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GM DESCRIPTION: NARRATION OR CONVERSATION?

[MENTION=85555]Bedrockgames[/MENTION]: I don't know how meaningful this is, but I think it's interesting that I have a tendency to write long posts whereas you have a tendency to respond with bursts of shorter posts, which would seem to mirror or preferences in seem framing.

However in this example I would never have jumped right to the players on the steps of the balcony because I have no idea where they are going to go, what they are going to do, when they enter to city. The players in this example chose to go see Iron God Meng, but they just as easily could have asked to go see the magistrate to complain about Meng, or sought out a physician to help with some ailments, or checked out an inn, etc.
Sure, but suppose the PC's have gotten into the city, and let's suppose after they get in the city, you are given the player proposition given by the players who are familiar with the setting and who have characters that are reasonably well informed (for example, they've been given some directions to the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall, or have been there before).

Player A: We all want to see Iron God Meng .

Now, if from where ever the players are at right now, you know there are no difficulties involved, you could decide to do something like the following.

"DM: Iron God Meng makes his headquarters at the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall, and large building on one of the city's main streets. Since the hall is open to anyone who seems to have money, you easily make your way inside, across the gambling floor with its many raucous patrons, and up the wide ornately carved stairs to his office on the third floor, which is guarded by four burly men in blue uniforms."

So, same scene, just cuts to the chase with a little less conversation. This approach spends a few more words on the "Bang" to set the scene up compared to your shorter narrations, but the total amount of time and words I've used are less than your more conversational approach. If the players wanted to go to a tailor first, they could have still proposed, "Can we find a tailor in this city?" Or if they wanted to see a magistrate, they could have said, "We want to find the magistrate." And while you are correct that "handwave" techniques can be used to reduce player agency, in this case the players made clear what they want to do and you haven't handwaved past any important choices they could have made along the way. If you thought there was important choices, you could have stopped and banged a scene ahead of the choices to let them make them.

I suspect one objection you could make is that you aren't hand waving at all, that you are just continuously responding to player propositions. But as far as I can tell you aren't using true Process Simulation either. You don't deal really with any potential difficulty wandering around the city looking for the gambling house. You don't deal with the details of moving up the street from the gate to the gambling house. You didn't roll for a random encounter for street movement. You don't deal with the details of the gambling hall or describe any of the PC's in it. No one at any point on this stops the PC's and tries to interact with them - no hawkers, no beggars, no waitresses, no guards. The PC's move smoothly to their intended destination. You protest that, "I mention the things I think they would see, with the understanding they might try to explore those things.", but you certainly don't describe even a fraction of the things that they would see. You are sticking to just a few bits to set the place of the scene, and you are mostly avoiding any sort of hooks or distractions that might suggest there is anything to see but Iron God Meng. Once they suggest that is the intention, they ride the choo choo train to their chosen destination and you aren't doing anything to steer them off that path or to challenge it.

Now, at this point, I don't want you to understand that I'm saying any of what you are doing wrong. It's quite right. It seems a reasonable approach for the circumstances. What I'm trying to get at is more that there are a lot of different approaches to framing the scene in response to a proposition like, "Let's go find this Iron God Meng fellow.", and depending one what you are trying to achieve, what the players know, and what the players are trying to achieve you might use different ones.

I do want to call out one advantage of using establishing shots over cutting straight to the Bang, and that is that you much better create a sense of time and space with establishing shots. If you do nothing but cut straight to the Bang, there is a sense in my experience that a player can have of never actually moving, that they've actually stayed in the same place on the same stage, and that the stage dressing and not they have moved. You mention things like travel and survival checks and so forth, but some GMs tend to respond to propositions like, "Let's go to Tung-On and see Iron God Meng", by directly jumping to the Bang and skipping all the comparatively unimportant steps. Some theorist have even more or less asserted that that is the only right way to do things (often under headings like 'Story Now') something you might guess I don't agree with.

If anything I tend to default to Process Simulation, and only start cutting hard to the bang after further Process Simulation would be redundant. So for example, I do roll for wandering encounter checks when trying to travel across town, and the first time in a city I would harass the players with hawkers, touts, beggars, and so forth - or whatever it is that is unique to the experience of being in this particular city. Only after the players are really familiar with an area so that all of that would be, "Been there, done that.", would I start cutting hard to a bang. (Of course, for all I know your players are super familiar with Tung-On or cities like it by this point anyway.)
 

Hussar

Legend
Umm. Aren’t location and scene synonyms? As in “place where stuff happens “?

What’s the difference?
 
Umm. Aren’t location and scene synonyms? As in “place where stuff happens “?

What’s the difference?
Ahh, yes. The problem with trying to conduct a conversation in English is that even though we have like 60,000 words, most of the common ones have several different meanings - sometimes not even that closely related to each other.

In this case, definition two "a sequence of continuous action in a play, movie, opera, or book" is closer to the meaning that I've been going for.

A scene is definitely tied to place, but both continuity and that stuff that happens is important as well. A location where nothing happens is not a scene, and the location might not change but you can have several different scenes in it.

For an example of the later in an RPG, if you've played or are familiar with the 'Call of Cthulhu' adventure 'Edge of Darkness' the last four scenes in the adventure all happen in a single very small location. But they are separate scenes because they are not continuous action, and are separated by hand waving away several hours of repetitive action that occurs in the intervals between the scenes.
 
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Bedrockgames

Villager
@Bedrockgames: I don't know how meaningful this is, but I think it's interesting that I have a tendency to write long posts whereas you have a tendency to respond with bursts of shorter posts, which would seem to mirror or preferences in seem framing.
That is an interesting observation


Sure, but suppose the PC's have gotten into the city, and let's suppose after they get in the city, you are given the player proposition given by the players who are familiar with the setting and who have characters that are reasonably well informed (for example, they've been given some directions to the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall, or have been there before).
Well, if they had been there before I would have dealt with it differently, but there are still things that can change on their way there. I am not going to go over every little detail, but I do like to give the players the chance to comment and take action as they are heading somewhere (even if I think the result is a foregone conclusion).

Player A: We all want to see Iron God Meng .

Now, if from where ever the players are at right now, you know there are no difficulties involved, you could decide to do something like the following.

"DM: Iron God Meng makes his headquarters at the Lucky Mountain Gambling Hall, and large building on one of the city's main streets. Since the hall is open to anyone who seems to have money, you easily make your way inside, across the gambling floor with its many raucous patrons, and up the wide ornately carved stairs to his office on the third floor, which is guarded by four burly men in blue uniforms."

So, same scene, just cuts to the chase with a little less conversation. This approach spends a few more words on the "Bang" to set the scene up compared to your shorter narrations, but the total amount of time and words I've used are less than your more conversational approach. If the players wanted to go to a tailor first, they could have still proposed, "Can we find a tailor in this city?" Or if they wanted to see a magistrate, they could have said, "We want to find the magistrate." And while you are correct that "handwave" techniques can be used to reduce player agency, in this case the players made clear what they want to do and you haven't handwaved past any important choices they could have made along the way. If you thought there was important choices, you could have stopped and banged a scene ahead of the choices to let them make them.
If that is how you want to do it, I say go for it. That isn't how I would be comfortable running the situation. I think in part because it feels like player actions are being described to them and they don't really have the power when a description is structured like that to pivot in shorter increments. Or at least, it is harder for them to do so. I don't want to assume for example that they make a direct approach to Iron God Meng's private dining hall. For all I know they want to go there but take a less direct approach to dealing with him.

Also keep in mind, this was an artificial example. I excluded things like developments that occurred on their way to the hall (that stuff can come up which I will address below).

I
suspect one objection you could make is that you aren't hand waving at all, that you are just continuously responding to player propositions. But as far as I can tell you aren't using true Process Simulation either. You don't deal really with any potential difficulty wandering around the city looking for the gambling house. You don't deal with the details of moving up the street from the gate to the gambling house. You didn't roll for a random encounter for street movement. You don't deal with the details of the gambling hall or describe any of the PC's in it. No one at any point on this stops the PC's and tries to interact with them - no hawkers, no beggars, no waitresses, no guards. The PC's move smoothly to their intended destination. You protest that, "I mention the things I think they would see, with the understanding they might try to explore those things.", but you certainly don't describe even a fraction of the things that they would see. You are sticking to just a few bits to set the place of the scene, and you are mostly avoiding any sort of hooks or distractions that might suggest there is anything to see but Iron God Meng. Once they suggest that is the intention, they ride the choo choo train to their chosen destination and you aren't doing anything to steer them off that path or to challenge it.
Again, this is an artificial example, it doesn't capture everything. In any given location I will know the sects present, the situation, the heroes nearby, etc. If the player's wander into a town, context is going to matter. Particularly in Tung On. If they are there as part of an organization that has rivalries in town, those could come up. But I also do have encounter tables for each city. And I use Surivival City rolls to get from one section of town to another. These tables include hawkers, potential allies, enemies, officials, etc.

I don't think I come to the game from a process sim approach (though I am not 100% clear on how that is conceived in GNS). My approach is rooted int he living adventure idea from the original Ravenloft Module and Feast of Goblyns, blended with sandbox concepts and Clash Bowley's ideas about situational adventures. It is something that works for me. In the wuxia context I call it Drama Sandbox. It isn't just about simulating a setting. There are dramatic elements occasionally.

Now, at this point, I don't want you to understand that I'm saying any of what you are doing wrong. It's quite right. It seems a reasonable approach for the circumstances. What I'm trying to get at is more that there are a lot of different approaches to framing the scene in response to a proposition like, "Let's go find this Iron God Meng fellow.", and depending one what you are trying to achieve, what the players know, and what the players are trying to achieve you might use different ones.
I totally get this. I am not objecting to other approaches. I am trying to explain my approach to Hussar and also explain why I take this approach. It isn't meant to suggest you can't do it another way, or to suggest I wouldn't experiment with other ways. But this is my preferred method of GMing. It is what works best for me over the course of long campaigns.

Just to give an example, here is the Tung-On encounter table I am working on for an upcoming book (I originally had a different table but decided to start revising it). This is still a work in progress and references several other tables not included below):

TUNG-ON ENCOUNTER TABLE I
Roll 2d10 Result
2 Roll on GRUDGE TABLE
3 Roll on Tung-On Encounter Table II
4 1d10 Constables
5 Aggressive fortune teller
6 Celestial Plume Peddler
7 Opera Troupe Performance
8 Merchant aggressively peddling goods
9 City Official
10 1d10 Bao Men
11 1d10 Eighty Seven Killers
12 Bao Chief
13 1d10
14 1d10 Iron God Meng’s Men (Golden Way)
15 Hustle
16 1d10 Iron Guard (Golden Way)
17 Illegal Goods Peddler
18 Elderly thief with musician assistant
19 Roll on TUNG-ON PERSONALITY TABLE
20 Roll on MAI CUN LOCAL PERSONALITY TABLE

TUNG-ON ENCOUNTER TABLE II
Roll 2d10 Result
2 Fated Encounter
3 1d10 Temple of Jade Mercies Nuns or Monks
4 2 Celestial Plume Disciples
5 1 Long Ma Hall Cub and 1-10 Long Ma Hall Heroes
6 7 Demons
7 3d10 Constables
8 1 Long Ma Hall Cub
9 1d10 Supreme Guard (Golden Way)
10 1d10 Long Ma Hall Heroes
11 2d10 Constables
12 A duel between two martial experts (roll randomly on FAN XU PERSONALITY TABLE)
13 1d10 Soldiers
14 1 Celestial Plum Disciple
15 2d10 Soldiers
16 Sheriff and 4d10 Constables
17 1 of the 7 Vermillion Stars (Vermillion Tea House)
18 2d10 Bandits
19 Aggressive Physician peddling cures
20 Official Bureaucrats checking passports
 
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Bedrockgames

Villager
Umm. Aren’t location and scene synonyms? As in “place where stuff happens “?

What’s the difference?

See Celebrim's post for the distinction. But I prefer location because it doesn't carry the double meaning. Yes a scene can mean a location (i.e. it was a beautiful scene, the bay down by Red Rock). But it can also mean a sequence of action in a movie or book....and that is where I think the term can become a problem if you are not as interested in emulating literature or film (or even if you but are not interested in certain structural aspects). So I prefer location, because it means a place, but can't be equivocated on to bring oughts into the discussion as easily.
 

Manbearcat

Adventurer
Umm. Aren’t location and scene synonyms? As in “place where stuff happens “?

What’s the difference?
Let me start with:

"I don't have much interest, if any at all, in this conversation...so I'm not particularly interested in getting drawn back in."

However, I think I have some virtual ink to spill on the internet on this one.

For my money, the two have significant differences in TTRPGs.

In TTRPGs, I associate "scene" with "a discrete unit of play, whereby situational framing > decision-point > action resolution > reframing occurs in a loop until a codified win/loss condition is met, upon which time whatever was at stake is earned/denied/complicated (depending upon system)." The term "scene" is as much game tech as it is art when it comes to TTRPGs.

I don't think of Apocalypse World or Dungeon World as scene-driven games. All of D&D combat is "scene-based." 5e D&D play that deploys the Social Interaction mechanics should be scene-based. I think of all of D&D 4e, Cortex+, Mouse Guard, Fate, Dogs in the Vineyard, Strike (!), and (due to many segments of play being scene-based) Blades in the Dark (Action Scenes with Clocks and certain Downtime activities) as scene-driven games. Torchbearer is sort of a tweener, similar to Blades.

As such, "location" is definitely not interchangeable with "scene." Location is certainly relevant to the situational framing > decision-point > action resoltuion > reframing loop...but they are definitely not close to interchangeable.
 
So I prefer location, because it means a place, but can't be equivocated on to bring oughts into the discussion as easily.
For me, the thing is descriptive whether or not it is prescriptive. Whether you think of them as scenes or not, they are scenes. Thinking of them as locations is true, in the sense that any good sandbox will have locations where no scenes take place, and scenes that take place in locations where no participant knew before hand that there was going to be a scene there. But the scene happens whether you think about it as a scene or not.

I don't think there is a formula for making a good movie. I do think you can tell when a movie is made well versus one that is made badly. For example, one thing that seriously hurt the Star Wars prequel trilogy is poor scene framing. Deprived of physical locations, Lucas was left to design how each shot should be seen. And forced to imagine each shot rather than improvise to the constraints of a set, he had a tendency to request the same angles and camera movements over and over again, resulting in a movie that feels subtly wrong and a bit boring. Once you see each scene and each cut described in terms of his camera selection, part of the problem becomes obvious, to the point of being hilarious in a sad sort of way.

Similar problems occur in the staging of fight scenes in the sequel trilogy. One of the things that both the originals and the prequels did right was dynamic battle scenes, and particularly battle scenes that play out in 3D in a spectacular way. Take for example the "I know a few maneuvers scene" in ESB, where the Falcon turns against the camera and then begins spiraling down like a falling leaf toward the camera leaving the plane it was fighting on behind. Compare that with the two-dimensionality of the battle scenes in the sequel trilogy.

Of course, there isn't an exact relationship between scene framing cinema and scene framing in a tabletop RPG. You can do things in cinema that don't really work in an RPG, and something that are hugely important to cinema (like composition) aren't really important to an RPG. But you can also do things in an RPG that you can't do in cinema.

If I could describe what is interesting about the general technique you are outlining, it's that you are trying to keep the camera pointed toward what the player is interested in. You are doing the narration, but you are trying to encourage the player to do the shot selection. And that's cool, and there are certainly appropriate times to do that. Heck, it might even be cool as an overall directorial style.

What I'm trying to convey in this conversation, not just to you but to anyone that might follow along, is that as a GM you can put on a director's hat and think about these things and use different ways of framing a scene to achieve different effects. I am very much a "both" sort of person. I like Sandboxes and Adventure Paths. I like "Story Now" and "Process Simulation". I like bouncing back and forth between those techniques. So when you say things like, "if things were different I would have done it differently" or "Drama Sandbox", then I really think we are pretty much on the same page except for some slight differences in preferred style, because that sort of flexible both/and thinking is pretty much what I think is the right approach and the whole trick is knowing when to select what and why.
 
Just to give an example, here is the Tung-On encounter table I am working on for an upcoming book...
I do love me some random encounter tables.

The important thing to remember about a random encounter table it is supposed to be a scene generating device.

So don't put anything on the table that you don't think you can improvise a meaningful scene out of. For a random encounter table in the jungle, that's generally pretty easy - everything on the table wants to eat the PCs. Bang.

For a random encounter table in the city, the sort of interaction that the named thing is going to have with the PCs is much less obvious and so often needs to be specified. If you can't see what that interaction is going to be immediately, then it's probably not that great of an entry for the table, and it's going to be even less obvious if you are preparing this for someone else not steeped in the intricacies of your campaign world.

So for example, what meaningful interaction is going to happen with the opera troop performers? Or at least, the crowd watching the opera troop? Whatever write up you give about the opera troops needs to help you and the intended audience frame a meaningful scene, even if it is something like - "10% chance, member of the troop is drunk/ill/injured/missing, and the director tries to press a PC into service as a character.", or "10% chance, opera troop is presenting a play that faction X considers a direct attack on them, and they've hired rowdies to throw rotten fruit at the performers and break up the play." Point is, while you or I might be experienced enough to brain storm up this on the fly, under the pressure of play it's a lot harder than it is now while I'm typing this, and it will be even tougher for the people who by your book.

So remember it's not a random creature generator, it's a random encounter (scene) generator.

Secondly, I find that every good random encounter generator has a "Roll Again Twice" entry, which creates encounters between NPC's that invite the PC's to get involved with, or encounters with unexpected allies, or encounters simultaneously with two other groups seeking out the PCs independently (a staple of soap operas). This is excellent fodder for the imagination, and often provides a reason for the PC's to interact that they might not obviously have. For example, an encounter between soldiers and bandits implies the opportunity to choose sides. Or you might have an encounter with a soldier beating up the aggressive fortune teller because of his undesired fortune. Or an encounter between a Bao Men and the aggressive merchant peddling goods, because the Bao Men want a refund on their purchase because of something they claim as a defect. Or a merchant might bring a constable and insist that the players stole something in a case of mistaken identity. And so on and so forth.
 
I agree that they are narration in a general ordinary non-jargon sense of the word, but strictly they are not narration as it is normally meant in the table top RPG world because the player hasn't proposed anything that extends outside his person. In jargon, these are just first person propositions stated as actions, and are really no different than "I attack the orc." Don't get me wrong, I think they are well phrased propositions and the example of play is very functional, but when people speak of player narration they are usually speaking of something different.

Player narration formally would be something like, "I lead the way to the gambling hall. The merchants in the crowd sense we are dangerous men, and address us respectfully as we walk by. Peasants scurry to get out of the way of these formidable warriors, bowing deeply as we pass." The player is taking it on themselves to add to the scene things that are external to their own character. In essence, the player is in a limited way also playing the NPCs in the scene. Simply "narrating" what your character does (or at least, intends to do), isn't normally what I think of as "narration" by a player because the player isn't framing a scene.
See. And this is, to me, where jargon becomes a problem. Especially where that jargon uses a word that already applies to the thing in question. There is no doubt to a layman that when I say narration that I mean, "Describing a thing or retelling a sequence of events," and even in a roleplaying game where that lay definition stretches to, "declaring an action within the fictional reference frame," the lay person can easily make that shift. But to expand it to, "taking narrative control of elements of the fiction outside a single character." That makes no sense to me at all.

I would call the thing that you just defined as narration, instead, "assuming authority," or, depending on where authority over those fictional elements typically lies in the game, "overstepping authority." And, were someone to tell me that narration in a roleplaying game is restricted to that act of assuming authority, I would reject their use of poorly thought out jargon, and possibly try to get some sort of committee together to find out how this particular use of jargon got started, go back in time, and stop it from happening before it began.

Simply "narrating" what your character does (or at least, intends to do), isn't normally what I think of as "narration" by a player because the player isn't framing a scene.
Occasionally, a player's action declaration is framing a scene, or at least initiating the framing of a scene by the DM. For instance, "We go to the tea parlor to look for lotus cultists." Is a perfectly valid action declaration (given certain fictional constraints) that either frames a scene (though in an incomplete manner) or directs the DM to do so. i.e. "Hide the good tea set, player characters are coming!"
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
I do love me some random encounter tables.

The important thing to remember about a random encounter table it is supposed to be a scene generating device.

So don't put anything on the table that you don't think you can improvise a meaningful scene out of. For a random encounter table in the jungle, that's generally pretty easy - everything on the table wants to eat the PCs. Bang.

For a random encounter table in the city, the sort of interaction that the named thing is going to have with the PCs is much less obvious and so often needs to be specified. If you can't see what that interaction is going to be immediately, then it's probably not that great of an entry for the table, and it's going to be even less obvious if you are preparing this for someone else not steeped in the intricacies of your campaign world.

So for example, what meaningful interaction is going to happen with the opera troop performers? Or at least, the crowd watching the opera troop? Whatever write up you give about the opera troops needs to help you and the intended audience frame a meaningful scene, even if it is something like - "10% chance, member of the troop is drunk/ill/injured/missing, and the director tries to press a PC into service as a character.", or "10% chance, opera troop is presenting a play that faction X considers a direct attack on them, and they've hired rowdies to throw rotten fruit at the performers and break up the play." Point is, while you or I might be experienced enough to brain storm up this on the fly, under the pressure of play it's a lot harder than it is now while I'm typing this, and it will be even tougher for the people who by your book.

So remember it's not a random creature generator, it's a random encounter (scene) generator.

Secondly, I find that every good random encounter generator has a "Roll Again Twice" entry, which creates encounters between NPC's that invite the PC's to get involved with, or encounters with unexpected allies, or encounters simultaneously with two other groups seeking out the PCs independently (a staple of soap operas). This is excellent fodder for the imagination, and often provides a reason for the PC's to interact that they might not obviously have. For example, an encounter between soldiers and bandits implies the opportunity to choose sides. Or you might have an encounter with a soldier beating up the aggressive fortune teller because of his undesired fortune. Or an encounter between a Bao Men and the aggressive merchant peddling goods, because the Bao Men want a refund on their purchase because of something they claim as a defect. Or a merchant might bring a constable and insist that the players stole something in a case of mistaken identity. And so on and so forth.
My approach is different from yours. I don't think every encounter has to be meaningful. But there is always potential for them to be so depending on how they play out. When I do get an encounter result, I ask myself what the reasons are for the group or person being there and why they are interacting with the PCs. That question usually leads to interesting things more often than not. But again, I like the idea of the setting feeling like a living place. Sometimes that necessitates encounters that are not significant unless the players choose to engage them in a particular way. However, with an opera troupe, it could certainly add something, whether it is because the opera troupe demands payment from the PCs for their public performance, or if I or another GM wanted to throw in some spice, the opera troupe can easily end up being a group of assassins or something going after the party. Or the opera troupe could simply be getting in the party's way. I do like the idea of putting in possibilities in the group entry (though I would put that in a description under the table most likely, because tables are difficult to layout)

I don't like roll twice on table results. Just not something I enjoy juggling (I've tried it).
 
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Bedrockgames

Villager
So remember it's not a random creature generator, it's a random encounter (scene) generator.
.
Don't know if you were meaning to suggest this or not, but to be clear: there aren't really any any creature entries on this table (at least in the supernatural sense of the word). Those are all different sects and organizations. So the 7 Demons entry refers to a group of bandits in the area who wear demon masks.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
So for example, what meaningful interaction is going to happen with the opera troop performers? Or at least, the crowd watching the opera troop? Whatever write up you give about the opera troops needs to help you and the intended audience frame a meaningful scene, even if it is something like - "10% chance, member of the troop is drunk/ill/injured/missing, and the director tries to press a PC into service as a character.", or "10% chance, opera troop is presenting a play that faction X considers a direct attack on them, and they've hired rowdies to throw rotten fruit at the performers and break up the play." Point is, while you or I might be experienced enough to brain storm up this on the fly, under the pressure of play it's a lot harder than it is now while I'm typing this, and it will be even tougher for the people who by your book.
.
That table is a work in progress, so I don't know if Opera Troupe is going to stay as is, or if it is going to get more elaboration. It is a wuxia game, and assumes a certain level of familiarity with the genre (Chinese Opera Troupes are a pretty standard trope). But what I always tell people in the books is to think about why the person or group is there in the first place. There should be a reason they are interfacing with the PCs. This doesn't have to be hostile, but there needs to be a reason. With an opera troupe, that could be lots of different things. This kind of troupe often does acrobatic combat performances for example, so one reasonable result is one of the performers accidentally striking the PCs. But if the players are obviously skilled martial heroes, the troupe might be interest in recruiting them when they see them pass by. This could lead to any number of developments. With things like officials for example, if the players are currently wanted (which happens often enough in this kind of campaign) the official may be carrying around their wanted poster inspecting passerby. Doesn't have to be that dramatic. But I like having room to interpret the result and I like giving people that space as well.
 

Hussar

Legend
Hrm. Not sure how much I can add to this to be honest. I'm seeing where folks are coming from and I keep nodding my head as I'm reading.

Frankly, thought, and perhaps this is just my own biases, something like this:

BRG said:
However, with an opera troupe, it could certainly add something, whether it is because the opera troupe demands payment from the PCs for their public performance, or if I or another GM wanted to throw in some spice, the opera troupe can easily end up being a group of assassins or something going after the party. Or the opera troupe could simply be getting in the party's way. I do like the idea of putting in possibilities in the group entry (though I would put that in a description under the table most likely, because tables are difficult to layout)
basically sounds like a scene to me. As soon as you decide which of those options to go with, you have a scene. That you like a looser structure is perfectly fine. I'm bad at improv, so, I need my notes as a nice warm and fuzzy security blanket. :D But, sure, I can certainly see how this works.

It's still narration though. :p :D
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
Hrm. Not sure how much I can add to this to be honest. I'm seeing where folks are coming from and I keep nodding my head as I'm reading.

Frankly, thought, and perhaps this is just my own biases, something like this:



basically sounds like a scene to me. As soon as you decide which of those options to go with, you have a scene. That you like a looser structure is perfectly fine. I'm bad at improv, so, I need my notes as a nice warm and fuzzy security blanket. :D But, sure, I can certainly see how this works.

It's still narration though. :p :D
We are never going to agree on this Hussar. Yes you can call it a scene. But you can also call it an encounter, a situation, a challenge, etc. I find these much more neutral than scene (which brings to mind scene from a movie or play—-which I don’t want to emulate structurally). Same with narration. We are just at the “yes it is”, “no it isn’t” phase of the discussion.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
For me, the thing is descriptive whether or not it is prescriptive. Whether you think of them as scenes or not, they are scenes. Thinking of them as locations is true, in the sense that any good sandbox will have locations where no scenes take place, and scenes that take place in locations where no participant knew before hand that there was going to be a scene there. But the scene happens whether you think about it as a scene or not.
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Depending on how you define scene (which is very important here), I don't think this is true. It again brings us into 'everything is really X so you are always doing X no matter what'. If that is the case, then it doesn't really matter I suppose. But if we are drawing on Scenes here as an analogy it leads to problems, or at least problems for certain styles of play. Calling it a scene immediately invokes movies and plays. And scenes in movies in plays have things we expect to occur, that we might not expect to occur in the spontaneous medium of a game. Also, RPGs have things that arise that we don't expect to occur in a movie. The needs of the mediums are different. But I see a lot of people trying to emulate movie scenes, because they are starting with that as their analogy. For example, when I am running a situation, I don't care if it is a 'good scene' in the sense that you have in a film. All I care about is if the game is fun. And part of the game being fun, at least for many of my groups, is making sure the players have a sense that they are interacting with a breathing setting that isn't always oriented around their personal drama or character arc (like you have in a movie). In a movie Chekov's gun stands. In an RPG I don't think it does. In a movie, scenes ought to be efficient and lead naturally to the next scene. In an RPG there is a lot of back and forth, deliberation, etc. In a movie a scene needs to move in a certain rewarding direction. In an RPG, it is a game, and the dice determine many outcomes. There is a natural conflict between that and the dramatic needs of a movie scene.

And just to emphasize, not saying you can't have these elements. Just I think there is an issue if we always assume the 'scene' analogy holds in an RPG. It is going to depend on the kind of campaign you are running.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
H

basically sounds like a scene to me. As soon as you decide which of those options to go with, you have a scene. That you like a looser structure is perfectly fine. I'm bad at improv, so, I need my notes as a nice warm and fuzzy security blanket. :D But, sure, I can certainly see how this works.
For me it boils down to a few things:

I like to be surprised as the GM

I don't like having the feeling that instead of running a session, I could just hand my players my notes and largely get the same result

I was very, very unhappy running sessions in the 3E era under the predominant adventure structure (the style of adventure built around Encoutner Levels and planned out storylines, and the stuff you found in Dungeon at the time). This got worse the more things like wish lists and builds crept into the game, where it felt like it was all about reaching some pre-ordained destination. So I went back to the early stuff: the 1E DMG, my old Ravenloft books, stuff I'd heard about and played but never delved into deeply (like HARN), and a lot of the OSR discussion and blogs (as well as other stuff being talked about at the time). This led me to really think through what I want in play and what I don't want. One thing I don't want to do is allow prep to get in the way of players spontaneously doing things in the setting.

I love having settings and adventures with living moving parts. The NPCs are not sitting there waiting in a room to dramatically stand when the players enter: they are pursuing their agenda and reacting. Groups and organizations are planning and moving even as the players do their thing.

I don't think in terms of events. I avoid this. I think in terms of NPCs, groups, etc. Events arise because people coordinate and take action. So I avoid thinking things like "wouldn't it be cool if they were confronted by the bad guy at this ancient temple". Instead I try to think of what the bad guy would be doing because sometimes that leads me in directions I wouldn't otherwise expect (like seeking to work with the PCs instead of dramatically confronting them). At least in terms of human based events (obviously sometimes a meteor just needs to fall out of the sky and shake things up).
 
For example, when I am running a situation, I don't care if it is a 'good scene' in the sense that you have in a film.
I object that you do.

All I care about is if the game is fun.
Is that what the movie maker ultimately cares about as well? I mean, even a horror movie maker that wants to inflict scares, or a dramatists that wants to provoke tears in a scene, ultimately wants to do that because at some level the audience enjoys that experience and came to the movie to experience it. I don't see this distinction as a distinction at all. If all you care is that the game is fun, then you do care about having good scenes. What makes the scene good is that it is fun.

And part of the game being fun, at least for many of my groups, is making sure the players have a sense that they are interacting with a breathing setting that isn't always oriented around their personal drama or character arc (like you have in a movie).
You have an excessively narrow view of movies, personal drama, or character arc. It's perfectly fine to have a movie where there protagonist is experiencing some breathing setting that doesn't revolve around them. Plenty of movie makers try to capture the experience of actually being peripheral to the events of the story either as the audience or the characters of the story, and for the events of the story to be essentially random and meaningless on the grounds that the movie maker perceives this to be how life goes.

In a movie Chekov's gun stands. In an RPG I don't think it does. In a movie, scenes ought to be efficient and lead naturally to the next scene. In an RPG there is a lot of back and forth, deliberation, etc. In a movie a scene needs to move in a certain rewarding direction. In an RPG, it is a game, and the dice determine many outcomes. There is a natural conflict between that and the dramatic needs of a movie scene.
Yeah, I'm just not getting this. You've got a simplified stereotype of a movie you are fighting against, and yet ultimately movies are about entertainment. And there is no formula for what entertains an audience.

And in any event, I have defined 'scene' for the purpose of an RPG without reference to a movie 'scene'. So while there is an obvious relationship, no one is or should be surprised if what makes a good scene in an RPG is not exactly the same as what makes a good scene in a movie. No one should be particularly surprised if there is some overlap, but there is no reason that anything that applies to a movie needs to apply to an RPG. That's not generally what an analogy is in the way most people use analogies, nor for that matter am I using analogy since I tend to think analogies confuse people more than they clarify. When most people use an analogy, they are normally stating only that two things share a limited set of features. They are not normally insisting that for every feature of the first thing, there exists a one to one and onto mapping to features of the second thing. Tolkien famous asserted that because people tended to assume from analogies that this was true, when it obviously was not, that people shouldn't use analogies at all. Whatever relationship between scenes in the story telling medium of an RPG that I'm drawing with scenes in a movie, it is certainly not a one to one and onto mapping.

As for Chekov's Gun, I've used it in an RPG several times to great success. I think you are trying to say that since an RPG has a branching story path (at least potentially) stories can be abandoned if the protagonists lose interest in them, and as such the Chekov's Guns of that story will never be fired, or perhaps will be fired, but will be fired offstage when the protagonists are no longer around to hear or even learn of their firing. And while that's true, I'll still insist that the very fact you are aiming to have a world that fills living and breathing means that those Chekov's Guns will tend to be fired by someone, because otherwise it wouldn't feel living and breathing.

My favorite Chekov's Gun concerned the neighbor of one of the PCs, an undertaker, introduced in basically Act II, Scene 1 of the story, helping the PCs collect the dead after a natural disaster. That gun didn't get fired for about 2 years of gaming, but when it went off, oh boy was it a good one.
 
I was very, very unhappy running sessions in the 3E era under the predominant adventure structure (the style of adventure built around Encoutner Levels and planned out storylines, and the stuff you found in Dungeon at the time).
OK, that's fine, but that structure sure as heck wasn't heavily inspired by movie making or story telling. We could talk about when module writing for D&D went wrong in that direction because writers assumed that the goal was to exactly emulate movies or novels, but then we wouldn't be talking about 3e which was a reaction to all of that.
 

Bedrockgames

Villager
OK, that's fine, but that structure sure as heck wasn't heavily inspired by movie making or story telling. We could talk about when module writing for D&D went wrong in that direction because writers assumed that the goal was to exactly emulate movies or novels, but then we wouldn't be talking about 3e which was a reaction to all of that.
I get that. But it is equally important here for me providing an explanation. A movie inspired period was more the 90s which is a whole other topic
 

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