Scenes are the places where your story happens, but they’re more than just the background sliding past. Scenes themselves should also be alive, have aspects and quirks, the places where things happen.
Quick: which is more interesting, the three story brownstone house, or the Anderson place, a dilapidated three story house full of shadows and cobwebs, where the ghost of the original owner still stalks the halls?
Both are the same place, but the first is generic and easily forgotten, while the second generates something substantial for the reader to hold on to (and for our characters to do!). In this way, scenes are like characters unto themselves – they need to have depth.
A scene can be as complex or narrow as the story requires – an entire block of houses or a single room are equally important. And, in the same way, they run the gamut of complexity; for example, a new development where all the houses are the same style could be EVERYTHING’S THE SAME, while a section of town where there are several of these developments together could be called DEVELOPMENT HELL.
Like with characters, these aspects should both describe the scene while also suggest uses – for instance, DEVELOPMENT HELL could be used in a story as a place where everything is being constructed the same way with exacting details because the developer is creating a summoning circle out of the houses and streets to bring an elder god into the world. In this case, it would be a literal development to create hell. Or, perhaps, it could simply refer to the idea that the only things that the governing body will approve are this one style of houses because that style is the same as one where the head of the approving committee’s deceased daughter used to live. So now, not only is it awful because EVERYTHING’S THE SAME but it’s also a personal hell for that individual.
Of course, the best aspects are the ones that interact in a way with our characters. If we’re in a warehouse we could describe it as THE SHADOWS MOVE, SPIDERS NEST, and UNNATURAL CALM. Perhaps our intrepid wizard came here to investigate rumors of giant spiders – now, we know why the shadows move, as these spiders are swift and stealthy ambush hunters, that this is their actual nest, and there is an unnatural calm in the area because the spiders have eaten or chased away everything else.
Now, while in this warehouse, these aspects can also be used by our characters – THE SHADOWS MOVE means that there has to be a lot of shadows, so he could use them to move stealthily (if, perhaps, a bit unwisely) about the warehouse. UNNATURAL CALM means that without the other noises it should be easier for him to hear what is happening around him. And SPIDERS NEST not only describes the area, but also suggests a goal; perhaps there is a literal nest in the warehouse that contains what he is after, or that he needs to go destroy, or perhaps the spiders are nesting.
Some scenes, like the warehouse above, are fine just the way they are. Others, however, also involve a Face – a character that is intricately tied to and represents that scene.
A Face is created like any other secondary character, however their High Aspect (see DEVELOPING CHARACTERS) has to be related to the location in question. For instance, if your main character is visiting a gym, the Face might be the head trainer (a person intricately tied to the location). This trainer’s High Aspect might be as simple (and boring) as HEAD TRAINER OF GINA’S GYM, or it could suggest something more sinister, like FRONT MAN FOR THE MAFIA – indicating that the gym is used for a nefarious purpose (laundering money, perhaps?), and this “trainer” is in charge of the operation as well as making the gym appear and act legit. No matter what, the high aspect of the Face has to mesh with the location he or she is tied to – however, a face can be replaced should something happen to him, while locations are harder to change.
Adapted from Evil Hat Productions’ Dresden Files RPG