How do you know a scene has ended?

edited September 2008 in Play Advice
So I've read a bunch of threads about how to frame scenes that are all about how to open the scene. For me, this involves answering the questions: "Where's the scene taking place? Who's in the scene? What are they doing? How do they feel about what's going on?" Naturally formalizing scene framing in this way isn't necessary--scene-framing is something we do pretty intuitively--but thinking about it this way is occasionally helpful to me.

But what about how to end a scene? When does a scene end? What else do we need to know? I'm told //Mist-Robed Gate// has some rules on ending scenes, but know nothing more than that.

Comments

  • When it gets boring.
  • Jesse, I'd say that ideally you want it to end just before it gets boring.
  • When something significant just happened and everyone wants to know what will happen next.

    Seriously.
  • There's a thing called a button. Sometimes, you find the button for the scene and, once that line is said or action taken, the scene is just sort of over with a pop. Recognizing the button is a somewhat difficult skill, but once you start looking for it, it becomes easier to identify.
  • Posted By: Mike SandsJesse, I'd say that ideally you want it to end just before it gets boring.
    I don't always know when that is. All I'm saying is that you definitely end the scene when boredom shows up. There are other times to end it of course.
  • Posted By: Josh RobyThere's a thing called a button. Sometimes, you find the button for the scene and, once that line is said or action taken, the scene is just sort of over with a pop. Recognizing the button is a somewhat difficult skill, but once you start looking for it, it becomes easier to identify.
    I agree.
    Posted By: jessecoombsWhen it gets boring.
    It seems odd that you would wait for them to get boring. I don't want the movies I watch or the books I read to get boring before the scene ends. Keep the action going. I like to end them before they get boring, ideally just after a conflict has resolved, or even as soon as the conflict has been identified...we can come back to it in another scene if there are player characters elsewhere.
  • The main reason that I end up waiting for scenes to get boring is because I get bored faster than the others in my group and often times I'm like "fuck, what the hell is this" and they're happily chattering away about this or that, having a great time and not bored at all.
  • Ending a scene gives weight and import to the last moment of the scene, and gives people time to think about it without the pressure of reacting to it. I use it as a tool to emphasize something awesome and ambiguous.

    Sometimes I want to end a scene, but also continue the scene, for instance. That's no problem: Cut away to some other scene for a little while, then come back to the first scene at exactly the moment you left it. You get all the benefit of ending the scene (i.e. heavy emphasis on the moment you cut away from) and then get to keep moving on from that point.
  • Wow. My brain is somewhere else entirely. I thought this thread would be about punk rock.

    Well, for me a scene is ended when nobody is interested in it continuing. We formalize it with, "Is everyone cool with that scene?" Nods of assent or, "Wait, let's keep going." The only problem I could see with this route if some members of the group aren't jiving with other members of the group in terms of pacing. You know that guy who likes to give long in-character monologues or whatever. But I think that's a seperate issue.
  • My brain is somewhere else entirely. I thought this thread would be about punk rock.
    Me too. My response was gonna be "when Matt Snyder retires."
  • In my view, scenes exist to ask a question. If you (you meaning the person responsible for framing the scene) go into a scene knowing what the question is, then you know when the question has been resolved. End the scene then.

    To put it another way, what's your scene about? Is it about whether the character gets the job she's been after? Is it about the character discovering whether his lover has been cheating on him? Is it about whether the character can stop the captain of the sub before he fires its nuclear warheads?

    When the question has been resolved, the scene is finished.
  • I think this topic could use some experimentation. Like, try to cut the scenes really short for a session and see how it goes. Then try it with longer scenes. It's a matter of pacing, too. Quick cuts gives a faster pace, and long scenes give more of a slow, calm feel.
  • If you're going for a calm feel, you could try to imitate play structure

    All scenes have a unity in place and time, that is, they take place in one particular spot and happen in real time (so super-slow-paced things like research or repairs or whatever happen off-stage, outside of scenes). A scene begins when one or more characters walk on stage, and ends when there are no characters on stage. Of course, in the middle, more people can arrive and leave as needed.
  • I think it's easier for outsiders to see when a scene's ended. Ending scenes can be a useful skill for players who aren't involved.

    Graham
  • James, MRG says, "Here are things that this genre is interested in seeing happen. A scene is over when one of them happens, not zero or two." It's specific for that genre - you want scenes to end after action but before the action's fallout, so you can see the fallout unfold in later scenes.

    It's very genre-specific, pacing-specific, etc. Basically, I feel like what you need to know is the rhythm of the genre - not just the beginnings of measures, but the middles and ends too.

  • What Thor says. Why did you frame the scene in the first place?

    Scene framing as a concept doesn't work as well, I don't think, for the "let's have our guys talk for a while" kind of play, where you start going and see if anything emerges from it. It can be like rolling a die to see if you have fun.
  • I agree with Shreyas here. The pacing of a story is very genre-specific (and even without a specific genre, you have different mood for different scenes, and the pace of a story is usually better if you have scenes of different length instead of a uniform one ). If the system don't give you specific rules (or at least guidelines) for it all you can do is playing it "by the ear" until you learn what work for your group in that situation/genre.
  • Tony speaks wisdom.

    I think you can probably cut a scene at any point where something significant has just happened or been said, with the knowledge that you can always cut back if someone feels that it isn't fully resolved yet. Just don't end on a dull, nothing moment.
  • Posted By: shreyasJames, MRG says, "Here are things that this genre is interested in seeing happen. A scene is over when one of them happens, not zero or two." It's specific for that genre - you want scenes to end after action but before the action's fallout, so you can see the fallout unfold in later scenes.
    I think this side-steps the issue that in genres other than Story Games, there are scenes that don't include action, and don't resolve anything.

    Structuring a game so that every scene must have some sort of vital action which is its purpose and point ... well, it makes for a certain type of driven, intense game but it's not the only possibility out there. The whole notion, frankly, is very limiting. I like many of the games that come out of this driven, intense style, but they're not the only thing I like. I wonder if, perhaps, some discussion is merited on other models of how to set, open, play and end scenes ... though that's probably a tangent. Maybe I'll start a new thread.
  • Yes, a scene ends when it fulfills it's purpose. If it's a conflict scene, then when the conflict is resolved. If it's a montage scene (or Building Scene a la Burning Empires) then it ends when its clear the thing built has been put into play. If it's a character background scene, same deal. I'm with Thor and Matt -- it's about why the scene was frame to begin with. Sometimes, you can discover this in play but it's important that everyone understand that that's what they're looking for, otherwise it will flop around and never feel resolved.
  • Shreyas, thank you very much, that's quite helpful.
  • Posted By: TonyLBPosted By: shreyasJames, MRG says, "Here are things that this genre is interested in seeing happen. A scene is over when one of them happens, not zero or two." It's specific for that genre - you want scenes to endafter actionbut before the action's fallout, so you can see the fallout unfold in later scenes.
    I think this side-steps the issue that in genres other than Story Games, there are scenes that don't include action, and don't resolve anything.Tony, I think Shreyas put two thoughts next to each other and you put them together when they were meant to be separate. A lot of the things on that list in MRG are not action-oriented or conflict-driven.
  • I could totally be misinterpreting Shreyas. I still think that a lot of folks are pushing for scenes being purposed from the start in a way that's quite constrained ... not bad, not wrong, not un-fun, but only one workable way of doing things, among many. Probably a new thread in me about that, later this evening.
  • Posted By: TonyLBI could totally be misinterpreting Shreyas. I still think that a lot of folks are pushing for scenes beingpurposedfrom the start in a way that's quite constrained ... not bad, not wrong, not un-fun, but onlyoneworkable way of doing things, among many. Probably a new thread in me about that, later this evening.
    Yes, I usually prefer to frame scene as "let's see what these two characters would do if they meet" for example, without knowing from the start what they will do.
  • Exactly, Moreno, those scenes are great fun, but how am I to know when they're over? Boredom, as noted above, doesn't work that well.
  • In Esoterrorists, Robin suggests that the GM has a piece of card with SCENE written on it, and the GM should hold it up when the scene is finished. We also have end of scene musical stings for the purpose. The GM knows when the scene is over when the PCs have all the information from that scene, and character interaction is no longer productive.
  • edited September 2008
    I think it makes a more interesting game if scenes are always framed because the players know the elements have some potential purpose or conflict. The details don't have to be explicitly stated, but the potential should be there.

    So about the "let's see what these two characters would do if they meet" method -- I would only frame this if I felt the characters has some potential tension, or if I thought I could put them in a situation where they faced an outside challenge that brought them together or might put them at cross-purposes.

    Once a scene starts, I look for the characters to establish what they want from the encounter -- their scene goals. If this doesn't happen soon, I cut the scene or more often throw something new into it. Once scene goals pop up, I look for the moment when one or more is addressed in a way that is 1) meaningful to the players, and 2) irreversible within the premise of the scene. Then the scene's over.
  • You don't have to know what you want to happen in the scene. You just have to know why you're having the scene at all.
  • Tony - the correct interpretation of my post is, "Hey James, this is how my game works! That's my analysis of that genre! For other genres it's necessary to figure out different rhythms."

  • Hmmmm...

    I'd love to hear some feedback about this from the (theatre) improv folks. I mean, if you're going into a full-on improv scene, you don't know who's who or where they're coming from, but somehow people have to know when to end the scene. What kinds of principles do they use? Any rules of thumb? Ideas of things to look for?
  • Posted By: Paul T.if you're going into a full-on improv scene, you don't know who's who or where they're coming from, but somehow people have to know when to end the scene. What kinds of principles do they use?
    I think many improv groups have their scenes ended by people not in the current scene. It's better to end on a high note and people on the sidelines often have a better feel for how the scene is going (downhill) than the players focused on their character.
  • That's great advice! I've been doing that in one of my game designs, and it does work pretty well there.
  • edited September 2008
    When everyone agrees simultaneously that a scene must end, why the scene must end is a moot point. You can improve the chances of agreement by indoctrinating people into the same sense of aesthetics (which can be anything). But when successful, no one will be asking when a scene should end, because that's predetermined and obvious. So when it gets to the point of asking, power distribution trumps aesthetics.
Sign In or Register to comment.