I've been gaming a lot lately playing a mixture of story and adventure gaming as defined here, by my friend Ryan Macklin. With all that gaming, I have noticed a trend that I think is consistent across both types of gaming styles, how to end a scene. There are tons of articles on the Internet about framing a scene which means to start a scene. But I haven't seen many articles on where to call a scene done. The ones I have seen have said, when it feels right which I feel is just vague enough to not be useful Here is my rules on the subject,
- End the scene on the awesome.
- If not awesome, end it on a cliff hanger, which is itself awesome and thereby fulfilling rule 1.
- Not everything needs to be resolved.
Let me give you an example of what I mean.
First example, your party has made it through the entire dungeon and thereby to the big bad and his billion mooks. You are fighting and fighting and managed to kill the big bad but a ton of mooks are still left.
Not Awesome: The GM makes you finish off rest of the mooks and then you must take time to searches of bodies adding another half hour (at least) of real time to the scene.
Awesome: The GM describes the final blow of the big bad and takes everyone takes narrative leeway to finish up the mooks.
I play some 4e and many of those people want to make sure the resources are used and such. Well, I say just make a cost of a healing surge or two, if it's that important.
My second example is a little less clear cut. Everyone is a character in a village being attacked at night by some creature. People are paranoid and believing each other the culprit searching for answers about what's going on. Two PCs are talking to each other.
Not Awesome: The two PCs have an argument with each other for 10 minutes of real time. Each of them accusing the other but neither player calling for a roll or end of the scene stating that they continue arguing. While the rest of the players are watching as nothing gets resolved and there is no drive to conflict.
Awesome: One of the PCs calls out the other stating he has proof of his consorting with the demon and ends the scene on a cliff hanger with PC asking for a trial scene next.
The problem here is that people are sitting and watching instead of playing. Even in story games which don't necessarily have a ton of mechanics, people need to be cognizant of others and try to get to the point and end the scene.
I just want to stress that don't be afraid to end on the Awesome, it will make your game that much more memorable.