the Fairgame Archive

2006-02-22: PTA in Buffy-verse, and newbie gamers
by Meguey

Ok, so my friend Julia who lives behind me brought over the big glossy hardcover 'Buffy:the role-playing game'a few weeks back and said "Hey I want to play this, and I've never gamed before, and I know you do, so can we?"

Erk. It's amazing how nearly knee-jerk my reaction to just the book was. We handed her Dogs and PTA. "If it's Buffy via PTA, I can do it, but I don't really have it in me to read the actual Buffy book."

So a week later, it's Valentines Day night and I'm sitting there with three people my age, in my town, who all have young kids so we get the scheduling thing, trying to gracefully explain why I'd rather use PTA. Thank god they went for it. We have as players R, S, Julia, the incomparable Emily Boss, and myself as producer. R, 32, female, had played a lot of D&D in high school, and wanted gaming badly. She'd even gone to the flgs a few years back, asking about adults who gamed, and got a 'well, you could put up a card' reply. S,34, male, played D&D and Torg in high school and college. Juila had never played an rpg, but is in the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is close enough. All of them are Buffy fans. The show is post-canon Buffy and just post-Katrina, set in Cleveland, where the new hellmount is being fed by all kinds of stuff coming up from New Orleans.

We had our pitch session last Saturday, our first episode is this Saturday, and things are going well so far. The D&D players are getting the hang of broader participation (scene framing, fan mail,etc), and the never-gamed-before player doesn't have a single bad gamer habit to overcome, so she's doing fine. I'm very glad to have Emily in the game as a veteran player and veteran PTA player, because that helps a bunch with the explaining.  I'll let you know how it goes, but the responsibility I feel as a GM to these people is much higher than when I was GMing at GenCon.

2006-02-22 14:21:18 Troy_Costisick


I can imagine the weight of responsibility would be greater, Meg.  You're doing a great thing there.  I hope it goes very, very well for you guys.  And I look forward to the updates :)



2006-02-22 14:45:27 Emily

Meg did great. : ) And it was completely gratifying to see them warm to describing their surroundings and flesh out conflicts.  And start awarding fan mail! Describing what conflicts were & how to establish stakes was a little hairy, but I'm sure it will be easier next time.

Can't wait!

2006-02-22 16:41:21 sdm

It sounds like a great start.  Did you get beyond the pitch to character creation?  What do the spotlight arcs look like?

2006-02-22 17:22:53 Andy K

Man, I can't wait to hear some play reports!


2006-02-22 17:27:13 Judd

Sounds fantastic.  I can't wait to hear how it goes.

Glad to see someone finally jump on the concept that PTA does Buffy well.

The Cleveland Hellmouth is so ripe for RPGing too.


2006-02-22 20:38:31 anon.

Very cool—and oh, yeah—PTA was almost -made- for Buffy; it was what we kept jumping to when running through our first (only, for me) PTA game.

2006-02-23 01:06:19 Judd

Funny, this reminds me of when I first watched 7th season a few months ago with Janaki and Giles mentioned the Cleveland Hellmouth and my RPG wheels started spinning right away.  I pictured a few of the Slayer-ettes, ripped with power deciding to travel cross-country just after Sunnydale and take it out.

I'd love to run that using DitV with Cleveland as the big finale.  'Cause by the time the girls got to Cleveland, using Fallout, they'd have issues...serious issues.

2006-02-22 21:55:43 Meguey

Troy - Yeah, it's kind of weird, like I want to do a better job because I want them to like new stuff so much, vs. GenCon, where everyone's all prepared for new stuff.

Emily - Thanks for the vote of confidence :) "Describing what conflicts were & how to establish stakes was a little hairy, but I'm sure it will be easier next time." Yeah, I agree.

sdm - Yes, we got through the whole pitch session and character creation and a decent pilot, although it was cut short by other stuff we had to go do that night. Did I mention this was all while R&S parented their 4 and almost-2 y.o. kids , Julia had her 6 and 2 y.o. kids, and I had Tovey (2.5 mos, if anyone's keeping track)? We played from 1-5:30 pm, and could have gone longer. I'm totally happy/amazed, and I hope it continues!

"What do the spotlight arcs look like?" Everyone's at 1 for the first episode, so it's got to be majorly plot-heavy. Then we've got 2-2-3-1, 3-2-2-1, 2-3-2-1, 2-1-3-2. Two-parter on the matching threes. More to come about the characters in AP on the Forge.

Andy - I'll post them in Actual Play at the Forge sometime next week.

Judd & Mneme - Especially since Buffy is referenced in the book, I knew it could be done. And using the Cleveland hellmouth(mount? Yeah, it's probably mouth. Eh.)gives us all the setting but no probs with Sunnydale continuity stuff.

2006-02-23 03:30:18 Meguey

Our take is there's no current slayer in Cleveland, and WTF is up with that?!? Hmm, if you were running a parallel game...oh the possibilities. We do figure we'll have to make a consultation call to Buffy sometime.

2006-02-27 06:50:46 John Kim

So did you read any of the Buffy book?  Just curious, because I'm currently co-GMing a series using more-or-less the core rules, called Silicon Valley Slayage.  I have an oldish review of the core book (written after just one session).  It has some director stance in that players can spend from a large pool of "Drama Points"—one use of which is to enact a "Plot Twist", like having an ally show up in the nick of time, having a vitally important book in their store, and so forth.  (i.e. So less director stance than PTA, but comparable to Sorcerer and other games.)  The first edition had terrible organization, unfortunately.  I haven't seen the more recent revised edition, but I don't expect too much since the supplements were mixed.

2006-03-02 15:04:36 Julia (the newbie)

Yes, Meg is doing a wonderful job! This has been a fantastic introduction to RPG's. I think I'm kinda hooked. What's even nicer is getting a chance to hang out with folks with children and play—and not play with our kids, and the kids are having a ball, too. One can only lose at Mancala to a 6 yo old (in front of one's peers, no less) so many times before it gets old and depressing.

And yay for Emily, too! She's created a character who is just deliciously scary!

2006-03-02 16:26:13 Emily

Yay Julia! It's a real pleasure to play with you. I'm glad y'all have been able to bring together the gaming with adult friends & parenting. It's really inspiring. : )

And also what Judd said:

Who is your character? Any moments stand out at the first game for ya?

2006-03-02 17:13:31 Meguey

John - I've watched the entire series, and I'm using straight PTA. I leafed through the book enough to know I wasn't going to be able to use it. Most big hardcover glitzy rpgs give me a nervous stomach ache due to years of struggling to fill out character sheets that were more complex than my taxes.

Julia - I'm glad you're enjoying it! It really is unbelievably awesome to be able to play RPGs with other adults while my kids either sleep(Tovey) or play wth other kids (Seb and Elliot). We've tried to play with NinjaJ and Carrie, but there are no other kids, so it's a bit more 'hands-on' parenting. Worth trying again, though.

I did a begining write-up at The Forge.

2006-03-02 17:19:51 Julia (the newbie)

In a nutshell, my character is a 19th Century New Orleans Vodou Mambo Free Woman of Color who likes her Hoodoo like her coffee and chicory: no cream, no sugar. Back in the 1850's she fell into the wrong crowd. In an attempt to make a hasty exit from a bad situation she 'accidentally' put herself into a mystical coma. So here she is in the 21st Century, living at the Cleveland Hellmouth, post Katrina, trying to figure things out.

I'm struck at how cathartic the whole game has been so far. As Meg mentioned, I've been involved in SCA. I've always liked to play dress-up and pretend. I'm a chronic daydreamer, always thinking up things to make (I'm a chronic crafter, too), writing short stories and character expositories. As a kid, my activites weren't always encouraged or rewarded unless they helped me write a really insightful paper or seemed to lead me to a career rather than a life of crime. As an adult I've been looking for activities and arenas where creativity and imagination are encouraged. Hence SCA, my addiction to making things (knitting, sewing, fermented foods, soap, of late)'.

I'm also interested to see where people's characters and their real selves intersect. I know I put a little bit of myself in my character. Except for Emily and Meg, we're all still getting to know each other, so while our characters get to know each other, so do we, which is nice. Meg and I have known each other for a few years, but only in the past few months have we spent significant getting-to-know-you time. I'm so happy to have finally made the connection. I've found that being a parent of young children can be isolating when you live with and nurture beings who are still new to the planet, and don't know our customs. Any activity where I can have fun and bring my children along without having to explain their behavior is okay by me.

2006-03-02 19:04:15 Meguey

Julia, I'm glad you're enjoying it, and I have to tell you, my reaction is "She ain't seen nothing yet!" Not necessarily from Erie Nights, which is great, but from the World of Fun(tm)that is role-playing. I'm totally lookimg forward to playing other rpgs with you. And, you live practically next door, so that's a bonus.

Your comment about your creative, imaginative side not being as valued as a kid really hit me; I imagine what that would have been like for me. I think *not* having that valued in me would have pushed me towards a life of crime :)

The getting-to-know-each-other-while-we-game bit is interesting; I sometimes wonder if I'm missing cues from R & S that I would get if I knew them better. I can already see more than I could a couple weeks ago.

About the kid thing: YEP!

2006-03-03 19:10:40 John Kim

I've watched the entire series, and I'm using straight PTA. I leafed through the book enough to know I wasn't going to be able to use it. Most big hardcover glitzy rpgs give me a nervous stomach ache due to years of struggling to fill out character sheets that were more complex than my taxes.

Fair enough.  I have a bunch of stuff from my Buffy games on my site, but the one that seems most potentially applicable to PTA would be my (draft) essay,

Buffy Adventure Design

It's written geared towards the Buffy RPG, but still might be of interest.

2006-03-03 19:33:14 Emily

The physical action can be played out in the game, and can either contrast or parallel the character development controlled by the players. Ultimately most episodes are really about everyday life—magnified to supernatural proportions...

As for how to come up with such opponents, there are roughly two approaches:

1) Start with monster, then come up with issue(s).

2) Start with issue(s), come up with monster.

This is interesting. It gives a structure, based on the plots of Buffy, that is pretty complemementary with PtA. The issues of the characters can intersect and overlap with the issues of the monsters.

The book recommends you usually prepare two Turning Points—such as finding a body, suddenly facing an opponent, a startling confession, or new information that reverses what the players thought.

Again, useful guidelines.

My experience in role-playing is that bare subplots don't work. That is, if we only see a character's boyfriend in sideline scenes of going out on dates, the boyfriend never develops as an interesting character. You need to make the boyfriend a part of the main plot of that episode.

This part is totally handled by PtA's rules. Other characters highlight a character's issues and are used by both the GM and the other players for this goal.  They may be central or secondary, but in the games I've played, because it's on the table that we are exploring what's at issue for the character, supporting cast fulfill this goal admirably.

And making character actions important is pretty much endemic due to the conflict structure.  The conflicts always hinge on what is important.

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