Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[PTA] We're from the spirit world, and we're here to help you...

Started by Mark Woodhouse, January 21, 2006, 11:41:23 PM

Previous topic - Next topic

Mark Woodhouse

January's Sunday Short Subjects game almost didn't happen. We lost 2 players out of 5 to last-minute cancellations. As it turned out, though, we ended up with a decidedly off-beat PTA pilot episode.

The players were myself as Producer, and Kathy (my partner) and Paul as players. It was the first time playing PTA for all of us, the first time Paul had met either of the other players, and only I was familiar with the game – Kathy had read it through before the session, but I don't believe Paul had more than a general familiarity with the premise. As I only have the 1st edition, I elected to use dice for resolution, although I did alter the budget calculation in line with the update and used 3 Traits per character.

We spent about 90 minutes kicking around concepts, before discarding about half of them when it became apparent we were not going to see Larry. With just 2 protagonists, it made more sense to us to go with a "buddy" concept of some sort. What we ended up with was sort of a "reverse X-Files" concept, with the protagonists being agents of a supernatural bureaucracy ("I & I", acronym meaning unspecified – I personally like "Incarnation & Immanence") charged with enforcing the labyrinth of petty and inconvenient regulations which various supernatural creatures are required to follow in order to live undetected in the ordinary world. From the endless cubicle farm of I and I headquarters Backstage, they are dispatched to our world to make sure that vampires are avoiding mirrors, gnomes don't work in the finance industry, and ghosts only rattle their chains between the hours of midnight and two.

Our Protagonists

Paul played "Buck", a jaded veteran of I&I, who's been doing the same job for 415 years since he was recruited after a rogue monster ate his beloved wife.

Issue: Sick of the job
Edge: Veteran Investigator
Edge: "The Eye of ______", some kind of powerful artifact
Connection: Snerdly the Garden Gnome, a disreputable black-marketeer and informant
Nemesis: The (unknown) monster that killed his wife

Kathy created Isolde, Buck's relatively green new partner. She is an immaterial spirit, slowly evolving toward corporeality. She's fascinated by the human world, and collects artifacts and treasures from that world.

Issue: Wants to be a part of the human world
Edge: Immaterial Spirit (can be invisible, change her appearance, pass through barriers)
Connection: Files & Records – she has a friend who can find and lose records and paperwork for her.
Connection: Crazy Eddie, the hobo. He's a human who knows about the spirit world and keeps an eye out for spirits in trouble.

The Episode

I went with a pretty straightforward plot, with the agents dispatched to investigate a willow nymph who was violating her work visa. Turned out that she was working as a stripper and had fallen into the claws of Regulus "Rico" Lazar, a sleazy salamander with friends in high places and a liking for "green wood", as he put it. Hijinks ensued, with misplaced paperwork, reluctant leads, and a search for 5 more minor infractions to put Regulus in violation of Rule 42.

How it played

Okay. That's about all I can say. We came up with a lot of neat color throughout play, establishing the look and feel and mythos of the show as we went, and I felt like I+I was a show I wouldn't mind seeing more of. On the other hand, I felt I was having a tough time driving scenes to conflict without dead-ending in something uninteresting, and fan mail really didn't click with just 2 players.

On the gripping hand, I've certainly played games fresh out of the gate first session that were a LOT harder to have fun with.

Insights and Ideas

PTA's wide-open structure is one of its great strengths, clearly – we 3 spun up a whole bunch of material from a very sketchy and minimal starting point, just by players being free to narrate scenes and invent justifications for plot developments they wanted. On the other hand, that same lack of structure made it a challenge for us to "sync up" 3 players right out of the gate. I don't want to speak for Paul, but it seemed to take a bit of doing for him to shift gears from "May I" to "I do" play, and I'm not sure Kathy or I (who are pretty used to playing together and taking a fair amount of Director Stance) really pushed as hard as I should have to get everyone thinking in terms of what they wanted to see happen next instead of logical progression from clue a to fight b to clue c.

I think I'm also feeling that PTA is not likely to be on my "pull out for a 1-shot" list. It seemed like we just started to feel the characters and the show (and get comfortable with the techniques it uses) about the time we were hitting the end of the session.

I hope Kathy & Paul will add their thoughts!

Bill Cook

This sounds hilarious! From the title I thought it was reverse Ghostbusters, but it sounds more like Men In Black for the Faerie. What was the ratio of scene input/direction between player and producer? Will you trace the scenes that led to resolution of the episode? Will you recount any conflict rolls? Especially multi-player ones.

I've got a second group that's getting ready to do a four-episode series, so I'm very interested to hear about the rules in action, especially the budget-fanmail bit.