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Offline MoonHunter

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Atomic Gaming ***
« on: August 31, 2004, 12:44:43 AM »
Article in process

Atomic gaming is about breaking things down from their complicated synergetic whole to their basic components- their atoms so to speak.  How you connect the atoms, makes up the molecules and the large shapes that you actually use.  

You want to run a scenario... actually you want to run a game session, that has one or more plot lines associated with it.  You want to tell a story or achieve a goal.  

There are dozens of ways to structure things, or just wing it counting on your innate sense of drama honed by years of experiencing movies/ TV/ Books.

if that was enough, then there would not be so many people trying to explain how to GM.

So lets go to some definitions
A story is a string of related events that occur in places over time.  Each event or action is contained in a scene.  

Each story will have at lease one plot line, or string of events.  In most games it will have two or more.  Each one of these plot lines is structred the same way.

Each scene is a step to completing a given story or story line.

**************************

Designing scenarios, plot lines, and story arcs is hard work.



A story is a string of related events that occur in place.  Each event or action is contained in a scene.  

Each story will have at lease one plot line, or string of events.  In most games it will have two or more.  Each one of these plot lines is structred the same way.

Each scene is a step to completing a given story or story line.

Introduction and event that catalyzes action, and then flipping between dramatic event, development, and reversal scene.  Eventually things become resolved.  

Once you determine a story line, you need to break it down in steps that must be met.

Each step becomes a scene

You then string the scene from the various story arcs together in an order that make sense for you and the flow of the game.


So the trick of this is organizing the scenes so they make sense

I do this with 3x5 cards that define the scenes for the various story arcs.  

Series: The name of the plot thread and a number saying when it should occur in the order
Title: Name of the scene
Type: Intro/ Action/ Development/ Reversal/ Conclusion

Goal of scene
Type of action
 Â    any required mechanics
 Â    scaling issues

Inputs: What scenes will either be required to achieve this scene or kind of scene before it

Outputs, where it can lead

Stageing requirements: What you need to make the scene work.  


Now you can order the cards for the game, plan cut scene, see graphically where the story is going.
« Last Edit: December 04, 2005, 12:09:40 AM by MoonHunter »
MoonHunter
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"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
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Offline MoonHunter

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Atomic Gaming Outline
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2004, 08:58:27 AM »
Okay, the article will not be called atomic gaming... but we get over it.

Introduction:
..we all have an issue, what to do this session.
..we have plotlines.

What do players want, they want a sense of success/ accomplishment.
...They want to do something interesting, important, or cool every session.
... They want to be entertained by a story comperable to those on TV or Movies.

How does one plan a session to include all of this?

Do what professional writers do, organize and plot your game out on SCENCE CARDS.


Plotlines
This article supposes that you have your own plotlines.  Generating them is the providence of another article (lest this one become 30 pages).

There are two kinds of plotlines.  Main and subplots.
You will always use the main plotlines, you get to pick and choose which subplots.  
a) the best way to determine which plots and subplots to use is to determine what "thing" each player will be doing.  Everyone needs at least one good something every session.  

The point of this article is to get you thinking of plotlines in a way different than you normall will. You should see each one as a series of Events.  Each important event moves the plot forward.  

Each event is something important that will need to happen. Every event will occur over a scene. (explain scene)

Now you need to get between key scenes... thus comes the transitions.
Event, transition, Event, transition.

Each tansition is what links major events.  These could include development scenes or physical travelling.
   You are not a documentry. You do not have to run every minute of every day of every character's life.  If it is important, play it through. If it is not, narrate it, and move on.  
   Unlike a movie or such, you have to make a passing mention of every transition. In a story you can make assumption. In a game, your players have to know what happened to their character over the transition.

Main


Subplots
Personal goals for each PC. Ususally determine when the PC is first created or developed in play.  Some players are nice enough to generate their own in play.

Same process. Event.. transition... event ... transition
There may be more time between events. In short, other Events or other plot line's transitions will occur between plotline events.


Now break down events into scenes.
Most events will be single scene.  These are easy. Some will be a combination of related scenes.

Scene cards
all the various mechanics explained.


Scene Log

Shuffling your cards.


Conclusions is example
Perhaps this example needs to be echo from introduction.


Actually this is an article I had not finished writing yet. The reason it does not make sense yet is because it is not done.

The cards are based on story writer scene cards. This is a tool used by professional writers, novelists and script writers. They have everything you mentioned and a bit more. Shuffling the cards is the act of putting the various scenes in their prefered order and linking them with appropriate transitions.

Yes, cards are set up ahead of time. Your players will never think they are being railroaded. It is not a simple single line, it always branches, inserting minor scenes and other transitions, between major events/ scenes.

You can determine an approximate order for the game to set up the appropriate flow, which you and the GM can approximately maintain by simple narration.

If you don't set up the cards ahead of time, then what is the point of working on the scenes ahead of time. There will be no sense of flow or story, just a jumble of semi-random events in less than perfect temporal order... just the order theya re gotten too.

Sure you will need to be flexible, but by doing the work ahead and knowing what transitions will exit existing scenes, you will be ready. There are several branches of cards, not a single line. So options are automatically in place. Most scenes have predictable exits that PCs will hit 90% of the time. Sure they will sometimes go off on their own and do something odd and you will have to adjust, but most of their responses are pretty predictable if you know your players.

Also if you give your players the correct clues and leads, they will follow a logical order on their own. If your PCs seem to go off somewhere else or follow red herrings or odd lines of investigation, you, as the GM, have not done a good enough job setting up the player's motivations and providing direct and followable clues. (If your clues are more complicated than those found on a television show mystery or a thriller novel most PCs will fail to follow them.)
MoonHunter
Sage, Gamer, Mystic, Wit
"The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason."
"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
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Offline MoonHunter

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Atomic Gaming
« Reply #2 on: September 30, 2004, 11:31:00 AM »
It is all in the cards.

If you are GM, you have encountered this problem.  You are about to have a game session. You have your main scenario you want to run. There are two or three plotlines tied to your characters that need to be resolved, with many of those plotlines excluding most of the characters in the game.Oh, and then there is the investigation that one of the players is running as well. Being a GM, you want to tell something like a story and achieve some goal every session. Yet how do you do this with this gordeon knot of plotlines.

There are dozens of ways to structure game sessions and present game stories. You can just wing it.  You can count on your innate sense of drama honed by years of experiencing movies, tv shows, and books. You can copy for favorite author. These tools can work.  The catch is that players expect plots and their presenation equal to that of movies, tv shows, and books. These are written by "experts". Most of us are not writers equipped expert skills. But we can use the tools of expert writers. We can use Scene Cards.

In the Begining
To use Scene Cards, we need to set up some definitions and, for some, a new way to look at story set up. The most important is this: A story is a string of related events that build upon each other.  Each story has one or more of these strings of events or plot lines. These plotlines build upon each other expanding the story. (Note: This article supposes that the GM has or can generate their own plot lines. Generating Plotlines is a different article.). Each event or action in the story is contained in a scene.  In theatre and literature, a scene is a self-contained episode within a larger work. In recorded visual works such as TV and movies, a scene has the same basic definition, but is typically much shorter. Basically, it refers to a part of the action in a single general location. Gaming uses the same definition as TV/Movies, in short.. all the action that occurs in a general area over a continuous period of time. There are action scenes, character development scenes, mood scenes, development scenes, transitional scenes, and a dozen other kinds of scenes. No matter what kind of scene you are talking about, the two things you must remember about a scenes is a) Things happen over a scene and b) each scene has a purpose (first and foremost to move the plot line along to its conclusion/ resolution).

And then there was three
For plot line purposes, there are three types of scenes: Key Scenes, Transition Scenes, and General Scenes.

The most important part of each plotline you develop is the key scenes, the important events that the characters must go through to get to the conclusion of the story/ plot line.

Little Red Riding Hood: Meet the Woodsman and Wolf, Go to Grandmas,

 For Hamlet: Meeting with the Ghost, Investigating the King's Guilt. Hamlet to Kill King, are all the key scenes of the main plotline (there are others in the play, some spawned by the actions that occur in these key scenes).  Other important scenes are generated by o

There are things between these Key Scenes.  

Scenes and Transitional Scenes. At minimum, there are transitional scenes.
At maximum there are scenes, more transitional scenes, and even other key scenes for other plot lines.  

Transitional scenes connect the key scenes; i.e. get the character from key scene to key scene next. In most cases, the connections are immediate (one to three scenes of travelling, minor checking, or miscalenous character development).  However, the transition could be "long", with entire adventures and entire other plot lines occuring before you reach the next key scene in the given plotline.

Crooked, Branching Line

Unlike a story, the plot is not a game is not line. Players make decisions and don't know your script.  Therefore there are branches and possiblities as to where they go and what they do.  There are usually many ways to get to a given key scene. The more options you provide, the easier it will be on the players and the GM.






Anatomy of a Scene Card
We start at the very top of a three by five card, then work our way down the card.

1) At very top:  Identity Line - Identifying the plot card
2) Entrace Requirement - What must of happened before to use the scene.
3) Purpose - What the goal of the scene is.
4) Stage Dressing - Important things to have ready for the scene
5) Flavor Text- Bits of description for the scene.
6) Scene Mechanics - Any important game mechanics that the scene might use. At minimum, the page #/ paragraph # of the rules in the book.
7) Exits- Possible plot paths.

Note: Some people use only one side of the cards and have mutliple cards for the same scene, some use both sides, others use 5x7 cards, others use full sheets of paper as their plot cards. It is all up to you, the end user, to find out what is best for you.

Explanations-
1) Identity line: This is where you write your reference information for the card.  The format varies depending on who is telling you about scene cards. The one that has worked best for me is: Top Left: Plot line name, Top Right scene name and number.



Top Left:  Plotline name
Top Right: Scene name and ID# if needed.
These are your card identifiers.  

Many GM's draw a stripe of color using a highligher along the top.  This way they can identify the type of card by sight.


Entrance Requirements: Includes location (specific or general), events, required characters, required NPCs
Purpose of the scene:
Stage Dressing: things that must be in place (goons, monsters, items, etc)
Flavor text: for setting or scene

Scene Mechanics: Any rule mechanics (and page numbers to find them) required for the scene.
Bottom: Exits- Plot line options
MoonHunter
Sage, Gamer, Mystic, Wit
"The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason."
"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
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Offline MoonHunter

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Re: Atomic Gaming ***
« Reply #3 on: November 19, 2006, 07:11:53 PM »
Lost, but now found
MoonHunter
Sage, Gamer, Mystic, Wit
"The road less traveled is less traveled for a reason."
"The world needs dreamers to give it a soul."
"And it needs realists to keep it alive."
Authentic Strolenite ®©