In part one of this series, I demonstrated that a pause or interruption in play can be enormously beneficial, if used correctly. Last week’s article examined before-pause and after-pause content and found that these had to match in order to extract that benefit, and that the type and length of pause was a critical variable that needed to be taken into account…
What Is A Pause In Play?
It sounds like a simple question, doesn’t it? But the more I thought about the subject of pauses and interruptions to play, the more my definition began to broaden.
Most people would probably go along with my initial thoughts – that a pause was an interruption during which no play or other game-related activity of any sort took place. But then I thought about game administration – the awarding of experience points, etc – and realized that these constituted interruptions in play and that the same principles and guidelines could be applied to the before- and after- content that they represented. That then led me to consider pauses while battlemaps etc were set up – same story – and then post-combat game mechanics that were not conducted in-character, which so far as in-character play went, were just as valid cases of an interruption. And then I thought about scenes where the party are split up, with one group in combat while another roleplayed, possibly in an entirely different location, and the realization that even some roleplaying sequences could constitute an interruption in the main focus of play at the time (which could either be the roleplaying sequence or the combat sequence).
By the time I was finished, I had no less than nine different types of pause, and I’m not even sure anymore that I’ve caught them all!
These have been organized very loosely in sequence of greater significance in terms of the scale of the interruption. So I’m starting with things that, until now, might not have been considered an interruption at all, and working my way up to the more obvious items. The reason for this sequence should be fairly obvious if you’ve read the earlier parts of the series, but I’ll reiterate briefly anyway:
Scenes have a certain ‘momentum of emotional intensity’ that continues to affect players (and audiences) subconsciously during a break. However, there is a ‘drag’ akin to gravity that this momentum must continually battle or the buildup of intensity becomes frustration and irritation. If the intensity pre-break is high, this ‘drag’ is also high; if the intensity is low, the ‘drag’ will be low – but so will the plot’s ability to sustain interest over a longer break. The optimum level of intensity post-break is determined by the combination of increase from momentum, the degree of ‘drag’, and the duration these have in which to take effect. Furthermore, the type of content both before and after the break is also a factor. Some types work well together, other types do not.
Understanding the various factors and elements enables a GM to choose the correct intensity and content post-break according to the pre-break content and intensity and duration of pause, or to insert or modify the pre-break content to match correctly with the duration of the pause in play and the nature and intensity of the post-break material dictated as happening next by the plotline, real world, or game mechanics – in other words, to manipulate the pacing of the game content before and after the break to sustain or enhance interest after the break. The cumulative impact of doing it right can be tremendous!
(1) Bridging Scenes
Roleplayed sequences separate to the main action can either drag the intensity level of the main action down (by slowing resolution) or build it up. The key factor that determines which outcome will apply is relevance to the main action.
Hollywood (especially TV productions) have gotten quite good at this. How many times have you seen a dialogue occurring between two characters as a voiceover during a combat or action sequence? How many times have you seen shows cut away from a combat or action sequence briefly for a conversation or other scene only to then return to the combat-in-progress?
- This technique works if the conversation (a) explains some aspect of the combat that is unclear to one or more participants, usually but not always the protagonist; or (b) increases the danger level presented by the antagonist; or (c) raises the stakes of the outcome of the action sequence. It also works if (d) the voiceover is a flashback in which a plan of action is decided and the action sequence is about the implementation of that plan. In all four of these cases, the interruption enhances the combat sequence.
- Next most effective is (e) an unrelated sequence of equal intensity that is relevant to the protagonist participating in the action sequence, especially if it threatens to inflict further drama on the life of the protagonist. Two people plotting against the protagonist while the latter is busy dealing with what the audience recognizes as a lesser threat or problem, for example. Because this sustains the emotional intensity of the action sequence, transition back and forth succeeds – at least for a while.
- Less effective still is (f) an unrelated sequence of equal intensity that is not directly relevant to the protagonist participating in the action sequence (but that is, presumably, relevant to another PC). This is the first subtype of a Bridging Scene interruption that crosses the line from enhancement of the action sequence to potentially damaging it.
- Worst of all is an unrelated sequence of significantly different intensity. This either makes the action sequence seem mindless and tacked-on (if of higher intensity) or slow and dull (if of lower intensity). Neither is particularly desirable.
The above list is based on my first-draft notes for this article. What I subsequently realized is that it holds true for non-combat in-character scenes as well, ie roleplaying. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a high-intensity interaction or a low-intensity one. This discovery came about when I realized that the same principles also applied to a bridging scene between two completely unrelated scenes linked by any sort of plot continuity. It might be making a plan and executing that plan. It might be having an argument between a PC and an NPC and then having that PC experience a revelatory/introspection scene as he tries to understand what led to the argument in the first place.
It even applies when you have two groups of PCs, each dealing with their own in-game plotline, both of which might derive from a common source earlier in the game/production, or which might be entirely unrelated. This simply means that from the point of view of one group in one plotline, the other is an interruption, while from the point of view of the second group, the first group’s activities interrupt them.
Which brings me to the following point: All of the cases (a) through (f) listed above can also work in an RPG. If you’re in a combat, simply assign an appropriate initiative number to the “other scene” to indicate when you are going to break to it, and break the other scene up into as many parts as you think there will be combat rounds, less one or two. Intersperse one with the other, and there you go.
“Housekeeping” refers to incidentals such as the handing out of experience points, leveling up (if there is such a thing in the game system in question), and so on. “Announcements” are fairly self-evident – at best they deal with how real-world circumstances will impact on the game, for example “Our next session will be on Saturday”.
These interrupt game play without contributing anything but time. At the same time, because they are a necessary part of play, however, they don’t arouse the frustration problems discussed in respect to the previous type of interruption – they simply permit intensity and anticipation to either build or drain. That makes this an ideal way to end a period of play (which is a useful coincidence), either building anticipation for the next chapter/adventure or permitting the the tension from the previous one to drain away, depending on the nature of the last scene played.
However, there are times when this effect is the last thing that you want, as I’ll discuss under (3) and (4) below.
(3) Pre-Combat Setup
This is usually dead time, but that can be unnoticed as the combination of anticipation of the impending battle is heightened during the set-up of the battlemap or whatever you may be using. Only when the players are not looking forward to the battle does this fail to be the case – and that usually means that the anticipation is of a dull or boring time, which can happen if combat always takes too long, or looks like it might in this particular case, or if the opposition looks trivial, or if there has simply been too much combat lately.
There’s not much that an interruption can do to fix game mechanics problems, I’m afraid. Nor can I do much within this subject to deal with a failure to sell the opposition as a credible but beatable threat. This is a situation in which a drop-in interruption in the form of a bridging scene can help, because you can use it to ramp up the level of perceived threat. Alternatively, you can sometimes use some method of delivering the bridging scene that takes one of the heavy-hitters from the PCs out of the combat – and that makes the opposition automatically more dangerous.
If this particular combat looks like it will take much longer than usual, and be uninteresting for that reason, that’s a failure of combat environment design – there is something missing from the circumstances surrounding the combat that is missing, something that promises to bring the combat to a resolution in a reasonable time-frame. It could be that you need to consult Johnn Four’s series on Hazards Of Combat, or perhaps you simply need to re-frame the combat as a delaying tactic of some sort i.e. it will persist only long enough for something else to happen or be complete. Putting a “countdown clock” of some sort into the circumstance can work wonders, especially if the opposition know the timetable (even vaguely) while the PCs don’t.
As for the “too much combat” problem, that’s a flaw in plot design that pacing can’t solve on its own; you need some other sort of content in the adventure to lengthen the interval between combats, even if you have to add a subplot on the fly. Failing that, contemplate running it as one big combat that contains roleplayed segments or elements – or (my favorite solution to this problem) a more cinematic approach (Hmmm – I’ll have to do a post on HOW to run a Cinematic Combat sometime. One moment while I add a reminder to my post schedule… Done – a three part series to follow this one! So, where was I? Oh, yes).
One way or another, that deals with the pacing/interest problems that can arise during pre-combat setup. So now, let’s talk about the times when they are not an issue.
If some anticipation is good, a lot of anticipation is sometimes better. One problem that I haven’t mentioned yet is the problem of anticipation building up interest to the point where the combat itself falls short of the resulting expectations – an anticlimax. Most GMs deal with this with panic and unwarranted powering-up of the opposition just to create opposition of sufficient potency to match the expectations. This, of course, is one of the worst things you can do; long-term, it will result in players being convinced that the GM is out to get them, a paranoia that encourages cheating and uncooperative attitudes.
Here’s a better solution: tailor the complexity of the set-up (measured by how long it will take you) to the degree of anticipation you want to create, which in turn should match the degree of difficulty that the opposition are expected to provide. You can make this happen in several ways – one is to have the PCs attention focus on the opposition and only notice the “dressings” of the environment when resting or moving or encountering them. In effect, leave the combat space undecorated, or mostly so, and add more to it as the combat unfolds. The first time you do this, the players will probably be unhappy – the second time around, it will seem natural, especially if you add appropriate description that covers why the PCs are only noticing things now. Another trick that I’ve used before is to get each player to make a Perception check on behalf of their characters; every success adds another layer of detail. Because the players can see you adding detail to the battlemap in response to each of their checks in turn, it distracts from the length of time the setup is taking.
But I have one final trick that I need to mention – when a combat is expected to be big, or “epic”. I do my setup before the players arrive, or before play begins at the very least, or even as a side-activity while refereeing. The players can either see this environment lurking, waiting to “strike”, or can see it building up as they play. Either way, it means anticipation of the combat will start from the beginning of the day’s play or earlier and will have reached fever pitch by the time you actually place figures on the battlemap.
You can even – from time to time – change the design as you go, seemingly in response to in-game events that actually have nothing to do with it, just to mess with your player’s heads!
Of course, I also need to point out that there’s virtually no setup if you aren’t using battlemaps and miniatures. This eliminates the dead time of set-up but also eliminates the benefits of the anticipation… so, something of a Catch-22. But it’s something that can be taken advantage of, especially if you want to accelerate the pace of the combat itself using Cinematic Techniques.
(4) Post-Combat Cleanup
There are three types of post-combat cleanup activities, and time for only two of them in most campaigns. You can put things away, ready for the next combat, you can deal with xp and healing and other game mechanics, or you can roleplay the post-combat wind-down.
If you deal with either of the first two, or both (which is what most people do), by the time you get to the third, the players have already wound down. The intensity of play is therefore at a much lower level; the combat itself has acted cathartically, releasing the tension and excitement that had built up, and the real-world and game-mechanics activities function as though they were a pause in play, amplifying that effect. Attempting the third is frequently hollow, with the players engagement levels out of step with what their characters should be experiencing.
There are times when that’s exactly what you want; it permits the players to tackle the next sequence of play with relatively clear heads.
A lot of the time, however, that’s not the state that their characters should be in. The adrenalin should still be pumping, and celebrations of victory should be taking place even as the characters decide on their next step. This state of play is better served by delaying those post-cleanup activities until after the third option has taken place, carrying directly on to the initial decision-making for the next part of the adventure. That gets anticipation building again, making it a far better time to deal with any post-combat cleanup that does not take place in-game. If you go directly post-combat into roleplaying, some of the game-mechanics activities that come under the heading of clean-up get roleplayed, but happen anyway.
For me, a big part of the decision rests with another element of the post-combat clean-up: if the players are going to loot the bodies or catalog treasures, they will be going into downtime anyway; I engage in a brief roleplay post-combat, and then go into a full post-combat break. If, however, the campaign is the type where that sort of activity is unusual, the ideal choice is to actually combine the remainder of post-combat cleanup with the next combat’s set-up, or with the next pause of some other type that is going to occur, and deal with all the intervening roleplay immediately.
You can even use character interactions to tailor and tweak these decisions for individual players by means of their characters – if there’s a player who tends to “crash” post-combat faster than his character should, an NPC buddy who is hyper-“up” after the combat can maintain a more even keel. If a player tends to remain juiced on adrenalin longer than is appropriate for his character, an NPC who always does a critical and emotionless combat post-mortem and critique can bring the player back down to earth a little. After all, nowhere in the GM’s manual does it say that they shouldn’t help the players roleplay more effectively!
In a nutshell, then: if your adventure is better served by a break immediately after a combat, do your post-combat cleanup, possibly after a brief period of roleplay, but before critical decisions are made. If your adventure is better served by keeping the adrenalin flowing and the excitement building, commit to a more extensive “in-character” period post-combat and fold the non-essential game mechanics into the next break to come along – even if that places it back-to-back with setting up for the next combat.
(5) Deliberate “Commercial” or Tease
To a certain extent, we have all become accustomed to advertising breaks in the middle of something we’re watching. In general, those have no place within an RPG, but there is an exception: the “next time on” tease, or “next week we’re playing…” commercial. “Station management” commercials of this sort can serve to build excitement (at the expense of tipping your hand to surprises you have planned) or divert building excitement if your next session is to start at a lower key than the players current mood. This works especially well when the day’s play ends in a battle.
These are a lot harder to achieve than in other media because the GM can’t predict what the PCs will say or do; that means he needs to focus on NPCs and NPC-driven events, or be a little more vague. “Next time: the aftermath of the betrayal” (where the “betrayal” in question has been the focus of today’s play) works perfectly well. And telling the players what the next session is going to focus on as a “teaser” gets them thinking along the indicated lines, rather than going off in some wild direction as a result of between-game reviews and conversations. You can also play the “misleading teaser” card, and it is acceptable to do so with greater frequency than would be tolerated in a TV show, simply because the players know that you are trying to build excitement while preserving the plot twists and surprises that you have in store.
The only real problem with a tease is when it falls flat because the players are totally uninterested in what you’re forecasting. This can happen if they are tired of dealing with the same villain all the time, for example. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen there is generally very little overt warning; you need to watch for subtle signals from the players – body language, tone of voice, side comments and commentary – that may occur at any time, even some game sessions in advance, i.e. the last time you had something similar happen. A tease can be a very effective tool, but it can cut both ways.
In terms of being a type of break, a Tease is a very interesting proposition. It’s in-character play but without any scope for player interaction. It acts as both a break in terms of accentuating whatever the precursor intensity trend was, but compounds that with the emotional and intensity characteristics of the teaser content, enabling you to drive expectations higher or lower. It’s a type of break that has game content.
This type of break is most closely related to the Bridging Scene, but that had (in most cases) PC interaction with some character – either another PC or an NPC, and this does not. That makes it something of a unique animal.
One caveat: once you make a teaser part of your adventure structure, you can never go back, or at least not until the campaign enters a new phase with very different goals and circumstances. It only takes one use for them to become an established element of the game, expected to occur every time, and missed if they are absent. The only time it’s acceptable to do without one is when the day’s play ends on a dramatic revelation of some sort or some other form of cliffhanger, e.g. a sniper attacks and a PC goes down, wounded, or a bomb goes off – the value of the cliffhanger is the mystery of what will happen next, the suspense of what the outcome will be, and that can be totally eradicated by even a well-chosen teaser. Again, players have been psychologically conditioned by television to find this acceptable.
It follows that most of the time, you will need some sort of teaser if they have become an established part of the structure of play. Your job is to choose the most interesting and dramatic event or events that don’t give the plot away, and this can be quite difficult to do, especially if the next adventure isn’t written yet! So think carefully before you use one – but don’t ignore the potential benefits that can result from doing so.
(6) Step Away From The Table
According to Microsoft, the average human attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish (see The Conversation, 28 May 2015; for a counterpoint, follow that with this article from the New York Times).
I would wager that tabletop gamers score even higher on average than other gamers, who were already noted in the research as having resilient attention spans, but even so, it’s food for thought.
When I was working for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the Occupational Health & Safety standards were a ten-minute break every hour because that would enable workers to miss one break if necessary without exceeding the maximum threshold of continuous concentration on a task (2 hours). Beyond that limit, error rates increased dramatically as attention to detail and task focus slipped. It was also a known and recorded fact that errors increased even in that second hour, unless at least a five-minute break was taken; it was just that the increase did not exceed the acceptable standards that the ABS had set.
On that basis, I began introducing 5- and 10- minute breaks into my campaigns every 60-to-90 minutes, and found that (a) concentration and focus levels went up; (b) side-chatter at the table went down; and (c) I was better able to focus on what was going on, performing at a higher level as a GM. Although you may not be aware of it, and may even be having a great deal of fun, GMing is an inherently stressful task. Taking a short break lets you de-stress momentarily and do a much better job. Such breaks are now an accepted and standard part of my game formats as a result.
These are breaks in play, quite obviously and by any rational definition, and they impact on the game in the same way as any other break in play. Which means the timing is critical, and the timing is defined by the relationship between the content on either side of the break. You can, through your choice of timing, build anticipation, create frustration, over-excite players or calm them down. They aren’t just a tool to directly help your gameplay abilities, they can make a material difference in the entertainment value of the game itself by manipulating excitement levels and anticipation.
What’s more, because they are relatively short, it’s comparatively easy to analyze the effects that a break has had; for that reason, this is the standard against which all other types of break are “measured”. Meal breaks (the next category to be examined in this article) were analyzed by comparing the effects of such breaks with the effects of these standard 5-to-10 minute intervals, and so on.
Tests have found that there is a maximum tolerance for advertising in TV shows of about 4 minutes, beyond which frustration over the absence of program becomes too great, as does the likelihood of something else on another channel capturing the viewer’s attention while channel-hopping. The frequency of such breaks is also an important factor; the optimum is 2-3 breaks per 30 minutes, or a maximum of 5 breaks per hour. These numbers aren’t hard-and-fast, there is some room for variations, but those are the basis on which most commercial TV operates.
Gaming is a lot more intense and immersive an activity than simply watching a TV show by virtue of the participatory element of a game. It seems to follow that the decompression times, which dictate the tolerable length of breaks, are longer, but the tolerance for frequency of breaks is lower, and my experience in applying such breaks to the gaming session bears this theory out in practice.
That, in turn, helps a GM understand the relationship between frequency and length of breaks and the game content that surrounds them. If the content is low intensity, breaks can be shorter and a little more frequent; if the content is high-intensity, breaks need to be longer and less frequent. However, there is a fine line in the former case; if the content is already low-intensity, and you lower that intensity still further with excessive breaks, it can easily feel like the game has stalled and progress is not being made. This effect is more strongly connected with frequency of breaks, so it’s my general practice to leave that value at the same 60-90 minute standard, and only manipulate the length of the breaks.
(7) Meal Break
At certain times of the day, meal breaks are expected, especially if an activity is expected to persist for some time after a mealtime. Meal breaks are more than several shorter breaks back-to-back; they permit players to digest game events, discuss circumstances and options, and formulate responses. Players are frequently sharper and more focused after such a break.
Within a fairly narrow range, the timing of these breaks is dictated by the clock, making them much harder to manipulate than smaller breaks. The effort required to do so effectively is, accordingly, considerably greater; but so are the benefits to the game of doing so successfully. In a nutshell, if the players are going to be more clearly focused and decisive, having a better understanding of the situation than they did prior to the break, if you can arrange the timing so that this is the circumstance the characters should also be experiencing, gameplay will be far better and more enjoyable.
As a result, there are two types of pre-break content that are especially useful when considering an imminent meal-break. The first is any complex situation or set of boundaries to player activities due to circumstances, where the characters should be more effective at responding than the players might be; the second is immediately following a major revelation of some kind that the characters should be able to take in their stride more effectively than the players will. Detailed planning, or in-depth understanding – those are the outcomes from a meal break to aim for.
The worst kind of pre-break activity are the ones that are generally considered to be the best types before other forms of break – moments of high drama (or melodrama) and combat sequences. That’s because the break is so long that no matter how dramatic and exciting these might be, the excitement and drama has had time to wear off during the course of the meal. Resuming where you left off, character emotions will be so far removed from what the players are feeling that there will be serious discontinuities in emotional reaction.
Deep, meaningful, low-intensity interactions, and introspection/analysis content work well before a meal break, even though they work poorly before any other kind of break; high-intensity interactions and action sequences work poorly before a meal, even though they are the best types of content prior to a shorter break or a longer one! That’s because meal-breaks kill surprise and excitement and adrenalin and anticipation. They really are the complete opposite of most types of game pause!
(8) End Of Play (prior to concluding chapter)
So you’ve reached the end of play for the day, but the particular adventure that you are running has not yet come to an end. Thinking like a TV producer, what you want when faced with this type of break is to end on a hook that will get “the viewers” to tune in again next week. That implies that the most dramatic and over-the-top situations should occur at such times – something memorable and exciting, in other words. The alternative is to treat these like a meal break, ending on a moment of revelation. Cliffhangers or surprises are the ticket.
That actually gives a wide scope in latitude. ANY type of pre-break content can be acceptable; the more important consideration is how that content will play at the start of the next game session, when intensity levels as experienced by the players will be relatively low.
But there’s a cheat that can be used to good effect: the synopsis. You can use the synopsis to rebuild the drama and intensity that had existed at the end of the previous session of play, at least to some extent; or you can even skip the synopsis and simply replay the moment of revelation or dramatic pronouncement from last time. It’s always better to start a session with a combat than to end one with a combat, for example, because simply recapturing the final moments of confrontation that were about to create the combat situation very quickly ramps the excitement up.
The key factor, as identified in previous articles is this: the ending has to point to the beginning that is to come. The pre-break content has to involve a situation that requires resolution at the start of the next session. If the pre-break content meets this simple criterion, anything else can be managed by manipulating the presentation at the start of the next game session.
Here’s a solid tip: In a pinch, any 5-minute break can be turned into an end-of-session break with generally satisfactory results. But that only utilizes part of the range of options available, so that should be a last resort.
(9) End Of Adventure
Things are somewhat different at the end of an adventure. Much depends on whether or not the PCs succeeded in achieving their objectives, and on what relationship (if any) there is between the concluding adventure and the next one. Some GMs think of adventures as volumes in a book, more-or-less independent of each other; others favor a stronger continuity and see adventures as one or more chapters in a book, each shaping the content of the next while propelling the protagonists into a new phase of a larger plotline. Some of my campaigns take one position, others the alternative, because campaign structures are chosen to suit the genre and style of play.
Even within that context, there can be variations. Adventures in the Adventurer’s Club campaign are fairly strongly episodic and isolated from each other, though subplots in one adventure may point to a later one to come; but on the China Expedition (“Things Of Stone And Wood”), we had multiple connecting plots within the context of the one overseas jaunt. First, as a prologue, there was the briefing, against a background of internal politics and dissension within the Adventurer’s Club; that then led to adventure number one in the sequence, in which a PC was kidnapped by his arch-enemy and had to be rescued; which led to adventure number two, a confrontation with river bandits and a supernatural kraken as the PCs made their way up the Yangtze River; which led to adventure number three, supernatural creatures attacking a village decimated by illegal medical testing involving another PCs arch-nemesis; which led to adventure number four, an epic trip into the Himalayas; which led to adventure number five, the confrontation with a resurrected Chinese Sorcerer and Mandarin with power over the elements; which then led to adventure number six on the way home, a Chinese Vampire with the PCs caught in a confined space (their ship); then to adventure seven, a confrontation with bureaucracy and another arch-enemy trying to steal the PCs cargo; which led to adventure eight, a fight between two Yakuza factions, one backed by a demon, and the other with the PCs as reluctant allies, in a bid to stop a Japanese invasion of China; and ending with an epilogue as the PCs returned home from their mission. Few of these missions had anything to do with each other; but they were all connected by the geographic consideration of traveling from A (New York) to B (a Himalayan Mountaintop within remote China) and then back again via C (Japan).
The less successful an adventure, in terms of the satisfactory resolution of outstanding issues of importance to the players/PCs, the more important it is that the end of the adventure propel those PCs forward into the next plotline. This can be most easily done with a “Teaser” as discussed above. It can even be worthwhile having an adventure end midway through the game session and the next start a few minutes later, blurring the lines.
The more satisfying an adventure is, within the above terms, the more the satisfaction that results will generate a momentum of its own to carry you forward into the next. As a general rule of thumb, I will simply announce the title of the next adventure (carefully chosen not to give away any secrets) and leave that to convert the satisfaction of success into anticipation of the adventure to come.
Unlike a meal break, the end of an adventure IS like a lot of smaller breaks back-to-back, but it can also be used in the same way that a meal break can if you have strong continuity or a strong connecting thread.
Several of these breaks refer to combining one form of break with another. While that’s a subject for the final part of this series, I wanted to talk for a minute about a related topic, “Impure” interruptions. Someone needs to use the rest room urgently (it might even be you) even though there is no break scheduled, for example. Or someone’s phone rings. Such interruptions are a part of life; they will inevitably occur on occasion.
The best thing to do in such cases is to take advantage of the interruption by merging it with some other kind of break, then (if necessary) amend the post-break content by inserting a bridging scene before resuming where you were interrupted. This bridging scene need not be one with any PC involvement; it can be perfectly acceptable to resume with a prelude to the next adventure, or even the one after that. You can, in this way, target the players rather than their characters, getting the former into the correct state of mind to resume handling of their characters in the interrupted scene.
It may be necessary, bearing in mind the frequency-of-breaks issue, that this means foregoing the next five-to-ten minute scheduled break, essentially bringing it forward without warning or planning. Use the break to plan how you are going to handle the reentry into play.
You’ve already seen how different pre-break content and post-break content can alter the effect of a break and permit manipulation of the intensity of the game; this article has shown how the nature of the break itself can have just as big an impact. The final part of this article will look at Combinations, and how to choose the combination that meets your game needs at any given time, in other words, the practical application of these principles.