How would you run a large scene?


  • Admin

    Many of us dislike large public scenes - for the purposes of this I'd say any planned scene meant for more than five people counts.

    So yeah, I dislike them too. But I'd like us to think past our bias against such scenes and consider if there are ways to make them work; that means I'm not looking for "I HATE THEM, LET'S NOT EVER HAVE THEM" replies because that's not conductive to having a debate.

    In my view the biggest problems with such events are the following:

    1. Spam. There's too much stuff going on to keep track of everything.

    2. Lack of purpose. Many of them don't give people things to do, so after the entrance grand-poses they idle away.

    3. Spotlight. Some people want to showcase their stuff which is hard to do when there are seven people in the room.

    In semi-random order some suggestions to open the floor:

    • Places. Either they exist or the scene shouldn't be. Break the big thing down into manageable sub-parts - just like in a real party or meeting. In real life you're not part of every conversation, you're part of smaller clusters of people having a chat, moving on to mingle, etc.

    • Very liberal rules (if any) about posing order. Three-pose rule (or even one-pose rule) are mandatory IMHO. You have to account for the fact some people will go AFK or idle a lot, they shouldn't become bottlenecks.

    • Someone must be willing to step up and organize the scene a bit IC/OOC. The lines can blur between the two to facilitate its flow - script it if they must ('each of us will get a turn to tell us How To Fight The Orcs') or just address specific people to get them involved ('Bob, what do you think we should do about the Orcs?') but free form leads to madness and boredom since fewer players are proactive than ones who take initiative.

    • Pre-set a scene duration. It's fine if it's so great and active it goes over that limit - that means it's working - but don't let it drag on. Two hours is a reasonable threshold, once you reach it everyone thanks each other and goes home.

    What would you do to facilitate large gatherings?


  • Pitcrew

    Consider what ACTUALLY needs to be done in a real-time scene, and what can be pre-loaded or distributed in other ways. Instead of having to wait for people to announce each point of business and then wait for people to react and discuss it, instead, give those things out in advance, then divide the player base, as you mentioned, into places or rooms to discuss/react/counter to each point. If it's a factional game, then let people divide meaningfully by faction to interact, then designate one or a few people to carry the faction's consensus to the floor (along with a dissenting opinion, if it's thematic, or someone just wants to buck the consensus).



  • This might largely depend upon Genre but the way I handled it was by simple tasks:

    1. Outline with the players what they think they are doing, and what objectives the feel are needed to achieve that goal.

    2. Determine what is necessary and what is not. Is Bob going only because he has that one ability that they need at this one point in time? Let Bob handle that off-screen or do something with him in a scene separate that runs in tandem. Use this information to break a large group down. Are Bill and Maria going because they are to disrupt communications with their jammer? Let them join Bob in a side-scene.

    3. Limit it to five people per group.

    4. If a person is non-responsive when their turn is called for posing or rolls, skip them. They are considered overwhelmed IC and unsure about what to do. If the afk was noted ahead of time, consider them delaying their action - if they are smart they told you what they wanted to do ahead of time. But always keep the flow of the scene moving.

    5. All complaints with rules calls or other like discussions take place after the scene. Anyone doing so during the scene is removed or welcome to leave. No arguments.

    6. Lastly focus on fun and story over dice.


  • Pitcrew

    When I ooc facilitated court scenes on RfK I had a working agenda live doc, I was giving people cues/prompts behind the scenes and kept a running live log of the court for latecomers/people who couldn't make it but needed business taken care of to keep up and let me know if they needed additional time/info shared.

    I encouraged introductions and info dumps to be pre written and most people did, and since I was time keeper if someone was inattentive/Afk and not responding to prompts I skipped them and things went on until they could jump back in on my mark.

    Maybe people blew smoke up my ass, but we did get a lot of compliments on the timeliness/respect for players' time and organization. People could bring up spur of the moment stuff, and it could get heard without 3 hours of intros/waiting around.

    I think ooc organizer for business scenes is essential, and it's helpful if it's not the person ICly running it, so they can concentrate and pay attention to what people are writing and respond in turn instead of fielding time management tasks and losing things in the sea of pages, ect.

    Edited to add: my PC was a ghoul and therefore not someone needed to be active in scene with no pressure to need to rp. So no danger of what can happen if you have an organizer helper who is then going to get dinged because "omg you didn't play with/respond to me when I posed to you" or "why do you have x position you just sit in court scenes and don't do anything." :)


  • Coder

    I strongly dislike places code. If you're going to do places, you might as well just be in separate MUSH rooms. Less obtrusive. But I haven't seen a lot of trouble with people making and managing their own sub-groups naturally, even when they're in the same room.

    But yes, in general I agree with the rest of it and would add:

    Skip the fluff. Summarize boring parts in a "moving right along..." type pose. Weddings are a prime example of this (OMG how I hate wedding scenes). One round of poses can summarize most - if not all - of the ceremony.

    Start poses with your name instead of an emit. It makes it a lot easier to see who's doing what and keep track of the smaller sub-groups. Setting up a client-side highlighter for your character name can also help you avoid missing people talking to you.

    Keep it moving. If you're the organizer and someone's holding things up, take charge. Pose around them. Don't let things stall or you'll have a lot of bored and frustrated players on your hands.


  • Admin

    @Jaded said:

    1. Outline with the players what they think they are doing, and what objectives the feel are needed to achieve that goal.

    How though? Most of the time players are invited to the scene, they might not even know what it's about ('Invictus meeting!') and the person inviting them won't know in advance who's coming or not.

    1. Determine what is necessary and what is not. Is Bob going only because he has that one ability that they need at this one point in time? Let Bob handle that off-screen or do something with him in a scene separate that runs in tandem. Use this information to break a large group down. Are Bill and Maria going because they are to disrupt communications with their jammer? Let them join Bob in a side-scene.

    How do you deal with what-ifs? You know, maybe Bob has nothing to bring up that can't be handled offline or one or one, but Jim has a thing that'll make Bob explode. You can't know that in advance unless you, for all intents and purposes, run the scene OOC and just let the results be known IC afterwards. Not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, by the way, just pointing it out.

    1. Limit it to five people per group.

    That seems arbitrary. Who do you leave out if they want to be there without making them feel excluded?

    1. If a person is non-responsive when their turn is called for posing or rolls, skip them. They are considered overwhelmed IC and unsure about what to do. If the afk was noted ahead of time, consider them delaying their action - if they are smart they told you what they wanted to do ahead of time. But always keep the flow of the scene moving.

    Agreed.

    1. All complaints with rules calls or other like discussions take place after the scene. Anyone doing so during the scene is removed or welcome to leave. No arguments.

    Agreed with the disclaimer that it's not always clear who's 'in charge' of the scene - perhaps it should be - and that it's very complicated to do that sort of thing retroactively. I.e. Bob used mind control on Jim in a contested way, the person running it thinks it's legitimate... and afterwards staff point out the rules clearly state that was a no-no. What do you do, retcon the meeting out? A few hours of everyone's lives there just went to waste.

    1. Lastly focus on fun and story over dice.

    Agreed, but that's not everyone's cup of tea. Some people want dice, it's not fair to tell them they can't ever have it if they're to have a large scene (especially if those scenes decide on important things).


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday My favorite places code -- and the first time I came into contact with it -- was written by Schmitt at the now-closed Second Pass MUSH. It didn't make the groups' poses invisible to each other, but rather players could join an area in the room and then their poses could be started with a colored phrase location, such as "At the bar" or "Near the window" or something like that. Each place would have a different color. So it made it a lot easier for people to keep track of who was in their general vicinity but everyone's poses were still visible to everyone else, which made it easier for people to drift between groups and know what was going on.

    Schmitt had several little code tools on Second Pass that I loved. I wish I had access to them!


  • Coder

    @Roz said:

    It didn't make the groups' poses invisible to each other, but rather players could join an area in the room and then their poses could be started with a colored phrase location, such as "At the bar" or "Near the window" or something like that. Each place would have a different color. So it made it a lot easier for people to keep track of who was in their general vicinity but everyone's poses were still visible to everyone else, which made it easier for people to drift between groups and know what was going on.

    I like that a lot better, but it still wouldn't solve my two biggest gripes about places code, which are a- it requires special commands to pose, which means b- nobody ever wants to use it. Also c- it's a pain to set up and limits you to only certain places, though if you allowed it to be more freeform that wouldn't necessarily be so much of a problem.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said:

    @Roz said:

    It didn't make the groups' poses invisible to each other, but rather players could join an area in the room and then their poses could be started with a colored phrase location, such as "At the bar" or "Near the window" or something like that. Each place would have a different color. So it made it a lot easier for people to keep track of who was in their general vicinity but everyone's poses were still visible to everyone else, which made it easier for people to drift between groups and know what was going on.

    I like that a lot better, but it still wouldn't solve my two biggest gripes about places code, which are a) it requires special commands to pose, which means b) nobody ever wants to use it. But that's definitely an improvement.

    Ah, yeah, you did need to make slight adjustments. Schmitt had it so you just swapped @emit to +emit and : to +: at least. It was a bit less complicated.


  • Admin

    The other thing I'd really like to be rid of is the idea that people 'hate' to pose in a scene. If you have nothing to pose you should never have to just to 'keep the flow'.

    For instance a scene I was in recently had a pose like this: "Bob has nothing to say now so he will just wait until later to tell Jane some things". I am not even paraphrasing much at all! That basically only adds spam to the scene and offers nothing to anyone else; there's nothing to hook onto or to respond to, it's just... white words on a black background.



  • @Arkandel said:

    @Jaded said:

    1. Outline with the players what they think they are doing, and what objectives the feel are needed to achieve that goal.

    How though? Most of the time players are invited to the scene, they might not even know what it's about ('Invictus meeting!') and the person inviting them won't know in advance who's coming or not.

    Ideally this scene was already organized via a job or with discussion with the major parties. Everyone has a spokesperson and if not then as a staff person it is your responsibility to nudge towards this organization. If necessary get them together early and find out what their goals and aims are. If they have only a general idea then it might be a good idea to recommend they have a pow wow, reschedule the scene, and come back to it later.

    1. Determine what is necessary and what is not. Is Bob going only because he has that one ability that they need at this one point in time? Let Bob handle that off-screen or do something with him in a scene separate that runs in tandem. Use this information to break a large group down. Are Bill and Maria going because they are to disrupt communications with their jammer? Let them join Bob in a side-scene.

    How do you deal with what-ifs? You know, maybe Bob has nothing to bring up that can't be handled offline or one or one, but Jim has a thing that'll make Bob explode. You can't know that in advance unless you, for all intents and purposes, run the scene OOC and just let the results be known IC afterwards. Not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, by the way, just pointing it out.

    In the case of PVP you have to have it on screen. There's no off-screening that there, but in that case Bob and Jim can still be held separately from the others - but that point leave it up to the players to decide that then - in case they want an overwatch on Bob. As for the what-ifs, you're the ST - make a call on the fly and handle it the best way you think it should be handled. If you are presented with information that would drastically alter the scene in progress time stop it and figure out the next moves and how it impacts people before resuming.

    1. Limit it to five people per group.

    That seems arbitrary. Who do you leave out if they want to be there without making them feel excluded?

    This is why breaking into sub groups is beneficial. It avoids this in most cases. Not all - in that case you leave that up to the players, let them decide the usefulness of their companion's presence.

    1. If a person is non-responsive when their turn is called for posing or rolls, skip them. They are considered overwhelmed IC and unsure about what to do. If the afk was noted ahead of time, consider them delaying their action - if they are smart they told you what they wanted to do ahead of time. But always keep the flow of the scene moving.

    Agreed.

    1. All complaints with rules calls or other like discussions take place after the scene. Anyone doing so during the scene is removed or welcome to leave. No arguments.

    Agreed with the disclaimer that it's not always clear who's 'in charge' of the scene - perhaps it should be - and that it's very complicated to do that sort of thing retroactively. I.e. Bob used mind control on Jim in a contested way, the person running it thinks it's legitimate... and afterwards staff point out the rules clearly state that was a no-no. What do you do, retcon the meeting out? A few hours of everyone's lives there just went to waste.

    No retcons. The first thing is, did they bring this up after the scene? If so then something can be done to mediate immediately. If it's later and they finally say something - well they're past the window of complaint and you don't owe them anything. But for a resolution, be creative. Get Bob and Jim together. Tell them the mistake, and then find a compromise. Maybe while Bob was putting the mind voodoo to Jim, Jim was sucked into Bob's head for a little bit and he saw and discovered some interesting things. Things Jim can use to make Bob's life miserable for awhile.

    1. Lastly focus on fun and story over dice.

    Agreed, but that's not everyone's cup of tea. Some people want dice, it's not fair to tell them they can't ever have it if they're to have a large scene (especially if those scenes decide on important things).

    Don't exclude dice. But don't let them overwhelm the scene. Sure it might be nice to have your mighty Uratha NPC beat a PC to death because hey its the World of Darkness, but frankly that's not fun. Instead get creative, and snake punch that PC's eye out and have your bad guy yell, "Gotcher eye!" or "Eye scream, you scream!" or something. Maiming, crippling, delimbing, and other things are always great and viable substitutions.

    GM with the thought - what does not kill them, should bring you laughter. Cackling joyous laughter.

    I'm deranged.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel said:

    For instance a scene I was in recently had a pose like this: "Bob has nothing to say now so he will just wait until later to tell Jane some things". I am not even paraphrasing much at all! That basically only adds spam to the scene and offers nothing to anyone else; there's nothing to hook onto or to respond to, it's just... white words on a black background.

    But if I'm sitting at a table with Bob and Jane having a conversation, my natural inclination in any MUSH environment is to wait until Bob has a chance to react. Sure you can wave the "3 pose rule" banner to permit RP to continue, but if Bob makes it clear he has nothing to add (through a nods quietly pose or an OOC aside) then I'm going to proceed with my pose much faster than if he didn't.


  • Admin

    @faraday said:

    But if I'm sitting at a table with Bob and Jane having a conversation, my natural inclination in any MUSH environment is to wait until Bob has a chance to react. Sure you can wave the "3 pose rule" banner to permit RP to continue, but if Bob makes it clear he has nothing to add (through a nods quietly pose or an OOC aside) then I'm going to proceed with my pose much faster than if he didn't.

    IMHO that's a very bad inclination in large scenes. Their pace is already way off from normal roleplay, the last thing they need is one idle person slowing everything down to a crawl.

    Pacing is your ultimate resource when you're in scenes like that. Lose it and it will become a dreadful exercise in patience and anger management, you need to just keep the ball moving and stuff flowing.


  • Coder

    I'm pretty sure we've asked this question before. I don't think my advice was well liked then either, but eh. Coming from someone that has ran large scenes consisting of 20+ people, or scenes in shadowrun that used decking, magic, astral and combat all at once, or scenes that were split into several different groups at once, this is my take on the matter.

    As it pertains to the storyteller themselves

    1. You have got to understand your rules. I can't even begin to express the annoyance that players and other staff alike feel when you're trying to limp along in a scene where it's obvious you haven't read a single fucking book. Just stop. Learn first, Run scenes second.
    2. You have got to stop worrying about making everyone feel good. Yes, the scene should be fun. Yes, people should feel valued. However, if you spend the time necessary to deal with absolutely everything and everyone in the scene during the scene then that scene will take days.
    3. It is okay to shunt rewards and info dumps to job or @mail. Not everything has to be given during the course of the scene if it's not directly pertinent to current events.
    4. Pay attention. More than players, this is your only job. If you can't pay attention, don't run the scene.
    5. Don't be afraid to say no. If you can only deal with 3 people, say no. If you really don't want that rock to be more than a rock, say it's just a rock. If you really don't want someone to solve everything on their own, say no. It's okay. It's okay to say no.

    As it pertains to posing

    1. It is okay to let players pose your NPC's reactions at times. You do not need to pose a skeleton's reaction to being killed. Let the player have fun with it.
    2. If it's a truly large scene that will take time, put a time limit on poses. Then enforce it. And don't feel bad about it at all. Let them pose when they can get to it.
    3. On the other hand, if you put a time limit on poses, you have to be available to answer questions. Nobody appreciates missing a pose because you were too busy to answer a question.
    4. Remind people when it's their turn to pose. Scenes can get fast, it's okay for players to lose their place. Just because your game has a pose tracker doesn't mean you should rely on it. Do some work for yourself.

    As it pertains to PVP

    1. If you have to handle preparations, do it by job. Otherwise your first day or hours will be nothing but you emulating a very accurate micromanaging clock.
    2. The first thing you do at a PVP scene is ask what they hope to achieve with the kill. I guarantee you that the players involved will shit their pants and gape. Nobody ever asks that.
    3. PVP scenes are tense enough as it is. As staff, you have to take a firm stance. You cannot entertain arguments during PVP. As many people know, I am the king of the giant red warning banner. It clearly states I'm gonna do this thing and we aren't going to discuss rules until after all is said and done. That's as much for the players involved as it is for the staff, because otherwise it devolves into days upon days of minutiae. Been there, won the t-shirt.
    4. Really, your job as staff is in some part to avoid the kill. If you can do that (GMC is especially about this) then you should. Don't be afraid to negotiate with your players. Sometimes the only reason the kill is happening is because one or both players don't see alternative options.

    As it pertains to stories in general

    1. Running a scene is about giving the players something to experience. It is not necessarily about making them feel awesome. I've ran just as many combat scenes as I have investigation scenes as I have horror scenes.
    2. Know your audience. Don't give knowledge guy a gun and expect him to kill things. If he wanted that kind of RP, he probably wouldn't have made a knowledge pc.
    3. It's okay to make things up on the cuff. I mean, we all plan these things way in advance right!? Right!
    4. Don't think too much about enemy design. Primarily, worry about the story leading up to the enemies. That's more important than the enemy itself being hard to conquer.
    5. Sometimes enemies don't need to roll a lot of dice, they just need to use a mechanic that makes people think. Like RFK's Queen of the Damned or Changeling Killer plot.

    The most important rule though is if you aren't having fun, don't bother running a scene. Your scene is a reflection of yourself first and foremost.


  • Admin

    @Alzie I don't see why your suggestions wouldn't go over well. They sound reasonable.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel said:

    @Alzie I don't see why your suggestions wouldn't go over well. They sound reasonable.

    This is a different crew now but it was my view on PVP.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel said:

    IMHO that's a very bad inclination in large scenes. Their pace is already way off from normal roleplay, the last thing they need is one idle person slowing everything down to a crawl.

    It depends on the scene. If it's a big party scene, there's no reason why the idleness of someone at a side table would slow down the scene for everyone.

    I also tend to run big combat scenes, and my +combat code has a pose tracker that lets me nudge players who haven't posed their turn yet. I give them a couple minutes and then move on without them.

    I agree that pacing is key, but I still think it's courteous to give people a chance to respond - up to a point. There's a balance. It's helpful to know that the person you're waiting on isn't going to do anything.


  • Coder

    @Arkandel

    I still find that large scenes tend to organically become several smaller scenes. Sometimes one person will make one three-screen pose responding to everything, but that's their style. It throws me off.

    @faraday

    I strongly dislike places code. If you're going to do places, you might as well just be in separate MUSH rooms. Less obtrusive. But I haven't seen a lot of trouble with people making and managing their own sub-groups naturally, even when they're in the same room.

    I have some kind of mental issue that means the more the screen scrolls, the less I can focus on it, but being in Places in the same room means you can react to outbursts, or that you can be involved in the larger scene at your own leisure, which is a feature.

    I'll agree with @Roz that showing poses with prefixes would help that a lot, so long as it's not ANSI confetti vomit.

    Hell, in "mandatory meetings" I end up group-paging people OOCly to keep from walking away from the terminal until someone tells me it's over, because that shit is so boring.

    Skip the fluff.

    We need a montage! If you don't follow Johnny Wander, start here for a 10-part quick summary about going overseas to get married. It's also a lot of fun, so.

    Finally: I will tell people to pose around me if I'm not interested in the scene, and I will tell people who submit '3pr' that I will pose when I'm damned good and ready, and if I get ignored because of "pose-queueing" I will mention it then leave. Improv, people! Do you speak it!


  • Pitcrew

    Rule zero of large scenes to me: determine what the purpose of the scene is, and keep everyone focused on that goal. Assertively if need be.

    Social scenes frequently devolve into piles of meaningless desc frivolity, several ongoing conversation, and no sense of cohesion. This works great if you are doing a general mixer, even if it becomes a spam magnet. It fails terribly in a vampire court scene, the judgment of four nobles accused of treason, or any kind of plot scene. I tend to avoid large scenes like the plague because of poor scene and time management.

    So, a successful social scene needs a few elements not already mentioned.

    1. Hack out introductory fluff and arrivals. Start in the height of the action. We're here for a wedding? Pose the ritual and get it over with. An assassin is trying to kill Jedi Loonyarfsa? Get to it.

    2. Someone's appointed to bring new arrivals up to speed. A general what's going on post helps. Reward this person with cookies and appreciation.

    3. Parking lot via +request. Good ideas go to a job. Extraneous requests go to a job. Rolls for various things go to a job. Get that out of your screen to focus on later, without losing the thread of a character or player's good idea. I find this follow up is easier when I'm not distracted 72 ways.

    4. Ban OOC commentary to a channel. Use OOC for clarifications, rules, notifications.

    5. Pose limits. I watched someone swan
      into a 12 person scene and drop a 3 paragraph limelight theft pose. The character was not participating in the action particularly much. Have no fear about asking people to rein it in.

    6. Ask if the large scene is wholly necessary. Ask if players really need to pose between main poses. Otherwise prepare the players who have to talk in advance, and keep them moving to respect everyone's time. @Mietze was something of a master for balancing these things in court scenes, from what I can tell.

    If that scene isn't necessary, then farm it out through other media. Use other storytellers to spread out and coordinate what is going on.



  • I think any massive scene that is a mass-combat scene needs smaller, more concise poses. GMs and other players don't have the time to pick through a ton of colorful language, descriptions of how they feel, etc while trying to get the important details from mass combat poses. We did pretty good with this on the BSG-themed games.

    • WHAT are you doing?
    • WHO are you addressing in dialogue?
    • WHAT are you attempting to achieve?

    To get that information across, please please please don't provide a two-paragraph pose that starts with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

    As for mass-social scenes, there really are no good alternatives other than to break up the social scenes into pockets of activity, use some kind of +place code, or make sure every player has their client coloring their name (and that players are making sure to use the NAME of the person they're addressing in every pose.) During mass-social scenes, almost everyone wants to showcase their character in some fashion.


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