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Author Topic: Setting > Situation > Scene?  (Read 22553 times)
Josh Roby
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« 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?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #1 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.
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Philosopher Gamer
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2005, 09:45:11 AM »

Callan, I don't understand your second sentence.  Clarify?
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lumpley
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« Reply #3 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

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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #4 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
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Chris Engle
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Josh Roby
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« Reply #5 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.
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lumpley
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« Reply #6 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
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Troy_Costisick
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« Reply #7 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
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ewilen
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« Reply #8 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".
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
Josh Roby
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« Reply #9 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.
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ewilen
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« Reply #10 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.
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
Josh Roby
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« Reply #11 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.
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John Kim
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« Reply #12 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. 


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- John
ewilen
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« Reply #13 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.
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Elliot Wilen, Berkeley, CA
Callan S.
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« Reply #14 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.
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Philosopher Gamer
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