What’s a Scene?

Approximate time to read: 2 minutes.   

The basis of an adventure in Symbaroum, a Scene stands as a means to determine the ‘value’ of an adventure — or just a session as part of a campaign — in terms of Experience earned and progress achieved. The Core Book deals with Time Within the Game on page 174, but it warrants further consideration and can be a cause for concern amongst those new to the game or used to systems that equates experience to combat, treasure, or the lessons of failure.

A Scene is most often events that unfold around a group of characters at a fairly specific location that culminate in a Challenge. In mechanical terms, each Scene equates to one Experience.

A Challenge is anything where the outcome is of significant importance to the player characters and risk sets a clear cost of failure.

In this case, it could be combat, but it might also be:

  • an argument with local law enforcement that will culminate in trial if failed
  • the pursuit of a key witness the loss of which would take a vital clue or artefact beyond the characters’ reach
  • the culmination of research and the retrieval of supplies to create an antitoxin to save a character from death from Lindworm venom
  • discovering a strange puzzle box in a hidden vault beneath the burning upper floors of a merchant’s vacant city dwelling

Anything that tests the player characters in such a way that they face a genuine risk and the tension of a true challenge to their knowledge or abilities.

A period of the game that doesn’t involve a challenge – a simple journey by chartered riverboat, a night spent in a bar drinking and chatting with locals, a period of reflection and prayer in a chapel of Prios – is an Interlude. The characters might gain something from the situation – news, rest, a few new contacts – but they didn’t risk anything to get it and didn’t have to battle for their lives.

So, a Scene might end with Combat, as it would be a challenge. Stuff might happen before the combat, so the fight is not necessarily a scene in it’s own right. If the characters go to an Outpost of the Ordo Magica and investigate the vacant halls, culminating in a fight against a horde of dragouls — that would be a Scene; the whole thing.

On the other hand, travelling from Yndaros to Thistle Hold could be an Interlude if nothing happens on the way and the road offers no special encounters or signs of resistance. However, if the characters travel the road while being followed by agents of the enemy who plot to ambush and imprison them, that sounds like a Scene – culminating with the trap and the characters finding a way to avoid springing it, sidelining it altogether, or perhaps facing off against the agents.

The Core Book uses a common analogy, well worth remembering – you can compare a Scene to part of a TV show, which usually ends in a revelation, conflict or climax, and probably fades or wipes to a different location, characters or situation. It isn’t always clear-cut, but that’s a useful framework to keep in mind.

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Post is part of the #AtoZChallenge.

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