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Author Topic: [PtA] Heritage - Fun, but oddly unsatisfying play  (Read 14369 times)
joshua neff
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« Reply #15 on: March 22, 2005, 05:21:52 AM »

Quote from: Frank T
Hi Josh,

I believe J was refering to the distinction the PtA rules themselves make between character and plot scenes, terming that the "Focus" of a scene.


Oh, right. That makes sense.

That'll teach me to post late at night after work.
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"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Matt Wilson
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« Reply #16 on: March 22, 2005, 12:45:22 PM »

Quote from: Frank T
Hi Josh,

I believe J was refering to the distinction the PtA rules themselves make between character and plot scenes, terming that the "Focus" of a scene.


Yeah, Josh, quit ruining everything! Damn librarians.

J, you can have a scene still be plot even though it has character-related stuff going on. The question is where's the greater immediate impact? Does it affect the character mostly, or the story mostly?

If the scene is plot, then my guy's issue is maybe going to interfere with us catching the killer. If the scene is character, then my guy's issue is going to affect his relationship with some other character, or if you want to get all profound, his relationship with himself.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #17 on: March 22, 2005, 07:32:16 PM »

Hello,

I shall interject with my interpretation of "plot" and "character" scenes.

They are not actually alternatives.

All scenes are plot scenes.

Default scene = "character scene," i.e. emotional/interactive conflicts

Value-added scene = as above, plus external conflict which revs internal one into high gear (e.g. the bug-aliens are attacking) - typically called "plot scene" even if it is a conceptual abomination to say that.

Now I just know someone is going to ask, "But Ronnnn, what about those scenes which just illustrate something about the character? Or something about the bug-aliens' plans?"

They are just the same as above, in terms of getting the final stages of such scenes going. Setup and even delay are part of making scenes be punchy.

There is no such thing as a static scene. See the "just" in the questioner's sentence? There is no such "just" in stories.

Best,
Ron
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2005, 02:05:43 PM »

I think that here, as with many problems of shifting styles in RPGs, the problem may be linked to the language used in play. That is, we can talk about the "how to" all day, but if you don't know how to communicate these things in play, often you end up just repeating the habits that you had from other games that you developed your current language skills to perform.

For example, how do you decide what's going to be in a scene, J, in terms of language. What does the producer say? How do the players respond? There's a ton of ritual process that goes on here that can be done an innumerable number of ways.

Do you, for instance, as producer, ask the questions from the book that need to get answered before doing a scene?

To kick off his part of the discussion, think back to one of the scenes of the game, and tell us who said what in setting it up. Then we can offer alternative language suggestions.

Mike
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JMendes
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« Reply #19 on: March 23, 2005, 05:41:06 PM »

Hey, all, :)

Some responses:

Tymen, yes, "Relic Hunter" was one of the shows we threw about during the definition of Heritage. Ana's character Rowan is, in fact, at least semi-based on Sydney Fox. Neither of us can remember any strong issue-based moments during the show except for the very first and the very last scenes.

Some of you have mentioned personality clashes, professional rivalry, interparty conflict and other things relating to player-character-vs-player-character stuff. Thing is, I have an extremely violent instinctive allergic reaction to PC-vs-PC stuff. I didn't always have this, it grew over time, but it is an obstacle to this. I'll comment some more on this in the thread in the Dog Eared Designs forum.

Andrew, your suggestion that I talk to a woman does not sound dumb at all. However, it may not be that helpful, in that one of the players in the group in my wife, and as such, I already have good access to that particular POV. :)

Quote from: Andrew Norris
a happy team with no egos investigating a remote site
Yep, this pretty much hits the nail on the head! This is exactly what was happening. I need to watch out for this phenomenon. Although, like I said, investigating remote sites will probably feature prominently as the show plays out...

Frank, yeah, good stuff from you. Of course, when you bring up personal loss and putting something at stake that really matters to the protagonist, you do realize that this is entirely non-trivial to do, at least without overly resorting to intra-party conflict, But it does gel with what others have been saying, at it did put me to thinking of a couple of things we might have done differently.

Jesse, yours I did have some trouble with:

Quote from: jburneko
Gil Grisham<...> What IS Grisham going to do when the single mom who's crackhead husband dumped her turns to Grisham in an effort to fill the void?
<...>
Horation Crane<...> Just what is Crane going to do when the evidence is overwhelming but the suspect has diplomatic immunity?
I don't know what they're going to do, but these are totally under the domain of player choice. I fail to see how to put together a conflict around these (or related) matters.

Also:

Quote from: jburneko
Title: Art Gecko
<...>
Holy God! Do see the problems here?
Plainly, no. Or rather, I see lots of problems for the NPCs, but I still have no idea how to weave PC issues around the problems you just described. In other words, I don't even know where to begin to look for that cross-section between these problems and their issues...

Note that I'm not trying to put these examples down. I'm just saying, if you (or anyone else, for that matter) want to expand on this, I'd need it.

Mike, I can't do what you're asking anymore, as it's been too long for me to recall exactly what everyone was saying. I can tell you that, in the first session, we were having some procedural trouble with scene definition, where players felt they were expected to narrate heavily in the beginning of the scene. For our second session, we got past that. I basically asked for focus, agenda and location, didn't let the players establish any actual events, and went from there. I did let them speculate on events as they formulated the agenda, but that's it. That part seemed to go better.

Finally:

Quote from: Frank T
You say the scenes were cool, i.e. had you seen them on TV, you would have liked them. Except, it didn't feel like role-playing. Could you go back to that notion and try to explain what you mean by it?
I don't know if I can put this any other way. Simply, it didn't feel like exploration was going on. It felt more like collaborative story-telling or script-writing. Throughout, none of the players identified with the characters, the situation, the setting, anything. Or maybe they did, but it certainly didn't feel like they did, to me.

As I said before, there are things here that are worthy of more exploration. I certainly do feel that I have received all the help I can handle up until the next session, and I have all you guys to thank for it. This doesn't mean that I think the discussion has died, far from it. I'll still be reading this, if anyone wants to ask anything or just add onto what's been said, and I'll definitely be posting again after the next session!

Again, thanks everyone.

Cheers,

J.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #20 on: March 23, 2005, 07:38:15 PM »

Hey, J.

Quote from: JMendes
Jesse, yours I did have some trouble with:

Quote from: jburneko
Gil Grisham<...> What IS Grisham going to do when the single mom who's crackhead husband dumped her turns to Grisham in an effort to fill the void?
<...>
Horation Crane<...> Just what is Crane going to do when the evidence is overwhelming but the suspect has diplomatic immunity?


I don't know what they're going to do, but these are totally under the domain of player choice. I fail to see how to put together a conflict around these (or related) matters.


Of course you don't know what they're going to do--it's up to the players, as you said. What you do as the Producer is throw those situations at the players and let them deal with it as they choose. But you've got the characters' Issues right there, everyone can see them, so tie the conflict in with the Issues. "As you talk to the mom and do your best to comfort her, you realize that she's hitting on you. What do you do?"

I'm more awake then I was before, so let me address this better:

That scene in the desert. Who framed it, a player or you? And what was the scene, a plot scene or a character scene? If it was a plot scene, what was at stake? Finding clues? Okay, so if finding the clues is some sort of conflict, where the PCs have something to lose, roll the dice and go by the results. The PCs find the clues, or they don't and complications arise. And the scene is over--on to the next scene!

Or was the scene a character scene? In which case, "finding the clues" isn't the conflict at all--that's just dressing for the scene. The real conflict is based on character Issues. Maybe two of the agents get into an argument (yes, I know, you have an aversion to PC-vs-PC conflicts. Well...get over it. It's a key ingredient of drama, and if the players can't handle it, they need to get over it, too.), or some source of conflict for the focus PC shows up (either physically or by calling in--say, a rival at their headquarters who contacts them) and presents the PC with conflict. At any rate, you roll the dice for the conflict, abide by the results, and move on to the next scene.

Remember, a good scene (it's bolded in the book, on page 42) is one in which important things happen and change. A character discovers an important piece of information, a character expresses an important emotion, a character makes (or breaks) a connection with another character. Also remember, as Producer, it's your job to keep the pace up, so the scene in the desert shouldn't take up too much time in the game, unless the point of the scene is a big one. If it's just looking for clues, give the characters the info they're looking for and get them out to the next scene.

I'll be blunt, J. The fact that this is confusing to you is...pretty distressing, actually. This isn't brain surgery, this isn't revolutionary--this is basic human storytelling. This is Literature 101. If you were writing a real teleplay for a real Hollywood TV show, any script editor would look at it and ask, "Why the hell are they spending so much time in this desert scene? Are they just looking for clues? Jesus, get them out of there and onto a scene that focuses on them!" The Issues in PTA aren't arcane bits of lore, they're basic human issues that all characters in literature, movies and TV have.
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"You can't ignore a rain of toads!"--Mike Holmes
Andrew Norris
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« Reply #21 on: March 23, 2005, 09:37:54 PM »

Quote from: joshua neff

This isn't brain surgery, this isn't revolutionary--this is basic human storytelling. This is Literature 101. If you were writing a real teleplay for a real Hollywood TV show, any script editor would look at it and ask, "Why the hell are they spending so much time in this desert scene? Are they just looking for clues? Jesus, get them out of there and onto a scene that focuses on them!" The Issues in PTA aren't arcane bits of lore, they're basic human issues that all characters in literature, movies and TV have.


But here's the thing. Go grab a half-dozen roleplaying games supplements off a shelf, and they're going to have structure nearly identical to what he has. There's as much unlearning to be done as there is learning about the TV structure (and I mean formal structure, as opposed to that "yeah, that was good" level of critique).

Basically, we're giving the advice that J. should throw away his existing knowledge of what makes a good roleplaying game, and go for something that would make an engaging TV show. That's easier said than done -- I have to watch myself like a hawk to keep my Illusionist habits out of my Sorcerer GMing.

The more I think about this, the more I think that if you and your group want a more traditional roleplay experience, you should probably drift PTA towards that experience. Maybe think of it as a series of big-budget TV movies, with explosions and obscure artifacts and a large SFX budget. Up your Producer budget, frame scenes with clear, impending danger, and spend the dice freely. (Doing this basically means going with old habits rather than against them.) That kind of play can be fun, although it'd be better served with any number of other rulesets, and it wouldn't use all the features of PTA. But if I was going to make a choice between changing the game and changing the group's way of thinking, and they weren't interested in changing their mindset, then it's the right choice. (Hey, no reason they have to change their mindset; it's valid.)
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JMendes
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« Reply #22 on: March 23, 2005, 11:22:10 PM »

Hi, :)

Quote from: joshua neff
"As you talk to the mom and do your best to comfort her, you realize that she's hitting on you. What do you do?"
This still isn't a conflict. It's a dilemma, to be sure. It's a bang, even. But it's not a conflict. There are no dice to be rolled here, there's just the player announcing his next action.

We could say that the conflict is whether or not the character succeeds in comforting the mom, but that's a 'whether or not' conflict. The problem we had is that all the 'whether or not' conflicts we encountered were those things that we already knew the players had to succeed at. And I simply failed to come up with prices or complications.

Quote from: joshua neff
That scene in the desert.
Your questions are intriguing, but you're still missing the point. It wasn't one[(i] scene in the desert, it was all of them, after the first round of scenes.

And this is what I mean. My (current) vision of the show is that the better part of each episode will be spent at remote locations. I think I know how to handle spotlight episodes, by having the whole thing be about that specific issue, and/or having the nemesis show up repeatedly. That'll work. But what about non-spotlight episodes? Within an investigative premise, how does one create a price or a complication that connects a conflict to an issue, in order to come up with interesting stakes, but without putting the whole of the issue on the table, thus killing the upcoming episodes?

Hmm... let me type that again:

Within an investigative premise, how does one create a price or a complication that connects a conflict to an issue, in order to come up with interesting stakes, but without putting the whole of the issue on the table, thus killing the upcoming episodes?

We had lots of good scenes, by the way. We even had some dilemmas. What we didn't have is good (i.e. rollable) conflicts.

Quote from: joshua neff
The fact that this is confusing to you is...pretty distressing, actually. This isn't brain surgery, this isn't revolutionary--this is basic human storytelling.
Ain't it, though?

Yes, it is basic storytelling. It was very collaborative, very tranquil, quaint, even... and empty. Pointless.

(And yes, please do be blunt. Bluntness is good. :)

Andrew, yours is an interesting point as well, but that's not what we're going for. I've been looking for "something different" in my role-playing, and I think PtA has just the right stuff under the hood for me to get it. I just need to find that little handle thingie that pops that hood!

Cheers,

J.
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Frank T
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« Reply #23 on: March 24, 2005, 01:21:01 AM »

Well J,

it seems you look for the right things but just don’t find them when you need them. Two suggestions:

- Start thinking about possible conflicts before framing the scene. Player frames a scene, you ask him: „What conflict could be in that scene?“ Now, you don’t need a conflict in every scene, but you might want to consider discarding some scenes in favor of others that promote interesting (mechanical) conflicts. Sometimes a little tweak to the Agenda is enough.

- Don’t take the responsibility all on your shoulders. Ask around the table. Freely discuss what conflict and stakes could be, and what impact possible outcomes would have on the story. Any player can suggest cool stakes.

Note that thinking about the impact also means thinking about ways how failure could become interesting. „Whether or not“ conflicts are only a bad thing if failure would mean a dead end. That need not be the case. E.g. the players roll in a „do they find out“ conflict. Failure doesn’t have to mean they find out nothing. They might as well find a false clue that leads them into trouble.

Also please don’t get too focussed on the Issue. You don’t have to adress a protagonist‘s Issue in every conflict. It’s perfectly okay to sometimes just have simple short term complications, or even color stuff, as stakes.

Quote
Simply, it didn't feel like exploration was going on. It felt more like collaborative story-telling or script-writing. Throughout, none of the players identified with the characters, the situation, the setting, anything. Or maybe they did, but it certainly didn't feel like they did, to me.


This is something we discussed at length in my German RPG forum, along the lines of „distributed authoring killing suspension of disbelief“. We didn’t come to a final conclusion, and I haven’t had the time to go looking for related Forge threads yet. Neither have I reached a conclusion for myself—I need to play more. :-)
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Nicolas Crost
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« Reply #24 on: March 24, 2005, 01:57:01 AM »

Hi J
Quote from: JMendes
Hi, :)
Within an investigative premise, how does one create a price or a complication that connects a conflict to an issue, in order to come up with interesting stakes, but without putting the whole of the issue on the table, thus killing the upcoming episodes?

I think you have to understand that putting something related to the issue on the line does not necessarily resolve the whole issue, thereby "killing" further episodes.
Look at prominent TV shows. The issue is brought up again and agian without being completely resolved. For example, look at X-Files. Fox Mulder spends 10 fricking seasons looking for his lost sister! The issue comes up again and again and again and he never, ever changes the issue. So it can be done! In my eyes they dragged it out much to long, but the point is, that you can have an issue-related conflict without having to change the issue afterwards.

I'll try to give you an example from your group. So Micheal Addler's issue is to prove himself because he has this nagging doubt that he is only on the team because of his uncle. And to make this a good issue he'd better prove himself not only in front of the other team members but also in front of his own ego! But anyway, there might be some conflict coming up, in which he might add some valuable ressource to the team. So the conflict becomes: Will Addler find the important clue before the others do, thus showing them, that he is an important member of the team? See, this issue does relate very easily to investigative conflicts. But now, after he has won this conflict and thereby proven himself, does the issue go away? Well, of course NOT!! People do not change easily. It may take years to change the personality of someone (if it is at all possible). So, the team is not going to be won over by just one little success. Might have been luck. And so, the need to prove himself remains. Next conflict, same issue.
And then, in his spotlight episode, something happens that profoundly changes the character. Then, and only then, does the issue change (well, it might even stay the same).

And one more thing about your aversion to intra-party conflict: Joshua is right, get over it! There is no such thing as a good TV show without conflict between members of the main cast. There simply isn't! Look at any successful TV show of any possible genre: there always is some conflict between the main characters going on. Even in Star Treck, where the team is very, very harmonic, there still is some conflict between Picard, Ricker, Worf, Troy... This conflict might be comedic (Home Improvement), soapy, dramatic, whatever. But there always is conflict. Because if ther isn't, the whole thing turns into a happy team doing research. Boooooooring!
And in PtA the player characters are the main cast. And as such, there has to be conflict between them for the show to be interesting. Really, try it, you don't know, what you're missing! In the last episode of our current season, my character tried to kill another PC because she turned evil. And this was a great season finale for both players! Really, try it, because if you don't, I'm afraid PtA will always seem stale to you.
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joshua neff
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« Reply #25 on: March 24, 2005, 04:29:31 AM »

J.,

Quote from: JMendes
Quote from: joshua neff
"As you talk to the mom and do your best to comfort her, you realize that she's hitting on you. What do you do?"


This still isn't a conflict. It's a dilemma, to be sure. It's a bang, even. But it's not a conflict. There are no dice to be rolled here, there's just the player announcing his next action.


What? J., "dilemma" is conflict. A bang is conflict. The conflict isn't whether or not he comforts the mom, the conflict is how he handles the situation, and dice can definitely be rolled. If he comforts the mom, does she interpret that as reciprocation of her flirting? Roll the dice! If he blows the mom off, does she interpret that as rejection? Roll the dice! Those actions will have consequences--maybe the mom thinks Gil is falling for her and starts hanging around more, calling him at work, getting really clingy. Or he blows her off, she's offended, she rejects the cops and how they're handling the case.

Quote from: JMendes
Within an investigative premise, how does one create a price or a complication that connects a conflict to an issue, in order to come up with interesting stakes, but without putting the whole of the issue on the table, thus killing the upcoming episodes?

We had lots of good scenes, by the way. We even had some dilemmas. What we didn't have is good (i.e. rollable) conflicts.


But if you had dilemmas, how were those not rollable conflicts? What's the difference? If one person wants something, and another wants something else, and both can't have what they want without the other losing something--you've got conflict. It could be two PCs, it could be a PC and an NPC, but that's all you really need.

Here's what an episode of PTA is: the PCs want [treasure], but the [treasure] is guarded by [monsters]. How do the PCs get the [treasure]? By [attacking] the [monsters]!

Now, substitute [treasure] with whatever it is the PCs want--information, closure on past relationships, piece of mind, recognition by one's superiors. Substitute [monsters] for whoever it is that is keeping the PCs from getting what they want--melodramatic villains, rivals in the workplace, ex-lovers. Substitute [attacking] with whatever action the PCs have to take to deal with their antagonists--fight scenes, scenes of dialogue (heated arguments or calm debates), seduction scenes.

See? PTA is just like a traditional RPG.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #26 on: March 24, 2005, 04:51:34 AM »

Hi J,

For all intents and purposes, the investigation- that's fluff.  It's color, it's icing, its an excuse to get the characters to interact on a regular basis and face their issues.

Media examples:

-John Woo movies- All the shooting?  All that is simply to frame the question, "How far will you go for loyalty?  What is honor?
-Gladiator- all the fighting?  To keep you interested while Maximus works out "Duty vs. Love"
-The Incredibles- Superhero action?  Eye candy while the family learns how to be true to themselves and each other...

In other words- no matter where or how you set your PTA game, everything outside the Issues is just color.  All of it might as well be filed under the same category as Star Trek technobabble- it looks pretty and sounds neat while the "real stuff" is happening.

So, how do you make scenes that hit Issues?  How is that you and the players are all -not- making scenes to hit Issues?  It's very much like what Josh is saying in the sense that if you were playing D&D and saying, "But I just can't seem to get the monsters to meet up with the heroes!"  To miss Issues means that you and the group are missing THE entire point of play.

Everything should be aimed around the Issues.  NPCs?  All of them appear to trigger issues.  The investigation itself?  Only there to be loaded with stuff to trigger issues.

Try watching some of the old episodes of Millenium.  Every episode is about Frank Black either facing some part of himself, how he feels about the Millenium Group, or his family.  All the horrific murder stuff is just there to keep you watching...

Chris
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Frank T
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« Reply #27 on: March 24, 2005, 06:21:52 AM »

Maybe I should let J respond to this himself, but I think this is getting off the point. J was about dice rolls and stakes, not about how to adress issues in general and make his game all-out perfect coherent narrativist paradise. He was having a problem with inserting the PtA resolution mechanic into his scenes in a way that mattered. As I already pointed out, you can very well use that mechanic without adressing issues and being specifically narrativist. This might come as a surprise to some, but it won’t ruin the game. What’s more: it can be fun.

Quote from: Josh
But if you had dilemmas, how were those not rollable conflicts? What's the difference?


A dilemma is a situation that first requires a decision. That decision could be put up for a roll, but if it’s a real dilemma, you won’t even be able to tell what „winning“ and „losing“ would mean. What’s more: you probably won‘t want to put it up for a roll, because it allows you to make a statement, adress premise etc. Conflicts could arise from the decision made (and probably will), but I guess that’s not what J was aiming at.
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #28 on: March 24, 2005, 07:59:51 AM »

I think I see a couple of the problems here.

First, Frank is right. I think that somehow J has gotten the idea that conflicts over issues and the die rolling are somehow intrinsically related. They aren't, J (that said, I'm working off potentially old rules here). Basically, you do "just roleplay" the results of character issue conflicts. This is true in every game that supports narrativism. If the dice decided what to do in a dilemma, then the game would not support narrativism. It has to be the players making the choices.

The die rolling decides "does the character get his way." I think that's an actual quote from somewhere. As such, die rolls are often made, as Josh indicates, as the result of a narrativism decision. This often determines what price the character pays for his decision. But, basically, it's randomization which, as Ron puts it, is a "springboard" in this case for creativity, not anything that drives the narrativism directly.

As such, the die rolls are not meant to be the high points in play, neccessarily. Not at all. It's those non-rolled decisions that are the "fun" part for the players.

For instance, the character can leap Chasm A to save valued NPC A or Chasm B to save NPC B. The player makes their thematic statement by leaping chasm A, say, but fails the roll (the producer decided to make it a biggie). So the balks at the edge, and fails to leap, and both NPCs are lost. In this case, the result modifies the theme, but the chosen theme was the result of the player decision.

Other rolls have nothing to do with theme at all, but just randomize the plot a bit. Does the character find the clue with this roll? No? Then he'll have to find another elsewhere, thus making this one of those episodes with more investigation, and less resolution (more Law, less Order).

Now, the question at this point is whether or not you were creating any real conflict for the characters, in terms of issues. Maybe you were, and maybe you weren't, it's hard to tell from your posts. Which is possibly a result of not understanding the above. But let's consider each case.

If you weren't creating conflicts for your characters: conflicts here meaning "dilemmas" and other situations that require the player to "reveal" what the character's true nature is like (even repeatedly - bot Conan and Fox Mulder do the same things over, and over, and over, and it doesn't get old). If you weren't, then you may need some help from us like you've said in figuring out how to create them. We'll work more on that if this is really the case.

But there's another potential case, and that's that you were creating situations that caused character issues to come up, and for players to reveal their characters, but nobody found this interesting. This would be seen as "very collaborative, very tranquil, quaint, even...and empty. Pointless."

What I mean is that it sounds to me like you may simply have a simulationism or gamism preference. Not getting to make those sorts of decisions, while wanting to, would make PTA seem pretty pointless, since it's focused like a laserbeam (as Chris points out) on narrativism. So it could be that you're having to "fight" your traditional play drives so hard, simply because you haven't found the narrativism that the game provides to be very fun at all. So you're trying to inject the sorts of fun that you're used to getting from an RPG.

Or. Or it could be that it's a little of both. That is, you're creating conflicts regarding character issues, but they're diluted enough that you're just not "discovering" the fun of narrativism as PTA provides it. Perhaps the players didn't create characters that really engage them with their issues? Simulationism players would tend to create characters they thought "should" be in the show, whether or not they had issues that really spoke to them as players. As a GM you may be looking at what sorts of dilemmas and such to throw at them based on "what happens in TV shows." When it should be "what's interesting to the players."

So, lots of possibilities. Are you creating conflicts over issues? Are players enjoying answering the questions that they pose about the characters? This is what needs to be identified. This is, in part, why I wanted to look at the language. Which do players say:

    [*]"Hmm. This scene should be about finding clues."
    [*]"Hmm. This scene should be about dealing with a suspect hitting on the character, because that's what always happens in these situations on this sort of show."
    [*]"Hmm. It would be really cool if my character ended up being hit on by the suspect!"[/list:u]
    The last two seem similar, but I'm trying to indicate how players are deciding these issues. Are they "just writing a script" instead of 'discovering the values of the characters'? Because the former will not be very fun, but the latter is (assuming that narrativism is at all fun for you).

    Mike
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    jburneko
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    « Reply #29 on: March 24, 2005, 12:19:37 PM »

    Hello Again,

    I'm going to back up a bit and try to take this a little slower than I think some of the other responders have been.  I agree 100% with Josh that there is more die-roll worthy conflict going on than I think you are seeing.

    First, let me state that I'm not THAT familiar with the specific PTA rules.  I've read a lot about them but do not own them, yet, so my advice is limited to conflict resolution in issue driven play in general rather than the exact specifics of PTA.  So, if at any point I end up directly contradicting the text of PTA take what I'm saying as general advice that may or may not be applicable to the specifics of PTA's design goals.

    Okay, now let's look at my example of the two CSI detectives.  The situations I was posing as questions were not meant to be answered by you, directly.  You're right in that the answer to those questions are up to the players BUT scenes should be framed around situations that pose questions like that with the expectation that the players will answer them through play.

    And I agree with Josh that these are, in fact, die roll worthy conflicts.  One of the HARDEST in-grained gamer concepts to ditch when playing these games is that social conflict is "just roleplayed."  There is this notion that If the Player is honestly playing the character and the GM is honestly playing the NPC then any conflicts will "naturally" resolve themselves.  This is a myth.  Ultimately someone (either the player or the gm) has already decided on how the conflict will be resolved and just keeps butting heads until one of the two players caves and backs down.

    Not so when you have dice driven conflict resolution.

    Let's look at a concrete example.  I'm going for unsubtle.  Let's say in your supernatural mystery thriller one of the PCs is a Priest, maybe he specializes in exorcisms or something.  This PC is involved in the Art Gecko scenario I outlined above.  This PC and maybe a couple of others decide to check-out this homosexual religious painter guy.

    How is the priest going to treat him?  That's the interesting bit.  Let's take it a step further.  Let's say while the PCs are asking questions the painter starts making eyes at the priest and even goes so far as to ask him out on a thinly veiled date.

    DON'T let the PC just start roleplaying out dialogue.  Instead ask the PC for a clearly stated goal.   Is he trying to turn him down without hurting his feelings?  Or maybe he IS trying to hurt his feelings and induce some of that fire and brimstone guilt.  That's what the die roll is about.

    Wording of this goal is also important.  That's where your 'stakes' come from.  'I want to get out of this gracefully' is different from, 'I want out without hurting his feelings' is different from, 'I turn him down and make it clear that his thoughts are sinful.'

    So let's take each of those one at a time.

    'I want to get out of this gracefully.'

    What's at stake: The 'date' itself.  If the roll succeeds, the Priest disentangles himself from the painter's advances.  What the painter thinks of this is wholely the GM's perview now or perhaps whoever won the narration.  If the roll fails, your next scene will most likely be the priest having lunch or dinner with this guy.  That doesn't mean the Priest is suddenly gay or is even amenable to this situation.  That's the purview of the player.  But it does mean that he failed to escape the painter's social pressure and found himself agreeing to meet him for lunch or dinner for whatever reason is decided upon by the group or maybe the guy who won the narration or whatever the system or group decides on.

    'I turn him down but I don't want to hurt his feelings.'

    What's at stake: The painter's feelings.  If the roll succeeds, the painter, makes some comment about about the good ones being wasted, or whatever and moves on.  If the roll fails, he gets all emotional about it.  Claims that he's been robbed of his true love.  Maybe he goes in the next room and kills himself.  What the are the PCs going to do NOW?

    'I turn him down and make it clear that his thoughts are sinful.'

    What's at stake: The painter's peception of his sexual orientation.  If the roll succeeds, the painter is filled with doubt.  Maybe he starts following the Priest around asking for spiritual advice.  If the roll, fails the painter slaps him says he's a judgemental prick and moves on.

    See, one situation.  One course of action by the Priest.  Three potential conflicts.  Three potiential stakes.   All adjudicated by die rolls.

    So once you've made it past that conceptual hurdle the next one is this:  All of the above aplies to PC vs. PC conflict as well.

    As soon as you see two or more PC's arguing about something, 'in character.'  DON'T let them 'just roleplay'.  You've missed an opportunity for conflict and die resolution.  Instead, stop them and ask each player what they want out of the situation.  Then let the dice decide which player(s) get their way.

    Again, this doesn't mean the losing PCs suddenly agree or like what's happening.  In fact, this is a great opportunity to frame the next scene around one of the losing PCs trying to sabotage or otherwise undermine what the succeeding PC was trying to accomplish.

    Does this make sense?

    Jesse
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