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Author Topic: [PTA] The Last Shore  (Read 19279 times)
Per Fischer
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Posts: 203


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« on: August 24, 2005, 07:11:48 AM »

I mananaged to persuade a couple of friends to join me in a game of PTA. We play IRC due to the fact that I am based in the UK and they are in Denmark.

I think we all felt that PTA would rock, but that IRC mode could possibly kill it or at least make is less fun. We were all mighty surprised. IRC can be painfully slow, but it works, especially for brainstorming, and the sessions have so far left us on a high note.
Chills and goosebumps factor: Maximum.

The people

I more or less skipped roleplaying for a couple of years, partly due to disappointment with my games and GM experience (incl. use of Force to get a game going my way and other nasties). Then I bought Dust Devils and Sorcerer and never looked back. I am the Producer.

Peter has recently rediscovered roleplaying after, like myself, being fed up with it for a while and then suddenly stumbling on a Forge-related game. I have never played with Peter before. Peter owns Sorcerer and other Forge games.

Thomas agreed to enter the game on an “OK, I’ll do it because you ask” kind of basis. I have played a lot with Thomas, including my best game experiences. Thomas and Peter have also played together before. As the rest of us, Thomas is in a perpertual must…buy…Forge…games frenzy, except he hasn’t bought Sorcerer - yet.

Rune is Peter’s friend and they have played together a long time ago in a local roleplaying club. Rune has been reading Forge posts, especially regarding PTA, as I am the only one with the book at the moment. Rumour has that he has tried to play OTE, and he owns Sorcerer and Universalis.

Logistics
We play 3 hours in one session and try to complete an episode in that period, and once a week if possible. This post comprises to sessions, ie. 6 hours play, plus email correspondence where protagonists where fine-tuned.

The TV Show

The first session was dedicated to presenting the game and to come up with the show and characters. It went amazingly well, and we just instantly bounced ideas and jammed on each other’s input like mad. In IRC you can actually speak at the same time, but your input is still neatly presented one after another, which is a great tool for throwing ideas.

We ended on a show about a mysterious care home/former hotel far away on a small island where a bunch of pensioners are practising spiritism to talk to spirits and ghosts. The home and the show is called The Last Shore, and will be dark, cold and off beat in the best Scandinavian tradition. Think von Trier and Ibsen.

5 parts, no pilot.


The Protagonists

Gustav, aka “The baron”. Played by Thomas.
Veteran from the last world war. Slightly senile. Big moustache.

Screen presence 2 3 2 1 1

Issue:
Guilt. Based on an old, yet unknown, secret. Gustav has either fled himself or has been pushed away by his family. Haunted by his past.

Connections:
The big masseur. Also a bit of a DIY healer. A kind of physio therapist with added psychologi and a hint of magic on top.

The Kite Flyer. A strange islander. Middle-aged, polite.Probably lives in a house on the island, but sometimes drinks his morning coffee on the beach. Often seen flying kites, but rarely speaks to anyone.

Edge:
Outdoor person. Bird watching, photography, winter bathing, rambling, hunting.

Set:
The home’s old, now disused, turkish baths.


Henrik, accountant. Played by Rune.
Has been hired to clear out the finances of the home after the Head Mistress Mrs Samuelsen died. His mother died young on this very island.

Screen presence 1 1 2 3 2

Issue:
Control. Lack of willpower and self-assuredness to be able to control his own life like he would like. He is burdened with the death of his mother, a pointless job and a cancer that is eating him slowly.

Edges:
Number cruncher. Budgets, statistics, anaysis and everything that can be put into numbers. Brilliant maths skills. Solves sudokus to relaxe. Numbers comfort him.

Straight-faced. Facing a client, players at a poker table or telling a lie to his family. Whatever, Henrik controls his body language and is almost impossible to read.

Connections:
Martin. Old friend from university. Got a good job after graduating and has speculated on a couple of prestige projects. They see each other 3-4 times a year and keep in touch via phone or emails.

Set:
The accountant’s office at The Last Shore.


Elvira. Widow and spiritist medium. Played by Peter.

Screen presence 2 1 1 2 3

Issue:
Loss. Her life got empty when her husband Henry died many years ago. She hasn’t been able to overcome his death and the spiritism is a desperate attempt to contact him.

Edges:
Explorer/adventurer. Elira had a wild life when she was young. She travelled around the world and had to compete with fellow male travellers. Met Henry in USA. She can pick a lock, shoot a gun and is generally not holding back when faced with challenges.

Connections:
Henry, her dead husband. She talks to him and gets no answer.

The Fisherman. A strange, mumbling man who is often seen staring out over the ocean.


Episode 1: Ashes to Ashes


I set the starting scene where the former head, Mrs Samuelsen, was being laid to rest at the home’s own cemetary. In rain. Her daughter in law was there and accused the pensioners of killing her mother in law and stealing her money. First conflict was if she would disrupt the ceremony. She did and I won the narration and described how she suddenly ran forward causing the coffin to be dropped, bounce open and reveal its contents: beach stones wrapped in a blanket.

No idea where that came from, but it certainly worked and set out a great start to a great game.

Everyone chimed in. Everything was discussed, suggested and jammed upon. The general feeling of collaborately creating something (worthy, I should add) was overwhelming and I was completely wasted after 3 hours.

We got all the main characters introduced and conflict into all scenes, though conflict was what we struggled with the most. Especially getting the conflict to directly tie in with the protagonists’ issues.

In some scenes, though, it clicked. Elvira was trying to summon the spirit of Mrs Samuelsen, and it was close to working, except the tension got a bit much for some of the other pensioners at the seance, including protagonist Gustav. We had ectoplasma - perhaps - knocking sounds, stange voices and flickering candles. And maybe, just maybe, there was a real contact in a moment that could have been sliced with a knife.

Peter’s girlfriend was looking over his shoulder during that scene and he told me that she got sucked into it as well.

In another scene one supporting character was more or less controlled by all of us, taking turns describing her actions and dialogue. Thomas didn’t like that, Peter did, but we decided to have only one player controlling each character at a time to avoid confusion.

How can we press harder towards issue relevant conflicts?

Feel free to chime in, the rest of you, if I left something important out. This is my personal impression of the game.
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Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
David Bapst
Member

Posts: 46


« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2005, 03:11:51 PM »

Hey pfischer,

Great post. I've been talking with my friends about playing PTA this fall, and I think your post is another good example I'll have to send them the link for.

I'm very curious about something I've seen in PTA accounts, the way the story becomes very collaborative. I am, however, somewhat confused on how precisely this gets put into the SIS. I know PTA has the nifty narration mechanic, but I'm rather curious how other stuff, like off hand comments and "out of character" talk gets made into part of What's Happening (the SIS). Does no one authorize it? The producer? The whole group?

Related to that, I'd also love to hear about how the supporting character was controlled by all of you. I'd love details about that.

Thanks,
Dave
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Munkholt
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Posts: 12


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« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2005, 11:45:30 PM »

I played Gustav. It was my first experience with RP via IRC, but I used to MUSH.

Collaborating in the scenes generally worked very seamlessly, even though all input came under our real name. Like so:

> Thomas: Gustav walks to the window.
> Thomas: Hey, that thing with the Traits ... can I use my Connection here?
> Thomas: Johannes slumps in his wheel chair.
> Thomas: I think we should start moving for conflict ....

Four different types of input (me playing my character, asking for rules clarification, playing a secondary character and commenting on the flow of the story), but it was actually surprinsingly clear to everyone what was going on. Once the scene was set and underway, most of the entries would be IC. At one point me and Peter tried putting OOC-talk into cursive, but it felt cumbersome and unnecessary.

If a main character was in a scene the player would focus on him/her. If not (or even then), you could still add descriptions, play minor roles, and everybody would suggest conflict. Authorization was generally in the form of "yay!", "cool!", "goosebumps!" or similar comments.

Now the specific scene that I had a problem with ... well, basically I just felt 4 players actively controlling one supporting character was too many chefs, and I think the character, Linda (the daughter-in-law from the opening scene) would have been stronger with one clear motive. As it was, I felt that I had to spend too much energy just aligning previous statements given by other players with my own "poses" for her. Even with one main controller, everybody could still have input without giving dialogue, through a description of her body language, something she notices, another person bringing her "that thing" they talked about etc.

It was great. And I even played with a slight fever.
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Worldly power!
pedyo
Member

Posts: 54


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« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2005, 12:40:31 AM »

I played Elvira (think Mrs. Drusse from The Kingdom and you're pretty close).
The feeling that sticks with me is that Fan Mail is one of the greatest rules in a RPG ever - and I do mean that quite seriously. I can't think of just one single time that I've said to another player: "man, you rocked!". Fan mail makes for a great collaborative and positive atmosphere - and, the best part is: it affects the character rules-wise. That, my friends, is ingenius game design.

Fun was had - and the part about my girlfriend is absolutely correct. She waltzed around in the background, trying to read over my shoulder and when Elvira (perhaps) made contact with "the other side" at the seance, my girlfriend got the spooks :-)

/Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 1121

student, second edition


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« Reply #4 on: August 25, 2005, 03:50:48 AM »

Quote
First conflict was if she would disrupt the ceremony. She did and I won the narration and described how she suddenly ran forward causing the coffin to be dropped, bounce open and reveal its contents: beach stones wrapped in a blanket.

Wait, I'm confused. Which protagonist was in this conflict? Elvira?
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Per Fischer
Member

Posts: 203


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« Reply #5 on: August 25, 2005, 04:06:19 AM »

Quote
First conflict was if she would disrupt the ceremony. She did and I won the narration and described how she suddenly ran forward causing the coffin to be dropped, bounce open and reveal its contents: beach stones wrapped in a blanket.

Wait, I'm confused. Which protagonist was in this conflict? Elvira?

Sorry, my mistake. Protagonist Elvira was in the conflict, but on the side that would like to keep the ceremony running without incident and she tried to calm the NPC Linda (who is "she" in the actual play quote above) who wanted to disrupt it. Does that make sense?

Per
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Per
--------
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Rune
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2005, 12:24:42 AM »

Hi all,

I played Henrik. First of all it's probably worth pointing out that I had a great time playing The Last Shore, and the problems we ran into did not mean that the evening was a waste at all. However, I do think that we can make our game even better by addressing the problems already pointed out.

The problem of "too many cooks" pulling a NPC in different directions can probably be solved fairly easily just by a bit more restaint on our part, and a bit more procedure with regard to how we hand out control of characters in scenes.
I don't think anyone were actively trying to pull characters in different directions, but the parrallel writing style and latency of IRC meant that we would at times fire off conflicting statements. Part of the problem was that you couldn't see that someone were in the process of writing a new statement about a character until they were done and sent it off. So, you'd start preparing your own statement too, and so on.

The problem of "not enough issues-focused conflicts", I think, is partly due to lack of experience on our part (this is definitely the case for me). This was the opening episode, and more of an ensemble episode than a character spotlight. Having said that, we probably need to get better at throwing really difficult/challenging situations at the characters, and focus less on setup/exposition. The next episode will be Gustav's spotlight episode, and I think that focus will aid us in constructing good conflicts.

- Rune
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Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 1121

student, second edition


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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2005, 06:03:50 AM »

Hey Vikinger! Hva' saa?

Jeg er altid glad for at have nogle dansker at gennemprove min spil.

When I was in Denmark (Frb) 10 years ago I actually roleplayed with both a Rune and a Peter.

Glad you guys had a good time.
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pedyo
Member

Posts: 54


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« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2005, 07:28:12 AM »

Hey Matt!
Næste gang du er i Danmark, så sig til og vi byder på vin, mad og rollespil!
Glæder mig til at læse PTA 2nd Ed...
/Peter
PS: next session is this coming Tuesday, so we'll have much more to tell by then...
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
Munkholt
Member

Posts: 12


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« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2005, 03:32:09 PM »

Episode 2: The German Connection

We had some rules clarifications which took up the first 20 minutes, but it was time well spend. I think we all felt better prepared, where as the first session had been more lose. Then we played 5 scenes (same as last time). This was Gustav's spotlight episode - an old man with a whole lot of secrets and guilt (my character, sorry for the bias).

*

Brief scene rundown:

Gustav on the shore. He has one foot in a dreamworld, where he is meeting a soldier blown to pieces, dying. Gustav is dressed in uniform, but it's hard to tell from which country. Gustav is looking for something, finds it: a gold cross. The soldier grabs hold of Gustav's hand, but he manages to jerk free and return to reality. He is empty-handed, no cross. But a man in black is observing the scene from the Shore Hotel.

A scene at the hotel. Physical therapy. A lot of old people being drilled by a pumped-up by a young PE-instructor. Gustav is grumpy, doesn't like it. The music is "Lili Marleen" - out of tune. Gustav makes a stand, grabs hold of the girl and leads her into a frenzied valse. It's almost violent. He storms out, leaving her on the floor.

Gustav returns to his room. Henrik (the accountant replacing Samuelsen, whom we buried in episode 1 (except the coffin was empty)) is there. He brings a package from Germany. It has been opened (probably by Samuelsen). There's also a letter - likely a will. Henrik wants to help open and read, but Gustav is making veiled threats. He manages to grab the package and push Henrik out the door.

Another senance. Spirits assail the room. Elvira has made contact. But with whom? Someone at the session is guessing it's her old teacher, but Gustav thinks it might be the same person who sent him the package. Elvira starts having a vision - bad stuff - concentration camp stuff; a girl with a cross of gold. Contact is broken.

Gustav and Elvira on the shore. The man in black is passing by, flying a kite. Elvira is trying to make Gustav talk about his past, but he turns the topic to her visions. She confronts him about them, but he denies everything: yes, he was a soldier in Germany, but a Danish citizen and never a part of the Endlösung. She asks about the cross in his drawer. He slaps her. She leaves. He breaks down.

*

Commentary:

This episode became extremely moody. For the best, I think, because it pushed our play, and we can always plays it down again (before the storm of a climax that I feel brewing!).

Rune commented that we have created our issues to be quite introvert, which makes it hard to bring them into play. I agree that has been the case, but I also think we're quite good at addressing these hurdles and will try to bring the issues more into the light. Issues could still be attacked more head on, but we've improved.

Control of secondary characters was addressed pre-play, and we didn't have that problem this time around.

For Gustav, this became all about the power of his secret. He might potentially be a Nazi war criminal. That potential gave him power, and three dice backed that up quite well. When we threw around ideas for our characters, one aspect of his issue ("Guilt") was actually "Haunted", and that was very much how it played out. I think the his character was well developed, but we're still bringing plot-elements into the mix, and at some point some of all this latent story should be "made real" for the characters.

So much is still up in the air: What happened to Samuelson's body? Is she even dead? Is her daughter-in-law right - have the old people killed Samuelson? Was is something to do with money? What about the spirits haunting the Shore? Does Elvira really speak to the dead? What about Gustav and the will, the cross and his WWII-past? and more ...

Gustav ended up striking another character, Elvira, and that made me think that he should be "relegated" to Screen Presence 1 (rather than 2 as planned) for the next episode, because otherwise I think his every appearance will be extremely loaded. We need to make room for some alternative interpretations.

We all wanted to insert just a little bit of light and humour into the scenes, and again I think IRC worked to our advantage: you could read the line and react to it/laugh out loud, all the while keeping the intensity of the scene and not reacting to it in-game.

... Yeah, this is really working out to be something special. Glad I joined the fun, and I've ordered my copy. :)
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Worldly power!
pedyo
Member

Posts: 54


WWW
« Reply #10 on: August 30, 2005, 10:20:19 PM »

It was, indeed, a moody and exciting episode from start to finish and we learned a great deal about Gustav that I think not even Munkholt (Gustav's player) knew beforehand. Very nice. Especially the scene with Henrik and Gustav in Gustav's room was pure genius - Rune (Henrik's player) requested the scene and described how Henrik was carrying a small package under his arm. That was just ripe with possibilities. The package was never opened and that leads to so many great potential scenes. Can't wait to see how that turns out.
It was really crunch time for Gustav and I did my best to support that and not run wild with some crazy idea. As Munkholt wrote, we had discussed focusing tighter on the issues at hand and we also talked about how this episode would fit into the whole series beforehand. That really made for a better focus - but, alas, I also felt that some of the jammy, free and loose atmosphere (that admittedly wasn't ONLY a good thing) from ep1 got lost somewhere. I felt a huge pressure in the first scene or two not to interfere too much - to the point of feeling a bit stifled, actually. It wasn't a huge problem - and the episode as a whole came out the better - but I think I'd like to discuss ways of taking part without stealing the other players' thunder and without muddying the play. I certainly felt that play over IRC was slower when we stayed more controlled.
We finally got the dice right and that made a huge difference - much more power behind a lot of actions and fan mail was spent on both sides - the culmination was, I think, when Munkholt rolled for Gustav but used 1 fan mail on the producer's side. Right now I dont' recall what the situation was - guys? We all wanted to know more about Gustav but we also wanted him to try his darned best to keep his secrets.
Finally, I think we could award even more fan mail - there were two scenes where no one got any and those were great scenes! I got the feeling that people forgot, actually.
Best
Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
Rune
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #11 on: August 30, 2005, 11:25:35 PM »

I enjoyed the second episode very much. I liked the much tighter play, and I think it suited the quite serious theme of the character of Gustav. There was probably a bit of overcompensation wrt. the style and mood after the first episode, but I think that's only natural. With time, our "steering corrections" will get smaller, and when we end the show, we'll have it all down. ;)

About "jamming": getting some more recurring and memorable NPCs might help. The only time I really did from-the-hip improvisational play last night was when I controlled Ove (an obnoxious retired gymnastics-teacher). He probably also provided one of the few comic relief elements in the episode.

- Rune
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Munkholt
Member

Posts: 12


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« Reply #12 on: August 31, 2005, 12:08:52 AM »

I certainly felt that play over IRC was slower when we stayed more controlled.

"Felt" being operative: we did shoot off the same amount of scenes, since we were less worried about cutting to the chase.

The only time I really did from-the-hip improvisational play last night was when I controlled Ove (an obnoxious retired gymnastics-teacher). He probably also provided one of the few comic relief elements in the episode.

Grrrr. Ove is going to have a little accident before the end, I think. *lol*
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Worldly power!
pedyo
Member

Posts: 54


WWW
« Reply #13 on: August 31, 2005, 12:16:07 AM »

I certainly felt that play over IRC was slower when we stayed more controlled.

"Felt" being operative: we did shoot off the same amount of scenes, since we were less worried about cutting to the chase.

True - but I really "felt" that we simply used less words, less sentences bouncing about. Now, that's both good and bad. Good, since we were able to focus better, bad (for me at least), since it tended to disrupt the flow - especially in the first scene.

I was very unsure how to strike the best balance between being "too pushy" and "too quiet". Playing over IRC means that every time you're quiet, you don't show your interest or your attention. I feared that you guys would think that I didn't take my share of the play - while I was also being very careful not to disturb the flow by introducing new elements.

/Peter
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Peter Dyring-Olsen
Rune
Member

Posts: 6


« Reply #14 on: August 31, 2005, 12:19:39 AM »

Some pointless statistics of episode 2:

Scene 1: 20:15 - 20:47 = 32 minutes, 124 lines, 3.9 lpm
Scene 2: 20:52 - 21:14 = 22 minutes, 130 lines, 5.9 lpm
Scene 3: 21:29 - 21:50 = 21 minutes, 117 lines, 5.6 lpm
Scene 4: 22:00 - 22:30 = 30 minutes, 174 lines, 5.8 lpm
Scene 5: 22:39 - 23:04 = 25 minutes, 126 lines, 5.0 lpm

- Rune
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