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Cut-scenes story-telling technique

Sometimes in the series the action shifts away from the crew and cuts to the viewpoint of the adversaries, providing exposition and upping the stakes by revealing to the viewers something that the crew have not yet learned.

For example:

GM: The governor thanks you for your help capturing the Klingon saboteur, and all smiles and courtesy, he apologized for his earlier accusations and promises that his delegation will attend the negotiations the next morning.

Player: That went well! We return to the ship and get ready. “We will notify the archon’s delegation. I am sure this new opportunity for cooperation will be well received!”

GM: As the door slides down behind you, the smile slides off the governors face. (Governor): “That fool Klingon went and got himself captured! The plan is coming apart!” A shadowy figure steps out from an alcove, tsk-tsking softly. (Shadowy figure): “Don’t fret, Gamar. There was always a risk the Klingon’s blood would run too hot for his head. Didn’t you hear? They believe the threat is passed and they are lowering their guard. We will attend the negotiations, with some changes to our agenda…” the figure steps out of the shadows, revealing her face: It is the princess! (Princess Madan): “We WILL have our VENGEANCE!”

Do you use a similar story-telling technique in your games?

I tend to not do this actually. I know similar things happen in the shows, but I like to give a very first-person kind of experience and let them figure it out as they go. That’s just my personal preference though.

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Never. I keep the focus on the interactions of the players and only bring forth background moments when discovered by the players during the course of play.

I sometimes use it to frame the scene or to set the mood and describe things happening even though the PCs are not present. This is basically an alternative to a (potentially dry) mission briefing.

But I never use it to provide players with knowledge that their characters do not have. If I want players to witness a mysterious shadowy figure revealing itself (because it’s cool), I would make sure to seed and exploit some of the characters’ distrust or curiosity so that they somehow witness these events firsthand by e.g. spying on the governor.

You do whatever you want in your campaign. Our group was, for years, very large, amd we had 2 co- GM’s. Sometimes they would use such a device to communicate info to the whole group, although individual PC’s may have not had the info. It was not as confusing as it sounds, they handled it well.

Sounds like a terrible idea. What works for a passive audience tends not to be ideal for an interactive experience

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I do not. I prefer not to force the players to separate what they know in character versus what they know as player. It ruins some of the surprises. But if it works for you, rock on.

I haven’t played much if any with cut scenes as a GM, but I played with a GM who used them fairly extensively, and as long as any given cut scene was fairly short, I thought it added to the game.

I my experience, cut scenes are great ways to drive the action and seed information to the players that they would otherwise learn through their character’s exploration. Revealing the game world only through the point of view of the characters is fine, I guess, but unless their characters have had the opportunity to experience all relevant details AND the players managed to pick up on what is plot-relevant, there is the risk of the players simply missing out on the details.

A cut scene lets the GM convey information the players know is relevant. It’s not the only way, and it’s not always a good way. It also puts the players in a position of having to deal with meta-gaming: When they know the ambassador has a drug addiction that makes him susceptible to manipulation from the Klingons, it’s a fine balance between being alert to pick up on future clues and actively seeking them out. Is it ok for the characters to “become suspicious” of the ambassadors flushed complexion and shaky hands to the extent that they steal his wine cup for a chemical analysis? In keeping with the tradition of television drama it’s not that far fetched: Dr. House, Poirot or the crew ant any of the CSI’s routinely latch on to minor details that prove instrumental to solving the plot. Some “healthy” meta-gaming may be just the thing you need to keep the game moving forward.

I tend to agree with Citizen171. The use of Cut-Scenes are a tool for your Storyteller toolbag, and just like any tool should be used when its right for the job.

In the Star Wars RPG, I open games In Media Res and use Cut-Scenes quite often, as they are thematically appropriate to that game, but the experience of using them has taught me some pointers on how they can improve other game systems as well. Even “In Media Res,” which is a narrative device that’s forever tied to Star Wars, can be used in your games, regardless of genre. It’s a great tool to provide continuity between sessions, especially if the game got called unexpectedly or in the middle of combat. You can use an “In Media Res” scripted scene to pick up the pace and reset the level of urgency, getting the characters back into the moment by scripting the advance of the next combat round since the last adventure. Have the characters narrate a little back and forth with the villains or each other, describing the last session as they take actions, (PC1 ducking behind a crate: “I can’t believe we got suckered into this ambush!” PC2 as she dives behind cover and shoots at the Klingon across from her: “Well, we wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t answered that Ferrengi’s distress call”). Begin at the top of the round and you’re good to go!

Cut-scenes can rapidly update the situation and provide a lot of information to the players that would otherwise slow down the game or give the players a false impression. For instance, say you have a group of players who’ve never seen DS9, and don’t necessarily know the Dominion are bad guys. You can use a Cut-Scene to show the bridge of a Dominion ship and have a bit of narrative between Weyoun and a Commander of their attitude with the Federation and that one of their Ships was due to pass through the PCs area momentarily on their way to the rendezvous point (or whatever macguffin you care to throw in). Then, as you cut to the ship coming out of warp by the PCs you can narrate one of the crew to identify the ship coming out, using the same ship class to tie the information to the PCs and set up the tension and emotion of the moment. This also prevents the PCs from erroneously trying to explore the nature of the ship.

Granted, it would be far quicker to out of character say, “you and the Dominion are at war” but the statement breaks the immersion and the slows the narrative tempo, whereas the cut-scene maintains it.

I think this is one of those case-by-case things: sometimes it’s appropriate and sometimes not - the trick is knowing the dividing line. It can be very effective if done properly…

Flashbacks (even played out by players) fall into a similar class.

I have to say I like @Jarl’s cut-scene into in-media-res approach. I need to try that one for my short club sessions - it would bypass a lot of set-up fluff!

So question: could an introductory captain’s log be considered a cut-scene?

I would say absolutely, a Captain’s log was often used in TNG mid-episode to update the viewer to the passage of time, and can be used mid-session to show a passage of time (often useful when something like the unloading of cargo planet-side would otherwise slow the narrative down) and set up the next obstacle while maintaining immersion and eliminating the “let’s skip ahead” style OOC statements.

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