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Author Topic: [Primetime Adventure] Dharma Thieves - Hastalakala  (Read 12462 times)
LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« on: October 17, 2004, 08:31:44 AM »

So last night in IRC Ben Lehman asks: "What is the topic of conversation tonight?" Jonathan Walton responds with "None so far." so Ben asks "What do you want to be tonight, then?"  Jonathan responds with "space pirates" which I pick up and respond with "space SHIP!"...  And thus Dharma Thieves was born.  A full transcript of everything we did (including all the discussion leading up to actually playing) look here.

The preplay discussion is roughly the first half of the transcript while play takes up the second half...  It starts at 22:40:04 if you want to use the timestamps as a guide.

About ten minutes into the discussion Ben suggest we use PTA as our system, I've been jazzed about playing PTA since GenCon -- even more so since my book came in last Thursday -- so I was all over that.

It was a ton of fun...  PTA has a simple structure that we were able to teach to all three of the players who had not played it or read the book in as we did stuff...  Our four characters were:

Bodhisattva ("Bodhi") - Played by me.
Bodhisattva is the sentient starship that the pirates fly around in.  Her personality is not fully developed and she is pretty reliant upon others emotionally.  Her Issue is that her self esteem is dependent upon validation by other people.

Miguel Saladin - Played by Jonathan
Miguel is a crazy idealist.  He believes that the piratical life is the only moral way to live.  His Issue is that it is hard to maintain idealism within the brutality of piracy.

Jehanne Diamondhand - Played by Shreyas
Jehanne is the only woman in the crew of three.  She's also the captain.  Additionally she is the only crew member who does not pilot Bodhisattva (which is significant, really significant).  Her Issue is old debts coming due.

Jacque Arjuna - Played by Chris
Jacque has a fairly mysterious past.  He's an emotional wreck having lost everything he ever really cared about.  He's emotionally dominant and rather rough/brusque.  Jacque's Issue is jealousy... not specific jealousy, but general...  He's jealous of everyone about everything.

We decided to start right in the middle of the series with screen presences at: Bodhi - 3, Jehanne - 2, Jaque - 1, Miguel - 1.

I really, really enjoyed this game.  It may be the television metaphor combined with the fact that I often think in terms of environment (that is, the little details like background noises, specific lighting, all that) and this game encourages me to bring that out.

There was one thing regarding our use of the system that I wanted to bring forward.  We did not have many conflicts, and I am not sure that we properly set up scenes.  As a result we had only to Conflicts.  In both of them the Producer spent a lot of budget.  There did not seem to be any sort of pacing.  I would love to hear commentary from other players as to how it felt to have so little mechanical conflict.  I would also love to hear from other people who have played PTA and their experiences with Conflict.

This game was tons of fun, I am really looking forward to playing again.

Thomas
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LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2004, 10:04:17 AM »

I forgot to mentiong, and it is rather important, Jehanne's Spotlight episode was last episode (Episode 2), Jacque's Spotlight is next episode (Episode 4), and Miguel's episode is two episodes from now (Episode 5).

Thomas
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Ben Lehman
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2004, 10:18:12 AM »

Hey.  I was producer for this game, sort of by default.

On the one hand, I feel that the fact that we only used the conflict mechanics twice isn't bad -- the show felt like it remained on target, we didn't get muddled down in extraneous stuff very often, etc.  Frankly, IRC is a slow medium, and we didn't have that many scenes to begin with.

On the other hand, there were definitely pacing and SP problems.  First, I was a bit unsure of when to stop setting up scenes and let them play out, just because IRC is a bad medium for conveying spatial expressions.  So I'm sure that I was too heavy handed a couple of times.  Also, my opening scene sucked.  It should have been -- you're checking out a distress beacon when you are attacked! which would have gotten us off on a much better foot.  Oh well, live and learn.

Also, I felt like there was some confusion about screen presence (Jonathan was really playing a lot, which was good, but he should have had SP 2, and Shreyas wasn't so active as I wanted him to be.  To be fair, he didn't have a lot of chance.)  And I felt like Thomas and I were going in two different directions on Bodhi's conflict, which was fine, but I couldn't quite figure out his angle on it, which was unfortunate.

Since this is a two-parter, I hope to recitify some of those problems in part two.

On the whole, though, I had a super-fantastic time.  Thanks, Matt.

yrs--
--Ben
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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student, second edition


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« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2004, 01:38:58 PM »

Cool. You guys played this over IRC? I'm completely ignorant of how that works, so I'm glad it worked out reasonably well for you.

As for conflicts, I think they'll pop up more easily when you get more familiar with the characters. Players will often request scenes that make it really obvious what the conflict is.
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LordSmerf
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Posts: 864


« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2004, 02:32:10 PM »

Oh, Matt, one thing I wanted to bring up but forgot to: When you are setting up your "teaser scenes" at the end of the session are you supposed to give out Fan Mail?  We decided yes, but I was curious as to your intentions (if any).

Thomas
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2004, 06:22:50 PM »

You forgot to mention the best parts of the series!

It wasn't just "space pirates"!  It was "pseudo-Tibetan/central Asian space pirates with lots of sexual metaphors and whispers of space angels and ghosts and a weird 4-way disfunctional relationship based around the spaceship"!  The first part of the episode featured what seemed to be the ex-boyfriend of the ship (yes, also a ship) who was filled with these weird space mummies.  Can't get much cooler than that.  I got Fan Mail for using the word "post-coital"!

I did kind of let myself get carried away, but the concept was so great that I really got caught up in it and wanted to keep pushing it.

Matt, if you want some ideas about how your game works in IRC, you should read the transcript.  It shows the entire game comming together, complete with series brainstorming, character creation, the whole bit.  Very cool.  

Playing this game made me think that PTA may be, in its own way, less Yang-oriented in its group development than, say, Universalis, especially in the giving of Fan Mail and such.  Still, I found myself wondering why we needed Ben in the GM role.  I mean, why does there need to be a Producer?  PTA seems made for GMless play styles, so I was wondering about your reasoning there.  Most series' seem to be totally character-based, so throw in some support for Author/Director stance and you have GMless play in a heartbeat.
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C. Edwards
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savage / sublime


« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2004, 08:01:08 PM »

The brainstorming session for this game was awesome. Hopefully we'll be able to bring most of the nuance and flavor of the setting we imagined into actual play. With the limitations of IRC and the need to focus on particular character Issues, it's going to take a little work on our parts. I think we're all really into it though so that shouldn't be a problem.

I can't really comment on system issues too much since I don't own PTA. That will be remedied soon enough. The only concrete observation I have is that you can end up rolling quite a few times if the original conflict roll results in a tie. I think Ben and I must have rolled about seven additional times (one die a piece each time) in order to try and break a tie. That was probably just a statistical fluke, but it did get me wondering about other possible ways to handle ties.

This first episode will probably be full of growing pains as we get used to the system and playing with each other. I've played many times with Shreyas, but this is my first experience with Ben, Thomas, and Jonathan. Getting used to the play styles of people you haven't gamed with before, and seeking a relatively seamless integration of those play styles, can be a game all by itself. No worries though. We all seem to be enjoying and playing off of each other's creativity.

-Chris
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2004, 11:24:05 PM »

To respond to Chris' last comment, I don't think we've played together enough to really know how to do characterization and give other people opportunities for characterization.  I've played a bit with Ben and designed enough stuff with Shreyas that I have some idea how to pitch stuff to them (like the very brief hallway scene was cool, I thought), but I had no clue about Chris and Thomas.  Now I think I'm got some idea, but the only way to be sure is to PLAY, PLAY, PLAY!

Also, the denseness of our brainstorming definitely didn't come into Actual Play very well.  We were probably trying to tackle too much at once.  I think, for the second half of this episode, we need to come up with a situation where Jehanne (Shreyas' character) has to pilot Bodhi, which would return the spotlight properly to those two characters and give Miguel and Jacque reasons to bitch and moan (and interact!).  And I think I need to come up with some sort of pseudo-anarchist speech style for Miguel.  When the evil Lamaite jumped me, I should have called him a "Dharma-slave running dog of the material abomination!" or something like that.

Hindsight, though. Next time, Gadget.
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2004, 04:38:05 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Still, I found myself wondering why we needed Ben in the GM role.  I mean, why does there need to be a Producer?  PTA seems made for GMless play styles, so I was wondering about your reasoning there.  Most series' seem to be totally character-based, so throw in some support for Author/Director stance and you have GMless play in a heartbeat.


It's the producer's job to a) ensure that conflict happens (which is huge), and b) weave in the larger plot-of-the-week elements. I think both those things are better done with someone in an authority role. The producer also helps to keep the game from grinding to an "okay, now what" halt, such as in deciding who should play a particular supporting character.

You could probably do a variant where the person to the right of the person who's requesting a scene is the producer for that scene, but I think you get better continuity if it's the same person all the time.

Quote from: Chris Edwards
The only concrete observation I have is that you can end up rolling quite a few times if the original conflict roll results in a tie. I think Ben and I must have rolled about seven additional times (one die a piece each time) in order to try and break a tie.


Yikes. I haven't encountered that, but it must really be a drag when it happens on line.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2004, 06:17:34 AM »

Quote from: Matt Wilson
It's the producer's job to a) ensure that conflict happens (which is huge)


Is this really a problem?  You think players wouldn't be able to create conflict by themselves?  I mean, you'd just have to have some sort of "conflict" order for the players, where each one is responsible, in turn, for building towards the next conflict.  It could even just be the player whose scene it is.  And if you described a great complication, you'd probably get Fan Mail to smack the other players around with.

Quote
b) weave in the larger plot-of-the-week elements. I think both those things are better done with someone in an authority role.


Hmm, I don't know.  I've just never encountered either of these problems in any of the GMless play I've done.  And, once Ben set up the certain points of conflict, and we rolled, most of the game seemed to flow naturally without too much of his guidance (not saying he wasn't great, but that I was wishing he could have had a character too and been part of the action with the rest of us).
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Shreyas Sampat
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2004, 06:32:22 AM »

One thing that I really felt we were having trouble with (in stark contrast to the amazing way that everyone managed to characterise their people through special effects and body language) was weaving Bodhi's self-worth Issue into the game.

Looking back on our brainstorming, I was totally being conservative with my character design, and I don't think that served us well; Jehanne is kind of a "repentant space pirate" without any strong hooks. I'll have to keep his in mind for next time. It made it kind of tough for me to get all that screen presence out there, and particularly there was a scene or two where I was still wrestling with a narration when Ben decided to close the scene (to the betterment of the game, I think).
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John Harper
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flip you for real


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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2004, 08:36:08 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
(not saying he wasn't great, but that I was wishing he could have had a character too and been part of the action with the rest of us).

I encountered this when I ran PTA, too. I think it's a very good thing for the Producer to run a "co-star" character that is very involved in the current episode. This might be a recurring minor character or a new face each week. The co-star is there so the Producer can have a mouthpiece in the scene, if necessary. I tried to make this co-star one of the protag's connections whenever possible.

Alias has a few excellent "Producer characters", most notably Jack Bristow. The guy is a plot device, plain and simple. He's also Sydney's primary connection. The Producer can play Jack very aggressively to drive character OR plot scenes that Sydney is involved in.
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Vaxalon
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Posts: 1619


« Reply #12 on: November 22, 2004, 06:09:04 PM »

TV shows used to have (mostly in detective dramas) a "guest star" who changed every week.  This would be perfect for a producer's character.
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"In our game the other night, Joshua's character came in as an improvised thing, but he was crap so he only contributed a d4!"
                                     --Vincent Baker
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