets a number of free cards equal to their Screen Presence for that episode. You can get additional cards on a 1-for-1 basis by spending a point of Fan Mail. You can also use a trait to get an extra card.

Anyone whose Protagonist is not involved in the conflict can spend Fan Mail to buy their own set of cards, and then to give these cards face down, sight unseen, to either the producer or any one player, whoever they want to win.

5. Read the cards. Everyone flips their cards over and counts how many red cards they got. Each red card equals 1 point. If you have more points than the Producer, you win your stakes. If there's a tie, it goes to whoever has the most hearts.

6. Whoever was dealt the single highest card in the entire conflict gets to narrate what happens to everybody. Everybody! Your narration must explain how each Protagonist either win or lost their stakes, and must take into account any traits used and any stated actions.

Last, any cards that were bought with Fan Mail that also come up as red cards earn the Producer a point of Budget.


Fan Mail. This is quite literally mail your Protagonist gets from fans. There's a big pool of points, and whenever the Producer spends a point of Budget, he adds a point to the pool. This is called the Audience Pool. At any time during an episode, any player except the Producer can award a point to another player as Fan Mail if they did something cool, said something clever, developed or tended to character growth, advanced, or whatever.

Unused Fan Mail can be saved over until a later episode.

summeryclept on


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    mightyspacepopemightyspacepope Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    We started a pretty awesome game of PTA that fizzled out quickly, unfortunately. I did have fun with it while it lasted, though.


    I'm getting my ass kicked by life right now, so I'm unable to toss my hat into the ring for consideration, but I'd love to help brainstorm ideas.

    mightyspacepope on
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    simonwolfsimonwolf i can feel a difference today, a differenceRegistered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Whoa, how has this not been swamped with applications yet?

    Oh, right, Christmas time, that tradition you gentiles participate in

    Once I get to work, expect my application to be all up ins your grill. I have several ideas, including but not limited to Police Perv Unit, Disco Patrol and Baker's Dozen. Listen, they are all great ideas, don't make me cut you up with my switchblade.

    simonwolf on
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    summerycleptsummeryclept Registered User regular
    edited December 2009
    Yeah. I'll keep it up until after Xmas, see if we get more apps then.

    summeryclept on
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