How to roleplay talking scenes

Here is David’s summary of my summary of the method Robin Laws explains in the book Unframed:
  • Roleplay it out.
  • When you do, keep an eye on who’s petitioning and who’s (potentially) granting.
  • If no one’s doing either, maybe see if they’re gonna, and if not, go on to the next thing.
  • If there’s a reason why the granter won’t grant, play that out, with that reason in mind. If there’s no such reason, grant the petitioner’s request!
  • When playing out a petitioner’s attempt to overcome a granter’s resistance, keep an eye on petitioner tactics.
  • New tactics, and new granter responses, tend to keep things dramatic and fun. Repetitions don’t.
  • When you spot repetition, act quickly to cut it off, demanding either new tactics or an end to the interaction
It came from this post, which in turn has link to the older thread it summarizes.

To me, this is the perfect. The perfect. Thank you @David_Berg

Comments

  • Yeah, that’s really good!

    Dave has a keen eye for effective summaries.
  • I don’t how universal this is, though. Is the idea to apply this concept to ALL talking scenes, ever?
  • No, it's one specific resolution protocol.
  • …that happens to be really really good♥
  • Cool. Agreed!
  • Nod. No one tool fits all. When all of the players are highly engaged in an in-character philosophical argument, my job as a GM is to stay out of their way until it winds down. But that's a very different situation.
  • edited June 7
    I get frustrated when it's all tavern talk & in-character tea & biscuits; Lisa, what do you do to separate those situations from in-character arguments, which, to me, are more interesting.
  • Mostly have me around, I think; I usually play argumentative characters :)
  • Also, in my experience, Lisa just really enjoys the in-character “tavern talk.”
  • One of the players in my D&D group started DMing a group of his work friends, whom I had never met before or played with before. This was a year ago or so and we only played twice until scheduling fucked it up [or maybe they just silently kicked me out IDK].

    All of us rolled up a gang of wood-elf siblings with plenty of relationships & bonds between us. Except this one guy, Oscar, who rolled up a human wizard who had hired us or we had hired him. He didn’t really make any bonds to any of us. I don’t remember the character name. My character name was Amanita “Shrooms” Telglinamyr. (Btw Oscar if you happen to read this, address complaints&corrections to sandra.snan@idiomdrottning.org). We elves just got really into being our characters on this adventure.

    And play starts.

    And Oscar wants us to have so much tavern bantern. Coming from either OSR (where there is engagement with the porte-monstre-trésor array) & Hillfolk (where conversations are… about something) I pretty much die. Drinking tea in the tavern? I might as well be on an ice moon! I want us to either go to the dungeon [we were doing a 5e conversion of the 3e era dungeon Forge of Fury] already, or, if we are stuck in that tavern with tea, really confront each other. He yields and we do go to the dungeon. During the journey and on short rests we elves are petitioning & granting each other like there’s no tomorrow. Giving trust, doing status games etc etc. Whenever we try to talk to Oscar, play just immediately zilches out.

    On the train home from game we happen to be going in the same direction, Oscar and I.

    He says “I don’t really like D&D. I’m only sucking it up because if this group gets going, maybe we can switch over to playing the game I really like. I might run it, or be a player.”

    I’m like “Ok hon, what game is that?”

    He says “Burning Wheel”.

    I’m like… [thinking, not saying]… Are you serious right now? The game where you Confront Beliefs and Duel each other’s Wits is your favorite game? The number one tavern tea time, grim loner in grey gandalf robes guy is into Burning Wheel?

  • That’s a really interesting anecdote! I wonder what he was really after.

    Perhaps there are very specific technical details he enjoys about BW. (For instance, he loves in character banter, but only when it’s mechanically supported, or the other way around.) Or perhaps he was, consciously or unconsciously, sabotaging the D&D game because he wasn’t really invested in it.

    It would certainly be interesting to hear about it from his side.

    Question for you: when you say you guys were petitioning and granting and all that, do you mean that there was mechanical support for that, or just that there was an interesting dynamic between the characters, and people were getting something meaningful out of each interaction?
  • In this case, unlike my home game, the latter. We just had very good bonds set up.
  • That sounds like a lot of fun! Nice.
  • edited June 8
    That is an awesome list! Thank you Sandra for bringing that forward in time. Thank you to David as well!

    The only thing I can think of to offer, which runs in a completely different direction, is that if a dialogue scene is going nowhere like poor Sandra's Tea at the Tavern is to use Raymond Chandler's bit about having someone walk into the room with a gun drawn.

    As players this doesn't work unless mechanics allow for such agency, but for a GM this can work nicely. A person walks into a the tavern with some muscle in tow, looks around, points to the PC's and in a stentorian voice, "They murdered my children!". Now you've got something juicy to talk about!

    Best,

    Jay
  • I think that, in an OSR-like style of play (which Sandra’s game sounds very similar to), the challenge of fruitless conversation is more significant and more present than in many other styles of gaming.

    First of all, this style of gaming is usually heavily driven by the players - the approach to sticking to prep and the GM largely acting as impartial referee means that the Chandleresque “ninjas jump through the window” often isn’t an option. (Although in a dangerous or dungeon environment random encounter checks can serve the same role!) It’s not the GM’s role to place such a heavy hand on pacing and scene control, and the means may not be there (for example, maybe the prep and world logic establishes that there are no ninjas anywhere nearby!).

    Second, if roleplaying conversations aren’t handled mechanically in any way, but are supposed to be settled through free roleplaying, there is no tool or mechanics to fall back on. That can lead players to drag out conversations longer than usual. Sandra’s game has elements of this in places (negotiation and persuasion mechanics have been removed) and other mechanics added in (via Hillfolk-style token spends). My guess would be that, in her game, the GM keeping an eye on petitioner-granter helps PC-NPC interactions moving, whereas PC-PC interactions are likely handled by the Hillfolk tokens. Those two techniques probably work quite well to keep such breakdowns from happening.

    (Sandra, is that anywhere close to correct? I’m just guessing here. :) )

    However, I think a more general version of that idea can be used:

    Players not involved in the dialogue should keep an eye out for repetition, and find ways to jump in when the scene/interaction starts to turn stale.

    This could be in-character (“my guy butts in and tells them to take it outside!”), or out of character, by asking the GM a question or trying to shift the focus, or quite directly by challenging the players to draw it to a close and move on to the next point of concern.

    I think that’s excellent advice for just about any game!


  • We had only a couple of sessions to get through the dungeon and I was like “no way we’re gonna get through it in two nights” (which of course we didn’t anyway, it’s still unfinished).

    I lost track of the purpose of playing, in favor of this dumb extrinsic goal of “finishing” the module. In hindsight not a good idea.

    So I wish I had been more generous to Oscar the Grey Wizard. Set up a status game a la Keith Johnstone or whatever. Maybe tried to (as Shrooms) be generous and inclusive, and done and said things in the diegesis to convey that. Since the tavern tea time was “about nothing” (i.e. I was in worse-than-ice-moon hell, fuck tavern tea time!!!!), I could’ve made it about something; trying to impart generosity via a status game. I.e. the petition I’d be seeking would be affirmation of Oscar’s group insidership, which he could’ve deny by confirming outsider ship, or grant by opening up.
    Paul_T said:

    (Sandra, is that anywhere close to correct? I’m just guessing here. :) )

    Hope I’m not being impolite, Paul, if I remind you a very important puzzle piece: the saliency time zoom principle.

    Tavern tea time breaks this principle because there is nothing to find out. It’s just zilchy.

    We can either ignore the saliency time zoom principle (whether unknowingly or willingly) and slam the finger down on that Ouija planchette hard (i.e. introduce a petition a la my “generosity petition” proposed earlier in this post)

    or, much better,

    realize that we are in violation of the saliency time zoom principle and fast forward in time, using a “cutless cut” like “It’s the next morning and you’re walking away from the town. What do you do?”.

    In this case, the fact that I wasn’t the DM might’ve made that first option a possibility. If I’m the DM I’d go with the second option. Which is what I, in the game, did push for in a not so polite fashion, which, uh, my apology to the DM of that game. (It’s not that DM’s fault because D&D is so underdesigned and these principles are so underdocumented or underimplemented.)
    Paul_T said:

    Players not involved in the dialogue should keep an eye out for repetition, and find ways to jump in when the scene/interaction starts to turn stale.

    It’s even better if the players that are involved try not to repeat themselves, or, when they find themselves repeating themselves, change tactic or yield.

  • About Raymond Chandler's "throw orcs"… if the characters make noise you call for encounter checks. That's a rule
  • Not being impolite at all! But I’m just talking about important, salient conversations, not the ones we could want to skip.

    I really like your “generosity petition” technique. That’s really smart. Adding it to my bag of tricks!
  • This thread reminded me that my new party (after the TPK in "Mirror Story 2: Darkness Edition") need to set up relationships so that's what we've been working with today. Prob gonna take a couple of days.
  • Paul_T said:

    I really like your “generosity petition” technique. That’s really smart. Adding it to my bag of tricks!

    Thanks♥
    Started rereading Keith Johnstone's Impro yesterday
  • How do you “set up relationships”? That sounds both interesting and important!
  • edited June 8
    Hillfolk, page 16 (man, that SRD doc sux! Not being entitled, it being open source was a stretch goal during the Kickstarter but that's a pretty darn incomplete SRD if I ever saw one!) and the first paragraph or so of page 17;

    you choose two of your relationships. You want something from them ("clarity in whether or not I can trust them" for example, or "for them to fall in love with me again" maybe) and they specify why you can't have that right now.

    You need two of these; others will have wants from you, but it's not guaranteed that you will end up with exactly two, you can have zero or four or whatever.

    When using with D&D 5e, these go in the "bonds" space on your character sheet.
  • I see! So you define two “wants” for two other characters (presumably usually PCs?).

    Do you often have more than one Bond on your sheet, then?
  • edited June 8
    This is pretty much straight-up DramaSystem.

    ETA: Yeah, the SRD is a mess.

    You know, you're supposed to ask what the scene framer's "intent" is when beginning each scene (this generally means "what are you petitioning for?") - but in practice I often forget, my players go straight into RP and thus the petition needs to be sussed out from context. It's not a bad thing, in fact it gives them a little time to change their original intention if they so wish. Which is a little bit like "paper-after-rock," but in a DramaSystem game it really doesn't bother me at all.
  • Paul_T said:

    I see! So you define two “wants” for two other characters (presumably usually PCs?).

    Do you often have more than one Bond on your sheet, then?

    That's the idea! Two "wants", maybe one NPC/game world related bond to.
    But these lazy murderhobos sometimes leave the entire TIBF field blank!
    I'm glad I came up with the idea that I can freeze XP until they check themselves.
    AsIf said:

    You know, you're supposed to ask what the scene framer's "intent" is when beginning each scene (this generally means "what are you petitioning for?") - but in practice I often forget, my players go straight into RP and thus the petition needs to be sussed out from context. It's not a bad thing, in fact it gives them a little time to change their original intention if they so wish. Which is a little bit like "paper-after-rock," but in a DramaSystem game it really doesn't bother me at all.

    Oh, wow, I never knew that. You're right, it's right there on page 26. That doesn't seem to mesh with the examples, including some AP recordings I've heard. I've just been doing the "suss out from context" method all along. I like that better, more natural, more the talking-equivalent-of-finchian (hence lawsian).
  • avram said:

    Also, in my experience, Lisa just really enjoys the in-character “tavern talk.”

    And sometimes, when I think it's time to move on, the players generally don't agree. Now, whether it's "tavern talk" or an "argument" in such cases, I'd have to think back and try to remember. Either way, the thing that tends to make me twitchy as the GM is when there are other players not involved in the scene. Presuming there's not some tight time constraint on the order of "this is a convention game and we have four hours" or "after tonight, two players are away for the next three weeks, and after June, a third is moving across the country", and presuming we're not playing something where it's really important to engage with a particular plot or rule (e.g., we're playtesting a scenario or everyone wants to play DramaSystem and see how the rules work), if the players are all having fun with this, I'm good.

    This may have to do with who my players are, what games I'm running, all of that. And I'm sure it's telling that the two campaigns I'm thinking of are a) the Kerberos Fate game and b) Our Ladies of Sorrow.

    The thing about b) is that the plot of the campaign for that particular run is the medium through which we learned about the characters. (For those who've read the Lymond books, I'm thinking about Queen's Play, where what looks like the B-plot is really the A-plot and vice versa.) And I think we all knew that going in.

    For a) I was going to say something witty about tea and Victorian England, but, remembering the Great Luggage Social Conflict, it may be that a) boils down to the same thing as b). I'm not sure. But I'm fine with the "tavern talk" not being something everyone likes, and with it being not always appropriate.

  • Yeah, that's insightful.

    In the case of Oscar's tavern tea time, we were all there.
    But we only had two sessions to finish the campaign.
    That made me have the GM-twitchiness even though I was only a player.
    In the end, we didn't get very far.
    So we might as well have had tavern tea.
  • Yes, exactly -- there was a time constraint. That matters a lot.
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