May 02, 2007

PTA to the 2nd Power

So I bought PTA as a pre-birthday present for myself, hoping to run it with my little sisters and nephew, and, of course, anyone else who wanted to tag along. We were going to do it at the Pirate Birthday Party, but ended up just doing other stuff instead. So I was itching to play it, especially after Doyce's example, and what with having a couple hours to kill before we were ready to go to bed, my husband and I gave it a spin.

First we were skeptical because it was only the two of us, but, well, we've populated worlds (or at least small cities) with the characters in our heads, so we figured I'd run an nPC, and he'd run a couple of characters. That's usually a good mix for us. It gives him a chance to stretch his character creation opportunities, and I got to run through it so I can explain it later to the kids.

For most people, of course, the first part consists of creating the type of show we wanted. This is hard when people are ambivalent all over. I said because the husband's been playing a lot of Earthdawn maybe we'd want to go drastically the other way and do something skiffy. He was amenable to this, but I didn't want to make it sound like some kind of underhanded chance to get some Illegal Gods lovin', so I threw out a couple more suggestions which sounded fun and goofy. He pointed out he was more into designing for something determined, so we kind of ended up with our premise: Ars Magica as done by Jim Henson and Brian Froud.

"What about a show chronicling the wild and wacky adventures of um...what are those Ars Magica thingies?"
"Convents."
"No. Covenants. But an Ars Magica Convent sounds like a lot of fun, too."

I had been building names earlier that day, so I had a few to draw upon when naming my character. I wrote the name down as "Ymaya," and immediately thought she was the sister of Aughra from The Dark Crystal, which meant we had to decide if Aughra was a unique entity. I had the impression she was just "the last," and thus changed the idea to "youngest sister of a Great Sorceress. A very neutral sorceress who some people say was the most evil ever developed, and some say was a Good Witch," suggesting a Glinda kind of aspect. As for her Issue, I started with "grief," but kind of swapped it out for "lack of recognition."

The LintKing came up with (names supplied by me - yes, he waited for it) Henna and Arkan. Arkan was your completely stereotypical bumbling apprentice type. You know, the one whose spells don't do what they're supposed to do, but somehow manage to save the day anyway. Arkan had a self-worth Issue. Henna obsessed over things.

For traits, I gave Ymaya, "Great Sorceress." I figured she was just as good a sorceress as her more famous sister. I thought about another, but ended up giving her two contacts; the Cook (figuring it meant she knew when deliveries were made and thus could sneak in and out of the back door) and I created a "troublesome" character out of an old Amber NPC I hadn't really had too much of a chance to play, a bard daughter of Corwin named Iolon who knew everybody, drank everything, and was trouble however you spelled it. Her personal set was her melodramatic balcony "atop a high tower," at which she would sit and look out towards the sunsets.

Arkan had "bungling apprentice," and a contact in his own sorcerous master. We were dithering between another contact, but then I had an idea - what if Arkan had been a member of the priesthood before finding his own magic, and it was by the grace of his goddess that his spell failures were made benevolent. (Not to mention, it could also add conflict in being why he's having problems becoming a mage in the first place.) He decided on a nemesis (again based off of an old Amber NPC I hadn't played much) with much giggling. Satyr. (In case anyone remembers PoB/WoS...)

Henna was a "natural weaponsmith," and an "illusionist," a deadly combination. She was set up more martially oriented. Her main contact was Arkan's Master as an ex-lover, giving his characters ties to each other.

We started out in the dining room, since that seemed like a logical place for people to be gathered. We decided the first scene needed to be a plot building one, rather than character defining. I described the scene, from starting with the Cook's bubbling cauldron to the roast beast spinning on the spit...

At some point during the evening we had started with halfling thieves and their nutritive qualities (or lack thereof), based off of an old character, and then somehow in my mind it turned into kobolds (with a half dozen kobold filks in mind) but when the roast beast was mentioned, it was a halfling thief. "Mmmm. Halfling."

The description started the oddity because I was describing it as if done on television to what an audience would see, not in the "describe as if you were really there and the players need to pick up clues" method to which I'm accustomed. It was both easier in that I could quite quickly paint it all with a broad brush, relying on the visuals, and more difficult because of the unfamiliarity of the technique.

I narrated (as Producer) a situation whereupon the Nemesis showed he was, indeed, a good Nemesis. (Satyr spilled something on one of the noble ladies' laps, and sweettalked her into removing a veil, only to have the stain disappear, as well as, ahem, the veil.) Then I decided to get the action moving with Ancient ("Need a name..." [looks around, sees a bunch of index cards] "ah...Oxford!") Oxford's collapse.

So the first "conflict" was going to be who got to Ancient Oxford, first. Ymaya's reasoning was that she needed to show her healing ability to be in the "good" category. We decided Arkan needed to practice his skills, as well as needing to fulfill the Priest ("As the Cleric Turns") archetype, and Henna decided that healing one of the Ancients would be good for her obsession...which the LintKing decided was to build a secret society.

Cards drawn, flipped, explained, and Arkan won, but by using his "bungling apprentice" edge he had to explain as to how even though Ymaya teleported and Henna flipped acrobatically over the table, Arkan still managed to make it there first. Apparently he managed to spill beer on his Nemesis and then slip dramatically right through where Henna and Ymaya were opening the doors and...into the next scene.

You know what I think we were missing? Dialogue. Because we were describing our actions so visually we didn't really have a lot of dialogue. That's probably also a result of only having the two people playing - I can expect that we would have more direct protagonist interplay.

So, sliding into the next scene, Arkan bumps into where a Generic Wizard is trying to help Ancient Oxford, who is flipping around in convulsions and pulling stuffing out of his chest. We smooth out Henna having dropped out of the scene with a line from Ymaya about how "huffy" Henna is, and Ymaya opens dialogue with Arkan about how he smells of beer. They both attempt a healing with the Producer winning the conflict. We describe the special effects and how Ancient Oxford seems to get sewn up...but the stitching goes crazy.

Ymaya decides it's because the apprentice interfered, and just teleports back to her tower so that she doesn't have to rip Ancient Oxford's seams or anything. Arkan is left with a bunch of fuzz, a patchwork wizard ("Gepettomancy") and a bemused expression...before the "commercial break" of deciding we were pretty tired and going to bed.

Posted by Meera at May 2, 2007 11:31 AM
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