Our topics for days 8 and 9 of #RPGaDAY are “What is a good RPG to play for sessions of two hours or less?” and “What is a good RPG to play for about ten sessions?” Easy-peasy.
When I run Primetime Adventures, each episode takes about two hours to run through. A long season of PTA is nine game sessions. Add on one session to bust out the pitch session — where we all make protagonists and decide on the series we are going to create — and we’re at ten sessions.
I’ve written a great deal about PTA. How it’s my go-to convention game. How it’s a game that can refocus your ongoing campaign. How starting a campaign with one session of PTA tells a GM exactly what their players want out of a game. How I learned more about my players’ characters in one session using PTA than I did in four full game sessions using the regular rules.
If you don’t know about the game, it’s this: we players are in the writing room of a television show. We come up with protagonists and the subject of the show and play out a short season of the show with each game session representing one episode.1 Not only are we the writers, we each have our protagonist we (mostly) control.2
Here is how MCU: Gotham, my “cops in Batman’s Gotham City”, game worked: We had just over four hours to play at the game day. If we rushed things, forcing some interesting conflicts and story beats, we could squeeze in two episodes of the show into that one game slot. Sometimes we’d go over a touch. But I am pretty certain I could complete a standalone episode of a show given a two hour window.
The pitch session — honestly, that can take as little as twenty minutes. When I run a pitch at a game day or convention, I try to bring a half-baked pitch to the table to get people to sit down:
We’re going to play a game where we’re cops in Batman’s Gotham City. Three rules: Batman doesn’t exist — he’s a story Criminals tell their children. It’s early in Batman’s career, so there’s no Robin, Nightwing, or Bat-Signal. There are criminals and then there are Criminals, those that get nicknames from the press like the Tooth Fairy, the Riddler, and Calendar Man.
Bam. We’re in.
If I bring a blank slate to the game slot, the pitch session can take about forty minutes if we have a bit of difficulty getting everyone on board. I’ve heard a great pitch session, whose audio file is now lost to time, where Judd Karlman works the group so hard, they get an entire television show pitch from a blank piece of paper to ready to run show in that twenty minutes.
Run the show for the “long” nine-episode season, and you’ve got both topics answered.
Previously on #RPGaDAY…
Last year, one topic was about an aspect of RPGs that had the greatest effect on me. My tl;dr: answer:Â I. Love. Maps.Â Just today, I was in the gift shop at Colonial Williamsburg, turned around, and there were two shelves full of cartography books. I was in heaven.
The next day’s topic was about high-tech/magic items. I loved the earbuds in the Leverage RPG — they gave players permission to split the party and still keep in contact with each other. I still love those. I can’t think of any other in-world thing that beats it. There’s a lot I like about Leverage. Maybe I’ll expand on that later this month when I get to a topic that utterly bores me.
Let me tell you about Hilton.
Hilton was my character in an Apocalypse World one-shot, a Hardholder. The apocalypse was typical wasteland The Road Warrior nonsense, but the temperature had dropped. Middle of the desert and there’s snow on the ground in the shadows at midsummer. Hilton was a fucking badass. She took over the town, a small crossroads by the old interstate with a four-story Hilton hotel at the T-intersection. She came in with a gang, including the Angel and Driver, and murdered the previous Hilton, taking his name per tradition. This town was Hilton’s town. Do what she says and life is easy. Screw with her and life is short. She and the Skinner were lovers, but there was absolutely no love between the two. They each had power in the town and could use one another to help themselves out. She was cold-blooded. She was fierce. She was amazing.
After that one-shot, I wanted to keep going and see what would have happened to her.
The other topic was “Favorite media you wish was an RPG”. There was the cyberpunk setting of the Fantasy Flight Games’ Android game line that was pretty cool, but there is so many cyberpunk games out there3 , I don’t know if I am still that attracted to Android. I am also having a hard time coming up with anything that I really want to see translated to a roleplaying game. There’s already a lot out there… Maybe Mass Effect?
In 2014, one topic was “Favorite appearance of RPGs in media”. Update: I did seeÂ Stranger Things.
The other topic was “Your favorite die or dice set”. I’m still going with the boost and setback dice in the various Star Wars RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games. Here is a thing I wrote back in 2015 about those awesome dice:
These dice are also great for rewarding coolness at the table. Jumping off the ledge, doing a somersault in midair, then shooting at the bounty hunter as you touch down? Instead of upping the difficulty (swapping a bad d8 to a bad d12), recall that youâ€™re trying to emulate heroic action in the movies â€” give them a boost die for sticking to the spirit of the genre.
Man, theyâ€™re great little cubes.
They certainly are, past Thomas. They are.
- Five- or nine-episode seasons. [↩]
- It’s a bit blurry between writer’s room and actor for our “who you are” in the game, but it moves more towards you’re the actor and it’s “my guy” you’re in charge of in the current edition. The GM role is the only position in the game that doesn’t have a protagonist in the show, much like how the GM in many other RPGs doesn’t have a single character to portray. [↩]
- “Granted, a lot of those games are hot messes,” I wrote back then. Haven’t changed my mind. [↩]