Contemplating Scene Economy with Seven Players

Note: This post has content disclaimers.

I am embarking on a grand journey. Running a Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: First Edition (1E 📖) campaign using Burning Wheel with 7 players. I’d imagine this will cause me some sanity loss. Recognizing this, I want to make sure I go into the game with a plan. In particular, I want to make sure everyone has a bit of the spotlight.

The Lead Up

, but it was the first Role Playing Game (RPG 📖) that I read that had an explicitly defined scene economy. In brief, a session is comprised of Conflict, Building, Color, and Interstitial scenes. Each side can have one Conflict scene per session (though they can have another one). Major characters have other scenes as well, though those are also strictly rationed.

Another one of Luke Crane’s masterful creations, Mouse Guard introduces the concept of the Game Masters (GMs 📖) turn and the Players turn. The GM frames the first half of the session (i.e. deliver this package, wrestle with the snake). The players take the reigns in the second half (i.e. resupply, look for a healer). Here is a review that sums up the session framing.

And then I played Fiasco, a game with a very structured scene economy; Each player will the spotlight for 4 scenes per session. When it’s a player’s turn for their scene, they can choose to either frame the scene or say how it resolves.

Proposed Solution

Today at lunch I got to thinking about how I’m going to make sure that everyone gets moments to shine; I don’t want to leave anyone behind, and I want some structure to the game itself.

The plan is at the beginning of the session, I’m going to hand out two tokens to each player; One will be an “Initiate a Scene” token, another will be a “Jump into another Scene” token.

If we are in a lull (i.e. a scene is just wrapped up and “two weeks pass”) then a player may spend their “Initiate a Scene” token. When initiating the scene, the player can choose to include other characters in the scene as well so long as those characters are available and not off negotiating a treaty or some such nonsense. (In some cases, I imagine that I might have the brought along character spend their “Initiate a Scene” token.)

Likewise, there are times when a player wants his/her character to jump into a scene. Spend the “Jump into another Scene” token, and you are there. You may need to make some kind of test to see how you arrive (i.e. Orienteering or Stealth come to mind).

Once all of the players have spent all of their “Initiate a Scene” tokens, then everyone refreshes their “Initiate a Scene” and “Jump into another Scene.” The idea is that I want everyone to have their moment.

If a player needs a follow-up scene, but doesn’t have an appropriate token, they can petition the table to have another scene. This system isn’t intended to be a straight jacket, but instead be a set of focused constraints to ensure everyone is participating.

When spending the “Initiate a Scene” token, the player should state the intent of the scene, instead of just saying “I wanna go into the inn.”