A new episode of our Call of Cthulhu - Horror on the Orient Express actual play podcast is now available! Join our investigators on a harrowing mission to uncover a terrible and ancient secret! Find all our episodes here: https://dungeonsdeeprpgs.simplecast.com/
EPISODE 9: A CHANGE OF ASSIGNMENT
The Investigators arrive in France with a trail of bodies left in their wake and the Gendarmerie take notice.
In Setting The Scene Part 1, we covered a couple of ways a Gamemaster could introduce a new scene to their players. Today we're going to take a look into the mid-scene change.
Changing things up mid-scene is a great way to create tension and narrative complexity to your game. In order to do this, however, first you need to have the players split up the party. This is more commonly done in investigative games where everyone is tracking down multiple leads and clues. In a more standard fantasy roleplaying game, there may be large sections where the party is all together. (We will be discussing techniques for splitting up the party in a future post)
A WORD ABOUT TIMING. As Gamemasters, we want to take advantage of
player involvement and immersion to time our mid-scene change. Do you want to change the scene just before the player announces their action or just after? After a dramatic reveal or halfway through an encounter? When the party is split up, it can be a challenge to keep the spotlight moving and keeping all of the players engaged.
One of the challenges of Gamemastering is keeping players involved when their characters are not directly involved in a scene. Some systems, like Star Trek Adventures, do this by having the players switch to support characters when the main characters are not involved in a scene. But for most other systems, you need to control the flow of the spotlight and this may mean cutting mid-scene at a time you didn't plan on!
TYPES OF MID-SCENE CHANGES
There already exists a language for changing scenes, so why not use it? We will discuss scene transitions in Part 3, but the mid-scene change is a bit more complex to pull off and doesn't use every transition technique.
Here are a couple of effective transitions that will work mid-scene. This is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope it will inspire some ideas for your own.
THE SKY WIPE. With a physical camera, a sky wipe is done by panning the
camera up to the sky and then it comes down showing a new location. One way
to do this mid-scene in a tabletop roleplaying game is to have your split party on either side of a
door or other object and you cut between both groups. You can ratchet up the tension by having different complications affecting each group. Another way could be after the party splits up and is entering a location from different vantage points. Ranged combatants will have to exercise caution so as to not get their fellow party members caught by friendly fire!
THE SOUND MARKER. This is a common transition done with physical cameras and can be very effective in tabletop roleplaying games as well: A lone party member in a darkened room lights a torch or match. As you describe the sound of the torch igniting, you then cut away to another scene. Or perhaps the party scout moves ahead of the main group and springs a trap or a wall comes down separating them from the rest of the party. As you describe the sound of the massive stone barrier grinding into place, cut away to a new scene.
As mentioned in Part 1, music is particularly effective in tabletop roleplaying games, especially if you have set themes that you use over and over. In that case, simply playing the theme will indicate to the players that the scene has changed and they will respond with joy! (Or horror!)
Welcome to Jeepers Keepers! We have a lot of ground to cover, so let's jump right in!
"What do you do?" is probably the most-asked question by anyone running a tabletop roleplaying game. It's also one of the most exciting questions, fraught with potential because the answer can be anything. During a Call of Cthulhu session I was running a few years ago, my then-9 year old daughter (who had been listening peripherally), answered, "I turn into a cat and sneak through the window!"
Of course, as we get older, we tend to interpret that question to infer that the answer will be something possible within the rules of the game we are playing but that still a whole lot of wriggle room on the part of the player.
As a Dungeon Master/ Game Master/ Keeper of Eldritch Lore/ Lore Master/ etc we have a very powerful tool in our GMing box that can help us fine-tune that response to a point where we can seem pre-cognitive: setting the scene.
A GM sets the scene in many ways: by revealing a new section of a map laid out before the players, describing strange runes on an ancient door, what lies in the chamber beyond that very door, or a malevolent smile as a player tells you they are opening the door without checking for traps first. A scene can also be set up by playing music (Music is a great way to set up a mid scene change -- more of that in the next post), or in stopping music that was already playing.
Our imagination will go a long way in helping us come up with colorful descriptions, but we also shouldn't turn our nose up at having a list in front of us with key evocative words or even pre-scripted text if it will help add atmosphere and drama. (Yup, there will be posts about that as well)
Let's listen to a couple of examples from Episode 1 of my of actual play podcast running Horror On The Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.
This scene is set up by means of a verbal "establishing shot", a top-down explanation of the world outside the scene itself. The virtual camera then closes in on a specific location (a music hall), and then a specific person (the Player Character). We learn that London is gearing up for the holidays and is in a festive mood even though there hasn't been any snowfall yet. We know the date and time of day. We also learn that the Player Character is a performer.
Here's another example from the same episode:
This scene is set up a little different. We get just the basic details here: a priest is relaxing in his apartment attached to a London parish, reading the newspaper on a Sunday afternoon, when he receives an unexpected telephone call.
One thing that both of these scenes have in common is the lack of the question, "What do you do?" One reason for that is because I typically reserve that question for when I have set up a dilemma for the players (There will be a post on dilemmas coming soon). Since I don't need specific information, I'm willing to wait and let the player carry the story forward. With less experienced players, you may need to plant a bit of action into your setup so that they know that's their cue to act, but more experienced players will interpret that pause as an invitation to join in the storytelling at that point.
Gamemasters will want to exercise caution in how much detail they put into setting up a scene, there are times when you will want (and need) a longer setup, and times when you will want to keep it short and sweet. Very long stretches of read text can feel like you are railroading the players, however, and that they are not contributing to the world at all, just moving through a maze set up by the GM.
I hope you found this short discussion on setting up a scene helpful! There are several other aspects to setting up scenes that will be covered in future posts. How about you? How do you like to set up a scene? Does it differ when you are running a pre-written adventure compared to a home brew one? Comment below and keep the conversation going!
I've been away for a bit, busy with life and all that. I'm currently involved in an ongoing The One Ring campaign that I am having a ton of fun with, we play once a week via Roll20. I'm playing one of the Dwarves of the Lonley Mountain named Nur. I put together a couple of documents to help me role-play a dwarf and I wanted to share them with you all.
I do not take any credit for the information in these documents, it has all been stolen off the interwebs, most of it via straight copy and paste. I just wanted to pull together all of this knowledge on Dwarves to help create and play my character. If anyone has an issue with these documents please let me know and I will pull them down.
The first is a Khuzdul/English document. It has various phrases and words and is divided up into several sections on various topics. Most of this was pulled from a blog called Midgardsmal by David Soto, he worked on MERPS and did some translations of Neo-Khuzdul for the LOTR and Hobbit movies since there was so little original Khuzdul written by Tolkien, his site is awesome so check it out. Here is the document:
The second document is everything I could locate on Dwarves and their history, places of importance, specific Dwarves, their wars and smithing/treasures. Most of this is copied straight from various articles on Tolkiengateway I just wanted everything in a handy document to use while playing. Here is the document:
Today is the day I announce the winner of the DnD Giveaway! There were a total of seven entries,I get to roll my trusty d7 (thanks DCCRPG). The result is a 6!
Looks like Gothridge Manor is our winner! Congratulations and thanks everyone for entering the contest. Gothridge Manor please contact me at jasonc1976 (at) gmail (dot) com with your shipping information and I'll get it shipped out when I return from my vacation (some time after 12/24).
Take care everyone and see you all in the new year! Happy holidays!
So today I have a little something for you all, I mistakenly pre-ordered TWO copies of Xanathar's Guide to Everything for DnD5e. I was a little excited for it and forgot that I had already pre-ordered it when I placed the second order. Yes I'm a geek and a fanboy. In the spirit of the holiday season I am giving away my extra copy to one of my readers.
Make a comment below and I'll enter your name in a random drawing that will be done on Saturday 12/16/2017. I do not promise that it will be shipped in time for Christmas! Good luck to you all and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!