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    What is a scene?

    A scene in roleplaying games is a segment of play that typically encompasses a single situation or setting where characters interact, explore, or face challenges.

    It is analogous to a scene in a movie or play, providing a clear focus and setting for the action and dialogue.

    Within a scene, players can develop their characters, advance the plot, or explore the game world. Scenes can range from quiet, tension-filled moments to bustling, action-packed encounters.

    Scenes have been a part of roleplaying games since their inception, serving as the basic building blocks of storytelling and gameplay. They help organize the narrative into manageable parts, making it easier for players and game masters (GMs) to maintain the flow of the game.

    Scenes can be found in all types of RPGs, including tabletop games and multi-user dungeons (MUDs).

    Scene FAQs

    How long does a scene typically last in a roleplaying game?

    A scene can vary in length depending on the game’s pacing, the complexity of the situation, and the players’ engagement. Some scenes may last just a few minutes, while others could extend over several hours or even days or weeks of gameplay.

    Shorter scenes are more common in real-time games, whereas longer scenes may be found in forum-based RP games. Even though it may take players days to complete a scene asynchronously, the scene itself may only be a few minutes to an hour according to time within the game world.

    Can a roleplaying scene occur in multiple locations?

    Typically, a scene is confined to a single location to keep the narrative focused and coherent. However, some scenes might transition between adjacent locations or use cutscenes to briefly show events happening elsewhere.

    How do GMs transition between RP scenes?

    GMs often transition between scenes by resolving the current action, summarizing the outcomes, and then moving the narrative forward to the next setting or situation. They may use narrative hooks, cliffhangers, or direct player decisions to guide the transition.

    What role do players have in shaping a scene?

    Players shape scenes through their character’s actions, decisions, and dialogue. They contribute to the development of the plot and the atmosphere of the scene by interacting with each other, the environment, and non-player characters (NPCs).

    How can RP scenes be made more engaging?

    Scenes can be made more engaging by including elements that stimulate the players’ senses, presenting challenging dilemmas, encouraging character development, and maintaining a balance between action and narrative.

    See: How to be a better game master: 10 tips for running great interactive stories.

    Myths about RP scenes

    One common myth is that every roleplaying scene must advance the main plot. While it’s beneficial for scenes to contribute to overall story progression, they can also focus on character development, world-building, or side plots, which can enrich the game experience.

    Another misconception is that scenes need to be meticulously planned out ahead of time. While planning can help, some of the most memorable scenes arise spontaneously, driven by player decisions and natural narrative development.

    Scene examples

    • A tense negotiation between the player characters and a local crime lord in a dimly lit tavern, where both sides vie for advantage without resorting to violence.
    • A high-speed chase through the crowded streets of a futuristic city, as the characters pursue a thief who has stolen a crucial data chip.
    • An emotional farewell between a character and their mentor on the eve of a dangerous mission, highlighting the personal stakes involved.
    • A complex puzzle room where the characters must work together to decipher ancient runes and unlock the gateway to a hidden vault.

    Related terms

    • NPC
    • PC
    • plot
    • setting
    • storyline