Actual Play – Foul Ball! (5/1/2011)

Director: Leonard Balsera
Cast: Sean Nittner, Rich Rogers and Scott White
System: PTA

This AP report is brought to you by the power of Google Docs. If not taking notes on Google Docs while the game was going, I’d never remember the details a month later.

I’ve been slacking on getting these out, blah, blah, blah. Doing it now.

We picked up where we left off, in the middle of Act 2 and finished off the episode in one night. It did require a “showdown” scene in Act 4 (like we had in the pilot) and us running late, but it was worth it, the game ended with a very satisfying finish.

Act 2 – Sloane
Location – Gym, having another game of basketball.
On scene: Kevin, Sloane and Hunter
Question – Can Kevin convince Sloane that nothing was going on during the match with Javier?

The gym is cleared out. People got the vibe that things are more intense than usual.
Sloane drops Kevin and he bounces back too fast, Sloane saw him move that fast.
Kevin ends with wimping out “Foul” ball.

This scene was intense because it represented a tipping point for Kevin. He realized that he running on borrowed time. Sloane is a great cop, trained to recognize a re-sequenced “gene freak” in moments, and here Kevin had been working along side him as a partner. It was only a matter of time before he started noticing that little things, that Kevin moved a bit too fast, hit a bit too hard. Kevin had been holding himself back, trying to hide the re-sequencing but there was no way he could both beat Javier in a MMA match and hide his nature from Sloane.

The game was a competitive one that got more than a little physical. As usual the format was you get to talk when you have the ball, asserting yourself on the court was part of winning the argument. Sloane used his slow, cautious approach to interrogate Siddig, and even though he recognized the drill, Kevin had to see it out to the very end, lest he arouse more suspicion. After and early foul from Siddig, Sloane repaid him in kind, laying him out on his ass as he was going for a layup. Siddig bounced back too fast and he could see it in Sloane’s eyes. He knew.

Act 2 – Frank
Location – Police station Lab
On scene: Frank and Siddig
Frank’s question – He loses, and won’t endanger his father’s welfare.
Kevin’s question – He loses, and Frank sees through his ulterior motives.

Frank’s scene opened with him suiting Siddig up for the upcoming match. Here’s the problem with waiting this long to write the AP, I can’t remember the details of Franks question, so guys, correct me if I’m wrong on this one.

Siddig mentioned that a little while back he and Sloane found a cache of memory altering re-sequencing technology and he thinks something like that might have been used on Javier, so that he was re-sequenced but without noticing it, making the Hunter test[1] hard to perform. Siddig asked for access to the tech (he know IA keeps all that stuff) but Frank suspected something was up and said he’d need supervision to use it. There goes Siddigs plan to wipe his partner’s memory… or did it?

Frank’s question was also a brutal one. He really needed someone to definitively tell if Javier has been re-sequenced and the best person to do that was his father, bed ridden in the hospital. Siddig’s chiding (“He’s dying a hospital bed man, let him rest”) along with his own guilty conscious prevented Frank from going any further. Even though it might mean blowing the case, wasn’t going to risk make his dad worse.

Act 3 – Director
Complication #2
Sloane at his apartment, watching TV when the doorbell rings.

Mallory arrives in a bath towel and a shower cap. She and Sloane start taking out their day’s aggression in the bedroom when the door bell rings… Daniele Convinton (his ex-wife) is there, and she collapses into his arms, bleeding badly from several knife wounds.

Act 3 – Kevin
Hospital scene
Siddig & Curtis Hunter
Question – Can Siddig get Hunter to help him out?

No – Curtis wants him to accept who he is

This was my big “reveal” of the night. I wanted to do a couple things with it. First I wanted to bring Curtis into the story more. Second, I wanted to explain a little of Kevin’s back story. There had to be a reason he was so “good”. So well trained at hiding his re-sequencing and so bad ass. After some thought, the reason to me was obvious: Curtis made him. Years ago, before Curtis was bed ridden he re-sequenced one last person, with the intent of finding all the “mistakes” he had made and shutting them down. Kevin wasn’t just hunting “gene freaks” because he hated them, he was hunting them because Curtis sent him after them, to “fix” all the damage he had done.

The symmetry of it in my head was beautiful, the execution (given that I was the only one privy to this idea) wasn’t perfect. Once the reveal was made Kevin came clean and asked the old man to help him erase the memories of Sloane and Frank (his son). He wouldn’t do it however, he wouldn’t rob his own son of his free will.

Curtis implored Kevin to consider the alternative, telling them the truth. In Kevin’s mind however, this is unthinkable.

Act 3 – Sloane
Hospital scene
Covington and Sloane
Question – Can Sloane get Danielle to admit she needs him?
Yes – he’s still the best cop

We had our scenes dovetail into each other. As Siddig was leaving the hospital, Sloane was entering to see Danielle. The two had a discussion, she told him about Tyrone Norhtway, how his re-sequenced goons jumped her. It was pretty factual at first. She was telling him what he needed know to bust Tyrone, but eventually she broke and admitted that she came to him because she trusted in him, knew that he was the best cop out there and that he would catch Northway.

Act 3 – Frank
Briefing room
Siddig and Hunter in the briefing room arguing about what happening to Covington
Sloane makes it in and tells him we’re going after Northway.

This was one of those awesome scene were everyone starts mad at each other, agree that they have a common enemy and charge off to kick his ass… still mad at each other!

The major beef, which was a great one, was Hunter putting Covington in danger. He did it for the job, but he crossed a line. Sloane made it clear that his business with Frank wasn’t finished.

Act 4 – Director
Kevin and Sophia in an ally – she shows him a medical record of a guy with a degenerative brain disease, a vegetable and another file showing that he was turned into Javier Rolston.

Act 4 – Group
Big show down at the fight
Kevin – Won – Didn’t de-sequence Javier
Sloane – Won – Arrested Northway instead of killing him
Hunter – Lost – Didn’t prove his worth to the team.

In our showdown, up in the skybox we had a big fight, revealing Tyrone was also re-sequenced but that Sloane could take quite a beating and still deliver the de-sequencing treatment. Siddig started the scene in the ring and ran out when Hunter pulled the power. Javier followed him up and we finally got to see the two of them “really” go at at it. The fight was something out of a Jet Li flick and eventually Rolston tossed Siddig off the landing they were fighting on because Sidding hesitate before delivering the de-sequencing treatment.

The episode ended with Javier walking out of his locker room, the documentation on his re-sequencing in hand.

[1] The test used to determine if someone has been genetically re-sequenced. Invented by the founder of the re-sequencing technology Curtis Hunter, and taught to all those who deal in re-sequencing, Curtis is the the most proficient person alive that can administer it.

What rocked

As Siddig’s spotlight gets closer, I really like his issue of being exposed is coming to a head. I want him to not only have the chance of being exposed but also of doing something horrible to protect his secret.

I used a lot of flashbacks during my scenes to show who Siddig used to be. An overweight cop who got his ass handed to him when he chased down his first “gene freak”. I’m enjoying leading up to what Kevin would have been without the treatment.

Lenny is a mind reader or something. Javier and Kevin had stories VERY much alike. I love the parallels.

Sloane’s scenes with Convington and subsequent discussion with Frank was great. I can’t wait to see that explode.

I’m really glad I was able to tie Curtis in to the show more, now he’s like a father figure to two of us. It also means Siddig has a reason to be protective of him and resentful of him at the same time. I also really like the idea that Curtis made Siddig as his final act, his masterpiece.

The basketball scene in the beginning was just great. I love that Sidding and Sloane playing basketball has become part of the show.

Frank’s issue is being hinted at a lot, which is great as it’s going to come up later. Unfortunately, that also seems limiting (see below).

Lenny using his scenes to move the plot/story forward is awesome, it enforces that the “action” keeps moving along amidst all our inner turmoil.

What could have improved

When a character’s issue isn’t anywhere need the center of attention, it can be really hard to figure out what question to ask in a scene. Frank, for example doesn’t really want to hit his issue on the head just yet, but does want to build up to it. We looked up the rules and realized you could have scenes not about your issue (either about the plot or about your relationships with other cast members), which is promising. I think that will be useful in the future.

I’d like to look more at the idea of framing scenes that aren’t about your character. This has come up a few times. where it seemed like the best scene to frame was about another cast member. Next episode is Siddig’s spotlight, so I doubt I’ll do it then, but after that I’m going to try and be very good at looking at what needs to happen for the story and/or character development when it comes time for me to frame a scene.

I’m not sure the economy is really working. In both episodes we had a single scene for the 4th act. While it didn’t dissapoint me, I’m not sure Lenny would have been able to make it through three scenes with the budget he had. Maybe he would have been fine (I mean he did draw 5 cards, he could have split that up) but I’d like to see it tested out to make sure the budget is working.

A weird disconnect between the desired outcomes, spending fan mail, edges and connections. Sometimes we’re trying to lose (giving fan mail to the director), sometimes we set the stakes that if we win, our character fails, and sometimes we’re using edges and connections to push for a result that may be counter to what they are meant for. This s a little complicated and I don’t think I’m explaining it well here, but I know Lenny knows what I’m talking about here.

3 thoughts on “Actual Play – Foul Ball! (5/1/2011)”

  1. Thanks as always for these breakdowns, Sean. You rock.

    * So, the whole multiple source for scene questions thing is all on me. It’s baggage I took from previous editions of the game. My bad.

    * In my other game, what’s organically happened is that sometimes we’ve asked a scene question and realized that the person whose job it is to answer is was not the person who framed it. If that can become intuitive, I think we have magic.

    * I would have been able to make it through a full Act 4, and what you’re running into is a conceit of mine, especially as I become more familiar with screenwriting as a medium. There’s almost no reason, dramatically speaking, to run an Act 4 that goes through everyone’s turn – the last reveal of the episode is out, and it’s time to get down to business, get to the denouement, and roll the credits.

    * I’m having a difficult time understanding why changing your position of advocacy disconnects you so hard. If you want to unpack that, I’m all eyes. For me, the scene question is about acting as an audience member as much as anything else – so if you, watching this show, want to see Siddig go down in flames… hey, more power to you. The fact that he’s your character shouldn’t really impact that at all.

    Part of it, though, may also be about choosing the right question. I think that sometimes we’ve pushed questions where we’re not really as interested in both sides of the outcome as we say. I think we should use the opportunity to push harder.

    You want to see Siddig lose it? Then that’s not the question, the question is “*When* Siddig loses it, does X happen?”

    1. It’s the element where I have a hard time thinking PTA is game, and maybe that is the mindset to overcome. At some level, when I play RPGs I like to know that the characters live and die by the dice. My preferred level is conflicts. The PC is going to try and do something, and there is a chance something else will happen. As long as the win and fail condition are both cool, I’m having a good time, but generally speaking I want to be invested in the win to the extent that I use the in game options (like spending fan mail) to push for that outcome. If I’m utterly indifferent to the outcomes then I wonder why we’re even using a mechanic to resolve it, we could just as easily say “yeah, wouldn’t it be cool if…” and go with that.

      I think you’re onto something though regarding asking the right question. I’ve wanted Siddig to face some hard choices, but so most of his “questions” have been one of competence (i.e. can he hide his nature). I think it should be obvious at this point that Siddig is extremely competent and so questions should be asked along the line of “Will Siddig do X extreme act to prevent people from finding out his nature?”

      But this also came up during Sloane’s question of whether or not he killed Tryrone. Partially because I *was* rooting for Siddig here in wanting Tyrone dead, I wanted to influence the stakes in favor of Sloane killing him but in doing so made it harder for Frank to prove his worth, which I think would have been cool. Or that may be me being caught up in the particulars.

      1. Yeah. I mean, if you’re indifferent to the outcomes, you’re not asking the right question. The idea is to dig until you do.

        Also, I read the damn rules wrong again. You spend for or against individual protagonists with your fan mail, and you get to specify which one.

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