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Author Topic: [PTA] Players wanting their PCs to fail?  (Read 18732 times)
Halzebier
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« on: June 28, 2008, 02:09:10 AM »

Hi there!

We've just had our first two evenings of Primetime Adventures. We're doing a series about a travelling circus in the fantasy world we have been using for our D&Dish campaigns for many years. The going has been a bit rough, but overall my group seems to like it.

I'd like to make two quick observations before moving on to my issue.

1. Fan mail

In the first session, fan mail was hardly given out at all. In the second session, it was given out jokingly at first (to make good-natured fun of the system and to provide players with chips), but then caught on for real. I think it's fantastic.

2. Collaboration

Suggestions for the person with the narrating rights are flying around all the time and are often incorporated, further developed etc., or kick off even more ideas around the table. It seems just like what Ron is always going on about.

*-*-*

There have been several instances of players wanting to narrate how their characters fail without consulting the cards.

1. One example from the very start of the game:

The travelling circus' matriarch has just been buried.

Kim is playing Taku, a jungle savage and the circus' animal trainer. He wishes for the following scene:

The matriarch's wayside grave at dusk, two other characters coming to pay their respects.

(Agenda and focus were not defined, which may be part of the problem here.)

Kim: As you come up to the grave, you see that Taku is hastily burying a small object under the grave's headstone. You catch a glimpse of magical symbols.

It should be noted that the player made it clear that he did not want the other characters to react to this. The little vignette was supposed to build a bit of a mystery around Taku to be explored at a later point.

I asked for a draw of cards, though, and this led to successful concealment. The player was disappointed, but greatly mollified when I pointed out that the TV series' viewers had of course noticed.

*-*-*

Another example:

Carl's character Hugh has been sorely hurt. Kylie's character Andrielle is bandaging his wounds -- and secretly trying to apply magical ink on his back to search for an invisible tattoo. Even though it has been established that the ink is a vile and foul-smelling liquid, Carl declares that Hugh does not notice.

Again, I asked for a draw. The draw created a lot of suspense (Kylie threw in a bit of fan mail to help her conceal Andrielle's activities) and turned out the way the player wanted (i.e. Hugh failed to notice anything).

*-*-*

It's not such a big deal, but I'm not quite sure how to handle this. In both cases, I did not follow the "Say Yes" advice and asked the players to draw cards instead.

On the one hand, the players' approach smacks of narrating conflict *and* outcome, on the other hand, failure can lead to more interesting story options (which was the players' motivation in both cases).

Thoughts?

Regards,

Hal
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2008, 06:33:00 AM »

Hi Hal,

FIrst, the setting sounds really cool!

Second, I've had this come up before in games (many times) and there are two ways to look at it.  I don't think either one is better than the other, and I've used both.  I think you'll find (along with your players, the way you want to do this.

Way of playing #1: You don't look at the conflict being about what the PC wants, but what the Player wants.  This is pretty much what you did.  As long as either option is interesting (success or failure) you'll be fine.  Sometimes I'll spot a little nugget of a conflict and ask a Player, "So, what do you want to happen here," and that's enough for me to pull out the cards. Again, I'm looking at what the Players want for their PCs, not what the Players think the PCs want.

Way of playing #2: Give the scene more leash and see if there's another conflict around the corner.

I'd add that as long as the conflicts are tied to the characters' issues in some way, you're golden.

I'm guessing other people have lots of ways they use the rules for conflict in PtA, and I'd love to hear them.

CK
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #2 on: June 29, 2008, 07:11:00 PM »

Hi there,

I'll start by saying that this reply is strongly skewed toward my own views about role-playing in general, with many interrelated topics involved. Also, my point about Primetime Adventures in particular might be in the minority, at present. So take this as one man's view, based on a lot of things, but not necessarily the majority view.

Basically, I disagree with Christopher's #1 most strongly. In PTA and a lot of related games (of which The Pool is probably the best starting point), I think that conflict is best understood as a fictional clash of interests between fictional characters. What we, the real people, want is not necessarily represented by the dice or whatever - those, instead, represent the strengths, nuances, and ultimately the outcome of that fictional conflict. The virtue of using such methods (and I specifically include wholly-verbal methods when they are well-organized, as in Polaris) is that they dictate the conflict will be over, in however many rounds or currency units or draws they take - ultimately, the pacing of the conflict, who wins and who doesn't, and the fact that it hits a point in which it cannot be endlessly negotiated, is what gives the fiction a coherence that it rarely, if ever, achieves through unconstructed group dialogue.

(quick aside: when I say "Christopher's #1," I do not mean to imply or interpret that Christopher is advocating it. I'm using that phrase strictly as an identifier.)

What's tricky about this is, in the wonderful games we're discussing, these numbers or tokens or dice/cards are not some kind of physics-based simulative engine of an imaginary reality, but an expression of narrative weight of the elements in question. Much in the same way that a camera can achieve the "signal" to the audience, through sudden shift in angle downwards and through the cunning of editing, that it's really far to the bottom of that chasm, various numbers and timing of their usage does the same for things in the fiction of role-playing. The chasm is now more important than any old chasm, no matter how deep - the point is that it's now practically a character in the way, opposing the known characters, or interfering in their conflicts in some way. Or a semi-pornographic shot of an actor's oiled, rippling muscles are not so much about how much he can really lift, but a signal that when lifting (or wrestling, or whatever) appears, the character will have a game shot at actually doing it, or better, than when our young and inexperienced hero is confronted by this guy, he is going to have a bitch of a tough time.

What's tricky about this (part 2) is that in these same games, these numbers and tokens or dice/cards are not utilized in isolation, but rather in a relatively hyper ferment of real people's shared dialogue, and above all listening to one another, which promotes caring about the outcome in a fascinating blend of author and audience. We even have points and tokens and whatnot that, themselves, are utilized to express this caring.

What I'm saying is that it's a good idea to define conflict as the first tricky thing, and to define participation in that conflict as the second tricky thing. Some aspect of the procedure needs to isolate the fictional interest of the fictional character, as perceived by that character at this moment, as the kernel of the fiction - so that all these nonfictional, real-person influential elements can proceed as they might for a particular game. There are different ways to do this. In PTA, it's done via character ownership: if you are playing Bucky Ball, the cheerful squirrel in this physics-educational kids' show, then you must stand up for Bucky in the context of conflicts he's embroiled in. Basically, someone, using some thing that's fixed in place by the rules, has to. (In Polaris, this is handled via strict rules based on seating, and it's fixed; in Universalis, it's handled by who's brought the characters into this particular scene, and thus shifts per scene. In PTA, it is just what it is per person per protagonist.)

The Shadow of Yesterday does this very, very well - using the Secrets, for instance, provides abilities or bonuses that are going to act in favor of the character engaged in certain conflicts, but the Gift Dice are completely independent of the character. It's been known to happen that when character A squares off against character B, player A will give player B a Gift Die in the service of character B - and even, vice versa as well! How cool is that? The characters effectiveness against one another is actually being enhanced by the actions of the players in direct contradiction to the characters they are playing.

What I'm saying is that defining conflicts, in Primetime Adventures especially, as being about what the players want, gums up the beauty and functionality of these two tricky things' interactions. Why is that such a bad thing? Or, what do I specifically mean by "gums up"?

Because it removes the "audience" component of the role-playing experience. Whether Bucky Ball can overcome the malevolent influence of this episode's villain by using his wave/particle duality to be in two places at once, is fun and interesting. Whether Bob or Diane gets his or her way, respectively, in terms of what happens, is a real-person power struggle and is automatically divorced from the fiction, rendering it merely the bitch of their momentary social jockeying for control of something. Bluntly, doing it the way I'm talking about is story creation; doing it the way Christopher describes in his #1 is a bid for attention and status.

The worst thing about it is that, in order for them to struggle over who gets their way, each tends to express what they will have happen as the outcome, prior to the card draw. The net effect of this is to pre-narrate two paths for the story to take, and then determine which one gets taken. I submit that this is actually counter to the rules of PTA because it utterly negates the role of the high-card participant's narration. I think the rules work beautifully as written, in which the nature of the conflict's outcome is not known, nor is it determined by the cards except in terms of which character comes out ahead, but is rather finalized and given "this happens" shape by the narrator, whoever that ends up being. I also submit that the way I'm describing to criticize it here is, by and large, no fun as it tends to be emotionally draining rather than exhilarating, and socially tense (possibly passively so) rather than socially affirming.

I'm not sure whether this is working, as a post or argument or whatever, so I'll try to put it another way.

A conflict, in the terms of Primetime Adventure specifically, should be interesting. Plain old engaging, in the sense of any narrative medium. Not all of them are - I think we're all familiar with the weary, distancing effect of putting in one too many chases and building-ledge battles into the last fifteen minutes of a film. Nor is the stock girlfriend's plea to the hero to "let it go, give it up" before he launches into his mission of revenge any fun or of any interest either. But note my logic of cause and effect: I'm saying that they aren't conflicts because they aren't interesting, not that they are "uninteresting conflicts." That's a big deal.

The neat thing about an interesting conflict is that whatever happens, the story will be better. Whatever happens. I might be personally invested in Bucky Ball's success in a particular conflict, whether I'm playing him or not, but I also know - just by entering into the scene and resolution mechanics of PTA - that he might not succeed, and I need to be good with that in order to enjoy this game at all.

I don't think that's too hard to accept, but the point I'm making, now, is that the converse must apply too. I might be personally invested in Bucky Ball's failure in this conflict. I might like the idea that he takes it on the chin or doesn't get the thingamabob or looks bad in front of his romantic interest. What I'm saying is that in this situation, the system still legitimately requires that someone take Bucky's side in terms of cards and so on, and that someone happens to be me regardless of my current notions. I need to be good with Bucky's success in the same way that, in most conflicts, I need to be good with his failure even if it's not what I'm currently most invested in happening.

Now, all is not lost. I can, for instance, not use any of the Fanmail I've accumulated for more cards. I can even say to my fellow players, "Hey, I'm totally about Bucky screwing it up, so toss in cards on the Producer's side, OK?" (which they may or may not agree with, but they well might) Both of these are excellent examples of the social and game-mechanics author/audience matrix among the real people (my tricky thing 2 above) in which the baseline resolution mechanics like Bucky's relevant Trait and current Screen Presence value (my tricky thing 1 above) are embedded.

Whew. I dunno whether what I'm saying makes sense to you. I really want to add that, despite the hectoring tone of this post, I am not trying to convince you to interpret the PTA rules the way I'm doing. (I again submit that the mechanics make sense as I've described, but I also concede that many of the examples run precisely counter to them, so that leaves us in minor limbo.) My only hope is to receive some feedback about whether any of this plays into your experience of the game.

Best, Ron



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Halzebier
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Posts: 216


« Reply #3 on: June 29, 2008, 10:41:20 PM »

Quote from: Christopher Kubasik
Way of playing #2: Give the scene more leash and see if there's another conflict around the corner.

I suspect this is good advice, especially when you're starting out and have trouble identifying the really interesting conflict in a scene (e.g. "Does the character look good in the fight?" rather than "Does he win?").

[...] and the fact that it hits a point in which it cannot be endlessly negotiated, is what gives the fiction a coherence that it rarely, if ever, achieves through unconstructed group dialogue.

We encountered just this problem (unconstructed group dialogue) when someone wished for a cut-away scene with the master villain and his pet demon (who had just gotten the crap kicked out of him by the PCs and was now reporting back). I pushed for a conclusion by passing out the narration rights ("Kylie, the cut-away scene is your baby. Please tie it up."), but this did not stop the scene from being changed and amended again and again for awhile.

I think we would have been much better off if two players (that includes the producer) had taken the roles of the demon and his master. In Ron's words, perhaps, we would have needed someone to stand up for the demon (i.e. try to make its failed mission look good and escape a beating).

Quote
The Shadow of Yesterday [...] the Gift Dice are completely independent of the character. It's been known to happen that when character A squares off against character B, player A will give player B a Gift Die in the service of character B - and even, vice versa as well! How cool is that?

This is an excellent reminder. I'll make sure to inform my players that fan mail can be used in this way, too.

Quote
The worst thing about it is that, in order for them to struggle over who gets their way, each tends to express what they will have happen as the outcome, prior to the card draw. The net effect of this is to pre-narrate two paths for the story to take, and then determine which one gets taken.

Yes, yes, yes. So far, I've only looked at this in terms of a bungled set-up that doesn't produce a cool conflict, but you're actually right that this can lead to status games. One person presents his complete vision for the scene (this happens and then this) and then gets shot down by the cards (or his elaborate suggestions for the outcome are not taken up).

Quote
My only hope is to receive some feedback about whether any of this plays into your experience of the game.

The second scene was really important for Kylie's character Andrielle. Andrielle is a shifty character and her issue is defined as self-interest vs. loyalty to the circus. At the beginning of the episode she had accepted a stranger's gold in exchange for finding out about Hugh's tattoo. Hence, her covert attempt at rubbing the ink onto Hugh's back was a major undertaking -- I, at least, had been wondering half the evening how Kylie would go about this. So when Carl suggested that Hugh wouldn't notice that completley deflated the scene. I think my decision to force a draw was right (and Kylie throwing in fan mail showed that she cared about the outcome), though in retrospect, I regret that the players didn't know that one can use fan mail against one's own character.

The first scene's attempted set-up is messed up from the get-go, I suspect. I think that it might have been okay for Kim to just narrate Taku's failed attempt at hiding his activities IF that had then been the springboard for the rest of the scene. Saying "You guys catch Taku in the midst of some shady act - what do you do?" could have lead to all sorts of conflicts.

Regards,

Hal
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2008, 03:44:59 PM »

It looks as if I might have hit a few nails with all that pounding.

Here's an important thing to think about with PTA especially: what is resolved through narration alone, after the draw, that isn't resolved by the draw. I like to think of these as equivalent to fallout in Dogs, but in a wider scale that includes consequences to others and to things as well.

I bring it up because you mentioned the ever-stumping "look good" vs. "win the fight" issue regarding the conflict at hand. Clearly, in this situation, prior to the specification of the conflict, the character either will or will not win the fight and will or will not look good. The interesting thing about specifying, to me, is that the other option is now in the hands of the narrator - who may well not be the person who wins the conflict nor the person playing the character.

Let me give an example ... OK, Taffy the Lich Slayer has figured out that the wicked vampire has been biting the new, shy kid at school, and the kid is on the cusp of going all-the-way vamp. Taffy bursts into the kid's home, and there he is, about to bite into the neck of his mother! Taffy's player has a lot to choose from, in the blink of an eye (and better done intuitively, as I see it). "I leap over there and ...

... bash him! I'm gonna wrestle him down!"
 
... save the mom from being killed!"

... plead with him to reverse the turn-into-vamp process through force of will!"

... really look like hot stuff to Seraph!" (Seraph being the hunky and morally-ambiguous almost-boyfriend who's arrived as well)

The fun thing is, only one can be the honest-to-God, draw-cards conflict. The outcome of the others are totally up to the person to whom the narration falls. This is very important to me when playing PTA and I enforce it pretty hard. It means, for example, that if the conflict is (for instance) saving the mom, then the fight cannot be dictated as a win or lose prior to the draw.

What I'm saying is that I've seen PTA play reported in which a ton of that stuff seems to get resolved in some kind of story-conference dialogue prior to the card draw, again, leaving the final narrator with little or nothing to do - which I think usually yields a limping, basically low-function kind of freeform as the primary medium of play. (At most, it makes exactly one person happy, the one who likes to spin out stuff that happens for everyone else to listen to, or who likes yap-until-we-agree negotiations about what happens.)

I'm interested in your thoughts about that too.

One last thing: the ink scene - it seems to me that "does he notice" is almost never an engaging conflict. When it is, it's usually late in a story when a lot has already happened, and all the possible consequences of noticing or not-noticing are highly charged and will yield very, very different reactions. When it occurs as you describe, it's not a conflict because "does he notice" will only yield the obvious reaction of him saying, "Gee, what are you doing?" In other words, it's not a conflict of interest.

With that said, the question of whether the other player's statement "he doesn't notice" becomes problematic but also not too relevant. It could be any of a dozen things (including not standing up for his character in the way I talked about before), but I submit that it doesn't matter, without the concrete conflict.

I was thinking about the scene at the grave, too, and here are my thoughts on that: that, basically, you might have done well to keep your GM mouth shut and simply waited for what the other players said their characters did. I also think the player was a little out of line in saying, "I do this, and you and you and you do not react to it." It is possible (I wasn't there, so can't say) that the player was doing something I often see people slip into with this game - proposing that his character do X and that Y happens because of it, again, in a story-conference way. Whereas I push quite hard to have people play in the SIS and if you want your character to do X, then you bloody well do it, and then we see whether there's a conflict at hand. (You're right about the agenda and focus, too; that's related.)

Anyway, I don't want this to be a litany of critique, but you're giving me the opportunity to unload a little bit about some things that often get up my nose when I read about PTA in play. I think they're serious issues too, the kind of thing that leads to people having Teh Awesome (they think) in their first session and then fizzling out as later play somehow seems not so great and they can't figure out why. Your group seems like it might be sort-of in sight of this fate, in the long run, so I guess I'm getting invested in helping. Let me know if I'm pushing your buttons or preaching too much.

Best, Ron

P.S. I am not 100% sure that one can use Fanmail against oneself, as in The Shadow of Yesterday, but will check the rules. At the very least, one can opt not to spend any.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2008, 03:46:22 PM »

P.P.S. Why Taffy the Lich Slayer finds herself fighting a vampire in my example, I cannot say. Somehow it worked out that way as I typed.
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Frank Tarcikowski
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« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2008, 12:25:55 AM »

Quote
The net effect of this is to pre-narrate two paths for the story to take, and then determine which one gets taken. I submit that this is actually counter to the rules of PTA because it utterly negates the role of the high-card participant's narration.

Yes! I couldn't point my finger at it, but I've seen that happen in play and felt kind of uneasy about it. I do submit, though, that I know some people who play it that way and feel it's the best that role-playing gets. So who am I to criticize?

- Frank
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If you come across a post by a guest called Frank T, that was me. My former Forge account was destroyed in the Spam Wars. Collateral damage.
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2008, 09:04:09 AM »

Hi Frank,

I do have some criticisms, actually, of that viewpoint. They're based on carefully observing play and play-reporting after this issue arose like a rotten corpse's belly inflating, sometime around GenCon 2005.

However, despite my urgent desire to puncture that problem as I see it, I also realize that we're talking about Hal's game and group, not any "they" or "them," who aren't here in the discussion. There's no point in a person dealing with a problem-issue if it's the same person who's claiming it exists.

Hal, to keep it on track with your group and play so far, what do you think fits or not in my last post? It seems to me as if you're already 90% of the way to adjusting play to deal with the issues you've raised (90% based only on what you've written, so it could well be all the way), so let us know whether I've gone out of the parameters of talking about that.

Best, Ron
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Halzebier
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« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2008, 01:39:55 AM »

What I'm saying is that I've seen PTA play reported in which a ton of that stuff seems to get resolved in some kind of story-conference dialogue prior to the card draw, again, leaving the final narrator with little or nothing to do - which I think usually yields a limping, basically low-function kind of freeform as the primary medium of play. (At most, it makes exactly one person happy, the one who likes to spin out stuff that happens for everyone else to listen to, or who likes yap-until-we-agree negotiations about what happens.)

This characterizes the current state of our PTA game quite well, as the number of 'story-conferences' and instances of rambling narration have gone up dramatically in our third session.

Let me relate a number of points:

(1)

Carl's beastmaster character Hugh has the issue "Mysterious Origins". Our show's opening credits introduces everyone's character a la Magnum, A-Team etc and Hugh's scene shows (1) how, as a baby, he is magically tattoed on the back by a shaman in the presence of his important looking parents, (2) abducted in a stormy night, (3) brutally tattooed a second time (a process which suppresses the original tattoo and turns it invisible), (4) left in the wild, (5) raised by wolves, and (6) that he ends up in the circus.

(2)

Episode two (= session three, as we did not count the pilot) was Hugh's spotlight episode so solving at least an important part of the riddle of his origins was on the agenda.

In an early scene, the travelling circus hastily broke camp to escape the baron's men (angered by a mishap in the opening scene which killed his housekeeper) and Hugh wanted to use his beastmaster powers to throw off the hounds.

I stated that the baron's party intended to catch up with and surround the circus. Carl invested a lot of fan mail, won the stakes, and narrated how Hugh turned the forest's wildlife against the pursuers.

(This entailed a far higher power level than this fantasy setting is accustomed to, by the way, and this power-creep also seems to be a trend with us -- Carl's character wasn't the only one turning out to be vastly more powerful than originally envisioned, and when we played The Pool last year, it was just the same.)

Next, Carl proceeded to narrate how Hugh's powers protected the travelling circus in the following weeks -- wolves driving away a hungry ogre, attempts at fishing in a creek yielding spectacular results and so on and so on.

This way of using one's narration rights - i.e., narrating the conflict's outcome and then adding lots and lots of things such as having visions of the future - was in evidence from session one but it's becoming more frequent.

(3)

A few scenes later, Carl wished for a scene in the woods with two NPCs -- "a well-meaning one in the garb of my parents" and "the ill-meaning one who paid Andrielle to apply the ink (and thereby reinforce the suppression of my original tattoo)".

I handed out the first NPC to another player, Henry, and all three characters clashed in the woods. There were two major problems here: Firstly, the agenda of the NPCs was not defined, so it was basically up for grabs. Secondly, Carl had most of his character's origin story already in mind.

The two opposing NPCs threw insults at each other and finally went for each other's throat. Hugh looked on, trying to determine who he could trust. Carl won the stakes and narration rights. He narrated (1) the ill-meaning character mortally wounding the well-meaning one, (2) Hugh preventing a finishing blow, (3) the ill-meaning character fleeing, and (4) the dying, well-meaning character telling Hugh about his past.

After the game Carl, somewhat contritely, noted that he had had a strong vision for Hugh's origins and had not wanted another player (including the producer) to fill in the details.

I've been mulling a bit over this. I think it's natural to define some integral things about one's character as off-limits, but I think it would have been much better if we had found a way to establish these things about Hugh in a more natural way (a flashback for the audience only, maybe?). Then the two NPCs could have gone into that scene with an actual agenda and we could have had a conflict about what is revealed (or taken to the grave).

(Keeping secrets from other players - and not just other characters - seems an awful habit for PTA.)

Quote
One last thing: the ink scene - it seems to me that "does he notice" is almost never an engaging conflict. When it is, it's usually late in a story when a lot has already happened, and all the possible consequences of noticing or not-noticing are highly charged and will yield very, very different reactions. When it occurs as you describe, it's not a conflict because "does he notice" will only yield the obvious reaction of him saying, "Gee, what are you doing?" In other words, it's not a conflict of interest.

How might your group handle that (i.e. what are decent stakes here and who draws cards against whom)?

Quote
I think they're serious issues too, the kind of thing that leads to people having Teh Awesome (they think) in their first session and then fizzling out as later play somehow seems not so great and they can't figure out why. Your group seems like it might be sort-of in sight of this fate, in the long run, so I guess I'm getting invested in helping. Let me know if I'm pushing your buttons or preaching too much.

You're spot-on, almost eerily so. I think we are intoxicated by (a) a lot of interesting stuff happening (the pace of our regular fantasy game is so slow that I dropped out six months ago) and (b) having unprecedented power to contribute meaningful decisions and new story elements. We're happily rolling along right now, but I agree 100% that more focus would benefit us.

I've repeatedly suggested the players "get into character and just play as you used to" (i.e. tell the GM what your character is trying to do), but I'm not pushing hard because I don't want to break the good mood.

Regards,

Hal
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: July 02, 2008, 05:07:07 AM »

Ummm ... how brutal should I be? Should I go with the cestus or with the talk on the porch?

That's a serious inquiry, because I want this discussion to be as socially-centered as if we were talking face to face in a specific venue.

Best, Ron
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Halzebier
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« Reply #10 on: July 02, 2008, 05:59:43 AM »

Ummm ... how brutal should I be? Should I go with the cestus or with the talk on the porch?

I'm not familiar with either figure of speech, but I get your meaning, I think. So, after some consideration: Be blunt, don't spare me, ask what you want to know. I'll try to answer to the best of my ability and to keep an open mind. I think I can take criticism - and your warning will help with that, so thanks for that - and I certainly want help.

Regards

Hal
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Valamir
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« Reply #11 on: July 02, 2008, 06:44:15 AM »

Quote
You're spot-on, almost eerily so. I think we are intoxicated by (a) a lot of interesting stuff happening (the pace of our regular fantasy game is so slow that I dropped out six months ago) and (b) having unprecedented power to contribute meaningful decisions and new story elements. We're happily rolling along right now, but I agree 100% that more focus would benefit us.

I've repeatedly suggested the players "get into character and just play as you used to" (i.e. tell the GM what your character is trying to do), but I'm not pushing hard because I don't want to break the good mood.

I'll just interject to say that in my experience this is very very common for players newly introduced to unfamiliar levels of player authority.  I've seen this dozens of times in my own Universalis games.  It almost always lasts until the novelty wears off and 1) players realize that being extremely crazy isn't as much fun as not being extremely crazy, and 2) this isn't a trick, the rug's not going be yanked out from under them, they don't have shoot their load now before the authority gets revoked again.

I liken it to someone just released from 10 years in prison who goes on a week long binger of excess in celebration of his new found freedom.

You may be able to draw your current game back to a more desired level, or you may just let it play out as is and look for tighter focus next time around.
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Marshall Burns
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« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2008, 08:31:03 AM »

This is a small thing and only partly related, but a few months ago I tried pitching some RPGs to some friends of mine who are writers and poets but not gamers at all.  I was trying to explain the Story Now process and what the rules are for, and one guy said something about, "This reminds me of something I read about Charlie Chaplin.  When he was going to make a movie, he would build sets before writing the script.  The sets provided the structure and inspiration for the script."

That is precisely what the rules are for.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #13 on: July 03, 2008, 05:27:45 AM »

I'm sorry, Hal, but I'm completely swamped by many commitments. I'll get back to this thread as soon as I can, but I can't say when.

Everyone else is bringing up good stuff, so please, continue with the discussion.

Best, Ron
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Halzebier
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« Reply #14 on: July 03, 2008, 07:41:04 AM »

I'll just interject to say that in my experience this is very very common for players newly introduced to unfamiliar levels of player authority.  I've seen this dozens of times in my own Universalis games.  It almost always lasts until the novelty wears off and 1) players realize that being extremely crazy isn't as much fun as not being extremely crazy, and 2) this isn't a trick, the rug's not going be yanked out from under them, they don't have shoot their load now before the authority gets revoked again.

I think you're spot-on, Ralph. The power-creep I mentioned is a sign of "being extremely crazy" -- sure, you can narrate lots of cool things, but it doesn't necessarily make for a better story, particularly in the long run. Tellingly, the players expect that the storylines resulting from PTA play must end up only slightly less crazy, jumbled and over-the-top as those of our (brief) game of InSpectres this spring. From what I have read here and what you are saying, it doesn't have to be that way.

(Not that there's anything wrong with crazy stories -- but sometimes restrictions and prudence can yield results you couldn't get any other way. Sort of like a sonnet. And what Marshall said.)

Quote
You may be able to draw your current game back to a more desired level, or you may just let it play out as is and look for tighter focus next time around.

I've been thinking the same thing, particularly as Carl has already been asking about a possible continuation, i.e. another PTA game (He's excited about pirates in that same fantasy world and if the others are on board with that, I'd be very interested indeed).

*-*-*

Ron: Thanks for the quick note. There's no rush.

Regards,

Hal
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