Last year, the final day’s question was What is your favorite roleplaying game? My answer was simple: without a doubt, it was Primetime Adventures.
Several years ago, we were playing Shadowrun, 4th Edition. We had played four sessions so far, each about four hours long. I was so taken by PTA, I suggested we play the next session using PTA rules. In that two, perhaps three, hour game session, I learned more about the characters in that Shadowrun game than I did in the prior sixteen hours of play.
For my Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic, I was planning on writing about Audience Participation rules for Primetime Adventures, but while it’s one of my favorite game elements, it hasn’t really been added to games that followed its introduction. This is a shame, but I can see how it was forgotten or ignored by later games. Most roleplaying games are thought of as being played in private, around a table or over a virtual tabletop or from the sofa and chairs in the living room. Audience Participation comes in when you’re playing Primetime Adventures in public. When a conflict comes up, people watching the game also get a card to vote for which side of the conflict they want to win. ((In earlier editions, they could also get narration rights, too, so they could definitively say what was going on in the conflict’s aftermath.)) It’s a neat rule that allows for interesting play at game days and conventions.
Huh. I guess I did write about that.
Anyway, my favorite revolutionary game mechanic that was used in games that came after it is found in the pages of Twilight: 2000, and it is similar to how PTA allows the players to take over and control the setting. I know, that’s a strange concept when thinking of Twilight: 2000. Games of thatÂ time went like this: the GM is in charge of the world and everything in it, the players are in charge of just one thing — their guy — and can only affect the GM’s world through the efforts of their guy. It’s the GM’s world, you just play in it. And that’s pretty muchÂ Twilight: 2000.
Except for one thing that I don’t many people noticed.
As part of character generation, you getÂ contacts for your soldier. Contacts are people you’ve known before the war, even dirty filthy commies, and with the setting of the war, it’s a bit of an odd coincidence that your Topeka-born G. I. Joe will run into his reporter ex-girlfriend in the wartorn countryside of Poland, but hey, that could really happen. But let’s narrow down a little bit into how you create contacts. You can do it the old-fashioned way, creating a little NPC with stats and everything, or you could do it the revolutionary new game mechanic way and create a generic contact. You leave that contact line blank, except for a generic type. Criminal. Military. Government. Whatever. And then, right there while you’re playing, you can point to an NPC in the scene and say “See that guy right there, The Butcher of Warsaw? I know that guy.”
The GM rolls.
You totally do know The Butcher of Warsaw.
Players taking control of the narrative outside the in-game actions of their characters: completely revolutionary, found in — of all places — Twilight: 2000.
So, Day 23 is Perfect Game for Me on #RPGaDAY2015.
I’ve been paying attention as I’ve been writing, and common themes come up:
Player investment and ownership in what happens at the table, outside of just reacting to the setting and story.
A fast-playing system for what goes on under the hood. Something interesting to interact with but not so elaborate that it detracts from the story formed at the game table.
A game system that informs the game’s players ((Remember that the GM — or whatever term you use for that facilitator role — is also playing the game.)) what the game is designed for.
A low prep time for the game’s facilitator.
Three games instantly spring to mind: Inspectres, Lady Blackbird, and Primetime Adventures.
InSpectres really shines with the Confessional bit ((Although the “once per game” or whatever limitation the Confessional Scenes has in the game is fun-limiting. Just go to Confessional whenever the players want.)) where characters reveal that the game is a reality tv show and they can introduce elements into the “now” that weren’t shown on screen earlier. It’s also a fast system with very little prep from the Ghost Master (or whatever the GM is called in that game). Get it now for $10! ((InSpectres is available in PDF only through that link. I am not sure where you can get a physical copy.))
Lady Blackbird does a similar thing that InSpectre’s Confessional Scenes do with the refreshement scenes — especially the scenes that are done as flashbacks. Both games’ scenes increase the player’s investment into the game and let the players dictate how some of the story is going. And a bonus: neither game needs any prep. Get it now for free!
Primetime Adventures doesn’t need any prep, either. Just show up and run. Plus, the game is set up to have the players create a great deal of the story, force the GM to focus on all characters equally over the course of a series, gets the players to reward each other for entertaining everyone at the table ((Which will probably come up again in Day 24’s “Favorite House Rule” post)) , and there’s also the Audience Participation rules that lets everyone play the game. Get it now for $10! ((It is a $25+ for a physical copy of PTA, depending on where your mail box lives.))
Did I mention there’s no prep for these games? I really don’t have much time to prepare for a game; these three games are literal time-savers. InSpectres is great for (Ghostbusters-flavored) comedy, Lady Blackbird is great for action, Primetime Adventures is great for drama.
Edit: You know, I’m going to addÂ Apocalypse World to that list. It hits everything, except for generating the fronts after character generation. But once that’s done, it’s smooth sailing from then on.Â AW also has my favorite game system, but you can read more about that on an earlier day’s entry.