Saturday, September 02, 2006

Primetime Adventures Test-Drive

[Now Experiencing] [RPG]

I finally got a chance to test out the indie tabletop RPG Primetime Adventures today, and I'm pleased to report it lives up to the hype.

The game, which sees players working together to create a fictional television series, and then playing out one or more episodes of that show's run, has a strong emphasis on group consensus, player-driven narrative, and has some fantastic mechanisms for helping to give less extroverted players a regular chance in the spotlight. It's a lot less GM intensive than most RPGs, which made it an absolute pleasure to run, and it seems like it would be a rare occasion that players ever felt railroaded by a plot. Conflicts are decided mostly along lines of "who wants it more", through a card-ante kind of system.

As our regular 7th Sea session was derailed this week by late-arriving players, we pulled Primetime Adventures down off the shelf and were quickly immersed in designing Where's Waterloo?. The show's premise sees four American teenagers thrown back in time to the era of Napoleon. Their unexpected arrival leads to Napoleon's premature death, by a roundabout way, and thus they are tasked with atoning for their mistake by taking actions to ensure history stays on course despite Napoleon's demise. The complications mostly ensue from the fact that (a) the four of them have only an American teenager's grasp of history, and (b) history doesn't seem to bear even the slightest resemblance to what's taught in schools anyhow.

It's a little like Xena meets Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. The episode we chose to play, from midway through the first season, focused on the grieving Josephine being held hostage by a village of Corsicans intent on marrying her off at the earliest opportunity, so as she won't be living in sin. Unfortunately, events were complicated by the arrival of a cybernetically enhanced Pablo Picasso and his troop of Russian Nazi Sky Pirates, and then further aggravated by the intercession of Napoleon's arch enemy - Winston Churchill.

The race was soon on to beat Picasso and Churchill to the hidden Atlantean treasure buried beneath the village, with guest appearances from Boris Karloff and his civilization of warlike Morlocks, a camel-riding Machiavelli at the head of an Italian army, and the sage-like kung-fu teachings of General George Washington.

Primetime Adventures was a whole heap of fun which worked almost perfectly on its first time out the gate, with almost zero rulebook consultation and concepts which were easily understood by everyone concerned. I highly recommend it to other gamers who are looking for a storytelling system that thinks outside the box. (If you're interested, you can buy it here.)

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