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Author Topic: Introducing Traditional players to PTA  (Read 7362 times)
Alan
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« on: November 04, 2005, 05:23:21 PM »

Hi,

This coming Monday, I'm slated to present PTA to a mixed bag of players I don't know very well.  They're members of the wider Seattle community that meet once a week to try out different games.  Since I proposed a PTA demo, I've had a hard slog on our email answering all sorts of questions that come from the traditional gamer perspective.  I'm looking at 5 or 6 players I think, for two sessions.

Anyway, my plan is to go whole hog with PTA:
1) Facilitate a brainstorming session to establish a series and roles.
2) Encourage the group to map out Screen Presences for a season
3) Again, Encourage them to choose an episode mid season to play (I think this can actually give them material to work with--positioning their Protagonist's in the context of a greater story arc.)
4) Aim to play a the first hour or two of a two part episode.

This will be my first time producing PTA for players who don't have much exposure to Forge-type games.

Does anyone have advice on how to bring out the best in this situation?
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- Alan

A Writer's Blog: http://www.alanbarclay.com
TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2005, 06:13:13 PM »

Don't tell.  Show.

If you talk and talk and talk about how wonderful and empowering and yadda-yadda-yadda the Fan Mail system is then people will get very nervous about using it.  They'll worry that they're going to use it wrong.

Don't ask.  Assume.

Don't ask somebody "Do you want to make your stakes in this conflict be about your Issue?"  Say "How does his pertain to your Issue?"  Assume that they know the right thing and want to do it, and that they just need a little prompting now and then.

Make a strong, scripted, plot.  Run it.

When people call for you to frame a Plot scene, you need to be able to wow them.  Knock their socks off.  The plot isn't the story, any more than a road is a journey.  The journey is what you make when you make use of the road.  The story is what the players make use of the plot.  But without the plot, players trying to make a story are forced to bushwhack.
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Jasper Polane
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« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2005, 03:10:30 AM »

Quote
4) Aim to play a the first hour or two of a two part episode.

I would suggest playing two different spotlight episodes in stead of a two-parter. It'll give you more room to focus on different characters and their issues.

--Jasper
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Darren Hill
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« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2005, 06:30:52 AM »

Make a strong, scripted, plot.  Run it.

How do you make a scripted plot work in PTA? (Genuine question, in case that sounds snarky - I don't know how to do it.)
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Judd
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« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2005, 06:56:55 AM »

Make a strong, scripted, plot.  Run it.

How do you make a scripted plot work in PTA? (Genuine question, in case that sounds snarky - I don't know how to do it.)

I made a strong plot by concentrating on making strong scenes that made sense in a greater context but addressed the character's issues.  So, it isn't plotted in some senses of the word but in that things are moving along in a definite direction.

I have found that Sorcerer-inspired bangs are helpful when thinking about scenes.  Sometimes, that is just about putting two characters in the same scene, soemtimes it is someone bursting through the door with a machine gun, all depending on the TV show.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2005, 07:08:38 AM »

Plus, you are allowed to make up a traditional, railroady plot that isn't directly about the character Issues.

If Angel has "Loneliness" as his Issue, and you make up a demon that goes from one body to the next, using a singles bar as its hunting ground, always searching for the perfect host ... well, the actual story is going to be about a mix of Angel finding the demon and Angel confronting his own need to connect to people.  Because of that mixture, it doesn't really matter much how pre-scripted the "plot" of the demon is, does it?

Now if you said "Angel will go to this bar, and he will feel his loneliness, and then he will find someone to connect with, and we'll end on a happy note," then you would be deprotagonizing the player and character in a big way.  Major no-no.

But if you say "Angel will go to this bar searching for the demon, he'll have a false lead where he chases the wrong guy, then he'll find the real demon, there'll be a fight where it tries to possess someone to escape, and then Angel will win, but the demon will somehow destroy itself because of its own obsession," I don't think you're doing anything that's going to tread on player toes.  You're not pre-scripting the decisions that the player has stated they want to make important, just a narrative foil that helps frame the important decisions.
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Alan
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2005, 07:25:06 AM »

Tony and Judd,

Good suggestions thanks.  Yes, I do intend to show rather than tell.

- I'll aim for two spotlighters if I can.  I'm not sure we'll have time after series creation for a full episode. 

- I also plan to dump as much Budget as seems reasonable on the first conflict, so there's Fanmail to give early on.

- Tony, I will have no prep time to come up with a "scripted" plot, since I won't know the series idea in advance, but I do take your point about strong plot scenes. 

Any pointers on encouraging focus on conflict? 

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- Alan

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Judd
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2005, 07:28:08 AM »


Now if you said "Angel will go to this bar, and he will feel his loneliness, and then he will find someone to connect with, and we'll end on a happy note," then you would be deprotagonizing the player and character in a big way.  Major no-no.

But if you say "Angel will go to this bar searching for the demon, he'll have a false lead where he chases the wrong guy, then he'll find the real demon, there'll be a fight where it tries to possess someone to escape, and then Angel will win, but the demon will somehow destroy itself because of its own obsession," I don't think you're doing anything that's going to tread on player toes.  You're not pre-scripting the decisions that the player has stated they want to make important, just a narrative foil that helps frame the important decisions.

I'd re-phrase that second option.

I'd say, "How do you feel about a scene where Angel goes into this bar..."

Creating those scenes together while still being a strong Producer is an important line to tread.  Knowing when to go for player input and when to get your Producer Iron Fist out is important.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2005, 11:14:53 AM »

Judd:  Yeah.  Good point, and something I'm still wrestling with.

Within the scope of Judd's comment, I think it's fair to say that if the players say "I want a plot scene where we try to find the demon," you can reply "Okay, your investigations lead you to this bar, for X, Y and Z reasons.  We're there, the demon's probably there or nearby, how's that sound?"
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Landon Darkwood
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2005, 12:02:22 PM »

Let me put an addendum on Tony's "show, don't tell" - show, don't bludgeon.

One of the big things I notice up front that kills PTA games, especially with new players, is too much undue pressure being put on people during play regarding their interaction with the system. Usually, IME, this happens because it's easy to get zealous about the features of PTA that separate it from other games and wield that zeal in such a way that it intimidates and confuses people unnecessarily. The examples I've seen, from some AP posts here at the Forge, accounts of play from friends, and some play of my own, lead me to center this pressure around some major things:

1.) The conflict system. It's weird enough as it is without people trying to shoehorn every single scene into going to the cards. Not every scene needs to have a "dealt" conflict in it - that doesn't mean shit can't happen, it means that sometimes people are a.) more interested in roleplaying it out than going to the cards, b.) not interested in the potential of multiple conflict outcomes, and/or c.) engaging in simple, entry-level exploration of character. None of these things are bad, and you can actually screw up someone's fun by insisting that they go to the cards when they're doing any of the above.

Conflicts in PTA are for major turning points in the story, character revelation through Issue, and for when there's interest in the meaning of either success or failure. Yes, the conflict system is badass. Yes, you want to encourage the use of the system. Just make sure that in doing so, you're not stealing thunder from people who are having fun digging into the material through roleplay. The game does not tell you to do that, but people can blame the game if you screw that up.

2.) Narrative authority. Just becase PTA passes around narrative authority to other people besides the Producer, it doesn't mean you have to put people totally on the spot. The meaning of "authority" is flexible, ranging from "one person dictates things in silence" to "one person collects data from the rest of the participants and tries to achieve synthesis". It's totally okay for the person with authority to defer to the people around them if need be, and it's totally okay to continue to play a scene out after the conflict outcome is determined so that people can organically discover how you get to that outcome.

This also goes for framing scenes - don't get in a tizzy if someone isn't sure what to frame next. Talk it out. At the very least, all that the person with authority has to do is put in the final say, stop the buck, etc. There's no reason why PTA should intimidate non-GMs overmuch. It only does that when the rest of the people at the table make that authority into something to be intimidated by.

3.) Fan mail. Don't cultivate a high-pressure, "if you want Fan Mail, you're going to have to impress people" environment at your game if it's not socially functional to do so. I know that sounds weird, but I've seen it happen. Frankly, without Fan Mail, the whole bloody opera falls apart. The criteria for awarding it should, therefore, not be too stringent in general. People usually don't look at mechanical rewards with the same criteria that they have for visibly communicating enjoyment at the table. If you make me snicker with a one-liner, it doesn't usually mean I give you extra XP. In PTA, that's emphatically what it means. The moment you start getting into the realm of "deserving" Fan Mail, you mess shit all up.

***

If a little of this sounds ranty, it's not directed at anyone. I've been blown away by how many people I know or have heard of who totally love pervy Narrativist play and yet get alienated from PTA because of some of the stuff above. It's hard enough to play the game as is.


-Landon Darkwood
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2005, 02:15:29 PM »

Plus, you are allowed to make up a traditional, railroady plot that isn't directly about the character Issues.

No you aren't.

All this other advice is good, though.
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Frank T
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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2005, 06:48:00 AM »

What Landon said.

- Frank
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