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Author Topic: Scene framing and momentum...  (Read 1735 times)
Bankuei
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« on: May 24, 2002, 09:48:25 AM »

Ok, I'm late on this, but I'm a kid with a new toy, and I want to know how to transform it into all 6 of its cool forms....

I've read the scene framing threads, and at first, I just thought it was "Advanced scene cutting", not realizing exactly what was up.  Last week, Clinton starts our ROS campaign with,"Savaric is hiding in the confessional, and Jocelin, you don't know he's in there, and you're coming in for confession, go!"

Something inside me gets it, it clicks, and it kicks ass.

This week, there's a big tournament scene, which should be packed with tension, and it starts off really just kinda, "well, we show up..." (of course, Clinton,  that made the climax all the more shocking)

Big difference, momentum.  This also finally cleared up what bangs really are about to me.  So, here's a multipart question:

1) What provides momentum?
2) What techniques/general ideas do you use to come up with a bandolier of bangs?  Do you have a set of "scene framing" ammo that is set up before the game, or are we all improv here?
3) How do you keep that momentum running?

Anything, ideas, suggestions, anything would help out.

Thanks,

Chris
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Christoffer Lernö
Member

Posts: 822


« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2002, 04:00:59 PM »

I really should read up on that thread before I post anything, but here goes nothing:

First, momentum seems to depend on what GNS you're playing in.

In some cases with a more Gamist kind of style it can simply be about keeping the players ready to roll their dice and pumped up about what strategic decision is the best.

For games with a lot of social interaction between the players it's about feeding them the right kind of encouragement (I played one group in Kult and at random someone decided to check under the sofa so that there wasn't anything there. I quickly lashed out my hand and grabbed the wrist of the player who said she'd look and hissed "suddenly something grabs your wrist!" There was yelling and shocked replies and they got going. Of course there was no reason for anything being under the sofa, except for that you might get away with things like that in Kult, and of course I thought it might add some fuel to the play, which had been winding down).

And so on.

Basically my understanding of it is working as if you had a fire. If it goes down, you better be ready to add some fuel to it, but if you chose the right opportunity you can build incredible momentum this way. In illusionist games the GM better be ready for the pace though.

So, when one notices people relaxing it's going to slow, add something to fuel their interest. Interest, though, depends on what GNS the player is into at the moment.

I thought the shouting matches in (what in my eyes were horrible) Rolemaster sessions of endless combat which for some was hours of tense and thrilling combat.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2002, 05:12:00 PM »

This thread's question was specifically in regards to scene framing, but I'm glad you noticed it, so my questions won't die unanswered :P

Quote
In some cases with a more Gamist kind of style it can simply be about keeping the players ready to roll their dice and pumped up about what strategic decision is the best.


I've played games with a lot of dice rolling, but I didn't care about the results, often because the game lacked momentum, or push.  Strategic decisions only matter if you care, and not only that, but the momentum I was referring to was in regards to keeping up the pressure and escalating the tension.

Other than that, I'll just restate my question in regards to scene framing(and hope someone notices this time :P )

1) What provides momentum?
2) What techniques/general ideas do you use to come up with a bandolier of bangs? Do you have a set of "scene framing" ammo that is set up before the game, or are we all improv here?
3) How do you keep that momentum running?

Chris
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Christoffer Lernö
Member

Posts: 822


« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2002, 07:42:39 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
This thread's question was specifically in regards to scene framing, but I'm glad you noticed it, so my questions won't die unanswered :P


I know what you feel. I'm still naively hoping for some feedback on some threads myself ;)

Quote
I've played games with a lot of dice rolling, but I didn't care about the results, often because the game lacked momentum, or push.  Strategic decisions only matter if you care, and not only that, but the momentum I was referring to was in regards to keeping up the pressure and escalating the tension.


What I mean is that momentum is a subjective thing. Some people might feel it while others sit idly by. I mean I was bored to death by the frantic die rolling in the Rolemaster sessions I referred to, but for the others tension was running high.


Now if you could provide some thread on scene framing, I could even throw in my random opinions just to be nice :)
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Le Joueur
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« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2002, 08:58:48 PM »

Quote from: Bankuei
Strategic decisions only matter if you care, and not only that, but the momentum I was referring to was in regards to keeping up the pressure and escalating the tension.

Other than that, I'll just restate my question in regards to scene framing[list=1][*]What provides momentum?
[*]What techniques/general ideas do you use to come up with a bandolier of bangs? Do you have a set of "scene framing" ammo that is set up before the game, or are we all improv here?
[*]How do you keep that momentum running?[/list:o]

Two bits of advice I've always given gamemasters, "When all else fails, run an action scene¹" and "Pacing, pacing, pacing."

I hate to say it, but you seem to have answered your own questions; simply, "...if you care."  (Leaving it at that would be at best silly, at worst rude; let me elaborate.)[list=1][*]In gaming, as far as I can tell, momentum is an illusion.  What I really think your talking about is either consistent engagement or the desire for same.  What is momentum other than a 'pull' to the 'next thing?'

The first way I've seen to have that is have a track record for having the 'next thing' always being interesting.  (The downside to that I have found is that my players frequently don't want to 'wait until next time.')

The second has to do with what you put in the subject line, scene framing (although I'd use different terminology).  Think about those old serials (or the live-action Batman television show, if yer a youngster).  Each time they ended, there was some Question about what would happen next.  I call that, "leave them hungry for more."  I adapted what I read once about commercials; being too short, they don't 'finish' their stories.  A commercial starts with a bit of 'tension' and then, usually in one scene, either increases it, converts it, or (rarely) satisfies it.  This could be looked at as 'doing something with the narrative.'  Whenever anybody starts a scene, make sure it 'goes somewhere.'  If it gets 'lost,' take my advice; turn it into an action scene.¹  Once a scene has increased or converted tension, cut and run (but make sure to leave some Question about what'll happen next).

As you described above, there are different approaches to 'when to start' a scene, personally, rather than call it scene framing, I call it 'cutting to the chase.'  Since you're already looking to what a scene 'does,' why not start as close to the point where the players' actions 'make a difference.'  (Why?  Maybe because at that point in the game the pace is 'slow and steady,' no time to jump in 'on the deep end,' unless it suits the Genre Expectations.)

Now, if you're 'cutting to the chase' in each scene and 'leaving them hungry for more' and they expect it, you will have all the 'momentum' you need.  With that, all you need to focus on is "Pacing, pacing, pacing."  And this works no matter what the stance is; if....

[*]The problem with this question is that two unrelated materials are used as if connected.  Bangs are a tool; they can help you figure out 'where a scene is going' especially when you are increasing them or converting them.  The problem is that "scene framing" does not depend on them and is not synonymous with them.  "Scene framing" is a technique for dispensing with scenes, not necessarily bangs.  It sounds like you already know the difference between scenes and bangs.

Bangs are all nice and good, but sometimes they can run a little thin and using them always can 'tire out' the the players.  Personally, in addition to bangs, I always assess my games' dynamic, its 'background tension,' for little 'action packed'¹ bits.  I use these when it's 'too soon' to use another bang, but the narrative needs to be 'punched up' a bit (like I suggested earlier about when a scene is 'lost').  Wandering monsters are probably the most accessible (and potentially the worst) example of this.

So scene framing is more the gun than the ammo.  Bangs are one kind of ammunition and 'action scenes'¹ are another.  I 'farm' my game for the potential 'action scenes'¹ before beginning play, 'just in case.'  I get the players or the play to present a set of bangs, which I use carefully as pacing demands.  From that I do all my 'riffing' (improvising off central ideas rather than completely 'off the cuff')

[*]Ultimately that brings us back to the "if..." I left off with.  "How do you keep that momentum running?"  You already answered that pretty clearly; "...if you care."  As a gamemaster who is 'in control' you gotta pay attention to your players; the more you're 'in control' the more you gotta 'keep a weather eye out.'  In games with more Gamemasterful sharing, players are already somewhat engaged by their responsibilities.

You see momentum is based on how much the players care.  If they're really engaged and want to see how things turn out, then they care and you have all the momentum you need.  If you start losing their attention, you're losing momentum.

No one can tell you how to do this; it's something you have to 'find your personal style' with.  Me?  I go around the room frequently, making eye contact.  I look; are they paying attention?  Do they look interested?  Then I'm doing 'it.'  Otherwise, I know that I need to change what I am doing.  In what fashion?  It depends on who I am 'losing.'  I can 'put them on the spot,' 'mix in' something I know interests them, cut back on something they don't care about, or anything thing else I can think of; all I know is to lose one often results in a 'cascade effect' and that impairs momentum like nothing else (although I have been known to deliberately let that happen when I want to break for food).  It all boils down to keeping them caring.[/list:o]So you see, you already sorta know the answer.  All ya gotta do is figure out how to use it.

Fang Langford

¹ When I say 'an action scene,' I mean a lot more possibility than what happens in your stock action movie.  I mean anything that arises from relevant background material and jumps up and forces some kind of rise in pacing.  Bangs don't always do this.  Is a wandering monster, a bang?  They are definitely 'action scenes,' even if it's that store clerk who comes over to ask if they can help you (even if it's really because they want to deter shoplifting).

An action scene kicks things back into motion when they slow down too much; it's not about 'action' coming to get the players, but something getting 'action' out of them.  Getting a character to make a decision instead of waffling is an action scene even played exceedingly subtle.
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Paul Czege
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2002, 09:22:15 PM »

Hey,

...scene framing....Think about those old serials (or the live-action Batman television show, if yer a youngster). Each time they ended, there was some Question about what would happen next. I call that, "leave them hungry for more."

If it wasn't so late, I'd write a more substantial post. But since it is, this will have to do. I've always considered "scene framing" as an umbrella term that included "scene cutting." Scene framing is the delimiting of a scene, both at the beginning and at the end. And Fang has it exactly right, there's a lot of momentum to be had from paying attention to when you cut from the scene.

I learned this particular lesson about scene framing from reading George R.R. Martin's A Storm of Swords immediately prior to running The Pool last summer, and being struck by how skilled he was at creating tension and then cutting away from it at the perfect moment.

Paul
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2002, 06:52:04 AM »

Hi there,

Beautiful post, Fang. I don't have much to add to it at this point.

Best,
Ron
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Bankuei
Guest
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2002, 10:41:46 AM »

Thanks everyone.  Paul, I'm a big George RR Martin fan myself, I remember tearing through the first two books pretty fast.  I'll have to check back on his stuff to get that drilled into my head.

Chris
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 10459


« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2002, 10:57:00 AM »

Quote from: Le Joueur
I adapted what I read once about commercials; being too short, they don't 'finish' their stories.  A commercial starts with a bit of 'tension' and then, usually in one scene, either increases it, converts it, or (rarely) satisfies it.  This could be looked at as 'doing something with the narrative.'  Whenever anybody starts a scene, make sure it 'goes somewhere.'  If it gets 'lost,' take my advice; turn it into an action scene.¹  Once a scene has increased or converted tension, cut and run (but make sure to leave some Question about what'll happen next).


Which should heretofore be referred to as the Mentos Principle.

Mike
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