*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
September 22, 2014, 08:16:18 AM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 53 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [PTA] Problems pointing conflicts at issues (long)  (Read 2853 times)
johnmarron
Member

Posts: 53


« on: July 18, 2005, 10:43:27 AM »

     Last Friday my group played the pilot session of our first game of PTA.  My question involves coming up with conflicts to address the protagonists’ issues, but I’ll provide some setup first.

     The series is called “Union:  Beyond the Streets We Know”, and the one line pitch I used for it was something like “(Mostly) normal people get caught up in a centuries old secret war between two factions of the faerie realm”.  The game, sorry, show,  is inspired by the Jack the Giant-Killer novels of Charles De Lint and a young adult novel called Tithe by Holly Black, and is basically modern day real world with traditional (mainly British) faerie creatures and locales existing in a sort of “side-dimension” to the mortal realm, with their existence almost completely unknown to most people.  The overall setting is a fictional medium-sized southern US city called Union.  The “franchise” of the series is that in each episode, a problem from the faerie realm will spill over and manifest in the mortal realm, tying the protagonists’ real lives into this weird other world.  In this episode it was the depredations of a Barghest (big nasty faerie dog) eventually manifesting as a political assassination (something we’d all agreed on before play).

     The real world people involved are myself as Producer, and a married couple (David and Cooper) I’ve been gaming with for about three months of weekly games.  I met them when I relocated to a new city (Birmingham, Alabama), and originally found their contact info by scanning through the Forge members database location field!  We get along very well and seem to have similar gaming goals.

     The two protagonists are:

Luna Reynolds (played by Cooper), a 17 year old high school girl from a dysfunctional family (an emotionally neglectful father and dead mother), whose issue is “Identity”, specifically, “Who am I and where do I come from?”.  She only has two traits (we planned to assign three before the game started and add in two more as we played), which are “Inexplicable, subtle magical events triggered by stress and emotion” and a contact with her boss, an ex-hippie professor type who runs the funky used book store she works in after school.

And

Jackson Jones, a young, biracial (African-American mother and Irish cop father, both dead I think), up-and-coming professional boxer who is going blind.  His issue is also “Identity”, specifically, “My whole life is based on my boxing, and who am I if I lose that career due to losing my sight”.  His traits are “professional boxer”, “can occasionally catch glimpses of faerie”, and a connection to his trainer, an old white guy friend of his father’s.

     I don’t have their story arcs in front of me, but Luna’s spotlight episode is the next to last of a five episode season, and Jackson’s is the last episode.  The rest of the episodes have one character at 2 and one at 1, which came about without any discussion between the players.

     Hopefully that gives y’all enough setup to offer advice.  Let me first say that the game-play in our first session could best be described as “tentative”.  PTA style is new to all of us, and we were sort of feeling our way as we went, but were all aware of this and prepared to view our first few games as learning experiences.  We ended up with a number of scenes without conflicts, and, as other folks have mentioned about their own initial PTA games, we had a hard time coming up with conflicts that specifically pushed or addressed the protagonists’ issues.  I personally had a hard time framing conflicts that were about more than just “succeed/fail” but that didn’t take away decision making power over their characters from the players.

     For example, I opened with a scene in which Luna is walking home at night on a darkened city street and witnesses an attack by what looks like a big black dog on what looks like a young boy.  The player (Cooper) wanted her character to drive off the dog before it killed the boy (obviously both dog and boy turned out to be faerie creatures, which was revealed very quickly during the scene).  My initial thought was, to avoid the conflict just being “do I drive him off or not”, that the conflict could be “is Luna confident enough to even attempt this”, but this seemed really de-protagonizing and the exact opposite of NAR “reveal the character through decisions” thinking.

     So my question is, given this show and those characters/issues, can anybody suggest some sample conflicts to get us going in the right direction?

     I’ll provide a few more game-play details here if anybody is interested in another data point of PTA first time actual play.  In his recent thread about his group’s ongoing PTA game, Ron asked if people actually used the formal structure of scene framing laid out in the PTA book.  We did, and I think it helped us stay on task, although I did notice a trend to carry the framing too far into the scene before starting it.  That’s something for us to work on.  With just two protagonists, we ended up bouncing back and forth between scenes between them (interspersed with a couple of scenes with just NPCs present), and did a pretty good job of weaving the two storylines together until the final scene in which both characters appeared.
 
     With two players in the pilot with screen presences of 2 each, I had a budget of 12 dice.  I have enough D10’s of one color to cover any budget needs we have, so rather than using tokens to represent fan mail, I just dumped all of my used budget dice into an audience pool bowl and the players handed the actual dice out as fan mail.  Speaking of fan mail, not a lot was handed out, despite our reminding ourselves a couple of times that the fan mail mechanic is vital to the game’s “economy”.  This may be part of our tentativeness, and I guess it will get better over time.  We actually had very few conflicts, but I played the conflicts we did have pretty hard and ended up the evening with only one die that had returned through spent fan mail in the budget pool.  With very little fan mail being given out (and thus not spent), most of my budget dice languished in the audience pool.

     Another problem we ran into was forgetting that we were simulating a TV show, and falling back on traditional RPG scenes and descriptions.  This is also something that I think we will get over with time.

     David and Cooper, if you are reading this, please chime in with your take on the game so far, and feel free to correct any misrepresentations of your characters I've inadvertantly made.


Sorry for the rambling post, and thanks in advance for any advice.

John Marron
Logged
ashmoo
Member

Posts: 13


« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2005, 04:31:15 PM »

Quote
  For example, I opened with a scene in which Luna is walking home at night on a darkened city street and witnesses an attack by what looks like a big black dog on what looks like a young boy.  The player (Cooper) wanted her character to drive off the dog before it killed the boy (obviously both dog and boy turned out to be faerie creatures, which was revealed very quickly during the scene).  My initial thought was, to avoid the conflict just being “do I drive him off or not”, that the conflict could be “is Luna confident enough to even attempt this”, but this seemed really de-protagonizing and the exact opposite of NAR “reveal the character through decisions” thinking.

     So my question is, given this show and those characters/issues, can anybody suggest some sample conflicts to get us going in the right direction?

I think even more than in other games, railroading works against PTA. Whereas in many other games the script of the scene would have been:
1. Luna sees the barghest & boy.
2. Player rolls dice until the rules say the barghest flees.
3. Luna talks to boy. Next scene.

In PTA, each roll should have a meaningful effect on the story. This sometimes means the Producer has to let go of ideas they had about how things were going to pan out.
In your example, I can see a few possible conflicts:

1. Luna builds up the courage and drives the dog away/Luna gets scared and flees. But if she flees, don't just move on as if the scene never happened. Have her racked with Guilt about the little boy, making part of her Identity issue about being Courageous.
2. Luna builds up the courage and drives the dog away/Luna builds up the courage but the dog isn't scared, and she and the boy flee. If they flee, a large part of the episode could be them avoiding the dog.
3. Luna builds up the courage and drives the dog away/Luna builds up the courage and drives the dog away, but gets bitten in the process. If bitten, the bite could have some magical effect on her, that exhibits itself over the course of the episode (or even season).

And of course, the option where the dog is driven away needs to be equally as important. Presumably, the boy provides exposition for the episode or becomes an ally.

In our games, we discovered it works best if we asked the question of each option: If this happens, what does it mean? And make each option as meaningful as possible. Sometimes the conflicts that seem the most trivial can have the most far-reaching consequences on the season.

Good luck,
Ashley Moore


« Last Edit: July 18, 2005, 07:14:09 PM by ashmoo » Logged
Sydney Freedberg
Member

Posts: 1293


WWW
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2005, 04:36:15 PM »

In this context, a question to veteran PTA players (which I am utterly not): How specific do you set your stakes, and what do you leave to narration? Because I can see the whole conflict being "do I drive off the dog before he kills the boy?" and the issue of whether Luna flees or not being left entirely up to whoever gets the high card/roll to narrate.
Logged

Jasper Polane
Member

Posts: 57


WWW
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2005, 09:18:54 PM »

Hi,

This is how I do it: I try to set the stakes by asking "Why?", and have the cards resolve that. So, if the conflict is "do I drive off the dog before he kills the boy?", what's really at stake would be, "does the boy live?" and the cards resolve if he lives or dies.

After resolution, the player winning narration answers "How?" and describes what happens.
For example, if the boy dies, Luna tries to drive off the dog but fails, or she's not fast enough to save the boy, or she doesn't have the courage. None of these is a conflict in itself.

--Jasper
Logged

My game: Cosmic Combat
My art: Polanimation
Alan
Member

Posts: 1012


WWW
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2005, 09:19:56 PM »

Keep in mind that coming up with PTA scenes is collaborative, and not solely on the shoulders of the person whose turn it is.  (The "turn" player only has final say on what to include.)  If you're the one introducing the group to PTA, be sure to encourge input and to ask players to focus on pressuring the protagonists' issues.  Once they get the idea, they'll do most of the work for you.

The trick is not pointing conflicts at issues, but rather to put issue conflict into scenes.  If a character's Issue is  "Am I human or fey?" then the group should be putting in NPCs that want the protagonist to be human or fey and who have some kind of incentive or facts that seem to indicate an identity.

Logged

- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Alan
Member

Posts: 1012


WWW
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2005, 09:36:12 PM »

In this context, a question to veteran PTA players (which I am utterly not): How specific do you set your stakes, and what do you leave to narration? Because I can see the whole conflict being "do I drive off the dog before he kills the boy?" and the issue of whether Luna flees or not being left entirely up to whoever gets the high card/roll to narrate.

Better to keep it even simpler: Do I rescue the boy?  This leaves the result open to driving off the dog or not; running away or not; being rescued by another or not, etc.
Logged

- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
johnmarron
Member

Posts: 53


« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2005, 06:27:55 AM »

    First, I want to thank everyone for their comments and advice.

    Ashley, I think I may have communicated my problem poorly, and my example scene was also poorly chosen.  I don’t think any railroading was going on, in any form.  We’re all very aware that this game will feature “bass-playing” GM’ing, and I as producer had no planned or desired outcome for that scene.  In terms of tying conflicts to issues, you suggest setting stakes for that scene of “can Luna build up the courage to fight the creature/will she flee in fear” and making part of her Identity issue courage, which is very close to what I had in mind.  However, doesn’t that take away Luna’s players’ control over her character, not allowing her to make a statement about Luna’s courage through her decision?  Your other two suggestions would have been excellent choices, however.

     Jasper, we ended up setting the stakes as “does the boy/faerie live”, and the player lost the conflict and I won narration, describing the dog savaging the “boy”, then leaving the scene and Luna approaching the body which turned to dust, leaving the clothing behind.  No exposition, but a problem to deal with, which worked as a weak but acceptable opener for the episode.

     In terms of Alan’s comments about collaborative scene framing, we were all over this.  Everyone had input into pretty much every scene, and we discussed whether each scene contained a conflict or not.  About 7 times out of 10, none of us could come up with a conflict, and the few conflicts we did have ended up being more about “does X happen” rather than “how would X affect the protagonist’s issue”.  I think our problem doesn’t lie in gamer baggage or not “getting” PTA, but rather in having come up with somewhat nebulous issues and not being able to frame scenes/conflicts to prod them.

  So, we’re back to my poorly expressed question of, given these characters and issues, what kind of scenes would you call for and how would you work in the issues?

Thanks again,
John
Logged
Sydney Freedberg
Member

Posts: 1293


WWW
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2005, 06:32:46 AM »

....given these characters and issues, what kind of scenes would you call for ....

There's one more crucial variable to consider, though: besides playing off the fictional characters and their issues, it's absolutely critical to think about how to engage the real people playing. Which can be as simple as "I know Laura is a Star Wars fan, so I'll model this villain on Darth Vader" to "Michael has serious issues with his father, so I'll frame his character's father into a scene and see how he reacts."
Logged

johnmarron
Member

Posts: 53


« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2005, 06:47:00 AM »

....given these characters and issues, what kind of scenes would you call for ....

There's one more crucial variable to consider, though: besides playing off the fictional characters and their issues, it's absolutely critical to think about how to engage the real people playing. Which can be as simple as "I know Laura is a Star Wars fan, so I'll model this villain on Darth Vader" to "Michael has serious issues with his father, so I'll frame his character's father into a scene and see how he reacts."

Excellent point Sydney.  Cooper is very much into traditional Faerie lore, so I think if we can work in a number of traditional beliefs/creatures, she will enjoy the scenes more.  We discussed before the game that we would shoot for introducing at least one new type of faerie each week, so we might have this covered.  David on the other hand isn't familiar with the inspirational material, and initially thought of the game as more "hip-hop fantasy".  Pre-game discussion got us all on the "modern day with traditional British Faerie stuff" page, however.  David is a writer, and might want to explore more depths or complexities of his character.  I've only played with him as GM, so haven't seen him as a player before and really don't have any idea what will engage him.  I'll ask next time we meet.

John
Logged
Sydney Freedberg
Member

Posts: 1293


WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2005, 07:11:05 AM »

....David ....I've only played with him as GM....

Then you've got a trove of information on him. What kind of games did he run? And, more to the point, when did he look like "I'm just doing this GM stuff so you guys can have your game, but damn, I'm tired of this," when did he look like "You don't like that NPC? I love that NPC!," and when did he look like "I love this game! I love it!" Arguably, the best stuff to throw at him is whatever he tried to introduce in his own games as GM that nobody ever really picked up on.
Logged

Alan
Member

Posts: 1012


WWW
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2005, 09:26:56 AM »

   I think our problem doesn’t lie in gamer baggage or not “getting” PTA, but rather in having come up with somewhat nebulous issues and not being able to frame scenes/conflicts to prod them.

Well, there you go.  Take some time before the next session and have the players develop more specific Issues.  Ask them to tie all of their traits, NPCs, and Nemisi into the Issue.

Again, I didn't just say it was about framing scenes with conflict, it's about putting NPCs into the scene that pull the protagonists in different directions regarding their Issues.  That's what you can point out during group scene creation -- involve NPCs who want something from the protagonists.
Logged

- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
Ron Edwards
Global Moderator
Member
*
Posts: 16490


WWW
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2005, 11:56:15 AM »

Hiya,

You've probably seen it, but just for review-fun: [PTA] Heritage - fun, but oddly unsatisfying play.

Best,
Ron
Logged
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
Member

Posts: 1121

student, second edition


WWW
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2005, 05:26:40 PM »

Hey John:

What with all the new sparkly stuff here, I missed this thread until now.

One thing that can be a little frustrating about playing PTA and a lot of these other wacky games is that it's different enough that you sometimes have to play a couple of clumsy game sessions before you get into the swing of things. It's not something a seasoned roleplaying enthusiast is used to.

One thing that might help with the identity issues is to think about how they manifest. Does JJ's struggle with identity make him depressed? Angry? Antisocial? You might find those more tangible.
Logged

ashmoo
Member

Posts: 13


« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2005, 10:34:22 PM »

    First, I want to thank everyone for their comments and advice.

    Ashley, I think I may have communicated my problem poorly, and my example scene was also poorly chosen.  I don’t think any railroading was going on, in any form.  We’re all very aware that this game will feature “bass-playing” GM’ing, and I as producer had no planned or desired outcome for that scene.  In terms of tying conflicts to issues, you suggest setting stakes for that scene of “can Luna build up the courage to fight the creature/will she flee in fear” and making part of her Identity issue courage, which is very close to what I had in mind.  However, doesn’t that take away Luna’s players’ control over her character, not allowing her to make a statement about Luna’s courage through her decision?  Your other two suggestions would have been excellent choices, however.

Sorry, I never meant to give you the impression that I thought you were railroading. I was just using it as a (poor) example of how in PTA dice rolling generally isn't done unless it is going to have some definite effect on the story.

Regarding player control, in our games at least, the conflict and stakes are debated as a group before any rolling is done. Often the Producer suggests a Conflict and the players tweak it to hit what their idea of their own Issue is.
Logged
johnmarron
Member

Posts: 53


« Reply #14 on: July 20, 2005, 05:15:12 AM »

Ron - Yep, I reviewed all of the PTA actual play threads before we got started on the game, and the Heritage threads were both interesting and helpful in spotting pitfalls before they came up in play.

Matt - Good advice on looking at how the issues manifest.  I think the level of discomfort I'm experienceing in trying to come up with meaningful conflicts might just be me overstressing.  We'll talk a bit about this before the next game, but I'm just going to fall back on trying to frame interesting scenes and then try to work issues into whatever conflicts we come up with as I can.

Ashley - No offense taken, I just wanted to clarify that our problem wasn't old-school GMing holdovers or lack of player collaboration.   Everybody is contributing cool stuff, including Cooper who has no GMing experience (as far as I know).   I think having GMed previously provides you with some skills and techniques useful in player empowering games, and often makes playing this kind of game easier.  I also think we've got a good handle on when to bring out the dice.  It may be that in the first episode we were still finding our feet in terms of who these characters are and what this show is about, so we framed more exposition scenes with fewer chances for meaningful conflicts.

John
Logged
Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!