Monday, August 11, 2014

Firefly RPG, Episode Six, "The Fourth Wall"

Well, yesterday's episode was definitely the most bizarre adventure I've ever run.

(It should be noted, though, that the previously most-bizarre adventure...and the most bizarre adventure before that...were both from this season of the Firefly RPG. So I guess, in retrospect, this should not be all that surprising).

The crew of the Serenity desperately bobbed and weaved their way through a ship graveyard, Reaver ships all around them. They emerged from the graveyard, it looks like they're about to get away...

...and a director yells "CUT!"

The "camera" pans out, and the players realize they're on a soundstage. Then, Joss Whedon walks onto the set. He tells everyone to gather around. And then, he proclaims "Hey, everyone, thank you so much for your hard work. But, I'm sorry to say, Firefly has been cancelled...again."

Thus began "The Fourth Wall," episode six of my Firefly RPG campaign. The "gimmick" for this episode? The players rolled up stats for the actors who played their characters on the show. The adventure followed a week in the lives of these actors, both on set playing as their Firefly characters, and as actors struggling to come to terms with the reality of the show's cancellation.

 To do this, I used a "parallel adventure" structure for this episode, similar to Episode Four, "Breakout." The idea was that the "Firefly" adventure and the "real life" adventure ran as two separate, though connected, realities. The players were able to use assets and plot points from one character to the next. Everything that happened in the Firefly universe was made to sound like it intentionally was written that way.

At least, that was how it was supposed to go. In reality, the game almost immediately degenerated into meta-level shenanigans. Paul Giamatti, who played Peaches, was an angry drunk who was pretty wasted in about every scene he was in. Nathan Fillion was hovering on set, constantly trying to insert himself into the show, convinced his appearance would save it. Evan Rachel Wood, who played Kitt on the show, cussed and swore at just about everyone, to include Joss Whedon and his shitty attempts at revising this tired sci-fi garbage.

And that was just the beginning. The original Firefly cast competed against the new Firefly cast on Ellen DeGeneres' "Celebrity Game Night" show, resulting in the players doing three rounds of Charades with each other. (I played the charades game as a conflict between the collective crews, with the size of the dice the players got to roll dependent on how quickly they got the answers). Peaches was scheduled to do his death scene, so I laid on the floor while Kitt's player cradled my head in her hands and screamed "NO!!!!" Well, she did, eventually. It took several minutes of laughter before we could keep a straight enough face to complete the scene. A crazed fan stormed the set during Cricket's space race and proposed marriage to her.

Throughout the "week" that the episode spanned, I took each player outside and did a video interview with their actors about how they felt about the show and what their future plans were. I then concluded the interviews with a group photo:

From left to right, that's Leslie (Kitt), Jesse (Enzo), Jen (Cricket), Stephen (Ira/Dr. Montgomery), Mary (Q), and Boomer (Jack). Except when otherwise noted, I do not remember what actors played each character. If you guys are reading this, post your actor in the comments!

The episode's climax (such as their was one) took place during "WhedonCon", a convention specifically for all of Joss Whedon's shows. The new Firefly cast did a panel. The players, roleplaying as fans, asked questions to the various actors.

I can't remember why, but at one point during a tangentially-related question about superheroes, I had a drunken Paul Giamatti blurt out "True story: during The Amazing Spiderman 2, I took a dump in that Rhino suit." Kitt's player laughed so hard I was afraid she was going to pass out.

I had the adventure end on a happy note, with executives from Netflix approaching Joss Whedon about the possibility of picking up the show from FOX.

Overall, the general consensus was "We had a blast, this was awesome...and don't ever do it again!" I agree. The whole idea for this adventure came from my dawning revelation that I'm ready to move on from Firefly. When I briefly considered just flat-out stopping the series cold, I thought "Man, if this were a real show, EVERYONE would be pissed!" And from that little notion, came this episode.

I think, if I were to ever pull a stunt like this in the future though, I could pull it off. The trick, as it always is, lay in good prep. I didn't have any specific storylines going in...I just thought the novelty of the concept would get us through the afternoon. And it did. But if there was an actual storyline cutting across both "realities," then this whole adventure could have transcended being a bunch of meta-skits and jokes and turned into a real RPG experience. I envisioned it in my head as such, but as soon as the first few meta-scenes played out, I gave into instinct and just improvised the entire adventure.

It's tempting, to give into that instinct. Tempting to the point that whole games have been designed with embracing those instincts in mind. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but when I think about my long-term goals as a playing games where great stories emerge...I'm going to have to start doing my homework. I'll write more about that later, since this entry is hitting my cap as it is, but I'll just end with this:

Any similarities between any actual people, living or dead, starring in The Amazing Spider-man 2 or not, is purely coincidental.

(Also a quick note: Next week, I run the final episode of the series. Though we as a group have decided this little meta-plot will be part of our personal canon, the finale will be a "normal" adventure, fully within the Firefly universe).


My Own Loser Path

"If you're a Sym main, please exit the stream," was the description yesterday of one of the Overwatch Twitch streams I follow....