Habits of zooming in/out

edited May 2018 in Play Advice
From here:
The way I've set up my D&D style, it kind of makes me zoom in automatically whenever there is uncertainty. Who will win, what's the risk here etc etc. Dialog with people who already are giving the PCs what they want tend to be handwaved while if there's a petition we zoom way in. We had a fight against a dozen zombies that the players set it up so that they couldn't lose, basically. So I wrapped the fight up early because there was nothing to resolve.
. . .
[in contrast:] "Wait, how exactly are your tents set up?" (Because I need to know in order for the game to proceed, because something's coming in the night.)
When I GM, I can be aware of pacing concerns. I sometimes remember to fast-forward through periods of no uncertainty.

But sometimes I get caught up in the fictional moment and just forget. I'm thankful when the players use the pacing dial (or just their words) to remind me.

I'd say the most difficult case for me is the one of uncertain uncertainty. The unknown unknowns. Here's an example:

The PCs arrive at a new city. There's a main road in, and a wooden wall, and guards, and a small tax to pay to enter.

A friend of mine ran a session where the process of meeting the guards took up a big portion of the evening. I asked him why he didn't just ask the players to cross the tax cash off their sheets, and then describe their entry into the city. He said that, although that was the most likely outcome, he couldn't predict what the PCs might do that might be relevant. Although he didn't have specific obstacles or opportunities in mind, player choices can always create those!

I can't say he was incorrect about that. I've seen players do all of the following in similar situations:
  • Roleplay a little conversation, take a liking to the guards, and then take some steps towards establishing them as allies or resources going forward (e.g. with promises or bribes).
  • Roleplay a little conversation, form a distaste for the guards, and then provoke them into some sort of confrontation which results in denial of entry, threats, bad blood, or even a fight.
  • Ask a lot questions, and in the ensuing player-GM back-and-forth, everyone inspires each other, and before you know it there are all sorts of new fun options to explore that didn't exist a moment ago. (Often current problems, opportunities and mysteries in the city.)
If I recall correctly, none of that actually happened in my friend's session, but most of it seemed like it might. There was some friendliness and some friction and a few questions that might have had really interesting answers but ultimately didn't.

I think the players did come away with a better understanding of the structure of the city guard organization. If this group was like my group, one or two players probably felt like they'd acquired a valuable resource (just kinda seems like useful knowledge) while everyone else probably felt like they'd wasted their time (what exactly are we gonna do with this knowledge?).

Anyway, my conclusion is that it's a shame to spend lots of play time on an irrelevant encounter, but it's also a shame to never let a seemingly irrelevant encounter develop into something more. So I think some sort of in between would be ideal. Any thoughts on that?

Comments

  • A fascinating and complex topic. I was hoping Dave would chime in - the Pacing Dial shows some serious thought put into this.

    My usual approach is to try to really get a sense of what the creative goals of the game are and then to drive towards those.

    I also sometimes just ask the players, "Hey, are we done here, or is there more you're curious about/want to play out?" I don't know if that's ideal, but it's definitely better than just operating on autopilot.

    Sometimes I ask the GM that, as a player, too (but some GMs don't like hearing that!).
  • I think I might do it similar to your friend. The fact that something MIGHT happen
  • edited May 2018
    The choice to describe the city with the wooden wall, guards, and small cover charge is, itself, declaring a pace.

    Some players will react with their own pace, others will lock into an established pace (whether that's set by the GM, another player, or something in the fiction, mechanics, or even the feel of the rulebook), and others will tend towards always zooming in.
    An interesting thing about those various tendencies is that players with each one can very well be happy at or even prefer a pace different from the one they naturally set or set because of perceived expectations.

    You can dig pretty deep into table culture and the paths of learning other people's tendencies. Such as, are you actually, on some level, telling the players that this toll booth is a lever? Do you have players who pull every lever? Is it because that's what they want or because they think they're being asked to pull these levers?

    HOWEVER. I think you can largely cut through all of that by directly asking the players what they want. Some capital I Immersion folks bristle at that, and that's okay, you just probably have to navigate your specific table culture. But if you're cool with asking, it's so damn effective. I don't think it remotely interferes with any kind of sandbox play, either, but your mileage may vary.
    As soon as you recognize that the interaction has gone beyond the basics or a certain length of time, directly ask, "What do you want out of this scene/this conversation/this character?" And what's really cool is that the players can say, "I'll know it when I see it," effectively telling you that they want more of this pace, more of this level of probing.
  • The choice to describe the city with the wooden wall, guards, and small cover charge is, itself, declaring a pace.
    The point is that we're using rules where we "have" to zoom in there in order to find out what happens
  • The choice to describe the city with the wooden wall, guards, and small cover charge is, itself, declaring a pace.
    The point is that we're using rules where we "have" to zoom in there in order to find out what happens
    Do you mean practices or systemic rules? Because this all sounds like practices to me and I'm confused that any of this is apparently compulsory.
  • Systemic rules
    The petition is players want to enter city
  • @Paul_D_L if you don't make it through that link, the idea is that "if petitioning, then X" is a formal rule, in this case one borrowed from Unframed and ported into D&D.

    I believe "X" is effectively "zoom in to resolve who gets what out of this interaction", though I'm not positive.

    @2097, it wouldn't occur to me to view this scenario as petitioning off the bat, seeing as how the PCs automatically succeed in entering the city if they want to. It's only when they express some other intention which might put that entry in jeopardy that I might spot petitioning. What do you think?
  • David, I agree 100% with that summary. I didn't manage to put it as succintly myself so I instead wrote "it's petitioning". But you're right, that's how I'd see it too.
  • And excellent summary of that thread, David. That's much clearer than trying to slog through our writing from that era :)
  • Resolve using a deliberate awareness of tactics/leverage and repetition
  • edited May 2018
    House rules present issues, you don't say! ;P

    If you have rules for it, then you follow the rules. If the house rules aren't doing the trick, fix 'em?

    As for how this topic might be relevant to something beyond the underbrush of your personal ecosystem: The players in D&D and most similar rpgs can enter the city at various paces to begin with, and those paces aren't mechanically set or constrained.

    "I wan't to go to Murderville."
    "Okay, you go there. You are in Murderville."
    There's no zoom there. But the walls, guards, and tax are a chosen level. You can have zoom and still have more or less than that. This choice is not arbitrary and directly impacts how players react. So, if you're interested in or concerned about pacing, start at the beginning.

    As for how that might then be reinserted into your house rule situation: perhaps create a protocol for exactly what pace/number of details are established depending on the nature of the petition. That sounds profoundly unnecessary to me if the D&D game you're playing actually resembles D&D anymore, but of course you go with what works.
  • House rules present issues, you don't say! ;P
    Well, the issues are interesting, not problems or bad things, but interesting things to think about. Like this is data: these house rules caused this play experience (consistently, over four years), that's something to learn from for other design. You want this experience (and I do, at least right now), well then you know that these house rules are a way to go there. You don't want them, well then you know that these house rules might cause them and you might need to find a way to mitigate that.
    perhaps create a protocol for exactly what pace/number of details are established depending on the nature of the petition
    We have that.
  • edited May 2018
    The choice to describe the city with the wooden wall, guards, and small cover charge is, itself, declaring a pace.
    True. It is certainly more natural to start questioning the guards after an intro like that than after a simple GM query, "You get to the city, it's two farthings each to enter. You go in?"

    The conclusion of the city wall description might be a good occasion to consciously pick the subsequent pace rather than unconsciously continuing?
    As soon as you recognize that the interaction has gone beyond the basics or a certain length of time
    Agreed that that's a solid condition for reevaluating pace. I suck at just recognizing it, though. I think a lot of gamers do. Consciously picking pace before beginning the interaction might be more reliable.

    My m.o. for the last several years has been, "Whoever gets bored first, use the pacing dial to speed up!"

    "Bored" is easy to recognize.

    "Beyond the basics or a certain duration", though? Less so, I've found.

    If no one's bored, it could be argued that there's no problem, and we can just chat with the guards all night. It can be pleasant enough at the time.

    It doesn't look like a good use of play time in retrospect, though. We're sometimes disappointed afterwards.
    directly ask, "What do you want out of this scene/this conversation/this character?"
    Agreed! That is pretty much exactly what I do when I remember to think about pacing.
    And what's really cool is that the players can say, "I'll know it when I see it," effectively telling you that they want more of this pace, more of this level of probing.
    Makes sense, but FWIW, I've never had a group tell me that. By the time I remember to inquire, someone's inevitably ready to focus or move on, and that wins out over the aimless probers.
  • As soon as you recognize that the interaction has gone beyond the basics or a certain length of time
    When it's repeating itself. When the questions are answered.
    Like, everything I do as DM is because I wonder want happens next. I'm waiting on the players, on the rules, on the gloracle to let me know what happens next. I need their input to proceed.

    My players don't pull all the levers. But if there are levers I present them because I need to know whether or not they get pulled.
  • They way I handle this is PTA-style. I have the players set scenes and then explore that scene until we are all satisfied.

    This works most of the time.
  • I like the idea of asking the players (interpreting body language can work but yields less details) And the pacing wheel.
    I am currently looking for these "sub game gates", liminal points where the table could engage resources management or IC talk or any other sub game. And voting, pacing and the agenda are really at the center of that question. So I am thinking of a sub game that could go like this :
    maybe there's a pawn on the pacing wheel, and a player can move it once only. And when all the players have moved it (all minus one if you want to encourage pace variety like I do), they all get their pace changing oportunity back. Egalitarian, slightly chaotic. Open to refinement.
  • edited May 2018
    Agreed that that's a solid condition for reevaluating pace. I suck at just recognizing it, though. I think a lot of gamers do. Consciously picking pace before beginning the interaction might be more reliable.

    My m.o. for the last several years has been, "Whoever gets bored first, use the pacing dial to speed up!"

    "Bored" is easy to recognize.

    "Beyond the basics or a certain duration", though? Less so, I've found.
    With D&D and plenty of other games, as a player or a GM, I'm just always examining the purpose of a scene and what I want from it. You don't have to be bored to recognize, "This game would be better if..." and then make that happen.

    I guess the question is whether you're 1. seeking specific advice on how to play your house rules, 2. seeking pointers on general best practices as a way to guide your house rules, 3. seeking pointers on general best practices period, or 4. trying to fix potential dysfunction that might be causing that disappointment.

    One "best practices" thing is that you recognize the game could be better, but don't know how it could be better. This is a fascinating issue and can be addressed through anything from studying narrative storytelling to studying video game level design. But it most reliably seems to improve in the presence of players who have a strong feel for what they want. And perhaps even more in the presence of players who have a vested interest in pursuing/featuring what other players want.
    The pacing dial seems like it could be a way to brute force that. You don't necessarily arrive at something better, but at least things change and there might be opportunities to snag on something you didn't know would be better until you saw it. Then again, maybe that means you never examine or address why the pace change was apparently necessary.

    Another issue is that you do recognize how things could be better, but your game or table culture complicates your ability to get there. If one person is disappointed, okay, let's fix that next session. If multiple people are disappointed, especially if it happens repeatedly (even if not regularly), I'd change something substantial. Whether it's some kind of perceived expectation within the group, fixing a rigid house rule, using an entirely different system, or whatever; there's something there that elevates from seeking pointers on best practices to fixing dysfunction.
  • 5.Or it's not dysfunctional or pointer-seeking at all, just interesting and maybe something that others might also want to learn from.
  • 5.Or it's not dysfunctional or pointer-seeking at all, just interesting and maybe something that others might also want to learn from.
    I thought it was fair to assume a goal of attempting to avoid the specifically-mentioned disappointment and sucking at recognizing the need for pace-change, but you're right, someone might see those experiences as a feature.
  • YOU SUCK
    YOU'RE THE ONE WHO SUCKS
    BYE
  • YOU SUCK
    YOU'RE THE ONE WHO SUCKS
    BYE
    Agreed that that's a solid condition for reevaluating pace. I suck at just recognizing it, though. I think a lot of gamers do.
  • I guess the question is whether you're 1. seeking specific advice on how to play your house rules, 2. seeking pointers on general best practices as a way to guide your house rules, 3. seeking pointers on general best practices period, or 4. trying to fix potential dysfunction that might be causing that disappointment.
    I'd frame the goal as seeking specific techniques to improve control of the balance between two competing types of fun.

    I'd say that "always examine the purpose of a scene" is a useful habit as long as it allows the range of potential answers we've been discussing (e.g. "keep probing, I'll know when I see it"). I'll address some of the other specific suggestions in a bit.
  • edited May 2018
    I guess the question is whether you're 1. seeking specific advice on how to play your house rules, 2. seeking pointers on general best practices as a way to guide your house rules, 3. seeking pointers on general best practices period, or 4. trying to fix potential dysfunction that might be causing that disappointment.
    I'd frame the goal as seeking specific techniques to improve control of the balance between two competing types of fun.

    I'd say that "always examine the purpose of a scene" is a useful habit as long as it allows the range of potential answers we've been discussing (e.g. "keep probing, I'll know when I see it"). I'll address some of the other specific suggestions in a bit.
    Interesting. I wonder if those two types of fun really are competing. Or, rather, mutually exclusive or that one is in some way detrimental to the other.

    If a seemingly irrelevant encounter can develop into a relevant one, then the assumption is that it's not automatically relevant because it is happening at all. So, if it eventually becomes relevant because the players keep probing, then it seems like it's because the players obviously want it to become relevant and it takes that long to gather enough fictional momentum to sustain relevance, or because the GM finally improvises something that is relevant to the players.
    I think in order for the encounter to last that long, it seems like the GM either cannot detect what's important to the players or sees their own role as one in which they must be completely impartial about what the players want except to react in a completely micro sense.

    I think I've played games in which those types of fun both happen freely, but maybe those two types of fun are competing with the added ingredient of that GM or GM mode. I'll have to think about it more, but that might be a good place to start.
  • This is a really interesting discussion, and I'm really enjoying your contributions here, Paul_D_L. Smart stuff!


    (And I hope Sandra will come back - she's been making for some really lovely discussion here on Story Games, and, I think completely misread that post, which was, in fact, agreeing with her.)
  • I'm a little skeptical of any game term which includes the term "fun", since fun is highly subjective and tautologically defined.

    I mostly play PbP games these days and adhere to the gospel of momentum -- keep the hits coming and people will find something to react to. I'm a little reluctant to zoom in too much unless people are obviously showing signs of interest IC or OOC.

    This is not my rule for everybody, though -- it's my own corrective rule, because I've killed many, many online games over the years by not zooming out enough so the game lost momentum and choked.
  • I'm a little skeptical of any game term which includes the term "fun", since fun is highly subjective and tautologically defined.
    I think "fun" here can just as easily be swapped with "an experience I seek/is satisfying." So nothing is confusing by specifying a type of fun. It's not like it's discussion about fun in some objective sense or as a "game term."
  • edited May 2018
    I think there's something important to clarify here:

    "Dave, why aren't you just using more structured scene framing procedures? That'd solve all the problems you've mentioned."

    It's true. It would solve everything. But it would create a different sort of problem.

    In my experience, all of the pacing issues I encounter arise from getting lost in the fiction, in the imagined moment.

    At the same time, in those games, the majority of the enjoyment I get from play arises from exactly the same thing: getting lost in the fiction, in the imagined moment.

    So, "remember that you're playing a game and that you have game duties to attend to" at once fixes my pacing and punches a huge hole in my enjoyment.

    The pacing dial only works because it's only employed after someone's already slipped out of being lost in the imagined moment (because the imagined moment isn't sufficiently captivating). If the dial were being used constantly, I'd hate it.

    So that's my starting point.

    That's why I didn't jump at @DInDenver 's approach and why I'm not sure what to do with @DeReel 's very cool take.

    At the same time, I'm not insisting on "never think in game terms except when you have to" either! If that were my perspective, I'd simply accept some long and pointless conversations with guards as the cost of doing business (which is exactly what my friend does, the one who GMed that conversation).

    I think my ideal is to have a procedure to call on, which meets all of the following criteria:
    - is quick to employ
    - is invoked intuitively in the regular course of narration and play (i.e. is easy to remember)
    - improves pacing per the group's preferences at that time

    I can take a break from being lost in the fictional moment as long as it is a quick and useful break and I don't forget.

    Here's an example that doesn't work yet but might illustrate a useful direction:
    Whenever you roll, pick a time scale: Action, Encounter, or Extended. If Action, the roll resolves whether your statement charms the guard. If Encounter, the roll resolves whether you make the guards into allies. If Extended, the roll resolves how the whole "interact with guards" thing turns out for you in the end, e.g. "It takes you weeks to get into the city," or, "After you've been in the city for weeks, the guards want to hire you for this mission that's vital to them."
    So, instead of interrupting a conversation about travel and city walls and guards and taxes or whatnot, we have a procedure that's baked into the player characters attempting to do something in the fiction.

    Again, this example doesn't work. It doesn't work because, in the style of play I'm pursuing here, I don't use die rolls for stuff like "Did your last statement charm the guard?" But maybe it'll kick off some new inspirations...?
  • edited May 2018
    Great post, Dave. It's some excellent into how you play, as well, which is handy.

    (Dave and I are currently play a game of Sorcerer together, with him as the GM.)

    In our game, I've been somewhat consciously trying to speak up here and there, to fast forward or zoom in on different bits of the story. It's a bit funny to do as a player, especially when the fiction is intriguing, but it's been fun to try and you've been very accommodating, which means it's not socially awkward and doesn't hurt the game.

    We don't have a specific tool or a technique, but I just occasionally speak up and say, "Hey, unless you've got some cool thing here, how about we just summarize and skip ahead to when we get to the Place?" It's been a fun experiment (and we've only been doing it a little while, so I wouldn't jump to too weighty a conclusion just yet).

    I'd love to hear what that experience has been like from your end. Jarring? Difficult? Or is it freeing, because you don't have to worry about pacing anymore? Or both?
  • edited May 2018
    Oh no, @Paul_T in Sorcerer I'm constantly trying to get you guys to skip over "here's the next thing I do" and get to "here's the next thing I do that's worth playing out". I keep zooming out and asking for your plans and intentions and "what do you want to get out of this?"

    The one thing I won't do, though, is preempt your decisions and control your characters in order to frame a scene.

    But once I know what you're up to, I'm attempting to cut to the action, unless you stop me (as Jon did, when describing how he changed his garb to fit in the 'burbs).

    Because the characters are separate, and you have to wait your turns, I'm trying way harder to complete scenes quickly than I would if y'all were a party.

    It's funny, I think the only times you've suggested to skip ahead, I had said or was in the process of saying the same thing (yay microphone issues). I definitely never had any intention of playing out your vain search for Mr. Whitaker.
  • I see. I still notice that occasionally we slow down and "dig in", and you seemed to like the idea of having us suggest places to cut scenes, so it seems relevant. It's a challenge in that game to keep things moving enough to maintain interest in the game (for the people not "on screen").
  • edited May 2018
    Oh, definitely -- I'd say it's more than occasional. The part where we dig in is the part I play for. There's a reason I didn't tell Jon, "We don't care about your clothes, let's just say you're on the roof breaking into the house, okay?" Him going through all that is what makes his character stick in my mind, it's what makes Jim's struggle immediate and accessible to me, rather than being some disposable set of impersonal plot points. Similarly, my favorite content with Parkinson is almost entirely the stuff where you're speaking in his voice.
  • Yes, exactly. That's why I brought this up in this thread: I can tell that you are consciously adjusting pacing to the players' interests/focus, and it creates a fun vibe to play.

    I remember in our last session, we were summarizing a conversation/scene for Parkinson, and then, when it started to get interesting, I just started speaking in his voice, and you immediately answered in-character, and we effortlessly moved from "summary" to "play it out in detail". It felt good and organic, like a dancing with a good partner.
  • edited May 2018
    Yeah. I think that part -- the smooth shift -- is harder with a party of characters. After all, with a party, one player may just start talking in character before there's anything going on that anyone else is interested in.

    That's part of the reason I'm mining for system/procedure ideas rather than just continuing to cultivate soft skills.
  • Very true! The more people are involved, the trickier it starts to get. Hmmm!
  • edited May 2018
    I tinkered around the idea of a pacing wheel, but the result is really too mechanical and difficult to scale to the number of players. I have no need for it because I don't want the pacing to have any mechanical influence. I just want the information.

    Smart players can find it on the spot. It's like acting and storytelling at the same time : you want to focus on two objects, one close up, one far away. Making use of their brain zones in an innovative way is the challenge and the reward for some players.

    A player, like the GM, can be in charge of that. For my game, I plan on offering one player to act as a "dramatic sismographer" and rank each conflict on a time scale (slomo, scene, sequence, summary).

    I sidestep the topic a bit, with a tip from board game design : use your players time off. From what you say, Dave, for you downtime is before a roll : check stats, add modifiers, negotiate margins (building tension before action maybe ?). In my game the end of a conflict is that time where we do a bit of scribbling : remove traits, add XP. Adding "scale conflict" keeps it light.
  • edited May 2018
    This is obviously going to vary by system, but in a system that has room for it, what about defaulting to players' describing what their characters' intentions are whenever they do something?

    That way, @David_Berg, the GM who is lost in the fiction never has to get "found" again - the players are always declaring the level of zoom they want. And doing so not just in an unobtrusive way, but in a way that continually reinforces the fiction AND possibly reminds the players of what their purpose is and what levers their characters might reasonably pull.

    Keep in mind that intentions vary like your action/encounter/extended time scales, but they do it organically.
    "I tell the guards I appreciate their service. It's probably a thankless job and I want an opening to talk to them casually so I can learn about this place."
    "I look for someone who appears a bit poor for the toll and offer to pay for them in clear sight of the guards. I want to make a good impression."
    "Can I find out anything useful from the guards?"

    I think some game masters automatically resist that last level of focus by demanding that players explain how they interact with the guards in detail. But the point is that the players are outright telling you they don't care about that. Or, at the very least, they're picking up clues from your narration that the guards only matter that much. You only have to worry about correcting the game's zoom when the zoom you've chosen conflicts with what the players want. And it's difficult to do that when the players effectively tell you what that is (it seems like it's just a matter of achieving that without disrupting the flow).

    That's not to say you can't ever ask for more detail, but that might be the time to use the pacing dial. Whenever you find yourself asking someone to move from the bigger picture to the smaller picture, hand them the dial marker. They can always choose to remain zoomed out, but with the understanding that they're giving up the reigns in a way.
    "Can I find out anything useful from the guards?"
    "Maybe, how do you want to go about it?" Hand over the dial marker.
    Player places the marker on scene summary, indicating a desire not to dig in. "I just ask some basic questions and see if anything stands out. I don't want to slow the line at the booth or annoy them."
    And if there's really something there that you like, you can immediately offer a chance to zoom in again: "Something does stand out to you. One of the guards is older than you'd expect and the other is very green. The older one is focused on training the younger guard, so if you only ask basic questions, you'll only get basic answers." Hand over the dial marker.
    Et cetera.
  • edited May 2018
    Damn, dude, that is a really good idea!

    I think with some personalities at the table it'll be easier than with others. But when is that not true, right?

    I'll think through this and see if I can find a clear & simple way to introduce it next time I run this sort of game. I'm sure players can get the hang of communicating intents eventually, but there'll be a learning curve. I'll see what I can do to shorten that.

    Thanks!

    I'm not sure about the physical logistics of passing around the dial marker. That might be a bit too obtrusive to become habit. Definitely a good option to have in the toolkit when really needed, though.
  • The players could move the dial marker on their own because it's obvious when you're teeing up a chance to change from the focus that they've just openly established. I only added the act of handing it over for a bit of instructional flavor. You're offering an opportunity and putting it in their hands.
  • I agree; that's a really thought-provoking idea.

    Another brainstorm, for a particular type of game:

    You can give the pacing dial "teeth" if it interfaces with the mechanics of the game.

    For instance, making a Scene Summary Action gives you a penalty die and an XP, but an Immediate Action gives you bonus dice to your next action on a success.

    In this case, players will quite naturally reach for the pacing dial before a significant action like a conflict or a move, and there's no chance of us forgetting to use it. The "moves" operate slightly differently at different scales, in other words. The Scene Summary Action moves the game along faster for everyone involved, whereas the Immediate Action allows you to build momentum for a followup action in the immediate scene.

    The implementation would be tricky, but, for some games, it could work really nicely. Hmmm.
  • @Paul_T I've been thinking about that for years, but making fictional outcomes overtly dependent on how we as people play through them is completely anathema to this style.

    In some other game, though, totally. :)
  • You can also provoke the PCs to use the dial maker if you start to narrate in a very detailed and slow manner at the beginning of the session which will naturally become very boring after it fulfilled its introductory / theme setting function.

    It works the other way too. Just summarize everything, even fights until they learn to zoom in :)
  • Dave,

    Absolutely. It's a question of finding the right game, where this idea might find its home.

  • I'm playing with zoom in/out all the time. For me, the level of granularity is just another factor to make sure the group as a whole is comfortable with. Anyone can request a zoom in/out and it is usually introduced by group concensus.
    Sometimes, we zoom out to reduce a planning or travel period to one roll. We just roll if something exciting happened or went wrong and don't play out the scene.
    Then again, sometimes a player might say during play "hold on, hold on, I'd like to zoom in here and dive deeper into a specific situation.

    I could make a procedure out of this. But for me, it is about finding together what granularity we feel comfortable with at the moment.
  • edited May 2018
    I'm playing with zoom in/out all the time. For me, the level of granularity is just another factor to make sure the group as a whole is comfortable with. Anyone can request a zoom in/out and it is usually introduced by group concensus.
    Sometimes, we zoom out to reduce a planning or travel period to one roll. We just roll if something exciting happened or went wrong and don't play out the scene.
    Then again, sometimes a player might say during play "hold on, hold on, I'd like to zoom in here and dive deeper into a specific situation.

    I could make a procedure out of this. But for me, it is about finding together what granularity we feel comfortable with at the moment.
    Same here.

    Even though a ton of games formalize this to various degrees (often without directly addressing it), I've always thought of this as an instinctual and organic part of play. The pacing dial is interesting as a sort of taxonomical exercise, especially for examining rules that subtly enforce levels of zoom; but as a play tool, the pacing dial is mystifying to me. It would likely serve only to stunt play for me unless I were playing a game that is largely about character improv or perhaps cinematic troupe play. So it's interesting as hell for me to figure out how to help formalize this for someone else.
  • If you're using a four dice Fortune in the Middle dice mechanic, like the original Otherkind (rather than a two dice FitM mechanic) this problem is solved by the players themselves.  When they are rolling their four dice to resolve something, there's one die assigned by the player for the goal, one die for the threat/danger/what might go wrong, one for motion towards the goal, and one die for assigning who narrates the outcome.  Since it's Fortune in the Middle, the players assign the dice how they want after they see what the dice roll results are. The players' own choice of who narrates would lead to them getting the level of zoom in/out they want from the scene, at least when they choose to narrate themselves.  And in a scene with multiple rolls, even if the GM is narrating some of the time, a natural level of zoom-in-edness or zoom-out-edness will be implied and evolve as the scene grows over time.
  • In some games, I've had good results using a meta-language during the game referring to media; for Prime Time Adventures, starting to talk in terms of establishing shots, B-roll and montage means that we're zooming ahead to the next exciting scene of the TV show we're creating. In Masks, the game specifically encourages the GM and players to talk about it in terms of a comic book: describing the splash page that introduces the team, describing your character's reaction like "the next panel shows Bell with tears running down her face". This kind of thing is really fun, especially if you've got more than a few comics/film nerds in your group.

    It's probably no accident that both of these games foster an Actor or Pawn stance. I suppose in a D&D game, you could have narrative bits in the style of an epic tale, which anybody in the group could explicity invoke. Maybe with a catchphrase: "And so it was..."
  • edited May 2018
    For most of my play history, I've zoomed in and out organically. It always felt right in the moment; there were rarely any glitches of, like, "Oh god, why are we playing this out and why can't we stop?!?!"

    At the same time, there were plenty of end-of-session regrets. "We only get 3 hrs a month to advance this adventure; I wish we'd gotten farther."

    Thus, the need for play tools that interrupt the usual, instinctive flow.

    At the same time, a pattern of interruption would be extremely unwelcome. The pacing dial exists primarily to inform, promise and remind each player that they have the right and responsibility to speed up or slow down as desired. Those rights and responsibilities are only exercised when necessary, which is not frequent, but does make a big difference when it comes up. I think it's worth noting that, with a long-running group, the dial is effectively a training tool -- once the group has internalized a sense of pacing options, no one needs the dial anymore (I don't think I even bothered to put it out on the table in my home game).

    Having had some success with that approach, I do think the awareness behind pacing decisions could still be improved, though, and that that would yield even better results. That's why I like the "state intents during shifts (or potential shifts) in pacing" idea. We're less likely to give an encounter more or less time than it deserves if we're in the habit of considering why we're playing it. My hope is that, just like with the pacing dial, any formal process could be useful as training and then be abandoned with experience.
  • For most of my play history, I've zoomed in and out organically. It always felt right in the moment; there were rarely any glitches of, like, "Oh god, why are we playing this out and why can't we stop?!?!"

    At the same time, there were plenty of end-of-session regrets. "We only get 3 hrs a month to advance this adventure; I wish we'd gotten farther."

    Thus, the need for play tools that interrupt the usual, instinctive flow.

    At the same time, a pattern of interruption would be extremely unwelcome. The pacing dial exists primarily to inform, promise and remind each player that they have the right and responsibility to speed up or slow down as desired. Those rights and responsibilities are only exercised when necessary, which is not frequent, but does make a big difference when it comes up. I think it's worth noting that, with a long-running group, the dial is effectively a training tool -- once the group has internalized a sense of pacing options, no one needs the dial anymore (I don't think I even bothered to put it out on the table in my home game).

    Having had some success with that approach, I do think the awareness behind pacing decisions could still be improved, though, and that that would yield even better results. That's why I like the "state intents during shifts (or potential shifts) in pacing" idea. We're less likely to give an encounter more or less time than it deserves if we're in the habit of considering why we're playing it. My hope is that, just like with the pacing dial, any formal process could be useful as training and then be abandoned with experience.
    The old once-a-month game. Often the only schedule adults can manage, seems like it will work, but rarely results in the engagement anybody wants or expects.

    Maybe this is a weird question, but are these fairly inexperienced gamers? Have any of them ever GMed? Have they played a game with different fundamental zoom procedures? Example: Burning Wheel, in which 1. importance/relevance of scenes are determined by Beliefs and 2. player intent is necessarily announced when performing tasks.

    I ask that because it occurs to me that if this funnels back to regrets and player-training, it's possible that the biggest issues and solutions are social and/or fully systemic (as opposed to welding a single rule into your existing game). I dunno. This is that weird part of gaming that can be unsolvable because the only way to overcome a larger, long term issue is with changes that are significant enough to choke and kill a current campaign. And that, itself, will cause a new, larger, long term issue within the group, and so forth.
  • edited May 2018
    When I wind up GMing this style of game, it is mostly for inexperienced players or players who'd only ever played D&D & similar RPGs.

    Supposing I were to sell an RPG product which employed the techniques we've been discussing, "D&D players" would probably be my target audience.
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