Primetime Adventures: Resonator!

October 21, 2012

We’ve finished the most recent campaign of Primetime Adventures, which we’ve been playing a lot of over the last 3 years.

This campaign was basically an 80’s anime combiner mecha show, basically built around 80’s Cold War except in space… with giant robots and aliens, of course.

One thing about PTA that remains always awesome is the way in which even when you fail a conflict scene, and it emotionally hits you in the gut, it’s still fulfilling in the way good stories close well even when they’re not happy endings.

PTA’s mechanics work into this:

1. Players create Issues for their characters. These become the driving points of conflict so what we see of the characters is more around their issues of growth or failure in doing so.

2. Conflicts are built differently in PTA. Most games demand a conflict roll when you do certain activities (“Climb a high mountain, difficulty 15”), while PTA instead asks, “Is this something interesting and meaningful to the story?”

In this way, a bunch of things that might be logistically important (“We spend 2 weeks crossing the desert”) but rather un-interesting as far as the story focus goes, gets skipped over. The time and the spotlight is instead spent on mostly things that matter to the group (“The question is not whether we get out alive, of course we do, the question is whether I can regain her trust…”).

3. The narration trading aspect also plays into this – success/failure is one metric, but who gets to describe how it goes down is another.

Because the reward system is based on good input, not success or failure in the fiction, the only real driving motivations in how you narrate something are a) what entertains everyone else and will get you fanmail, and b) where you yourself want the story to go (what entertains you). So what drives the results of a failure is not “what would really happen”, as much as “what way can (success/failure) FIT with this particular situation we’ve put together?”

PTA is very much a game that shows better questions result in better answers, and teaches you to be better at both.

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