The Handbook can fight me. I don’t care, bro. Strange interludes are friggin’ awesome! And in order to explain why, I’ll need to dip into the works of noted games scholar Jesper Juul.

I don’t usually mix business with pleasure, but today’s comic springs directly from a class I teach during my day job. While introducing my eager young game designers to the ludology vs. narratology debate, I like to use this video to highlight key concepts. If you hit that hyperlink, it cuts straight to Juul’s idea of games taking place in an “eternal present.” While the point is (obviously) debatable, it does reflect a very real tendency in TRPGs. In most cases, we view our storylines through our PCs. We only have access to the game world through their linear experiences and fixed perspectives. But that isn’t necessarily so.

The plot device pictured in today’s comic is all about mixing it up. Rather than playing Fighter-Wizard-Cleric-Thief, our heroes are taking on temporary fiendish personae. These demon alter egos represent a session’s worth of carnage, with some “let’s kill those other demons” encounters likely followed by a “let’s backstab each other” climax. If I was running this business in a real campaign, I might well have the main party encounter the aftermath of that battle. They’d probably fight the victor of the one shot grand melee. You want that moment of recognition: Holy crap! The stuff we did in that other session is showing up in the main storyline!

This gimmick is related to the film technique of crosscutting, where we cut between different scenes to show simultaneous action. In this case, the villainous Bad Cat threatens to sacrifice Antipaladin while our demon-Heroes gather about the soon-to-opened hell portal, waiting to leap through into the Prime Material. We witness the horrors of the Abyss first hand, gaining insight into the stakes that we could never witness from the fixed perspective of our usual PCs. It’s not a common device, but I do think that it’s a stellar way to break up a stagnant campaign or depict a sprawling storyline.

So for today’s discussion, why don’t we swap our best techniques for playing with perspective? When have you cut away to show the villains’ plans? Perhaps you’ve done a “let’s play the familiars” session? Maybe it was a last stand, where the main party would come upon the ruins of their one-shot selves? Or maybe it’s something as simple as a Fiasco scenario, hopping in to portray minor NPCs on demand? Whatever your style, tell us all about those unconventional “crosscutting” sessions down in the comments!


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