Thursday, May 3, 2007


Tonight I got my R.P.G. hymen broken by my boy Remi Treuer*. Austin Nava, Monica Byrne, Matthew Remisneighbor, and I played P.T.A. (Prime Time Adventures), a game in which we created a (long) episode of a T.V. series of our design. Our show ended up being called Cherrywood. It was about a Cary-like subdivision where crazy, supernatural stuff happens. My character was a somewhat nihilistic teenager who tries to throw his lot in with Satan (who, incidentally, runs the gas station that serves as a central staging area for the show), just to see what happens. Monica was Genevive, a girl with supernatural powers manifested through her pubescent guilt and repressed angst, who also has Marian visions, Austin was the local counterculturist who serves as both an ally and a monkey wrench to Genevive's ambitions to banish the Elder God from the Snack Food Aisle, and Matthew played the poor employee who only wants to get through this part time job...working at a gas station...for Satan.

One thing that really got me excited about this game was how willing we all were to give in to the physics of the universe we created while simultaneously building and informing them. For example, once stuff started falling out of the sky, stuff was always falling out of the sky. I think that was the improv in all of us shining through.

One place in which I found difficulty (and I wish I had expressed this last night while Remi was interviewing us) was when we were setting up conflicts. Rather than being general with what I want:

Remi: I don't want your character to get the Little Debbie Snacks.
Me: I want my character to get the Little Debbie Snacks.

I was far, far, far too specific:

Remi: I don't want your character to get the Little Debbie Snacks.
Me: I want my character to manipulate the cashier into bending over at the waste, then my character will kick him in the buttocks--comically, mind--knocking him over into the Slim Jims, which fall upon his face and neck like so many beefy raindrops. While his humiliation overtakes him, he reflects on his 9th birthday. Oh, the clowns! The pony rides!, etc...

When all I really had to do was win the conflict and win narration and I could have done this. Perhaps the reason for this overreaching was my unfamiliarity with R.P.G.s, but I'm also a specific thinker in general; I don't function well in generalities.

*On the right, wearing both a green shirt and a look of rage.

1 comment:

Remi said...

I'm sorry I missed this!

Yeah. Setting stakes is a bear. I wasn't cracking down to hard on you guys, because expecting you to be great at stakes setting right out of the box would have been like asking a bunch of Level 1 students to do a Harold, using only Truth in Comedy as a guide.

However, you DID rub up against one of the major problems with PTA (which is somewhat explicit in the rules), that when you're setting stakes, you should just say what you want, and then let the conflict resolution do the rest. Your example is what EVERYONE does the first time, and your instinct that this isn't quite right is right on the money.

Anyway, glad it was fun, we'll play again soon, and I'm now subscribed to your blog!