Scene Framing

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Role-playing typically isn't set in only one single scene, all session long. Instead, at least once and usually a lot more, everyone at the table shifts the action and events of play to a new place, rather than wherever they were before. There's a transition for the characters and also for the real people. The whole group's attention to play has "jumped" to this new visual and verbal experience of fictional location, and sometimes to a later time.

How much transition of this kind are you accustomed to in your group? In film terms, how drastically do you guys "cut"? Have you ever skipped across an ocean? Skipped over several months of time? Have you hopped right into action? There's no single right answer for how to do it, or how much. The point is that role-playing does this a lot, and strangely, most role-playing game texts don't explain how to do it. You might not realize how many ways there are!

A group can get into real trouble if they don't know how to do it. The simplest way is for one person to say so, but in practice, that tends to break down a bit because people are rightly concerned about how much power this particular feature of fiction really exerts.

Even if one person is acknowledged to be in charge of it, the group can still work together on scene framing. A central GM might say, "I'd like to skip to halfway through the sea voyage," and if no one pipes up about wanting to do something before that point, the group just goes with it. Or maybe it's more character-driven, and most scene shifts are based off players' announcements of what their characters want to do next. As long as no one is riding roughshod over what someone else might have wanted to consider doing, and as long as it's clear which person has real and final authority over any such decision, then scene framing ends up being extremely painless.

Once a group hits upon a functional language and set of trust about scene framing, its gaming changes drastically - no more acrimony about where the characters are and whether they could have got there or would have done something before being there, ever again.


A GM-task in which many possible Techniques are used to establish when a sequence of imaginary events begins and ends, what characters are involved, and where it takes place. Analogous to a "cut" in film editing which skips fictional time and/or changes location. A necessary feature of System; when poorly understood and managed, a primary source of Murk.

2008 Framing and Bangs