These are notes from today’s improvisational Proppian storytelling game. I made a few minor changes, but the overall narrative remains the same. The rules for today’s game were adapted from an exercise developed by Arthur Asa Berger. BTW, robotic hamsters really exist.
— 1. INITIAL SITUATION —
The story is set on Earth, sixteen years after humanity has been exterminated by cyborgs. JUDITH-53 and KALEL-42, the cyborg “parents” of a young robot named FLAFEL-12, decide to adopt the last remaining human child. They name him Phil, and Phil is the hero of our story.
— CHANGE. “THE PROFESSOR” INTRODUCED —
Phil becomes friends with his high school history teacher. Professor ROB-64 is fascinated by the human race, and he hopes to learn more about the extinct species through his interactions with Phil.
— 2. ABSENTATION —
JORG, a space traveler from the planet Urglagur, becomes obsessed with Judith-53 and stalks her over a period of several months. His unhealthy fixation culminates in a bizarre kidnapping plan, and he takes her back to his home planet.
— CHANGE. “ALIEN ABDUCTION” —
Actually, instead of kidnapping Phil’s mother, Jorg becomes romantically obsessed with one of Phil’s classmates: a cyborg named MARIE-17. Both Phil and Jorg are madly in love with this young cyborg. Jorg kidnaps her and returns to his home planet.
— 3. INTERDICTION —
Compelled by love and scientific curiosity, Phil and Professor Rob-64 set out to rescue MARIE-17 from the planet Urglagur. Their spaceship mechanic warns them to take the most direct route because they are low on fuel. Unfortunately, the most direct route is the interstellar equivalent of the stretch of I-10 between San Antonio and El Paso and morale is quite low.
— CHANGE. “ALIEN SCRAPPY” —
Our heroes would be thoroughly depressed if not for the playful antics of Phil’s only true friend: HAMSTEY HUEY. Huey is a robotic hamster who can also communicate telepathically through his magical crystal horn. Huey is known for shouting the catch-phrase “Excelsior” when he is particularly excited.
— 4. VIOLATION —
To combat sagging morale, Phil, Huey, and Professor ROB-64 visit the asteroid Tenalpmordnar and engage in several rounds of intergalactic bowling. Phil bowls the best game of his life.
— GAME CHANGE. DIFFERENT PITSTOP —
To combat sagging morale, Phil, Huey, and Professor ROB-64 visit the asteroid Tenalpmordnar to see the hardcore cosmic punk band Cosmic Squirtz. The band’s manager, a drug-addled robot named MCLAREN-55, hears Hamstey singing along to the chorus and MCLAREN-55 is wildly impressed. He invites our heroes to go on tour with the band, with Hamstey singing back-up vocals. They accept his offer, seemingly forgetting about their rescue mission.
— 5. VILLAINY —
Shortly after winding up the first leg of their tour, our heroes receive a desperate interstellar message from FLAFEL-12. He informs them that Phil’s family is being held hostage by a human named JONCONR-05. The only other human being to survive the human extinction, JONCONR-05 posed for years as a cyborg in order to get close to Phil’s family. He is understandably upset with Phil’s mother (JUDITH-53) for designing the biological weapon (a virus) that exterminated the human race.
— CHANGE. “CUE THE SUN” —
The audience discovers that everything so far has been part of Days of Our Binary System — a staged reality show with extremely low ratings. As with The Truman Show, our heroes do not realize they are living in simulated world. The band knows the truth, as does the villain. But who is the villain?
— CHANGE. “BIG BAD FRIEND” —
Back on Earth, FLAFEL-12 reveals his true motives. He has sold out his family to the reality television producers for 13 million space credits. For years, he has watched his human brother hog all of the attention. FLAFEL-12 wishes he were human, and he also yearns passionately for MARIE-17. His act of betrayal is the perfect revenge.
But FLAFEL-12 makes one crucial mistake: he forgets about the hamster.
— 6. MEDIATION —
Hamster Huey is telepathic, and he instantly recognizes that the other band members are paid actors. Huey keeps quiet at first because he has always fantasized about living like a rock star, and he loves the attention from his fans. But life on the road is hard, and when a robotic hamster is flying through hyperspace for sixteen parsecs, there’s not much else to do. One night, lying awake on his wheel, with echoes from the amplifiers ringing in his head, Huey decides to tell Phil and ROB-64 the truth.
Our heroes realize what they need to do. They must break out of the reality show, defeat FLAFEL-12, and rescue Phil’s family. Excelsior!!