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[PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
Topic: [PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play (Read 2892 times)
[PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
April 27, 2008, 09:35:02 AM »
"Stockholm" is a PTA series I created for running at conventions and other one-timer sessions for players new to PTA. At "Bigor," Israel's major annual roleplaying convention, I decided to one-up myself and run several subsequent episodes across several game rounds. The idea was that I would have the fun of seeing a bigger chunk of the series, players in a single round would get a more complex game than they would with a one-timer with no actual previous episodes having run, and players who particularly like the concept or PTA can sign up to multiple rounds and spend a significant portion of the convention in an ongoing series.
The concept is a drama/suspense miniseries, following a kidnapped couple and their kidnappers. Five desperate people, cooped up together against their will, under constant tension and just waiting for the next shoe to drop. I constructed "Stockholm" to showcase what I love so much about PTA, the things it can do marvelously that other systems don't: high drama, surprising plot twists, and intense relationships between the characters.
is a con man with a cruel streak. His Edges are "Master Grifter" and "Sadist," and his Connection is Lt. Kenneth Zell, a crooked cop who's helping keeping the kidnappers stay hidden. Marcel's issue is aging and losing his skills - on the character description I also tossed in a possible twist about wanting to find a protege, which some players ran with and others didn't.
is a ne'er-do-well jack of all trades. His Edges are "Compulsive Gambler" and "Former Arms Dealer," and his Connection is Narco, a gang boy in nearby Boston he helps out in the pilot. His issue is his greed and his yearning for easy money without hard work. Kurt is the only character created by one of the players (the others preferred to stick to the pre-written characters), and both Nimrod who created Kurt and Eran who played him in the previous round had a lot of fun with him.
had decided to straighten up his life and leave crime in favor of family, but when his wife died of cancer, Zach gave up on clean living. His Edges are "Ex-Bodyguard" and "Ex-Family Man," and his connection is his teenage son Sean.
Ian and Charlotte Dearborne
are the kidnapped couple. Ian is shy, passive, and overly-pliable; he loves Charlotte for her wildness, her energy and her shamelessness. Over the years, though, he's stayed far too quiet while she's crossed far too many boundaries. They've been [[suppressing]] the tension between them for years, but being confined together under such pressure is sure to bring matters between them to a head...
Charlotte's Edges are "Wild Girl" and "Life of Luxury," and her Connection is her father, Edward Ceyano, industry magnate and the kidnappers' target for the big ransom. Her issue is facing the pain she's caused others - particularly Ian and her father, who views Charlotte as a disappointment.
Ian's Edges are "Harvard Wonder Boy" and "Psychotherapist," his Connection is Rondi, a ditzy elderly neighbor who's noticed the group's residence and found out that Ian is a therapist (but not, alas, that he's a kidnap victim...), and keeps barging into the house as the kidnappers grit their teeth. His issue is regaining control of his life.
The concept and characters are all my own writing (save for Kurt); there's an interesting discussion about non-pitched ideas here that I'll save for later in the thread. The important thing to know is that players came to my game with the following, all available a week or two before the convention (links included for Hebrew-readers):
The teaser for the game,
which blurbs both PTA itself and the Stockholm game specifically.
A short summary of PTA,
so players understand what it's all about and don't come in surprised to learn they need to pick scenes themselves, understand what stakes are, etc. (Thanks again to Matt for permission to post the summary
The prewritten character sheets.
4. An invitation and exhortation to players to modify any character or create their own if they so choose - but to please do so in advance of the convention.
So, players didn't necessarily have much ability to create the series themselves, but they had plenty chance to immerse themselves in the concept and characters and to pick a character to their liking, and players not fond of the specific concept will probably not sign up. In practice, only one player of the ten pre-signed players wanted to create his own character.
The original plan was to run three consecutive rounds, with one episode per round. The first two rounds filled up during sign-up, the last one stayed empty and was alas canceled. Also, no player signed up to more than one episode, so I was the only participant who saw more than a single episode... in the future, though, I may run more of Stockholm. We'll see... Wish me luck
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Episode 2
Reply #1 on:
April 27, 2008, 09:41:02 AM »
Charlotte ... Adar ..... SP 3
Ian ......... Haggai ... SP 2
Kurt ........ Eran ..... SP 2
Marcel ...... Ran ...... SP 1
One player cancels at the last moment; Zach is an NPC.
Players ask what's gone on in previous episodes. This round is pegged as Episode 2, I explain that the pilot had mostly character exposition and the kidnapping itself, and that Episode 1 was the inevitable initial escape attempt - a miserable failure. Background-wise, the series (at least for now) takes place in large house in a small town in Massachusetts.
AND NOW, ON THIS WEEK'S EPISODE...
Episode 2 is Charlotte's spotlight. Her issue is facing the pain she's caused others, and her issues with her father I had planned as a central reason the ransom would be rejected, so I'd decided to give Charlotte an early spotlight, and focus that episode on the ransom demand itself.
I open the scene panning over an array of communications equipment laid out across a table, ending with three ski masks to conceal the kidnapper's faces on video. All the cast is in the living room, and I decide the agenda is discussing the ransom request and hammering out the precise demands among the kidnappers.
Ran and Eran played this out wonderfully, almost immediately turning from technical details to pressing Charlotte directly for her opinion on how much her father will be willing to pay. Charlotte, wanting to protect her father, remains tight-lipped. We declare conflict, and the first stakes are chosen: Adar says she wants Charlotte to stay strong in the face of threats; Ran gives sadist Marcel the stakes of seeing Charlotte hurt; Haggai as Ian wants to end the conflict as quickly as possible. Eran decides Kurt stays out of the conflict. Cards are drawn, and all three win their stakes - we decide the perfect solution is for Charlotte to stick to her guns (staying strong), but Ian shouts out that Ceyano will easily give ten million or more (thus quickly concluding the conflict), and so Marcel gets the satisfaction of seeing Charlotte betrayed by her husband... The scene fades away from Charlotte's furious glare.
Cue the opening credits. We see Charlotte and Ian in the rural house, staring out soulfully from behind bars. The camera shifts, and we see Zach, Marcel and Kurt leering at them from the other side. We shift across each of the protagonists, then the camera swoops around for a wide view, and we see the room is sealed, with no doors - just the five protagonists, on two sides of the same bars.
Adar establishes the next scene in medium res - Ian and Charlotte on the sofa, coffee in hand, the room silent, until a single word comes out of the phone the kidnappers crowd around: "No." The criminals are maddened, open a video channel to threaten Charlotte before her father's eyes. Edward Ceyano, even by digital image, is cold and imposing, and he treats the kidnappers with disdain and disgust. Marcel raises a hand on Charlotte - and she brings the coffee cup down on his hand. Conflict! Charlotte's stakes are impressing her father; Ian again wants to calm matters down - he wants the situation resolved without anyone being harmed, and for Ian himself to help with this; Kurt and Marcel both want to stay in control of the situation. Big conflict, I put down substantial budget - Charlotte and Ian win their stakes, the kidnappers both lose theirs! Haggai gets narration. He decides that Charlotte doesn't actually hurt Marcel, but only threatens him with the coffee cup; Ian takes the opportunity to lecture the kidnappers and call for calm, and put together with Charlotte's anger the kidnappers are cowed and embarrassed. Ceyano is less than impressed with them; he assures the kidnappers that the law enforcement will undoubtedly find them soon. Charlotte's clearly impressed him, though - a very nice twist, and well-placed in Charlotte's spotlight!
Eran, playing Kurt, comes up with a twist of his own. He suggests that Kurt blackmail Charlotte with evidence of her indiscretions, threatening to show them to Ian if she doesn't start being more cooperative. We decide the kidnappers have incriminating pictures of Charlotte with other men, which they took while studying her before the kidnapping. We also agree it's too early in the episode to introduce the blackmail itself, so we outline Kurt sending Narco for the pictures to establish the thread.
We decide to create a diversion by bringing in Rondi, the next-door neighbor (and Ian's connection). She comes by with freshly-baked banana bread to welcome the new neighbors, and everybody needs to pretend everything's fine and dandy. The kidnappers are introduced as "contractors" (as they aim hidden weapons at the Dearbornes), and Ian explains how they're considering adding a new wing to the house "in anticipation of the baby." I leap on this, having Rondi twist the screws between Ian and Charlotte by talking about babies and children and the wonder of birth... leading the happy couple to rehash the are-we-having-kids-yet argument between them with Rondi as their go-between.
Now it's time to bring in those photos. They're still on the way, but Kurt takes Rondi for a ride, during which he makes his offer - start encouraging daddy to fork over, or Ian sees the pictures. I wanted to kiss Ran for ratcheting up Charlotte's dilemma so well and so directly... We declare conflict. Charlotte's stakes are managing to protect
Ian and her father; Kurt's stakes are advancing towards collecting the ransom. For such a juicy conflict, the budget is nice and high - the cards are turned over, and both Charlotte and Kurt have lost, and lost badly. Adar looks at the cards for a moment and goes, "Well, what that means is that he's going to show the pictures to Ian." Everybody gapes. Commercial break.
I think it was Adar who chose the next scene. She had Charlotte rushing to Ian the moment she and Kurt got back through the door. If Ian is going to find out about those pictures, she says, he's going to hear about them from
, not from Kurt. She tells him - in full view and earshot of the three kidnappers. Haggai as Ian responds apathetically, despairingly. He's not surprised, he says, it's not the first time, and he's given up on them anyhow. We decide the rest will wait for a more private setting, in the next scene.
Thrown back down into the cellar, tied back to back, Mr. and Mrs. Dearborne discuss the state of their marriage. Conflict is called: Haggai wants Charlotte to understand that their relationship is hopeless; Adar wants Ian to see hope for the two of them together. A mutual success here would might have been amusing, but the mutual failure - which we interpreted as a stalemate, each remaining convinced of his own opinion but not budging the other - definitely worked well.
Onto the more direct method. Marcel decides that Ian can be used as an example to spur Ceyano to pay for his daughter's release. Trying to establish himself as Kurt's mentor, he instructs Kurt to hurt Ian - something painful, but not permanent. Charlotte realizes they're going to hurt Ian, and yells for Ian through the door. Conflict - Ian tries to make Kurt doubt Marcel and his violence. Kurt, already uncertain, wants to undermine Marcel's authority. Charlotte wants Ian to recognize her concern for him, and Marcel wants Kurt to learn something under his instruction. As I loved all these stakes, I bid low, and IIRC all the protagonists won their stakes. Kurt, with Ian's encouragement, refused Marcel's orders; Marcel steps up himself and demonstrates a particularly painful blow. Charlotte hears Ian in pain and cries out to him with sincerity he cannot doubt. From these shambles, we move towards the end...
Marcel orchestrates a video - no live communication this time - in which he makes his demands of Ceyano. Charlotte and Ian are bound and gagged this time, and Marcel closes the video by cutting scars into Charlotte's cheeks with a knife. "Let's talk," comes the reply, but Marcel and Kurt decide to let Ceyano stew.
The next morning, the paper announces a statement Ceyano has made in the press, an address to the kidnappers. In his statement he rejects all demands - and perhaps his daughter. "Your kidnapping of that daughter will not make me lose my head or my will," he writes. "I remain calm and level-headed. You will not goad me with your empty threats. The authorities will find you - if it takes a day or a year."
The response was a mess of arguments and knee-jerk reactions, including Charlotte bursting into tears at her father's treatment of her. We declare a final conflict, for which I'm afraid I don't recall everybody's stakes, but the center was Charlotte, who's stake was finding a way out - some way to get out of the house, some release from her confines. Kurt is moved by Charlotte and concerned about her, and he takes her out for another spin in the car - this time, free of threats and demands. As her denouement, Adar has Charlotte stepping out of the car and being led back into the house - but not without giving Kurt a grateful hug.
NEXT WEEK ON
- Edward Ceyano, shouting, "I don't care how much it costs. I'm going to find them, and I'm going
- Lt. Zell on the phone, saying "Something new has come up..."
- Kurt telling Charlotte, "Maybe you and I can make a deal..."
- Two FBI agents lying in watch... over Rondi's house. (Very unfortunately, I didn't manage to work this into the next episode. If I run more of Stockholm, though, I hope to use it.)
- Kurt, Marcel and Zach discussing, "One of us is going to have to find a job."
Now, in case the summary didn't convey what an amazing, energetic game this was, let me state for the record: this was a hugely, incredibly amazing and energetic game. It was everything a GM could hope for - from a PTA one-timer, from a drama show about kidnappers, for a spotlight episode... Charlotte's issue had everyone hanging on to her scenes, while everybody got to play major parts. The episode was exciting and surprising. It was FUN. And the players loved PTA's system, too. Haggai had read PTA before but never played; he said "I read it and I was impressed, but never really convinced that it really works. Now I'm convinced." Eran said the game had made his convention; Ran, who signed up right before the game without any familiarity with PTA, said his one complaint was that he wanted more time and space to explore Marcel's Issue...
All in all, I consider this round to have been an unqualified success. I'm very proud to have helped bring it about, and my sincere thanks to the wonderful players who brought the game to life so marvellously.
Sometime tomorrow-ish I'll post a summary of the second round... 'till then, I'd love to hear comments
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
Reply #2 on:
April 28, 2008, 07:50:01 AM »
It took a minute to realize that the name of your series is referring to the Stockhom Syndrome, not the city. Sounds like you've been having a lot of fun. Thanks for the report.
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Epsiode 3
Reply #3 on:
April 29, 2008, 01:07:33 AM »
Charlotte ... Lianne ... SP 1
Ian ......... Yotam .... SP 1
Kurt ........ Nimrod ... SP 2
Marcel ...... Alex ..... SP 1
Zach ........ Aor ...... SP 2
I'd conceived this episode as being largely plot-oriented, and focusing more on the kidnappers (two of whom are at screen-presence 2, rest of the cast at 1), and I hoped to begin tightening the noose around the kidnappers, putting more pressure on the entire situation.
To set all this off, I planned to open the scene with the kidnappers discussing the need for short-term cash to tide them over until payoff. This would let the kidnappers out into the town or city, and had potential for character exposition and interaction - and for missteps that could start drawing somebody's attention.
What happened with this scene was interesting - this was the first scene any of these people had played in PTA, and maybe that's why despite the agenda I gave for the scene (talking about their lack of cash and need for a job), they quickly slid to discussing the kidnapping and how to get the ransom demand back on track. That's just classic roleplaying - playing in character, saying what he would say. But this didn't seem to be going anywhere in particular, and without
prompt I feared the episode would lack direction (this had happened in my testplay a week earlier, which came out very disappointing). So we decided to start the scene over, and this time I set the scene more directly - instead of having the kidnappers just sitting in the living room talking, I opened the scene with Zach coming in with a bundle of bills, slapping them down on the table... Take two! Everything flowed easy from there.
Kurt wanted to earn money gambling. Marcel spoke of unspecified "plans" to get money out of the Dearbornes themselves. And Zach said he wanted to get a real job.
Capping off the teaser, I cut to the scene described in last episode's preview: Charlotte's father saying, "I don't care how much it costs. I'm going to find them, and I'm going
them..." The camera swivels away from Ceyano, revealing whom he's addressing: two slim, businesslike women, one black, one white. They nod, and we fade to the credits.
I'll stick to highlights, since this is long enough even without the scene-by-scene. It was a great game, a lot of fun for everyone. Previous episodes I've run have been mostly focused on a single thread - this one had each kidnapper doing his own thing, with occasional criss-crosses between them, and that was just great to run and play in...
I think easily the best scene was the one Aor set up for Zach. Zach's first scene after declaring he's going to find a job finds big, brawny, no-nonsense criminal Zach behind the counter at a diner called "The Flap-Jack Shack," flipping pancakes, dealing with an annoying customer... and then the next person in line makes his order, signals something to Zach, and meets him in the restroom to make a dropoff. The pancakes are just the cover for getting involved in Boston's underworld... But with the kidnapping going on, Zach sure can't afford to have that cover blown!
Marcel has hit upon the idea of getting Ian to give him confidential information on his more affluent patients, with which Marcel intends to blackmail them. I thought this was a neat, original idea - and then Yotam, as Ian, did one better, pretending to go along with Marcel but convincing him that for that he needs access to his files at home... That got him a lot of fan mail, both for convincing Marcel then and for a later conflict of Marcel's, and so things are all set up for some neat development - either Marcel bringing Ian to his house somehow, or Marcel trying to steal the files himself... Throughout the episode, Marcel's stakes were achieving security by having a reliable source of money; chance and fan mail conspired against him, driving him further and further from his comfort zone, until he's committed to something pretty desperate.
Nimrod and Aor agreed on bringing Kurt and Zach together, having Kurt by chance bring his friends to gamble in the Shack where Zach works... This was a lot of fun, and Zach was under pressure from four different sides at once. His stakes at one point were "not letting Kurt get me involved with his gang," and when he won it, he narrated how he managed to supervise the group without Kurt even noticing it was him... Later on, Nimrod and Lianne pursued the thread of Kurt and Charlotte striking some kind of deal. They discuss escaping, and having Kurt claim to have rescued Charlotte, thus getting a reward. Lianne's stakes for Charlotte are that they stipulate that Ian won't be put at risk - and loses. The follow-up here will be interesting...
As for Zach, I threw in some conflict between him and the courier he met, arguing that the money Zach has for him isn't the agreed upon price. Zach, egged on by his boss, throws the first punch in an alleyway - loses the next conflict, and is trashed and humiliated. He keeps the money, the courier keeps the parcel and leaves... Rather than admit failure, Zach claims there was an ambush and the money was taken too - he knows full well that this may incite a war between the crime bosses. Zach's superior offers to take Zach deeper into the ranks, give him full support and training, helping him "become all he used to be." "We'll be family," he says. Zach refuses, with a great speech about how all he wants is the money to take his son far away, and retire. I liked the speech so much, I let that resolve the matter without conflict. The episode ends with Zach having rejected the offer, remaining in a very minor position, and with Charlotte and Kurt agreeing on their little deal...
NEXT WEEK, ON STOCKHOLM:
Spotlight episode for Zach!
- Zach and his son Sean, standing opposite each other.
- Marcel on the porch, watching Charlotte and Kurt who are outside, huddled together.
- Ian sitting between Zach and Sean, saying "I understand what you're going through."
- Ian ripping something off the wall, crushing or destroying it in anger.
...and that's all, folks. Once again, the game was much enjoyed by all, and again the PTA system seemed to duly impress the players. I'm very satisfied with these two rounds, and it's a shame the third one was canceled... and having written this summary, recalling all the cool ideas that opened up here, I'm very much considering running more episodes at future conventions
Who knows? I might even reach the Episode 9 finale!
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
Reply #4 on:
April 29, 2008, 01:09:52 AM »
...should this all have gone in the "Actual Play" forum? Should I repost there, or link there to this thread or some such? I'm not Forge-savvy, and I only noticed that forum after I started this thread...
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
Reply #5 on:
April 29, 2008, 01:19:46 AM »
Do not repost anything.
Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice.
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
Reply #6 on:
April 29, 2008, 06:45:44 AM »
That is a great idea to run linked episodes like that. Especially for a Con game set. And the AP sounds like everyone had a blast.
Re: [PTA] Stockholm
Reply #7 on:
May 01, 2008, 03:10:19 AM »
Well mate, i'm must say that now i got the answer 2 the first qus' i had when i saw the post about the second episode (aka- our episode)...
The qus' did u got tired writing the first 1 & that's y u did it 2 short in the second 1 & missed all the fun
? And the answer is- su-re! i'm 2 tired from all this English... y did u chose forums in English? LOL
But lets leave your lousy choice & talk business: the game was great & u were right, i loved plaing my character, which make me like the PTA even more cause its great system for cool characters.
Moreover, i love the things that u did with the PTA in your game- i think u used this system wise & interesting... but i really think u need 2 give our playng more serious stage in this forum
And most of it i love the game with lianne- but that's just because i love lianne `-) & its wrong that u didn't tell the story how she got the crash on Kurt! really wrong :-P
p.s- i think u need 2 continue this game!
Re: [PTA] Stockholm - Actual Play
Reply #8 on:
May 01, 2008, 03:13:59 AM »
oh man! i knew i'll fall here. i ment 2 wright 'i must say' & not 'i'm must say'...
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