[19:02] <+MattWilson> Um. Hi, this is Matt, like the name says. Dan invited me here to answer some questions about a game I wrote and am currently revising, called Primetime Adventures.
[19:02] <+Kei> oh, THAT Matt Wilson! 😀
[19:03] <+MattWilson> PTA for short, it’s a lightweight, drama-focused game where you create your own TV show and act out each episode.
[19:03] <+MattWilson> I originally released it in… 2004, long ago.
[19:03] <+Kei> (I still have it :P)
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[19:03] <+MattWilson> There’s currently a kickstarter going on for it, with one week to go.
[19:03] <~Dan> (Howdy, Randy!)
[19:04] <+Randy> ((hey)
[19:04] <+Kei> (link!)
[19:04] <+MattWilson> (done) ??
[19:04] <~Dan> Thanks, Matt!
[19:04] <~Dan> The floor is open to questions!
[19:04] <+Kei> In what way is it going to be revised?
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[19:05] <+MattWilson> Kei: great question. I made a couple small rules changes, added a sort of “oracle” to help groups get past creative blocks for show creation, and worked with an editor (Ryan Macklin) to organize the crap out of it.
[19:06] <+MattWilson> Is this family friendly? Can I say crap? (done)
[19:06] <~Dan> Yes, you can say crap like crap. 🙂
[19:06] <~Dan> Can you describe the core mechanic?
[19:06] <+Kei> what’s this oracle thing like?
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[19:07] <~Dan> (Howdy, MonochromeTide!)
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[19:08] <+MattWilson> Okay, first description of core mechanic, then the oracle. PTA (for short) is kind of like structured free-form, so the mechanics focus on the big picture. If you’re an action hero, we don’t check to see if you can climb a tree, for example.
[19:09] <+MattWilson> So it’s what I might call “scene resolution.” It uses a deck of cards, and it’s a pretty uncomplicated comparison of cards with the GM (called the producer).
[19:09] <+MattWilson> The big deal, I suppose, is that how many cards you get depends on how important your character is to that episode.
[19:10] <+MattWilson> If you’ve watched ensemble shows, you know that some characters’ parts are smaller or larger ep by ep. Like say in Firefly (ah, Firefly) Jaynestown is a big episode for Jayne.
[19:11] <+MattWilson> So you figure out which episodes are going to be more important for your character in advance, so the producer and other players know who gets more attention for that episode.
[19:11] <+MattWilson> And that translates into the mechanics for cards in play, too.
[19:12] <+MattWilson> As for the oracle, if you get stuck, you can draw cards, and each one has a meaning, like “stone age” or “hospital”.
[19:12] <+MattWilson> Draw a bunch, and pick ones you like, then make a show about it.
[19:12] <+MattWilson> Like, the above could get you Flintstones Gray’s Anatomy or something.
[19:12] <+MattWilson> (done)
[19:14] <~Dan> So what makes up a character other than his importance in a given episode?
[19:15] <+MattWilson> Characters have their “story arc”, which describes which episode to pay attention to them. They have edges and connections, which are what they sound like:
[19:16] <+MattWilson> Edges are like concepts, so instead of driving skill you’d have “Nascar Champion” or “Texas Ranger” or “Nightclub Singer.”
[19:16] <+MattWilson> Connections are your relationships with important NPCs.
[19:16] <+MattWilson> Characters also have an issue, which is probably the most important thing about them.
[19:17] <+MattWilson> Your issue is something like “addiction” or “guilt” or some big emotional thing.
[19:17] <+MattWilson> It’s a way to tell everyone, “this is what to make my character’s story about.”
[19:17] * ~Dan nods
[19:18] <+MattWilson> I think that covers the basics of character. (done)
[19:19] <+Kei> yeah, it’s a neat game.
[19:19] <+Kei> I enjoyed the 2004 edition quite a bit
[19:19] <+MattWilson> This ed won’t make yours obsolete by any means.
[19:19] <~Dan> And how do Edges work in play?
[19:20] <+MattWilson> Edges work pretty similar to skills or feats or what have you in other games. They provide a bump to the number of cards you get. They can also tell you what not to bother with, too.
[19:21] <+MattWilson> Like if i’m a nascar champion, a TV show wouldn’t be focused on “oh no, can you drive to the grocery store?” Of course you can, you can drive like crazy.
[19:21] <+Roonycat> What have been the coolest TV shows people have played over the years?
[19:22] <~Dan> It sounds like Edges are akin to the Central Trait in Over the Edge.
[19:22] <~Dan> (If you’re familiar with that game.)
[19:22] <+MattWilson> Dan: yeah, similar. Roonycat: wow, that’s a tough one. There have been so many.
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[19:23] <+MattWilson> At Gen Con, a few people got together and played a children’s show called Moose in the City, and I ended up including that in the next printing as an example show.
[19:23] <+MattWilson> i’ll have to think for a bit about the others. (done)
[19:24] <+Roonycat> How hard is it for non-gamers to pick up?
[19:25] <+MattWilson> Hopefully not hard!
[19:25] <+MattWilson> One of my goals in the revision is to try and un-gamer the language as much as possible, to try and make it a game that’s really easy to understand.
[19:26] <+MattWilson> I want to include a lot of examples and friendly, inclusive artwork too. (done)
[19:27] <~Dan> So you mentioned that you wouldn’t bother with determining whether an action hero can climb a tree. What would you use the mechanic for?
[19:29] <+MattWilson> Okay, so I mentioned the issue upthread? That’s the producer’s go-to for what to focus on. Doesn’t have to be ALWAYS, because that would be tedious, but it’s a good place to go.
[19:29] <+MattWilson> So, let’s see about an example. One of my example shows is Bootleggers, which is not unlike Boardwalk Empire, but I swear I thought of it first.
[19:30] <+MattWilson> You have the sister, Roxy, who’s a wannabe socialite, and she’s in a speakeasy with her friends. Her issue is all about social climbing.
[19:30] <+Abstruse> (Oh crap, I thought this was Monday! Hi, I’m Darryl Mott Jr., the tabletop game columnist for Ain’t It Cool News and the owner/producer/co-host of the Gamer’s Tavern podcast!)
[19:30] <+MattWilson> And you have the youngest brother, Billy, who’s been sent by the father to find Roxy, on account of she shouldn’t be in that speakeasy. His issue is about proving himself to his father.
[19:31] <+MattWilson> So this scene can go all kinds of ways, a lot of them bad, and there’s where the cards come in.
[19:31] <+MattWilson> Does that answer the question?(done)
[19:31] <+MattWilson> also hi Darryl
[19:32] <~Dan> (Howdy, Darryl!)
[19:32] <~Dan> Well, to clarify, it is a matter of playing cards to determine who has narrative control of the scene?
[19:32] <+MattWilson> Cards do two things:
[19:33] <+MattWilson> 1) does the character get what they want? 2) who gets to be the Director for this scene?
[19:33] <+MattWilson> You can get one or both of those, or none.
[19:34] <+MattWilson> The Director is a pretty powerful thing to be. You get to decide a lot of details that the cards may not answer.
[19:34] <+MattWilson> It’s like being a mini-GM for a bit.
[19:35] <+MattWilson> So say what Billy wants is to handle this situation in a way that impresses his father, and Roxy wants to impress her friends.
[19:36] <+Abstruse> This is reminding me a lot of Fiasco, only with some conflict resolution rules. Is that somewhat accurate?
[19:36] <+MattWilson> Yeah, Fiasco is a pretty clear relative/descendant of Primetime Adventures.
[19:37] <+MattWilson> So you find out what the characters want, then play the cards, and use the results to play out the rest of the scene, and the director has a kind of veto power.
[19:37] <+MattWilson> (done)
[19:39] <~Dan> So let’s say that Billy’s player wins. Does he say what happens in the scene?
[19:39] <+MattWilson> Wins the director role?
[19:40] <~Dan> Well, you say he can get what he wants, right?
[19:40] <~Dan> Or he can be the director?
[19:41] <+MattWilson> If he gets what he wants, that’s not the same thing as being the director, but he could get both.
[19:41] <+MattWilson> There’s a lot more going on in a scene than “do I impress my friends” for example. And that could be good or bad.
[19:42] <+MattWilson> If Billy gets what he wants but not director power, he could end up impressing his father but maybe have a speakeasy full of people angry at him.
[19:42] <+MattWilson> But that’s all speculative and depends on what actually goes on in teh scene.
[19:43] <+MattWilson> (done)
[19:43] <+MattWilson> I keep forgetting that done part
[19:43] <~Dan> No worries. 🙂
[19:44] <~Dan> I’m still a bit fuzzy on how this plays out, though… Again, let’s say that Billy gets what he wants. Who actually narrates what happens in the scene?
[19:44] <~Dan> (Sorry — I’ve got a bit of a headache that’s likely making me a little dense this evening. -_- )
[19:45] <+MattWilson> Okay, sure, no prob. The cards happen somewhere in the middle of everything, so you have context to work with.
[19:46] <+MattWilson> It’s the producers job to figure out when that moment is right. Sometimes it’s obvious, like when all the guns are out and you have a tense standoff.
[19:47] <+MattWilson> “Getting what you want ” is ensuring that you keep the terrorist from getting away, and you describe how you’re going about it before and after the cards.
[19:48] <+MattWilson> “The director” says, “cool, you got the terrorist, but what about the other problematic things in the scene, like that speeding truck?” or something
[19:49] <+MattWilson> It’s not the director’s job to screw anyone over, of course, but to add some interesting color and tension. Like co-GMing for a scene, I suppose.
[19:50] <+MattWilson> I have a thunderstorm and a nervous dog to add some fuzz to your headache, so sorry if i’m not making it any clearer.
[19:50] <+MattWilson> (done)
[19:51] <~Dan> Okay, I think I follow you now. I think I had it backwards — I had the impression that the “winner” was seizing narrative control, describing the outcome after the fact. It sounds more like describing a stunt in Feng Shui, for example.
[19:51] <+MattWilson> Yeah, kind of. Groups have a lot of different “house rules” for how to do it, to be honest, and I think that’s cool.
[19:52] <+MattWilson> One way is for everyone to say what they want to do, and the director has approval power. So you tend to offer up reasonable suggestions.
[19:52] <~Dan> In other words, it’s “I’m going to attempt THIS…” *cards*, not *cards* “Here’s what happens.”
[19:53] <~Dan> So the director is a kind of check on what can be done in the scene?
[19:53] <+MattWilson> It’s like, “this is going on, I want to do this…” CARDS “okay, here’s how that works out. I don’t get what I want, but director maybe this other thing happens?”
[19:54] <+MattWilson> The cards happen kind of in the middle, not at the very end.
[19:55] <+MattWilson> If there’s a conversation going on, it’s a good idea to play the cards as soon as you realize the conversation is a big deal, like for example an interrogation.
[19:55] <~Dan> Hmm… So it sounds like the game plays out as a running discussion of what’s going on.
[19:55] <+MattWilson> If you realize that you’re starting a chase, get to the cards.
[19:56] <+MattWilson> A little bit. It’s a little like an improv, where you know some of what has to happen, but not everything.
[19:56] <+MattWilson> Like, “this is a chase, and you eventually catch the bad guy. Action!”
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[19:57] <~Dan> (Howdy, zachol!)
[19:57] <+zachol> hey hey
[19:57] <+MattWilson> But you play a little of that chase beforehand to get a feel for the context, so you know for sure what it is that’s at stake for you.
[19:59] <~Dan> Would it be accurate to say that the game plays from a 3rd person perspective?
[19:59] <+MattWilson> I think you have to be able to talk about it out of character, but you can for sure dive into character to describe stuff
[20:00] <+MattWilson> It’s like a real TV show in that way. Sometimes you’re speaking your lines and acting, sometimes you’re talking to the director.
[20:00] * ~Dan nods
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[20:01] <+MattWilson> In a real TV show, every scene has a purpose, and you mimic that in PTA by asking a question for each scene when you start. It’s the zoom-out version of “do I get what I want.”
[20:02] <+MattWilson> Like you say, “I want to go talk to Dr. Zarkov.” And I say how come, and you say “because I want him to tell me where the secret hideout is.” That gives you a question.
[20:03] <+MattWilson> The actual “what you want” might be different or much more specific, but it sets everyone up.
[20:04] <+Abstruse> So I may have missed this, but is the Director like the GM? Or is another player who just isn’t in the scene?
[20:04] <+MattWilson> Yeah, the director is kind of like a mini-GM. It’s normally someone who’s involved in the scene, but you can pay to get a card if you aren’t in the scene.
[20:05] <+MattWilson> Oh, I haven’t talked about Fan Mail.
[20:05] <~Dan> Oh? What’s that?
[20:06] <+MattWilson> Every scene, if another player does something that you think is cool, you can award them fan mail from a pool. When you get fan mail you can spend it to get extra cards to play.
[20:06] <+Abstruse> So it’s kind of sort of a GMless system?
[20:07] <+MattWilson> You know how some games the XP guidelines have that +1xp for “good roleplaying”? It’s a bit like that, except anyone can do it, and for whatever reason you want to reward.
[20:07] <~Dan> I like that mechanic.
[20:07] <+MattWilson> It’s not GMless, no. There’s a Producer who plays the NPCs and sets up scenes and keeps track of the usual GM stuff. The director role is kind of like co-GMing, for the second half of a scene.
[20:08] <+Abstruse> Ah okay.
[20:09] <+MattWilson> Depending on how your group plays, the director role can sometimes be a pretty lightweight job, almost a “veto” in reserve.
[20:09] <+Abstruse> So the Producer is kind of a GM-lite (less control over the total narrative), while the Director has moree control over the narrative but less on the other characters?
[20:09] <+MattWilson> Yeah, kind of. The director constantly changes, and the producer is always the same.
[20:10] <+Abstruse> And the Producer doesn’t play a single character in the scene?
[20:10] <+MattWilson> The producer can sometimes be the director! And the card mechanics are weighted a bit so that the producer is more often the director.
[20:10] <+Abstruse> Or…trying to find a way to say “PC” that’s more accurate to the setting…
[20:10] <+MattWilson> The producer is like the GM and plays “NPCs”
[20:11] <+Abstruse> Really weird question…do you think this system would work for wrestling?
[20:12] <+MattWilson> You mean could you play a TV show like the WWE? Sure.
[20:12] <+MattWilson> Wrestling is total soap opera.
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[20:12] <~Dan> Speaking of NPCs, do they have stats of any sort?
[20:13] <+MattWilson> No mechanical stats.
[20:13] <+MattWilson> You as producer will want to give them a lot of info, but the producer just has a budget to spend on cards to play. It’s just like TV, how the Enterprise moves in light years per scene.
[20:14] <+Abstruse> There’s been a lot of attempts at a pro-wrestling (WWF, WCW, ECW, TNA, etc.) style RPG and they all fall flat in some way. This just seems like a good fit.
[20:14] <+BlasterKyubey210> Heh
[20:14] <+BlasterKyubey210> So on the matter of Cards, does it come with blank cards?
[20:14] <+BlasterKyubey210> or are these pre-written, with some blanks for your own stuff
[20:15] <+MattWilson> The game requires regular playing cards. I’m printing some PTA-themed cards for the kickstarter, but they’re still essentially e.g. the jack of diamonds, etc.
[20:16] <~Dan> So the Oracle translates the various cards into story elements?
[20:18] <+MattWilson> yeah, so you draw the five of clubs, the jack of diamonds and the 3 of hearts, and you look at the oracle and it says:
[20:19] <+MattWilson> (I don’t have the file open, so I’m guessing) “far future” “anime” and “police”. So you figure out what kind of show that would be.
[20:19] <+MattWilson> Actually you draw more than that and choose your favorite three to combine.
[20:19] <+Abstruse> Patlabor!
[20:19] <+MattWilson> nothing like explaining my game and not getting it right
[20:19] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:19] <+MattWilson> Abstruse: exactly!
[20:20] <~Dan> I can see that being handy for pickup games in general.
[20:20] <+MattWilson> It’s kind of fun to use the oracle. Although a lot of people will come to the table really excited about an idea.
[20:20] <~Dan> And the players are playing the same “actors” from game to game, correct?
[20:21] <+MattWilson> Yup.
[20:21] <+MattWilson> Jason Morningstar, who wrote Fiasco, said a great thing about PTA:
[20:21] <+MattWilson> “When you finish a season of PTA you inevitably pine for the show you’ve created, because it is ten times better than anything on actual television.”
[20:22] <~Dan> Heh. 🙂
[20:22] <+MattWilson> But then TV studios have to deal with meddlesome executives.
[20:22] <~Dan> What character elements are associated with the actor?
[20:23] <+MattWilson> I’m not sure I understand.
[20:23] <~Dan> Well, let me rephrase…
[20:24] <~Dan> From “show” to “show”, the player is playing an actor playing a character. Mechanically, what stats are associated with the actor (as opposed to the character they’re playing in a specific show)?
[20:24] <+MattWilson> Oh, I see. None. It’s all tied to the character.
[20:25] <+MattWilson> At some point you would tell everyone who the actor is playing your character, e.g. “Timothy Olyphant” or whatever.
[20:25] <+MattWilson> so they know who to picture
[20:25] <~Dan> So that’s strictly a narrative conceit?
[20:26] <+MattWilson> Yeah, the game is about the episodes, not about stuff like being in your trailer or negotiating for your contract.
[20:27] <+MattWilson> There’s no “now I’m acting as Timothy Olyphant going to get an ice cream cone after that take” or anything. It all happens in the context of the scenes.
[20:27] <+MattWilson> if that’s what you were asking.
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[20:28] <~Dan> Hmm… Not exactly. I was thinking more in terms of whether there is anything about playing Timothy Olyphant that affects the character being played in a given show.
[20:28] <~Dan> (Howdy, lazarus!)
[20:29] <+lazarus> (Hey)
[20:29] <+MattWilson> Well, you do want to talk about the show itself, like its tone and conventions.
[20:29] <+MattWilson> an HBO show is way different from a show on network TV.
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[20:30] <~Dan> (Howdy, Canageek!)
[20:30] <~Dan> So would it be correct to say that the “actor” is a matter of style, not substance?
[20:30] <+MattWilson> color, yeah
[20:31] <~Dan> Okay, I’m with you there.
[20:31] <~Dan> Are you familiar with the Dreampark RPG?
[20:31] <+Canageek> j0 Dan
[20:31] <+Canageek> I’ve heard of it
[20:31] <+MattWilson> Ah, that’s a walk down memory lane.
[20:31] <+MattWilson> I never owned it, but I remember seeing it.
[20:31] <+MattWilson> that was back before color TV
[20:31] <~Dan> Well, in that game, you’re playing a person playing a game.
[20:31] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:32] <+MattWilson> when eisenhower was prez
[20:32] <+MattWilson> I read the dreampark novel, I think
[20:32] <~Dan> There are some stats that are associated with the player rather than the character they’re playing in a given game.
[20:32] <+MattWilson> This isn’t so meta
[20:32] <~Dan> That’s the sort of thing I was wondering about in terms of PTA’s actors.
[20:32] * ~Dan nods
[20:35] <~Dan> So in terms of the kind of players who might find PTA appealing, fill in the blank here: “If you like ______, you’ll like PTA!”
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[20:36] <+MattWilson> “things that are awesome”
[20:36] <~Dan> (Welcome to #rpgnet, Guest15!)
[20:36] <+MattWilson> In terms of other games…
[20:36] * ~Dan chuckles
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[20:36] <+Guest15> Oops, sorry about the Guest15 – this is MikeY
[20:36] <~Dan> (Oh, hey, Mike! You can set your name with the /nick command. 🙂 )
[20:37] <+Guest15> How does one go about doing that?
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[20:37] <~Dan> (/nick Mikey)
[20:37] <~Dan> ooops
[20:37] <+Guest15> Seems like it just did it automatically last time I logged on.
[20:37] <~Dan> (/nick MikeY)
[20:39] <+MattWilson> I’m trying to think of cousin/sibling games. Fiasco obviously.
[20:40] <+MattWilson> Probably games like Hero’s Banner. Really all the games that Jason Morningstar has done
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[20:40] <+ActorMikeY> Yeesh. 😉
[20:41] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:41] <~Dan> MattWilson: I wonder if PTA would be considered a “storygame”. It doesn’t quite seem to be, but I’m not sure that I can express why.
[20:42] <+MattWilson> I don’t even know how to use that term, to be honest.
[20:42] <+MattWilson> Sometimes people who like PTA like really crunchy games, so I’m not sure how to fit it in a category.
[20:42] <~Dan> Well, it’s a moving target to define, certainly, but here’s how I’d describe it:
[20:42] <+MattWilson> I suppose I need to gather better market data
[20:43] <~Dan> Playing from a 3rd-person perspective to create a story, as opposed to playing from a 1st-person perspective to experience a setting.
[20:45] <+MattWilson> I think it’s definitely more of a “narrativist” game than a “experience the setting” game, because you’re thinking about character development.
[20:45] * ~Dan nods
[20:45] <+MattWilson> so in that light, it’s a cousin, I suppose, of games like Sorcerer and Dust Devils, or Trollbabe
[20:45] <+MattWilson> or even Dogs in the Vineyard
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[20:46] <+ActorMikeY> Sounds like a great game, Matt!
[20:47] <~Dan> I think the thing in my mind that keeps it from being a full-blown storygame is the fact that players don’t exactly take over the narrative.
[20:47] <+MattWilson> thanks!
[20:47] <+MattWilson> I think it came out before that specific style of game came out en masse.
[20:47] <~Dan> (ActorMikeY is one of your fellow game authors, MattWilson. 🙂 )
[20:48] <+MattWilson> cool!
[20:48] <+MattWilson> i’m sure I was at a party with him on one of our game designer yachts.
[20:48] <~Dan> That may be true… Are you familiar with InSpectres?
[20:48] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:49] <+MattWilson> Yeah, I know InSpectres. It came out way before PTA.
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[20:49] <~Dan> That’s a prime example of what I’d call a “storygame”.
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[20:50] <~Dan> So, a couple of quick notes, MattWilson…
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[20:50] <+MattWilson> sure, go ahead
[20:51] <~Dan> First, I’d like to make sure you know that you are always welcome to hang out with us whenever you like, and to promote your game. A Q&A just gives you the floor. Self-promotion is encouraged here. 🙂 So, you are welcome to continue to answer questions as long as you like.
[20:51] <~Dan> That said, with about 10 minutes left in “regular” Q&A time, is there anything you’d like to mention that we haven’t covered?
[20:52] <+ActorMikeY> Narrative-based games are the way to go, in my semi-humble opinion. 😉
[20:52] <+MattWilson> Thanks for the invite. I think we’ve covered just about everything that I can think of. I’m kind of surprised I had enough to fill two hours.
[20:52] <+ActorMikeY> Although, like Dan (I think), I generally prefer the GM to keep main control of the primary narrative, with the PCs adding their own in their descriptions of what their characters are doing, feeling, etc.
[20:53] <+MattWilson> Me too.
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[20:53] <~Dan> Oh, yeah. I’m all for that.
[20:53] <+MattWilson> What game are you working on (or have already worked on), MikeY?
[20:54] <+ActorMikeY> As an actor, I equate it to having a good director – your Talent will contribute, certainly, but ultimately, it is the director (GM) that maintains primary control to keep everything on a semi-organized path.
[20:55] <+ActorMikeY> Savage Kingdoms, Matt, a fairly gritty sword-and-sorcery RPG. Sort, A Song of Ice and Fire meets the Hyborian Age of Conan. =)
[20:55] <+ActorMikeY> Prior to that, just Elfstone and StarQuest, two LARP systems.
[20:56] <+MattWilson> I know a little about Savage Kingdoms. That’s cool
[20:57] <+MattWilson> never got into larp, though.
[20:57] <~Dan> Thanks again for coming out, MattWilson! And I apologize again for the mix-up on nights.
[20:58] <+MattWilson> No worries, it all worked out. Thanks for having me on here.
[20:58] <~Dan> I’ll go ahead and get the chat log posted on my blog, but please hang out as long as you like. 🙂
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[20:58] <+MattWilson> well, I unfortunately have to head out.
[20:58] <+MattWilson> dishes await me
[20:58] <~Dan> Ah. Well, you’re always welcome. Want me to just message you via FB with the link?
[20:59] <+BPIJonathan> Dang I missed it. My days are all screwed up
[20:59] <+MonkofLords> Yup
[20:59] <+MattWilson> I have it bookmarked, so hopefully will be back. Take care you guys!