Scene Framing - Real Success in HOW we play


Retired User
So I have been involved with a new gameing group that has really been a refreshing change of pace for me.

I came to the group while they were in the middle of a transition of sorts. Thier GM was black boxing the game and doing all the normal stuff with her own twists and successes. Recently she started playing around with certain concepts that her group has been taking in with great enthusaism. This is where I met them. When I heard about her changes I was excited - people possibly interested in doing something different! I had long been dissatisfied with "you enter a room and you see..." or "The villain does his cool monologue and reveals to you all the crap you missed throughout the year we've been playing."

The changes are subtle and substantial and when I first joined them I really thought there was going to be more whining and knashing of teeth. It turned out that they were REALLY willing to approach these ideas with a spectacularly open mind and most surprisingly were very willing to learn and try and apply new and exciting ways of handling the hobby.

Now let me first say what our collective goals tend to be, as I see it. We're interested in telling a compelling and complex story that highlights the character's relationships and abilities. Character change (not necessarily advancement) is important to the group and they are willing to have their characters fail. They are also keen on adding to the story. They have a lot of fun adding details to the campaign and bringing the stories they are most interested to the forefront. Surprisingly they are interested and willing to engage the rules and are usually disatisfied when they do hit the rules hard and it doesn't really accomplish what it is they are trying to get out of the story.

So what did our GM change? Before, everything was, for the most part, in her hands. She had a grand world laid out and the secret plans of her NPCs, etc. She was really smart and set the game in a colony of a larger, far away continent so she didn't have tons of content to have to keep track of. Now, we pretty much tell her what most interests us and how we'd like to approach the problems. All she does is give us a framework to work within and we basically had a hand in creating the adversaries and their motivations. I can't tell you how jazzed I was to really engage a "villain" knowing that his secret plans were racist and paranoid and going to be REALLY bad if he won. Knowing this as players really mobilized us to want to get things done and gave the GM some fodder for how to complicate these things. For instance, if one PC wanted a relationship with another PC then the big-bad NPC would try and seduce the love interest and get the other PC to support the NPC. Since everything was above board it helped us appraoch the situation with cool story in mind and we didn't have to worry about other players or the GM fooling us into mistakes and such (which always leads to bad feelings).

Another things we changed is that rolls mean something now. It was that we had a lot of rolls with no consequences. So we'd make Perception checks and Knowledge tests etc and if we failed it was like "nope, you just don't know." Now a few things have been altered that REALLY hits the story hard (in a fantastic way). Now if we fail somethins always happens. And we're not getting ambushed by the GM with the consequences. So I might say "Hey, I'd like to see if I see the Duke anywhere around the marketplace so I can confront him." Instead of "nah, the Duke wouldn't be here" she says "Okay, if you succeed you find the Duke and you have a small advantage because you caught him off guard since he was travelling incognito. If you fail the roll then you fall into his palanquin and you're surrounded by his guard. Your the one at the disadvantage and he has a bone to pick with you. Oh, and this is how hard it's going to be." This has been SO powerful and eye opening. It's cool on so many levels. First off we all might breifly discuss the consequences the rolls. We can always back out of a roll (and we call the rolls we want to make, not the GM). And even if we fail something cool is happening. I hated failing before because it was like "oh, so nothing happens or you don't know this important things or SURPRISE, you're f*ked!"

Lastly, we are running in discrete stroy archs. before we had a general idea of where we were going and what it was about. Now we are like "Okay, we have six session to achieve this task and the NPCs are working against us in this very specific way. before it was all guess work and it was frustrating as hell. We'd have to second guess the GM which was silly because a lot of GMs would be like "uh, no, he wasn't doing that." Sure, we have a bit more info to separate from our characters and sometimes we do scens that bring our characters on board with our player info but it's a small price to pay.

Oddly, it all feels so much more mature. not to say we weren't adults with the way we had been playing only months before, but now I feel a distinct sense of trust and the players working together even if the characters are not.

It's been a rewarding experience that I wanted to share and thank this new group for being willing to try new things and changing the way we play for the better.



Retired User
Wow, no comments? Hmmm, I completely misread the community. I really thought we could start a discussion about play style and group dynamics. Is the post too long? :)


Validated User
Part of it might be that your thread title talks about scene framing, but the body of your text talks about stakes setting and flags. So people who want to talk about scene framing find that your conversation isn't about that, and people who want to talk about stakes and flags don't know to click on the thread.

Neel Krishnaswami

Registered User
Validated User
Wow, no comments? Hmmm, I completely misread the community. I really thought we could start a discussion about play style and group dynamics. Is the post too long? :)
Nah, it's more like you said, "We do X. It works. I'm happy." Most people respond to that with "Yay! He's happy!" and that's that.

If you post "We do Y. It doesn't work. I'm sad.", then people will jump in with suggestions to try X (and Q and W and rants about how Y is great and your real problem is that you suck).


Homo Ludens
Validated User
I like the way you play. I am glad for you, mostly because you found a group of open like minded that is not afraid to try something new, is willing to commit, know how to work in cooperation (even if the character's aren't) and that is successfully working for you.

I understand you are embracing conflict resolution over task resolution.

Do you mechanically limit the possible outcomes of conflit to the ability of the characters to influence (through skill, traits, items, …) or are you able to set stakes to influence the setting in other ways not directly related to the characters (stuff traditional reserved to the GM up to and including NPC actions)?

Other than that, I would love to know how do you handle scene framing in your group.


Ivan Sorensen

Amiga fan
Validated User
Sounds like you've found something that makes gaming cool for you.

Me and the guys I game with would find ourselves bored and disinterested by that style, but thats not a problem, since we're happy with our game and you're obviously very happy and enthusiastic about your game :)
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