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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Arturo G. on August 28, 2008, 01:29:55 AM



Title: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on August 28, 2008, 01:29:55 AM
Ron was commenting here: Re: [PTA] Players wanting their PCs to fail?  (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=26413.msg253467#msg253467), that he offered some people to post a scene in Actual Play to talk about the different narrative authorities at work.

This scene is part of a PtA pilot episode. I will describe general details of the whole session, describing in detail the key scene.

The players
  • Pablo. One of the players of my old groups, a lot of experience as player and sometimes GM since end of eighties. He has played to some indie games with me in the last three years.
  • Luis. I met him two years ago in a convention where I was doing some demos of indie games. He finds them really attrative and wants to play more. Thus, I have invited him to join our irregular group.
  • Ruth. Luis' girlfried. Luis told me she was not interested on some other traditional RPGs they were playing previously. But he has manage to convinced her to try these "new" indie games. I think they have played a couple of times on their own with middle success. It was the first time she was coming to my house to play with us.
  • Me

I was talking with Pablo previously about my position. As I have been introducing people to many new games, I have been systematically explaining the games and acting as master or opposition. We agreed it would be good for me to play a character and leave from time to time the master position to another one. Thus, as soon as we decided to play PtA Pablo offered himself to be the producer.

The pitch
The series is titled something similar to: "Tempus Fugit".
The characters are time-travelers in a organization more interested on obtaining important benefits from this secret capacity than changing or repairing the past. However, the characters will be tempted to do it. For the sake of the humankind, or for very selfish reasons, we don't know yet. The organization is based on Italy.

The cast
  • Luis played Vincenzo, a securitty chief hired to protect the team. His issue is Obsesive protector.
        Edges: Police and Etiquette.
        Relationship with Enzo Savioli the team technician. Vincenzo likes him, perhaps too much.
  • Ruth played Lucrezia Giovanni, scientific head of the project.
        Issue: Leadership
        Edges: University degree, gymnast
        Relationship with the boss of the project, see has a tense relation with him because of her issue.
  • My character was Alfredo Savioli. Ex-leader of the Fascio. Minister during the Italian Social Republic in the last times of Mussolini.
        Issue: Bring back to life the glory of a past which he kwnos never will come to be.
        Edges: Politician, Cars
        Relationship with Enzo, the team technician. He is his grandson and he will like to make him participate on his glory dreams.

Pilot episode idea
The mission in this episode was to retrieve a picture of Leonardo da Vinci, lost in a train accident during the end of the Italy campaign in the second world war. The train was transporting some other valuable art objects, rich people, some Fascio politicians and a bunch of soldiers. The Mussolini's power is definitively disintegrating. People in the train are fleeing from the American troops, leading to Switzerland. The atmosphere in the train will be tense, sad and oppressive.

The set is somehow chosen to make possible that Alfredo meets Enzo, and he gets joined to the group of time-travellers by chance.

Before the selected scene
The time-travelers have been sent to the past, arriving to the train station of Lugano, very near the border. They are disguised as rich peasants and a train operator. They caught the last coach of the train after some troubles. Alfredo has watched them and the Enzo's familiar looking has attracted his attention. Some scenes have been already devoted to show the character issues.

The scene proposition
I cannot remember who was proposing this scene. I think it was the producer, but I think everyone also introduced some detail. I only remember it was a plot-oriented one. We wanted to introduce the first encounter of Alfredo with Enzo while the team was preparing their plan to try to arrive at the target coach containing the art objects and the picture.

Producer frames
The time-travelers are in the small platform between the last two coaches preparing their plans. The next coach is full of soldiers singing to avoid thinking in the so near American menace. In the distance, some bomb explosions and airplane engines sound. Alfredo should be prepared to enter the scene at any time.

Action
Ruth narrated that Lucrezia, being the leader of the team, has a sketch of the train to locate the coach where the picture is. The producer added that she surely has exact times of the train accident and other related information. The next obstacle are the coaches with the soldiers and the officers. They are in a hurry, the accident time is approaching.

Some character proposes to let out the last coach of the train to create confusion. The others think it is a silly idea. Vincenzo wants to use his disguise as train operator to try to convince the soldiers that he needs to repair something in the head coaches. But what can do the others to follow him?

They start to argue. Vincenzo complains. He says that Lucrezia is not really having any plan. A conflict was requested by Ruth to show that Lucrezia is the real leader of the team and avoid Vincenzo to start acting on himself. Luis stated that Vincenzo wants to show Enzo he can take care of the situation. Ruth won and Luis lost. Ruth also narrated. Lucrezia stops the arguments abruptly and Vincenzo is embarrased when Enzo ignores him confirming her authority.

At this moment I decided it was the appropriate time for Alfredo to appear. I asked the group if they also thought it was appropriate, and we all agreed on it. I did not need to spend fan-mail, as it was stated at the start of the scene that my character was going to be on it. It was somehow similar as ending the scene and starting a new one.

I described Alfredo's face lit by the cigarrette coal, seen through the window of the coach-door. I described he entering and his imposing uniform and intimidating attitude. The other players described how the characters got nervous and tried to look normal.

However, Alfredo's attention is concentrated on Enzo. Alfredo asks him about his origins, where is he from, his family name. Enzo lies badly. The others try to say something but Alfredo orders them to shut up. I asked for a conflict to detect that Enzo is lying, and I lost. I narrated the confusion and hesitation of Alfredo. At the end he becomes uninterested and orders Enzo and Lucrezia, the ones with civilian disguises to come back to the last coach (some more bomb explosions approaching).

As soon as Vincenzo is alone he tries again his former plan to convince Alfredo that he was a train operator requested to repair something in the head coaches. Alfredo suspects. A conflict was requested. Luis wanted Vincenzo to get his way to the target coach. I wanted Alfredo to detect he was lying and capture him.

As it was an opposing conflict, I should probably have to add cards to the producer side instead. Anyway, Luis lost the conflict and I won mine. I was narrating. Thus, Alfredo lets Vincenzo come into the next coach just to order a soldier to capture him. Alfredo orders to tie him and bring him to a calm place for interrogation: The same coach where the picture was!

I immediately regretted to say that, because I was leading him to where he wanted to go, bringing the action to the target coach, but the others liked the idea a lot. We were also getting short of real time. Thus, after a second thought we confirmed it was perfect and we cut the scene with Alfredo ordering that to the soldier.

After the scene
Alfredo was acting as a film villain, showing proudly the art objects to Vincenzo and claiming the return of the Italian Fascit glory in the near future. As Alfredo thought that Vincenzo was a saboteur, Vincenzo tried to convince him to take away the art objects from the train in order to save them, for the sake of the future of Italy. But he failed. Thanks to Lucrezia, Enzo and she managed, with some troubles and funny scenes, to arrive at the coach where the interrogation was becoming a little hard (some punches and blood).

Finally, all the characters were in the coach. Enzo recognized the family ties with Alfredo to make him hesitate on his idea of shooting them all. Vincenzo managed to  break his ties and knock out Alfredo. The team members took the picture and prepared the time-door. In the last moment, Alfredo got conscious enough and tried to catch Enzo, getting into the time-door and disappearing with all them, back to the future.

The last scene showed an American bomber from above, flying over the railway. The camera following one of the bombs flight, down to the train. A last glimpse of the coach were the last energy rays of the time-door were disappearing; the bomb breaking through the wood ceiling into the coach, the empty place where the picture was and a big explosion that funds in white.

Conclusion about the session
Although there were some hesitation and dull scenes in the middle, the start and the end of the session were working pretty well. People enjoyed the game and I think we all want to continue with the series.

Back to this thread purpose
How are the narrative authorities working in the scene described?


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on August 30, 2008, 04:25:46 AM
Hi Arturo,

I haven't been able to spend much time at the computer for a day or two. I'll be replying when I can.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 01, 2008, 06:36:42 PM
Hi Arturo,

I'll have to start with the idea that very little of this account seems to me to involve playing PTA. I'll describe why in detail, which may seem a little off-topic, but I don't want to convey the false impression that I'm talking about PTA in my points about your game. Also, I think it's important to understand the points of divergence in order to see why the authorities are organized (or not organized) the way they are.

One of the fundamentals of playing PTA is the lack of pre-determination, either of plot or of characterization. This is the foundation of why I think your group cannot be said to be playing PTA, because what you describe seems to be a combination of (a) pre-setting the nature and outcome of a scene and (b) pre-setting the important character decisions in that scene.

If you were to imagine the content of a PTA game as a series of boxes, each representing a scene, then (by the rules) none of the following are pre-set: (1) any starting content or conflicts within any as-yet-unplayed scene, (2) the events and most specifically the outcome within any particular scene, and (3) the final number of scenes that comprise an "episode." Whereas in your game, much of 1-2-3 seems to have been negotiated outside, above, and before the session and before scenes are played. Therefore setting the scenes and playing within the scenes doesn't have any of the content that the PTA rules are written to allow creating.

It's as if you were not playing the characters and situations in the scene, so much as playing a group of role-players who were trying do so. All of the effort seems to be about the scenes and events, rather than doing them.

The specific point that highlights the difference is that there is an NPC who is a Relationship to two player-characters, and the episode is primarily about how one of the player-characters joins the team. First, this is odd because it means you're playing a prequel to the character sheets, to show how they came to be the way they are, rather than working with what is on them to create a new storyline out of the unknown. Second, it's odd because two player-characters are partly defined by their charged relationships to this particular NPC, so without him established (i.e. known to the characters) in those relationships, the characters are only partly present. Third, it's odd because the group apparently also specified how it happens, i.e. by chance, so that the whole session begins not only knowing what happens, but how it happens. Bluntly, in PTA terms, there's no reason to play; the questions begin already answered.

Arguably, none of that is an problem if the episode posed its own external threat, but as it was a routine mission whose outcome was never in doubt, there's no conflict, in the basic Literature 101 sense, in the episode at all.

(As a minor point, your character's Issue was not an issue, but a goal.)

All right, all that said, we can look at what you did play and not what you didn't, and see where the authorities are. You asked about the scene, but it so happens that some of the authorities for the scene was almost wholly set up by decisions about the whole session (or episode), so I'll start there.

Content authority: this is essentially back-story - who the characters are (both player-character and NPCs), what they've done in the past, what their existing relationships are, and what has just happened. As far as I can tell, this was settled through a continuous process of pitch, character creation, and most importantly, a kind of group jam about what the episode would include. The part that is most obviously content authority for the session concerns the mission and its features, but you don't say who created that material, although it appears as though it was pre-determined. Since nothing unusual or interesting happened to make the mission more of a conflict situation, that means that content was minimal anyway.

Plot authority: this what happens and how it happens, and as I observed above, it was determined prior to play. Who determined it? You wrote,

Quote
The set is somehow chosen to make possible that Alfredo meets Enzo, and he gets joined to the group of time-travellers by chance.

Which makes it impossible for me to identify who did it. I think by "somehow" you're referring to the fact that the exact events are left open to play, aside from the all-important point that they have to deliver the result "by chance." Was this decided by the group in open discussion? This can be hard to decipher without having been there, because although one person may have proposed it, it may have been a group decision; but also, although the group may have discussed it, it may have been one person's idea and that person was acknowledged however tacitly to be the boss over such things.

Both of the above points apply to the whole episode, but also to the scene in miniature. Unless I'm mistaken, in which case I hope you correct me, it appears as if the content and plot of the scene was essentially decided in free-form, non-authoritative discussion prior to play. That effectively negates all meaningful talk of content and plot authorities in that scene. (a) You can't have authority about X if X is already established for everyone, and (b) free-form discussion means no authority and a kind of meandering uncertainty during the process of decision-making.

Now for situation authority - it appears to lie with the Producer in terms of the scene, and we can also hop to the conflicts.

1. Characters bicker about who's in charge. (Out of curiosity, when Ruth and Luis drew cards, did they compare totals to one another or to the total of the Producer?)

2. Alfredo enters, as it appears on your authority, but as it turns out, you're just enacting something that's been previously agreed upon. The conflict itself is entirely bizarre to me - unless Alfredo excites your character's suspicion and/or interest, the agreed-upon elements (including decisions made during character creation) stall out. There seems to be no earthly reason why cards were drawn at this point at all ...

... until I realized that the way your group played, you simply kept creating conflicts until the cards fell into the right configuration for the pre-arranged plot to be fulfilled. Any failed conflicts or non-consistent outcomes along the way simply served as delays. Old-school illusionism, as practiced upon the group by the group as a whole. In this case, since the cards failed to deliver the required plot, your character simply becomes uninterested (!! if that were possible, then why was it a conflict?) and the story moves on to a point where the cards can be put to the test again.

Of course, since no one can admit that you guys are basically just going through the motions until the cards give you all what you want, the next conflict is even more halting and muddled. I can hardly even bring myself to dissect this one. When conflicts start to be about who believes whom, that's a dead giveaway that there simply isn't a conflict at hand, just struggling with trying to make the plot go toward a desired end. This one is compounded by the fact that although you had agreed not to be the Producer, your character is actually more like an obstructive NPC.

In this case, the pre-determined plot is rendering any situation authority meaningless. There isn't any situation to be created. What's happening here is that everyone knows Alfredo is going to join the team "by chance," so effectively, anything anyone does doesn't matter much. This car, that car; you think he's lying, you believe him entirely; Enzo gets captured, doesn't get captured; whatever. It does not surprise me at all that the situation is resolved simply by getting everyone into the same car with the damned picture, because at least that means that the mission can be over and "chance" can be invoked to get Alfredo through the time-portal with everyone else. It didn't "feel right" because railroading never feels right - just because you all did it to yourselves doesn't change that.

That brings us to narration authority, and as it turns out, that lies with the high-card person (you, in this particular case), which means that you can establish that very point - let's get to the point where the pre-determined outcome is made possible, and get this whole ordeal over with. What I'm saying is that none of the card mechanics meant anything in any conflict in this scene, except for the high card, which permitted someone to repeat, basically, what everyone already knew had to happen. Saying it meant that the scene could finally be over and stop delaying the established plot.

So, those are my comments about authorities in the scene. To repeat: Content and Plot authority were already established before the entire session even began; respectively, that the whole team had to be involved along with Enzo, and that the events had to lead to everyone being interested in Alfredo, and especially to getting to the point where the team grabs the picture in Alfredo's presence. Situation authority was irrelevant throughout the scene because nothing that was proposed could possibly create new situations (conflicts) under those conditions of Content and Plot. Therefore Narration authority had to be relied upon, in a weird way divorced from the conflict resolution mechanics (because there were no real conflicts), to satisfy the conditions of the pre-set Plot. In this case that authority lay with you as drawer of the high card, but the fact is that somebody would have been in that position no matter what, in this not-really-conflict or the next one or the next one, simply to get everyone into the same car as the picture.

The mechanics and authority-rules of PTA are predicated on Plot authority lying solely with the outcomes of conflicts, and the essence of such conflicts is that they cannot be pre-determined - not even in what they might be about, much less how they are supposed to turn out. Since your group started with a very different paradigm, that of dictating plot ahead of time, you basically had to invent an entirely new set of authority rules in which using the cards and narration mechanics of PTA was irrelevant. Set Content and Plot ahead of time, then waffle and shuffle through empty conflicts (bickering, who believes whom) in which Situation is effectively absent, until someone who's landed with Narration authority takes the opportunity to get the group to the next pre-understood step in the plot.

As with all Illusionist play, the idea that someone, anyone, actually has authority over plot has to remain unspoken. In your case, this was achieved by constant discussions to arrive at consensus. This occurred before play, before scenes, and within scenes. It is a symptom not of a particular sort of authority, but of the unwillingness to acknowledge the need for any authority.

It may help to state that lately, I have been specifying that by authority I do not mean the ability to order others around or make them obey, but rather "by the power invested in me," or responsibility.

That's what I see. I don't think it could have been pleasant to read, but I hope you understand that this was not an attack on you or your group.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 02, 2008, 03:18:50 AM
Wow! Thanks a lot, Ron.

I posted about this specific play because I had a very strange feeling about it. It was not like other times I was playing PtA and I didn't know what was it. I was blind, thinking that the problem was in a completely different place.

I would need a couple of readings to digest all the details, but I agree with your main interpretation of what was going on. I am a little ashamed not to be able to notice it on myself.

I will post later, trying to elaborate on some questions that worry me.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 02, 2008, 08:32:16 AM
Hi Arturo,

I'm very interesting in your remaining questions, but I also thought it might help the thread, eventually, for you to post about a scene in some other PTA experience, so we can show how the authorities operate in that case.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 03, 2008, 10:27:02 AM
I have been talking yesterday with the other players. Not all was so bad at it may look. I posted about the scene that was worrying me most. But it was not like that all the time.

I perfectly understand the problem we created during the pitch. We were fixing the objective of the episode in terms of something that should happen; Alfredo joining the team. We were even discussing about how: "by chance".
But look at this because it is even more complicated. The other players have reminded me that I was complaining about exactly that, fixing the fiction before play. It seems that because of that we agreed that it was only an idea, but we were open to the possibility that this was not happening at all. We even agreed that if at the end Alfredo was not joining, I was going to create another character for the next chapter; and for me it was perfectly right. I forgot completely about that. A little weird, isn't it? Probably, we were fixing the plot but we were still being in denial that we have done it saying that we were open to other options. Because I think we were really trying to lead to it during play. At least me. It was my character.
 
Anyway, I think other details were not so fixed. For example, I don't think that getting the picture was set in stone at all. The producer introduced it as the mission objective when framing. But I think none of us were really assuming that we going to automatically succeed and there was no threat. Team failing to retrieve it, or getting trapped with it in the past were possibilities that some of us were having on their minds at given times. I would say we convey to the very basic cliché around the infamous key scene. Or am I deluding myself again? At least I don't have the same feeling as with the previous issue.

About the key scene I can perfectly see how the conflicts were completely lame and perverted to be an excuse to follow the plot. This is the reason I posted about it. Your advise here is very helpful to understand why and how we did it.
Previous scenes, especially focused on issues, were not working like that. I think we were shifting during the session to more and more rail-roading behavior. Shifting from setting Agenda, as specified in the rules, to setting plot, events and even outcomes. At least in the last scenes we were not asking for conflicts like those in the key scene. We were simply narrating in the direction that our rail-raoding was pointing.
By the way, it seems that I pasted together two different scenes. The moment that Alfredo was appearing is the start of another scene that it seems it was proposed by me. In my mind it was a single one.

Quote
I think by "somehow" you're referring to the fact that the exact events are left open to play, aside from the all-important point that they have to deliver the result "by chance." Was this decided by the group in open discussion?
Exactly. Perhaps there was someone proposing one detail or the other. But everything was discussed and agreed at some point. No one is sure who said what.

Quote
Characters bicker about who's in charge. (Out of curiosity, when Ruth and Luis drew cards, did they compare totals to one another or to the total of the Producer?)
They compared to the producer, We know you always compare to him. But at this time they were not really opposed goals. In the way they stated them, they were compatible. Anyway, I need to have a look at the PtA forum because we still have problems to resolve opposing goals (when both players succeed or fail). I'm sure the I will find answers there.

Quote
The mechanics and authority-rules of PTA are predicated on Plot authority lying solely with the outcomes of conflicts
Does it mean that players should not introduce plot twists during free-form play if nobody ask for a conflict? Sometimes I doubt about the structure of a scene in PtA being really restricted to the stated Agenda or not.

Quote
As with all Illusionist play, the idea that someone, anyone, actually has authority over plot has to remain unspoken. In your case, this was achieved by constant discussions to arrive at consensus. This occurred before play, before scenes, and within scenes. It is a symptom not of a particular sort of authority, but of the unwillingness to acknowledge the need for any authority.
I never really questioned myself if it was even possible that a whole group was doing this by negotiation. Typically I was the master, the one doing it, and it was much simpler to understand :-) Perhaps it was always more complicated than that. The conclusion is hard. I will be observing our play with augmenting-glasses, but I know (by experience) that it can be not so easy to te detect this things when you are involved.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 03, 2008, 10:32:02 AM
Quote
I also thought it might help the thread, eventually, for you to post about a scene in some other PTA experience, so we can show how the authorities operate in that case.

Sure. I think that it would be difficult to bring back my mind to my last PtA episodes two years ago. Instead I'm going to give you another scene... from the next episode of this series. We played it yesterday.  We have been commenting about your replies and I think this time we were not so much plagued by the previous problems. I hope this time we were playing PtA and we may comment on the narrative authorities properly. If not, I'm really interested on knowing it.

It will take me some time to write it. But it is coming.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 04, 2008, 08:40:57 AM
Hi Arturo,

I'll look forward to the description of the new session.

I wrote,
Quote
The mechanics and authority-rules of PTA are predicated on Plot authority lying solely with the outcomes of conflicts

And you asked,
Quote
Does it mean that players should not introduce plot twists during free-form play if nobody ask for a conflict? Sometimes I doubt about the structure of a scene in PtA being really restricted to the stated Agenda or not.

It depends what you call a plot twist. Most of the time, that term does not mean a significant change to the plot (story moving forward), but rather a significant change to the audience's understanding of the back-story. At other times, it simply means a strong opening to a new scene. In PTA play, neither of those require a conflict to occur; they are simply input from the Producer in his or her role as the source of adversity. When I talk about Plot Authority, I'm talking about the way the story moves forward, based on the events within scenes.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Christoph Boeckle on September 04, 2008, 09:23:37 AM
Hi Arturo and Ron

For what it's worth, I use Revelation Authority (well, Autorité de Révélation) when I talk about Plot Authority in French, since it's all about revealing (or asking for someone to reveal) the plot to the audience. This seems to get across better in my little personal experience, whereas Plot Authority gets people excited about stuff which is a mix of Content and Situation Authorities. Sounds a bit biblical, eh?
Could that work, Ron?

(I also like the new term "Outcome Authority" which you introduced not so long ago, Ron. Narration Authority confuses the hell out of people around me.)

I'm looking forward to read more about this topic too, it has given me new insights about my play and how some other people think they perceive my play.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 04, 2008, 04:39:47 PM
It depends what you call a plot twist. Most of the time, that term does not mean a significant change to the plot (story moving forward), but rather a significant change to the audience's understanding of the back-story. At other times, it simply means a strong opening to a new scene. In PTA play, neither of those require a conflict to occur; they are simply input from the Producer in his or her role as the source of adversity. When I talk about Plot Authority, I'm talking about the way the story moves forward, based on the events within scenes.

You say "input from the Producer". But I was thinking specifically on input from another player. Something that one player introduces on the fly, that really changes the back-story or the audience's understanding of it.
May a player narrate how her character discovers something that changes the back-story? Does it mean an immediate conflict? Or does any player have that right unless someone says it is a conflict?

For what it's worth, I use Revelation Authority (well, Autorité de Révélation) when I talk about Plot Authority in French, since it's all about revealing (or asking for someone to reveal) the plot to the audience. This seems to get across better in my little personal experience, whereas Plot Authority gets people excited about stuff which is a mix of Content and Situation Authorities. Sounds a bit biblical, eh?
Could that work, Ron?

(I also like the new term "Outcome Authority" which you introduced not so long ago, Ron. Narration Authority confuses the hell out of people around me.)

I have also found the same problems trying to explain Plot Authority. People mixing Content and Situation. I think that was also my first (confused) impression of it.
I really like the term "Outcome Authority" for Narration Authority. It is more equivalent to what I wanted to use in the translation to Spanish that I did for some fellows. I also think it is clearer. When/where did Ron introduced it?


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 04, 2008, 06:06:27 PM
Tempus Fugit, Episode one
The group of players is the same.
About Alfredo's issue, Ron was right. It started as an issue but I developed it into a goal immediately. I rewrote it as something that may be translated as "Delusion, or to be in Denial". Alfredo has a real problem to accept the consequences of his acts. Does it sound more like an issue?

In this episode Vincenzo had screen presence 1, Lucrezia 2 and Alfredo 3. They convinced me that it was appropriate to focus on Alfredo in the first regular episode, to develop him and his further relationship with the team.

This time we were veeery careful not to fix any plot details before play. We only determined (again by group discussion) that it was more interesting for us if they were not coming back directly to the head-quarters. We determined a history-period: Ancient Rome. During play we discovered it was the republic period, during Octavio's rise (mainly determined by the producer when framing and playing several scenes).

Before the scene
The characters appear inside the Sacra-Sanctorum of a temple in ancient Rome. Later, Enzo will explain that something has gone bad, probably due to the presence of Alfredo in the time-door.

During the first scenes there were a couple of them showing a confrontation between Vincenzo and Alfredo. First physically (Alfredo wanted Vincenzo's gun to take control of the weird situation) and second due to ideology, during a short stay in Tarpeia (jail).

Vincenzo wanted to convince the team to come back home, where they would be safe, leaving Alfredo behind. From his point of view he was only a war criminal or something similar (the amount of hits and slaps he had already received from him in the past and present episode were surely helping). He also wanted to avoid giving Alfredo any explanation about the time travel. But Lucrezia convinced Vincenzo that it was more dangerous to leave Alfredo there with the possibility to alter history. Enzo also added it could be also technically necessary to bring him, as he had altered the time continuous and bla...bla... After some explanations Alfredo associated the strange time-travel technology with the esoteric secret experiments promoted by Hitler. Thus, he was proud to know it was Italian technology.

They tried the time jump to flee Tarpeia, but they were not yet able to control the time-travel technology with Alfredo inside the door. Alfredo was lost. He appeared alone again in the temple, short time before.

He met the High-Priest who suspected him to be at the service of Octavio. Octavio was going to come into Rome the day after to celebrate a triumph. As Alfredo detected a high political tension between these two leaders he thought on trying to exploit it.

The other characters appeared not so far from the temple and had a hard time trying to flee. After some action scenes they managed to flee and recover the picture. The day after, they attended the Triumph to seek for Alfredo. During the Triumph, Alfredo managed to participate on an important place, even helping on the sacrifice of the white bull, being in the top of the stairs, near to Octavio when the population was acclaiming him. The team was really worried about what could Alfredo do if getting a political position in Rome.

In the next scenes Alfredo wanted mainly to show to himself that his political ideas and his Italian-glory dream could leave a real mark on history. During the party in the palace, he talked with a young Julio Cesar and instructed him about some National Socialist related ideas, teaching him a few key points about how to control and extent his future empire. A hard conflict that he won.

The rest of the characters sent a token to Alfredo (a modern bullet) and managed to get an audience with him during the big parties. Alfredo in the meanwhile heard Octavio and the High-Priest talking. Their spies knew about the chat with Julio Cesar, and his suggestions to take the Imperium. They were really worried and ordered to kill Alfredo immediately. The gladiator Maximo-Decimo-Bruto started to seek for him in the palace. Alfredo hid on a private chamber waiting for the team members to come to help him. Roma politics seemed to much for him to stay. After leaving his seed in Julio Cesar his major concern was to flee.

The scene frame
Proposal: By the producer. Focus: Plot.
Agenda: It this scene the other main characters arrive at the palace room to try to meet Alfredo, but Maximo is around.

Producer frames: One of the big rooms of the palace, full of people enjoying the party. Alfredo is looking through a the lattice of the private-chamber door. The guard that was sent to bring the team members is entering through another far door with the other characters behind. The guard does not know where Alfredo is and starts to call him in very loud voice.

Action
Alfredo was opening the door and showing himself, trying to get the attention of the team. But the producer introduced that Maximo, who was searching for Alfredo spotted him and started to walk in his direction.

Luis asked for a conflict to notice the dangerous situation before anyone. Using his Police edge, he won the conflict and also narrated how he noticed.
Then, Vincenzo tried to also shout and do weird things to attract attention and create some confusion. His purpose was to make Lucrezia and Enzo miss what was going on. He wanted to give time to the gladiator to kill Alfredo. Vincenzo was very angry about Alfredo's background and behavior. Seeing him as a real menace for all.

This went immediately to a multi-part conflict. We discussed about the exact terms and finally it was like this:
Luis, as I wrote previously. Ruth wanted to be on time (she or Enzo) to catch the gladiator before he reached Alfredo. To do it, she said that Lucrezia was trying to use her authority to stop Vincenzo's efforts to create confusion.
My real objective was to make Lucrezia and Enzo feel that they were also in danger, as Alfredo, and that he was somehow part of the team. But as this was more or less granted and there was a real threat, I changed the purpose to avoid the gladiator sneaking and join the other main characters.

There was some fan-mail around and Alfredo had pretty good chances to avoid the gladiator in one way or another. But we failed. I got like 6 black cards, Ruth also black cards. The producer one red (the highest), but Luis two or three. The producer narrated how Vincenzo was distracting the other characters and how the gladiator was pressing Alfredo to the door of the private chamber, stabbing him three times with his gladius, throwing it to the floor and leaving quickly. Alfredo was badly/deadly wounded.

Enzo started to shout that someone had killed his grandfather (he was worried also about the time-continuos and bla..bla...), calling the guard and trying to find and catch the murderer. Lucrezia tried to stop him to avoid creating more troubles. It derived in a conclict that Ruth won. She also narrated how Lucrezia was talking and convincing Enzo to get worry not about the murderer, but about trying to save Alfredo's life. It was urgent to time-travel to find a hospital.

I cannot remember if we changed to another scene here or it was the same one. I would say that Luis reacted saying that Vincenzo was surely getting the opportunity to take Alfredo's body into the private chamber and be alone with him. We all tought he wanted to finish Alfredo. The situation was so interesting that nobody said anything and nobody asked for a conflict here.
Vincenzo took Alfredo alone and there was a nice narration when he was shaking the wounded Alfredo, shouting terrible things about Alfredo's political ideas, prosecutions, executions, war crimes and whatever. He wanted him to recognize it and be ashamed. I had previously the idea that Alfredo had not really participated in most of those things, especially the worst ones. But if he had done anything, he was in complete denial of all that now. He was just spitting blood and proudly saying he was not having any idea of what Vincenzo was talking about. He preferred to die than to admit any of those crimes. It was a tense moment. We really didn't know what was going to do Luis.

But he decided that Vincenzo was not killing Alfredo. The other members where near to enter the room and his best interest was not really to kill him. But to avoid him try to influence Enzo with his doctrines. It was so appropriate that I think I accepted without a conflict that Alfredo was promising it (we will see what a promise of Alfredo worths in the following episodes).

After the scene
The rest was just the epilogue. The other characters entered the room. They activated the time-travelling mechanisms and left Rome, with an unknown destination.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 04, 2008, 08:41:27 PM
Hi Arturo,

I'll have to go over the post in more detail later, but for now, here's one thing: denial isn't the character's issue, it's his problem. The issue could be any one of Truth, Judgment, or Responsibility.

I suggest that if you stay with "denial," then you'll be playing a robot who simply keeps denying. Are you sure you're really playing a protagonist that you care about and that others might care about? Or are in you GM mode, making sure that there's adversity within the team?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 05, 2008, 09:53:50 AM
Quote
I'll have to go over the post in more detail later, but for now, here's one thing: denial isn't the character's issue, it's his problem. The issue could be any one of Truth, Judgment, or Responsibility.

Yes, you are right. When I was writing about it the the key for the issue was in the second sentence. It is Responsibility. Denial is the problem. In part due to a non-accurate Spanish translation of the term "issue" we always have troubles with expressing it properly.

Quote
I suggest that if you stay with "denial," then you'll be playing a robot who simply keeps denying.

Right. No problem. I want to explore what is he going to do when denial/delusion cannot be sustained and he needs to face his responsibilities. I will need to do it on the episodes with Screen Presence 2, as I have already spent the focus episode more or less "presenting his problem".

Quote
Are you sure you're really playing a protagonist that you care about and that others might care about? Or are in you GM mode, making sure that there's adversity within the team?

About this, I'm not completely sure, because you know it is quite easy for me to do it without noticing. However, the other players does not have such a feeling. During the start of the episode I enjoyed to create a tense relationship between Alfredo and Vincenzo. I thought it would be interesting and it will help to give Alfredo a continuous contrast with his delusion. It was Luis the first one insisting in using Vincenzo to remind him about his responsibilities during the 2nd World War.

After that, specially after Alfredo accepted the leadership of Lucrezia, I was not promoting the opposition anymore. I was concentrated on playing against the problems introduced by the producer. It was a surprise for me (and for the others) when Luis made Vincenzo react in such a visceral way during the last scenes. Anyway, I found it so unexpected and fun that I mainly followed his ideas. I think we are both happy with the status of our characters relationship.

What it is worrying me is if we were focusing in this opposition too much instead of looking for it outside of the player-characters cast. And if this is the case, why? Perhaps, I'm feeling a lack of more recurring supporting characters. I cannot say.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 08, 2008, 07:52:58 AM
Hi Arturo,

Before I talk about your session, I am forced to comment on how obnoxious your character is! Moreno, are you reading this? It also strikes me as important that this game is being played by citizens of the nation which endured the longest-lasting Fascist regime in Europe. But now I am getting distracted.

It's probably time to review the meanings of Situation and Plot Authority, as I conceived them. Perhaps the names can be clarified.

Situation: getting substantive content into the SIS before and leading up to crisis-decision points (for anyone, GM included). It's useful to consider this idea at different scales - (a) the level of the episode as a whole, (b) at the level of scene-framing, and (c) at the point of conflict initiation within scenes. Authority for Situation is often shared, in a back-and-forth exchange of "this happens, what do you do; I do this; in that case, this happens next" that's familiar to most role-players ... although its failure is perhaps even more familiar.

Plot: the input which closes the outcomes of the crisis situations which are set up via Situation Authority, and therefore it occurs as an ongoing, organic personal interaction with the mechanics of resolving conflicts, resolving scenes, and introducing consequences.

I realize that this terminology is different from "plot" in pre-existing media. That's on purpose. Plot Authority in role-playing is nothing like final-cut authority for film, or finished-manuscript authority for prose. The reason for this is that the very notion of plot itself has to be revised for Story Now role-playing. In all other story-oriented media, the creation of plot and the experience of plot are wholly separated into two parts, creation and reception. In that context, "plot" is a distinct thing which hovers between the two, untouched - "text," in modern academic jargon. However, in the medium of role-playing, in which SIS is both modeling clay and sculpture at the same time, plot cannot be thought of as the totality of the fiction any more. You can't consult it or look at it as a whole; it emerges only during parts of play, and furthermore those parts are strung along a linear sequence of the play-experience. There is no point during Story Now play during which the entirety of the plot may be said to be established.

Here are some thoughts about the authorities in your overall session.

CONTENT

Content Authority is, at the highest level, combined: the players contribute at the very least through having made up their characters, and the Producer, in this case, does so via choosing the setting for the episode. In this particular series, each choice of time-period is a very big deal. This particular authority is easy to understand for this episode, I think.

SITUATION (REMEMBER, AT DIFFERENT LEVELS AND IN SEQUENTIAL PIECES)

At the highest level, the players have significant input for Situation because of their original choices for Screen Presence. The Producer has a lot of powerful Situation Authority at the level of scene-creation and to a certain shared degree, conflict-creation, but the Screen Presence and particularly Spotlight status of the protagonists is the "guiding light" for all such decision-making.

So taking both player and Producer decision-making into account, the Situation for the entire episode is that Vincenzo gets loose in ancient Rome and causes both temporal and moral crises, based on his heinous world-view. To bump it down into the scene creation level, and specific-conflict level, it's clear that Situation Authority is definitely shared and even piecemeal in PTA: (a) Alfredo's candidacy for assassination is the Producer's doing, and (b) his being faced with a stern moral objection specifically from someone who can save him is a player's doing.

Situation Authority was a blend, exactly as written in PTA: mainly by Producer, but elaborated upon by the player's responses:
1. The separation among team members to isolate Alfredo: Producer
2. The nasty impact Alfredo might have on history: Player (you)
3. The assassination threat: Producer
4. The moral confrontation: Player (Luis)

This blend also occurs within scenes, which I think your group is still struggling with.

DISTRACTED AGAIN

Quote
After leaving his seed in Julio Cesar ...

I had to look over this section again to make sure I wasn't misunderstanding, and fortunately, I was. Here's one of those translation moments again – that phrasing is unintentionally hilarious in English, particularly with that historical personage. Anyway, back to business.

TROUBLE WITH SITUATION

I think that your group still struggles with Situation Authority within scenes, specifically about one of the most problematic elements of role-playing: where each characters stands in that immediate situation, in space. It's problematic because historically, such positioning has always been crucial regarding character options. You can't "run up and hit him" unless you are standing within so many hexes away. You can't talk to someone without fear of being interrupted unless you can establish that every other character can't get to you.

When your player-characters are separated from one another, then Situation Authority flows smoothly in the GM-player-GM-player PTA way, producing interesting and exciting situations, but whenever all your player-characters are together, things get confused. People start proposing conflicts about what is being noticed, and whether one or two characters can separate themselves from the others. It reminds me very strongly of the cacophony that can appear in traditional fantasy role-playing, when the GM says, "There's a shadowy, tentacled shape approaching down the corridor, about fifty feet ahead of you." People start yelling about "can they see it," or whether someone else can or can't see it, or whether they're not really in the thing's direct line of sight, or who's got which weapon ready, or how their character would necessarily have been investigating the nearby alcove instead of walking with the others, and God knows what else. Your group has a tendency to call card-based conflicts in order to establish all these details.

For instance, there is no reason why the final Alfredo-Vincenzo dialogue could not have been conducted in front of the other characters. It would not have been altered mechanically in any way.

I will be bold and make a suggestion for all you. First, more often than not, but especially in PTA, all conflicts “to notice” suck. Noticing can easily be factored into a post-draw narration to establish how things occurred, or it can be part of situational framing - it doesn't have to be anything else. The same applies to all talk of who “distracts” whom. Focus on what conflicts of interest are occurring and let the cards be about that; all else, in this game, is colored in as needed, before or after.

It seems to me that Pablo did a good job of realizing this, as he made sure that the cards addressed specifically whether Alfredo was hurt.

PLOT (REMEMBER, IN SEQUENTIAL PIECES)

I think that your group illustrated some excellent understanding of how Plot Authority is distributed in playing PTA. Specifically, the cards matter - they decisively close the conflicts which have been formed like crystals in the liquid solutions of situations. Also, and more subtly, the use of the cards is also subject to judgment, such that a particular point can be made without them as well. That occurs, in this game, when a person decides that the play up to this point has already satisfactorily produced Plot.

To summarize the Plot Authorities:
Vincenzo is prevented from integrating into ancient Rome: Producer with Player approval (i.e. you did not announce a conflict but had Alfredo decide to flee with the team)
Vincenzo suffers physically: System, Players, Producer-narration
Vincenzo faces moral censure: Players (specifically you, as you did not call for conflict)

SOME CLOSING THOUGHTS

Another way to look at Situation is the proposing of a question, and Plot as the current answer to the question. The structure of a season in PTA is built specifically for this purpose. Regarding Alfredo's Spotlight episode, and keeping in mind that it is actually the beginning of the season rather than (for instance) the final episode, here is my thematic interpretation of its Plot. Vincenzo suffers for his sins, both physically and socially (i.e. another person’s judgment). He has discovered that he cannot control time and history with impunity. He is in physical pain, rendering him dependent upon others, and has had truth, including contempt for him personally, spoken to his face. This time, he cannot simply smirk and get away with it. No matter what, all further decisions he makes during this Season will be derived from these results. As I see it, your show Tempus Fugit is saying that not even mastery over time can override morality. Your characters' power and freedom, relative to all other living persons, makes them more subject to moral considerations (specifically those concerning nationalism and bigotry) rather than less.

Your group's decisions about and use of Plot Authority are what brought this theme into existence for this episodes. The group's decisions and use of Situation Authority are what made Plot Authority powerful and interesting.

Let me know if I'm understanding the circumstances of play and whether my discussion of the various Authorities is making sense. To a great extent, this thread is helping me to work out and articulate my own outlook as well, so we should consider it a dialogue rather than instruction.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Moreno R. on September 10, 2008, 08:34:02 PM
Moreno, are you reading this?

Yes. I think that the problem with that character is that is in a PTA game. In other games, there would not be anything so "wrong" in that character that a column of two "aces" couldn't solve.  Permanently. ;-)

This was the first thing that I thought. From this, I began to think about "safe play", PTA, plot authority given to a player over a character over a single point (in PTA, with the changing - or not -  of the issue in the spotlight episode, for example. That is the precise reason because I would not want that character in my PTA games, by the way) above any other rule of the game. But for now is only a mass of disconnected thoughts, I am not sure that this thread is a good place for it, or if it's better to create another thread (or more than one), and I was waiting for Arturo's reply to see the direction he want to take this thread...


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 11, 2008, 05:11:31 PM
Hi Moreno,

"Yes, but ..."

... it's also worth noting that Arturo's character's Spotlight episode was immediate, right after the pilot episode. I think that's important. I think that indicates that the player is saying, "This character is not going to be some kind of indulgent exercise in playing a Fascist. We are raising this issue in order to deal with it, not to wallow in it." That's very different from someone who's chosen the spotlight to be in the final episode of the season, in which most of the fun of the character is wallowing in the wrong choices they might make.

And as I said earlier, and at the risk of national stereotyping and/or judgments, it's brave and important for this issue to be confronted by a Spanish group. You're right, though, about letting Arturo be the boss about whether this should be discussed here, or at least in this thread. Arturo, let us know what you think.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 12, 2008, 02:21:12 AM
Sorry for taking so long to answer. I have come back to work after a long time and I'm a little overwhelmed.

Quote
I am forced to comment on how obnoxious your character is! Moreno, are you reading this? It also strikes me as important that this game is being played by citizens of the nation which endured the longest-lasting Fascist regime in Europe
I decided to play a little son of a bitch. But it is becoming much more twisted than I expected. Anyway, the tone of the series is quite satirical. I think we chose Italy fascism to start with because we are not so concern about it. I mean, if this character were coming from the Spanish civil war, we could be also moving to safer/lighter mockery tone when needed. But I'm sure there could be some connotations and situations that would be reflecting on more serious and nearer issues. Perhaps the character will be more extreme and bitter to play. Any joke or mockery could be much more loaded.

Moreno, this character has the approval of all the other players. We all think is disgusting, funny and grotesque, if these adjectives make any sense together in English.

In the other hand, during the scene where Vincenzo was alone with Alfredo, for a moment we were really expecting him to kill Alfredo. As a player I was prepared to accept it. After that we were talking about the possibility of characters to die or get lost and disappear from the series in climatic situations. It is open. I don't know. Perhaps it is our safety valve in case he becomes too much obnoxious.

Although my main concern is on narrative authorities and our way of playing, it is perfectly OK to talk about this issue here. I was not thinking on it previously and it is interesting.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 12, 2008, 05:20:39 AM
It was missing from the previous post.
I would say I was not really understanding what I was doing, but Ron is right. I have already pose what the character is about in this episode. Thus, I don't need and I don't want to make him repeat the same cliché to show how bad is him again and again in other episodes. From now on, Alfredo will be trying to deal with his situation and issue.
However, I think we are not so concern about the theme of fascism as it may look. We are not rigorous at all with history, facts or intentions. We have already modify its essence or treated it in a very abstract way. What is important for us is the kind of character. Not the exact political ideas supporting it.

By the way, the hilarious sentence was indeed a bad literal translation. Although in archaic Spanish may also mean the same and we may make jokes with it, the normal meaning does not implies that our series is for adults only. Well, it seems that the producer is including one scene every episode with some nudes to increase the audience, but it is quite innocent.

Back to the important matters.

Ron, your definitions of Situation and Plot authorities are slightly different from my previous understanding. I think I'm finally filling up the gaps.

First, I was missing the importance of Screen Presence choices at all levels for Situation. Is is indeed very important in PtA play. Second, I was not considering Situation authority also at conflict initiation. I was not having a name for that kind of interactions. About your comments on our play. I completely agree. I was not liking that kind of conflicts. I found them lame. But I had not an idea of the exact problem or what to do to avoid them. In my previous PtA play, a couple of pilot episodes long long ago, I was not having so much trouble with this. They were situation comedies and we were not having many scenes where noticing something or determining who was were was relevant at all. I completely buy your advise about it.

Quote
It seems to me that Pablo did a good job of realizing this, as he made sure that the cards addressed specifically whether Alfredo was hurt.

Pablo has a long tradition of playing RPGs and thinking on how we play very naturally. He instinctively notices where the meat is and goes for it quickly. However, he is also very used to railroading and he thinks that it is needed to some degree to generate coherent fiction without pain. This is another reason I'm glad he is being the producer and experimenting with PtA.

About Plot authority. I'm beginning to see it with a new light. Previously I was associating it directly with the idea of plot-twists in a book-story, which is not totally correct. Now I'm thinking on the differences of its use in RPGs and another media.

Quote
Plot: the input which closes the outcomes of the crisis situations which are set up via Situation Authority, and therefore it occurs as an ongoing, organic personal interaction with the mechanics of resolving conflicts, resolving scenes, and introducing consequences.
The definition was difficult to follow at first. It talks about "outcomes of the crisis" and the "personal interaction with mechanics" and "introducing consequences", which made me think immediately on resolution and Narrative Authority. The sentence that has helped me to understand you was:

Quote
Also, and more subtly, the use of the cards is also subject to judgment, such that a particular point can be made without them as well. That occurs, in this game, when a person decides that the play up to this point has already satisfactorily produced Plot.

Now I have a complete different problem. I'm feeling like an overlap on the way I think about Plot and Narrative authority. As the later seem to be a possible part of the former in the decision making machine to generate plot.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 12, 2008, 07:04:03 AM
Hi Arturo,

That's not a problem or a misunderstanding, it's an insight! Remember that the four authorities are Techniques in Big Model terms. That means that they can be formalized as rules, in many, many possible combinations or applications.

In the case of PTA, Narrational Authority* is in fact tied to Plot Authority. This is what the design of the game is intended to do. It uses the same logic as Dust Devils toward that end, and Dust Devils was inspired in that feature by The Pool.

However, that is clearly not necessarily the case. In HeroQuest, the GM is called the Narrator, for a reason - he or she narrates, even for outcomes that are generated by other people's characters. In Sorcerer, narration is left completely unconstructed, based on the risky but generally valid observation that anyone's narration is accepted as long as it's engaged with the fiction and with everyone else. Yet both of those games are just like PTA in that Plot Authority lies very strongly with the people playing the protagonists. Also, unlike PTA, in those games, Plot Authority is expressed specifically as how much risk and consequence arises in quantitative terms as the conflicts are resolved.

Now that you have a better idea of what the authorities are, you'll be able to see how different systems formalize and arrange them. For instance, although the GM has Situation Authority in InSpectres, it's the players who have Content Authority through their dice-rolls.

As a final point, sharing is also a Technique. In PTA, Situational Authority is extremely shared, almost to the point of being a blend.

Best, Ron

* Narration, not narrative. Narration = literally saying things; narrative = story as a flow of communication


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 15, 2008, 03:13:46 PM
I think I get it much better now. I will do some homework analyzing again games I know to detect how the authorities work.

Thanks!


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Moreno R. on September 15, 2008, 05:03:43 PM
Hi!

Thinking about it, I decided to limit this to some explanation about what I said in my previous post, leaving the more general considerations about the authorities in different games to another occasion, to avoid derailing the thread.

About the character of Alfredo, I don't want my previous quick comment to be seen as any sort of accusation again Arturo, his group or his characters: the comment was very, very "local", in the sense that I was talking about the combination of my own play habits, this specific game (PTA) and my personal thoughts about the real-life Alfredo (if you know the comic book "Preacher", they are best summed by Rev. Jesse Custer words in issue #48). It's so dependent on this specific combination that I would have no problem in playing with that character in another game, or with seeing it played by other people in PTA: this is because the issue is not of morality (I think I can differentiate between the morality of a character and the one of the player), but it's of my play enjoyment. And anyway I would not even have posted in this thread if not "called out" by Ron, that remembered a old actual play post of mine with a character (not mine) with similar political belief that I killed to avoid having him reaching an happy ending...

What is the problem, for me, with PTA, with a character like that? It's the way the PTA system "protects" the player characters from forced changes (death in this case is a possible change). The character is defined mechanically by an issue and three traits, and by a story-arc. ALL of this can't be changed in any way by conflicts or other player's decision. The only one who can change these is the player, with a independent decision, during the spotlight episode (a trait and/or the issue) or after (the issue). More than this, the producer is encouraged to push for conflicts and situations that challenge the issue, and during the spotlight episode the character is the most important one, with all the "flashlight" on him and his issue.

This mean, in practice, that for me the game "works"  only if I actually LIKE the other player' characters. Because I have to be interested a lot in what it will happen to him, about his choices, about the way he will change or will not change (that, I feel, is the question at the heart of PTA as a game: without the real possibility of character change, and the equal possibility of the character resisting any changes, the game loses a lot of its "bite"), without having the power of influencing that choice in any real way.  It would be different in a game where the characters are less "protected" from the other player's input and where the game is less pointed to his internal issues. 

By the way, I consider, for this very reason, PTA one of the "safest" narrativist games around: nobody can literally change your character, apart you. But this "safety" can be turned around by a pad pitch where the series is not created in a way that respect everybody's wishes.

Ron, this thread did show me that I had misinterpreted your past description of plot authority. Am I right in thinking that the choice of changing the issue and the traits in PTA are a case of plot authority given fully to the player, about these choices? And that the same could be said about the choice of fallout in DitV, for example? (while the amount of fallout is decide by the plot authority shared by the players in conflict and the game system)? I am still thinking about plot --> outcomes, and the way this would place the total player control of the final choice of an outcome (given by a conflict or not) as essential in a lot of narrativist game designs, much more that the more flashy condivision of content or situation authority. (in Sorcerer, at first sight, I would say that the choice of taking a dice penalty to the next roll instead of doing what your opponent want, and the rewriting of the character sheet, are both two examples of this kind of exclusive plot authority, at the conflict level and at the complete story level)


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 18, 2008, 10:15:49 AM
Hello,

Moreno, you wrote,

Quote
Am I right in thinking that the choice of changing the issue and the traits in PTA are a case of plot authority given fully to the player, about these choices? And that the same could be said about the choice of fallout in DitV, for example? (while the amount of fallout is decide by the plot authority shared by the players in conflict and the game system)?


Yes, you're right. However, you're not quite right in identifying the player (by which I assume you mean non-GM) as the relevant holder of that authority. The key is that Plot Authority is subject to the events of play, including mechanics-based choices, as a common feature of Narrativist design. Arguably it's also a big deal in Gamist design, now that I think of it, for similar reasons. The point is that it's not governable by pre-determined structure or anticipation.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Moreno R. on September 20, 2008, 11:50:44 PM
Hi Ron!

I would be interested in discussion the different authorities in DitV, with its particular structure of "subroutines inside subroutines" (story-arc < town < conflict < single raise and see -> narration of the single see or taking the bow > stakes resolution > fallout choice > judgment > final judgment ) but I don't think this thread is the right place, being Arturo's thread about PTA.  But I am not sure about multiplying the number of threads about the narrative authorities in different games, too. Do you think that a single thread for any game example would be better?

About PTA...  after playing "One Can Have Her" lately I am somewhat fascinated by mechanics that give any single player a choice with very strong consequences in the fiction, not influenced mechanically by anything apart the fiction created up to that point. In One Can Have Her is very noticeable because of the endgame rules. One of the players commented that at the end, winning all the conflicts didn't make any difference during the endgame. I agreed up to a point: winning all the conflicts didn't have any mechanical effect on the endgame. But it had a very noticeable effect on the decisions of the other players: every single one of the other players did rat on him. At the end of the game the fiction created (and the sympathy for each character) is much more important than winning the conflicts.

After noticing this in OCHH, I thought about the other games where I saw other system-protected single-player decisions like this. The Choice of Disclosing in Spione, for example. Nobody can force a disclosing on a principal's player in Spione using the game system. But he could feel "forced" to do this to save some other character. In many ways, these protected choices are a specific and potent authority given to a player to a specific aspect of the plot.

It's in this sense that I say that the choice of changing the issue/traits... or not, in PTA, is fully in the hand of the player. Yes, what happened before, the story created until that moment, is very important, but the player is free to act upon it as he/she wishes.

One example: last year I played a season of PTA based roughly on the concept "the Addams family with alien superheroes meet comedy gangsters" (don't ask... it was a very difficult pitch...). My character ("Jack Flash") Issue was immaturity. his catchphrase was "who need maturity when you have superpowers?" (hypervelocity in his case). He was, really, a well-intentioned immature moron who created more problems that he solved. I created him with every intention of having him forced to grow. To get to that point, I used any episode until my spotlight to cause problem to the other characters, trying to "help" them, getting everybody really angry at him (the characters. The players instead were giving me a lot of fan mail, more than I used, until I got to my spotlight episode with a dozen tokens of unspent fan mail)

But when I played the spotlight episode, really, IN THE MIDDLE of it, I realized that I really liked that character exactly how it was. And began to spend every token from that mountain of fan mail to win conflict after conflict, until at the end of the episode he had solved (for the moment, at least) the big problems he did cause, using only his superpowers and not a bit of maturity, and at the end escaped from the others really angry characters saying... "I don't need maturity. I have superpowers!". And as his player I "signed" this statement by not changing anything on his character sheet.

I could have chosen the other option. The fiction did inform my choice (making me enjoy playing that character) but it would have justified other choices too. I could have him repent and trying to change even after saving the day. He could have refused to grow up even if he did NOT be able to save the day. The choice was informed by the fiction, not forced by it. The final _Authority_ (as in "the buck stop here, I decide") about changes to the character is in the player.

But this mean that it could be pre-determined. As I said, I started playing already thinking about how to making him grow. This WAS predetermined, so much that I played the first episodes sowing the seeds that could justify that change afterwards.  Now, this border on another concept, about honesty in playing (honestly playing to create a story together mean giving attention to what happen in the fiction, to the other people's input, and being willing to change idea following the flow of the story. Where instead playing with an inflexible idea about "where the story will go" is being unwilling to really play with the others), but there is nothing in these systems that can really avoid having a player pre-determine what he will decide when it will be the time to decide.



Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Arturo G. on September 22, 2008, 03:18:34 PM
Moreno, I was not feeling accused of anything. I just wanted to clarify that all the players were happy with the apparently disgusting character to be sure we were talking about the same thing. And it has brought up an interesting matter from you. I was not thinking previously about PtA "protecting" the characters from other players. But it is true that I noticed it during the scene where we thought Vincenzo was going to kill Alfredo.

Quote
The final _Authority_ (as in "the buck stop here, I decide") about changes to the character is in the player.
This is true. But this is not directly plot authority. Is it? I would say that plot is generated when the player manages to introduce in the fiction something that reveals or expresses the changes or their consequences in the story. But this is done using the whole system and with the collaboration of the other players.

As you are also saying, what happens in the fiction may be really significant for the player to decide to make changes and to decide about their meaning. This is happening during play. A player may think on what she is planning to do. But they are just plans in her mind; only events that happen during play get into the SIS. She can not really pre-determine how it will come to be.


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Ron Edwards on September 22, 2008, 06:02:21 PM
Hi guys,

Moreno, let's have a different thread for the Dogs question. Anyone can start it with their own actual-play account. I'll certainly chime in with two definite moments from my experiences. I very much want to encourage multiple threads for a topic of this kind. I also think that Dust Devils might be one of the foundation games for that issue. Eero, you've played a lot of Dust Devils in the past couple of years, so maybe you'd be a good candidate for a third thread.

I agree with Arturo about the nature of the authority in the circumstances you're describing. What's being done between Seasons in PTA, for instance, is actually Content Authority regarding the character, setting up for later play.

Moreno, as far as your account of your PTA character is concerned, I think that in general, and if the group isn't falling into the play-before-play problems we've been discussing over several threads, people tend toward what you describe. They might have a pre-planned notion for the character, or more often in my experience, a tentative concept for his or her "path," but it is simply more fun - and fortunately, obviously more fun to do what you did. The player ends up saying, "I totally went the other way from what I thought I'd do." He or she can experience a sense of inevitabillity in what the character does, which is artistically extremely fulfilling. You experience the inevitable as a surprise, even though you are personally creating the final step in that process and delivering it to the others.

I think the key to making that work is for play to be under way without really knowing the point of a given scene before it happens in the SIS. The idea of generating the conflict before playing the scene is straight out the window. In this, I'm agreeing strongly with Arturo.

I submit that Spione is so constructed that planning for any character's future is extremely obviously not functional; in fact, Seth recently posted about this in the Spione forum at my request after he emailed me. Your own game last year also showed that. After reading Annalise, it looks to me as if Nathan has been thinking along similar lines: there literally isn't any more point in planning ahead than there might be in, say, playing poker. What's gone before matters very greatly, but thinking about the hand after the current one is tantamount to losing right now. I'm bringing it up here because the key feature in both games is that no one really creates whole scenes - they only create the openings of scenes, and "stuff gets added" in small bits, without knowing what's important and what's not.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [PtA] How are the narrative authorities working in this scene?
Post by: Matt Wilson on September 23, 2008, 12:39:04 AM
I never spend enough time on the Forge. This is an interesting thread.

That last thing Moreno posted about predetermined choices. I think a lot of people who play the game will think like script writers. What kinds of things will happen to my guy this season? How will he or she react? What choices will my character be making?

And just like in real life we all think, man, in this situation I would probably do X. But like the guy said, no battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

It's probably good for the development of the cast, and for the creation of scenes that don't drag on, to think about the kinds of choices your protagonist might make.