Monday, November 14, 2005

Focus: Scope, Premise, Frame

So as a side note in the previous article, I suggested that it would be worthwhile to split 'Scope' into three terms since it applies to three different levels of the Imagined in subtly different ways. The primary reason that I didn't was that I couldn't figure a decent name for the Scope of Situation. The problem, I'm thinking, was that the term was already there: the "set of all significance" is what the Forge has already been calling the Premise -- the 'problematic aspect' that the players then create the theme out of. Vincent calls it "issues".

Now, while I've never really liked the term 'premise' as it's used at the Forge (it's used exactly how 'theme' is used in literary criticism), I can adopt it here because 'focusing the premise' works better than 'focusing the theme'.

So. We have six sets of elements (non-exclusive) of the Imagined:

Setting - the "set of all potential." All of the imagined content that may or may not exist in the world. Everything from gods and planets down to people and microorganisms.

Scope - the set of rules that describe the boundaries of the setting, what is and is not acceptable. Important: this is different from the imagined content itself. The Scope includes rules like "Island chains on a water world". It does not include "The island Hikawawa, where the ladies do the hula."

Situation - the "set of all significance." Elements of the Setting which have been juxtaposed in a way that generates action (hopefully action that the PCs can involve themselves in).

Premise - the set of rules that describe the boundaries of the situation, what is and is not acceptable for consideration. "Questions about religion" is a rule; "The Faithful's stance on polygamy and the degradation of women" could be in a Premise.

Scene - a sequential set of events involving a set of imagined elements that addresses (attempts to change or comment on) the Situation.

Frame - the set of rules that describe the boundaries of the scene, what is and is not present (physically or thematically). "Things found on a normal street corner" is a rule; "A bus, a fire hydrant, and a crying baby" could be in the scene.

And we have four articulation interactions:

Focusing the Scope - changing the rules of the Scope

Focusing the Premise - changing the rules of the Premise

Focusing the Frame - changing the rules of the Frame. This is not the same as Framing the Scene (below).

Framing the Scene - populating the Scene with elements according to the Scene's Frame.

That make sense to folks? I'll edit rewrite the prior post to reflect the change when I'm free.


At 5:38 PM, Blogger John Kim said...

Cool. I'm curious -- I talk some about "Scope" in an essay of mine, called

Immersive Methods for LARP

I had originally submitted this for the Knutepunkt 2005 book, but it ended up not getting included. I am working on an alternate version focused on tabletop play for Jonathan Walton's PUSH.

It seems to me that our concepts of "Scope" are pretty much compatible, but I'd be curious about your take.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Joshua BishopRoby said...

Yes, John, I can see a lot of similarities. Your comments on limiting scope in order to increase pressure / focus attention on character stories is particularly apt. I'd be interested in taking apart the pieces of that phenomenon to see how they work -- you suggest that imagined elements can delimit the scope, whether they are physical barriers or situational or personal reasons not to stray. Under my formulation, that's sort of jimmying the imagined context to keep player actions within the bounds of the Premise.

Obviously, with LARP's absence of strong or centralized scene framing, this sort of thing is necessary or else all the vampires might make a food run to 7-11. Other games with weak scene framing (from what I understand of your proclivities, you prefer to allow the players to do the where-to-go decisions, for instance) would also benefit from this. It's sort of a front-loaded scene framing, in that its focus is on maintaining attention on the situation.

Alternately, I can see a strong argument for ground-up sort of game formulations to start with the desired situation, then fill in the setting that includes the necessary elements, then create scenes to address the sitch. My assumption that Situation was derived from Setting is not necessarily true, it appears.


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