So, there’s this thing going on with my Gaming People where PTA isn’t working for us. We’ve put Dave’s current PTA game on hold for now, to try out In A Wicked Age in a completely different setting (both from the PTA game and from the IAWA default), with a view toward possibly using that for running the PTA game.
The problem is with conflicts. They just take fucking ages to work through. Fucking. Ages. It takes people out of the moment, it’s frustrating, and the end result is usually NOT a satisfying ‘thing’, cuz we’ve already discussed the scene to death, so when the resolution finally comes, we already know what happened.
I said in a post a few months ago that PTA seemed to work well for us when we used the “car chase” rules, which let us break up the action more, and while that’s true, that’s not the problem.
The problem is that we’re having the wrong conversation beforehand.
The one bright and shining scene I remember from one of our PTA games was when this girl that Randy’s guy was sleeping with says “I love you…” as he was getting dressed and leaving the apartment, and put him on the spot. BANG. His Issue was something like “personal commitment” or something, so the conflict was clearly about him trying to get out of the room without pissing her off while remaining emotionally ‘safe’ from her. In that scene, PTA really sang. We were so jazzed at the end of that game session that we jabbered about it all for an hour.
And never managed to get back to that point again. Why? Well, because I thought, based on that scene, that the trick was for the GM to pose conflicts in a kind of series of “bang” events… and that’s not why it worked.
It worked because it was about his Issue. The character’s Issue — and we constantly and consistently FORGET this — is the whole POINT of the character AND the game… it’s a game about TV Dramas, after all — of COURSE it’s about the Issue.
I re-realized this, reading something Matt wrote almost two years ago (emphases mine):
PTA probably adds some to the confusion, because the real Conflict has to do with the protagonist’s Issue, and you have to do a little digging around to figure out how it factors into the playing of cards and stuff.
You’re sneaking past guards. Your Issue is maybe “Insecurity”, let’s say. What’s at stake, in terms of the conflict, is your Issue, not the guards; how does what happens in your sneakery affect your Issue? You get past them… they spot you… does not matter*. Either outcome could be either a win or a lose as far as your Issue is concerned.
No, you don’t say, “if I win, I’m no longer insecure.” You do say, “if I win, my character addresses his/her insecurity in a positive way.”
Notice how the conflict of interest is clearly established, but nobody knows what will happen until the narration starts flying.
That’s what we’ve screwed up pretty much 70 to 80% of the time in PTA. Dammit.
Makes me want to run it again, just to get it right.
[* – and the events that actual happen should be informed at least somewhat by plot-stuff that ‘needs to happen’ in that scene]