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PTA: On the Shoulders of Giants

Started by Paul's Girl, October 12, 2004, 08:27:35 PM

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Paul's Girl

Last night we played our pilot episode of our PTA game, On the Shoulders of Giants. The premise is mid 60s Space Race, after JFK and before 1st man on the moon. Our characters are: An all American Astronaut who (ironically, considering the other PTA topic) is secretly gay; an Astronaut's wife who is secretly having an affair with a co-worker of her husband's; a defector Russian scientist who may or may not be a spy; and a newbie astronaut to the program who didn't think the NASA program could be difficult.

As the producer, I set up the first scene. Mission Control, looking toward the large window to the ship two minutes to launch, the Hermes (joke on Mercury). The captain of the ship, Robert Williams, is reporting back to the flight manager, Gordon Hewett, the final check list before take off. Fuel, good, rocket boosters, good, etc. Then, 'Mission Control, check the gage for heater 9.' Readouts are not the same, ready to cancel the mission. Camera changes to show from the POV from the front window to the back of the room, showing Hewett's face, in profile, ordering the cancelation of the flight when BOOM! bright lights of an explosion reveal the interior of the room and reflected on his white shirt and skin. The Hermes has blown up on the launch pad.

This was the start of our game, I'd like to think it was dramatic, but not unexpected. During our game creation the players thought that having one connection in common, an astronaut who became Robert William, should have just died on a mission some how. While this might have generated scenes with most of the character, the opposite happened. Each created scenes to deal with their own grief over the death.  

Since this show isn't action based, we didn't have as many conflict for our pilot as probably common. I think for the eight scene, we rolled maybe five times, only putting in 12 points of budget to the audience pool. I think it word out very well however, the best roll (in my mind) occuring when the wife's lover declares that he feels like a bastard (roll, player success, I narrate) but he "Can't stop wanting you". It could have gone either way, does the guy back away from her or not? The next episode is the wife's, Beverly, spotlight episode. The fate of the relationship may be determined then...

To Paul's earlier comment, in regard to giving fan mail, I didn't like the players giving it out when they used one of their ideas. We discussed how it generated some harmony in the group where it didn't exist previously (ie, actually accepting suggestions), but I don't want to set a precident for the rest of the game, basically, "you only get fan mail when you use MY idea".
A haiku inspired by Gen Con 2002:

Oh, Great Bowl of dice
Unearth the die of my dreams
Wicked 12 sider


Paul Czege

To Paul's earlier comment, in regard to giving fan mail...

Danielle is referencing this thread:">pta: fan mail fixes dysfunctional narrativism

My Life with Master knows codependence.
And if you're doing anything with your Acts of Evil ashcan license, of course I'm curious and would love to hear about your plans



From a player's perspective, I just want to say that our first session of PTA as a group - and my first ever - was a thrill.  I felt like our planning session last week was pretty inspired, and this week's pilot episode delivered on its promise.  The 60's era space program is a fantastic backdrop, and we seemed to hit the right notes - our session had tragedy, betrayal, magnificence, nationalism, and even a little humor.

That's not to say we didn't struggle at times with certain things.

For my money, the Fan Mail thing worked fine.  As Paul points out, there's a separate thread to discuss that specific issue.  Quickly though, to help mitigate Danielle's concerns, I'd point out that we did award Fan Mail for various reasons throughout the game.  I gave Tom Fan Mail simply for his choice of setpieces, and I was awarded two pieces of Fan Mail for my final scene, which was just me and Danielle interacting to come up with a suitable finale for the episode.

Where I thought we stumbled a little was with scene framing.  Our group consists of five fairly competent GMs, so scene framing isn't something new to us.  In general, we're pretty darned good at it.  But in the past we've balked a bit when, as players, we were called upon to frame our own scenes and establish our own conflicts.  Sometimes - I know I'm guilty of this - we'll not necessarily know when to stop "framing" and when to just let the scene begin.  By the end of the night, though, we seemed to have figured it out and were approaching what I thought was a nice pace.  Kudos to Danielle, because I thought she did a great job of handling us in this regard.

I'll reiterate here what was said in a previous PTA thread - it's too bad the GM can't get Fan Mail.  I suppose one of the reasons I have problems with the whole "frame my own scene" thing - and maybe some of the others would cop to this as well - is because I'm really in love with my own creative stuff and really just want to get it across undiluted, like I'm afraid at times to filter it through the other players' imaginations.  This is somewhat the subject of Paul's thread, but I just want to say that Danielle is pretty damned good at picking up on what I wanted to do with my scenes, and by shutting me down before I could narrate the whole scene and forcing me to interact with her only made those scenes better.  She has a talent for it, and I have no other way to reward her than to compliment her here.

Something else we talked about was how we might want to ensure the spotlight is on the right person by giving characters with higher Screen Presence more scenes, or something like that.  That was just sort of mentioned at the end of the time, but after playing the pilot - in which each character had exactly the same number of scenes - I didn't really feel like there was much distinction between those of us with one SP and those of us with two.

Matt chided me a couple times back when PTA was in playtest because I hadn't solicited a copy from him.  I wish I had now, but frankly, our group was kind of falling apart.  It was partially because of the dysfunction Paul describes in his thread, and I have no problem confessing I was one of the biggest culprits.  Too bad, because PTA seems to work (and hopefully, four more sessions down the road), I'll be able to say it worked for us, something other games have failed to do for some time.

- Scott

Matt Wilson

What a great series name! Can I award someone fan mail for that title?

I also think you guys totally nailed the cast. Was it clear to you from the get go that the protagonists shouldn't all be astronauts?

QuoteSince this show isn't action based, we didn't have as many conflict for our pilot as probably common. I think for the eight scene, we rolled maybe five times, only putting in 12 points of budget to the audience pool.

You'll have to let me know if it gets easier to introduce conflicts in later episodes.

Paul's Girl

Thanks Matt, the name actually came from Tom. Here's some e-mail discussion that happened after the first session.

Scott: 'The quote itself is Newton saying he couldn't have
done what he did without the help of the people that
came before him.  "If I have seen further it is by
standing on ye shoulders of Giants."  I think it's
fantastic in the context of our game, and more so
because it was Newton who said it.'

Tom: "I got it from Jeff Glodblum saying it in Jurassic Park 1, so it's news to me."

The rest of the game played out real well. Scott had his I'm-a-young-punk-who's-going-to-NASA-anyway scene ala Top Gun. Paul's closeted astronaut had a great scene where he literally ran himself to exhaustion from inner turmoil (we rolled conflict and Paul's agenda won). Tom's widow Beverly was confronted by her mother about moving back home (which was a great scene, the conflict agenda was perfect), and Matt's Russian scientist was confronted with the echoes of mistrust throughout NASA (could he have sabotaged the mission?).

I had to create one NPC that wasn't a connection or part of an edge, the flight director Gordon Hewett. I think he'll be a very common character as the series progresses.
A haiku inspired by Gen Con 2002:

Oh, Great Bowl of dice
Unearth the die of my dreams
Wicked 12 sider