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Archlyte

Screen Wipes

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Posted (edited)

One of the things I was glad to see in the Core Rulebook when I first started playing this game was screen wipes. I really try to go for a feel of the original trilogy movies as much as possible, while also recognizing that there is a limit to how much you can do that movie pace and depth. I have noticed that as a player and a GM alike that sometimes the description of the GM or the actions of the players can lead to what I call Scene Bloat. This is when a scene is not really paying off or accomplishing anything but one or more of the participants are persisting in keeping it alive and keeping new scenes from starting. 

I find that I see this happen a lot when players/GM don't really know what to do next, or when someone is engaging in weak, small-talk style dialogue. 

I also see that GMs will often do unnecessary Transitional Description Scenes in an attempt to do minute to minute style narration like in the Lord of the Rings books. 

An example would be that if Luke was just saved from the sand people by Ben, in a game they would take 20 minutes as the GM describes getting all the pieces of 3PO, driving the speeder back to Ben's home, and then describing how they come in and what it looks like. In the movie that scene ends up being mainly dialogue and exposition through dialogue and comes in around 4 minutes in length. But the cuts on either side of it help it move well with the rest of the story. 

In playing a scene like that in real time the dialogue isn't written down (assuming Obi Wan isn't an NPC with his lines written down already) so there is some need to allow for improv and being able to think through what to say in the scene. I think this is just par for the course and is to be expected, but if it goes on for long periods of time and if it doesn't involve all of the players it can be tedious. 

I will usually give a scene a chance to do something, but if it isn't paying off in a reasonable amount of real time I will wipe it. My thinking is that there are other opportunities to say something or do something and if there is a clear idea for it the player/GM will work it in later. 

How do you handle screen wipes and what is your philosophy for pacing in Star Wars games?

 

Edited by Archlyte

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I suppose I seek a balance between scenes that have padding and scenes that end with a swipe, and the decision on how to handle a particular scene ending is made at the table. It depends, in part, on how much interest the players show in their surroundings and in the NPCs. Generally, if they are trying to engage an NPC in small talk, then I see that as an opportunity to expand that NPCs role in the current story or moving forward in the campaign as a whole. If the players are engaged, then what they are doing at that moment is more important than the next encounter I have lined up. I will give it a chance to play out, and if it seems to stall, I'll ask around the table if we are all ready to swipe forwards, or if there is anything else anyone wants to accomplish first. Sometimes, it is a player who suggests that we swipe forward, and if all are in agreement, we do.

I suppose the snappy pacing of a movie is not so important to my group, not as much as the developing of social connections. Sometimes we had high tension episodes that moved quickly from scene to scene. Other times, our episodes were more montages of tiny little social interactions with all sorts of NPCs, whoever the players wanted to seek out. You might consider such episodes composed entirely of bloat. I guess it all depends on the type of story your group is interested in telling.

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1 hour ago, jendefer said:

I suppose I seek a balance between scenes that have padding and scenes that end with a swipe, and the decision on how to handle a particular scene ending is made at the table. It depends, in part, on how much interest the players show in their surroundings and in the NPCs. Generally, if they are trying to engage an NPC in small talk, then I see that as an opportunity to expand that NPCs role in the current story or moving forward in the campaign as a whole. If the players are engaged, then what they are doing at that moment is more important than the next encounter I have lined up. I will give it a chance to play out, and if it seems to stall, I'll ask around the table if we are all ready to swipe forwards, or if there is anything else anyone wants to accomplish first. Sometimes, it is a player who suggests that we swipe forward, and if all are in agreement, we do.

I suppose the snappy pacing of a movie is not so important to my group, not as much as the developing of social connections. Sometimes we had high tension episodes that moved quickly from scene to scene. Other times, our episodes were more montages of tiny little social interactions with all sorts of NPCs, whoever the players wanted to seek out. You might consider such episodes composed entirely of bloat. I guess it all depends on the type of story your group is interested in telling.

Hey thanks for your response :) . I like the method you use to determine how to progress and I think in most situations that is the right answer. I also think that the concept of scene bloat is amorphous to whatever you feel is too long, be it characters talking about nothing, shopping, tree-chopping combat, or whatever it is that you find tedious if done too long. 

In the case where you are not all in agreement and say one person wants to continue to mine something that the GM and the other players are done with is it just a grin and bear it sort of deal? 

 

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3 minutes ago, Archlyte said:

In the case where you are not all in agreement and say one person wants to continue to mine something that the GM and the other players are done with is it just a grin and bear it sort of deal? 

 

Since I ask, "Is there anything else anyone wants to accomplish?" the answer generally isn't "I want to keep chit-chatting" or "I want to bludgeon all the adversaries to pieces." The answer is usually something containing a goal, along the lines of, "I want this guy to take my contact information" or "I want to makes sure they are all dead so no one follows us." And once I know that, I can say, "Sure. Done." And then we move on.

Or maybe, the scene was rambling on because I had no idea what the player was trying to accomplish, but once they clarify to me what they want, I can shape it into something engaging, and we all continue to play out the scene in a way that doesn't feel like bloat.

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1 minute ago, jendefer said:

Since I ask, "Is there anything else anyone wants to accomplish?" the answer generally isn't "I want to keep chit-chatting" or "I want to bludgeon all the adversaries to pieces." The answer is usually something containing a goal, along the lines of, "I want this guy to take my contact information" or "I want to makes sure they are all dead so no one follows us." And once I know that, I can say, "Sure. Done." And then we move on.

Or maybe, the scene was rambling on because I had no idea what the player was trying to accomplish, but once they clarify to me what they want, I can shape it into something engaging, and we all continue to play out the scene in a way that doesn't feel like bloat.

I agree that that would constitute a purpose, and it would also make me want to allow them to continue. 

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The funny thing - what some folks might call bloat, my group finds entertaining. Just last week for example - there was some fighting, some "sneak in and around the base" moments and stuff that drove the plot forward, but the majority of the evening was character interaction and color. Now to be fair, we did just start a new campaign a couple of weeks ago, the characters are from really diverse backgrounds and this was the first quite moment they've had after the pilot episode, so we kind of needed that to get the tone and voice of the characters.

But even in older and establish games, many times we've blown an entire evening shopping and doing nonsense. So I guess my answer is if there's no fun to be had, cut the fat. If the players are having a blast, why not run with it?

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4 hours ago, Desslok said:

The funny thing - what some folks might call bloat, my group finds entertaining. Just last week for example - there was some fighting, some "sneak in and around the base" moments and stuff that drove the plot forward, but the majority of the evening was character interaction and color. Now to be fair, we did just start a new campaign a couple of weeks ago, the characters are from really diverse backgrounds and this was the first quite moment they've had after the pilot episode, so we kind of needed that to get the tone and voice of the characters.

But even in older and establish games, many times we've blown an entire evening shopping and doing nonsense. So I guess my answer is if there's no fun to be had, cut the fat. If the players are having a blast, why not run with it?

Thanks for your response Desslok :) . Yeah if it's entertaining then I don't consider it a time to screen wipe, but the pace of TTRPGs can be agonizingly slow and empty at times if everyone isn't mindful of what they are doing. Some shopping I have experienced in game has been fun, while at other times it was shoot-your-face-off boring. I also feel like sometimes there is something to be mined from a scene and other times it's just not gonna happen. The most common thing I have noticed is that sometimes a scene hits it's zenith, it's moment of emphasis where the power of what happened is perfect, and then someone will drag it out until the scene has now become boring because that great high point was washed away by lingering.

Another thing that can be a real killer of story momentum is long transition or travel scenes. Not all such time is bad obviously, but I have seen it really kill the urgency of a story to have long, obligatory travel scenes where the characters are basically waiting.  A friend of mine likes to do Star Wars space travel like the Age of Sail Jump Drives of Traveller. My argument against that is that you don't make journeys of a month or more in something the size of a U-wing or Krennic's Shuttle, and the plot urgency of getting to Eadu is gonna be affected if it takes two weeks to get there.

 

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On 7/29/2019 at 9:18 PM, Archlyte said:

Thanks for your response Desslok :) . Yeah if it's entertaining then I don't consider it a time to screen wipe, but the pace of TTRPGs can be agonizingly slow and empty at times if everyone isn't mindful of what they are doing. Some shopping I have experienced in game has been fun, while at other times it was shoot-your-face-off boring. I also feel like sometimes there is something to be mined from a scene and other times it's just not gonna happen. The most common thing I have noticed is that sometimes a scene hits it's zenith, it's moment of emphasis where the power of what happened is perfect, and then someone will drag it out until the scene has now become boring because that great high point was washed away by lingering.

Another thing that can be a real killer of story momentum is long transition or travel scenes. Not all such time is bad obviously, but I have seen it really kill the urgency of a story to have long, obligatory travel scenes where the characters are basically waiting.  A friend of mine likes to do Star Wars space travel like the Age of Sail Jump Drives of Traveller. My argument against that is that you don't make journeys of a month or more in something the size of a U-wing or Krennic's Shuttle, and the plot urgency of getting to Eadu is gonna be affected if it takes two weeks to get there.

 

That's something i've have also experienced, but I yet to have a solution to catch those moments where I should move on. 

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5 hours ago, Rimsen said:

That's something i've have also experienced, but I yet to have a solution to catch those moments where I should move on. 

Thanks for weighing in Rimsen. I feel like this is something that can be treated like other art in that there are not really rules but there are things that don't work at times, and in other times they become interesting contradictions. I do know that I have found myself becoming extremely impatient in a few recent sessions when somebody is just not reading the situation or the room enough to know they are doing something tedious. I recognize that this is a subjective thing, but if someone is so encased in their own vacuum chamber that they aren't paying attention to the rest of the table it's an issue for me. That's where it becomes bloated and it's starting to drag things down. 

Every group has a sort of mean or average of what they find good enough to be worthwhile, so I know this is a relative thing. 

Also, at times being an interesting player is really hard to accomplish, but if the game is stalling or bogging bad then something must occur. I have used the sudden action scene to deal with this in the past, but I am also not opposed to just asking if people are done and then moving it along. 

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I've really never found a time or place when a "screen wipe" worked. It just feels jarring to me, like something that works well on screen but is awkward and clunky on paper when you're encouraged to describe it to the players. That being said pacing is a difficult issue, especially if you're playing online. You really need to pick up on tones or facial expressions to tell when your players just want things to move along. However, making everything too fast can be just as bad, confusing the players and making them feel rushed. Gauge how your players feel about a scene as best as you can. Lots of pauses and "umm"s usually means you need to get things moving. If they're engrossed in roleplay and talking and laughing, let them. You may even get ideas on the fly from how they interact with the scene and each other to make it deeper and more interesting than you first planned!

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