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[PTA] a very good episode, a very hard session

Started by lumpley, March 30, 2005, 09:48:26 AM

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Previously on Epidemonology: here and here.

This time: The Collector.

It's Cyrus Dunn's spotlight episode. His issue is grief, particularly for the death of his wife Helen. Emily plays him. It's Vicky Vance's first non-1 episode. Her issue is vengeance. J plays her. Joe's at 1; his issue is self-hatred. Carrie playes him. Frank's at 1; his issue is finding purpose. Meg plays him. Upcoming: Frank's spotlight, then Vicky's, and that's the end of the season.

The happy coincidence: our fan base was here again, in the person of Ben Lehman! We did same as last time, having him award fan mail and call for scenes. This time we gave him fan mail too so he could participate in conflicts, which we should have done last time but didn't think of it. (He kept being modest and saying how maybe he didn't deserve any last time, but he did.)

The challenge: massive flashbacks. Every conflict this session, in fact, to happen in flashback. Let's find out all about Cyrus' grief, and let's learn something about Vicky along the way.


We open with Vicky Vance and Cyrus talking in Cyrus' office. Remember the demon in the bottle? It's in the foreground. We see Vicky and Cyrus past and through it. Through it, in color; past it, in black and white; and the camera moves as Vicky and Cyrus take turns talking, so that we see the one who's talking in color through the bottle.

Vicky's done her investigative reporter thing and dug up Cyrus' past. She's confronting him with it. I sprung this on J, Vicky's player, and he ran with it, but maybe I should have warned him so as to not put him so on the spot.

I think I might be missing a scene, and I know I might be getting them out of order a little, but over the course of the episode:

We see Cyrus, Helen and Frank as teenagers. It's prom night, after prom. Helen and Frank went together, they're the couple, and now they're meeting Cyrus in the cemetary. Helen dated Frank but married Cyrus, but we've established very concretely, from the pilot on, that jealousy is not an issue between Cyrus and Frank. We see Cyrus bend down (we see the back of the gravestone) and pick up a flower, which unlike the rest of the shot is in color. He gives it to Helen. Helen says that she's sure "he wishes he could be here." Cyrus says "I think he is." In Cyrus' eyeglasses we see flames, as though the grave were hell reflected in them. There's someone in the flames. Conflict: is it Frank (implication: Helen's not an issue between Frank and Cyrus now, but she sure was then!), or Cyrus' father (implication: it's his grave)? Resolution: Cyrus' father. "I think he is."

Opening credits with our theme song by Ornette Coleman: Naked Lunch.

Vicky asks Cyrus how it started. We see Cyrus as a little boy find a demonic ring in the attic. When he brings it downstairs, his mother slaps it out of his hand; later she and his father fight about it. Conflict: does Cyrus come to study demonology with his father? Resolution: no. So in the morning his father (Roger Ward Dunn) tells Cyrus that he has to grow up, stop believing lies, live in the real world, and leave it alone. The combination of "it's not real" and "it's dangerous and bad" is appropriately upsetting, and establishes him as not a demonologist himself.

Vicky asks Cyrus ... what, how he met Helen? Anyhow we see Cyrus as a young teenager. Helen's father (Mr. Larch) has just moved into the city to work for Cyrus' father in his research lab, but that's not how they meet. Instead, Cyrus is catching and pinning a bug - a bug in color - by a big concrete culvert. Helen comes down to catch bugs too, to feed to the frog she's got in her pocket. They're 15, she's too old to still be playing with frogs. Meg plays her. She's horrified that this bug he's stabbed with a pin is still alive. Conflict: does she leave or stay and talk? Resolution: she stays. "What's through there?" she says. "Hell," Cyrus says. "Yeah right," she says. "Go look," he says. "Aren't you coming?" she says. "I've seen it," he says. She goes to look. It's a dead man, face down in the water. She screams. Cyrus had really seen hell, not (just) a dead person, but her upset brings him back to the world and he's upset too. They go together for help.

Cyrus turns the tables (they've been drinking a lot of scotch) and asks Vicky why she's doing what she's doing, why hasn't she settled down with a husband and had kids already? We see Vicky and her mom setting the table for Sunday dinner, and Vicky's setting down the fourth plate, but her mom says, "Victoria, Billy called, he's not coming, he told us that you left him." Vicky picks the plate back up wordlessly puts it away in the kitchen. She's pointedly fiddling around with stuff when her mom finally follows her in. This is the last time Vicky will avoid a conflict for the rest of her life. And, "what are you doing, Victoria?" And, "I want you to call him and make up with him." And they fight about it, in a bad, bad way. Vicky thinks her mom settled for a loveless marriage with a nothing guy, because she wasn't as smart or as pretty as Vicky is. Vicky leaves the house and leaves her parents' lives, typewriter in hand and saying over her shoulder, "Mom, you'll drive me to drink". But Vicky didn't tell Cyrus this - instead, when we cut back to them in the present, she's bloodied his nose for asking.

We hear Cyrus' phone ringing, but neither of them notice.

It's Joe calling. He gives up and tries Frank instead. Frank has him over and Joe tells him the trouble he's in: he escaped Eddie by hitting him with an instrument tray... Joe's flashback! We see that Eddie's down but Joe keeps hitting him, too much. Then we see Joe's sargeant saying that he's sure this'll all be straightened out once Eddie can talk, but meanwhile he'll need Joe's badge and gun. "Where is your gun?" Frank says, in the present. "I don't know," Joe says. (Joe's mob-connected brother Brent has it.)

Joe tells Frank how weirdly Eddie was acting - that's why Joe's coming to Cyrus then Frank, because he's disturbed by Eddie's behavior. "He said he'd never killed a person, yet. He asked me what it was like." And that's to Frank's flashback: a beautiful day in France, blue blue sky, lush green field, charging a treeline. Pop pop pop. Frank makes the trees and among them things seem quiet and alone; the machine gun seems far away to his right, there's nobody. A german soldier, wounded, runs across Frank's path to get away from the fighting, and seeing Frank trips and falls with his rifle under him. Conflict: does Frank kill him? Resolution: yes. Meg says that that's what they're there for, to kill and die. Frank recognizes the German as the same as himself, but not in a bonding or empathic way, nor a heartless way. This is what they do. It's not too bad, it's not good, it's just what.

Joe and Frank are silent.

After a commercial break, Vicky asks Cyrus about him and Frank and Helen. Helen was Frank's girlfriend through high school, but married Cyrus afterward. Like I say, this isn't an issue between Frank and Cyrus, and maybe that's what Cyrus tells her. But here we get a surprising flashback: Helen and Cyrus' father alone together. Helen has stopped by the research lab to meet Cyrus and Frank to go to a football game, and she's chatting with Roger Ward Dunn. She sees how hurt Cyrus is in his relationship with his father and thinks she can help, so she talks to him about it. She spills that Cyrus, unbeknownst to Dunn, is helping her father with his research. There's some funny willful self-deception on Dunn's part, when Helen demands to know why he is so against Cyrus' studies and he's like, "huh? What have I got against classics?" Helen's sticking up for Cyrus and suddenly Dunn goes silent and narrows his eyes. After a long time, he says "Frank's the better man."

Helen's a) furious that he would say such a thing about his own son, b) furious that he'd imply that she was considering Cyrus, which she'd never done, and c) suddenly considering Cyrus.

Whose the hell flashback was that? The bottle's, of course. We gave two hints that the bottle-character will be important later, both this understated one, and later when Cyrus and Vicky are sitting on the couch, seen from the back, and sitting pretty close. In perspective, the bottle looks like a third head on the couch.

Vicky has stopped smoking, the first time we've ever seen her on screen without smoking. Probably the longest she's gone without a cigarette in ten years! "How did your father die?" she says. Cyrus is walking around, gathering things. We recognize the ring his mother slapped out of his hand, but he picks up a keyring.

We see Cyrus and Frank as teenagers again, the spring of their junior year. They unlock the door to Helen's dad's office in the research lab (that's the key ring), to drop off some papers Cyrus has been working on. They're wearing waders (fan mail to Carrie!), it's Saturday not a work day. Cyrus' father is sitting in Mr. Larch's office with the other ring, the old family ring, the mother slap ring, the in color ring, on the desk in front of him.

"Your mother's gone," he says.

Because of the ring, because she's scared of Cyrus, she's gone to her mother's, Dunn says. Conflict: does he tell Cyrus the ring's history? Resolution: he does. It's been in the family for a long time. They don't do anything with it, they keep it isolated and forget it, because it's not dangerous if nobody looks at it or knows about it. Cyrus thinks that's stupid, he thinks they should help, they should fix things, they should look for more, why wouldn't he tell him about it? "I know you, Cyrus. You wouldn't be able to look away" and "Cyrus, one is enough."

And then, "do you understand? Your mother's gone" and he shoots himself in the head.

Cyrus dives across the desk to stop him but too late. Papers, pencils, desk stuff flies. The camera follows the ring.

Another flashback immediately. We see Helen take the flower from Cyrus again in the graveyard, her hand swinging down, the color going out of it.

Vicky and Cyrus are sitting on the sofa now, not at the table. Kind of close together actually. They get up and walk out to get cigarettes, it's late at night by now. We see them down the sidewalk, light dark light dark as they pass streetlights and lit windows. "Without Mr. Larch, I don't know if I'd have gotten through," Cyrus says. We see Mr. Larch, guest played by Ben Lehman, bring a care package to Cyrus in his former family's kitchen, within a week later. Mr. Larch says how much they're worried about him, how Helen's worried about him, would he please stop by soon and see them? Here are some casseroles, and there are a couple of those books he was interested in the bag too. Mr. Larch says again how Helen's been thinking of him and then goes. Cyrus takes out the books, big old books in full color.

Vicky says that she's sorry, and she's glad that her career hasn't cost her all that. Cyrus says that as bad as it was, it was nothing to losing Helen.


So now, the scenes themselves turned out excellent. I think we're all very proud of them, and we all really dug making them. I like these characters a whole lot.

But damn it was hard. We had to fight for every single scene, up until almost the very end. I mean, fight, with each other. Painfully!

The first prob: weak telling. The dead body culvert scene, right? I drop the dead body in there and everybody's like, whoa, no, Cyrus wouldn't tell her to go look at a dead body! We go back and forth and finally it's like, okay, Cyrus really did see hell, not a dead body. He's a weird kid but he's no sociopath! It turns out that everybody else thought we were rewriting what had happened but no, that's what I'd intended all along. I hadn't communicated my vision. Then a little while later, I was like "oh hey, yay, Joe will get a flashback, I just figured what it is, so Joe and Frank keep talking and I'll jump in," and so Carrie and Meg would say a sentence then pause and look at me, then say another then pause and look at me, then lead the conversation sharply in directions they think I might be looking for, then break out and be like, I thought you had a flashback planned Vincent! Next time I'll just out and say it, that'll teach me.

The second prob: anxiety and self-doubt. Every player felt that everyone else was contributing high-quality stuff but them. Weird.

The third prob: destructive preplaying. Ben says that he's seen this now in every PTA game he's seen. One person suggests a scene, and the group starts hashing out implications before we even frame it. Somehow "it's a flashback with only Helen and Cyrus' father in it" becomes "Cyrus made Helen into a demon?!? That ruins the whole game for me!" Also, "let's have a scene..." becomes "what's the conflict going to be?" and I'm like arrrrgh, let me do my producerly job and start the damn scene, we'll find the conflict once there is one! We struggled like that with every single scene up to the father's death one, like "whew, that last scene worked out great after all, once we stopped hashing it out and played it, but let's hash this next one out just in case..."

The fourth prob: not following the scene framing rules. I'm like "what scene's next?" and four people rush to negotiate, back and forth and back and forth. This didn't, as you'd guess, make the prehashing out any better. It's worked out fine in the past, but in this episode, everything mattered so much to who our characters are that everyone wanted to make sure everyone else wasn't gonna toe-step.

The fifth prob: no murderous demons. Dammit Vincent, you're supposed to be providing a demon of the week, not this artsy experimental stuff that's hard to get a handle on. You're a suck producer, lazy too. Maybe this is just my take on the second prob.

The sixth and most personal prob: Meg's and Ben's respective responses to the tension? Total complements. Ben's voice got quieter and quieter, Meg demanded (as always) more and more clarity and directness. Like "would you speak the hell up!" A nice vicious cycle.

Until finally Emily was like, "okay, let's go around, who's having fun?" Everyone else said they were, but I wasn't and I said so. We were like, "well then, that's a problem. Time to fix it."

Ben reminded us who suggests scenes and who frames them. Joshua read the rules from the book to us. We were sheepish, like "let's try this 'playing by the rules' thing and see if it works."

We reassured one another that playing a session all in flashbacks was automatically a big challenge, so it was okay to struggle with it.

We asked me what the hell was our goal with this session, with no big bad to beat up. I was like "our goal this session is to establish what losing Helen meant to Cyrus. So far we've done it in every single scene!" And we were like, sure enough, we have! We so rock.

And after that long process break ... it flew. Like there were no probs and hadn't been any. What do you know about that. Play this game right and it's a breeze.

We spent a while talking it out afterward and the next morning, so that's good. I think we're all okay.

Next time is Frank's spotlight, and there's a big sigh of relief. Frank's issue is whether he can really help Cyrus, essentially, so we get to chase murderous demons around and beat them up for once. Plus, now we know that Frank was standing there with Cyrus when Cyrus' father killed himself, and how cool is that. Will Frank's disability keep him from finding purpose? Somehow we doubt it.

and edited, wiki-style, by J and Emily.


Nothing incisive to say here, just... wow.  Really, wow.  It's neat to see someone really push the PTA engine and see what it can do.
I believe in peace and science.

Emily Care

It was amazing how hard it was to get a fix on what was going wrong until we changed it.  I felt like we made a bit of overcorrection in the direction of not stepping on eachother's narration after we starting taking turns requesting scenes again.  It seems like it would be fine to keep a lot of the pop-corn suggestions going, as long as it was clear who got the final say. That's what we lost & found again.

And I've never been in that level of creative tension with so many people before. Wow! V, M & I have gotten to that point at various times (especially in the wee hours of the morn) and so that gave me solid confidence that we could work our way out. But dang! Up to 6 way conflicts--at one point I felt like I was in a John Woo movie, with everybody pointing pens & dice at one another instead of guns. : )

It's actually really funny to me that that happened. I've played completely free-form games with way more people that have rarely stumbled into this. Ah, those had a gm, however. Hm. But the lightest most spread out kind of gmship you've ever seen.  I think it was the story now part that put the pressure on us so badly.  Rarely in my games with the Ennead would we have so much thematic material to establish as a group in so short a period of time.  The themes were introduced over long periods of play & out of play discussion, or as bangs by the gm.  Very different when the issues are so focused & come up with on the spot.  

Thinking back about the things people came out with on the fly, I am amazed. We didn't know so much of this stuff before we sat down to play. I especially like the back stories for Vicky & Frank. And that moment of sympatico between Frank & Joe. And finally, Helen gets her due. No plan for this stuff, just naturally arising based on everyone's good ideas & instincts.


edited to clean up my sloppy terminology:

story now--is in all narrativism. I'm really refering to the immediacy of the collaboration to come up with meaningful back story & conflicts.  it felt like story right now.

theme--sorry to throw that word around. PtA frontlines the problems & issues we delve into via char & situation.  This was much more incremental & diffuse in the free-form games I mentioned.
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Ben Lehman

Boy, you all got to see how I act under intense social pressure...  I'm still not sure how I feel about that.  It's a remarkably intimate thing for other people to know about me.

The game, in my opinion, played out like an advertisement for the PTA rules.  Here we are doing our gamer thing and ignoring the rules because, like, we're grownups!  Who needs the stupid rules, anyway?  Rules are for people who don't get along.  Let's frame scenes out of order by throwing ideas around.

Wham.  Serious out of game conflict.  Example:  Vincent and I are trying to make everything corrupt.  Meg, with really good reason, doesn't want everything to be evil.  But, since there are two of us and one of her, we're stomping all over her.  We all feel we have to overstate our positions so we can negotiate, and suddenly we can't give an inch.  Yuck.  This is just one of the many unpleasant dynamics that are building up.

Then, like, hey, we start using the rules.  And everything just flies.  Our scenes, it is important to note, are just as good.  But we're not taking 45 minutes between each one to shout at each other, because the rules tell us who gets to say what, and we can share our story.  Wow.

Emily is right that we were all way too cautious about peanut gallery narration suggestions in the second half.  I think its okay.  I, for one, was still a little bit traumatized (which you could probably all tell, given that my voice was still set at least several decibels below human hearing.)  We were backing off, finding the right space again, feeling out the lines after having crossed them.

The fact that we had been arguing about Joshua's tremendous game Under the Bed before the session probably didn't help the conflict meter.  Meg being exhausted probably didn't help nothing, neither.



Sounds like a very tricky session.  It's still a show (game) I'd love to watch.

[edited to eliminate questions Ben's crosspost answered]

Were you still using playing cards-- red successes and high card narrates (or at least had buck-stoppage)?  Other than playing Mr. Larch, what did you have Ben do?  Did you have lots of fanmail flying about-- you mentioned one specific instance, but I'm assuming there was much more spent?

-- Scott
Hey, I'm Scott Martin. I sometimes scribble over on my blog, llamafodder. Some good threads are here: RPG styles.

Sydney Freedberg

Quote from: Ben LehmanThen, like, hey, we start using the rules.  And everything just flies.

I'd love to hear more about just what the rules do for you, because PTA's rules (on reading; never played) strike me as pretty minimalist. And this story you guys created is rich and complicated and gnarly in several senses of the word.


To be clear, there was only one rule we didn't use and then did use. This one: people call for scenes in order around the circle; the person calling for the scene says who's there, what they're up to, and whether it's a plot or a character scene, and then the producer launches it.

We still called for and framed and launched scenes, even. We were just trying to do it all together instead of taking turns.

We totally always used issue + spotlight time + fan mail + resolution. There were a couple of scenes with no conflicts, which was a first for us but worked out fine, except that there's no fan mail in from budget or spent by the players if there's no conflict. Most scenes there was all kinds of fan mail action.

And Scott, yes, still cards. I'm not going back, cards are better.

But Sydney, "minimalist" - how strange.

Issue + spotlight time + fan mail + scene framing + resolution, that's everything there needs to be. Nothing falls outside. In that sense, the rules are, like, maximalist. Seriously - there's nothing we do in play that isn't structured by the game's rules. Screwing up the one little rule was enough to screw up the whole flow of the game.

Don't underestimate the power of fan mail. Or issues. Or spotlight time. You don't need a thick rulebook if you have a few simple rules that are powerful and subtle.


Sydney Freedberg

Quote from: lumpleyBut Sydney, "minimalist" - how strange.

Yeah, and the minute I posted that, I thought, "that really wasn't clear, I should go back and edit." But, y'know, work 'n' stuff.

What I meant is  that Prime Time Adventures seems to have veryfew mechanical cues to guide narration: One roll that tells you whether outcome A or outcome B happens, and that's all that constrains & inspires your narration for the whole scene. Contrast Dogs in the Vineyard or Capes, which are still conflict resolution obviously, but which give you lots of individual raises & sees / die rolls which each suggest a sentence or two or narration, building up to an entire scene. I find all those mechanically cues tremendously helpful when I narrate, and the relative paucity of them in PTA gives me pause, in the same way a big blank page does when I start writing.

Now, feel free to smack me down like a basketball, because I'm basing this on reading a rulebook and y'all have Actually Played, so a dose of Corrective Reality is precisely what I'm asking for.


Sydney: I getcha.

What PTA has to make up for it is issue, screen presence, and tight scene framing (even when we ignore the who part of the rule, we rely on the doin' it part). Instead of Dogs' or Capes' back and forth, we have direction like "help establish what losing Helen meant to Cyrus; the scene is Helen and Cyrus' father alone together; Helen has seen how hurt Cyrus is by his father and thinks she can help; go!" And then the fan mail economy contributes within the scene in at least three ways.

It works out. You're right that it's very different from Dogs and Capes, but you're never playing uninformed.


Sydney Freedberg

I almost see.

To go back to basics to make sure I'm getting this:

We're agreed that it's easier to be creative if you have "fruitful constraints" -- some bounds to bounce off of.

1) In task-resolution games, or multiple-step conflict resolution games like DiTV and Capes, your constraints are provided (a) in small doses throughout the scene (b) by game-mechanical interactions.

2) But in PTA, your constraints are provided (a) in one large package at the start of the scene (b) by.... by....

And (2a) is where I'm having trouble, I think. It seems the providers-of-constraints here, with the notable exception of your character's Issue being written down on the darn character sheet, are not game-mechanics -- e.g. Karma or Fortune -- but simply chosen by the player who frames the scene, after fruitful discussion with everyone else -- minimally structured Drama. (Edit: The constraints being chosen by the scene-framer, but applying to the narration of whoever gets that high die/card to narrate).

And minimally structured Drama gives me the heebie-jeebies, 'cause it looks easy but it's really, really, really hard to make it work.


I definatly think flashbacks are hard because you can't let them undermine what has been established in play. I think we would have been better off following the sceen framing rules from the start, and also having clear communication of vision. There were two times I recall when Vincent hit us/Cyrus with a zinger that really teetered on the edge of breaking the game, and I had to work to make sense of it. One was the whole dead body/hell part, the other was the 'here's what [may] be in the  jar!' bit. Both times, I felt like it warped the character of Cyrus as we knew him from previous episodes.

Yeah, under pressure I get a high need for clarity, and Ben was sitting a good bit to the left behind me talking softly and soothingly when tensions rose, and I hope I didn't snap at him too hard. Also, it wasn't so much that I was tired, but that I felt unsteady in the story, and was sitting on a less than perfectly comfy cushion. Now, for tired, we have to talk about half-way through Polaris the night before, when yeah, I was exhausted. But I perked up and pressed on.

Joshua A.C. Newman

Whoa, jumping in a bit late here.

Several items:

- Regarding who frames scenes, I think our original decision, when we started play, was that the person whose turn it is has a veto. Any ideas have to pass that person's say-so. We weren't doing that and we should remember to. I'm a little wary of social pressure, but we'll see how that goes.

- Ben, thanks for your kind words here about Under the Bed. I'd gotten really frustrated with it, and every time I play, the players get all cranky with me for creating a game that makes them scared and creeped out. If anyone's interested in the first draft of the rules, you can read them. (PDF) Please comment on my Lj. Characteristics cards will be available when I have a couple of hours to type them in a business card layout.

- Meg, sorry about the cushion! I'm glad we came up with an amicable solution.

I'm really excited about where the game took us, as friends, frankly. The plot and character stuff was good, but I'm much happier about having done some monkey play with you guys where we all threw poop at each other for an hour and came out closer to each other.
the glyphpress's games are Shock: Social Science Fiction and Under the Bed.

I design books like Dogs in the Vineyard and The Mountain Witch.

Matt Wilson

I should have figured that this post existed yesterday when I got this weird sales spike.

Anyway, a couple thoughts:

QuoteThe second prob: anxiety and self-doubt. Every player felt that everyone else was contributing high-quality stuff but them. Weird.

All I can say is yeah. There's kind of a creative 'step on up' element to this kind of game, and it can be a little challenging. Was it just this time around?

QuoteThe third prob: destructive preplaying. Ben says that he's seen this now in every PTA game he's seen.

I found this very thing unbelievably annoying in one of the playtests, although it was most prevalent in the would-be writers of the group. Mostly it was the speculating on what would happen. I'm like, why don't we play the scene and find out? It's not like we have to drive somewhere first. We're right here. Why are we talking about it?

And regarding cards, I'm thinking that the future revisions will sub in cards as the main way to play. There's a neato font called Pi Linotype or something that lets me type in actual cards for examples. How cool and visual would that be?

And thanks again for posting. I love all posts, for any games, that include "we weren't having fun, and then we talked about it and fixed it and then we had fun." If only the entire gaming world were listening.

Emily Care

QuoteRegarding who frames scenes, I think our original decision, when we started play, was that the person whose turn it is has a veto. Any ideas have to pass that person's say-so. We weren't doing that and we should remember to. I'm a little wary of social pressure, but we'll see how that goes.
Yup about the scene framing, J.  Things just got a bit out of kilter this time. Cause it was flashbacks which are tricky, as Meg said,  & this session had high stakes for us as creative contributors for various reasons. I'm not wary about the social pressure, but that may just be my history speaking.

As Ron & Mike talked about in this game design thread, we had been using the buck in past games, having each person have final say about framing the scene (and resolution), but we lost sight of it and ended up using the conch, taking turns having (mostly) sole narration rights after you read us the rules again.  

All in all, I'm glad for it too! Character building & friendship forging. : )

Quote from: MattAll I can say is yeah. There's kind of a creative 'step on up' element to this kind of game, and it can be a little challenging. Was it just this time around?
This is the only time it got in the way, I think. Though I often feel that way in general, and I know Carrie had some shaky moments when her character had the first spotlight episode. Fan mail helps, though it's certainly not the case that if you don't get much you're not pulling your weight.  Meg ended up playing key roles at times when there wasn't much fan mail to be had, so got short shrift.  But that'll happen to us all. At the start of every episode, so far, we've all gone "darnit, where's that fanmail! oh, the font hasn't opened up yet. we'll get there..."

QuoteI should have figured that this post existed yesterday when I got this weird sales spike.
Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games

Sydney Freedberg

[Skunk-at-picnic mode -- ON!]

Okay, now we've got the designer talking, so I am really going to push for The Authoritative Answer to my question above.

Quote from: Matt Wilson
Quotedestructive preplaying. Ben says that he's seen this now in every PTA game he's seen.

I found this very thing unbelievably annoying in one of the playtests, although it was most prevalent in the would-be writers of the group.

Now, Devil's Advocate/Skunk here: to what extent is excessive pre-play brainstorming something that happens in spite of the rules, and to what extent is it something that happens because the rules leave you a whole scene (or conflict) to narrate based on one die roll and no/few other mechanical cues -- a "big blank page" that can send people into (possibly anxious) story-brainstorming mode instead of play mode?

I kinda want to play this game, but this aspect unsettles me a little, so if someone gives me a really good answer, I'll feel brave enough to try to pitch a PTA trial run to my local gaming buddies.