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Author Topic: [PtA] Untitled/Bootleggers: Too well created series  (Read 3826 times)
TonyLB
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« on: September 16, 2005, 07:54:28 AM »

I had a fascinating first time as Producer in Primetime Adventures.  The gory details I wrote up here in an RPG.net post (since they totally need more exposure to PtA actual play).  But my tentative conclusions are such that I'd like some feedback.

It seems to me, in retrospect, that our game, though awesome, didn't become all it can be because we did too good a job of setting up a network of conflicting motivations for the characters.  Basically, we wound them up so tightly that things were wholly entertaining when we just let them go and let some of that tension explode into conflict, thence to resolution, and therefore set up the conflicts we knew were going to happen in the next episode.

"So... everything worked, and that's what you're worried about?"  Well, yeah, in a sense.  Worried is too strong a term.  But I didn't see players stepping up to do things that were unexpected and made the situation exponentially more entertaining.  Basically, we hit "This is some damn good stuff!" and stayed there.  They didn't have to reach for moments of brilliance that make "damn good stuff" seem paltry by comparison.

I noticed this, particularly, because fan-mail was acting sluggish.  It was a nice indicator to me, saying "Pay attention... figure out what this means."  I really like that about explicit feedback mechanics.  I think it meant that most of the entertainment was coming from a low-level sizzle that everyone liked but which was hard to pin on any one player's contributions.

So if I were making a PtA series now, I would specifically tell people "Don't make your Issues connect with other people's Issues.  Make your Issues sing on their own.  The connections are what we'll forge during actual play, and if you don't leave any room for that then you won't be leaving any room for what the system does best."

This seems really counter-intuitive to me, though:  Less well structured situation will lead to better play?  If that's true, why is that?  If it's not, how have I fallen so hard for such a wrong-headed idea?
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John Harper
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« Reply #1 on: September 16, 2005, 11:32:22 AM »

I don't think things have to be so black-and-white. Sometimes, your PTA series will mesh and sing right out of the gate. Everything will seem obvious and inevitable (until some wacky card draws turn that stuff upside down, of course). For other series, the meshing and crossing of Issues will take some work, or won't happen at all. All of those options are fun to play, as far as I can tell. I wouldn't sweat it too much.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: September 17, 2005, 06:07:22 AM »

Yeah, I get that.  We had fun, I'm not sweating that.  If you get everything to mesh then you've got a terrific ride ahead of you.  If you don't then the system has plenty of checks and balances to make sure that things come together during the process of play anyway.  That seems (to me) to be what you're saying, and I'm all on board with that.

What I find fascinatng, in addition to that, is how different those two experiences are.  They might be suitable for subtly different goals.

If the type of fun you're looking for is "The story proceeds cleanly, meshing all elements well and developing in a manner that justifies everything that went before," then you want a firmly established, well connected set of Issues.  They'll spare you from having to connect things on the fly.  It will all have been done for you, in advance.

If the type of fun you're looking for is "We create the meshing of the elements, and invent the justifications of everything that went before," then you don't want a firmly established, well connected set of Issues.  They'll prevent you from doing the work that you want to do.  It will all have been done for you, in advance.

My first try at saying this used stupidly judgmental terms... "better gameplay" indeed!  What knucklehead wrote that?  But it's clearly different game-play.  And I find the difference to be very compelling.  I can look at those and say "Hey, I like both of those modes, but I like the second one better ... If there are techniques I can apply that get me the second one more often than the first, that would rock!"
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John Harper
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« Reply #3 on: September 17, 2005, 12:13:03 PM »

100% agreement.

This analysis is what I would call advanced play. You've been able to give PTA a good hard look beyond the surface of the rules text and create strategies to get different kinds of play. Cool stuff.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2005, 06:35:06 AM »

Past Prime Time Adventures actual play reports have sometimes noted a problem with "destructive pre-play," where people get so involved in the collaborative brainstorming to set a scene that they forget to use the conflict rules. I've not yet gotten a chance to play (argh), but these seem like related problems: the very strength of PTA in getting everyone into a collaborative creative mode, like a good TV scriptwriting team, can get people carried away. Remember: It's not a writers' handbook, it's a game!
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2005, 04:34:13 PM »

Not too keep on singing this tune, but this:

Quote
"Don't make your Issues connect with other people's Issues.  Make your Issues sing on their own.  The connections are what we'll forge during actual play, and if you don't leave any room for that then you won't be leaving any room for what the system does best."

totally says Bricolage to me. Setting up certain constraints, or restrictions, or guideposts, or whatever to guide play, but having the process of roleplay itself see the filling in of the gaps with all that other stuff that happens when we, y'know, play. If you determine everything beforehand, the machine is complete - there's nothing to Bricole. It can be an awfully awesome machine that does exactely what its supposed to do, but you'll never see what happens if you stick a toaster in there instead of an engine.

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Nathan P.
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Frank T
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« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2005, 09:40:17 AM »

Tony, I'm with you. As someone who really has an affinity to plan everything in advance (and no, not all Germans are like that), I also know how empty it can feel if the plan just plainly works. I mean, when I was planning my good old Star Wars d6 adventure plot in advance, I'd still have to react to the players input and keep my plot "on track", so it wouldn't just feel like a lame exercise. But if the whole group has done the planning together, well, then noone will mess it up afterwards, right?

One way to avoid this is obviously not to do that much planning in advance. Another is to let the dice/cards take the role of my Star Wars d6 players. If you are courageous enough to go for hard stakes, ones that really mean something to the plot and your character, you will have the game take unexpected turns and then have to deal with that. So if you deliberately put your own plan at stake in every single conflict, and find interesting alternative stakes, then you may plan as much as you like and still be surprised by how your game eventually turns out.

- Frank
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