Our Primetime Adventures
campaignseason reaches its finale this Sunday; I am continuing to muse about What Has Been Learned.
- Shorter is not necessarily easier. Five sessions is quite a short time for people to get to grips with their character and bring out their Issue, in particular. My suspicion is that PTA – well, freeform generally, I suppose – makes it really important to have a strong feel for your character, and this can take time.
- Virtually every RPG that I’ve played assumes player characters with heroic abilities. The range is pretty wide – in Nobilis you’re basically demigods, while in some editions first-level D&D characters were barely more skilled than John Q. Peasant – but when you have characters in a frankly non-heroic setting, people become less sure about what they should be doing. (We did stipulate that semi-heroic feats were fair game, but this doesn’t seem to have stuck. Partly this might be because none of the characters are all that action-hero-like, and partly because there isn’t much real difference between semi-heroics and non-heroics when dealing with shoggoths.)
- Hero Entitlement. In most RPGs the player characters get to take a much more active role in events than realism would suggest, can get away with things more, and so on. This expands the options open to the players – particularly the fun options. Realism and non-heroism strips that away to some extent.
- As a particular instance of this, normal RPGs usually involve combat, and feature PCs who are willing to enter combat. In real life, there is PTSD and long-term injury and you have to be fairly unbalanced to consider combat a good or usual option. But I, personally, have yet to play a really satisfying RPG that involved no combat at all.
- As previously observed, a premise that makes it hard for players to occasionally goof about in-character puts more pressure on players.
- It’s really useful to have players start off with established relationships to each other, or to have them have obvious reasons for cooperation or conflict.
- Settings that require research seem to put players on edge in a freeform context. If the game is not very freeform, then all the research requirements are explicitly placed on the GM, and players can relax more. In freeform, if the players aren’t confident about the setting, they’re likely to be hesitant to make as many big freeform gestures in case they get setting assumptions wrong.
- This would suggest that an easier setting would be one basically familiar to most players (major modern American city is the obvious choice; other relatively-easy choices might be WWII, ancient Rome, medieval Europe, Victorian England, American frontier era) or one which the players are mostly free to define (sci-fi or fantasy world.)
All of this sort of points towards a good (or at least an easy) PTA premise being something akin to Buffy or Heroes (note: neither of which I have ever followed.)