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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: Questions about Conflict  (Read 2951 times)
Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« on: September 05, 2006, 07:25:24 PM »

Hi guys,

I posted thes on another thread (I'm just so excited about PtA I lost my mind). Realizing things could get really cloudy, I'm starting a new thread.

I just played PTA at a local Con. Loved it. My brains on fire right now.

For now, I'd love to get answers from Matt and Ron on this stuff.

Thanks!


Questions:


Question One

In the Story Games thread (I've signed up, but waiting to be approved), you said that the conflict should be stated in terms of the character's Issue. But what about scenes that are about the Plot? Is there a distinction between these two kinds of scenes, or what? Because of the conflict is about the PC's Issue (which makes sense to me), then why isn't EVERY scene an Issues scene?

Do Plot scenes usually lack conflict? (Where shooting out some info, then getting on with the next conflict scene? Of course, if a conflict arrises, cool! Or what?)


Question Two

What about scenes that "hang" with the resolution of a conflict left unresolved.

I'm in the middle of watching a second season The Shield episode right now.

Julian, gay and devoute Christian, believes he's been "cured" of his homosexuality, and has proposed to a single mom he's known for seven weeks.

He asks his partner to be at the wedding in a week's time. His partner knows he's gay. She says this is crazy. He says, "I'm cured, I'm doing this."

He's trying to fit into the police force as a "normal" man; she needs a partner who's honest with himseld so she can trust him.

The scene ends with neither of them budging on their internal issues -- even the wedding invite is left hanging between them and then we cut.

The stakes grow again when she meets the fiance and tells Julian, "If you don't tell her about your past, I'll tell her." But still, that's the last line of the scene.

Does PTA do this? If so, could you help me see how the scene work manifests this?


Question Three

Is it appropriate for the Producer to "put stakes" on PC -- instead of phrasing the stakes in terms of an NPC?

Example:

Buffy-Like has the Issue, "Must keep everyone around her safe."

The scene is set up that an assassin that's been after her shows up at her house when her friends are all visiting.

The Producer could phrase the conflict as:

* "The assassin tries to kill Buffy-Like." This seems wrong, as it blows by Buffy-like's issue, and worse -- can send everyone down the rabbit-hole of stakes built off mechanical actions rather than character-Issue stakes.

* "The assassin wants needs to prove to his dad he's good enough to follow in his footsteps as a master-assassin." This feels weird, as I donít really care about the assassins stakes. There's only so much time to focus on issues, and I want to focus on the issues of the star characters.

* "Will Buffy-Like keep her friends safe?" (Or, "Will Buffy-Like be 'broken' by the time this scene is over?" Or, "Will Buffy-Like have to sacrifice something she loves keep everyone around her safe?"

These seem like they'd be stepping all over the ownership of the PC. But I have to say, I like the way these are phrased -- I know what the stakes are, and no matter how the cards flip, I can't wait to see how the scene resolves the stakes one way or the other.† It seems like this is exactly the sort of thing the Producer is supposed to do. Am I right about this?


Question Four

By the way, I really like the phrasing of stakes as, "Will [character X] [blah, blah, blah stakes]." I haven't seen anything like this around her, but it seems to make sense to me. Comments, anybody?

I like it because it makes putting the stakes in terms of Issues easy. I like it because it sets up a question, and thus we're phrasing things in such a way that we're NOT phrasing "outcome before resolution." I like it because it let's the question keep hanging there even as the player is narrating the character's outcome.

For example, from the above, the assassin is shooting. The scene's winning Narrator describes Buffy-Like rushing outside to kick his ass. Buffy-Like's play tosses in a quip. (Fan mail!) Even if we know she's going to be "broken" by the end of the scene, we still don't know how she'll be broken yet.

In fact, the the fight is narrated as going well in Buffy's favor. The other players at this moment have no clue as to how Buffy-Like is going to be broken, since she in fact KICKS the assassin's ASS -- and no one else running around outside has been harmed.

Then the narrator adds, "And Wilow-Like screams, and everyone turns to face the house's plate glass window. Willow-Like's girlfriend stands there -- right behind a small bullet hole in the window, blood spreading across her white shirt from her chest, her eyes dazed. She collapses -- vanshing from sight -- a stray bullet from the fight having pierced her lung."

Now we know how Buffy-Like got broken, even though she kicked the bad-guy's ass. But we didn't know it till the last beat in the story telling.

I think I'm on track with this stuff. Yes?


Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Matt Wilson
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Posts: 1121

student, second edition


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« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2006, 09:34:23 PM »

Hey Christopher:

I saw spoilers in your second question, and I haven't watched season two yet, so I stopped reading. Maybe someone else can help you with that one.

As for the previous question, think of the focus as the way you want to set up the conflict, rather than what kind of conflict is going to be in the scene. I'll have to get all hypothetical here, but let's say you have a character with the issue "grief." You're requesting a scene, and you want it to be about "looking up information at the library with Jane."

If it's a character scene, then the scene itself will spend very little time on the looking up of stuff. The issue will be front and center, probably, with maybe Jane confronting you about how you're not finding the support you need to help you get through this thing you're going through.

If it's a plot scene, then it's more about how your issue and the episode's particular storyline are interacting. You need to find this information, but you keep thinking sad thoughts. Will you be able to keep it together?

So really, when you specify character or plot, you're just telling everyone else what kind of path you want to take to get to the conflict.

Hope that helps.
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2006, 10:35:53 PM »

Right.

Okay, I'll figure out question two on my own. (I admit to a mental deficiency on my part: I have no concern for spoilers. I appologize for not remembering this for you and others.)

Could you please look at questions three and four (now spoiler free!)?



Question Three

Is it appropriate for the Producer to "put stakes" on PC -- instead of phrasing the stakes in terms of an NPC?

Example:

Jenny has the Issue, "Must keep everyone around her safe."

The scene is set up that an assassin that's been after her shows up at her house when her friends are all visiting.

The Producer could phrase the conflict as:

* "The assassin tries to kill Jenny." This seems wrong, as it blows by Jenny's issue, and worse -- can send everyone down the rabbit-hole of stakes built off mechanical actions rather than character-Issue stakes.

* "The assassin wants needs to prove to his dad he's good enough to follow in his footsteps as a master-assassin." This feels weird, as I donít really care about the assassins stakes. There's only so much time to focus on issues, and I want to focus on the issues of the star characters.

* "Will Jenny keep her friends safe?" (Or, "Will Jenny be 'broken' by the time this scene is over?" Or, "Will Jenny have to sacrifice something she loves keep everyone around her safe?"

These seem like they'd be stepping all over the ownership of the PC. But I have to say, I like the way these are phrased -- I know what the stakes are, and no matter how the cards flip, I can't wait to see how the scene resolves the stakes one way or the other.  It seems like this is exactly the sort of thing the Producer is supposed to do. Am I right about this?


Question Four

I really like the phrasing of stakes as, "Will [character X] [blah, blah, blah stakes]." I haven't seen anything like this around her, but it seems to make sense to me. Comments, anybody?

I like it because it makes putting the stakes in terms of Issues easy. I like it because it sets up a question, and thus we're phrasing things in such a way that we're NOT phrasing "outcome before resolution." I like it because it let's the question keep hanging there even as the player is narrating the character's outcome.

For example, from the above, the assassin is shooting. The scene's winning Narrator describes Jenny rushing outside to kick his ass. Jenny's play tosses in a quip. (Fan mail!) Even if we know she's going to be "broken" by the end of the scene, we still don't know how she'll be broken yet.

In fact, the the fight is narrated as going well in Jenny's favor. The other players at this moment have no clue as to how Jenny is going to be broken, since she in fact KICKS the assassin's ASS -- and no one else running around outside has been harmed.

Then the narrator adds, "And Anna screams, and everyone turns to face the house's plate glass window. Anna's girlfriend stands there -- right behind a small bullet hole in the window, blood spreading across her white shirt from her chest, her eyes dazed. She collapses -- vanshing from sight -- a stray bullet from the fight having pierced her lung."

Now we know how Jenny got broken, even though she kicked the bad-guy's ass. But we didn't know it till the last beat in the story telling.

I think I'm on track with this stuff. Yes?

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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
Matt Wilson
Moderator
Member
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Posts: 1121

student, second edition


WWW
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2006, 09:25:34 AM »

Here's the thing about number three All the conflict stuff is totally collaborative. When we're playing, you and I, we both want to figure out what the coolest thing would be that the protagonist can get into conflict about. The player says, hey, how about this? The producer says, how about this? Another player says, how about this? And the group decides on the coolest one or a new combination. It's similar to Sorcerer's free and clear stage.

So as a producer, you can't bang the gavel and officially impose stakes upon players. You can set up situations that help everyone come up with cool stakes. In that light, you can absolutely suggest stakes in terms of character vs. self. I like those kinds of conflicts, so if I were the player, I'd be all eyes lit up and maybe drooling just a tiny bit out of the corner of my mouth.

As for number four, personally I'd probably phrase it like "the stakes are whether she totally loses it or keeps her cool, and she's trying to keep cool by doing X-Y-Z," but your way sounds like it'd work just fine.
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Christopher Kubasik
Member

Posts: 1153


« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2006, 03:01:19 PM »

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the replies!

Christopher
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"Can't we for once just do what we're supposed to do -- and then stop?
Lemonhead, The Shield
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