Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Crowd Scenes

You know, occasionally, when you see something done right, you have to take a few minutes and say so.
I was privy to a formal court scene recently in the Requiem game that I'm playing in. Mostly, I tend to dread big scenes. They have this way of dragging like Jacob Marley's chains. And I've been in a few of them over the years. So, Based on what I saw at my game the other night and a few independent thoughts, I thought I'd lay out some guidelines for the way crowd scenes can be run in order to maximize efficiency.
1) Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
…And by this, I mean, you should pre-script a LOT and cut and paste as you go.
Now granted, Not all Chat software is amenable to cutting and pasting. Which is an aggravation barely to be borne. But if yours does, then there is NO reason whatsoever for scene descriptions and long speeches not to be written ahead of time. Truly, We don't mind a wall of text, and you can fire off description text in PM's to anyone who walks in the door late.
2) Keep it Simple, Stupid.
Resist the urge to load down the itinerary with a large amount of stuff. Much past 4 or 5 events, in the course of a formal meeting, and you are courting boredom. Some players when bored just stop listening. Other players, when bored decide it's time for the "My Character has decided to get Ig'nant" Show.
Also: If your formal court is likely to have something happen that is going to be time intensive, like a trial and/or sentencing, You might consider making it the ONLY thing on the itinerary, or conversely, making it a closed affair open only to certain players.
3) Allow your scene to breathe.
Keeping the schedule tight allows you the opportunity to actually throttle back some. Part of what is going on, is the player reaction to news and events at court. After you've dropped a bomb, Step back and let the PC have reactions to it for about 15 minutes. Allow your players who've spent a point or two on Politics dots get their money's worth. Our ST actually said, "I'm going to give you guys about 15 minutes to react to this before we move on to the next thing." It was invaluable.
4) Let me sing you the song of my people!
There WILL be attention whoring. As a matter of fact, If you've got the whole venue gathered, it's likely that the various attention whores will attempt to outdo one another in a veritable orgy of exhibitionism. The characters with multiple derangements will be under stress, making them volatile and unstable. The Anarchists will likely do everything but shit on the rug. and your frustrated novelists will post a wall of text describing in loving detail about how their character appears bored and could not possibly care less.
Let them.
Oh I know, Most hard-case vampire elders are not happy about that sort of shit. Most decent players are annoyed beyond measure too. But sometimes you just have to let the attention whores have some attention. 
This is like the Superbowl for them.
Granted. Not ALL of that attention is going to be wanted or desired. An elder might want to know exactly who that damn fool was who was nattering on constantly during the proceedings. That Elder might decide to teach that person some manners in ways both subtle and obvious. In fact, one might posit that this sort of thing happens all the time and that traditionally, one can get out from under an elders "regard" by making a formal public apology for one's behavior.
Don't like it? Don't start none. Won't be none.
Seriously, That Elder can pretty much have your car towed at will.
So. let them go. Let them do their thing. It's their way of having fun and occasionally they'll amuse others too with their antics. And you should allow those antics up to the point of allowing them to lay hands on another character with harmful intent.
Then, you should shut them down so hard that spectators ears pop from the pressure wave. There should always be an obfuscated Nos or Mekhet on the payroll, with a stake in hand, Rigor Mortis prepared, and a comprehensive list of troublemakers and ne'er-do-wells in their back pocket.
5) Elders can keep it in their pants.
It should be understood both in and out of character that Elders are not going to start shit at Elysium. There are many reasons for this, but the big one is simple. They have had a lot of practice at dealing with this sort of thing. Oh sure, You may be some pipsqueak mouthing off at your betters about things you have only the dimmest understand of. You may be someone's catspaw or just an idiot with nothing better to do than bark like a dog at the clouds. You may be disrespecting not only your elders, but your city and the traditions that have served the kindred since the earliest nights.
But elders know, there is always time to deal with such people. And if Elders stop respecting formal court and Elysium, then kindred society literally falls apart. Many elders have seen this sort of thing happen, once or twice in their unlives. So even though dealt a mortal insult, or marinating in a brain-pan full of homicidal mania, Elders have a lot of practice being patient. And if you lay hands on them…"Well, Keeper. I can hardly be blamed for being vigorous in the defense of my person."
Out of Character, what this means is, that the Elders aren't going to slaughter anyone in an Elysium unless circumstances are particularly rare. Again, this essentially falls under the rubric of "Don't start none. Won't be none." I've been to more than one kindred gathering where there was a scheduled coup or some other insanity and I have always asked myself, "Why didn't you do this far away from the eyes of any kindred who could stop you?" Jeez, just walk in swinging the prince's head by his stupid ponytail and people will get the message soon enough that YOU'RE the guy in charge now.
6) Break it up as soon as possible.
Big scenes are exhausting. As soon as you are able, allow your NPC's to break off into different areas and allow interested PC's to follow. This saves some massive scroll. Also, as ST, you should farm out as much of the NPC stuff to fellow ST's as possible. Give them a basic description of the character they're playing, an agenda, and maybe a scripted bit or two to use and turn them loose (Ask them, in return for playing one of the powerful NPC's that they take good notes or save the logs of their play.) As main ST, you should lay back in the cut after the main scene is over, so that you have plenty of energy for answering questions from your NPC players. Because they are going to be asked a lot of interesting things by the players. Tell the NPC players that it's perfectly okay to rub their chins, get a far away look, and say, "That's a very good question. Who is your sire, young fledge?" While you come up with an answer for them.
Ok. Going on the basic premise that you're not interested in having a fight during your big scene. There are things to remember.
A) Your Keeper is not going to fuck around. But in all likelihood he's not going to kill characters unless they make him. It's much better for the Keeper to allow you to live because odds are, the Prince is going make certain that the offenders, and probably their sires, are suddenly going to be in hock up to their eyebrows. Also, the Harpy can be leaned on to blacken the offenders name too.
B) If you're the ST, and you don't want a fight, Go Cinematic and put the offending jerk on the deck. Again, leave him alive. No one shot, one kill bullshit. You do that, and nobody wants to go to your damn scenes anymore. But make certain that everyone understands that Elysiums are where fights DO NOT HAPPEN.
Be sure to say something along the lines of: "I am not interested in having this scene grind to a halt because you're butthurt. You've gotten every bit of the attention you desired. And now you're done. Rub some dirt in it and walk it off."
C) If a fight is inevitable, and for whatever reason, you have to allow it to happen, allow every other kindred who wants to leave immediately, to do so. Prevent new players from entering the fray until it's over. Kindred fights generally take seconds of real time. Even if they take HOURS of real time. Also, If you think the fight has to happen, and it's already 11:00 PM server time. Seriously. Think again.
D) Elders tend to flee if they attack someone and they don't go down in three hits. This is mostly because Elders have learned to conserve their blood and if it isn't damaged in three hits, it may not go down at all.


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