This is a basic guide for structuring and running scenes on DCAMU* or any other game. These are only suggestions meant to aid in the process, and should not be taken as requirements.
It helps to think of a scene as having four phases, each of which will be detailed below. Thinking of a scene as having this kind of structure can help with pacing. For example, if you know your group has four hours to play, you'll want to make sure you start Phase II by the time your first hour has passed, to ensure there's enough time there to get through the meat of the scene and not have to end abruptly.
Phase I: Exposition
- This part of the scene is all about introducing the location and the objective (the problem at hand or the problem about to develop). Generally, one begins with an introductory pose to set up the situation. The set-up can be several minutes before the excitement happens, precisely at the moment the excitement starts or already in the middle of the burgeoning action (in medias res). Let the players have one if not two pose rounds to explain how his or her character is involved. This time will also enable them to set their characters in position for the core of the scene. At this point, the premise of the scene should be clear to the players.
- Note: Scene balance is important. If you have three non-powered characters in a scene, throwing Darkseid at them is unlikely to be fun or fair. Or, if an attack is happening in the air or up on a high building, make sure that characters have a means to get to the action, or can assist others into the fray.
Phase II: Rising Action
- This is usually the longest part of the scene. In this portion you should bring out the villain(s) or obstacles that bring conflict to the heroes, if they were not revealed in the introduction. A struggle, an argument, a chase, a fight; these are all valid threats. Once you have a good flow going, this can be a good place to add a twist in the story or a temporary defeat, as long as it isn't a scene-buzzkill. It should just be a bit of spice or excitement to enhance the steady buildup to the next phase.
- While it is good to have a firm idea of what your scene is about, being flexible is also important. Players will always come up with novel ways to deal with a threat. Combat might occur in a non-combat scene or vice versa. I find it is generally best to err on the side of what would be awesome.
Phase III: The Climax
- The final confrontation. Solving the mystery or finding the prize. The decisive blow, the capture or, possibly, the escape of the threat.
- This is when the questions raised by the premise introduced in Phase I should be answered, regardless of whether the hero 'saves the day' or not. The goal is not to 'win the scene' but to have an interesting and fun time during the entire ride. For example, if a villain gets away, the hero-player has not lost a prize--he's won the opportunity to feel more personally motivated in the future when they clash again, as they invariably will.
Phase IV: Falling Action
- Once the situation is dealt with, leave a little room for a short wind-down, allowing the heroes a chance to reflect on the situation or touch base with each other or deal with casualties or speak with authorities or make a dopey parting quip to close the scene. While the formally run scene itself may end at this point, it'll give the characters involved something to talk about, follow up on or fume about as they plot revenge which will spur further roleplay.
- Of course, this is a good place to stick an additional hook for a future scene if you'd like to do a continuing story or a sequel.
- If you end up with a roster of characters that are more powerful than the threat you have presented, it is perfectly okay to rebalance as you go to keep things fun and challenging. A villain can call in minions, or perhaps another villain was busy doing other things and joins in late. Some caution should be exercised; this is meant to avoid having the scenario end within two rounds. You should not randomly pull in a new threat just to defeat characters who are fairly saving the day.
- Sometimes in the course of a scene, players need to drop out for various reasons. Ideally, there will be some fore-warning and this can be worked into the scene; having the character knocked out, or called away, or some other excuse as to why they can no longer be present. Occasionally the player will also give permission to have their character used as an NPC for the rest of the scene, if the scenario does not allow for a graceful exit.
- There is the option of pausing and picking up later, although in general I do not favour this because with scenes that have a larger population it can be very difficult to get everyone together again to continue in a timely manner. Leaving people scene-locked is never fun, so if this route is taken my suggestion is to have the scene not IC'ly occur until it is finished.
- Finally, if you want to run a scene but find your inspiration lacking, the +hook machine is there to provide scene prompts. These do not have to be followed verbatim, it is just a tool to help get the creative juices flowing.
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