I just tried Montsegur 1244, and it did not really sing for us in this group because we did take long time framing scenes, the scenes were quite discussion-heavy and correspondingly lasted quite long.

I know aggressive scene framing, jumping in medias res, thinking of scene stakes and ending the scene quickly when the stakes are settled is hard, and even with good prep and in a system I am very comfortable with I have difficulties. How do I incentivise and get my co-players (and myself!) to keep scenes short, interesting and active?

Do you think a sand timer – how long? – or other unobtrusive countdown to remind players of the fact that scenes should be fast might improve this, or would it be distracting and breaking the freeform nature of the game?


1 Answer 1


The best way to have players frame the setting aggressively that I have found is for them to be as familiar with the setting as possible.

A few years ago I was running my group through two campaigns--one set in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar, the other set in Terry Amthor's Kultheia. All of us were familiar with Valdemar, as we had all read the books. I was familiar with Kultheia, but my players were not.

In Valdemar, the play went smoothly, and people knew the setting and were ready to roll. In Kultheia, delays were far more common, more exposition was needed, and people had to back me up to ask questions and get clarifications. Knowledge of the setting made a world of difference.

In most contexts, I personally would be completely put off by a timer or anything of that sort. It would completely break my suspension of disbelief, and throw me out of character. Of course, if we were playing a modern campaign with a time limit (such as the "Disarm the bomb before it goes off" kind of thing), it might work, but for most contexts, it would be a horrible distraction.

Now, while we don't use a timer, we do have what are called "Pting warnings." (The word "pting" is onomatopoeic for the sound of a ricochet.) At one time, early in our Valdemar campaign, we had frequent side discussions. I started using the word "Pting" to remind people that they were getting distracted. (I also had to, at one point, threaten to give an XP penalty, but I never had to actually do so.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Note that there is no GM to ask setting details about in Montsegur 1244, and it is set in a moment of real-world history. The point of the game is also largely to create the kinds of details that would normally be created by a GM. Does this change your answer at all? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2016 at 4:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, no, my answer remains the same, but that may be because I've been spoiled, both as a player and as a GM in those systems that need it--the groups I've played with are all about the role-playing aspects, so we tend to dive into the setting materials with enthusiasm before the game session starts. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 12, 2016 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Beyond Montsegur, this is interesting because it is a very counter-intuitive answer to me. My expectation would be that with high setting-familiarity, players would introduce, embellish and discuss a lot more cool tiny setting detail, in throwaway-comments, beween-player discussions, quasi-sightseeing etc. — Any idea why you saw the opposite? Less time spent ot scene exposition? \$\endgroup\$
    – Anaphory
    Oct 12, 2016 at 7:29

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