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[PTA] MCU: Gotham

Started by KevinH, July 04, 2010, 04:56:32 PM

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Hello all,

I got permission to post this from the producer, so I thought I'd like to share our experiences of PTA. As you'll see, the premise of the show was a police procedural set in Gotham after Batman Begins, but before Dark Knight. Following on from the movies' lead, no outrageously super-villains, just wack jobs with aliases.

Also, I'm only posting links as the AP is looooong. We managed two seasons and if it weren't for RL, we'd be playing still.



One point I would like to make, that was really interesting to me as a player in this game, was the amount of story-conferencing we did. Particularly with the Eli/Kat relationship (I was playing Eli and Kat's player's husband was playing Merchant). There was a lot of discussion to ensure that everyone was on the same page that this was purely in character.

What we found, with other issues as well, was that as a group we could roughly plan out where the story would go and then just sit back and enjoy the ride. Heck, we even surprised ourselves. My character's big switch from dirtiest cop EVAR to lone hero came right out of left field, even I was shocked to hear THAT coming out of my mouth.

Plus, the climax of the love story had to be tragic, we knew it had to be tragic and we had, as a group, planned for that for weeks. I still choke up, because the character who was supposed to a bad-guy looking for redemption-turned hero, did NOT get the girl and happiness he deserved. She died in his arms, shot through the lungs. With the story set, I was able to commit fully to the story, moment to moment.

One final point, before this really does become TL:DR. As mentioned in the AP, we would literally turn to the producer and check which "next week on.." remained. That was an interesting part of the game. At the end of a session, throwing the most bizarre scenes into the mix and having to work it into the overall story really added some fun stuff. In a sense, you might say that was our one moment of Sole Authority per episode.

Anyways, MCU: Gotham... enjoy.


Nick Caldwell

Holy cats!  Not much to say but I was blown away by the Season 2 finale.  I found this through prepping for my own PTA game and it's definitely inspiring.  Thanks for sharing!

Just curious -- you said that the climax of the love story had to be tragic -- when was that decided?   I'm fascinated that the conflict was not over whether Kit is going to die but is she able to talk to Eli before she dies.  A little lightbulb went off in my head over that so thank you.

~ Nick


Quote from: stingray20166 on July 08, 2010, 10:56:03 AM
Just curious -- you said that the climax of the love story had to be tragic -- when was that decided? ~ Nick

Firstly, thank you for the appreciation.

As to your question, I don't know if I could ever say it was decided. I'm trying to explain what I mean, but it's really hard to get the right words, so I'll tell you some of the thoughts that led to Kit's death:

1) It's Gotham. There's no happy endings, period. By the end of season 2, every (and I mean EVERY) character is compromised. Every white-knight character ended up dead or dirty, from the wanting-to-clear-his-name cop in season 2, to the IA Charisma to Merch. Even Eli, despite his turn around, is still as dirty as a sack of soot.

2) Happy endings are boring. So Eli and Kit fall in love, what then? Marriage? Boring. Freak of the week, with each episode being, "Which super villain threatens the happy couple this week?" Lame. There had to be change and growth and the thawing of the relationship, but there was no interesting follow up to that change.

3) They are just fucked. Every character is so dysfunctional, they can't make it work. Kit and Eli are recovering alcoholics. Kit has issues going back to her psycho dad and ex. Eli (on a cop salary) wore Armani and had a penthouse in the same building as Bruce Wayne and essentially moon-lighted as a Capo. Good things cannot happen to bad people (in TV land, at least).

Hope that clears things up. Basically, Kit's death was decided on almost purely story-telling terms.


Nick Caldwell

That makes perfect sense -- and that's what I thought you meant.  I think the "had to be" part threw me -- it made me think an outside force (mechanics of the game, discussion outside the game, etc) was influencing the play.  It's clear now that the decision arose from the play (and it helps that I've re-read the rulebook now for my own prep).  Thank you.

"Why did Kit have to die?"
"It's Gotham."

Love it!

~ nick

Christoph Boeckle

Hello Kevin

Sounds like a nifty series!

Could you please give us an example taken from any instance of play to illustrate what you mean by story-conferencing? Do you use it in the same way as the guys in [PTA] Players wanting their PCs to fail? do?


Hi guys,

some interesting points, but not enough time right now to answer them properly.

I will, this week, I promise.


Callan S.

Kind of makes me think of simulationism
Quote from: stingray20166 on July 14, 2010, 08:56:23 AM
"Why did Kit have to die?"
"Aherance to genre conventions."


Hi guys,

Christoph, although I can't recall any exact moments from play, I will say that the thread you mention was part of the reason I posted this AP.

OK, I'm making up terminology here, if there are better theoretical terms, please let me know.

In the thread [PTA] Players wanting their PCs to fail?, I would describe that as Front-Loading. Ie, essentially defining the outcomes of a conflict before the cards hit the table.

What we did in Gotham, I'm going to describe as Breech-Loading. We would discuss the nature of a conflict, before the cards hit the table.

Maybe that sounds like word games, but there is a distinction. Front-Loading takes the mystery out of the game, if we all know what's going to happen depending on how the cards play out. Breech-Loading, I would argue, allowed us to pass through uninteresting conflicts and focus on the meaty ones.

Frex, the Season 1 finale. Kit's psycho-ex has her and Charisma at gun point when Merch and Eli show up. By that point, the boys have found ex's shrine and know he's a complete whack-job. Eli and Merch have their guns on the ex. The ex is holding Kit as a hostage. Eli's response is to tell Kit that he loves her.

So we conferenced it, to explore what the issues were and what the players wanted. My point was that Kit went apeshit every time I mentioned my feelings for her and the ex probably wouldn't be too happy either. I wanted to create enough of a distraction for Merch to shoot the guy.

The conflict became, does Kit see that Eli is genuinely in love with her (or would it be six more weeks of winter)? As a group we decided that, as this was the climactic scene the bad guy had to go down. There was no satisfying result from any other possibility.

However, if the conflict were about the relationship, both outcomes would be enjoyable and playable. The irony being, of course, that for once Eli was just saying it.

There was one other BIG issue that came into play with the Kit/Eli relationship, that required a lot of conferencing. Bang on all you want about theory, functional play, predefining outcomes ete etc, personally, I do not think that any RPG ruleset is worth ruining your friends' marriage over.

There was a lot of in-character flirting going on at the table and constant reassurance from all players that we were confident it remained in character.

Hope that answers your questions,


Christoph Boeckle

Thank you Kevin, I get it now! My clearest memories about a game text which talks about this technique where free play is used for all the players to arrive at an agreement regarding characters intentions is Sorcerer, or maybe the supplement Sex and Sorcery, but I hadn't realized how it allowed you, the players, to explore delicate themes. Powerful stuff there.

Ron Edwards

Hi guys,

Kevin: yes. Or better, "Yeah, baby!" Breech-loading is key. I hereby adopt that term for jargon purposes.

Best, Ron

Christoph Boeckle

Hello Kevin and Ron

Could you please explain to a non-native speaker why the term "breech-loading" is particularly adapted? It could come in handy if this term gets used a lot and I start using it in French. Also, I am under the impression (from the Story Now essay) that "front-loading" is a term referring to pre-play generation of premise, whereas this one refers to conflict resolution set-up. Might this not become confusing?

Just to make sure we're on the same page, the definition of breech I found is:

Quote from: Wordreference.com1    breech, rear of barrel, rear of tube
      opening in the rear of the barrel of a gun where bullets can be loaded


Ron Edwards

Hi Christoph,

The original method to load a long-barreled gun (musket, later rifle) was to put the bullet in through the front opening, then ramming it all the way to the back with a special rod for that purpose. The gunpowder was sometimes stuffed in there with it or was inserted through a different opening depending on the gun.

The later method was to "break" the gun (i.e. open it) at the "breech" (a slightly archaic term for crack or opening, also often used for the human buttocks, as in "breech birth," so with the connotation of "back end"), and insert the whole apparatus of bullet, powder, et cetera into it, then close the gun. This led to the invention of cartridges and later the modern bullet which is technically still a cartridge, but that's getting off-topic.

It fits rather well for me in terms of our current discussion jargon, which relies heavily on English slang as you know. Either you go to where the story is "supposed to come out," and put what you want into it in a kind of reverse direction, expecting it to come out "there" again, which is what I've been calling Story Before, or you put everything you need for the story to happen (in the sense of potential components, not a finished product), and proceed, eventually experiencing the result where it "comes out," and only being at that end at that time, never prior to that point.

It's not a perfect analogy because for guns, either way, the eventual result is the same, which is not the case for role-playing. But the imagery is striking and if I'm not mistaken, immediately accessible to American readers.*

Let me know if that makes sense.

Best, Ron

* It is sad that so many of the Forge discussion analogies that have worked for me over the years concern firearms and various war-time things. Possibly related anecdote: in Sweden, we were talking about the law which permits people to walk on or otherwise visit private land as long as they stay away from residences, and I said, "Geez, do that in the States and you'd be shot," and they thought I was kidding. Then I told them about the joke I learned in Florida, that if you kill someone, be sure to drag them onto your lawn, and they thought I was merely being gross. I didn't have the heart to explain that each statement was accurate. But now I"m off-topic again.


Hi guys,

Christoph, Ron has pretty well summed up my thinking behind the term Breech-loading as it relates to RPGs. Yes, it is based on military terminology and, unfortunately due to RPGs' war-gaming roots, a lot of RPG terms DO derive from such.

Ron, I'd like to expand somewhat upon your explanation, but I keep ending up with long essays. I think, if you're OK with it, that I'd like to take that response and start another thread with it. Coining and discussing a new piece of jargon is somewhat beyond my original wish to share how cool this game of PTA was (not that I wouldn't be happy to continue THAT discussion).

Thanks guys,


Ron Edwards

Hi Kevin,

A new thread is always welcome, but obviously, make sure it's rooted in actual play accounts as well.

Please do continue the discussion of this PTA game here, too.

Best, Ron