- Rick, head of the label: A schemer to the core, Rick didn’t get where he is today without pissing a few people off. His office is at the top of the label’s towering office building in LA. He has a wife (name pending), but is having an affair with Lady MC, the label’s biggest recording artist and Othello’s sister.
- Lady MC, talent: A hip-hop star having an affair with Rick and, by extension, manipulating Globe Records. Specifically, she’s trying to ensure that she isn’t shown up by Juliet. But she doesn’t want the label to drop her altogether -- as long as she’s with Globe, Lady can control her career.
- Juliet, talent: A rising star on her second marriage. She married her first husband (Othello’s brother Romeo) when she was just a teenager, and his death shortly thereafter sent her into a tailspin. Othello was there to catch her. At first she was grateful; these days, she can’t help feeling like being with him might be holding her back.
- Othello, recording engineer: Handsome, kind, strong -- that guy. Afraid his wife Juliet is cheating on him. Talented singer-songwriter, but he’s seen what being in the spotlight has done to her and doesn’t want any part of that. He’s plays acoustic guitar at coffee houses to sparse but appreciative patrons.
- Portia, record producer: Woman trying to make it in a man’s world. Power suit, shoulder pads, the whole nine yards. Nursing a crush on Othello, and trying to convince him to sign with her as a recording artist. Also, she’s Rick’s daughter, though he doesn’t show her favoritism. They... don’t have a great relationship.
- Dane Prince, talent: Moody lead singer of Sea of Troubles, a grunge band signed with Globe. Attracted to Juliet, but has a bad history where relationships are concerned. Othello’s best friend.
Everyone has Vows, Natures, and Modes. Vows are motivations -- things you’re forsworn to do. Natures are beliefs and personality traits -- things that make you you. Modes are how you feel at any given time; everyone has three to choose from (unique to the character). Natures and Modes are pre-set for each character; each character’s Vows are defined before play by the player.
These things have ratings, starting at 1. When you do something, you pick a Vow, Nature, and Mode appropriate to the situation. Combine their ratings, and draw that many cards, less any cards already in hand (so if you have a card in hand and the total of your ratings is three, you only draw two cards). Each player in a conflict (usually only two) plays a single card. High card wins narration rights. The players swap the cards they played. The swapped card you receive stays in your hand; discard the rest.
Vows, Natures, and Modes are potentially problematic. Every time you make one of those create a problem for you -- something like an automatic “I lose, because I’m so Angry” -- instead of playing a card, increase the rating of the Vow, Nature, or Mode by 1. You don’t get the other player’s card; it’s discarded instead.
I’d like for the suit to matter somehow, but I’m not sure how just yet. Maybe assign a suit to each Mode, and if the suit of the card you play matches your Mode you trump? Sure, why not.
Take a standard deck of playing cards and remove the face cards (Jacks, Queens, Kings). The remaining cards -- A through 9 in four suits -- are used by the players during play for all that card-drawing jazz. The face cards are used to randomly determine the storylines for the episode. Each episode has three storylines, each in one of three different stages of resolution when play begins. The further along the storyline, the more people it involves. A new storyline involves only two characters, an ongoing storyline involves three, and a concluding storyline involves four. (There can be overlap between these groups.) The first player draws a face card to determine the new storyline for their character, then picks one other player to be involved. That player decides how the two characters are involved in the storyline, then draws a card for their ongoing storyline and picks two other players. Each of those players decides how one of the other three characters is involved. A player who hasn’t drawn a storyline card does so for their concluding storyline, and chooses three other players to share it with them, and each of those players decides how one other character is involved.
Every player writes down a Vow for each storyline they have. This must be a statement using the phrase “I must” or “I can’t” that relates to the storyline and includes one other character in it. For example, Othello’s player draws Amnesia for his new storyline, and chooses to involve Dane in it. Dane’s player decides that Othello partially lost his memory as a result of a car accident, but right before that he caught Dane with Juliet. Now, he doesn’t remember it. Dane’s helping him cover and recover out of guilt. Othello’s player writes down “I must regain my memory.” Dane’s player writes “I can’t let Othello know about Juliet and me.”
An episode has four commercial breaks. In between these, each player takes a turn framing a scene relevant to one of their storylines. After one commercial break, a new storyline becomes ongoing. After three commercial breaks, an ongoing storyline becomes concluding. After two commercial breaks, a concluding storyline ends; draw a new storyline and dovetail it into that one. So each of the 12 storylines needs a breakdown of where they are at each stage. That should be... okay. Manageable, anyway.
The game ends when the episode ends.
I may need to rework the pacing of the storylines and the three stages of development, but other than that I really think the mechanical end of things is pretty solid. It's partially inspired by an idea I had a while ago for escalating aspects in FATE.
I've started to do the storyline breakdowns (about halfway done there -- I need a few more ideas for soap opera tropes) and the characters. Three of each trait -- Vow, Nature, and Mode -- seems about right. I mean, it's possible that a character may not be involved in three storylines, in which case they'd only have two Vows, but I'm going to set Natures and Modes at three each. The Natures are turning out to be statements or beliefs more than personality traits, which really makes each character distinctive. I like that. And the Modes look like they'll be fun to come up with. Othello's, for example, are Protective, Compassionate, and Shirtless.
Having the specifics of the storylines determined by a mix of random card-drawing and the players themselves should help keep the word count low. If I can just find the time to do this thing over the next week (questionable), I think I'll have something pretty fun and workable on my hands.
Not married to that name, but... it's good enough for now. If anyone has any suggestions, I'm all ears.