Scene Journals or where Computer RP meets Table Top
Have you ever had a scene that you wanted to occur “in game” but were either too embarassed/ shy about the content (romantic scenes are the primary cause)? How about a scene or even small plotline that would of taken a lot of in game time away from the main storyline and the troupe if you pursued it (personal investigations, interaction with the cast of characters around your character (neighbors, coworkers, handlers), or personal introspection)? These scenes would be perfectly valid to play out. However, most GMs and many players won’t play them out because of the amount of time, GM attention, and other player boredom, they will require.
But it is your character and it needs that scene.
What to do?
The first real and still best solution was proposed back in 1988. “Bluebooking” was first described by Aaron Allston in the Champions supplement Strike Force. The ‘blue book’ in question is a standard (in the U.S.) note book used to answer essay questions during college exams. Instead of using it to figure out whether you passed or failed, the blue book was used for a variety of scenes (or even mini adventures) that occured in the downtime (or unplayed gaps) in the main campaign.
This “blue booking” allows for roleplaying which is important to the character, but not for the troupe, or the main plot line. Character romance is a common use, because it tends to make people uncomfortable. However, it allows players to run “side adventures” in the “down time” between active runs. These could be personal investigations, interaction with the cast of characters around the character’s secret ID (Jimmy Olsen, Lois Lane, Perry White, and Clark’s neighbors when dealing with Superman), research activities, or even just introspective roleplaying. All of these things would bogg down a game if the player did them durring a session (in most cases), so by doing them via a bluebook (or scene journal, which is another name for them), allows the player to explore these areas without bogging down the game.
The process, in short, is the player writes out a play session of what their character does solo, or with the permission of another player, with other characters. (Sometimes a blue book is passed back and forth between the involved characters.) It should be written in story format, but does not have to be. The GM reads over what is done and either approves it, approves it conditionally (needs changes), or denys that it could happen. Approved blue book entries become part of the campaign’s continuity. Most GM’s will award experience, luck, or some kind of reward for blue book activities.
What comes out is much like what you do in a freeform or play by post roleplay game. You post a scene (or three) up that explains what your character is doing.
I have used this technique to good application. It does require a player with storytelling or actor orientations
to be most useful. Story or Character oriented players can produce a huge amount of material to add to the campaign. Players with characters who have deep secrets will also have fertile fodder for scene journals. This allows for them to follow their secrets in safety of IC and OOC knowledge. The other player types will use it only to keep track of their downtime training, studying, and investigations.
It can add a great deal to a group campaign, when the characters are supposed to opperate solo most of the time while “off camera”. It also frees up the GM’s time, as scene journals can be reviewed between game sessions.
Some people do journal entries over email. The reason I like scene journals in books over email is that I have a tangible record that I can access at all times, rather than clogging up my email box and files. I have posted a number of scenes journal entries to my campaign notebook (indexed in back) so I can pull up those scenes and thrust appropriate elements into the main campaign line. This is not to say I am against emails. Many of my players have worked scenes out with each other via email, printed it out, and posted it in their scene journal. Others send me vauge outlines of scenes they want to do via email for tennitive approval. It is not the “End All” of game tools, but it is a useful one in your gaming arsenal.