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[PTA] Somewhere in Newfoundland - population 15.000

Started by ragnar, December 19, 2005, 02:53:25 AM

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We just finished a very successful first session of Prime Time Adventures (thanks Matt for a great game). One of the elements that I think made this work so well was how much the players were involved in creating the story, from the very start of deciding what our series was to be about to ideas and events that happened in game. I would love to see this implemented more in other games.

The whole system was extremely functional. The only thing that got a bit muddled was where scenes started and ended and how to divide things up...partially because a lot of the episode took place in one location. It didn't detract from our enjoyment of the session, so can hardly be considered a problem.

Interestingly enough PTA was easy to run with very little preparation. I bought the PDF of the book two days ago. Read it yesterday, and ran it today. No problems. Had to flip up one rule (during a commercial break of course) and everything ran smoothly.

Here is the basics about our series:


Somewhere in Newfoundland - population 15.000

Two brothers run a hardware store in the small town of Somewhere where weird and supernatural things seem to happen every week to everybody's surprise.

We decided to set the tone in a less than serious style, think films like Sean of the Dead.

Alex Cassidy - oldest brother
Played by Stone
Concept: Hardware store co-owner, biker.
Issues: Secretly dealing drug deals, sometimes want;s to quit but doesn't.
Personal Set: Abandoned ex-hippy farm.
Edge: Rebel - drug dealing, street fighting etc.
Edge: Rocker - guitar playing and singing.
Connection: Mafia - through his drug dealing.

Steve Cassidy - middle brother
Played by Maggi
Concept: Co-owner of hardware store and run is, middle son, jock.
Issues: Trying to live up to parents expectation, but his efforts are never appreciated.
Edge: Trustworthy/Charming
Edge: Top Athlete
Connection: Coach

Since it was the pilot episode both characters had screen presence 2. (we have yet to set their Screen Presence for the rest of the season).

Somewhere Hardware Store, the Cassidy's Place, the town of Somewhere (the kind of place that has everything, a harbour, lighthouse, uniiversity, dark forest, mountain etc.etc.)

A strange unmarked truck drives over a bump on a bridge just outside of Somewhere. A barrel falls of and leaks green goo over the edge of the bridge. Under the bridge stands Jimmy fishing and the goo splashes on him and down his back. He jerks, looses his fishing rod....



We got together, I convinced them to play PTA and gave them a very quick intro. Stone wanted to play some Zombie stuff. I asked what role they would play, and they wanted to play just ordinary people. I suggested that the zombie thing could be one episode, and that other weird and supernatural things could happen in the other episodes. Things like alien abductions, vampires etc. Together we came up with a sickly father, a divorce that none talked about and a mother that was gone and none knew about. A missing brother that had just left one day (or vanished) as we're expecting an extra player for the next episode and more. A lot of ideas were thrown in and everyone was very open to suggestions.

I started the episode with a scene of the two brothers closing up for the night and Jimmy, one of the locals, showing up at the window, mumbling about fishing gear and behaving and moving kind of strange. I tried to give most of the zombies names and a bit of detail, like their job, just so it wouldn't be a big anonymous horde. The brothers didn't let Jimmy in, but managed to convince him to go to the sporting goods store just down the street.

Then came two short scenes just to set the mood. Alex went home on his bike and Stone (his player) created a scene where Alex stopped on a red light and noticed that there was absolutely none about. We decided to leave it at that, just to set the mood.

Next scene was with Steve at the drycleaners fetching his dad's suit. There was none at the desk when he arrived, but he heard some weird sounds in the back. He found his suit, shouting back to the miss that ran the place that he would just leave the money on the counter.

When they get home, their father is not at all grateful that Steve fetched his suit and complains that there is still a stain on it. None of them can bother making dinner, so they decide to order chinese. Alex picks up the phone, but it's dead. So the two brothers decide to go into town on Alex's bike to fetch some. Here the players were coming with a lot of input, such as that the phones were dead and more.

The first use of a conflict in the session happened in town. They had found the chinese food place locked, but the cook was chopping up whole chickens in an alley next to it. So they decided to go for pizza, and come upon the pizza delivery guy driving very slowly and eventually hitting a lamppost, stumbling out of the car and heading for them with green goo leaking out of his mouth. The brothers go straight for the sherifs office, but find it boarded up with the sherif inside. While talking to him they suddenly notice zombies coming from all directions. They get on the bike and Alex decides to try to cut through a garden to avoid them. We draw cards and he fails, but gets to narrate what happens. So he runs into a locked garden gate. They turn back and the sherif lets them into his office.

To cut a long story short, a lot of the episode takes place in the sherif office, on the roof of it or in the basement. They have plenty of firepower there, but they need something big to take out all the zombies. Here is where the scenes got a bit muddled. We would cut it into different scenes for instance when Alex went alone to the basement to fetch some cans of petrol and encountered the zombie police dog. But we would also cut between scenes that would both take place on the roof right after each other. I wasn't sure if this was right, but if the focus was shifting significantly I figured it wouldn't do any harm.

An interesting failure occurred when the zombies were trying to get through the door to the roof next to the sherifs office (basically the same roof as the houses were next to each other. Alex was supposed to open the door and Steve was going to blast them with the shotgun, then they were going to close it again. Steve failed, but got to narrate. Alex opens the door and runs to fetch the petrol cans on the other roof. Steve shoots the first one, but one of the zombies grabs his leg so he falls backwards firing a wild shot into the hinges of the door ruining it. Not only did he fail to stop them from getting on to the roof, he also ruined any chance they would have to push the zombies back down as there was no door there any longer.

The final plan they decided on was to try to get all the zombies to the slaughterhouse and grind them up in the huge meat grinder there (we seemed to have moved towards films like Brain Dead at this point :-) ). The sherif went to the slaughterhouse to get the meat grinder ready, Alex went to the republican office to steal their truck with speakers on the roof which he use to call out "Brainfeeding party at the slaughterhouse" to lure the zombies there. While Steve went to the toystore to get those powerful water gun to turn them into flame throwers. Interesting both Steve and Alex pretended to be zombies at some time during this, so as not to be spotted by the others. They then met up at the slaughterhouse for a rather messy scene where the zombies were hoarded throught the door straight into the meat grinder, blood all over the place and a total mess.

The Denouement was them standing outside bloody outside the messy slaughterhouse, with military choppers overhead and Canadian mounties coming down the street. Saying "You're safe now, we got the situation under control."


Phew...that was a bit longer than I planed. What worked very well was giving the players narration rights and being open to their input to any situation, even ones they were not involved in. At one time Maggi got to narrate a conflict in a scene he wasn't in, which I felt worked very well. It also feels like the players take more responsibility for the development of the story as a whole, rather than just what's happening to their character, when they get some form of director stance through the rules. They also became more active with suggestions to what could happen in a scene. All very positive things.

To get back to what I said at the beginning. I loved the way PTA has everyone decide on a premise, group and setting together at the beginning. Even before creating characters. I think this helps getting everyone more interested in the game, as they've had a say in what it's going to be about. It also means that the players create a group that is connected, rather than a random group of disconnected characters with little in common (who just happen to meet in a bar).

Next episode will be the alien episode. There were hints of mum returning, the brother returning and that perhaps some of them might be clones put their by the aliens. Should be fun. The zombies that overran the town last week more or less forgotten, like usual in the town of Somewhere.




Sounds like you had fun.  Did the issues ever work their way into the game?  I'm guessing that "never meets parent's expectations" was hit with the Dry Cleaning bit... did drugs turn up at all?

I'm curious to see what you come up with for Scene Presence for the season.  I'm wondering if having one lead character in an episode will encourage a more issue heavy game.

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


Issues didn't come up much, only the bit about the dry cleaning. The drug dealing didn't come up at all, though he did use his Mafia connection at one point. It was the pilot episode and it was all overrun with zombies, so it wound up being more about the plot than about character development.

We haven't decided on screen presence yet, but my guess is that we'll go for having the youngest brother as the lead character for the next episode. It will be the episode where he returns after having been away for a few years, so it feels natural. Incidentally it's also the alien episode, which is an ideal thing to connect with him vanishing in the first place. :-)  I'm hoping that episode will focus a little more on character interaction, the characters issues and drama, just as a change of pace from the splatter fest zombie episode.