What is Motor City Shadows?

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What is Motor City Shadows?

Motor City Shadows (MCS) is a Radio Roleplaying Adventure/Drama (RRAD) set in the city of Detroit within the dystopian universe of the Sixth World of Shadowrun. The main characters are Shadowrunners, outlaws of a corrupt and exploitative society from which they have either fled or been exiled.  From these shadows the characters strike back at the mega corporations that have stolen control of every nation on the planet from the helpless citizens within. One day our heroes may be free from the Shadows.  Until then, they will be forced to run within them.      

What is Shadowrun?

Shadowrun is a persistent alternative fictional future where Magic, Advanced Technology, and unchecked corporate power have reshaped our world.  Started in 1989, the Shadowrun fictional universe has now surpassed 30 years of story continuity from tens of thousands of creators and contributors over its lifetime.  This depth and detail of the Shadowrun setting makes it the standard bearer for the cyberpunk genre.   The Shadowrun IP is currently owned by Catalyst Labs and is currently available as a fifth edition tabletop rpg ruleset

What is the Sixth World?

The Sixth World is a very different place from the world you think you know today. Civilization and the laws of Nature have taken titanic strides in the recent history of our planet.  In only 60 years, the Sixth world has witnessed the pinnacle of computer technology and artificial intelligence as well as the rebirth of mythic energy in the form of Magic.  The population of the human race has also been forced to evolve to meet these epoch level changes.  Some have become closer to machine than mankind, embracing the infinite virtual worlds of the Matrix.  Others have been awaken to strange powers, becoming mystics that use magic to walk the Astral plane.  Humanity itself has changed, expressing yet unseen, hidden mutations as whole new branches of the evolutionary Metasapien tree.  Nations and Governments around the world have failed, collapsing in on themselves, allowing mega corporations to amass, rise to power, and take their place as leaders of society.  No, The Sixth World is not the same world you think you know today.

What is a Radio Roleplaying Adventure/Drama?

MCS borrows liberally from the era of radio programs like The Lone Ranger and The Shadow as well as their modern inheritors like Welcome to Nightvale and  Thrilling Adventure Hour.  

MCS seeks to combine the frenetic, unpredictable fun of the tabletop roleplaying game Shadowrun with the dramatic plotting of a serial radio show. Using a mix of player agency, random game mechanics and peer-reviewed script writing, MCS hopes to capture the magic of collaborative storytelling in a new and exciting way.

How will MCS combine Tabletop Roleplay with Radio Serials?

MCS is first and foremost a radio show.  Its foundation rests in the talent of its voice actors to tell the audience a compelling story.  The audience in this way is a passive observer, consuming the medium as they listen and imagine the action or drama expertly unfolding.  

However Roleplaying games are very different in their story structure from Radio Serials.  Players of a tabletop game who’s characters are proxies for their actions are both the protagonists of the story and the audience of the narrative at the table.  This agency within all the participants to change the narrative direction gives the story a life of its own; an uncontained chaos that, once started, can take the story in unimagined directions.  This is the magic of an RPG to tell a collaborative story that will surprise everyone at the table telling it together.

How then can these two very different methods of storytelling work together?  How can we  maintain the consistent scripted narrative needed for a Radio Adventure/Drama while injecting the magic of collaboratively storytelling core to Roleplaying?  We believe the secret lies in the unique way we create our MCS scripts.

How MCS Scripts are written

Each script has three distinct phases of its creation.  

Light from Darkness phase

For each arc of the larger story, the Head Writer outlines the story beats she wants to touch on in that arc. This gives the story a backbone from which to be built up collaboratively as well as the continuity that is needed in a serialized story.  

These beats are then reframed by the Head Writer into scenes.  A scene is a description of setting in which the characters are set, an outline of the story beat it is trying to hit, and the narration notes used by the Narrator setting up the scene for the listener.  The first scene is sent to the Character Writers for each character in that scene. Here the collaborative storytelling begins.

Collaborative Chaos Phase

In this phase each contributor will have control of the story when it is their turn to contribute.

The Head Writer and each of the Character Writers will all participate in a collaborative writing exercise we call Narrative Catch.  In Narrative Catch, there is one imagined ball.  When a Character Writer has the ball, they have control of the story for their character and the environment in which their character is in.  They can write their characters actions, reactions, interactions while holding the ball.  Further, they can write new settings, object, or new non-main characters into the plot for their character to interact.  After a limit is reached (usually word count) they must pass the ball.  If their character enters in dialog with another main character, then the ball is shared between them and both characters can act.  The exercise ends when the Head Writer feels the story beat for that scene has been hit.

The technology used to do Narrative Catch depends on the group.  Threaded email works well, as do threaded forum posts.

Sidenote: the technique we call Narrative Catch is related to the CUE system used in the  narrative game  Shadowrun Anarchy

Order from Disorder Phase

Once we have the thread of Narrative Catch,  the Head Writer will use its output to craft a first draft of a script for that scene.  This draft is then sent out to the Voice Actors and Writers for revision, allowing the Actors and Writers to get the correct voice for each character while keeping to the now developing story beats.

Once a first draft of the first scene is completed, the writing crew will move back to the Collaborative Chaos Phase for the next scene.  They will repeat the pattern of Collaborative Chaos Phase and then Order from Disorder Phase for each scene.

Words from on High Phase

Finally once all the final drafts for all the scenes are approved, the Head Writer will create the finished draft of the script for this arc.  Voice recording can now begin with the Voice Actors.

What about the randomness of an Roleplaying Game?

Part of the unpredictable nature of RPG storytelling comes not from the players and characters, but from the random mechanics in the games themselves.  While the mechanics differ, be it dice or cards or a Jenga tower, each game has a way to introduce random outcomes to actions that have a chance for failure.

MCS introduces this randomness as well, especially during combat scenes.  The mechanics we use for MCE are Catalyst Lab’s story driven Shadowrun Anarchy ruleset.  These rules resolves conflict between two characters through the accumulation of dice into two different pools, one on each side of a conflict.  These dice are then rolled and the outcome is determined by comparing the results.

When an Actor or Writer has a character perform an action with a chance for failure, the Head Writer can request a roll to determine outcome.  This is most common in combat where many actions are taken in a small window of time, each with the chance of failure (see next).

How is combat conducted?

Combat is usually played out with the Writers as part of a online game session during the writing process.  Everyone gets on the virtual tabletop web-app Roll20 and plays out the scenario using their Shadowrun Anarchy (SA) characters following the SA rules for combat resolution.  The Head Writer pits the players against the opposition and allows the game mechanics do their job, weaving a story of the combat with each participant taking their turns.  As SA is a very quick, simple RPG ruleset, these combats go quickly and always with surprising outcomes.

Who is this production following?

MCS follows in the footsteps of giants of Radio Drama like The Lone Ranger, The Shadow and others.  More recent examples of dramatic radio are Welcome to Nightvale, Thrilling Adventure Hour Beyond Belief, Decoder Ring Theater, Wormwood, 19 Nocturne Boulevard, Dr Carp, Paranormal Therapist, and We’re Alive Leviathan Chronicles Texas Radio Theatre to name a few.

On the Shadowrun side, we tip our cap to the excellent show Shadowrun Corporate SINs.

How will MCS handle money from Sponsorship?

We are expecting MCS to be successful, both critically and eventually financially.  We want to compensate our team just as any professionally produced show would, and perhaps even better. 

Here is how we plan on distributing any profits from Sponsorship endeavors like advertising or Paetron.

Shareholder: Any person contributing to the MCS product that is not otherwise compensated will be issued shares.  Main Character Voice Actors and Writers are examples of shareholder positions.

Quarterly RevenueAll money collected from Sponsorship in total over a calendar Quarter

Quarterly ProfitsAll money remaining from Revenue after the paying of expenses such as hosting, skilled labor, advertising, equipment costs, etc.  Calculation of Quarterly Profits relies on completed collection of Quarterly Revenue as well as completed payment of expenses and cannot be completed until these two numbers are closed out.

Quarterly Shareholder Royalty list: A list of Shareholders who have a credit with a show downloaded that month by a viewer.  Download verification method to be determined.

Quarterly Shareholder Royalty: The number of shares held by a Shareholder times the number of credited show downloads accredited with that Shareholder.

Quarterly Distribution: Quarterly Profits will be divided  based on percentage of Quarterly Shareholder Royalty each quarter.    Each Shareholder will be then sent their royalty as a distribution of the shows profits.  This distribution will be conducted at the end of the quarter only after Quarterly Profits can be determined.

How can I be a part of MCS?

Motor City Shadows is looking for people to fill one or more of the following positions

  • Male Voice Actor
  • Female Voice Actor
  • Character Writer

Can I be a Voice Actor on MCS?

Sure you can.  You have a voice don’t you?  Every voice is interesting in its special way.  With a show like MCS, your distinctive voice can bring to life someone in the 6th World.  Trust me.  Even if you only want to voice one small part in one episode, MCS is looking for you.

The only thing needed to be a Voice Actor is the right equipment and the time to read line into that equipment.  If you have access to a quality microphone, Headphones, a quiet room, and enough time to read out some lines into a computer, you too can be a Voice Actor for MCS.

The time commitment for a Voice Actor should be around 2 hours per week per character voiced.

Can I be a Character Writer on MCS?

If you have played Shadowrun and have a good grasp of the voice of a character, you could be a Character Writer.

The only thing needed to be a Character Writer is a willingness to craft dialog to fit a character’s voice and a knowledge of the Shadowrun universe and how your character acts within it.

The time commitment for a Character Writer should be around 5 hours per week per character written plus 1 hour per combat plotted.

Can I be both?

Its possible.  A Character Writer may also wants to voice the character they are writing. This presumes that the Character Writer can deliver good audio and compelling reads of their own work.  It also presumes that the Character Writer has the available time for both roles.  If so, of course you can be both.

How to Apply?

To apply for a position on MCS, please send an email to the head writer, Aaron Worsham at aaron [at] radioroleplay.com