Same Scene Twice

Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in RPGs, Story | One Comment

Jason Morningstar wrote this on Google Plus:

Questioning assumptions: In roleplaying games, how come we only play each scene one time?

Here’s what I wrote immediately after reading the question (so this is probably just a reflection of my habits and presumptions to date, alas):

In part, I think it’s because playing any scene multiple times is rare in a given instance of performance. Not many plays or movies or novels play the same scene multiple times for different effects outside of rehearsal. RPGs are typically performance-now constructs, not rehearsal constructs. We know what happens and we are audience, why watch it again when we could see something new?

(I say this as someone who wishes there were more alternate takes on DVDs and as someone who understands why there aren’t.)

Also, getting to explore multiple potential outcomes of or within a scene is tantamount to cheating—like loading a save game to see what the other corridor leads to before settling on your decision. It is meta. It takes advantage of a system and diminishes the impact of actual play. (“What the hell, I’ll say this because I can always play the scene again and leave it unsaid.”)

Of course, this also grants great freedom of expression and a unique look at the possibility space. (“What the hell, I’ll say this because I can always play the scene again and leave it unsaid.”)

This is one reason I advocate for shop talk during play, though. It allows for the skewing or revision of scenes in the moment, as sometimes happens during rehearsal, without having to play a scene again exactly. You get to peek at the possibilities and pick from them rather than just getting what you get from the collision of improvisations.

I have played the same scene from different perspectives, though usually within a strict narrative context and with a lot of hustle to save time. E.g., “Let’s play the scene again from the perspective of the surveillance team we didn’t know was there.”

Also, it’s my sincere hope that people play the same scene at least twice in “All The Damn Time,” though I didn’t know how to suggest that in the playset format and though it’s probably more literal in that set than you’re talking about here. :)

And, of course, we may play the same scene twice whenever we play the same game adventure more than once. So it’s not unheard of in the medium.

What are your thoughts? (Swing by Jason’s post and share them there, if you prefer.)

1 Comment

  1. Benjamin Hayward
    March 12, 2012

    I think a better phrasing of the question is, could a game have players enjoying playing the same scene multiple times? In considering that question, I’m reminded of the improv game where a player in the audience regularly forces a player on stage to “undo” a line just spoken and restate it in a different fashion (possibly in a different genre or more humorous way as fits the game). A similar setup could certainly make for an entertaining roleplaying game as well.

    I’m also reminded of this Roleplaying Poem:
    http://norwegianstyle.wordpress.com/2008/03/31/the-endless-meta-spiral/
    And of an episode of Community where the six different possible outcomes of a single die roll for determining who has to go downstairs to collect the pizza all play out in the episode.

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