Cutting scenes : cost, conditions, procedures

edited February 2018 in Game Design Help
Hello, I have a little problem with "scene volatility".
I like the fact that my game doesn't have heavy rules for scene framing. You follow a conflict, and cut as you see fit to frame another scene, ad lib.

To manage the frequency of cuts, and possible abuse, I resort to prior consensus : we agree that the story will be unedited (folk tale, drama), lightly edited, heavily edited (cartoon, 24hr, etc.), ***experimental***. At this stage, I am trying to "hide the seams" and get rid of as much prior consensus as possible.

What mechanisms can be used to limit the number of cuts ?
I already thought of :
- spend resource to cut scene. It's easy, but not very relevant due to the "meaning" of resources (learning from failure XP and tokens of appreciation from other players VP)
- vote with unanimity less 1. It's easy and used somewhere else in the game, but it breaks the game flow.

Comments

  • This is an interesting topic, but I think you should clarify what you mean by "scene volatility". It's a strange enough term that I'm sure each reader will, otherwise, imagine something entirely different from the next.
  • edited February 2018
    Absolutely ! I edited the title and tried to groom the first post to be more pragmatic.
    I need a way to frame the possibility for a player to cut (put an end to) the current scene.
    This must mean putting a a condition on cutting the scene (cost, approval, what else ?).

    I am looking for a potentiometer to fix the rate at which scenes changes in the fiction.I guess finding the exact wording would be close to finding the solution of the problem, as I don't know which mechanism, nor where to place it.
  • This is pretty interesting. Have you experienced problems with scenes being cut too often/too much? Generally, I see the opposite problem in gaming.

    *Why*, in your game, does someone want to cut a scene? What does it accomplish?

    Answering that will give you a sense of how you may want to frame the problem/question.

    In my game Land of Nodd, each player puts down a token on the table. When you feel you've gotten what you want out of the scene, you pick it up and put it back in your hand. When the last player does so, the scene ends.

    The game is more complicated than that, and, notably, there's a chance you lose that token, which creates some interest in withdrawing it rather than just leaving it there. However, it's one thing you could try, modifying it as necessary for the needs of your game.

  • edited February 2018
    In theory, a player may want to use "cutting a scene" as a clearing kick, if they feel they are (on the verge of) losing a conflict.
    In practice, I have seen it coming in a session with 3 players. Me, a friend who had already played, and a new player. The setting is an anime high school. We begin with a scene in a classroom. A conflict builds and / cut / to the gym, after the class. The experienced player chose to cut to gain better a position. And the newer player, wanting to carry on "experimenting" the classroom situation / cuts / back to a similar classroom scene, the day after. The same back and forth occurred once again in the session from kendo club to restaurant job. Nothing broken : the patch I found was to agree upon a "scene inertia" before a session.
    But as I said, at this stage I am collapsing the "prior agreement" bits as much as I can, and I would like to know what other options exist.
  • Oh, that's interesting.

    One suggestion: the player who is in the scene him or herself doesn't have the option to cut it.
  • edited February 2018
    We crossposted : I can see "a player (protagonist ?) being in a scene" but I don't see what the rule would fix or entail precisely. In the session I mentioned, the player who cut the scene had (most of the time) their antagonist in the scene, and (half the time) brought the spotlight on their protagonist. So it may mean a problem in spotlight sharing and I am just in pure denial, but nobody at the table felt or thought it like that. It was always thought of as : the player moves to a better position to work on their goals (either experimenting a scene or building advantage for later).

    So, in Land of Nodd, players vote for scene end with "an absence of token". That reminds me of the "physical posture" vote from Imagine. In both case, vote is built and presented without interrupting the flow. Very elegant ! You nailed it Paul_T ! Thanks !
    I'll work on this.
  • Another: if a conflict is present in a scene it must be played out (otherwise, by cutting forward, you're giving up the opportunity to have any say in it - eg someone else simply decides how it turns out).
  • edited February 2018
    No no no. The overlapping of conflicts is the reason of the game : some conflicts evolve into arcs, other wither, etc. In a way, players try to come up with the most enticing conflicts to milk their fellow players. Think Capes. I break the game if I equate 1 conflict with 1 scene.
    It is true and it has been shown in every session of the game that blanks in the narration can always become weak spots for a player, specially when they were perceived as "losing the scene". So peer pressure is a lever I can use, but I'd rather have a more "arbitrated" mechanism than "the invisible hand of the fittest for survival" if the game is to come out of playtesting stage.

    But, simply put, the "vote building" from Land of Nodd already answers my question perfectly.
  • The way I've historically viewed this issue is that it is not legitimate to cut a scene that has positive value, and therefore it is best to allow anybody to suggest a cut, but then anybody may also veto that by showing that the scene still has value and should go on. As with Paul, I neither have found it necessary to have rules forbidding ending a scene - it's been much more fruitful to have rules that encourage ending, as some players have certain counter-productive creative tendencies that lead to scenes dragging on for no reason. I have never played in a game where excessive cutting would have been a problem.

    While it is a novel idea, I don't think that scene cuts should be used for intra-dramatic purposes lightly; it's usually not a good idea to obfuscate creative choices in that manner. For example, if the game benefits from a "not yet" pacing structure that prevents certain things from occurring, that is actually a really fruitful thing for a drama game. However, I would not want to achieve this by giving the players some sort of scene cutting powers that they're supposed to use to "cut away" from events before they have a chance to occur. How would that even work, would you need to race in real time to see whether my character can steal the march and confess their love before the other guy wakes and cuts the scene from under me? That'd be just wacky.

    (When I say "should not be used lightly", I do not mean that it should not be explored - perhaps there is something there. I just wouldn't bring that sort of radical idea into a game lightly.)

    If you want your game to put frozen conflicts (conflicts that have been established, but they're not resolved in the same scene) into center stage, I would suggest that what your rules need to explicitly deal with is not scene cutting, but rather conflict freezing: once you've determined that "no, we are not allowed to resolve this conflict yet - we should wait", then the scene can end on its own because the players don't have anything more to add for now.

    You might also wish to review Dust Devils, it's possibly the first game with explicit and player-controlled conflict freezing - could be instructive, as the game's dramatic structures are so clear-cut. The "folding" rule in DD basically says that once the conflict has been established and entered, and you've rolled your dice (well, drawn your card hand), but before you reveal and compare your result with the opponent, you can instead pay with a resource to "fold out of the conflict". This leaves the conflict unresolved for now and forces the other player to narrate the scene out without resolving the issue. In dramaturgical terms this equates to freezing the conflict, even as there is a clear distinction between the participants on who exactly decided to chicken out. The interesting bit is how the game semi-randomly encourages folding, as your motivation to fold depends on how good a hand you happened to draw.
  • Basic questions I think need to be asked:
    • Creative Agenda: specifically, your example sounds like people are, in a way, "playing to win". Does your game assume an amount of competition between players? Or is it just strong, passionate character advocacy?
    • Scene-framing privileges: after a cut, who gets to frame the next scene? If you cut a scene when you are "losing", do you get any amount of say in starting future scenes in a more favorable position? Is scene cutting just a desperate, last ditch maneuver to contain your losses, or a potentially favorable attack tactic?
  • Empowering the players is a choice. The one who cuts the scene does this by framing the next. It makes for nice buttons. The game is a competition / collaboration hybrid a bit like a color blind Conquer the horizon meets Capes. I should mention that no player found the quick scene change annoying.


    Working on the vote form (how to represent the vote, consider abstention ? vote to continue or to cut, veto this or that, etc.) I am beginning to merge the mechanism with the "incoherence of tone or logic" yellow and red card penalties. I slowly realize that "avoiding deliberate abuse" is more important in this case than cutting / pacing.

    Thank you for your helps. I will read into Dust Devil with these ideas in mind.

  • The way that my group and I do things with cutting and framing scenes is that whoever has the strongest idea for an opening scene for a session frames the first scene, then we alternate back and forth between the players framing scenes (or in a circle theoretically if we had more than two players, but we usually don't), and then if the GM has an idea for a scene, she can cut in and suggest it, but it's really up to the players whether they want to take her suggestion.
    The GM cut-in actually happens really rarely in my group, because the players almost always have really strong ideas of what needs to happen in a session.
    And then we move on to the next scene when everyone in a scene agrees that it's over, that everything that needed to be done in a scene is finished. This often is this wordless acknowedgement even, because in my group everyone is strongly on the same page.
    When there's two different scenes involving different characters going on that in-universe are happening at the same time, we cut back and forth between them at dramatic high points (or just generally whenever everyone feels like it's appropriate).
    We do a lot of very cinematic-y framing at times also, describing specific shots that would exist in a movie, tv show, or animated series or the like.
    So basically my answer to how I handle stuff is just that we kind of have an agreement as part of the social contract of how we play, and the pseudo-unspoken rules of scene framing and scene cutting are a big part of that social contract.
  • edited February 2018
    I come to the same conclusion. If you disagree with a scene cut, call for a penalty. Exchange looks, nay or yeah, and play ball. In other words the positive (cut is allowed) is by default ! Thanks for the help, you saved me a lot of work weighing and balancing something I now see evident when you say it.
  • Putting together some ideas from this thread:

    There's an obvious token on the table - let's say a pair of scissors (or a card representing one).
    To cut a scene, don't say anything, but pick up the scissors and hand them to another player (you can't both pick them up and use them yourself).
    That player starts framing another scene.

    This retains the desired outcome (scenes are cut by framing another, with no "break" in between) but separates the choice when to cut from the decision what to cut to, making it way harder to abuse.
    (Additionally, players whose characters are currently acting in the scene might be prevented from picking up the scissors).
  • edited February 2018
    From my experience.

    A scene is better cut before it is fully resolved. A vampire that is about the dig in to another character is best cut before it is fully resolved. Later scenes can show the consequences of that action.

    A scene is better if people cut whenever they need to start thinking of what's going to happen next.

    A scene is better if each scene before had a short discussion about it.

    A scene is better if someone has a goal with it, and states that goal. It doesn't have to be something that is resolved. A thought would do, like "What would happen if Daenarys and John Snow met?". Focus on questions, instead of stating goals that says what will happen.

    A scene is better if someone is eager to play it out, even if it's the same person that sets up all the scenes. Collaborative storytelling is about someone driving, and not in particular about taking turns driving.

    ---

    I played only collaborative storytelling games the last five years, and when it comes to cutting, I would say something like this.

    • Suggest cutting with a cutting gesture.

    • If there is a silent pause with no one actively bringing something to a scene, suggest a cut.

    • If there would be cool to leave a conflict and resolve/explain it in a later scene, suggest a cut.

    • If there is something resolved or answering the goal of the scene, suggest a cut.

    • If the scene would destroy the setting, or the atmosphere of the game, and it's not at the end of the session, suggest a cut.

    • If the scene contains something a participant would like to avoid in a game, suggest a cut.

    Cut if all but one wants to end the scene. The exception to that is the point above, where only one person is needed to end the scene.
  • Thanks. Many propositions, notably from Rickard, are fitting with my conclusions. Some suggestions imply "in character" play that my game doesn't do much.
    I still have to work to adapt these guidelines to the minimalistic mechanisms of my game.

    On the side, I don't recommend treating "X cards" (a player declaring fear or unease with a subject) with a scene cut.
  • I haven’t read all of above. Maybe this has already been suggested... second player to knock on table signals scene cut. Used in “left coast”.
  • edited February 2018
    DeReel said:

    On the side, I don't recommend treating "X cards" (a player declaring fear or unease with a subject) with a scene cut.

    Why not?

    Cut the scene, and forget the scene - it didn't exist. Start a new scene, or restart the scene but from a different perspective.

    I never seen anyone use the X-card. Possibly because I set up limitations whenever we start playing, or try to make people as comfortable as possible with each other. I mostly play with strangers on conventions nowadays.
  • In my eyes, cutting a scene is not the same as erasing it. "..." in literature, "cut" in movies is the unspeakable, the ob-scene, the perfect nightmare starter.

    You already know it : some rules, like the X card are but a pledge for security. We need it to sit there. I know of some teeth cringing times when its absence was felt.

    I will stick with the scissor gesture for suggesting scene cut, and rest upon the social contract mechanisms of the game to prevent the odd abuse. Simple therefore robust.
  • DeReel said:

    In my eyes, cutting a scene is not the same as erasing it. "..." in literature, "cut" in movies is the unspeakable, the ob-scene, the perfect nightmare starter.

    You already know it : some rules, like the X card are but a pledge for security. We need it to sit there. I know of some teeth cringing times when its absence was felt.

    I will stick with the scissor gesture for suggesting scene cut, and rest upon the social contract mechanisms of the game to prevent the odd abuse. Simple therefore robust.

    I think we need both the scissors sign and the x-card in order for the safety net to work. I mean you shouldn't use the x-card as a regular cutting tool (because that will make it less obvious that you're using a safe word when you actually want something to stop because of discomfort)

    However I want the x-card to be more Integrated into systems, as right now I feel that it is mostly just pasted on top of the existing game mechanics. (Which is okay but I believe it can be improved).
  • Exactly. An integrated X card would feel to me like a gold plated emergency brake. I am safer with a big red ugly one.
  • Excellent discussion. What I'd encourage (some already suggested):
    - Make sure the "scene director" is not in the spotlight of scene
    - Define together a scene goal or central question for scene
    - Encourage stronger collaboration and less "winning"
    - Establish clear rules for rotation and/or veto rights
    - Use flashbacks regularly to return to specific situations
  • edited February 2018
    BeePeeGee said:

    Excellent discussion. What I'd encourage (some already suggested):
    - Make sure the "scene director" is not in the spotlight of scene

    BeeDeePee, I’m wondering why you’re making this suggestion. What is your thinking behind the suggestion? Thanks.

  • edited February 2018
    Well, first it's practical: let's say you have a session with three players and a scene with 2 highly involved charcters. This way, two players can focus more on in-character roleplaying while the third player is in the background: framing, nudging and eventually ending the scene.
    Another perpective is motivational: while the two players in the example above are invested mostly in the characters they are playing, the third player can keep a broader view, focusing on the overall story.
  • BeePeeGee said:

    Well, first it's practical: let's say you have a session with three players and a scene with 2 highly involved charcters. This way, two players can focus more on in-character roleplaying while the third player is in the background: framing, nudging and eventually ending the scene.
    Another perpective is motivational: while the two players in the example above are invested mostly in the characters they are playing, the third player can keep a broader view, focusing on the overall story.

    Do you mean that it is harder to narrate the character's actions when you're in director stance compared to actor stance?

    Because I wouldn't fully agree with that. Being in director stance just shifts what the character's choices are based on (when you as a player make those choices) - I wouldn't say it directly affects the in-character play, however I think it might allow you to become more invested in the story at large rather than just your one character.
  • Declaring a scene main conflict beforehand is a neat solution : when the conflict ends, the scene ends. The only thing left is to spot this "conflict curve".
    Rather than the player stance, wouldn't choosing here be deciding the fictional product "rawness" : improv workshop (raw drama) vs storytelling (elaborate plot).
  • edited February 2018
    BeePeeGee said:

    Well, first it's practical: let's say you have a session with three players and a scene with 2 highly involved charcters. This way, two players can focus more on in-character roleplaying while the third player is in the background: framing, nudging and eventually ending the scene.
    Another perpective is motivational: while the two players in the example above are invested mostly in the characters they are playing, the third player can keep a broader view, focusing on the overall story.

    OK, so what you said applies only if there is a rotating GM role?

    In Psychodrame, a player can frame a scene with only that player's character to play out an inner struggle. That gives the others something to work with in future scenes, or - if you're into kishotenketsu - understand that character's motifs and actions.
  • DeReel said:


    Rather than the player stance, wouldn't choosing here be deciding the fictional product "rawness" : improv workshop (raw drama) vs storytelling (elaborate plot).

    Wow, I've never reflected on this difference. To me a drama story that doesn't contain an elaborate plot can still be a great story. But I see how you would benefit from separating the goals of the creation of the story. I agree there is a shift in focus.

    However, I believe I perhaps went off topic with this.
  • APM said:

    Do you mean that it is harder to narrate the character's actions when you're in director stance compared to actor stance?

    The other way around:
    Being heavily invested in roleplaying a character at the center of a scene may limit your capacity to see the big picture.

    @Rickard : inner monologues are special scenes. I don't see the conflict here between players raised by the OP on ending the scene.
  • edited February 2018
    BeePeeGee said:

    @Rickard : inner monologues are special scenes. I don't see the conflict here between players raised by the OP on ending the scene.

    OK, but the inner monologue was just an example. Any scene that are created with "That gives the others something to work with in future scenes, or /.../ understand that character's motifs and actions.", or more things I can't think of right now, wont follow under that kind of rule.

    If I try to explain this with other words: some scenes are there to set up the plot (ex. the inner monologue example), while others are resolving them (ex. cut after conflict) ... given that you play to solve conflicts. That's not always the case.

    You need establishing scenes to set up the plot. In my experience, just rushing for conflicts creates a story that no one is invested in. Me and some fellow roleplaying gamers came to this conclusion after analyzing botched sessions (i.e. resulting in bad stories) in games that already given us really good sessions (meaning, for this time, good stories).
  • @Rickard "just rushing for conflicts creates a story that no one is invested in." Very important remark about the "conflict oriented scenes" here. My answer to this problem is : not always (begin "in medias res" is perfect iff everybody feels like improv -ing their heads off) ; most of all, it's not a problem anymore if you begin with higher level (thematic) conflicts.
    On the contrary, I prefer to rush on the thematic conflicts so everybody is on board very soon with the various thematic options, leaving the main ones open until the climax. I don't see very well those establishing scenes, maybe because I am more interested in the thematic conflicts.
  • Can you give an example of what a "thematic conflict" is, and what rushing to it looks like for you?
  • edited February 2018
    For a quick and dirty example of thematic conflict : "Is love stronger in the end ?"
    Rushing to it would be :
    first, neglecting other possible conflicts and
    second, taking every opportunity to insert in the background of a family drama a little hamster cuddle, introducing valentines in the plot, or on the other side of the conflict, letting the cat in, dropping harsh words. Or whatever. The theme can ooze by every pore of the fiction (it's "higher level").
    Thematic conflicts are Ariadne threads in the story ("a unifying or dominant idea, motif, etc., as in a work of art., (dictionary.com)), a sort of flagging system.
    The themes of a story are not necessarily a given. Hence the conflict idea : players invest in them.
  • edited February 2018
    Very interesting discussion and insights.

    @Rickard : Interesting viewpoint & experience with "rushing to conflicts". In Directions, I prefer establishing scenes with a scene question instead of a conflict focus. This way, the scene doesn't necessarily have to focus on a conflict. I.e. a scene question could be "how does Andrew feel about his break-up?".
    I feel questions provide broader possibilities than conflicts.


    @DeReel : OK, so if I understand it right, what you propose is a top-down approach of introducing a thematic conflict (vs the bottom-up approach of a theme arising out of roleplaying).
    They remind me a bit of a "Legacy" in Microscope. Aside from usual, rotating scene framing, they are another way to explore certain themes.
  • edited February 2018
    Mine was just an example of "thematic conflict and rushing to it". Neither top-down nor inductive work very well. It's much more simple :
    Drama means "action", and theme means "subject". Like : on stage, the characters do things, things happen, that's drama. What it represents, what it's about, the idea behind it, however vague, that's theme. They are complementary.

    Thanks for the reference ! I peeped into Microscope's Legacies (second hand info, as I don't own the game). They are themes alright, but the implementation is very restrictive : 1 legacy, hammer on it, once per bar. VtM "redemption ?" is also a theme, the mechanics for it are just left lying there.

    But that took us far from the cost and conditions for scene cutting.
  • DeReel said:

    But that took us far from the cost and conditions for scene cutting.

    Yes indeed :smile:
  • DBBDBB
    edited March 2018
    Maybe some ideas from the world of screenwriting would be useful here? This is from a favorite blog of mine for story structure issues: http://www.secretsofstory.com/search/label/Build a Scene

    The short version: Every scene in a screenplay should ask and answer a question. When a question is answered, the scene ends – that's your cut point.

    So how do you mechanize that? How do you get players to agree on what question is being asked at the start of a scene, so that everyone knows when it's been answered, thus ending the scene naturally?

    Another way to think of it: Every character in a scene has a goal (likely a single step that's part of a larger goal). The scene ends when a character definitively achieves or fails at their goal.
  • Out of character agreement is an easy way of getting this. Drama system, Primetime Adventure, Annalise, Capes. This is neat for improv style play in general, giving clear boundaries allows to immerse. It is a bit artificial for storytelling play.
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