Resources on scene framing?

Does anyone have recommendations for resources on the topic of scene framing? Any ones specific to roleplaying games?


  • edited June 2017
    There was a crazy long thread about different types of scene framing on these forums about six months ago. I think it would definitely be worth reading. Hopefully someone remembers it and can find it for you. Good luck :smiley:

    Edit: I looked for it on Google and couldn't find it, maybe I'm imagining things?
  • The new version of Trollbabe.

    I'm not sure what you mean "specific to roleplaying games" though. "Scene framing" is the name of a role-playing technique; I don't know what meaning it has in any other context.

  • edited June 2017
    It can be used and understood in the context of photography, movies, comics, theatre, etc and in every context it has a distinct, characteristic way of being done. Google results still throw more RPG-related results than others anyway.

    Perhaps the thread you meant was this one Jeff? It says 2010 though and its somewhat short, but is one of the first ones in the search and it has a few interesting attempts at scene framing categorization.

    EDIT: nevermind, end up reading more of that thread and it doesn't get much anywhere.
  • Here's an old thread of mine. I didn't get as much out of it as I had hoped, but you may find it useful:
  • edited June 2017
    Hey @WarriorMonk, as far as I know "scene framing" (as opposed to simply "framing") is not a concept that exists within any of the disciplines you listed. That is why if you google "scene framing" the only results you get are from The Forge, Story Games, and related satellites. I believe the expression was first used in the late '90s, either in the game "Story Engine" or "Theatrix," I don't remember which. Ron expanded the concept in "Sorcerer & Sword," after which "scene framing" became a major and common topic of investigation at the Forge in the early 2000s.

    Here are some interesting Forge threads that the OP may find useful: <- Particularly this one!

    I think it's illuminating to keep in mind the historical context of these discussions: in the '90s, the default approach to conducting a game was the pre-planned sequence of encounters, often totally linear. Each encounter was a little sandbox for the PCs to romp around in until they "beat" it (by winning this or that combat, or acquiring this or that clue), which triggered the next encounter. At no point was the GM in the dark about what the next encounter might be. Scene framing at the time consisted solely of statements amounting to "You travel to / find yourself in the next encounter location."

    The main contribution of the Forge discussions was twofold: First, scene framing could be done *improvisationally* during play, in response to and in collusion with the contributions of the players. Second, scene framing was a skill. We could get better at doing it, and thereby enhance our experience of play.

    There's a lot of good scene framing stuff spread around Sorcerer & Suppliments as well as Dogs in the Vinyard and other games, but IMO the 2013 rewrite of Trollbabe is the best treatment, tying everything together in one useful place. I haven't seen a better one, anyway.


    P.S., Maybe this is the thread Jeff was looking for? It's pretty long!
  • Thank you for the info and links, folks!

    I should have done a google search first. I had assumed the technique came from film or some other medium.
  • edited June 2017
    Does anyone have recommendations for resources on the topic of scene framing? Any ones specific to roleplaying games?
    I think your best resources are in GMless/GMlite Story Games themselves. I would compare the techniques used in different games. Of course, this means owning a lot of games and for some this is not a financial priority or an expense they can afford. If this is the case, I suggest exploring free games of this nature, and comparing them. And hopefully you, or others, can find something useful on Google :smile:

    (I'm not sure where the message thread is about Scene Framing that I thought I saw. I can't seem to find it and I don't think it's one of the ones others have linked to. I thought commented on Vincent Baker statement that he was done with some type of scene framing (perhaps nonprocedural)? Who knows, maybe I dreamt it, or thought it was more useful and thorough than it was???)
  • Vincent's old unpublished (though probably still possible to track down on his blog) game "Afraid" had a really interesting rule for scene framing.

    Each character had four possible states ("Alone", "Lost", and two others), and the mechanics of conflict would cause you to check these off or clear them.

    That means that when we "turn the camera" to your character, we have a number of constraints on how and where to frame a scene for them. I always thought that was an interesting idea!
  • Hey @Jeff_B_Slater, maybe it was this post of Vincent's from Google+?

  • edited June 2017
    Hey @WarriorMonk, as far as I know "scene framing" (as opposed to simply "framing") is not a concept that exists within any of the disciplines you listed.
    That's why I wrote that
    It can be used and understood in the context of photography, movies, comics, theatre, etc
    in italics. Because it's not official, and therefore can create confusion as it is a bit of a strech.

    For example, as a comic artist scene framing means something for me, similar to what it does in writing: the author is setting a mood and establishing other things, like where the action will happen, who's there and the initial premise for the action. Of course, we don't use the term "scene framing" officially in comics, we call it "establishing shot", but any artist will understand you if you use "scene framing" in this context anyway.

  • edited June 2017
    Hey @Jeff_B_Slater, maybe it was this post of Vincent's from Google+?

    It wasn't this post, but it referred to Vincent's G+ post in it, not joking. Hahaha, I'm beginning to think I dreamed it up and it doesn't exist :smiley:
  • @Jeff_B_Slater are you sure it's not this one?

    The first post links to Vincent's G+ post.

    @WarriorMonk interesting point. We've been re-watching Orphan Black to get set for Season 5, and this week I was noticing that the scene cutting techniques they use are a lot like the aggressive scene framing in Sorcerer.

  • Oh, I didn't look close enough, this is it… For some reason I remember it being much longer… Anyway it might be worth taking a look at @Dreamer if you haven't already done so. Thanks so much, Paganini; you solved the mystery! :smiley:
  • I tried to do a thumbsup emoji, but it doesn't seem to exist. Oh well! Anyway, glad to be of service. :)

  • Thank you again, everyone! These are some awesome links. :)
  • Scene framing absolutely exists in dramatic theory, especially in television where as the unit of the scene is a key considerations in putting together the budget so it's essential to get the maximum possible value from each location setup. I don't think the term 'framing' itself is often used, but the various component parts of what we mean by framing when talking about games are often discussed: how to select a who, where, when, what, and why which will make a good scene, and how to begin and end it in an effective manner.

    Resource-wise, Story by Robert McKee has some good stuff about scene framing. I particularly recommend Into the Woods by John Yorke which talks very clearly about how scene structure imitates a truncated form of an overall story structure.

    The most intresting scene framing advice I've seen for games specifically is in Microscope. You're meant to ask a question of the scene and play out the scene merely to answer it, e.g. Why does the captain decide to crash the ship on purpose? I think this is brilliant because it accepts that the plot conclusion (as it were) of a given scene/story is often foregone and encourages you to think about what actually makes the scene interesting.

    At the table, the questions I ask myself when framing a scene are:-
    - Which story thread has been neglected recently?
    - What basics are needed to move that story forward?
    - How might the scene challenge and surprise the focus character?

    I often find (especially with Fiasco) that players in general have more difficulty knowing when to *end* scenes than they do with establishing them. That's another reason why Microscope's scene questions are interesting, because they define the edges of a scene mostly in terms of how it will end. In a sense, that's closer to screenwriting where the importance of a scene is heavy end-weighted towards its climax; in another, it's further away from screenwriting because the scene is freed from a need to contribute to an ongoing story.
  • I agree.

    "Framing" a scene requires situating the scene in time and space, and starting it in the appropriate manner/way. Then it also requires knowing when to end, cut, or close the scene - equally important.

    (Although I find that in RPG dialogue, "framing" generally refers to the opening of the scene.)
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