PTA: Star Wars pt 2

June 27, 2010

We continued our Primetime Adventures game yesterday, with much fun. I’m not going to go much into the details about the specific events, though here’s some overall observations.

Emergent aspects of Screen Presence

I’ve run a lot of one-shots with PTA. This is the first time we’re getting to do a full season, and it’s interesting to see what’s already popping up by the second episode here.

With both Jono and Sushu working with Screen Presence 1, it actually flips things around and makes it a great episode to focus on their characters- the low screen presence means every conflict is tougher, which means there was a lot more failures at crucial junctions.

Funny enough, this definitely set up an “Empire Strikes Back” kind of situation- the episode ends on everything FUBARed and a lot of great conflict potential for the next session.

Low, low prep

Generally, my “standard” expectation for GM prep these days is a half dozen Bangs (ala Sorcerer) and probably 4-5 highly motivated NPCs. Every time I play PTA, I find I usually only actually need 1-2 Bangs and 1-2 NPCs, and the rest just does itself. I’m always coming in feeling unprepared and it always goes smoothly and spectacularly.

I’m brought back to the observation Ben Lehman made that when people play PTA as “GURPS-lite” the game falls apart, but when they play the game as “Making good TV”, the game works great. I think the social contract and expectation of “Good TV” allows everyone to negotiate play a lot better and makes it easy for the group to work together in story creation.

Overall, this shift to author/director stance in play is immensely useful- the whole thing of the GM prodding characters to try to get players to make interesting input doesn’t really come up when folks buy into that situation.


Part of what makes it easy is that Issues are a really interesting Flag mechanic. They’re a single issue, but play often shows everyone “just knows” to add facets and aspects to the Issue, they don’t hammer it one-sidedly.

I suspect what makes this work is that Issues -aren’t- directly mechanically tied to anything- they’re a direction, a directive, but not a procedural rule, so people can focus on them as a fictional component.

The singularity of it as a Flag also makes it easy to remember, so everyone at the table can easily focus on each other’s characters and support in creating scenes and situations for each other. A lot of games with 3-5 Flags sometimes suffer because it’s hard to keep track of that many for yourself and 2-4 other players at the same time.

My players are out next month, so it’ll be awhile before we come back to this, but it’s been very satisfying so far.

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