Scenes without goals and conflicts

Wikipedia on scenesThis basic pattern may be used by the writer to develop a scene: goal, attempt, and setback. A scene usually has a goal for the character to achieve. The writer indicates this goal at the beginning of the scene. The middle of the scene displays the attempt of the character to achieve this goal. At the end of the scene, the character has received some kind of setback. The next scene will reveal the character’s response to the setback and a new goal is set. This cycle continues until the climactic scene where everything is at stake for the character. At the end of this scene, the character achieves his goal or all is lost.
So, sitting down with that definition, I watched about a third of an episode of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer and played a three hour role playing game. I didn’t really see any scenes that followed that pattern. The TV shows didn’t (although I’m sure the other thirds would have, I gave up and watched cartoons instead). The roleplaying game was just more of an exploration of the setting; the characters didn’t have real goals.

To describe more in-depth the scenes:
The Buffy episodeBuffy is waiting for a vampire to rise when Angel appears. They end up arguing over their relationship, or lack thereof, and Angel decides to leave. When Buffy tries to follow him, she falls face first into an open grave. A body was apparently dragged out from it earlier.

The next day, Buffy and Xander catch Giles practicing to ask Ms. Calendar out on a date. Giles hears Buffy's findings at the cemetery and fears someone is raising an army of zombies. Buffy goes to find Willow, who is signing up for the science fair and talking to Chris, the reigning champ. As Buffy approaches, Chris's friend Eric takes pictures of girls passing by.
After that long I decided that I could find goals and conflicts, but it was a stretch. They were obviously useful scenes, entertaining to watch and setting things up for later in the show, but trying to find the goals explicit and implicit was tiring.

The roleplaying game was also entertaining. It was a beginning of a new campaign where we started out as ritual amnesiacs, but society was built to welcome us in so everyone was kind in answering our questions. The closest thing to character goals was that one member of the group talked to a prince to set up a future relationship, while I talked to an old general and listened to his stories to underline my character’s youth and naivete.

Now, there is a simple system in place for these kinds of scenes already, the GM and the player just talk (or “say Yes or roll the dice”), but has anyone given thought to a more explicit system?

For myself, I’m thinking of director stance goals (do people still talk about stances?). Not “Willow wants to find out what Chris is doing for the science fair” but “I want to show that Willow and Chris are good at science”. Maybe there isn’t any fortune, but some for of resources spent. For that to work, then Willow's character sheet can't already be all filled up.
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Comments

  • How is the argument between Buffy and Angel about their relationship not a conflict?

    The second Buffy scene ... yeah ... seems like just establishing and exposition. But the first one? Conflict heavy, for my money.
  • I think defining scenes in terms of character goals is probably a pretty bad idea.

    On the other hand, defining scenes in terms of player goals -- that's useful territory.
  • Posted By: TonyLBHow is the argument between Buffy and Angel about their relationship not a conflict?

    The second Buffy scene ... yeah ... seems like just establishing and exposition. But the first one? Conflict heavy, for my money.
    I'll have to watch it again, but at the time it seemed more like establishing what had gone before for the viewing audience. Angel saying that he's realized that Buffy dancing with Xander did in fact make him jealous and calling Xander (and by extension, Buffy) "just a kid". Buffy saying that that was the point and bringing up the fact that he was a vampire. There was conflict in that they were fighting with each other, but it didn't seem like either of them had a goal, just a follow up. Can there be conflict without a goal? (If so, the second scene for my money had more conflict with Buffy and Xander mocking Giles practicing how to ask Ms. Calendar out on a date)
  • I don't know if it is an entirely bad idea. A scene definetley needs a conflict of some description, otherwise why have the scene, and the reason most scenes occur is the characters wishing to achieve something. they may not achieve their goal in that scene, but it helps them towards it in some way or form.
    Cheers
    Iain
  • Aaron: I don't think there can be conflict without goals. I think there can be (and often is) conflict in which the goals are not revealed ... yet.

    Obviously, if the goals are not revealed then the conflict cannot be resolved. But you can have a scene with conflict, and not resolve that conflict. You'll want another scene, hitting the same conflict from another angle, later ... but that doesn't mean you haven't been seeing conflict in the first one.

    Does that make sense?
  • That makes sense. So while some of these scenes seem goal-less, they are setting up or continuing with things in a broader conflict. Giles practicing his lines is part of his goal "get a date". Even though there is little conflict, it is a continuation and set up for future scenes. In a later scene were he tries to ask Ms. Calendar out, and they reference back to this scene with the words that he uses (and even the words that she uses), it just shows the resolution to the conflict that was continued in this earlier scene.
  • Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyI think defining scenes in terms of character goals is probably a pretty bad idea.

    On the other hand, defining scenes in terms of player goals -- that's useful territory.
    Seems like one of the best solutions.
  • What about the "scene as exposition"? Placing the character in their environment, surrounding them with events, to give the audience (in this case, the players) a sense of the character and the world?

    Even in PTA, I learned that "One conflict in every scene" is a great way to speed up the game like a Chinese Wulin Movie fight, but in terms of a more fulfilling story, we need those conflict-less scenes to get a better 'connection' to the characters and what makes them tick. If only to make it that much more interesting when we manipulate and break them.

    Does that make sense?
    -Andy
  • Andy: Totally. I'm quite interested (and have been exploring) the influence of system in such scenes. The commonly accepted wisdom of "You're not rolling dice, and therefore system has no place in those scenes" has not proven terribly satisfying to me.
  • Andy, that scene is easy to set up if the game procedures only requires player goals -- my goal when framing such a scene is to introduce the character, for instance.

    Tony, I concur, at least to the extent that 'rolling dice' can be replaced with 'invoke the system'. FLFS starts in on the scrip-passing character-referencing goodness from Scene One.
  • There's tons of cool scenes available with no goals and conflicts. Think about your own life!
  • JD, if I had to play a game about my own life, I would shoot myself. Not in the game, but in real life. So I could stop playing the game.
  • I think some difficulty may arise from using scenes to look at conflicts. It seems to me that scenes are used as an arbitrary breakdown of a narrative based on location, that doesn't take any of the things into account that make up a conflict. Say a conflict consists of "set-up", "confrontation" and "consequence". A scene (events taking place at one specific location) may incorporate all three of those, but it may also only cover one or two of them. You can split set-up from confrontation and consequence, which is quite common in TV. Just think of all the scenes that are pure exposition and end with dramatic close-ups of characters, as they realise that a confrontation with somebody/something is inevitable.

    If you run through all the steps of conflict, each time you change the location of the narrative (i.e. with each scene) you end up with a very condensed and hectic story. Which can be a lot of of fun. It's the reason why watching The O.C. is such a rush. There's always something happening and it's usually quite loud. But if you stretch out your conflict over multiple locations, that is multiple scenes, you get a more even and relaxed story out of it.
  • I'm with Corley on this one -- I think there's a certain amount of over-focus on conflict as the defining feature of scenes, or roleplaying in general. Yes, conflict is one thing that drives stories. So does characterisation. If you think the only way to achieve characterisation is by putting characters through an endless series of conflicts, or running them through the wringer, or whatever other way you want to put it, then I have a rant here with your name on it.

    A mechanical approach to scenes that establish colour, or achieve characterisation, or even set up future conflicts seems like a great idea -- I'd love to see more games with mechanics that are not focused entirely on 'what is the conflict in this scene?'
  • Daniel,

    I want to get to the conflict. But, and this is a huge but, I only want to get to the conflict once it has ripened properly. I find that a lot of "fast focus on conflict" games that I've played (rather than GMed) leave me intellecutally amused but emotionally flat. The "get to the fight" aspect makes for some fun dice rolling and an occasional interesting choice, but all too often it is done without enough context to make it really spark off.

    Now, I do think all scenes should have goals - and in that Joshua RamaGupta is correct, it is the player goal that matters.
  • Oh ho ho, that old "if I had to game like my own life" canard. It never gets old!
  • edited September 2006
    In The Mountain Witch, I explicitly discuss the neccessity of giving players exposition time. Alot of the GM'ing advice is about how to encourage player exposition.

    However, I think we're running into a terminology issue. In the RPG sense, the word "conflict" very specifically refers to resolution. But in the theater/literature/film sense, "conflict" has a much broader definition. For example, in tMW, if I give the player an exposition scene, and he narrates a flashback where his father exiles him from the family land---that's a conflict in the thematic sense, even though no dice are ever rolled.

    Actually, the *real* conflict of the game---the tension between PCs---is NEVER resolved through dice. It's always resolved through role-playing. (Hmm, in that sense every scene should be about the primary "conflict"...)
  • JD, fiction is not a simulation of real life. It uses elements from real life as tools to make metaphor.

    That said, the tools need to be properly sharpened. In Prime Time Adventures, for instance, there are scenes for character development and scenes for plot advancement. They both include conflicts because they both need them. But the character stuff is conflict about the characters and their relationships to each other (as in the scene with Buffy and Angel that you mention) and the plot conflicts are about the characters' effects on the outside world.

    It's the conflicts about the characters that show us what they're about, what they want, what they care about. The plot conflicts then challenge those things that they care about.

    Now, I think there can be lots of room for exposition. I think it's a good idea. But I also don't think that it should take that much effort and time. Exposition is giving context to the upcoming conflict; it's not there for its own benefit. It can be beautiful, meaningful, interesting, and funny, but that's because it's cast in the light of the conflicts that are coming out of it.

    You say that the RPG was an exploration of setting without any setting of and testing against goals. I think it's a common weakness in RPGs borne from the nature of the rules, particularly the GM/player divide (assuming that the characters are intended to matter to the game). It would be impossible to play PTA, Dogs, Shock:, Agon, The Mountain Witch, or a number of other games without having turning points for the characters at frequent intervals.

    Now, if the entire point of the game was to explore the setting, to play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead of Hamlet, then that was fine; there's no reason for your characters to have goals because the players' goals were satisfied by seeing Ophelia drown herself and watch everyone die in the end. But I infer from your tone that that's not really what you wanted.

  • I find myself (and perhaps others?) drawn to a conflict-centric focus in RPGs because it's one of the more concretely definable elements of a story, and thus more easily created on the fly (in the context of a game). I definitely would like to have other focuses to consider; what other ways can we target other elements of the story? (This might be the same thing as finding different kinds of goals for a scene.)

  • edited September 2006
    Dev,

    How about these as goals for scenes with different types of game focus: I want to find my character's voice, I want to have a chance to flirt with that character/player, I want to have a chance to show how my character feels about it.

    Note that these are all different than: I want to find my character's personality through challange, I want to impress that character by flirting with her, I want to be challanged about how my character feels.

    If you take something of the vast scope of RPing as a chance to express rather than just to create then suddenly you've got a whole different range of things that make good building block goals. Or, to put it another way, if you see a game as something to be experienced rather than as something to be forged, you'll find a different slant.

    Actors often have different goals for a scene than the writers do, after all. The results of that can be incoherence (when you don't have a good director), but they can also be genius. Have you ever had a playwrite read you their play? It can be fun, and you get a good chance to see the interesting ideas. But when you get a play on stage you get a chance to feel the interesting ideas.
  • I'm falling on the side of Georgios and ICE on this one. Conflict is nice, but it ain't everything. A lot of Forgie games really focus in on conflict (for reasons that I think Dev outlines quite accurately) and that's great, and it creates some great play, but it ain't the only way up the mountain.

    Tim, I get hedgy when we start throwing around terms with dual meanings. If by "conflict" we mean "mechanical resolution" we really need to be saying "mechanical resolution." We get nothing except confusion when we use "conflict" because that also means something very specific in the context of the narrative that we are also playing out (conflict=character+desire+obstacle). A scene can have mechanical resolution without conflict. A scene can even go without mechanical resolution (but lumpley-principle system is still in full effect). But if we use 'conflict' to mean all that stuff, then "no scene goes without conflict" is true -- and ambiguous to the point of meaninglessness.

    Joshua, when you highlight the central importance of conflict as setting up and challenging the characters, are you talking about all good and functional games everywhere or are you talking about your preferred mode of play? Cause one I'll agree with, and one I'll take some serious issues with.
  • A theory for you all: conflicts get emphasised in most role-playing game sessions because it gives the players the opportunity to use the "game" parts of the system. Conflict gets emphasised in most role-playing game design because that's where the designer gets to do some designing.

    Thoughts?
  • A countertheory:

    Conflict gets emphasised in design because that's where the design technology already exists.

  • Burning Empires rocks this out with its Color, Interstitial, Building, and Conflict scenes. Having played in 3 campaigns, its scene structure really added an amazing sense of timing, equal player participation, and most importantly (for me)... building investment in future conflicts.
  • John,

    I expect that Burning Empires is going to start a whole new wave of design.

    At least, I hope it will. There is some damn fine work that went into that game, and a lot of things to be learned from it.

    Combine it with the "RPG as boardgame" and the "Story Keys" ideas we've got around here and you've got...

    Um, I can't say what you've got, as Mo is writing it now.
  • Curmudgeon-O-Tron, Activate!

    I'm coming in here late, so I'm referencing up the thread, but here's my point of view:

    The ideal scene serves many purposes in parallel. It serves the purpose of it's authors (the players), and it serves the purposes of characters both in and out of the scene (those purposes, of course, the figments of the authors). If a scene is only doing exposition, it's not carrying enough weight.

    And, as much as I dig Firefly, if you're using Joss Whedon as your paragon of storytelling, you are off the path of enlightenment. Compare Firefly, good as it is, to Battlestar Galactica or Deadwood.

    Not to say that no good storytelling can happen any other way, because that's obviously false. But I get all jazzed by the intricacies of a scene when it's composed that way. And that's what I'd like to see happen in a game.

    Maybe charge players for each scene they frame, and have incentives for character development and conflict management (both escalation and resolution), so that the best strategy is to be able to put together scenes that do many things.
  • edited September 2006
    And then compare Battlestar Galactica to Six Feet Under and realize that genre fiction is a short and doomed road.

    -Brand, who likes to play the "my taste one ups your taste" game. He predicts that soon we'll be comparing Dostoyevsky and Kafka with Camus and Sartre to try and show how to compose a scene where no point is the point.
  • Doug, I think Shreyas has got the right of it. There are tons of game mechanics that are not conflict resolution. We just like to focus on the conflicts because, as Dev points out, they're easy to grapple.

    Judson, I'm right there with you, but not everybody is. Some folks like a more sedate pace, or a less tangled mess of elements, or a more linear development. Tons of stuff happening all at once is a preference, not a quality standard.
  • Shreyas: I prefer your countertheory to the second part of my theory. I think the first part of the theory (we like to use the "game" parts of the system) may be part of the reason why design technology is more advanced in this area. Does that sound good?
  • Doug, to me that sounds descriptive but not analytic, and I think that there's a cause there to be examined: Historically the hobby's about gamey-games, so we (the community that is aware of one another and communicates within itself) are self-selected and conditioned to like gamey bits of systems.

    But that doesn't say anything about people who don't roleplay but might, or people like the young lady who inspired onexone, or the many fandom communities out there who do roleplay but fictively rather than gamey-ly.

  • Shreyas: absolutely! In fact, I'd say that the reason why most "roleplaying games" as we think about them don't appeal to a wider cross-section - the "game" bits aren't desirable to them. I'm also reminded of comments from "immersive" gamers along the lines of "we want the rules to get out of the way so we can enjoy ourselves"
  • Every scene should advance one of the elements of Exploration (generally those in the fiction). We usually talk about it advancing Situation but a good scene might advance (Explore) Character, Setting, or Color. A game like Universalis might even spend time developing System.

    If a scene isn't developing one of those five elements and in a way meaningful to the other players, though, it's verbal masturbation. It's one player just talking and nothing happening. This is when Lucy talks for five minutes about the color of her character's eyes and no one cares (but she).

    I think we've focused our games so much on conflict because it's exciting stuff and it tends to draw everyone in. But I see complaints from traditional gamers and self-styled immersionists who claim that the aggressive framing to conflict blows the feel of the game for them. They're missing that chance to explore the other stuff outside conflict.

    We also focus on conflict because Situation is special, since it has tendrils in both Character and Setting. Rules that let you change the Situation not only drive the story forward, but they also make it easy to let those changes have impacts to the Character and Setting elements along the way. It's efficient, from a design point of view.

    I think game designs have suffered from a lack of system support for role-playing outside of conflicts. "Non-conflict scenes aren't interesting" is a cop-out. Make them interesting. Provide guidance and incentive for the player to make them interesting to the group. Give the player mechanical toys to play with inside non-conflict scenes. An early version of Verge had a turn-based scene framing opportunity for each player, who could choose an action scene (with a conflict, natch) or a development scene. In a development scene, a character still rolled dice and spent experience to refresh and advance his character's stats. It was mechanically interesting and it advanced the character, so the story moved.

    I'd like to see new games pay more attention to mechanics that advance the elements of Exploration outside conflicts. I think there are a lot of opportunities for unique systems here that are fun and playable.

    Crossposted to my LJ.
  • Posted By: Brand_RobinsAnd then compare Battlestar Galactica to Six Feet Under and realize that genre fiction is a short and doomed road.
    I will happily discuss BSG vs 6'U all day long. I will also take both side on that, and continue to discuss for as long as you care to. But if you want to say that Buffy is superior storytelling to Deadwood, we have no common ground for conversation.
    Posted By: Joshua BishopRobyJudson, I'm right there with you, but not everybody is. Some folks like a more sedate pace, or a less tangled mess of elements, or a more linear development. Tons of stuff happening all at once is a preference, not a quality standard.
    That's why I called it "the ideal scene." I'd relax that ideal for certain premises. But if your approach is artistic, in that it is about something (even as Brand suggests, deliberately about nothing) then every scene needs to do something. It has to address your premise of play somehow. And the more it advances the cause, the better a scene it is. If you can juggle several approaches in the same scene, you get more advance, and you get a better scene.

    Somewhere in the above paragraph I went from outlining something that I think is objectively true, to proponing a school of thought, which others can take or leave. The antithesis would be play that fetishized nothing scenes, like people peeing or sleeping. Which is weird: I can't really imagine a real nothing scene - how is he sleeping? Alone? What's his bed look like? You can't help but advance some idea of the character, and the only way to prevent that is to have the idea be incoherent. (See: "incoherent" is a really useful word when discussing art in general, and using it as jargon is confusing.)
  • Adam: Right on!
  • Something to consider is the concept of the "Fruitful Void". The idea behind the Fruitful Void is that mechanics should only circle the *real* interesting points of play. For example, there are no mechanics for morality in Dogs or honor in The Mountain Witch.

    So I think its slightly misleading to say there isn't enough mechanical support for action outside of conflicts. The issue is much more nuanced that that.
  • edited September 2006
    Posted By: Judson Lester
    I will happily discuss BSG vs 6'U all day long. I will also take both side on that, and continue to discuss for as long as you care to. But if you want to say that Buffy is superior storytelling to Deadwood, we have no common ground for conversation.
    Buffy was only used because I wanted a small-footprint, episodic show and because the stories are pretty straight forward. I'm not saying that it is superior, only that it is generally simple while still being watchable.
  • Posted By: stack0v3rflowBuffy was only used because I wanted a small-footprint, episodic show and because the stories are pretty straight forward. I'm not saying that it is superior, only that it is generally simple while still being watchable.
    Most of Joss Whedon's very watchable output reminds me a lot of role play transcripts. It's just kind of a story he made up, you know? I think there's an error searching for scene framing there, because I don't see that it's been attempted. What is there occurs by accident, and because you can't really tell a story without certain elements.
  • Posted By: Adam Dray
    I'd like to see new games pay more attention to mechanics that advance the elements of Exploration outside conflicts. I think there are a lot of opportunities for unique systems here that are fun and playable.
    Crossposted tomy LJ.
    Just some thoughts I had while reading this...

    You could use the non-conflict scenes in a game to build up currency (fan-mail, hero points, whatever) that you then use in conflict scenes that come up later. As long as you're doing cool stuff in the scene and not boring the other players they throw you currency.

    You'd probably need some way to end non-conflict scenes if interest drops. In an ideal world the active players in the scene would see the interest level dropping and tie things up. In a less than ideal world someone not in the scene would turn the sand timer over and put it in the middle of table.

    Anyway, just thinking out loud.
  • edited September 2006
    Posted By: Adam DrayI think game designs have suffered from a lack of system support for role-playing outside of conflicts. "Non-conflict scenes aren't interesting" is a cop-out. Make them interesting. Provide guidanceand incentivefor the player to make them interesting to the group. Give the player mechanical toys to play with inside non-conflict scenes.
    Here, I dunno. Like, I can see Adam and TonyLB looking at a scene that's there to, I dunno, give a character a little face time while they roll perception checks or whatever. Both of you are fidgeting, because you're itching for the dice, itching for some rule to be there. Kinda like how way back in the day I played GenCon AD&D games where the players were literally mostly asleep except for some lip-service tavern scene, and of course when it's time to pull some swords out.

    I think that rather than rules-based incentives and mechanical toys, perhaps guidance within the rules would be just as good. Something that turns my crank these days about games is the way that not only they come up with new rules and the like, but the pieces of text (like DitV or Spirit of the Century) that tell you what the game is all about; how to get engaged in it; what you should be doing, etc. I think these "guidances" are just as important as rules (they are rules, in fact: They just are rules about how the game goes down in general, and not tied to cards, dice or points).

    So I'm thinking instead of system support ("You get two Exposition Points when you have an exposition scene that gives the others a lingering impression") I'm thinking ... I dunno what to call it... "Theme Support" (perhaps?). The book tells you that This Is How You Should Play the Game. There's not a lot of games that direct people in that way, just expecting the GMs and Players to "get it" from the play examples, rules explanations, and their history of playing other games. Not tied to mechanics, or even specific rewards.

    It's something I've been rolling in my head lately.

    -Andy
  • Colin: Absolutely. If the scene is dragging, even if it's a conflict scene, someone should have the power to cut to another scene. Maybe you come back later. Maybe you don't. I think games with scene framing need to give someone authority over pacing.

    Timothy: What do you think the nuances of the issue are? I agree that you don't want your mechanics to stomp all over the Fruitful Void. I wasn't advocating doing that. I just think you need some fiddly bits to support game play during non-conflict scenes, is all.

    Andy: I'm not saying just create scenes to give people face time. In fact, I think I'm saying don't do that. If the scene advances Character in a colorful and mechanically meaningful way, then it's not just face time. There should be an adjustment to the character sheet, probably, and maybe some dice rolling. And the other players at the table should have something to do -- that issue is independent of the idea of the "development scene" or whatever. No one should be bored, ever. =) I get what you're saying about Theme Support or whatever, but I don't agree. I think development scenes driven purely by thematic guidance are still gonna be boring. Maybe if they create Situation or Setting, that's okay, since that affects other players, too.
  • Posted By: Judson LesterWhich is weird: I can't really imagine a real nothing scene
    Well, exactly. Humans are meaning-fabricating machines. Take any event and pay attention and suddenly it is about something. There doesn't have to be a conflict, or opposing goals, for a scene to say something about something. There just has to be an audience paying attention.
  • Key chains?

  • OK, so, I'm willing to entertain the notion that there should be scenes that don't drive toward conflict. The examples given in the first post don't convince, but give me some and I'll think about it.

    My operating assumption is that there's something the players would want out of the scene and there are multiple ways for it to come out. That's a conflict. So, find me such a scene that sounds like it's worth playing where that's not true and we'll have some new roleplaying fun!

  • edited September 2006
    Posted By: Judson LesterBut if you want to say thatBuffyis superior storytelling toDeadwood,we have no common ground for conversation.
    Actually, I wouldn't say that at all.

    But to make a point, I'll go one even further: Lets compare Smallville (a show with much charm but sometimes really crappy writing) and Six Feet Under (one of the best things ever on TV). Which is better? SFU. Which has better storytelling? SFU. Which would I recommend first to a friend? That depends on the friend. Which do I watch? Both.

    Quality of storytelling is an important thing. But it isn't the only thing. Deadwood is certainly better written than Buffy. But Buffy is fun, and Buffy has a huge cult following and a sort of popularity that Deadwood doesn't. And that's because... there are different gauges for what people like and why they like it. When I'm watching SFU and when I'm watching Smallville I'm watching different things for different reasons.

    It would be a very small little world if I could only get one or the other. Variety is one of the reasons TV works. Which is something we may want to consider when talking about game design. The difference between "what makes a perfect game for me" and "what makes a game that others will enjoy" is sometimes a big one.
  • edited September 2006
    Posted By: Joshua A.C. NewmanOK, so, I'm willing to entertain the notion that there should be scenes that don't drive toward conflict. The examples given in the first post don't convince, but give me some and I'll think about it.
    Well, an obvious scene of this kind (to me, at least) is a soliloquy/monologue. My memory is hazy, but I seem to recall that InSpectres has something like this with the confessional (?) scenes. Monologues tend to be expository, though often they address some internal conflict or explain why the character is taking some particular set of actions (which are themselves undoubtedly part of some conflict.) Anyways, Shakespeare's full of them, if you need an example of a scene without conflict. It doesn't seem impossible that an RPG could incorporate these kinds of scenes and give them mechanical weight (see InSpectres again, since I think those scenes can play a role in determining future action?)
  • Posted By: Joshua A.C. Newman>My operating assumption is that there's something the players would want out of the scene and there are multiple ways for it to come out. That's a conflict.
    Up above the other Joshua said:
    We get nothing except confusion when we use "conflict" because that also means something very specific in the context of the narrative that we are also playing out (conflict=character+desire+obstacle). A scene can have mechanical resolution without conflict. A scene can even go without mechanical resolution (but lumpley-principle system is still in full effect). But if we use 'conflict' to mean all that stuff, then "no scene goes without conflict" is true -- and ambiguous to the point of meaninglessness.
    And I think we're in danger of going there again. That little bit of algebra there is important conflict = character + desire + obstacle. It isn't just a conflict if there is something someone wants and different ways it can turn out. Ice gives an example with monologues, and I'd given other examples above. The reason these scenes are not conflicts is because there is no obstacle (or at least no external or mechanically imposed obstacle). There is no "conflict" because there are no two desires at odds, there is no one pushing to make it turn out differently, there is no obstacle to be overcome.

    Of course, your ambigious "drive towards conflict" can be another hedge there. Because a scene can be plenty driving towards conflict without having the conflict be in the scene itself. In drama and comedy timing is everything.
  • To back up what Brand said, the act of establishing something in the fiction is important. A personality trait, a habitual gesture, a prop, etc., all these things can and should be established in scenes. Sometimes, establishing them should be the point of a scene, with no conflict at all. Sometimes, we need just a bit of color description outside of a conflict to help us all better imagine where we are and get into the spirit of things.

    An old saying among playwrights is that a gun introduced in the first act better be used in the third act. There is a corollary. A gun that is used in the third act should be shown in the first act.

    The build up to a powerful scene can be enjoyable in itself, and, in my experience, gives the scene much more flavor and depth. Going from powerful conflict to powerful conflict with no build up in between can be enjoyable too, but I find it a blander experience than the anticipation inherent in watching something potent build.
  • edited October 2006
    removed
  • Posted By: Call Me CurlyThe premise of this discussion is similar to the book "On Directing Film" by David Mamet. (used copies as low as $5 on Amazon. 107 pages)
    I will point out, for the record, that I look up at my bookshelf and "On Directing Film" is sitting directly between Burning Wheel and The Shadow of Yesterday on my roleplaying books section. Make of it what you will.
  • edited September 2006
    So do we have two different sides?

    One side seems to say that scenes without conflict happen mostly because of weak storytelling and scene framing (and in fairness to Mr. Whedon in my above example, the script was written by Ty King). Dynamic Characters in dynamic Situations will always have ways to clash in interesting ways.

    The other side seems to be saying that scenes without conflict in them are kosher because if in a meaningful way they Explore something other than Situation like Color, Character, or Setting (maybe building up to a Situation through Character or Setting).

    There are nuances in both arguments, but is that what I'm hearing?

    Edited for clarity
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