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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Josh Roby on November 09, 2005, 03:16:26 PM



Title: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 09, 2005, 03:16:26 PM
Point of slight clarification.

I'm trying to figure out how broad 'Situation' is supposed to be.  I've been considering it as the immediate elements of the setting, thrown into juxtaposition, roughly analogous to 'scene'.  As a rough example, the characters in the Situation are the characters present in a given moment of play.  However, that's a big distance between the set-of-all-potential that is Setting and the set-of-actual that would be 'Situation'.

A quick glance at the good ol' glossary gives me these:

Quote from: Provisional Glossary
Setting
Elements described about a fictitious game world including period, locations, cultures, historical events, and characters, usually at a large scale relative to the presence of the player-characters. A Component of Exploration.

Situation
Dynamic interaction between specific characters and small-scale setting elements; Situations are divided into scenes. A component of Exploration, considered to be the "central node" linking Character and Setting, and which changes according to System. See also Kicker, Bang, and Challenge.

Scene Framing
A GM-task in which many possible Techniques are used to establish when a sequence of imaginary events begins and ends, what characters are involved, and where it takes place. Analogous to a "cut" in film editing which skips fictional time and/or changes location. A necessary feature of System.

There's no entry for "Scene" itself, but the definition of Situation says that it is divided into scenes, and Scene Framing suggests that those scenes would be what I was calling Situation.  So now I'm wondering if Setting, Situation, and Scene are nested within eachother.  This would make Setting the set-of-all-potential, Situation the set-of-all-significance, and Scene the set-of-all-actual.

Example:
Setting: Verona, Italy; Rennaissance.
Situation: Two Households, both alike in dignity, two star-cross'd lovers.
Scene: Romeo and Juliet on the balcony.

What's your read on these?  How do you use these terms?


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Callan S. on November 09, 2005, 07:38:56 PM
Quote
This would make Setting the set-of-all-potential, Situation the set-of-all-significance, and Scene the set-of-all-actual.
I'm not sure about defining it that way...it would seem to be attaching the terms to parts of the game world rather than attaching it to the act of players investing into various ideas. Ideas that also happen to be creative focuses and some of them only exist (nested) inside another creative focus.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 09:45:11 AM
Callan, I don't understand your second sentence.  Clarify?


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: lumpley on November 10, 2005, 10:10:42 AM
Example:
Setting: Verona, Italy; Rennaissance.
Situation: Two Households, both alike in dignity, two star-cross'd lovers.
Scene: Romeo and Juliet on the balcony.

Exactly right.

-Vincent



Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 10, 2005, 10:14:24 AM
Example:
Setting: Verona, Italy; Rennaissance.
Situation: Two Households, both alike in dignity, two star-cross'd lovers.
Scene: Romeo and Juliet on the balcony.

The example you've given here would have these ideas nested in one another but your describing a play which automatically conforms to nesting (we know scenes are in acts that are in plays.)

What if we look at it from the point of view of a player looking at a game.

I have this character - Romeo. The write up tells me that my family is feuding with the Capulets (or was it the Montagues?) My character write up tells me that I am a passionate, not too bright boy, with no responcibilities and too much time on my hands. I also have money and reason to expect people to be deferential to me. If it tells me that I am a star crossed lover of Juliette then the write up has already played out half of the story! So I think the "situation" as described here has more to do with what I as the player chose to put my play time towards than what they setting dewscribes. Situation is a goal to lead to a change in the information of the setting (what I'd call the "Matrix" in Engle Matrix Games). Scene framing is the referee looking at my goal and creating scenes which will lead to change.

So setting are the playing pieces.

Situation is a player choice in responce to the setting. -Exploration.

Scene framing is the game master action to allow the player to make their goal happen.

Looked at it in this way, the three are related but do not seem nested.

"Romeo sees Juliette in the market. "Bismillah! What a babe! I've got to meet her." "But sir, that would be insane. She is the daughter of you father's enemy." "Oi Wei! My mind is a'twitter. What will I do?"

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 11:34:20 AM
Chris, I'm not saying that these three are determined and nested from the start of play.  Rather, these are all parameters that cannot exceed their parents' parameters.  You can't have a Situation that includes elements that are not included in the Setting -- Romeo cannot get abducted by aliens.  You can't (shouldn't) have a Scene that does not include elements of the Situation -- a scene where Romeo plays checkers with Tybalt and never talks about the fued, Juliet, or elements of their own characters that would relate to fueding or love.  It'd be a boring, empty, pointless Scene.

Hm -- is Zilchplay when Scenes are framed with no relation to the Situation (often because there is no clear Situation)?

In any case, whether these parameters are set from the start and do not change, can be changed by the individuals playing, or are created and changed through play itself, they still describe (I'm thinking) the relationships of setting elements.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: lumpley on November 10, 2005, 11:38:48 AM
In any case, whether these parameters are set from the start and do not change, can be changed by the individuals playing, or are created and changed through play itself, they still describe (I'm thinking) the relationships of setting elements.
My emphasis.

"Situation" in the sense of how the setting elements are situated, with regard to one another. Situated in the whole range of ways: emotionally, geographically, relatedness-wise, etc.

In other words: exactly right!

-Vincent


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Troy_Costisick on November 10, 2005, 12:22:59 PM
Heya,

One time, long ago, Ron explained Situation like this to me:

Character + Setting = Situation

At frist I didn't get it, but then as I thought about things it came to me in a rush.  Character wasn't just the PCs but the NPCs as well.  The example of Romeo and Juliet I'd like to expound on in this case.  The true Situation in that play (IMHO) is really the "Ancient grudge breaks to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean, from forth the fatal loins of these two foes, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life"

Let's Romeo and Juliet the PCs for the game.  The Situation for them would include "The Ancient Family Quarrel," "The Teenage Tendancey to Look for True Love for the First Time," and the whole "star-crossed (ill fated/cursed)" aspect of their existance.  The feud comes from the setting elements of Rennaisance Italy, the Aristocracy, and a generally premissive atmosphere of violence in Verona.  The characters of Lord Capulet and Monatgue plus guys like Tybal, Benvolio, Sampson, Balthasar, etc. are the real movers and shakers of the violence.  Put those characters and the setting together, and BOOM you have the situation Romeo and Juliet faced.

Peace,

-Troy


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: ewilen on November 10, 2005, 01:22:59 PM
Rather, these are all parameters that cannot exceed their parents' parameters.  You can't have a Situation that includes elements that are not included in the Setting -- Romeo cannot get abducted by aliens.  You can't (shouldn't) have a Scene that does not include elements of the Situation -- a scene where Romeo plays checkers with Tybalt and never talks about the fued, Juliet, or elements of their own characters that would relate to fueding or love.  It'd be a boring, empty, pointless Scene.

Wait a sec, Joshua, are you deliberately switching up the relationship of elements?

• Situation can't include elements that are not included in the Setting: Romeo can't get abducted by aliens because aliens aren't part of Renaissance Verona.

This is consistency. "A scene can't include elements that aren't in the Situation" would be the analogous relationship at that level, and might be redubbed "continuity". But what you have is that "A Scene should always include elements of the Situation." I would call this "focus", and I'd also note that "focus" is a tool that facilitates different aesthetic goals from "consistency" and "continuity".


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 02:17:57 PM
Troy, I really don't like the Setting+Character=Situation thing, because to me Characters are a subset of Setting in the first place.  "Setting+Characters" is like saying "Vegetables+Carrots".  I think it's far more profitable to say that Situation is the juxtaposition of selected Setting elements.  What the juxtaposition is and what it 'creates' is a matter decided by whatever goal the players have -- an arena, a fronteir, a love triangle, whatever.

Eliot, yes, I used the different language very specifically, because while these three are nested, they are not perfectly nested.  Situation definitionally cannot include any elements outside of the Setting, but a Scene can and almost has to include elements not in the Situation (but still in the Setting).  In Romeo and Juliet, not every single element of every single Scene has to do with fueding or love (the Situation) -- Romeo drinks his poison, but the posion is outside of the Situation; it's just a convenient piece of the Setting.

Of course, as soon as I started composing this reply I had difficulty thinking of a Scene element that wasn't directly related to the Situation, because R&J is pretty damn tightly constructed.  Most of the elements included in each Scene relate to the Situation directly or indirectly (take a moment to think about it -- or if you didn't teach Freshman English like I did, go read a quick scene from an online script).   I'll submit that the impact of a given Scene is directly proportional to how many of its constituent components are part of the Situation -- a pretty simple signal/noise distinction.  That's why I'm wondering if Zilchplay is when the Scene is pure noise, without any elements of the Situation at all.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: ewilen on November 10, 2005, 02:51:30 PM
I'd like to change what I just wrote--a bit.

I was thinking of each of the three levels (setting, situation, scene) as a set of elements, with each level as a literal subset of the higher level. If Setting contains the element Renaissance Verona and not the element Mars, then Mars can't be in the Situation because Situation is a subset of of Setting.

My mistake was viewing Situation as subset of Setting, when in actuality it's a set of relations of Setting elements and metagame interests. Scene is then an operation whose domain and range is Situation.

At least, that's how my ancient recollection of set theory tends to grapple with these concepts. To me "nesting" is an inappropriate metaphor because it makes me think of subsets, but YMMV.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 03:28:34 PM
I'm thinking in Venn Diagrams that I can't reproduce in text.

Situation is more than a set of elements; it is a set of elements which are related.  As such, the elements that are included (and related) are a subset of Setting, hands down.  It's just that there's more than just a set of elements -- there's a set of elements and the relationships between them.  I'm not sure if the relationships themselves are part of the Situation, or if the Situation is merely comprised of the elements that are related.  The relationships may be the rules by which the set is defined.

A Scene is composed of a set of elements, all of which are also a subset of Setting, and some of which are a subset of Situation.  If the Scene is composed of elements from the Setting but not the Situation, what you have is a dead scene.  I suppose you can easily mount an argument that a Scene is the set of elements included in motion, much like Situation is a set of elements in relation.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: John Kim on November 10, 2005, 05:05:59 PM

Example:
Setting: Verona, Italy; Rennaissance.
Situation: Two Households, both alike in dignity, two star-cross'd lovers.
Scene: Romeo and Juliet on the balcony.
You can't have a Situation that includes elements that are not included in the Setting -- Romeo cannot get abducted by aliens.  You can't (shouldn't) have a Scene that does not include elements of the Situation -- a scene where Romeo plays checkers with Tybalt and never talks about the fued, Juliet, or elements of their own characters that would relate to fueding or love.  It'd be a boring, empty, pointless Scene.

I think this is misphrased, because in an RPG, which elements are truly significant is only known in retrospect.  A setting detail which may have seemed insignificant before play might turn out to be crucial for how the game plays out -- indeed, such things are often the most interesting bits of the game, in my experience. 

A common problem with bringing in examples from literature or films is losing sight of RPGs dynamic nature.  I think that you could take the characters and setting of Romeo and Juliet and make a story which has nothing to do with feuding or love. 




Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: ewilen on November 10, 2005, 05:29:16 PM
(In reply to Joshua)

Well there's only so much you can do in trying to fit humanities concepts into a mathematical model. But I'll try.

I would argue, the key is that Situation is the collection of relationships between elements (in-game and metagame). To be worth exploring, a scene must at least have the potential to alter or expand the collection of relationships. If you're thinking in dramatic terms, then at some point you want to say, "enough", and concentrate on scenes that alter existing relationships. Concretely, the only way to do this is to include elements that are already tied into the web of relationships that is Situation.

IMO that's why we're tempted to see Setting, Situation, and Scene as nested boxes, but they aren't really.

(In reply to John)

I agree--which is why, just now, I specified that a worthwhile scene can be one that only has the potential to expand the collection of relationships. Placing an priority on definitely altering/resolving the existing relationships is what I'm calling "focus" in this thread. And I think it's very much a matter of taste.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Callan S. on November 10, 2005, 06:48:29 PM
Hi Joshua,
Quote
This would make Setting the set-of-all-potential, Situation the set-of-all-significance, and Scene the set-of-all-actual.
I'm not sure about defining it that way...it would seem to be attaching the terms to parts of the game world rather than attaching it to the act of players investing into various ideas. Ideas that also happen to be creative focuses and some of them only exist (nested) inside another creative focus.
By the second sentence I mean this:
You can choose between raygun moon adventure or a game about Verona, Italy; Rennaissance. Say you choose the latter, then the warring factions. You decide to make one more choice...raygun moon adventure still alures you, but it just doesn't fit for you, within that framework. Thus it's a creative focus. That explains what I meant.

To add complication, there is no outside force that says 'you can't have moon adventures at this point'. So there is no fixed 'scene nested within situation' structure. What you have is a person who can't see the moon adventure nested inside the situation as presented. Another person might feel no personal resistance to the idea of adding the moon adventure part not as a setting, but as the scene.

For example, switching your example around:
Setting: Romeo and Juliet on the balcony.
Situation: Two Households, both alike in dignity, two star-cross'd lovers.
Scene: Verona, Italy; Rennaissance.

I could imagine play occuring from this combination. Thus there is no universal nesting that forces me to think this wouldn't work. However, if someone can't imagine this producing play and has to have it as in your example, then it is nested...but only for that particular individual.

You might want a thread about identifying what concepts are nested within each other for particular players, and how to identify that.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 10, 2005, 08:55:11 PM
...in an RPG, which elements are truly significant is only known in retrospect.  A setting detail which may have seemed insignificant before play might turn out to be crucial for how the game plays out -- indeed, such things are often the most interesting bits of the game, in my experience.

You have (half a) point, John -- the significance of elements are sometimes recognized only in retrospect.  In other game situations, they're perfectly plain from the start, either in terms of mechanical design (glamour in Changeling, self-loathing in MLwM) or in terms of stated player preferences ("I want to play a Jedi Knight who falls in love").  And in other games yet, the setting is drastically changed right in the middle of it.  Who hasn't played in some campaign that got "restarted" or shifted to somewhere else?

I think Eliot's got the right approach, and it's one that I can fake like I implied from the start -- that these distinctions certainly exist, but they are created and modified through play.  Which means that the significant elements are determined in play, as you say.

Callan --

I'm not saying there's an outside force that says you can't leave the Setting.  I'm saying that the Setting is the set of elements in the game.  If you're playing Romeo & Juliet and then go to the moon with rayguns, well, you've added the moon and rayguns to the Setting.  Similarly, sure you can reverse the order and have the entire game take place on a balcony, reflecting on the vastness of Italy that it's part of.  That's just a different game than R&J, and one that you can compose for your game group just as easily as you can say that you go to the moon.

The reason why that is important is that these decisions are procedures of play, which means they're something that we can fiddle with.  Obviously some games give the GM broad powers (Multiverser comes to mind), while other games would strictly delimit the Setting based on a rather crude group consensus buried in an implicit social contract ("Dude, adding in the space marines in the middle of the dungeon was just dumb").

Eliot --

I can see an argument that Situation is the relationships of elements in the Setting, sure.  These are illustrations, not "the way things are" that we're talking about.  I find it easier to talk about it as nested boxes because I think that can be a useful tool for 'paring down' a overly large setting into one nice bite-sized chunk of content to play.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: MatrixGamer on November 11, 2005, 08:54:04 AM
Lets say that [setting > situation > scene] are nested. What implications does that have on game writing?

As an author, I have an idea of how I'd like my game to be played. The players can of course take it and do what they want with it - A gamist "My Life with Master" for instance - but since I'm writing the game I want to write it in such a way as would make my preferred type of play easy to do.

I will follow steps I took in a Gen Con game in the late 90's "Romeo and Ethel the Pirate's Daughter". (Which was a hoot to play.)

My first job is to describe the setting. This could be a wordy source book or something as abstract as boardgame icons. In Romeo and Ethel I did it as I do in Engle Matrix Games, the world was divided into an area map with key locations, there is a cast of characters (with a paragraph showing who they are), and a short introduction to the game that suggests what is going on (which suggests what the players need to do.) In this case it was played on two levels. On one level the characters were the characters in the story, on the next level they were actors in Elizabethan London putting on a show (complete with a depressed Shakespeare, a arrogant producer, and the dog "Use the dog Will. Everyone likes the dog.")

I tend to favor giving key information and trusting the players to imagine the blanks filled in.

Situation in part comes from the character's write ups (that suggest relationships and conflicts) and the opening introduction. The game could be explicit on what to do (as in a boardgame) or wide open. I see my job as a game writer to be to come up with a world that can be played with in many ways so I set up many potential struggles and trust the players to supply the spark to make them come alive.

Scene framing I think is a technique of play, just as the glossery says. It is the players enacting the situation, so the situation may be that Romeo is a lusty lad how will fall for the first pretty face he meets. The scene would be Romeo and Ethel meeting, with subsequent scenes exploring that relationship.

As a game maker I affect scene framing by the rules I include with the game. This is where "system matters" comes in. I use rules that suggest but don't require players to do any one thing. Player arguments judged by the referee is a negotiation of what the shared imagined space includes. The referee apportions authority/control over changing the world based on the likelyhood of an argument happening. Meanwhile the players are negotiating/jockying for control over what actually does happen in the game.

SUMMARY

Game writers present the setting. They influence scene framing by the rules they write. They may suggest situation but that is more up to what the players want when they play the game. The players can also ignore our rules and go off in their own direction if they want to so we really have little control over situation or scene framing.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 11, 2005, 09:18:32 AM
Game writers present the setting. They influence scene framing by the rules they write. They may suggest situation but that is more up to what the players want when they play the game. The players can also ignore our rules and go off in their own direction if they want to so we really have little control over situation or scene framing.

Chris, I realize that that is totally a viable way to do it, but we really need to be careful not to say that it is the way to do it.  Matt Wilson created a great game in PTA but he didn't write one lick of setting.  As I understand it, the Roach dictates scene framing for the players rather than influencing it.

I think it would be far more useful to say that, as game designers, we need to be conscious of and perhaps offer mechanical procedures for determining the scope of the Setting, Situation, and Scenes.  (We talked about this in Scope & what I mean by it (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17279.0).)  I also think it would open some very viable areas of exploration when we start fiddling with player access to those procedures -- we know what a game looks like when the GM has absolute control over what's in and out of Setting, defines the Situation, and frames every Scene.  What's it look like when the GM can't frame scenes at all, or when the Situation is explicitly created by players spending currency?


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Callan S. on November 12, 2005, 01:45:38 PM
Hi Joshua,

I get you now. But really then it's about someone at the table saying 'the balcony scene fits inside the warring families situation...that's how it is'.

I think when your trying to figure out how broad situation is, your trying to figure out how broad any particular player will insist it is. You don't know until they insist on it (unless you work out some currency they can pay off their insistance with).


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 12, 2005, 04:48:34 PM
Admittedly, Callan, Situation is defined by the play group.  However, Situation is definitionally "between" Setting and Scene, which is what I was trying to nail down.  Whatever the Situation is, it will be smaller (or equal to) the Setting and greater (or equal to) one Scene.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: John Kim on November 12, 2005, 11:49:01 PM

...in an RPG, which elements are truly significant is only known in retrospect.  A setting detail which may have seemed insignificant before play might turn out to be crucial for how the game plays out -- indeed, such things are often the most interesting bits of the game, in my experience.

You have (half a) point, John -- the significance of elements are sometimes recognized only in retrospect.  In other game situations, they're perfectly plain from the start, either in terms of mechanical design (glamour in Changeling, self-loathing in MLwM) or in terms of stated player preferences ("I want to play a Jedi Knight who falls in love").  And in other games yet, the setting is drastically changed right in the middle of it.  Who hasn't played in some campaign that got "restarted" or shifted to somewhere else?

I think Eliot's got the right approach, and it's one that I can fake like I implied from the start -- that these distinctions certainly exist, but they are created and modified through play.  Which means that the significant elements are determined in play, as you say.

I think I buy that.  So these are the different levels, which may be different in play from how they're predicted.  Obviously, you can make predictions about what is significant from what rules-set you're using or stated player preferences.  Such predictions may be accurate but can also be wrong.  A player might turn out to be interested by something entirely different than what she originally said she would be -- i.e. she wants to play a Jedi Knight who falls in love, but in play the NPC set up as the love interest doesn't actually interest her, and she instead chooses a different path.  A Changeling game might have players be interested more in particular relationships and cultures than in collecting Glamour points. 

To me personally, I feel there is a big difference between Predicted Significance and Significance-In-Play.  However, they are obviously related. 

I think it would be far more useful to say that, as game designers, we need to be conscious of and perhaps offer mechanical procedures for determining the scope of the Setting, Situation, and Scenes.  (We talked about this in Scope & what I mean by it (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/index.php?topic=17279.0).)  I also think it would open some very viable areas of exploration when we start fiddling with player access to those procedures -- we know what a game looks like when the GM has absolute control over what's in and out of Setting, defines the Situation, and frames every Scene.  What's it look like when the GM can't frame scenes at all, or when the Situation is explicitly created by players spending currency?

Sure.  There are lots of options.  For example, LARPs generally do away with scene framing -- the time and place are always continuous and specified.  Dungeon crawls or other mapped-location gaming are another case of continuous time and placement -- where the GM cannot simply pick of the PCs, say that it is an hour later, and place them at some other location.  There, scene framing generally occurs only through collective agreement to skim past time.  Then there are GMless games like Soap or Capes. 




Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 13, 2005, 12:49:12 PM
An interesting and useful discussion, this thread, with a good general tone of writing: critically constructive (to my mind at least).


I would argue, the key is that Situation is the collection of relationships between elements (in-game and metagame). To be worth exploring, a scene must at least have the potential to alter or expand the collection of relationships. If you're thinking in dramatic terms, then at some point you want to say, "enough", and concentrate on scenes that alter existing relationships. Concretely, the only way to do this is to include elements that are already tied into the web of relationships that is Situation.

IMO that's why we're tempted to see Setting, Situation, and Scene as nested boxes, but they aren't really.

I can see an argument that Situation is the relationships of elements in the Setting, sure.  These are illustrations, not "the way things are" that we're talking about.  I find it easier to talk about it as nested boxes because I think that can be a useful tool for 'paring down' a overly large setting into one nice bite-sized chunk of content to play.


It seems to me here that Situation sets itself as a "topography" of Setting: In one sense, Situation comprises all the elements of the Setting - but only through their evaluation and measure: By discerning the Situation from the Setting, it maps interrelations, juncture points, etc., placing a weight of importance on them, and the connections between them.

This way, one ends up with a map where everything is "present" to some extent - but certain elements, in their concordance and complicity, rise to the foreground forming a constellation (the Situation), while others, more or less detached from this current complicity, fade into background. Furthermore, perceiving a situation is an act of filtering: That is, one is able to have a narrower or wider view of the Situation, depending on how one evaluates the importance.

Now, these kind of topographical concepts tend to include a point of view (perhaps a point of view is even unavoidable): Since it is an evaluation of some sort, there are criteria present, and criteria for evaluation cannot really be general (they have to evaluate something).

So, for example, one can evaluate the situation for a group of characters, or a single character - but, as entailed by the structure of the concept, the results are bound to be more or less different from each other: between the character and the group, between a single character at different times etc.

In sum, the Situation seems to me something one has to perceive through a point of view, and something that is susceptible to changes with the alterations of overall balance - but as such, forms a manner of perceiving a constellation of elements affecting a viewpoint, and a general impression of the balance of this constellation.

In this manner, I find this pair of concepts, Setting and Situation, both useful and robust - not universally useful, but then again, what is? (To explicate, I can think of instances of rpgs where the concept of Setting is not all that fruitful - for example when the topos and the question of Setting is exactly what is explored in the game, and is not, as such, preordained for any player, GMs included. But this type of games are exceedingly rare, and will probably stay that way.)

That's at least how I perceive the operative nature between Setting and Situation - I would love hear your agreements and, especially, disagreements.


There's no entry for "Scene" itself, but the definition of Situation says that it is divided into scenes, and Scene Framing suggests that those scenes would be what I was calling Situation.  So now I'm wondering if Setting, Situation, and Scene are nested within eachother.  This would make Setting the set-of-all-potential, Situation the set-of-all-significance, and Scene the set-of-all-actual.


The Scene, hmm - that's quite a can of worms. The concept has a lot of history, generally mixing up the establishment of a place with a development of action, even some sort of resolution "to wrap up the scene". Additionally, many rpgs use this type of concept of a scene, even emphasizing it as a measure of narrative chronology: "this power lasts to the end of the scene".

Given all that, it might be hard to strip down the scene to a term of scope, without the dominatively narrative implications (the word narrative used here in a traditional sense, as a structure, organisation of what is represented). There are alternative concepts skirting this area, such as Event, even State - but these outline things quite differently (although I have to say that I'm tempted by Setting-Situation-State triad for its robustness... but then again I'm an unabashed conceptual pervert).

So, running out of time, I'm left with three questions:

1. Can Scene be stripped from its narrative connotations, and how it should be defined as such?

2. Is this stripping of narrative connotations of the Scene even desirable? Or, is a concept that sets up a "crucible" for different elements to react together, in the interests of some type of resolution something that is actually needed for this area?

3. If Scene is found wanting, is there a satisfying alternative for it?


Cheers,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 14, 2005, 10:42:18 AM
To me personally, I feel there is a big difference between Predicted Significance and Significance-In-Play. However, they are obviously related.

It's like your starting cash in Monopoly and the cash you end up with at the end of the game.  Or in poker, the hand you're dealt and the hand you eventually lay on the table.  I'd actually take a step further to a stronger statement where there really is no Predicted Significance before play -- I'd say that, as with dealing cards, setting up that initial set is part of play just as much as developing the set through roleplay.

This way, one ends up with a map where everything is "present" to some extent - but certain elements, in their concordance and complicity, rise to the foreground forming a constellation (the Situation), while others, more or less detached from this current complicity, fade into background.

I'd argue that the entire Setting being implied in the Situation is when things are really clicking -- see my difficulty finding a Shakespearean reference for this.  I don't know how feasible it is to expect this in RPGs, which do not have the same range of foresight, planning, and (msot importantly) revision to tie all those threads together (and remove stray elements that aren't clicking).

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In sum, the Situation seems to me something one has to perceive through a point of view, and something that is susceptible to changes with the alterations of overall balance - but as such, forms a manner of perceiving a constellation of elements affecting a viewpoint, and a general impression of the balance of this constellation.

I have trouble seeing anything in RPGs as outside of specific points of view.  PoV is sort of the base currency of roleplaying to begin with.  All players around the table will have a different conception of what is in the Setting, the Situation, and the Scene -- one of the functions of playing the game is to bring those differing conceptions into closer alignment.

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In this manner, I find this pair of concepts, Setting and Situation, both useful and robust - not universally useful, but then again, what is? (To explicate, I can think of instances of rpgs where the concept of Setting is not all that fruitful - for example when the topos and the question of Setting is exactly what is explored in the game, and is not, as such, preordained for any player, GMs included. But this type of games are exceedingly rare, and will probably stay that way.)

Your exception doesn't need to be excepted if you accept that the Setting can be changed in play according to specific procedures that add and remove elements of the Setting.  Usually these are "the GM makes it up" but other games (Universalis) afford other options.  None of the three sets are preordained -- but most of them are probably pre-loaded with content.  Whether that initial set changes or not is subject to the proclivities of the game being played at the table.

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1. Can Scene be stripped from its narrative connotations, and how it should be defined as such?

I don't think Scene really has too many narrative connotations to get rid of.  I wouldn't, for instance, say that a scene needs to be "wrapped up" -- lots of scenes, in and out of narratives, are not wrapped up, are left on cliffhangers, or simply end or get cut away to another scene.  The base requirements for a scene are a set of fictional elements (characters, sets, props) juxtaposed to some sort of immediacy (physical or otherwise) and a little interaction between those elements.  You can get that out of just about any gaming scenario I can think of, narrative concerns aside.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 14, 2005, 10:50:04 AM
LARPs generally do away with scene framing -- the time and place are always continuous and specified.  Dungeon crawls or other mapped-location gaming are another case of continuous time and placement -- where the GM cannot simply pick of the PCs, say that it is an hour later, and place them at some other location.  There, scene framing generally occurs only through collective agreement to skim past time.

I dunno if LARPs really do away with scene framing.  Having never LARPed myself, I may be completely wrong about this, but if you're at a LARP and you leave one area with players in it, walk alone down a hallway, go to the restroom, and then walk further down the hallway to another area with other players in it, were you really roleplaying in the hallway?  Especially if you were playing Vampire or something, and your character really doesn't have to visit the restroom (to phrase it more delicately than I did at first), isn't there a transition there between one scene and the next?  Moreover, if you're GMing at a LARP and you set up something to happen when players enter a room, isn't that scene framing?  Admittedly, scene framing is less of a concern, or does not structure the game experience as much, but I wouldn't say it disappears entirely.

Similarly, just because a dungeon crawl is continuous doesn't mean that there are no scenes to be framed.  Especially if the party gets split up, attention will have the jump between one group and the other; similarily, the players will often call breaks for the restroom, smokes, food runs, and these are placed at "appropriate points" when the characters have cleared out a room or something.  Alternately, when the characters enter a new room, the GM often frames the scene that occurs (inside the room are four goblins worshiping at an altar!  they attack!).  So again, from my perspective, scene framing happens, it just happens differently.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: John Kim on November 14, 2005, 03:41:41 PM

LARPs generally do away with scene framing -- the time and place are always continuous and specified.  Dungeon crawls or other mapped-location gaming are another case of continuous time and placement -- where the GM cannot simply pick of the PCs, say that it is an hour later, and place them at some other location.  There, scene framing generally occurs only through collective agreement to skim past time.
I dunno if LARPs really do away with scene framing.  Having never LARPed myself, I may be completely wrong about this, but if you're at a LARP and you leave one area with players in it, walk alone down a hallway, go to the restroom, and then walk further down the hallway to another area with other players in it, were you really roleplaying in the hallway?  Especially if you were playing Vampire or something, and your character really doesn't have to visit the restroom (to phrase it more delicately than I did at first), isn't there a transition there between one scene and the next?  Moreover, if you're GMing at a LARP and you set up something to happen when players enter a room, isn't that scene framing?  Admittedly, scene framing is less of a concern, or does not structure the game experience as much, but I wouldn't say it disappears entirely.

No, I wouldn't call it that.  I don't see that dropping out of character and then coming back into a character constitutes a scene break.  In my experience, the action is usually continuous.  Someone may step out of the room to deal with an important cell phone call, say, but the others will continue to play in linear time -- and the player who stepped out will usually give some in-character excuse for disappearing upon his return. 

Now, on the one hand, you can come up with a definition of "scene" such that there are multiple scenes in a LARP.  i.e. Each time a character enters or leaves a room is a new scene, for example, or whenever a major event happens like a character death or somesuch.  So in that sense, you can cause new scenes to happen by leaving the room or making a major event happen. 

However, this is very different from the tabletop process of scene framing where you do not have continuous time -- and you have an active step where you determine where all the characters are and what the setting is.  In most LARPs, there is no active step of framing a scene.  There may be an event which you can call a new scene, but everyone simply is where they are when the break happens.  So I might spend the game on one side of the room, and never notice people going in and out, and thus not know when scene changes happen.   

Similarly, just because a dungeon crawl is continuous doesn't mean that there are no scenes to be framed.  Especially if the party gets split up, attention will have the jump between one group and the other; similarily, the players will often call breaks for the restroom, smokes, food runs, and these are placed at "appropriate points" when the characters have cleared out a room or something.  Alternately, when the characters enter a new room, the GM often frames the scene that occurs (inside the room are four goblins worshiping at an altar!  they attack!).  So again, from my perspective, scene framing happens, it just happens differently.

I'm not following your definition of "scene".  Are you saying that if the players call a break for the restroom, then that constitutes a change of scene?  So you might have three rounds of combat, then a restroom break, and then pick up again -- so the rest of the combat is a different scene?  Is entering a new room a new scene?  This is a tricky issue.  In a play, a new scene is usually defined by the stage being empty of actors or the lights going down to signal a change in place or time.  In film, it's usually defined by a cut from one location to another, but what constitutes a new location is fuzzy. 

The definition I am giving of "scene framing" with respect to RPGs is that it is a break in time, where you pick up at a new time and place, and there is a process of establishing who is where. 



Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 14, 2005, 04:07:30 PM
I'm not following your definition of "scene"... The definition I am giving of "scene framing" with respect to RPGs is that it is a break in time, where you pick up at a new time and place, and there is a process of establishing who is where.

The base requirements for a scene are a set of fictional elements (characters, sets, props) juxtaposed to some sort of immediacy (physical or otherwise) and a little interaction between those elements.  You can get that out of just about any gaming scenario I can think of, narrative concerns aside.

While a "change of time and place" certainly does signal a scene change, that's not always the case.  A lot of Shakespeare doesn't change the time or place, but shuffles the current batch of characters off the stage while another batch enters (Tempest does this constantly).  The scene-change is denoted by different characters in the set of involved elements, rather than a different place in the set of involved elements.  Framing that scene would involve deciding which elements go and which elements stay -- which may be the physical location, or it may not.

Now, not every character entrance and exit denotes a scene-change, and admittedly the line is fuzzy, but that's not the same thing as saying that a LARP is composed of one mammoth scene, happening in all places and throughout the entire game.  Similarly, in the dungeon crawl example, I'm not saying any pause to go to the bathroom constitutes a change of scene.  In my play experience, people run off to the bathroom when there's a lull in the action.  That lull in the action, I would argue, is the scene break.  Similarly, when the party is split up, jumping the action between the two groups is very similar to the jump cuts you mention regarding film.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: ewilen on November 14, 2005, 04:31:31 PM
I'm going to plug my idea again, and also draw attention to Joshua's earlier formulation of "situation" as "set of all significance".

A scene is sequence inside a narrative that changes or adds to the situation. It takes some problem or relationship in the situation, changes or adds to it, and produces a new situation. You can even have changes in time and space within a scene--for example, cutting back and forth between Luke in his X-Wing and the control room of the Death Star, or a flashback in montage with current events that explains the significance of what we're watching.

The problem is that without formal enforcement of scene boundaries, the definition of scene and significance in roleplay is bound to be subjective. IMO, formalism goes hand-in-hand with conflict resolution, while task resolution is amenable to less formally defined boundaries of scene and significance.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 14, 2005, 06:43:15 PM
A scene is sequence inside a narrative that changes or adds to the situation.

Yes!  Or at least, a scene should change the situation.  A failed scene may not, but I wouldn't say that means it's no longer a scene (a failed prison break that lands the characters... right back where they started).

Do we go the step further and say that a situation eventually changes the setting?  I am sorely tempted to go there, but I'm not sure if that's representative of my gaming or gaming in general.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: John Kim on November 14, 2005, 10:01:21 PM

While a "change of time and place" certainly does signal a scene change, that's not always the case.  A lot of Shakespeare doesn't change the time or place, but shuffles the current batch of characters off the stage while another batch enters (Tempest does this constantly).  The scene-change is denoted by different characters in the set of involved elements, rather than a different place in the set of involved elements.  Framing that scene would involve deciding which elements go and which elements stay -- which may be the physical location, or it may not.

Now, not every character entrance and exit denotes a scene-change, and admittedly the line is fuzzy, but that's not the same thing as saying that a LARP is composed of one mammoth scene, happening in all places and throughout the entire game.  Similarly, in the dungeon crawl example, I'm not saying any pause to go to the bathroom constitutes a change of scene.  In my play experience, people run off to the bathroom when there's a lull in the action.  That lull in the action, I would argue, is the scene break.  Similarly, when the party is split up, jumping the action between the two groups is very similar to the jump cuts you mention regarding film.

Hrm.  Well, this is a debate over semantics, and thus neither side can be objectively correct.  The question can't be which definition of "scene" for RPGs is right, since that's just a matter of convention.  The Shakespeare example mirrors a point I mentioned earlier -- in a play, a scene change is usually defined by there being no actors on stage.  On the other hand, this literary glossary (http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_S.html#scene_anchor) defines "scene" as "A dramatic sequence that takes place within a single locale (or setting) on stage. Often scenes serve as the subdivision of an act within a play."  In any case, definitions from other forms can be difficult to apply to RPGs.  For example, in LARPs, the action is usually dispersed and simultaneous.  For example, while there's a lull in the action for four PCs on one side of the space, there might be a dramatic argument occuring on the other side. 

More specifically, the term "scene framing" has been used for a while here on the Forge.  In his glossary, Ron defines it as "A GM-task in which many possible Techniques are used to establish when a sequence of imaginary events begins and ends, what characters are involved, and where it takes place. Analogous to a "cut" in film editing which skips fictional time and/or changes location. A necessary feature of System."  Note that it specifically refers to skipping fictional time and/or location.  Now, the term "scene" is not defined in the glossary, but in my opinion it would be very confusing for "scene" to be defined in a way that didn't correspond to "scene framing".  For example, if we define "scene" as simply changing what is of significance -- then a purely in-character action (i.e. "I shoot him") can cause a change of scene.  And yet in prior conversations on the Forge, we don't refer to such actions as scene framing. 

I'd be willing to not use "scene" independently.  For example, I might say that a continuous portion of action in a location is a "sequence" and not refer to scenes.  This fits with the definition of "scene framing" that it establishes the breaks between "sequences".   But I wouldn't want to redefine "scene framing". 




Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Graham W on November 15, 2005, 04:59:14 AM
Reading back through this thread, it looks as you've got a very good working definition of a scene. It's quite a loose definition and it seems to involve some or all of:

- Being set in one place and time
- Being a sequence that changes or adds to the situation
- Being between a particular set of characters, until someone enters or leaves

Interestingly, you can think of an example of what's commonly called a "scene" that breaks each of those rules: "The scene where we got chased by the dragon" clearly wasn't set in one place and time; "The scene where we got drunk in the tavern for the hell of it" needn't have changed the situation; and "The scene where we summoned lots of demons" didn't end when a demon entered. But the definition of "scene" is still useful.

I'd prefer you kept the definition loose. If you try and define it any more exactly, there's a danger that the term loses all significance.

(For example, you could insist that a scene must change the situation, but then you'd be left with lots of sequences of events that don't change the situation, and you'd have to decide what to call them. Non-scenes? Interludes?)

So, in my opinion: it's an interesting discussion; I think it's a good working definition of a scene; but there's a danger that, if you try to define "scene" any more exactly, the term will stop being useful. Keep the definition loose.

(As an aside - and I can't remember whether this has been mentioned - it looks as though there's an interesting connection between "Scope" and "Setting". But that's going off at a tangent.)

Graham


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 15, 2005, 09:32:53 AM
I have trouble seeing anything in RPGs as outside of specific points of view.  PoV is sort of the base currency of roleplaying to begin with [my italics - pekkok].  All players around the table will have a different conception of what is in the Setting, the Situation, and the Scene -- one of the functions of playing the game is to bring those differing conceptions into closer alignment.


I generally concur with this - which is probably not altogether surprising (and well said on the part I italicized). Earlier in the SiS-thread, while I was droning about how we rely on personal differences of understanding in order to achieve roleplaying, I might have built the argument on point of view - I was after the same phenomenon, mostly. Still, even if multiple point of views are always present, they have to be explicated, as I tried above - their effect is not homogeneous, and varies quite a lot as regards to Situation and Scene, for example.

One small, but important, disagreement though: I don't think the function of the game is to bring "differing conceptions into closer alignment". Even such tried-and-true cases such as the adversarial- or nemesis-structure rely on maintained, or even increasing distance of points of view, at least in some areas - and this is especially true in rpgs.

This is one of the reasons why I like the concepts such as constellation. To build up, say, a Scene we use a mixture of differences - not only adversarially, but in a much more varied manner: a good Scene might be based on a character who views the situation in terms of concrete value, and another character who sees things emphasizing the spiritual side of the situation. That is we rely not only on points of view, but differences between those points of view to create interest. If those differences are lost, well - we might call it a "happy ending"... but there's a reason why we don't usually continue playing or witnessing the situation: there's no interest left to pursue.

This reliance on differing points of view is much more highlighted, even radicalized, in roleplaying where points of view are dynamic by nature, not directed or pre-scripted. So, a constellation, which does not necessarily grow smaller, but produces an intriguing interplay through its differences: The use and application of points of view in roleplaying would probably be an interesting topic of discussion.


Your exception doesn't need to be excepted if you accept that the Setting can be changed in play according to specific procedures that add and remove elements of the Setting.  Usually these are "the GM makes it up" but other games (Universalis) afford other options.  None of the three sets are preordained -- but most of them are probably pre-loaded with content.  Whether that initial set changes or not is subject to the proclivities of the game being played at the table.


I was thinking of a somewhat different case, and my terse description earlier probably did not explicate it enough: A game that is not based, and does not include, a reservoir such as the Setting - where structures in likeness of the Setting remain as question marks, or non-existent. I've played one such a game, and that was years ago. In that particular game, the structure of the situation was king (situation in that game could be as small as Scene, or larger as long as the connections in it were perceivable), and you could change the elements as long as you adhered to situation structures (adversary to another, as long as the position stayed as an adversary).

It was a very successful game, by the way, kind of an exercise in constantly drifting figural thinking - like dreaming, somewhat, though alert. A bit hard to describe, as you can see; and, like I said, probably exceedingly rare.


I wouldn't, for instance, say that a scene needs to be "wrapped up" -- lots of scenes, in and out of narratives, are not wrapped up, are left on cliffhangers, or simply end or get cut away to another scene.  The base requirements for a scene are a set of fictional elements (characters, sets, props) juxtaposed to some sort of immediacy (physical or otherwise) and a little interaction between those elements.  You can get that out of just about any gaming scenario I can think of, narrative concerns aside.

Oh, I agree - my point was that Scenes have narrative connotations even up to presenting a distinct resolution, not that there is a wrap-up present in every case; but I should have been more clear. Still, I do think that, even in its many forms, Scene carries a lot of narrative baggage - but I'm also willing to entertain the idea that I'm wrong on this issue:

In the end of the earlier post, I compared Scene to a crucible. After posting I came to the conclusion that this comparison really does not fit the traditional view of the Scene (I was wrong on that argument) but would lead to a quite different conception of the Scene, if pursued. So, since I was weighing narrative too much there, I might be weighing it too much generally. We'll see.

Cheers,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 15, 2005, 09:40:43 AM
Both John and Graham -- I'm not trying to define "Scene" in ways that don't work for you guys; I'm trying to define scene in such a way that the term is flexible enough to cover the range of meanings we attribute to it.  It's a tall order, but I don't think it's impossible.  I'm thinking something along the lines of:

Scene: a sequence of events involving a set of story elements (which may be characters, locations, props, or other fictional content) which addresses the situation.

Note that:
  • The definition is very flexible, the necessity of which Graham pointed out.
  • A character enterring or leaving the physical proximity of the other elements of a scene does not begin or end the scene because the character is still involved (a part of the set of elements) whether he is present or not.  (If the messenger is sent off to the High King, that doesn't end the scene because the other characters may continue discussing matters of import.  If, after the matters of import are discussed, we "cut" to the messenger running down the road, that's probably a new scene.)
  • A chase scene still fits the above definition, even if it changes location constantly, because either (a) the location is irrelevant and not a part of the set of elements or (b) the location is defined broadly (the city) instead of specifically (K street) or (c) there's simply more than one location in the set of elements.
  • Determining where one scene ends and another begins is scene framing.  I'm not trying to determine the boundaries of a scene definitionally (for instance, when a character enters or leaves -- we all recognize that that's way too restrictive).  I don't see my provisional definition of Scene as being incompatible with the current definition of Scene Framing.  Scene Framing is the technique by which we select the set of involved elements and give them a little shove to make them go.
  • I do think Eliot's on to something that a worthwhile scene is one that at least attempts to address the situation.  If you're not doing that, you're just passing time.  Graham, I would call this an interlude or something similar, because it's not participating in the thematic dynamic of the game as a whole.  It's fluff.
  • In-character actions that change the set of significance (the Situation) are not affecting the scene or scene framing at all; they are doing something entirely different, either focusing or addressing the premise.

And Graham, yes, this is very much related to Scope and Focus -- I make the connection explicitly at my blog in the article Focusing the Scope (http://ludisto.blogspot.com/2005/11/focusing-scope-interaction-model-study.html).


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 15, 2005, 09:41:16 AM
one of the functions of playing the game is to bring those differing conceptions into closer alignment.

I don't think the function of the game is to bring "differing conceptions into closer alignment". ... That is we rely not only on points of view, but differences between those points of view to create interest. If those differences are lost, well - we might call it a "happy ending"... but there's a reason why we don't usually continue playing or witnessing the situation: there's no interest left to pursue.

That's why I said one of the functions is reconciliation; the other function is developing increasing detail by means of the differences in our individual conceptions.  This is drifting off-topic into the more abstract, but I'd be happy to continue this aspect of the conversation in PM.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 15, 2005, 11:28:14 AM
A scene is sequence inside a narrative that changes or adds to the situation.

Yes - but this leaves out a key question: Whose Situation? This might be one of the problems with Shakespearean examples: In traditional plays the concept of Situation sets up fairly differently; if there is a Situation (written) in them, it is usually from the point of view of a "generalized" spectator - the play shows the sides it wants to show to the audience.

But this type of generalization often does not work in rpgs. Sure, you can sometimes meaningfully talk about the Situation of a group of characters if their interests overlap significantly. But you cannot rely on this. If some character is in the midst of a love affair, well, that that is probably a major element of his Situation. If another character is at the same time developing a potion for turning himself blue, the love interest of another might not meaningfully be a part of his Situation - while that cobalt mine in Schwarzwald...

Of course, one could analyse similar differences from traditional plays - but in roleplaying these Situations are real, and have to be respected, not mere coloring.

But while I don't think that you can define the issue so generally, pursuing this issue further might be worthwhile, though. For example, the above case of love affair/potion characters: Both might find the Scenes based on the motivations of the other boring, for understandable reasons: they might enjoy them as spectators, but their interests would not be at play. The issue is there - it simply does not base itself on a Situation of general significance.

If one wants to make the interplay between Scene and Situation such as you describe it, one cannot necessarily approach Situation in general terms; there might be as many meaningful Situations as there are points of view.

Cheers,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 15, 2005, 12:01:44 PM
That's why I said one of the functions is reconciliation; the other function is developing increasing detail by means of the differences in our individual conceptions.  This is drifting off-topic into the more abstract, but I'd be happy to continue this aspect of the conversation in PM.

Sorry, a pet peeve of mine - I thought you were emphasizing the importance of closer alignment of points of view since you raised just that one issue. I tend to develop a rash around arguments for similarity in places where I think its over-rated - especially in roleplaying.

But, like I said, points of view in roleplaying might need their own topic, sometime later. While they are essential to structuring a Scene, and as such should be present in this thread, arguing at length on their general nature would eat away from the main topic. So we might discuss this over PM, and/or come up with a topic for them later.


Cheers,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Adam Dray on November 15, 2005, 12:32:08 PM
I think a Scene isn't necessarily all in one place but perhaps point of view is a more useful yardstick. A scene is usually "viewed" by a single lens. Imagine a scene in which one character mentally spies on a dozen different places. The scene is from the point of view of the spy.

When multiple characters start a scene together and a couple split off, the GM will cut back and forth between them. The different points of view required to see all the characters creates separate scenes. If the two groups of characters can communicate telepathically, they might be visible through the same lens and thus exist within the same scene.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 15, 2005, 01:31:49 PM
Yes - but this leaves out a key question: Whose Situation?

Yes, pekkok, that is an important consideration, and a potential issue that would be circumvented with clearer communication between players about what is and is not a part of the situation, as they see it.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: contracycle on November 17, 2005, 03:45:46 AM
Both John and Graham -- I'm not trying to define "Scene" in ways that don't work for you guys; I'm trying to define scene in such a way that the term is flexible enough to cover the range of meanings we attribute to it.  It's a tall order, but I don't think it's impossible.

I'm not sure thats feasible, and I definitely don't think thats a good idea - its far too likely to entrench any misunderstandings into a new terminology.

To most of this discussion I say "bah".  The "cut" definition is more than adequate - if, for whatever reason, the director decides that, for the progress of the story, the spotlight has to shift, then a scene changes.  It's true to say its not necessarily linked to location - it is merely that travel is dull, and unlikely to contributre to the narrative.  But, even in Shakespear, where two scenes are set in exactly the same place, this is usually punctuated by significant off-screen time, such as the first was in the morning and the next in the dead of night.

And, we must remember, whatever Shakespear DID he did becuase of the technical limitaitons of his day, not becuase he was sticking to some definition of "scene".  I'm sure he would have leaped at the chance to work with modern CGI, and to be able to do more scene changes than he was actually able to at the Globe.

The only interesting question is how RPG should use scene changes.  That is unclear.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 17, 2005, 05:34:21 AM
And, we must remember, whatever Shakespear DID he did becuase of the technical limitaitons of his day, not becuase he was sticking to some definition of "scene".  I'm sure he would have leaped at the chance to work with modern CGI, and to be able to do more scene changes than he was actually able to at the Globe.


Well, many think that he cared more for his Sonnets than his plays, and his Sonnets are hardly brimming with CGI potential - so I'm not sure about the leaping. Also, I think that his plays seem less effect-oriented than some of the others at the time (effects are not a modern day phenomenon - by many accounts even ancient Greeks used effects, even massive ones). And while he seemed to have his peeves with some parts of drama theory (his plays are full of jokes and puns on the normative classifications such as comedy and tragedy, and do not fit these classifications), he did write quite formal scenes, throughout his career. This was by no means a technical necessity: One can write continous plays, other structures, without resorting to special effects.

The "cut" definition is more than adequate - if, for whatever reason, the director decides that, for the progress of the story, the spotlight has to shift, then a scene changes.


Hmm, even Phantom Menace has interleaved scenes, where things rotate between two, or three scenes of action. I would not be ready to call Phantom Menace and overtly theoretical work, applying story structures of mostly academical interest.

Now, given that rpgs in general have such things as scenes, it would be much more misleading to place the term Scene where you would not expect it to be. It is also misleading to loan things from film theory, yet place them differently for no practical, explicated reason: cut is a cut, scene is a scene - these things are different. You can find similar structures in rpgs and they do not overlap either.

Also, given that the glossary makes heavy use of the term scene, it would be confusing not to define it: (Situation: Dynamic interaction between specific characters and small-scale setting elements; Situations are divided into scenes... Cross: The Technique of introducing effects from previous scenes into current scenes, although the scenes do not contain the same player-characters... Roads to Rome: A technique of scenario preparation in which the GM has prepared a climactic scene and maneuvers or otherwise determines that character activity leads to this scene.)

There are several other instances, but it's unnecessary to stress my point by quoting a mile of text. Certainly Roads to Rome definition seems to refer to a traditional concept of the scene, not a cut - it would be absurd to say that the climactic scene has to end if a cut occurs. (For example: during a climactic battle in the Sproinggg Temple somebody has an idea that he should fetch something from the carriage outside to help in the fighting. To call this and end of the Scene, when action continues without a hitch for other players, would be fairly confusing.)


Cheers,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: contracycle on November 17, 2005, 07:24:53 AM
Hmmm.  I tend to disagree - some of your argument I take as overly reliant on definitions.  Lets remember definitions can be local - both film and theatre use scenes, but only film uses cut.  Does that suggest ythat a cut and a scene are inherently distinct, and that a cut can never be a scene change?

I'd agree that neither apply strictly to RPG but we will only be able to discuss their usages in general before we can make a definitional statement.

You mention interleaved "scenes"... let me suggest we call that a complex scene rather than asserting that merely because there is a cut, per the glossary, there must also be a scene change.  As I mentioned, film has different opportunities than stage performance - on the stage, changing the scene means changing the scenery - and that means bringing the lights down and breaking the action while you shift physical props.  Whereas, a film editor can splice two bits of footage with no interruption between the two.  IMO, though, such cutaways and interleavings are still the same scene, because the subject of action has not changed.  When the subject of action is resolved, its likely the next scene will be located somewhere other than wither of those two locales, and probably with time having moved significantly onward.  I don't think the nature of "scene" has changed merely becuase new techniques and technologies change some of the old constraints.  We have still witnessed only a single event, albeit from perspectives that would not have been technically possible until recently.





Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 19, 2005, 04:17:07 PM
Hmmm.  I tend to disagree - some of your argument I take as overly reliant on definitions.  Lets remember definitions can be local - both film and theatre use scenes, but only film uses cut.  Does that suggest ythat a cut and a scene are inherently distinct, and that a cut can never be a scene change?


Well, a cut can change a scene, of course - but it certainly does not have to. If you look at basic film theory, or even practical advice on filming, a shot (established by cuts) and a scene are two different things. Thus you have terms like "establishing shot" which means a shot opening and setting up the basic elements of the scene: For example, in a western movie, a far-away shot showing persons walking towards each other for a duel scene. From here you could cut to show close-ups of each persons face (shot-countershot) etc - in this way you use multiple shots to construct a scene in film.

To give a couple of examples of scenes in film (spoiler alert, btw): in Frankenstein (1931),  where the "monster" (or Adam) meets a blind girl, and eventually throws her into a lake (the highlight of the movie for me - in early versions this scene was censored, reputedly at the request of Karloff). It comprises of many shots, cuts, but it is a single, coherent scene.

Or in Blade Runner: Harrison Ford clinging to the edge of the building, Rutger Hauer saves him at the last second, has his monologue, dies - that's also one scene, with many shots.

To form a scene (whether theater, film) is to establish interplay between characters, their situations, environment, other elements. Thus you do not merely have: "A meeting between two lovers." Instead, you may have: "A chance meeting between two lovers, Girl and a Boy, on a precarious bridge, overlooking the city with its comings and goings; the towering monument of one of their families looming in the background. Also present is the older Mentor of the Boy, who has a secret lover of his own."

Scene is a complex, a construction of meaning - as a concept, it encourages one to think of a unity of representation as if a diamond, where each facet is placed in relation to each other - not as a vague vessel where to mix stuff in.

In roleplaying, one of course cannot construct a scene as in film or drama, especially as to their development. But you often can set a scene, bring in the elements, think about the potentialities of their interplay. And, personally, I find this both interesting and crucial area of roleplaying: You set up an interplay, a balance of forces... and see what happens.

Additionally, cuts, or shots, could be useful terms in roleplaying, I think, mainly because of the many points of view, and the necessity frequent changes between them, often for pragmatic reasons (changing which character is the focus of the action etc.).

But the concept of the scene is simply not made for the same issue as cut; and because the traditional concept of the scene is present in roleplaying, meaningfully and importantly, it would be silly to place the concept somewhere else, without a rhyme or reason. It's a powerful unit of meaning - there's no need to spoil it.


***

Finally, a general comment on the relationships of these discussions to the provisional glossary (since many have commented on the issue): For what it's worth, I personally have liked the theoretical approach in this thread, even though I have not agreed with all the details. Joshua presented a premise, a certain way of looking at Setting-Situation-Scene triad, which has then served as a starting point of discussion. Many of the posts seem to have the tone of "I'm still ruminating on this" or "this is still on an idea level" - which is as it should be, if something is to develop.

Now, in order to have a healthy theoretical debate, the possible concurrency with the glossary has to come afterwards - curtailing everything to the glossary from the beginning will deviate the debate, and make it more dogmatic by nature. This is really basic stuff for any theoretical debate: If you constantly pull the reins of newer developments, even discussions, back to an earlier model (kill the hypothetic elements, so to speak) you don't get much real progress.



P.S. Here's a description of the above mentioned Frankenstein scene from the filmsite.org. The interplay of the scene is not only between the monster and the girl - it includes the flowers, the lake, the childish playing... and also more conceptual things like unawareness and innocence, unawareness and cruelty etc. A complex of meaning, then:

"Another of the film's most powerful, poignant, and horrifying scenes: The Monster attempts to make friends with Maria (Marilyn Harris), a young girl who plays by the bank of a lake - she is not repelled by his hideous appearance and invites him to play. She takes his hand and leads him to the side of the lake. With child-like innocence, he smells a daisy flower she has given him and a smile lights his face. After they kneel next to the water, Maria hands him some flowers to join her in a delightful game of throwing them into the pond. One by one, they toss flowers onto the surface of the lake, watching the petals float. When the Monster's few flower blossoms are gone, he puzzles for a moment at his empty hands, and then innocently and ignorantly picks up a screaming Maria. He enthusiastically throws her in the water - expecting that she, too, will float like the flower petals. She flounders and splashes in the water and quickly sinks and drowns. As he staggers away from the lake, the Monster seems to express some confusion and remorse, shaking and wringing his hands and possibly perceiving the horrible thing he has done."


Cheers,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 19, 2005, 05:53:17 PM
Well put, pekkok, and better put than I could have put it.

In roleplaying, one of course cannot construct a scene as in film or drama, especially as to their development. But you often can set a scene, bring in the elements, think about the potentialities of their interplay. And, personally, I find this both interesting and crucial area of roleplaying: You set up an interplay, a balance of forces... and see what happens.

Yes, and: scenes are not strictly delimited from their inceptions.  It's quite possible to introduce new elements of the scene, remove some elements, or change some elements, and it is this process which is presently fascinating to me, because in most games, the resolution system is the only thing that performs this function (poorly), and the GM can just toss stuff in at will.  I think we'd find some very intriguing play come out of a rule set that governs how to reformulate the scene as it's happening.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: contracycle on November 21, 2005, 06:30:21 AM
Quote
But the concept of the scene is simply not made for the same issue as cut; and because the traditional concept of the scene is present in roleplaying, meaningfully and importantly, it would be silly to place the concept somewhere else, without a rhyme or reason. It's a powerful unit of meaning - there's no need to spoil it.

Fair point well made, I concede in all respects.

Additionally, cuts, or shots, could be useful terms in roleplaying, I think, mainly because of the many points of view, and the necessity frequent changes between them, often for pragmatic reasons (changing which character is the focus of the action etc.).

Ok then - how SHOULD they be used?

To the best of my knowledge, there has not been any contributions on the topic from people with expertise or training in the field.  So, based on what you know, how do you think scenes should or could be suitably constructed for RPG?  And perhaps more importantly, how do we discuss these things in a constructuve manner?  With our internal-causality based approach, there is very little discussion as yet about what might be considered the production or directorial roles in building actual play events.



Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 21, 2005, 09:19:32 AM
Ok then - how SHOULD they be used?

The 'should' question always has the same answer: something 'should' be used in such a way to support your design goals, whatever those goals may be.  There will be lots of answers.  If you want to discuss those options, please split off a new thread. :)


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: pekkok on November 21, 2005, 06:55:25 PM

Apologies for everyone in want of them for my sluggish responses - I'm being savagely mugged by this thing called work...

Yes, and: scenes are not strictly delimited from their inceptions.  It's quite possible to introduce new elements of the scene, remove some elements, or change some elements, and it is this process which is presently fascinating to me, because in most games, the resolution system is the only thing that performs this function (poorly), and the GM can just toss stuff in at will.  I think we'd find some very intriguing play come out of a rule set that governs how to reformulate the scene as it's happening.

I concur, good point - better control of the elements of a running Scene would be highly desirable in roleplaying.

I'll outline one the main reasons for my concurrence with this :

In traditional theater, and especially in film, things are authored dominantly before representation - in theater, the actors of course have a certain level of authorship in the midst of representation, true - but the structure is still worked out beforehand, as the script.

In roleplaying, the balance is crucially different: While there's usually preparation work beforehand, the most dominant, essential time of authorship is concurrent with the representation - we "write" the "stuff of dreams" as we go along.

Thus, we need primarily tools that can take "part in the discussion", be "conversationalist", so to speak: add elements as reactions to something, introduce modifications on the fly etc. And this is no different in the case of Scene, and its application to roleplaying.


So, based on what you know, how do you think scenes should or could be suitably constructed for RPG?


Based on what I commented for Joshua above, I see only one way to approach this (might well be because of my current poverty of vision): The type of interplay inherent to the Scene should be analysed down to elements that create the basic tensions establishing that interplay.

To concretize, here's a quick sketch of the direction this could take us, if pursued:

Looking at a game situation from a Scenic viewpoint, you would not merely have character called John, character called Jane, so forth: you would also define them with "roles" that make up the Scene, as "forces" in play. Thus, John could be defined as the "Adversary of Jane", a "Humorous Distraction", or perhaps a "Figure of Repentance" etc. (These terms are just depictive phrases to sketch the idea I'm after, not well-honed terms of Scenic roles.)

This way you could superimpose the definitions of the Scene on the ongoing play - to make a sort of Scenic lens, if you will.

Naturally these terms would not be limited to characters - in the earlier description of Frankenstein I quoted, flowers are clearly intentional part of the Scene - perhaps one could describe them as "Supporting Figures for the Concept of Innocence", or something to that effect. Likewise architectural elements, such as a chasm between two meeting groups, often have clear Scenic roles - and so on. These definitions should also change from time to time, to reflect changes in action and relationships.

PCs could perhaps disregard their Scenic roles - to them, roles could be merely descriptions to aid the comprehension of the Scene. For NPCs, architecture etc, though, they could work as guiding themes for their presence or action, thus strengthening the appearance of Scenic interplay.


Something to that effect,


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 21, 2005, 08:11:10 PM
In traditional theater, and especially in film, things are authored dominantly before representation - in theater, the actors of course have a certain level of authorship in the midst of representation, true - but the structure is still worked out beforehand, as the script.

In roleplaying, the balance is crucially different: While there's usually preparation work beforehand, the most dominant, essential time of authorship is concurrent with the representation - we "write" the "stuff of dreams" as we go along.

In improvisational theater, an actor can turn and pick up just about anything on stage and say that it's what they presently need -- or probably more commonly, they mime picking something up.  If it's a phone, they hold it to their ear and say "Hello," if it's a banana, they peel it and put it in their mouth.  I think it'd be very interesting to give players that sort of ability in play through explicit rules.

This is why I need to buy Universalis, as I understand it.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 22, 2005, 11:22:33 AM
That's my cue!

Rather, I wanted to jump in anyhow, and this is a good segue. In Universalis we simply say that a player "closes" a scene. For whatever that's worth. It seemed appropriate at the time. And it matches Lehrich in that it's about the SIS being a part of the ritual space established. So it's more like religion than film, at the end of an important part you have a closing.

Of course, then, at the beginning we use a film term and call it scene framing. So no consistency there. :-)

BTW, there's a special rule in Universalis called "Fade to Black. Which isn't particularly appropriate, really, but means that the scene itself cannot be "reopened." Because to get that "interleaving" effect in question in Universalis, you'd simply come back to a scene that had been opened previously. You can do this ad infinitum, opening a scene, closing it, and then reopening it, until somebody decides to Fade to Black (which only happens if somebody is worried about people coming back to the scene).

There are also "mini-scenes" which are nested scenes, flashbacks and that sort of thing. Entire scenes can also be flashbacks.

Note that I don't think that the only reason to have scenes is to change the situation, as presented above. Well, from one respect I do. Adding to the situation is changing it, too. That is, I'm not seeing a "should" here, because all scenes alter the situation. There's a scene in which two characters are playing chess that doesn't seem to relate to the rest of the situation? Well, it puts the two characters in a particular place, at a particular time, doing some particular activity. That's all pertinent stuff.

I think too much emphasis is being placed on Situation as dramatic, essentially. Sim aside, from a gamism angle, effective situation is simply setting up a potential for a character to step on up. But there will be some potential zilch-ish play in simply doing management of elements in moving them around. I think that sim situation only requires potential conflict and such if and when there's a hybrid going on, or that conflict is required by genre. That is, one can do "existence" sim in which you don't have to explore this sort of stuff.

So largely we're talking about quality as it pertains to modes of play. Which says nothing about the definition itself. Situation is merely statements about the spatial, or social arrangements of setting elements vis a vis each other. The chair is in the room is situation - every "box text" you've ever read is situation where it is not strictly color. Exploring what a chair is like to sit on is exploration of setting (and a character's response is exploration of character). Exploring why it's in a room is exploration of situation. Exploring what fabric it's made of is exploration of color. Though all of these could be different in different contexts.

Situation is not a subset of setting. It's the element of the inter-relation of such items, which is often the most interesting thing to investigate, though not always. Why is the barkeep abusing his wife? Answering this question is exploring the situation, developing it, changing it.

Remember that these elements do not exist outside of play and the exploration of them. It's not that we have some setting that pre-exists, and then we arrange it to create setting. We explore the setting by introducing bits of it. We explore situation by looking at how they are inter-related. We exlore color through description of the setting that's not otherwise reacted to. Character is "just" a specialized (and possibly the most interesting) form of setting to explore, and mutually exclusive from setting. That is setting is all such elements that are not character. Sometimes it's hard, as with organizations, to tell where the setting ends and a character begins.

So I see something like a cut scene, as simply an introduction of new situation to be explored in other scenes. A "change" only insamuch as the overall situation is changed by it being larger. As such, the question of whether or not play "should" advance situation along like plot, is purely a matter of preference. Some people may prefer meandering play that addresses situation only whenever it wants to do so.


Some other notes. LARPS have one scene framed, as I see it, for most of them. That is, you walk into the room, and you enter the scene as it's presented physically to you, usually with an explanation that the room is a spaceport bar, and any other rooms players go to are other parts off the spaceport. I think that the idea of continuous scening is only found in RPGs, and perhaps the movie Rope by Alfred Hitchcock (facetious), and it's highly fascinating. Only in RPGs is there a notion that the whole world can be one big "set" and that there are no cuts really so much as speeding along the action. No, we're not supposed to imagine it this way precisely, but when the GM says, "OK, after three days of travel, you find yourself at the next city" he's not neccessarily cutting per se. Instead imagine that the action is just taking place really, really fast like a sped up film. The point is that in all RPG play this happens. That is, the GM says, "You eat your meal, and a guy comes over to talk to you." You don't do the meal eating in real time unless it's a LARP.

So I agree that "cut" is a good term, but that it should mean moving about inside a scene like in a movie. The quickly eaten meal is not a new scene - the same elements are present and time is not skipped per se - time is merely gone through at a rapid rate so we can avoid having to relate boring details. Similarly, in some play, moving from city to city with "Three days later" is the same thing. It's a very simulation angle that says that the characters exist without dramatic constraint in the game that requires this sort of thinking - note that in such play, if a player says, "Oh the way, I stop off and get X" it's legitimate. Because, essentially, narrating past the opportunity to do that is sort of a "mistake" in a way. Players always have an opportunity to do what "might" be done in the time passed in this sort of play.

I think it's rare around here these days, but I think that most play is really better thought of as single-scene play with lots of cuts, rather than as Framing from scene to scene. Certainly this is what happens in a LARP. For play that tries to match LARP simulation levels, I think it's accurate to say for this play that there's only one scene, generally. Of course there may be exceptions, and variations. Most play probably actually does have occasional scene closures, and framing to new scenes. Sometimes done grudgingly, "Hmm, let's skip the travel parts, howabout, and just go to the next city, OK?"

That's my couple of pennies on the subject.

Mike


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Josh Roby on November 22, 2005, 12:12:37 PM
Mike, you seem to be using the word "situation" to mean the stuff that's immediate to the player's point of view; that is not, as I understand it, Situation.  It's that level of stuff that I started using "Scene" for, so that Situation can be "stuff that's important."  The definition of "important" gets determined by the group according to their own agendas.  A chair in a room is a Scene (or probably a Set -- add action and it's a Scene); unless the chair is important, in which the chair in the room is a Situation.  Does that jive with your thinking, or are we speaking different languages at eachother?

I agree, Scene does not need to "progress" the Situation, just change it or even comment on it -- I think "address the Situation" covers all contingencies.  Two guys playing chess can address Situation even if they don't rock the world -- it may underscore their characteristics, or express their relationship, etc, and such things are usually important to the players.  But if it's a scene of two old guys on the other side of the planet from the rest of the game and have no significant relationship to the rest of the game... well, it's not addressing Situation, and anybody in the game would be right to say, "Waitaminute, why are we dealing with these old guys playing chess?"  (And then, yes, the good GM/player ties it into the game, but by doing so, he makes the chessplayers significant, and retroactively makes that scene address Situation.)

And yes, Framing Scenes can simultaneously add elements to the Setting.  I'd say most of the heavy lifting of a Scene is selecting elements from the Setting (itself generated, seeded, and modified by prior scenes and other processes) and arranging them, but there's always the possibility of introducing something new, and the most interesting way to do this is by introducing it right into the player-characters' faces (or wherever their PoV happens to be at the time).

I'd agree that a lot of games are one long scene.  I'm skeptical of whether this is a good thing.  Lots of games are about dungeon crawls, too, and for some instances that's good and for some that's inappropriate and unfun.  I find Scene Framing as a technique to be another tool in the shed that allows players to focus on what's important (ie, address the Situation) rather than include the important bits along with every other detail that's between them and their target.  Mind, for some kinds of play the 'every other detail' is the important thing, so they have less need for scene framing.

Thanks for the description of Universalis' scene-framing, scene closing (which is also used in teevee, so you were consistent after all!), cuts, and fade to black.  I really need to order me a copy of that -- it sounds like a fun toolkit to tinker with!


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 22, 2005, 01:35:37 PM
Mike, you seem to be using the word "situation" to mean the stuff that's immediate to the player's point of view; that is not, as I understand it, Situation.  It's that level of stuff that I started using "Scene" for, so that Situation can be "stuff that's important."  The definition of "important" gets determined by the group according to their own agendas.  A chair in a room is a Scene (or probably a Set -- add action and it's a Scene); unless the chair is important, in which the chair in the room is a Situation.  Does that jive with your thinking, or are we speaking different languages at eachother?
Close, but with several quibbles. First, I'm not sure what you mean by "immediate point of view" but I mean precisely that it has to be entered into play. That is, there's no situation until somebody says something  like "there is a chair in the room." That is, setting that we agree exists ala previous discussions about it being entered by gross agreement (to say, play Star Trek), says nothing about situation until a couple of elements have been talked about and their position with regards to each other discussed. So the fact that Whorf is a subordinate of Picard is not situation until somebody introduces both characters into play. I am saying also that situation is often not important. Just as quite often setting elements entered are not important, and color is even more rarely "important." That said, only interesting situation will be acted upon. The whole chair in the room situation is probably not interesting enough to be addressed, but it's situation nonetheless.

Quote
I agree, Scene does not need to "progress" the Situation, just change it or even comment on it -- I think "address the Situation" covers all contingencies.  Two guys playing chess can address Situation even if they don't rock the world -- it may underscore their characteristics, or express their relationship, etc, and such things are usually important to the players.  But if it's a scene of two old guys on the other side of the planet from the rest of the game and have no significant relationship to the rest of the game... well, it's not addressing Situation, and anybody in the game would be right to say, "Waitaminute, why are we dealing with these old guys playing chess?"  (And then, yes, the good GM/player ties it into the game, but by doing so, he makes the chessplayers significant, and retroactively makes that scene address Situation.)
Well, see, I disagree here. That is, the two guys are situation. The importance thing has got to go. One wonders why, if it wasn't important, the players didn't add it. But if they did add it, and it wasn't important, then it's just bad exploration of situation as pertains their CA. But it's still exploration of situation.

So the "should" is only applicable in terms of using said exploration to produce the CA you prefer.

Quote
I'd agree that a lot of games are one long scene.  I'm skeptical of whether this is a good thing.  Lots of games are about dungeon crawls, too, and for some instances that's good and for some that's inappropriate and unfun.  I find Scene Framing as a technique to be another tool in the shed that allows players to focus on what's important (ie, address the Situation) rather than include the important bits along with every other detail that's between them and their target.  Mind, for some kinds of play the 'every other detail' is the important thing, so they have less need for scene framing.
Precisely. Scene framing is an excellent tool for pushing along most Narrativism CAs for example (not that it can't be useful for other things, too). But I think that the problem with "one scene" play is less that it doesn't have framing, but that cuts are used badly. That is, a lot of this sort of play is "propelled" by the GM asking "OK, what do you do now?" That level of passiveness from a GM has, for me, become simply intollerable - even in a one-scene style game, they should be cutting to the next interesting thing as often as the players are providing input (not either/or, but both sides actively participating in adding input).

Just my preferences here, but one can see how for certain styles, cutting can be as important as framing in and out of scenes is in other styles.

Quote
Thanks for the description of Universalis' scene-framing, scene closing (which is also used in teevee, so you were consistent after all!), cuts, and fade to black.
Sans a GM to do this stuff, we had to consider it pretty closely - how do you move play along if there's no one player who's job is to do it? You pass scene-framing to a player as a duty (actually it's rewarded, so they have to bid on the right to do it).

Mike


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: contracycle on November 23, 2005, 01:54:56 AM
Based on what I commented for Joshua above, I see only one way to approach this (might well be because of my current poverty of vision): The type of interplay inherent to the Scene should be analysed down to elements that create the basic tensions establishing that interplay.

To concretize, here's a quick sketch of the direction this could take us, if pursued:

Looking at a game situation from a Scenic viewpoint, you would not merely have character called John, character called Jane, so forth: you would also define them with "roles" that make up the Scene, as "forces" in play. Thus, John could be defined as the "Adversary of Jane", a "Humorous Distraction", or perhaps a "Figure of Repentance" etc. (These terms are just depictive phrases to sketch the idea I'm after, not well-honed terms of Scenic roles.)

This way you could superimpose the definitions of the Scene on the ongoing play - to make a sort of Scenic lens, if you will.

OK, I like this a lot at first glance.  Unfortunately it doesn't help me much more than the previous remark that a scene should do what I want it to do - my question is, rather, how should scenes be constructed with an eye to such a purpose?  Like the interactions you mention.

I'll try to illlustrate with a negative example.  I once saw an odd and frankly unwatchable French film which was basically one scene.  A couple in a long tailback abandon their car and start walking along the road, having a conversation/argument I couldn't follow.  As they walk, the camera strafes alongside as they pass abandoned car after abandonded car; every now and then, little half-seen vignettes of other people trapped in this circumstance flicker by.  Very odd.

Now this was, obviously, a deliberate design choice, and perhaps if I understood French the conversation would have contextualised it for me.  Nevertheless, the overall experience was mostly illustrative of why normal movies do use scene changes, because it was relentlessly dull.  But I note similar problem in RPG, certainly mine as a teenager - a phenomenon I have described as being trapped in continuous time.  In this situtation, the gamers don't know when or why to stop a scene, and so it drags on and on with increasingly frantic questions of "so what do you do".... and nobody does anything much, because nobody is aware of what the "interplays" in the "scene" are supposed to be.  In short, nobody understands what the scene is FOR, I think.

Thats the angle I'm coming from.  The single scene approach is so obviously weird that it prompts me to wonder about the purposefulness of scenes.  So, how does a director then decide on what scenes to establish and shoot, or which scene should follow on from which?  I suppose one might this as, how does one go from a general overview of a story to a model of the scenes by means of which the story can be told?

While tools or similar that tackle scenes as manipulable entitites that can be modified on the fly do indeed sound worthy, I suspect that an understanding of the principles of scene constructiuon and, significantly, scene ending, might be very useful as a starting point.


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 23, 2005, 10:28:51 AM
Quote
Now this was, obviously, a deliberate design choice, and perhaps if I understood French the conversation would have contextualised it for me.  Nevertheless, the overall experience was mostly illustrative of why normal movies do use scene changes, because it was relentlessly dull.

This is why I mentioned Alfred Hitchcock's film Rope. Not only is it shot as one continuous scene, it's shot such as to give the illusion that there are no cuts at all in the film. The entire thing is in an apartment, and the camera simply pans back and forth and follows the characters around it, much like as if one were there in the scene. There actually were cuts in the movie, but they were cleverly hidden by passes behind furniture and such. So that Jimmy Stewart and the rest of the cast could take a break, and they could change the film reel. Most of the segments are eight minutes long, or so, however, meaning that each had to be played carefully.

Now here's an interesting thing. Many people who've seen the film don't realize that there are no visible cuts. When it's over, and you ask them if there was anything odd about the film, some will say that there was something, but can't put their finger on it. Some realize that it's only one scene. But very few realize that it's continuous.

And it's not a bad film. I like it, and many people do. I recommend seeing it if you have a chance.

Which is to say that it's not really so much cutting and framing that's important at all, IMO. It's getting to the interesting moments that's important. This is why LARPs are designed the way they are - they're like the movie Rope. They put X characters with conflicts into some rooms, and let it all "play out." Most "adventurous" genres require changes in locale to happen, so this is unlikely to be useful for much tabletop play. But the point is that you don't frame for the sake of framing, but only when the current scene has used up it's potential. Some scenes continue to generate new situation internally, and go on, and on, and on.

Mike


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: contracycle on November 24, 2005, 03:15:35 AM
Which is to say that it's not really so much cutting and framing that's important at all, IMO. It's getting to the interesting moments that's important.

I couldn't disagree more - the cutting and framing are primary tools for intervening in the imaginary space.  Consider that you can entirely "re-dress the set" by framing to a different scene.  So, the cuts and frames are fundamental to the actual experience of play; they are a mechanism by which you get to the interesting moments, and minimise the unintersting moments.

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But the point is that you don't frame for the sake of framing, but only when the current scene has used up it's potential.

Right - but how to do you determine that?


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 28, 2005, 07:10:37 AM
On you're first point, I'm not trying to say that cutting and framing aren't effective tools - I couldn't personally do without them myself anymore. I'm saying that they're only important insamuch as they get us to the important stuff. If there is another way to get us to the important stuff, then that's just as effective. Basically I'm trying to focus in on what the priority is in terms of using these things.

Which is the second point. To always be moving to the important stuff. How do you know when a scene has lost it's potential to contain important stuff? Well, first, you have to know what the important stuff is. This is a matter of understanding the agenda that everyone is enjoying primarily, and we could have a whole thread just on that subject. Secondly, not to hand wave it, but often you just "know" that it's time to move on. That is, if the current scene is boring, and you can't think of how to make it non-boring, then perhaps rearranging the elements with some framing is what you need to adjust the situation so that things are interesting again. But, lastly and more precisely, a more conscious way is to watch the players for what they're responding to, and what they aren't responding to, and adding more of what they're responding to. If the current scene can't reasonably handle more of such additions, then it's time to frame to a scene that does.

Aesthetics comes into the picture as well, of course. I've made the mistake, more than once, of "framing in", or having enter a scene, one character too many. That is, often the best way to alter the situation to make it continue to be interesting is to have a character arrive just then. After about three entrances, however, it can start to seem really contrived. The level to which they seem contrived, of course, being related to how contrived each is individually. That is, if the scene is supposed to be a meeting where everyone is expected to arrive, then each of these arrivals isn't at all contrived, but just part of continuity. Again, it's about three "just happened along" entrances where things start to seem stretched. Perhaps more for different groups (maybe only one every other scene or less for some groups that are really into continuity as an end). The point is that when you reach that level of aesthetic boundary for this sort of thing, it's often best to end the scene, and start others with the characters in question who you want to include in the action.

This doesn't always work, of course, given that it might only be the confluence of a certain set of characters in certain relationships that creates the fun situation. For instance, if two characters are in bed together, and one's husband comes in, that's a pretty standard interesting situation (if cliched). If you frame the wife to the husband in the next scene, you don't have the situation in question. In that case, the only way to engineer it is with a "coincidental" arrival.

So, obviously it's a balancing act. Add to the current scene where it doesn't blow the group's plausibility meter, and as is required to take advantage of the opportunities that the scene offers. Which is not to say to always take them all - having the husband show up every time becomes boring itself. But just to make as much new situation you can with what you have to work with. And as soon as that situation has played itself out, and mixing it up further is no longer as interesting as framing to some other combination of elements, it's time for a new scene. When that's true is going to depend on the group playing and their agenda, and other aesthetic considerations that we can only make gross generalizations about.

Mike


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: John Kim on November 28, 2005, 11:02:27 AM

But the point is that you don't frame for the sake of framing, but only when the current scene has used up it's potential.
Right - but how to do you determine that?

Roughly, I would say that the simplest way to know to cut is when player interest is lagging and you (collectively) have nothing more to add to the current scene. 

Still, I would throw a few more thoughts here.  One of the issues scene framing is that they inherently release tension to a degree.  By skipping forwards in time, you're allowing that there isn't current tension over what will happen in the next moment.  The few movies which have continuous time often play on that interest.  For some of the better examples, see Hitchcock's Rope (as already mentioned) and Running Time (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120042/). 

There is also a price to be paid in exposition.  By cutting in time and place, you generally have to re-establish the time and place and immediate circumstances.  i.e. Where have we cut to?  How long has it been?  What is happening?  If you can instead introduce new elements into an existing scene, then these questions are already answered.  Within feature films, there are a few dialogue films like My Dinner With Andre (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0082783/) and various monologue or concert films (like Eddie Murphy Raw (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0092948/) or Swimming to Cambodia (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0094089/)).  If the time and place aren't so relevant, then cutting may not be justified. 



Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: contracycle on November 29, 2005, 06:29:13 AM
Still, I would throw a few more thoughts here.  One of the issues scene framing is that they inherently release tension to a degree.  By skipping forwards in time, you're allowing that there isn't current tension over what will happen in the next moment.  The few movies which have continuous time often play on that interest.  For some of the better examples, see Hitchcock's Rope (as already mentioned) and Running Time (http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0120042/). 

Right, thats the sort of thing I want to discuss.  I agree with your analysis of tension; you may recall that you helped me lay out an idea for using one or more lines of tension that the action is attempting to resolve, and proposing that play moves along these tensions, possibly interleaving them.  I think there may be some confusion over tension that results in the phenomenon of getting bogged down in the know; perhaps the GM is waiting for someone to release something, or the players are wrongly under the impression that something dramatic is about to happen.

Confusing the issue further is the presence of player sub-plots; it may be the case that only one player is engaged with something tense, sand the others are twiddling their thumbs.  This is why I think there would be some purpose in explicitly indicating what tensions are operational in a given scene, and what the scene is waiting to resolve.

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There is also a price to be paid in exposition.  By cutting in time and place, you generally have to re-establish the time and place and immediate circumstances.  i.e. Where have we cut to?  How long has it been?  What is happening?  If you can instead introduce new elements into an existing scene, then these questions are already answered...   If the time and place aren't so relevant, then cutting may not be justified. 

Granted.  But no bad thing, IMO, because every time the situation is re-established, the singular narration also forces a convergence of IS's.  I agree, though, that it is very definitely a conscious selection of time and place at which the new scene will occur.  The question of 'how long has it been' is quite thorny if any of the characters have some kind of project on the go, or if one of them is healing say, or even quite prosaically, if they are paying for their own support.  What intrigues me is this aspect of time in scenes, and the fact that we have the observation "system lends time to the imaginary space".

From that perspective I wonder if it might be possible to establish something like a "scene change consent" indicator.  A simple token with two differently coloured sides could do this, for example.  If each player had one, say set to "Red" by default, then when each feels they have no more business to discuss at the present, they can flip it to "green" to show they are ready to go.  The GM can then observe the player manipulation of their tokens to understand when the players are ready.  Thoughts?


Title: Re: Setting > Situation > Scene?
Post by: Mike Holmes on November 29, 2005, 02:24:32 PM
This is really cool stuff, but are we still on topic? Perhaps a new thread on honing cutting technique instincts.

I generally think that often in RPG play the tradition is to let a scene go on until the GM asks, "Anybody want to do anything else? No? OK, then on to the next scene." For a lot of groups, however, like ones looking for tension (I don't think all are - especially not all the time), that's probably after the boat has sailed. Doing a good job of cutting before you've dragged on too far, and the tension has drained out of the scene, is a difficult talent to practice, but a good one to have.

I do alright, but am too "sharing" a GM to make early cuts unless I really know that it's time.

Mike


Title: Clean Cup, Clean Cup, Move Down, Move Down!
Post by: Josh Roby on November 30, 2005, 09:43:14 AM
I concur with Mike.

I've got a lot of good stuff out of this thread, but if we're going to start talking about cut techniques, it's time for a new thread.

I think this thread is done, but if anybody has anything to add about the distinctions between the Setting, Situation, and Scenes, by all means post here.