Situation, Scene, Conflict, Resolution
Sunday, January 01, 2006
Vincent, Ron, Clinton, Matt, and others have explained this idea in various ways before, but making this diagram helped me figure it out in a very concrete, practical way. A similar diagram is going in Stranger Things.
The idea is that first you establish Situation. This is the immediate situation that the character finds herself in, which also contains the larger conflict ("The vampires of Fog Alley are killing important nobles of the city."). This situation is addressed through a series of several scenes. Each scene is embedded in the situation and a conflict is embedded in each scene. By resolving the scene-level conflict, you move to the next scene within the situation. After several scene/conflicts, you resolve the current situation, which in turn moves you to the next situation. Repeat. And that's a way to roleplay.
Once I had this diagram, I was able to see all the parts, and begin assigning authority and game tasks to each part. Who says what the Situation is? How does a Scene relate to Situation? Who says when a Scene begins and ends? Who says when a conflict begins and ends? How do you know when a situation is "resolved" and how does that resolution supply material for the new Situation? All that kind of stuff.
Once you add Flags, this diagram makes it possible to draw a roadmap for a game session that a GM can actually use in play without "railroading" or employing Force to steer the events toward set outcomes.
This is remedial stuff as far as theory is concerned (it's a rehash of Dogs town creation, really), but making the diagram made it really click for me so I thought it was worth sharing. The key for me was in recognizing that all of those circles above are not just "things that happen" during a game session, but that they are game play modules that need to be assigned ownership and authority. And that it's possible to write clear, repeatable methods for creating good material for the circles during play.
UPDATE: Some people got the idea that by making this diagram, I was claiming to have invented basic plot structure from Lit Theory 101. Of course, that's not the case. This diagram (and the one that follows it in the next post, above) is simple description of game elements as observed in play, nothing more. It's not supposed to be new or revolutionary. It is in fact "remedial" -- which is what I say in the post.
The point of this post is not the formation of the diagram (which could have easily have come from any Lit textbook) but rather how a game system distributes authority over the elements. I hope this update makes that crystal clear, and we can continue our useful discussion about those authority issues.
Labels: rpg theory