Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Things I Need To Work On: Pacing and Scene Control

Despite primarily being a GM for the last decade and change, there are some things still I don't do all that well. For example, I suck at in-character voices/accents that aren't absurdly silly. I can do some wonderfully good insect demon, scary little demon girls, and the similar ilk. And at this point, I never going to be a Nicole and master those particular theatrical arts.

However, something, if I'm going to continue being a GM most of the time - I need to work more on my pacing. It showed up in my Exalted game, it showed up in my Changeling game, and it is showing up in my Dresden Files game (oddly enough my Adventure! game didn't have many of those moment, but some of that may be distant hindsight being rose filtered, or a bunch of really awesome players, this being my blog, I'll go with the latter).

So let's talk about what makes a scene. You can get advice all over the place, and admittedly fiction isn't always a good translation to gaming (because you only get one chance, generally to have the scene, and you don't get an editor to review and revise it to make the dialogue sing), the best summary I've seen is that a scene has three purposes:

  1. Establish or reveal facts about a character;
  2. Establish or reveal facts about the setting; or 
  3. Move the plot forward.

It is the third purpose, moving the plot forward, that's my sticking point, as the first one is more dependent on the players as far as establishing facts goes, though certain situations may be engineered to bring that about; and the setting details, I think come out in play fairly clear. But my players are free to argue with me.

I think my problem comes down to the third one, where I'm stuck on how to encourage my players to move the plot forward. One the best examples of this was in my Exalted game, where there was a Big Bad Deathlord, nigh indestructible, though each had an Achilles Heel, through various hijinks it came out that this Big Bad's weakness was Love.

Now me as a ST figured this wouldn't be too difficult a solution. I was willing to go with just about (note that caveat) any solution that fit within the theme of Love, figure out what the Deathlord loved and lost (ala Rosebud), or social-fu her into loving something and using that to defeat her. A session or two pass, and the players are stumped, and I think had gotten to "Puppies are love, right, so let's just throw puppies at her." Shortly they bumped into a Fae, with a sword named "Love", which WAS the Fae's emotional of Love forged into a blade, and many sessions later, we had a PC fake betraying the party to be his love of a previous life, and then slide Love into her.

A bit hokey? Yes. But it seemed the only solution that worked.

Maybe it is just me being bad at figuring out what motivates my players - my Changeling game became synonymous in my head for doing it's best to negate Chandler's Law, every time I'd throw a direct threat with some loose ends for them to follow-up on, they'd negate the direct threat, but ignore the threads. Even when those threads would burn them in following sessions.

Maybe I'm just not blatant enough. Whatever the reason, this is something I'm going to need to focus on so my players stop getting bogged down in the beginning and middle of arcs - just not sure how to do that without it feeling too forced or like a trail bread crumbs for the players to follow.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of when we had to dig under the statue, we tried a whole bunch of stuff to try to be clever and it turns we just needed to dig. I think the Love issue was difficult due to not being able to wrap our brains around what was possible. What's obvious to some is not obvious to all (believe me, I'm pretty oblivious when it comes to reading into things sometimes).

    As for the Changeling game, I think we were too stuck on trying to live out our lives. What people think about IRL (consequences of a decision) does not mean they will think about it in a game.