*
*
Home
Help
Login
Register
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.
October 22, 2019, 02:10:19 PM

Login with username, password and session length
Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.
Search:     Advanced search
275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4285 Members Latest Member: - Jason DAngelo Most online today: 148 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
Pages: [1]
Print
Author Topic: [PTA] Story game skillz are hard.  (Read 2755 times)
Andrew Cooper
Member

Posts: 724


WWW
« on: July 24, 2007, 05:26:08 AM »

So I got to play PTA for the first time at Go Play Southeast this weekend.  I had an excellent time.  The players were me and Lindsey (a young lady who plays in my regular group) and Remi Treuer as the Producer.  I've been playing role-playing games since 1989, my freshman year in college (I'm 36 years old).  I played a variety of traditional games (D&D, WoD, Palladium, GURPS, etc etc) up until 3 or 4 years ago when I stumbled across The Forge.  Since then the number of traditional games in my library has shrunk and the number of indie games has grown.  Still, D&D has been the most common game I've run due simply to the dearth of indie players in my area.  Lindsey has played 2 or 3 sessions of D&D with my group.  That's the extent of her role-playing experience.  She's 17 years old and loves theatre and dance and music.  She's one of my wife's dance students and she spends a lot of time hanging out at my house.  She really wanted to come to Go Play Southeast, which delighted me, so I drug her along.  Remi will have to chime in with his own background.  I have no idea what it is.

First, let me say that Remi totally rocks at pulling lots of disparate ideas into a cool concept that doesn't seem completely stupid.  When we were doing our Pitch Session (I think that's what they call it in PTA.  I haven't actually read the rules yet.) I was wondering how we were going to make anything coherent out of all the various ideas that were getting thrown out there.  Remi thought about it for about 30 seconds and then came up with an awesome idea that made me go, "Wow.  How'd he do that."  I've noticed that this kind of thing is common in many story/indie games.  Sitting around in the first session (or at the beginning of the game) and taking everyone's ideas and forming them into a coherent whole isn't easy if you've never done it before or haven't done it often.  So, hard skill #1.  I'll get back to it later.

Our show:

Title:  Real Fantasy
Concept:  Fictional Sword and Sorcery characters come to life on the streets of New York City.

Characters:

Charles the Barbarian  (Me)
Issue:  I don't fit in anywhere.
Nemesis:  Leon Smith, the author who created us.
Screen Presence:  2, 3, 1

Erin the Elf  (Lindsey)
Issue:  I have been cursed and can't dance.  (The wording here probably isn't exact. Going off memory.)
Nemesis:  Bob the Necromancer
Screen Presence: 1, 2, 3

NPC's of note:
Shawn the Police Officer  (Erin's love interest.)
Bob the Necromancer  (The initial antagonist.)
Leon the Author  (The guy who created us.  He dies in episode 3.)
Vinnie the Mobster  (Becomes a friend of Charles.)
Titania   (Well, the actress playing Titania in Midsummer Night's Dream.  Charles' love interest.)
Harry Potter   (Grocery clerk.  Heh.)
Lord Voldemort   (Harry's video game playing roommate.  Ends up being the antagonist in Episode #3.)

We decided since we only had 4 hours to play that we'd do a 3 part mini-series pilot for the show.  The story went something like this (much condensed):

Charles and Erin appear in a bookstore in Manhattan, where the open shot shows Charles throwing a police officer through the display window of the store.  The police arrive and apprehend Charles while Erin gets away using her magic.  Erin then runs into Shawn, a helpful police officer who is a fan of her books and recognizes her.  He shows her one of the books about her and Charles and agrees to help her find the author of the book to find out what is going on.  They travel to the author's home where they discover Bob the Necromancer living.  He defeats Erin's magic and she is forced to find out what is going on through other means.

Meanwhile Charles is tossed in a holding cell where he gets in a brawl and meets Vinnie, a small time mafia guy.  Vinnie recognizes Charles physical talents and gets him bailed out with him.  Vinnie wants to use Charles to advance his criminal career.  On the way to Vinnie's place Charles sees a poster of A Midsummer's Night's Dream and falls immediately in love with Titania.  He bursts into the show, interupts Titania's wedding, and carries the actress away.  He is rebuffed in spite of his mighty display of manliness though and thoroughly confused.  Vinnie tells him that you need money in this world in order to impress women and he knows how to get some money.

That was most of the first episode and set up the major conflicts.  During the course of play  Charles starts a tentative relationship with Titania (who turns out to be the real Titania), helps Vinnie further his ambition in the mafia, and decides not to kill Bob the Necromancer or Leon the Author even though he doesn't like either one.  Erin grows a relationship with Shawn, threatens Harry Potter with a gun destroys Voldemort's plan to totally break down the barriers between ther Real World and the Fictional World.  Lot's of good stuff.

The Point:

After the weekend was over I was chatting with Lindsey about the games (She played PTA, Legends of Alyria, Roach and Capes).  She really enjoyed them and had a great time.  However, she found being responsible for story ideas and narration and such was hard.  She said to me (paraphrased) "I think I still may like D&D better because the DM comes up with the plot and narrates most of the stuff.  It's easier."  You know what.  I think she's right too.  I've almost always been the GM in games I've played.  I'm used to coming up with stuff on the fly and narration and plot and all that other stuff.  Playing story games instead of traditional games tends to spread those jobs around to everyone at the table, making the games easier for me to play, since I'm used to doing all that stuff myself.  But that's a set of skills I've learned over my years of playing as the GM.  If a player is new to role-playing or is coming from a more traditional role-playing structure, they might not have that skill set and play is then very hard.  I've seen this kind of reaction to Capes and Dogs in the Vineyard at GenCon games.  The players flounder around with narration rights and exercising plot authority because they've never had to do that before and just plain don't know how.  It frustrates them.

Hmmmm...  not sure how or what needs to be discussed here but just wanted to share my observation.  Maybe I'm off base but I don't think I am.
Logged

dikaiosunh (Daniel)
Member

Posts: 32


« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2007, 06:06:12 AM »

Andrew,

I'm not sure I have a tremendous amount of advice to give, being fairly new to indie gaming myself, but I wanted to "second" your observation.  The first non-mainstream game I ran was a one-shot of Pretender, which includes a lot of distributed narration.  I ran it for a gang of old friends from HS - back then, we played mostly Rifts, D&D, and Vampire, and getting together once or twice a year and running some D&D is something of a nostalgic ritual.

Most players ended up enjoying the game, but there was a definite impatience with some of the distributed traditional GM duties.  Without getting too deep into the mechanics, Pretender often allows the player involved with a conflict to assign narration rights, and I most often found them being assigned to me.  And, the collaborative situation-creation that happens at the beginning of the game led quickly to everyone just agreeing to vote on the ideas that had come out in the first few minutes and get on with it, rather than getting deeply into working out a setting.

What surprised me was that the elements of the game that I *thought* would be issues - e.g., very abstract character definition, no skills/powers list to choose from, no kewl equipment lists - weren't.  The players seemed really jazzed about the freedom to define most of their character as they saw fit and without a framework for fine-tuning or min-maxing (not that indie = freeform necessarily, but in this case the form is a lot freer than most of the games we'd played).  What *was* an issue was the distributed narration, and in fact the only negative feedback I got after the game were some variations on "yeah, I got tired of coming up with ideas and just wanted to have you tell us what happened."

Anyway, I guess my only insight is that: of course, there are different pleasures to be derived from playing games.  I'm not sure how this lines up with things like the GNS schema, but at least my players in that group (and perhaps Lisa) seem to enjoy being the audience of a halfway decent story and the intellectual exercise of "figuring things out."  And, conversely, less interested in the sorts of things that lots of folks into indie gaming (including me) really enjoy, like creating stories collaboratively.  It's not surprising to me that you tended to GM a lot - I'm the same way, and I think it has to do with that orientation towards getting the fun out of creating stories.  It may be as much a matter of what you're looking to get out of a session of play as a skill set - most of what my Pretender players came up with when narrating themselves was pretty interesting, they just would have preferred not to have to think it up themselves.

- Daniel
Logged
Jason Morningstar
Member

Posts: 1428


WWW
« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2007, 06:41:32 AM »

We found Remi inside a meteorite.  He learned our language in a day. 

Having some additional responsibility at the table can be challenging, no doubt about it.  I don't think a person's reaction to that extra authority maps 1:1 with their experience as a gamer, though, not at all.  Each piece of authority (framing scenes, narrating, whatever) has some skills associated with it, and these can be innate or developed.  I bet if you let Lindsey GM for you guys for a while and then try some GM-less game again, she'll have new tools to apply to the game.  Then again, she might just prefer D&D, which is also great.  If you guys have a rockin' game already, that's a treasure in itself. 
Logged

GreatWolf
Member

Posts: 1155

designer of Dirty Secrets


WWW
« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2007, 06:43:38 AM »

Quote
You know what.  I think she's right too.  I've almost always been the GM in games I've played.  I'm used to coming up with stuff on the fly and narration and plot and all that other stuff.  Playing story games instead of traditional games tends to spread those jobs around to everyone at the table, making the games easier for me to play, since I'm used to doing all that stuff myself.  But that's a set of skills I've learned over my years of playing as the GM.  If a player is new to role-playing or is coming from a more traditional role-playing structure, they might not have that skill set and play is then very hard.  I've seen this kind of reaction to Capes and Dogs in the Vineyard at GenCon games.  The players flounder around with narration rights and exercising plot authority because they've never had to do that before and just plain don't know how.  It frustrates them.

At the risk of sounding insulting, I think that, talking generalizations, we need to divide the "new to role-playing" and "coming from a more traditional role-playing structure".  My AP experience with folks that are new to roleplaying is that they dive into distributed authority with little difficulty at all, while folks who have already learned the traditional role-playing structure find it difficult to rearrange their thinking.

Regardless, I do agree that it can be mentally draining to share creative authority.  And, honestly, like Daniel noted, sometimes people aren't looking for that sort of experience.

A good way of helping overcome this is the encouraging of kibitzing at the table.  Ask the other players for help, when you're stuck, or even if you're not!  Listen to the ideas that other people have, and offer your ideas to them.  Respect your fellow players' right to make their own decisions, but do offer ideas for narration to them as well.  Distributed authority means that you have the last word; it does not mean that everyone else must be silent.  Encouraging this sort of table talk makes for a better game and distributes the burden of creating interesting narration.
Logged

Seth Ben-Ezra
Dark Omen Games
producing Legends of Alyria, Dirty Secrets, A Flower for Mara
coming soon: Showdown
Remi Treuer
Member

Posts: 67


WWW
« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2007, 07:32:07 AM »

I'm the guy who ran the PTA game.

I agree that the pitch session went really well. Since the group was small, I didn't really have to worry about negativity, and synthesizing your guys ideas wasn't difficult. It came together when I brought in the idea of fictional characters really existing, both of you lit up and I knew we had a good core to work from.

PTA with two players is rough. It means you're almost always 'on', especially if you have a scene with another character and then it's your turn again. I was really trying to hand out suggestions when things bogged down, but sometimes I fell down. I was worried I was over GMing, taking too much ownership, but that seemed to be the mood at the table. This made the game slightly more difficult for me because I had to be 'on' all the time, but it wasn't a huge problem.

I won't lie, I'm disappointed that Lindsey found the game to be difficult. I can relate, though. I find the type of play she describes very difficult. I get impatient and crabby over my lack of voice. This is what drew me to story games, the desire for more input in the game, without always having to be GM. The traditional GM role suits me very poorly, as lots of pre-planning has never been my strong suit. I hope this at least broadened her horizons, and I, for one, really enjoyed playing PTA with her.

Will echo the objection to your 'new roleplayers' comment. I have introduced several new people into roleplaying in the past year, people who have had no prior experience, and they have taken to narrative control with very little difficulty. Now all of these people were from my improv theater, and so spontaneous creation is something they're very used to. However, doing so in a mediated environment is not, and yet the introduction of rules and splitting up authority came easily, and was immediately enjoyable
Logged
Andrew Cooper
Member

Posts: 724


WWW
« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2007, 08:28:24 AM »

Remi,

I would be too disappointed.  Lindsey really liked the game and wants to play again.  She just found it difficult.  She hadn't ever done anything that required those kinds of skills before and thus it stretched her a bit.  I don't think that's a bad thing.  I also think she's mature enough as a person to enjoy being stretched a little and learning how to do new things.  You did an awesome job introducing the game and, as I said, she wants to do it again, so chalk the game up as a success.

Seth and Remi,

Your experience is different from mine concerning new role-players.  I will grant you that you've introduced more new players to story games than I have, so I'm perfectly willing to be wrong.  I've introduced 3 people in the last year or so who have played no role-playing games or only a session or two before.  All of them have had problems with the spotlight regarding narration and coming up with plot on the fly.  It might be because the people I've introduced haven't been writers, improv actors, or anything like that.  They just haven't had the skill set to make up stuff easily.  They struggled with it a bit.  That isn't to say they didn't do it.  Like Lindsey, they did it.  It just wasn't a natural kind of thing for them.  So, that's where my "new role-players" comment came from.  It's probably just a sub-set of new role-players but thus far everyone I've introduced has been a part of that sub-set.

I've found experienced traditional role-players to have an even harder time.  They have to unlearn they're normal tendencies and then relearn things.  I come from this group so my experience is kinda personal here, along with introducing others of my friends that fall into this group.  Some of them just don't ever adjust and dislike the games I've shown them.  Oh well, c'est la vie.

Logged

Andrew Cooper
Member

Posts: 724


WWW
« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2007, 08:29:22 AM »

Remi,

I would be too disappointed. 


would = wouldn't... gah.  Don't be disappointed, Remi.

Logged

Sydney Freedberg
Member

Posts: 1293


WWW
« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2007, 08:36:09 AM »

Another vote for distinguishing "new to roleplaying" from "experienced with traditional roleplaying but new to indie roleplaying": In my own (limited) experience with new-to-roleplaying types, mainly my wife, it's hard to stop them narrating cool stuff that goes far beyond "my character does this."

That said, Prime Time Adventures is not a highly structured game the way, say, Dogs in the Vineyard is. Conflict resolution gives a single narrator (whoever ends up with the high card) only two pieces of information to guide how to narrate what happens for the whole conflict: (1) who gets what they want vs. who doesn't, and (2) what Edges and Relationships were used. Whereas Dogs divides narration among all participants and makes each one responsible for only one small chunk of each conflict: this is my raise or see, this is what I'm doing, and maybe I'm rolling a new trait, here's how I justify it; and at the end, here's what fallout I took. Capes is an even more extreme (and more obscure) example, because each time you affect the dice, you have a specific narrative cue either from what Ability you ticked off on your character sheet or what Inspiration from a past conflict you're trading in. D&D, likewise, offers a lot of cues on how to narrate combat, at least: I used this weapon/spell/feat, I attacked this guy, I did this much damage.

Generally, there's a tradeoff between minimizing "points of contact" (in Forge-speak) and maximizing guidance/cues for narration. The more fiddly little steps there are in resolving a conflict, the more cues you have for what to narrate. My personal game-design objective is to come up with a system that provides lots of cues without the fiddly little steps being either complicated or repetitive.
Logged

Pages: [1]
Print
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.11 | SMF © 2006-2009, Simple Machines LLC
Oxygen design by Bloc
Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!