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Dhobbry's picture
Scene Types
core rules, risks, mechanics

Hi everybody!

Sorry for the incredibly embarrasing newb question, but this has been bugging me for a while and I can't go on until I get it right.

As a GM, I don't know how risks work exactly. I understand the basic rules to resolve a risk, and then we have an action sequence (or Action Scene), which is a series of risks/rolls/rounds. This emulates action rounds in more traditional RPG's.

But then the rulebook introduces Dramatic Sequences or Dramatic Scenes.... extended scenes which are resolved through only a single roll. And here I get confused. Why not treat it as a series of rolled challenges?

Let's say we have a hero who wants to infiltrate a villain's mansion. We treat it as a Dramatic Scene, determine approach and narrate through it all until the hero runs out of raises. But why not treat this as a series of risks/die rolls?

What am I reading wrong? How are you using Dramatic Scenes?


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BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture


Actually, its not a bad newb question.  I think DS are one of the cooler (and trickier) mechanical tools in the game.  We've been playing for several months and I've only run ONE DS, and that was educational in and of itself.

Basically, a DS works for any scene where you want the tension to steadily mount, like a countdown.  The Heroes are trying to achieve a goal but only have X resources to achieve it before bad things happen.  But some scenarios led themselves better to DS than others.

In my own game, for example, in the next session I expect the players to attempt to sail their ship through a narrow channel guarded by two rival military forts.  I've been toying with making it a DS, but I'm really not sure how its going to play out in the end.  It could just as easily be a standard Risk, but I have some surprises planned that I HOPE will play into the structure of a DS, including several Opportunities that will play into different background stories.

So the best advice I can give you on DS is stop worring about them and try running a few.  Don't worry about if they are going to be huge successes.  Once you get an idea of how they flow, I think you'll be more comfortable incorporating them into your sessions.  But as a rule, I would say that any non-action sequence where a time limit or a count down is involved, or where you want to have steadily mounting tension, should work for a DS.

Over on the Facebook group, I tried to start a community effort to create a list of generic scene types that would make for good DS, but it didn't go very far.  I still think it would be a good idea and very helpful to new GMs.

Star West
Star West's picture

So, here's a key thing to mull over: "Dramatic Sequences" and "Action Scenes" ARE NOT SCENES in and of themselves. They are frameworks for resolving narrative direction anytime there is a "conflict" between two people playing the game (the GM being included and the most often person who there is a "conflict" with, the GM's job being to challenge the Heroes and force their Players to make difficult choices) within a scene. If there is no conflict between the people playing the game and everyone is just going along and agreeing, then there's no reason to bother rolling dice. Often, it is a good idea to frame your scenes using either the Dramatic Sequence of Action Scene framework, but you may find that you need to switch between frameworks midway through your scene (e.g. a Ballroom dance being used to forge alliances with powerful nobles turning into a duel (DS to AS) or a battle at sea turning into a negotiation for surrender (AS to DS,) or that the "conflict" between people playing the game has been resolved and the framework is no longer needed (e.g. the Villain has been rendered Helpless, and now the Heroes want to ask the Villain some questions -- the GM has information they WANT the Players to learn and that if they don't learn will ruin the game, so the GM DOES NOT force them to start a Dramatic Sequence, they just have the Villain give the Players what they want.)

Different types of scenes better lend themselves to Dramatic Sequences or Action Sequences, and different types of scenes work best when you use the frameworks in slightly different ways.

This also depends a bit on how your group wants to play. If your group likes to have a GM that drives players through an Adventure, your approach will be very different from a GM that is encouraging the Players to craft the Adventure they want to play. Let's call these modes "Active" and "Guiding."

The Hook: The daughter of a Montaigne dignitary has gone missing. The Heroes are investigating the disappearance.

  • Active Mode: The GM already knows what happened to the daughter. They know who the villain is (if applicable) and how the heroes will uncover the daughter's disappearance and will have them spend raises to put the how into action.
  • Guiding Mode: The GM has no idea what happened to the daughter. They're going to encourage the Heroes to invent the story from scratch and have them spend their Raises making declarative statements: "We find skipper who saw her two nights ago (spends a Raise). I ask the skipper 'Who was she with?' he says she was with so and so (spends a Raise.)"

Now clearly it isn't this straightforward. Active Mode GMs will constantly shift and adjust based on Player input and should encourage Players to say things like "We find evidence that the dignitary was in on it!" The Guiding Mode GM SHOULD plan on having an Active Mode back-up plan in the case that the Players struggle or start suffering from too much cognitive load. 

Scene Categories

I like to think of scenes as falling into one of 6 categories.

  • Exposition Scenes: Give Heroes direction on what they need to do next.
  • Intrigue Scenes: Are where Heroes work to try and gain leverage that they can use to their advantage; there’s many different types of Intrigue Scenes.
  • Action Scenes: Pretty self explanatory. This is any time you have an immediate threat present.
  • Vignettes: Relationship building or “slice of life” scenes. The Heroes are interacting with eachother or NPCs for the sake of building character.
  • Flashbacks: These are scenes that happen out of order. A Flashback can be an Exposition, Intrigue, or Action scene.
  • Strategic Flashbacks: These are brief moments that interrupt the current scene to establish something a Hero did in an earlier scene in order to explain how something happens in the current scene.

Exposition Scenes

These are your classic “looking for clues that will lead me to the murderer” or “there’s a grizzled man in the tavern who’s looking for help from a group of brave adventurers” sort of set-up scenes. The Heroes need to get some sort of information that will help them move to the next part of the story.

If you are using an Active Mode, they are a pain in the neck in 7th Sea, and it is super SUPER easy to muck these up, because I promise you, you will be tempted to turn these into Dramatic Sequences, and you most definitely SHOULD NOT. This temptation comes because in a traditional RPG the weird wizard asks the Heroes to recover a magic orb, the Heroes ask questions like “Is the wizard lying?” and the GM calls for a Perception or Intelligence check. Unless your Heroes are very comfortable making declarative statements and you are using a Guiding Mode, this does NOT work in 7th Sea.2nd Edition (see below)

The 7th Sea 1st Edition had an adventure where it required the Heroes to make Wits checks to read a series of bad romance novels and identify clues for where they needed to go next. DO NOT DO THIS in 2nd Edition.

If the Heroes failing to ask the GM the right questions will cause them to fail in the ability to move forward, that scene SHOULD NOT be a Dramatic Sequence. Play the scene with the Heroes getting the information they need and move on to the next scene.

I recently ran into this problem in a campaign I was running. The Hero, Ivan, went to visit his old rival Yuri who lives in a cabin in the woods in order to get some questions answered. Yuri’s was nowhere to be found and his cabin was in disarray with a clear struggle. Ivan’s goal was clear, he needed to find Yuri, but rather than spending his Raises to figure out how to hunt down Yuri, Ivan’s Player looked at me and said “I honestly have no idea what to do here.” I had set Ivan up to fail because 1) I had misread Ivan’s Player, who was looking to me for an answer (Active mode) rather than inventing an answer on his own (Guided Mode), and 2) failure meant that there was no way for Ivan to move forward in the story Ivan had gotten all excited for this emotional heart to heart with his rival and had the rug pulled out from under him.

Exposition scenes are typically thrown at the Heroes by the GM to give them the next step they need to take to drive the Story forward. Heroes don’t usually go into an exposition scene with a strong goal or direction in mind. They are NOT meant to challenge the Heroes, they are NOT meant to have any risk or stakes, and they typically should NOT be Dramatic Sequences and should NOT require your Heroes to roll any dice. The scene should end with the Heroes going “We know what our next immediate step could be” even if they decide to take it in a different direction. If you force your Heroes to spend Raises, and the scene ends with “Oops, the Heroes didn’t ask the right questions, oh well,” or the Heroes are going “I don’t know what to do with these Raises.” THE GM FAILED.

Example: Czarina Ketharyna is trying to forge an alliance with Illya and asks the Heroes to get a letter to him in secret. The GM Has has some ideas for how the Heroes might get the letter to Illya, but the Czarina doesn’t know She does however know someone who can help and how the Heroes can find her. The scene ends and the Players decide to take the Cszarina’s suggestion and go looking for Clara de Parousse.

The GM now has a number of options:

  • Action Scene: The GM could open with an action packed scene with the Heroes rescuing Clara from danger.
  • Intrigue Scene: They could open with an Intrigue scene where they’re at a masquerade and trying to figure out which of the masked attendees is Clara and try to steal a private moment with her to extract the information from her,
  • Another Exposition Scene: The GM could decide to get straight to the point and have the Heroes sit down with her in her lavish parlor over a game of cards; she’ll help them, but she wants them to do something for her first.

Ok, When do I roll then?

As your Players get more comfortable directing the story themselves and as a GM you start slipping more and more into Guided Mode, your Players will start making pointed questions and declarative statements about the scene, such as “I get the feeling the vicomte is lying to me, what is he lying about?” or even more definite “The vicomte is lying to me, it’s not his daughter he’s really concerned about.” As this starts to happen, the GM can ask the Players to declare an intent and roll, starting a Dramatic Sequence in the middle of the exposition scene. The Heroes’ Raises should be used to enact narrative change on the story, but if there’s any information the GM needs the players to know by the time the scene ends, the GM still needs to give it to them rather than trying to get the Players to figure it out using Raises. Think of Raises spent during an Exposition scene as if the Heroes are “Creating Opportunities.”

Intrigue Scenes

There are a lot of different types of Intrigue scenes with a number of different ways to resolve them depending on what you think will be most interesting for your Players and that they’re doing in the scene. Sometimes the Heroes will be to woo the Villain’s mistress, other times they’ll just spend a bunch of raises asking a series of questions in rapid succession, and other times they’ll try to set a trap to ambush an unsuspecting Villain.

Intrigue Scenes are where your Dramatic Sequences really take place. Your heroes should go into the scene with a clear stated goal and have an idea of what challenges they’re up against. There should be real risk to what they’re doing and some idea of what might happen if they fail to accomplish their goal.

Exposition or Intrigue?

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your scene is an Intrigue Scene or an Exposition Scene. The key distinction is that the Exposition scene is about getting on the right track, while the Intrigue scene is about seeking out and gaining leverage to accomplish a goal.

  • The Heroes trying to get a clue that will help them find the murderer is an Exposition Scene.
  • The Heroes searching the vicomte’s study to prove he is the murderer is an Intrigue Scene.

One Dramatic Sequence Wasn’t Enough!

Then have your Heroes roll again and start a new Sequence. Or don’t. Maybe you turn it into an Action Scene, or draw focus on two characters for a brief vignette before ending the Scene. If your Heroes failed, what do they need to do in order to get back on track?


Vignettes are the fun little moments that happen throughout the game. These scenes are the moments where the Heroes build relationships with eachother and with NPCs.

  • The budding lovebirds have a quiet moment together.
  • Two long lost friends have a chance to grab a beer and catch up after 20 years.
  • After an exhausting duel rivals sit next to eachother next to a tree and talk about life.
  • The scene where the Hero goes to buy a fancy hat.
  • When the Avalon privateer is knighted by Queen Elaine.

Vignettes make up some of the moments that your Players will remember the most about your game. In most cases Vignettes are usually meant to be “free-play.” The only reason you’ll use a Dramatic Sequence within a Vignette is to set the "rhythm" of the scene.

During my last campaign, there was a scene where two of the Heroes were trying outwit a giant talking bear. The bear was a friend of theirs and they were having a friendly competition. The Heroes and the bear took turns spending Raises to declare twists and turns that happened during their competition (e.g. the Heroes tricking the bear into chasing after their hat.) The Raises were used to set the tempo and duration of the scene. When all the Raises were spent, the scene ended.


Flashbacks are Exposition, Intrigue, Action, or Vignette scenes that occur out of sequence. They can be very useful for filling in details. The key thing to remember about a Flashback is that you will typically (although not always) have an idea of how the flashback is going to end, so the GM and the Players need to work together to maintain continuity in a way that makes sense.

Strategic Flashbacks

These are super fun! These are very brief moments where in the middle of one Scene a Hero wants to establish that they did something earlier off-screen to set up the events of the current scene. They should not take longer than 45 seconds, and I usually only allow them if the Heroes are activating an Advantage, Virtue, or Hubris.

No Plan Survives Contact with the Players

Just because you start off a scene as a certain type, doesn’t mean it won’t change as the scene unfolds. As the players interact in the scene, it’s possible that an Exposition scene can turn into an Intrigue or Action Scene, Strategic Flashbacks explicitly happen as brief moments that interrupt Intrigue and Action Scenes, and GMs SHOULD look for ways to transform Vignettes into one of the other Scene Types in order to end the scene and keep driving the story forward.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

Dude!  Save some of this for "the book!"

Robert Newman
Robert Newman's picture

All of the above is just immensely powerful and awesome advice! I think I’m going to have to take all that into consideration for myself when I think about the nature of action scenes and dramatic scenes and how to use them!

The only thing is that I think these answer one of the questions proposed and not the other. I’ll admit that I have been wrong before, so I apologize in advance if everyone thinks the above covers every question raised. However based upon how I read the starting post, (which I actually think is a fantastic question, and not just a question for people new to the game!), there was one part that wasn’t answered.

That question was: “why not just make each piece an individual rolled challenge instead of making them dramatic scenes?” 

Now, as with any and all explanations I like to give I like to add the: “grain of salt” addendum in that this is just as I read and like interpreting the rules, and why I think they were written as such. As such your individual mileage may vary greatly from mine.

I actually think they were constructed in this way on purpose to avoid just that: rolling dice for every little situation and thus having to create consequences and possibly opportunities for every single risk.

Looking at the nature of a die roll in 7th Sea: I.E A risk. Players use rolled dice to create raises, and then players spend those raises on various declarations, activities, and things in order to accomplish, (or avoid) certain points. Based upon the way that this system works players a very unlikely to fail on a roll of the dice. As long as they can make a 10 they gain a raise in which to spend on at the very least completing the action they set out to do, and then if they have any raises left over they can use them for various other effects based upon opportunities, and consequences of that risk.

So by distilling scenes, (or rather scene frameworks as was so eloquently put above), players get to use those raises to indicate what they are succeeding at for that situation, without having to determine all consuequences for failure of each individual action. Otherwise I would think that rolling individual risks all the time for each individual action would bog things down tremendously and actually be counter to you being able to play out the swashbuckling action/adventure of the genre the game emulates. The reason I state that second part is that way of thinking, in my experience, actually dissuades people describing their actions as big and epic things for fear of failing their actions and not having it work at all because each step requires a roll. 

Alright, well now that I have thrown out a bunch of nonsense gobldygook out there, let’s talk about an example to try and express what I’m talking about.

say  a player is trying to sneak into the manor where the villain is holding a lavish party in order to sway to sway the local lords to his favor. Say one of the players wants to sneak into the manor and steal some of his plans instead of wading through the front door and through the party and risk being discovered.

Well, you could roll each situation individually: Player wants to use finesse and hide to sneak past the guards. The gamemaster determines tou need a raise to succeed. 

But what are the consequences of failing that action? You don’t sneak past the guards, which is automatically implied by you succeeding in that action. Sure other consequences could be given: you drop something you were carrying making the guards more alert for intruders, etc. 

But, the core declaration being made is that you sneak past the guards without being seen. 

And then every other thing that the dashing rogue would need to accomplish would need individual risks to accomplish from that point forward.

Now with a Dramatic scene the player gets to declare what they succeed at based upon their approach and what they want accomplished. “I spend a raise to sneak into the manor unseen. I spend a second raise to sneak about the place looking for where the plans are most likely hidden...” etc,etc. 

This slows play to stay fluid and organic with the players spending their resources ,(raises), and the gamemaster describing the general scene and how it changes as a result of those declarations.

God I hope that makes sense and doesn’t come off as a lunatic rambling on and on. However using my phone to respond is very difficult it appears :/, first world problems!

Florian's picture

I don't feel Dhobry's very important question has been answered. Are Consquences/Opportunities used in a DS? Rules state (187) "A Risk in a DS is a long-form gambit with long-form consequences". Right. But the example, as R. Newman points out, ignores Risk and Consequences. The rules seem to imply that a DS is basically a narrative, non-challenge sequence where you roll just for the sake of it.

In fact I basically threw the book out in disappointment after this section. And BluSponge's answer says it all: It's cool - we never use them.

So why not just ignore this DS thing? Because there's the same issue with Action Sequences, only it's hidden. Step 4 (p. 187) claims you take opportunities, avoid Consquences, in both DS and AS, but you don't.  The example Action Sequences never describes any Consequence! In fact it feels that the Risk chapter has been written separately.

Without Consequences and Opportunities, the system boils down to a farsical "Spend a Raise to do something until you have none, then roll again to generate more". Same for combat. But combattant NPC roll their own dice, and combat Raises create Wounds, so there's a built-in Resource issue. But non-combat DS have no such opposition, resource, or metric.

I have nothing against narrative games. But if there's no challenge, it's not a game.

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

And BluSponge's answer says it all: It's cool - we never use them.

Except that's not what I said.  Not even close.

 I think DS are one of the cooler (and trickier) mechanical tools in the game.  We've been playing for several months and I've only run ONE DS, and that was educational in and of itself.

Now, I suppose if you squint really hard through your glass of port, you might read that as, "damn, even blusponge finds dramatic sequences lame and confusing."  Maybe.  I mean, it's cool if you find them that way, but please don't purposefully miscontrue what I said to prove your point.

So let's get to it:

Are Consquences/Opportunities used in a DS? 

Yes.  They are.  They just are not enumerated up front (necessarily) the way they are in Risks and Action Sequences.

Rules state (187) "A Risk in a DS is a long-form gambit with long-form consequences". Right. But the example, as R. Newman points out, ignores Risk and Consequences. The rules seem to imply that a DS is basically a narrative, non-challenge sequence where you roll just for the sake of it.

Oh, not just for the sake of it.  Not by a long shot.

As I said upthread, DS gives you a framework in which you have X actions to achieve your goal, whether that is seducing a lady at a party, breaking into the villain's stronghold, or breaking an ally out of prison.  Because your resources are limited, ANYTHING that comes between you and your goal can be considered a Consequence.  A watchful guard, a jealous suitor, a squeaky door.  Unlike a Risk or an Action Sequence, where the GM tells you up front, "this is what you are up against", in a DS every consequence is dealt with by the player actively changing the scene to his advantage, organically.  

So, for instance, it doesn't cost a raise to open a door, but it DOES cost a raise to open it and not alert the guard on the other side.

It doesn't cost a raise to dance, but it does cost a raise to dance so well that you catch the lady's eye and impress her.

It doesn'r cost a raise to anger the nobleman who you've just insulted, but it does cost a Raise to convince he that calling you out for a duel isn't worth it.

Those are all Conquences in the sense of 7th Sea.  But the BIGGEST consequence in a DS is that if you aren't careful, you are going to exhaust your resources before you achieve your goal.  At that point, whatever happens happens and you have no mechanism (game-wise) with which to avoid it.

Same thing with Opportunities.  They cost you resources that can no longer go towards achieving your goal.  Now, they might HELP you toward your goal (a secret passage that circumvents the heavily patroled halls of the villain's lair, the discovery of a guard's uniform, a tip that the lady you are attempting to seduce has a weakness for a certain topic or drink), or it could be unrelated to your goal but still of vital interest to your group or another hero's story.  So, do you spend the Raise to take the Opportunity?  Or do you skip it because you need those resources for something else?

Without Consequences and Opportunities, the system boils down to a farsical "Spend a Raise to do something until you have none, then roll again to generate more". Same for combat. But combattant NPC roll their own dice, and combat Raises create Wounds, so there's a built-in Resource issue. But non-combat DS have no such opposition, resource, or metric.

Which I've pointed out is completely wrong.  There is opposition.  Plenty of it, potentially.  

Let me paraphrase something I wrote in Cut to the Chase that I think applies here very well.  If all the player does is spend his resources towards achieving his goal, they should be easily adequate to the task, but you should suffer plenty for this single minded approach.  The real test is how many consequences can you afford to avoid before your goal becomes untainable?

And this is why DS are both awesome and intimidating.  It's a great mechanic, but it doesn't fit well for everything.  Going shopping in town should not be a dramatic sequence.  An audience with Queen Elaine COULD be a good dramatic sequence, assuming the heroes want something they are unlikely to get otherwise (like catch an assassin before an attempt is made on the Queen's life).  A GOOD dramatic sequence REQUIRES a countdown (at least in my limited experience), and the DEADLINE is the real Consequence of the whole thing.

So you are right, if you are just having your players roll dice to do things without any real point > count point, then that's a terrible ANYTHING in 7th Sea.  The text actively discourages that sort of thing.  And no one here is arguing that DS or AS are anything of the sort, except maybe you.  I certainly don't play them that way.  And, to the same point, I would suggest if you aren't slapping a countdown on your Action Sequences, you aren't getting as much out of them as you could.  But THAT is a topic for another time.


Florian's picture

Thanks for your thorough reply, BluSponge, and sorry for putting words in your text (but you did say you used a DS only once in several months!).

The way you describe a DS above makes sense to me, but I think that version is not the rulebook's. Here's why.

You say it takes "X actions" (Raises, here) to achieve the DS goal. But...

1) Is the X set in stone before starting? Either silently, or explicitly ("Guys, there will be 6 Obstacles to infiltrate the palace and convince the Count." plus bonus Opportunities along the way) That's the D&D4 Skill Challenge way, and I'm fine with it. But it does limit the flexibility or free-flowing nature of the DS (the end of the challenge may feel arbitrary and/or the GM may have to impose challenges). But mostly neither the example nor the rules sound like this.

2) If it's not predetermined, that's when it becomes ugly. AFAICT, the example has the GM in fact making up Obs and Opps as it goes along, in response to the players' ideas. While it creates a nice free-flowing, responsive, organic, well-paced gameplay, there lies the farce, in terms of challenge. The DS does not end when it's overcome, but rather when the player runs out of ideas, or out of Raises (not when X is reached, because there is no X). Also, an action warrants a Raise when... the GM decides it does on the spot. I understand your example, but is there a guard behind the door? You can bet that if the player's low on Raises, but only halfway through the challenge, oddly there will be no guard. And if he's about to reach the countess whith plenty of Raises remaining, there would be an unexpected Obstacle that springs in. The main criterion here would be the drama and action flow, leading up to a nicely-timed finale.

My point is: A)  if it's supposed to work the way you put it, it would or should appear in the rules! Give advice on the number of Raises for a DS. Make it clear in the example. Therefore B) I'm not convinced that's the intent of the rules.

Why does it matter? A ruleset that puts drama first it that way has to lean heavily on GM decisions to make it work, because dramatic pacing rules are damn hard to write.. But the game becomes "GM-driven", which I hate, even as a GM. The Risk mechanic doesn't have that feel, but the DS rules seem to give it up and hand it to the GM. So, upon reading the DS part, I was much disappointed!

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture

(but you did say you used a DS only once in several months!)

Yes well, I needed to find the right circumstances.  I tend to overthink these sorts of things, admittedly.  Good DS candidates aren't always as obvious as good action scene candidates.

The way you describe a DS above makes sense to me, but I think that version is not the rulebook's

I guess I should reread the rulebook.

Is the X set in stone before starting? Either silently, or explicitly?

With a DS?  Yes!  You have X raises with which to achieve your goal in the sequence.  Once you run out of Raises, your fate is left to the whim of the GM.  You have no bargaining chips left to affect the scene/narrative.

If it's not predetermined, that's when it becomes ugly.

Isn't that the point?  ;)

The DS does not end when it's overcome, but rather when the player runs out of ideas, or out of Raises (not when X is reached, because there is no X).

No.  No, no, no.  Okay, the DS ends when it's overcome (the goal is achieved).  If the players run out of raises, they no longer have control of the scene and therefore the GM simply takes over and the chips fall where they may.  It has nothing to do with whether or not the players run out of ideas – if that's your experience, you should give the group (or individual players) multiple/different goals.  Or are you telling me your players just dumbfounded as to how to achieve their goal with the Raises they have left?  Also, if there is no X, then its a POOR idea for a DS.

Also, an action warrants a Raise when... the GM decides it does on the spot.

How is that different from any other RPG when the GM decides a roll is required to make something happen?

I understand your example, but is there a guard behind the door? You can bet that if the player's low on Raises, but only halfway through the challenge, oddly there will be no guard. And if he's about to reach the countess whith plenty of Raises remaining, there would be an unexpected Obstacle that springs in. The main criterion here would be the drama and action flow, leading up to a nicely-timed finale.

You're assuming a lot here.  You are assuming that just because a player has Raises, it's the GM's obligation to soak as many of them up as possible.  By that logic, the objective will ALWAYS be at the furthest point from the heroes, and players will always have to choose at least 1 consequence to suffer along the way.  That level of predictability doesn't feel very exciting, and ignores things like Opportunities (whether offered by the GM or created by another player).  

Sometimes, YES!  There WILL BE a guard behind the door, because it makes sense to the fiction.  Other times there won't be but the heroes need to stay vigilant.  Would a villain station a standing guard in his private office while he's elsewhere, where the poor sod might accidentally stumble onto something important in his idle time?  Not likely.  Would a villain station a standing guard in the gallery to guard a prized macguffin he knows the heroes are seeking?  You bet your ass he would.  Every time.  Doesn't matter how many raises the group has left.

The rules are simply tools to create drama in the game.  The example is supposed to explain the process in the simpilest terms possible.  They cannot account for everything.

A ruleset that puts drama first it that way has to lean heavily on GM decisions to make it work,

See, I would disagree with this assumption.  Maybe that's something that's come with experience, or willful ignorance.  Maybe its me coming from a long line of more traditional modeled games where, as the GM, I'm used to mapping out challenges to some degree.  I'm not going to just throw crap at the players until they are almost out of Raises and then suddenly, like magic, they arrive at their goal but now have to choose between failure and a costly victory.  I will dangle hooks and opportunities along the way and see what they bite on.  But if they singlemindedly approach their goal, I don't feel an obligation to wratchet up the drama for drama's sake, regardless of whatever the example says or implies.  I also don't see how, given the amount of agency the game gives the players, how this makes a DS "GM-driven".  It's much more of a conversation, back and forth.  But I would agree that if the goals of the scene are not clear, things could potentially go off the rails, especially if the GM is feeling hamstrung by the structure of the rules as opposed to their purpose.

BTW, let me give you an example of a scenario I REALLY wanted to make into a DS, but could never figure out a good way to make it work.  The players were smuggling guns up a narrow sound between two opposing military forts, either one capable of shelling and destroying their ship.  The problem was, making it a DS never added to the drama of the scene.  It basically amounted to the heroes steering the ship in a straight line and being quiet.  In the end, I decided it just didn't make any sense as a DS – even when I added nasty, flying gargoyles to the mix.  Too few options available to the players.  And this is why I haven't run many DS.  

Florian's picture

Just to be clear, I did not meant in any way that you do it wrong. Quite the opposite. My point was: your take on it makes sense to me. Therefore, that it's not described that way in the rulebook means IMO that here's an issue with the rules. And really, it's the rulebook that I'm questioning, not the way someone handles them.

(I mean, if you can make a rule work, great, but isn't it better if it works "out of the box"?)

BluSponge blusp...
BluSponge blusponge@verizon.net's picture


So last night I ran a Dramatic Sequence (my second) that basically amounted to a social conflict between the heroes and the agent of a villainous Vodacce noble.  It gave me a first hand look at the issues you are talking about: namely that the players essential either run out of Raises or ideas.  The other issue I discovered was that, during an RP heavy scene, it's sometimes difficult to know when to charge a player a Raise.  When the response is in-character, as opposed to "I want to...", things get kind of fuzzy.

Thinking about it afterwards, none of these are direct failings of Dramatic Sequences, but there are certainly things a GM can do to buttress these sorts of scenes.  I suspect Kevin Krupp provides some solutions in Crows Nest #1, but I'll offer my thoughts here as well.

First, establish clear character goals.  Ask each player what they hope to accomplish in the scene.  This is on top of how they hope to accomplish that, which amounts to their approach.

Second, establish a clear threat.  What is something that will happen if the Heroes aren't careful?  If you are using them, this might be a good thing to use a progress clock for.  Note that this is different from a Consequence.  Think about the threat in terms of what does the OPPOSITION hope to gain from the scene.

Example: the villain convinces the ambassador to launch a destructive offensive.

Third, establish a single Opportunity at the beginning of the scene.  Doing this gives each player a choice right from the onset – when do they think they are ahead enough to risk spending a Raise on something other than their goal.

Example: the villain has a secret he does not want to reveal.

If you are the kind of GM who likes index cards, it might be helpful to write these out on cards before the scene begins, especially the last two points.  This way, there is a constant visual reminder both for you and the players.

In the case of the scene last night, I feel the players all had clear goals reflected in their approaches.  However, if I had established a clear threat (in this case, the agent realizes the group is culpable in the disappearance of his master's wife) and opportunity (the agent knows a secret about the woman), it would have really juiced some of their decisions.  Not that this was necessary – everyone involved enjoyed the roleplaying of the scene and really sunk their teeth into it – but I did detect that by the end of the scene there was a certain sense that the players didn't really know where else to go with it.  The bigger issue was, as I mentioned before, that the heavy in-characer RP made it difficult for me to determine when to call for a Raise.  And since I don't like to break players out of the immersion of the scene, it would really help to put some of these things out front and center so THEY can decide when they want to trigger things as opposed to breaking character to prompt them.

Those are my thoughts anyway.  Tonight, I'm going to reread Kevin's article on the subject.

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