[PTA @ GPNW] Slot 9: Show about a low-budget Detriot children's show

edited July 2009 in Actual Play
Okay, Ogre Whiteside deserves some sort of canonization for running this impromptu PTA pilot.

We played this on Saturday morning, with a gaggle of people who couldn't get into other games. I can't even begin to recall all the people involved, but I'll try:
Ogre, Mickey, my cohort Jeremy Tidwell, David (can't recall the last name, gah!), Dana (another lastnameless person in my memory), Ralpha Mazza, Daniel Wood, and myself.

His pitch: a Saturday morning cartoon/children's show. I quickly countered with my experiences trying a show like that in PTA and how it fell flat, but we all bought into the idea of the 30 Rock treatment -- it's really a show about this show. We came up with character ideas and, over the course of the pitch, came up with the following:

* Susie the puppeteer & Sammy the squid. Played by Mickey. Hot slutty goth chick with a personality disorder that causes her to speak through her puppets to talk with people.
* The show's producer (whose character name I can't recall). Played by David. He was the one person really into this show helping people. Too bad for him.
* The wannabe child star whose dad was the sole sponsor of the show -- I cannot recall her name either, but we eventually just called her The Cupcake. Played by Dana. A girl who wanted to get into acting...in freakin' Detriot.
* Mr. Bluejeans, the show's head writer and reluctant farm guy host. Played by Ralph. His issue: he was in witness protection for ratting on the Mob.
* Stewart, the show's "kid wrangler." Played by Daniel. He was scared of kids and unable to control them, and would frequently kick them out of the "crying room" so he could use it.
* Moocha, the Ingmar Bergman-wannabe cameraman. Played by Jeremy. His issues is that he wanted to finally be hated...for his art.
* Marquis Wolfgang von Hate of the metal band Pain Lottery, the very confused and very inappripriate musical guest. Played by me. His issue: Trying to not lose his street cred when people find out he's actually into the show.

As the PTA-Producer, Ogre didn't have a chance.

Rather than play-by-play, some highlights: the concept of "the show behind the show" works damned well for the Whedonesque PTA vibe. I've tried other format shows, like a Band of Brothers-style docudrama, and it didn't quite work. With that many players, the format allowed us to fight amongst ourselves quite a bit. It was early on that Jeremy would end up taking the role of the antagonist in the show -- which we desperately needed, as it wouldn't have worked otherwise. Ogre could have brought in external conflict, but the formula of the show clearly dictated that we needed an internal antagonist, and even an internal character would have felt more external if played by the Producer.

Instead of doing 2s for everyone's screen presence, since there were so many people, we did 3s for Mickey & me, 2s for the producer & child start, 1s for everyone else. (I think) The people chose rather than had assigned -- it was early morning and there were a lot of us, so some people where more content to be supporting characters and hang back.

The overall beginning of the show:
* The Pain Lottery bus broke down outside the studio and the mechanic was going to be a while...and expensive, thus demonstrating how they got roped into being the musical guest.
* Early clusterfucks involving dealing with children, internal band politics, pleading for the show to actually work for once, and milking a cow that later died on stage.
* The obligatory puppet sex scene

(Someone else should talk about the whole Cow Scene. That was craziness.)

This set the tone, and the latter scene was there to help bring in Mickey's character's issue. (Plus, hey, puppet sex.)

At this point, random chaos was fun was I think people picked up independently that we needed to move this into plot-land. At least Jeremy did, as he began to weave together the core conflict of the show: attempt to emotionally destroy Ze Cupcake by having a host of children vomit all over her, all caught on camera.

There were some buildings scenes to that -- the producer pleading with Moocha to shoot the shot the shot well, with the ominous line of "Oh, you will get exactly what you want. And you will rue this day" and the reply of "Rue? Hmm. I don't think we should make rue, but yeah, it could be a cooking segment!" (Something like that.) And scenes between Moocha & Sammy the Squid to plot the destruction of Ze Cupcake by pouring ipecac into the children's punch.

In the middle of that was a side scene addressing my character, Marquis Wolfgang von Hate, connecting with a kid. The central conflict of that was "does the Marquis notice that the producer is filming it with the handicam?" The answer was a satisfying "no." So my character was geeking about Star Trek with this kid (with gems like "Life long and prosper all over those motherfuckers!") and later realized he was being recorded. We had a follow-up scene were I was demanding to have the tape, and the producer telling me he'd only give it back if he got three more shows out of me. Ogre, playing my bandmate and brother Saint Babykilla, agreed before I could say anything (as we decided it shouldn't be a conflict, since that produced more insanity down the road).

(At that moment, I figured out what I should be doing. In the 30 Rock paradigm, my character was Tracy Jordan, and this was the first episode.)

Then we had the big finish, where nearly everyone bought into the conflict of "do the children destroy the Cupcake with their vomit?" In the end, they didn't, because the children vomited (a condition we quickly negotiated before going to conflict was the fact that the children had to vomit -- they already ingested the ipecac) on the Pain Lottery trio instead. And then the Marquis told taught the kids a valuable lesson in moderation and hurling etiquette, something like that.

All while Moocha had to film it.

Seriously, it's some of the craziest fun I've had in a while, and proved to me that high-player table top games aren't inherently broken, if you have good players who can respect the dynamic.

Thank you, guys, for some kick-ass play.

There's a lot I'm leaving out because I hate writing long AP and I hate reading long AP, but that's what comments are for!

Comments

  • It really makes my day to hear about something this fun that happened at Go Play and I didn't even know it. Also, I now understand all the Marquis von Hate quotes on the quote board.
  • yeah, seriously fun to read & imagine what you nutsy squirrels were up to!
  • edited July 2009
    This was such a pleasant surprise of a game -- for whatever reason I had only managed a few hours of sleep the night before, and I had kind of careened around various seemingly-overfilled games until eventually I decided that a 6+ (7? 8?) person PTA game would allow me to engage on a level appropriate to my zombielike state.

    In retrospect it was a shame that I was so tired -- Stuart had a lot of promise that was fulfilled largely in my head -- but the game was still a blast, and I wouldn't have wanted to steal the spotlight away from the Marquis von Hate's vocational transformation. (Trying to fit two 3-SP/Spotlights into one episode didn't really work, incidentally -- the puppeteer (Suzie?)'s arc felt like it was set up for a spotlight in the following episode.)

    --

    My memory of the 'cow scene' is a little muddled -- I can't remember if the cow died for any particular reason, or if someone just declared it so, but from that point on the conflict revolved (as did the climactic Cupcake Scene) around how the faceless live audience of children would react to the show's endlessly surreal failure.

    So yeah. There was a very heavy, very dead cow lying on stage and no way of moving it -- everyone was milling about wondering what to do when Babykiller (apparently off his meds) appeared with a chainsaw, screaming at the top of his lungs and threatening to chop the cow to bits in front of the gaping studio audience. The chainsaw, of course, was one of Pain Lottery's many stage props, recovered from their stranded tour bus.

    At this point the conflict began -- I don't remember who took what side but most likely it split down the usual lines, with Mucha (and Ogre as Babykiller/the Producer) wanting things to go as wrong as possible, so as to create the Most Terrible Art; the hapless producer trying to minimize psychological damage to the kids; and the Marquis von Hate trying to somehow maintain his metal cred while still actually improving the situation.

    And of course Stuart, desperately afraid of the children, and willing to do anything -- absolutely anything -- to avoid having to deal with them. Including, as it turned out, butchering a dead cow with a chainsaw.

    Which is how it went down, of course, but not without the Marquis saving the day. Even as Babykiller leapt unhinged onto the stage, von Hate grabbed his guitar from the omnipresent roadies and launched into an impromptu musical number (we really should have made Ryan sing something). Babykiller, being the band's drummer, was instantly distracted from his butchery in order to join the song, and handed the chainsaw off to a grim-faced Stuart. The crowd was won over by the Marquis' performance and paid no attention to the activity behind the curtain -- I like to think that the sound of the chainsaw added a certain subtle flair to the music.

    Stuart, of course, had the edge 'Bizarrely Competent' -- it had something to do with his previous career on Wall Street -- and previous episodes had established his seemingly endless ability to do anything except his actual job on the show1. The last place he wanted to be was in a crowd of children screaming along to Pain Lottery's #72 hit single, "Everybody Wins (In The Pain Lottery)". I figured he had seen Martha Stewart do this once.

    The next scene -- which I think mostly occured in my head, though maybe I mentioned it to Ryan in passing -- was an exhausted Stuart stepping into his personal set, the Crying Room, kicking out a few traumatized children, and burying his blood-spattered face in the non-judgmental arms of a very large stuffed panda. "Hold me, Ling-Ling."

    --

    At least, that's how I remember it.



    1 Stuart's issue was "Fear of Children" -- I decided he had taken the job due to a conspiracy between his therapist and his Contact, "Allan, his pushy boyfriend," who wanted to adopt.
  • But really there were so many great things going on -- the ingenue was comedy gold ("hey, you're that 'hate' guy!"), and even characters who didn't get in as many great lines clearly had potential for future episodes. And of course Mucha, who was basically a nonstop machine of deadpan hilarity -- in retrospect I am so glad I didn't get to choose the art-school camera operator (as I had originally intended), because there's no way I would have been able to take the concept to that level. The scene in which he masterminded his plot to avenge himself on 'Ze Cupcake' was so fully-realized in my head, all the way down to the lighting & the artsy-noir film angles.
  • This was a blast to produce, and I laughed so hard it hurt.
  • Thanks for the praise :) That was exactly as I intended the plotting scene to be seen, ICE :D

    That game was awesome on so many levels. The scene where Suzie and Sammy get it on with Babykilla in the broomcloset is one that sticks out for me. Her using the stuffed velveteen tentacles to erstwhile probe Babykilla's front pockets (hachi machi!) was freakin' comedy gold.
  • A year after the game, I stumble across this link, almost at random.

    I played the producer, who's name I can't even remember now. I remember the early childhood education background, and the quiet desperation that the fucking wiggles had hit the big time, but his show was still languishing in Detroit. I had never seen an episode of 30-rock at the time either so I was actually channeling Kermit in my head.

    This was all almost a year ago, and memories fade, but it was my second story game ever, so some things really stand out.

    The squid puppets tenancy to grope everyone, Susie only talking in the puppet's voice. "Mr. Von Hate's" excessive umlaut usage, the visceral horror I felt that the child audience would be drenched in blood when babykilla charged on stage with the chainsaw.

    The final scene when Susy and Babykilla hook up, and she finds the courage to set the puppet down and speak for her self was actually kind of tender, right until Babykilla insists that the squid is hot and she should only ever use that voice around him.
  • There's a little voice in the back of my head that really wants to play Episode 2 of this show at this year's GPNW. However, I expect that when the time comes, it will be soundly drowned out by the appearance of A Million New Games To Play.
  • I'd be down with some sort of Saturday morning kid's show PTA.
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