Arcane Game Lore

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Gems from D&D 4th Edition: Vignettes

This is the second in this series of blogs on Gems I found in the D&D 4.0 rules, specifically the Dungeon Master’s Guides.  The first post was here:

http://arcanegamelore.com/2013/06/03/gems-from-dd-4th-edition-adventure-companions-in-rpgs-2/

The DMG2 opens its section on vignettes with this statement, “Add moments of character interaction to your game with vignettes- specially shaped scenes in which players respond to dramatic situations you create for them.”

My first reaction to that statement was that it sounded a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher talking to him, “Whaa whaa whannt whaa.” However after reading the section on vignettes I was rather taken with the idea and used a flashback to the main bad guy’s past early in the campaign.

There are 5 kinds of vignettes:

  1. Interactions that dramatize current conflicts between PCs and characters.
  2. Flashbacks that illuminate past events in the character’s lives.
  3. Dream sequences that bring a character’s inner conflicts to life in a surreal mental environment.
  4. Transitions that leap the campaign forward in time.
  5. Third-person teasers use NPCs, portrayed by the players, to foreshadow

Interactions can kick start a campaign that has drifted or had a long break. It’s about conflicts between characters PC or otherwise and a game master should be careful about pushing for a resolution. Interactions that don’t fully resolve are ok.

Flashbacks can be about pivotal moments in the past of an unfocused PC. They can bring those key moments into the present for the whole group. Campaigns about destiny can flash forward to possible futures. The final Star Trek: the Next Generation episode of the last season with Q bringing Picard forward and backward in time.

Dream Sequences pit a PC against dream versions of the other PCs or the players may play other characters. It is largely about exploring the inner turmoil of the PC focused on.

Transitions are for acknowledging the progression of time between campaign sessions. They allow a group to cover long jumps in time for campaigns that require them. These can best be done by asking the players to describe a conflict that involved their character during the long stretch of time.

Third-person teaser involve player controlled NPCs that foreshadow events for their PCs. It’s a more innovative opening over, “You all gather in a tavern.”  TV shows that have openers that only feature the guest stars for that week are good inspiration for this. This device also allows the game master to introduce the players to the bad guy before their characters face and presumably kill him.

A vignette it will progress through 3 stages: framing, development, and conclusion.

Framing is where you establish the parameters of the scene. Described the characters involved, if necessary, the environment and lay out the conflict that drives the scene.

Development is where the players dialog and possibly play out the action of the conflict. You know when things are stagnating when proponents of each side restate their positions. When things stagnate nudge them along with an argument that might satisfy one side but in either case move things along to the final stage.

Conclusion is the wrap up. This might happen because the conflict resolves itself. If there is a standstill this could be a good ending to because the player will still have to deal with this conflict again in the futures during the course of the regular game.

I like to call vignettes cut scenes as well. I use them frequently in my play by posts these days to show stuff that occurs off screen from the player characters, to convey information to the players but not to the player characters. My PBP cut scenes are usually written by solely by me, kept brief, and are about the larger scope of the campaign. I’ve not tried to get the players in a PBP campaign to play out a vignette as it seems they are busy with playing out the PBP game. I suppose with the right mix of players that it might be possible.


Categorised as: Game Aids



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