I Watched a Star Trek RPG Actual Play Video on Fox

The Orville is basically a Star Trek RPG Actual Play video. This can be discerned from the off-topic anachronistic jibber-jabber of the PCs and the way the NPCs stay relentlessly on character despite it, never derailing the plot in response. (It’s a forgiving GM.)
The cast of The Orville
The Orville PCs
Today, Actual Play is pretty much just the equivalent of Let's Play for RPGs instead of video games. You get a bunch of people with some mikes and an optional camera, and you go through a scenario. For developers, they're an important tool -- they're promotional, they demo the mechanics, they demo how you expect to play the game. Now, tone isn't always going to come through a rulebook, especially if you're a skimmer like me who knows what kind of flavor text already works for you and your players and you just want the crunchy bits, so Actual Play gets that tone across in a way that works for people who do best with that kind of live example. Actual Plays aren't my thing, but I know plenty of people who are into them. I'm glad they're popular.
Several people sitting around a table looking at each other, like every RPG group
Harmonquest, Dan Harmon's Actual Play podcast
Back in the day, though, Actual Play wasn't a video or a podcast. It is fair, I think, to trace Actual Play almost all the way back to the beginning of RPGs. There's a couple of pages of small text in the 1979 AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide narrating a small party exploring a room in a sample dungeon and the start of a combat. It gives the interaction between the GM and the players -- the GM describes, the players interact with the environment, and the GM explains what happens. It did a lot to establish the tone that D&D keeps leaving and coming back to, with exploration and combat being two of the legs that 5E refocused on. 4E, rather infamously, for purposes never really clear to me, chose to de-emphasize exploration, with a key passage in the 4E DMG indicating that, after a combat, the characters should just find whatever there is to find in the room -- no narrated interaction with the environment, just give them the list of stuff. You didn't have to play it that way, but that's the play style that the DMG was reinforcing. Back to the topic, that's what Actual Play is really good at, showcasing the play style afforded by the rules.
Two page spread of small text.
The play example from the first DMG
Speaking of play styles, there are immersive groups where players are expected to be in character as much as possible, that emphasize the acting side of the game. That's not at all my strength, and as a consequence, most of the groups I've played with have a play style characterized by digression, non-sequiturs, and wisecracking ("you wiseacres", the GMs say, as if they were in a Bowery Boys 2-reeler and knew how "wiseacres" was really pronounced). It's well-established that we have difficulty playing horror scenarios, because our first instinct in response to the GM's description of squamous slavering terrors and psychic revulsions is, basically, to make fun of it. With such groups, the GM pretends that your character didn't say what you just said, and gamely soldiers on portraying their NPCs behaving as if the PCs were actually pursuing the plot.

And that's exactly what's happening in The Orville. The most recent episode -- basically, an "Enterprise Incident" scenario -- extensively features repeated riffs on the antagonist race's deity being named "Avis" that the NPCs just sort of blink at, because if they reacted as if the characters had really just betrayed such comprehensive ignorance of their religion or straight-out blasphemed, the episode would have ended about forty minutes early with the execution of the captain and the pilot as spies or heretics or both. In other words, The Orville is a typical RPG group -- the crew as PCs -- playing a Star Trek campaign in an Actual Play video with a costume and prop budget and a GM who wants to balance story and the additional ways that players like to have fun playing.

I mean, otherwise, The Orville is first gen Trek with next gen production design. First gen Trek is the tone I want.

And, perhaps obviously, that's also the tone I want in D&D: Exploration, interaction, and combat, with jokes.

Greg Morrow me fecit
I Watched a Star Trek RPG Actual Play Video on Fox I Watched a Star Trek RPG Actual Play Video on Fox Reviewed by Greg Morrow on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 Rating: 5
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