Actual Play – You sold guns to who? (5/1/2013)

PTADirector: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Rich Rogers, Scott White, and Sean Nittner
System: Prime Time Adventures
Show: Blue Gene

This wrapped episode 3, Frank’s spotlight. His authority and his right to have that authority were called into question over and over. After more than a month between sessions, this game still hit all the right notes.

Act 3 – Scene 1 (Frank) – Following right from the last interstitial (which featured Curtis being kidnapped) Scott framed a chase scene of all of us trying to catch his captors before they got to LAX and on a plane. The scene opens with Frank chasing them down in his car only to come face to face with a blockade and one of the captors pointing an RPG (that’s rocket propelled grenade, not role-playing game) right at him. One more of Hunter’s car’s destroyed and he was at the mercy of the first cop to come give him a ride… which was of course Lt. Neil Garrett.

At first we thought the flip was going to be about who shows up who, but we let things play out a bit and that changed. We cut over to the ocean side (deciding that in 2060 LAX had extended out over the Pacific) and Sidding and Sloane are driving a motor boat at breakneck speeds. Sloane, stoic as ever even when being jostled by huge waves and water spraying all over him.

Cut again back to the runway where Garrett and his men, plus Frank are chasing the captors down on foot. They have Curtis locked in an hover container allowing them to move without hindrance to the plane. Garret and Frank are cut off by a jeep with a mounted machine gun, but just as it’s about top open fire on them, the boat comes flying in from off screen to crash into it.

We come to the flip… and realize that now, it is important whether or not we free Curtis. The flip says we do… but we play it up a bit. The get on the plane and we get on just after them. Just as it’s taking off, Garrett orders that it be shot down and we come flying out of the plane, into the drink below just before it is blown to smithereens. I know we have this game set in the dystopian future, but damn I felt like John McClane in that moment.  1980 action explosion!

Act 3 – Scene 2 (Siddig) – I opened up with the aftermath of the chase, still on the runway…when EVERYONE wanted to be the first to talk to Curtis. Frank and Siddig both wanted to know if he was okay, and what happened. Garrett wanted to know what the hell happened with all his swat guys (who got blown away in the last scene trying to arrest him). Then a jeep pulls up and Department of Defense Major Alisha Cross, PhD. hops out and claims jurisdiction over all of us.

In a bit of hysterical irony, for whatever reason we all changed roles. Frank, incensed, flies off the handle at Cross, telling her that is she wanted to be part of the action, she should have been during during the action! It’s revealed that he’s really lost it when Cross says “Cujo, call off your dog.”

We win the flip and Cross agrees to give us time to debrief Curtis, and even to do it off the clock.  It’s all part of that growing trust between her and Siddig. When Curtis does spill the beans it’s time for another role swapping. He finally lets out the Hunter family dirty secret. Before they were doing business with the US law enforcement and armed forces, Hunter Labs, with both Curtis and Frank are still a part of, sold tech to all sorts of shady individuals. People who weren’t supposed to be a threat on our soil but did plenty of awful things in other parts of the world (giving some context the the scene last session with Frank flying a mecha a blowing away terrorists).  This was my time to be the Sloane. “This is simple. There are bad people who illegally have your technology. They broke the law. We’re cops. We’re going to go arrest them.”

Act 3 – Scene 3 (Sloane) – At the DA’s office, Alfonzo “Dirty Al” Alarcon, sitting at what used to be Mallory’s desk is showing Sloane a deal he’s going to give to Danielle to let her off.  Sloane is hammering him for details, while Siddig is trying to get him to back down and just be happy that is wife is going to get off the hook.  Finally however, Sloane pushes it too far when he asks “Frank, look at this deal. Is this a deal you’d give to any scum bag on the street.” Siddig just explodes on him for treating Danielle like that. “You asshole, she’s you’re wife. I can’t believe you’re treating her like this after what she did for you.” – Oh shit. There it was. This was going totally off script. The “Danielle actually got your ex-girlfriend killed trying to protect you” plot was NOT supposed to come out right now.

So we made that the flip. Did Sloane notice that slip, that hesitation in Siddig’s barrage of insults? Fortune favors the screen presence it seems and this episode was not Sloane’s to dominate (screen presence 1). He turned his attention back to the DA and hammered out the details with him, paying no mind to Siddig or his objections.

Act 3-4 Interstitial – Further investigation into Frank, because of Hunter Labs and Curtis’s kidnapping fills the press. The public puts pressure on the city for more re-sequenced law enforcement officers and Garret gets the go ahead to blue his team.

Act 4 – Scene 1 (Frank) – Frank gets and email from Shaun West (which he assumes is some glitch but reads it anyway). The message directs him to server room 103F. Frank finds a screen there with just a cursor blinking, which then start typing to him…revealing itself to be Shaun West. Shaun explains what he knows of his current “existence” as the ghost in the machine and offer’s Frank a deal, to keep his secrets from the IA investigation committee (and thus ensure his position as commissioner) if Frank gives him access to spread to other networks. The deal is struck.

Act 4 – Scene 2 (Siddig) – A huge party for Frank with tons of people there to celebrate his nomination.  Sloane and Siddig are on the outside, unable to get to him. A perfect mirror of the scene earlier where Sidding and Sloane were the only friends he had.

Act 4 – Scene 3 (Sloane) – Frank’s last act as captain, to review the deal with Danielle. He finds it’s totally crooked but passes it along anyway.  Does Sloane realize he’s full of shit? Yep. The ink isn’t even dried on his papers and Frank is already playing the game.

Thoughts on this game

After the game we talk a bit about the first scene, how we let it play out for a while until we came to a point of tension and then flipped on that. We didn’t walk into the scene demanding to know what the scene question was going to be, and I think that was a really strong choice. This led into a discussion about indie-rpgs as backlash against trad, and hammering that point too hard. Encouraging instant conflict and instantly going to the dice to resolve.  More discussion of this is necessary.

We had a high speed chaise on land, air, and water. How bad ass is that?

Someone correct me if I got the deal between Frank and Shaun West wrong.  I didn’t write it down so I may be misremembering.

God damn I love our show. I love that relationship of the cast is constantly in flux and under tension. That the characters themselves change and surprise even us.