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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 158 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [PTA] Deep Horizons-First Game  (Read 5023 times)
Mason
Member

Posts: 18


« on: March 02, 2006, 03:48:13 PM »

Heya, I'm a relatively new poster around here and I have a story to tell about my first game of PTA ever.  Due to time constraints it'll probably go quick and be light on the detail, but again, new guy. 

First, the background.  My name is Mason, I'm a long time gamer who has played mainstream games.  I stumbled across the Forge a few months ago, and was intrigued by the alternate play styles I read about here.  My group plays pretty strongly Gamist and Simulationist, and we've always associated Narrativist style games with heavy GM railroading, due mainly to bad experiences with a few bad GM railroaders.  Having had my mind blown here, I have been looking forward to trying out some new stuff with the group, and that's why I swore off my long standing policy of not buying game books and picked up Primetime Adventures.

Second, the usual suspects.  My group has a weekday game, and an alternate schedule-dependent slot we call Any Given Sunday.  I wrangled a four people together for one of these weekend throw-togethers, three of which were from my core group (Paul, Adam and Bryan) and a fourth guy who has gamed with us for years, never learned one rule and seems all the better for it (Tom).  Paul is a good-time gamer, he's there to hang out with friends, inspire some craziness, and he has a tendency to go the goofy route.  Adam is a strongly tactical thinker, and he enjoys approaching things from Actor Stance.  The games he runs are typically strongly Gamist (or as we affectionally call them, "bloodbaths").  Bryan has been running a lot of Gamist stuff lately, and he is like me intrigued by including more Narrativist elements in our games.  Tom is a dilettante gamer, he shows up when he can, likes characters with big guns and tends to go along with the group. 

Our group's typical MO with games is to start things off with a email round robin about characters and plots and themes, but the Pitch Meeting seemed to be an important part of the PTA dynamic, so aside from providing the group a few links about PTA, I didn't get into what sort of game we were going to be playing.  I wanted the group to come up with the show idea and all that at the table, as part of the process. 

The Pitch part took a little longer than I would have liked, but the group floundered a bit and I didn't want to squash anyone's creativity or go forward with an idea that people weren't excited about, but PTA represents a 180-degree switch from our usual games and so people's processing times were slow.  We talked about shows we liked and didn't like, and being geeks this of course bogged down in a bit of sci-fi fandom between Battlestar Galatica, Stargate and Firefly... three shows that I am guessing mainstream America feels are indistinguishable.  (For the record, we all love Firefly and the group split 3-1 in different directions of BG and ST, not that it could possibly matter.)

The idea we started moving forward on was group of college students who used magical time travel to fight supernatural threats to the TSC.  For simplicity, and since the group didn't seem to grasp Spotlight Episodes right off the bat, we decided to play the pilot.  We were shooting for a late-night Sci-Fi Channel show, a comedy with light adventure elements, which I described as premiering after the 10pm showing of Frankenfish and before the 1am showing of Frankenfish.  We picked the title of Deep Horizon, more or less at random, when someone mixed up the movies Event Horizon, Deep Impact and maybe Deep Rising.

After the long pitch, character creation went pretty quickly.  I am thinking this is because my players tend to think of games in terms of the characters they play rather than thinking of what characters would fit the games, but then that's the way we have always previously played.  The GM brings the concept and the players bring the characters and so doing it differently brought up the usual range of responses from "Hey, this is neat," to "I fear change."

Paul decided that since this was a cheesy sci-fi show, he'd play the hot chick, and made Eva St. James, who was attending college on a gymnastics scholarship.  Adam made Fitzgerald Simmons, a professor of history who discovered the artifact that sent the group back in time.  Tom made a former soldier named Brock, who was going to school on the GI Bill.  Bryan made a psychically sensitive goth named Ethan that he later confessed he lost interest in immediately after making him.  (Being an experienced gamer, he decided not to "disrupt play" and continue on with the character, which is another example of why experience can be another name for bad habits.)  Eva's issue was being taken seriously; Fitz was Obsessed with the Past, Brock had Trouble with Authority, Ethan was Afraid of his Supernatural Ability.  Once people's characters were coming together, we worked out how they wanted their characters introduced to the audience and I narrated the show's opening.  (As a side note: all of these characters were pretty close to the default setting of the players.)

The initial scenes were pretty good, with everybody pitching in on ideas and the players describing what their characters would be doing the first time they were on the screen, though they were still looking to me to formalize it since I was the Producer.  They weren't entirely comfortable with Director Stance, but it was the first time we played a game that encouraged them to utilize it, so I guess that's normal. 

Since the Pitch had taken a long time, we only had enough time to play out the first Act.  Being highly experienced, long term gamers, we were pretty much swimming when it came to conflict resolution.  It was my first time too, so even though I had read a lot about it, I still had trouble.  Its a fundamental paradigm change, but I was still a little disappointed in myself. 

Overall, the group had fun.  There was a lot of joking around and laughing going back and forth (including a couple of really funny scenes with Brock's terrified roommate and the player interaction when they were freaking out after going back in time), so things went pretty well from a player enjoyment standpoint.  I am thinking for the next game, we might put the setting together in advance to facilitate play.  Being long-time gamers, we're crippled by old behavior, and right now I'm more interested in introducing the concepts of the new game and getting some work done in the learning process.  I think my group might function better with a few limitations, at least until we're more familiar with game.  You gotta crawl before you can walk.

Thank you for your time.

Mason
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Judd
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Posts: 1641

Please call me Judd.


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« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2006, 03:54:57 PM »

Can you name some scenes where the fan mail flowed?
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JMendes
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Posts: 379


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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2006, 02:02:23 AM »

Hey, Mason, :)

First off, welcome to the Forge.

My story is very much not unlike yours. Specifically, my PTA story is very much not unlike yours. There's one important lesson I learned about PTA, and while it's not the most important one, it should be heeded nonetheless. Don't start an episode if you're not going to have time to finish it.

I hope you guys get together to continue that pilot. If you do, you may find that, since you're already part-way through it, it may be over faster than you intended the session to end. Here's the thing. Resist the urge to get started on the next episode right away. It'll be there. Resist it.

Another fact to be considered when you start your next PTA season/show is that the Pitch always takes time. It's a natural thing, that, and yes, one that caught me by surprise at the time as well, but it's always going to happen, I think.

So, a corollary of the above two bits is, reserve one whole section for just the Pitch and the character creation! If at least a couple of people have already played PTA and know what a Next Week On is, you can go ahead and do a few teaser trailers for the pilot episode. Or not. Up to you. Just don't plan on starting the pilot in the same session you do the pitch.

PTA rocked my RPGing. Here's hoping it rocks yours as well. :)

Cheers,
J.
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url=http://lisbongamer.mc-two.com/]Lisbon Gamer[/urlLisbon Gamer
Matt Wilson
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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student, second edition


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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2006, 06:25:33 AM »

Hey Mason:

Glad you had a good time. Were there any rough spots you wanted to talk about?
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Mason
Member

Posts: 18


« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2006, 06:37:20 AM »

The rough spots were pretty much all you'd expect from playing a new game; I did a couple of things wrong rules-wise and we flounded a bit here and there trying to put things together, but we still had a good time.  My group tends to be very technical, and they're used to defining their character's capabilities, and so the freeform nature of PTA was a little disconcerting for them.

I'd say the toughest part for me was defining stakes.  One of the things I did was try to define stakes too early in a scene, I think I may have stifled some of the player interaction that way.  I think on my next attempt, I'll let the players take the lead there now that they've seen more or less how the game is played.  A lot of the first session was trying to show them all the stuff PTA did differently than our normal systems.

Fan mail was slow getting started, and we only got through the first act, but they were starting to loosen up and toss the poker chips back and forth, mainly by cracking each other up.  The first big scene was right after their first time travel experience, where they found themselves mystically transported from the university museum to the desert at night.  Paul decided that Eva would cope with the shock by trying to take control of the situation, and seemed to be channelling some sort of Worst-Case Scenario Handbook survival plan for getting stranded on a deserted isle.  Brock's reaction ("You sure seem to be taking this in stride!") got some laughs.  Adam got some props later for an off-cuff comment to a bartender about the South in the Civil War ("I hear they're a good bet") that cracked us up.   Lastly, there was a scene in which the party wandered into an Old West saloon, and Eva was accosted by a rowdy cowpoke.  That was probably the most successful conflict scene, where we put together that if Eva won the conflict, she'd defend herself successfully and if she lost, the other characters would have to step in to save her, thus playing into her issue of Not Being Taken Seriously.  I was spending about five Budget per conflict because I wanted to keep plenty of fan mail on the table, but over maybe four or five conflicts (I don't have my notes in front of me) I won no conflicts nor any narration. 

The players were also uncomfortable narrating things, and there was a tendency to sum up the conflict resolution and then say, "And that's what happened" rather than using it as a springboard to further the scene or end it dramatically.  I think that is something that we'll get better at as we get used to it.  It does occur to me that my group has always narrated it's successes and failures in this way, either by describing our action and then rolling (letting the dice say, "And that's what happened," or not), or by rolling particularly good or bad and then amending our action to include the crit or fumble.

But, like I said, the group had fun even with all the hiccups, and we're talking about putting together another session.  I'd like to see if the unevenness was just part of the first-game jitters, or if its a more fundamental disconnect between the old and new play style.
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