Friday, July 10, 2015

Behind the Scenes: A Look into Event Holding By Steven Matulewicz

Behind the Scenes:  A Look into Event Holding
Event: Good Old Fashioned Entrepreneurial Recovery (The Dragon’s Den)
Date: Sunday, June 28, 2015.
Subject: Event Design, The beginning (Article 1 of 3)

The purpose of this series of articles is to be a “look behind the curtain” of Eventholding.  The hope is to help show people what it takes to pull off an event, but also to give insight into the way we all approach and execute events.  In my case, there has been interest in what we did to make G.O.F.E.R. work as well as it did, and so the Felwood will be putting together some helpful articles.  As a warning, if you like magic tricks and don’t want to know how they are done, then in a similar vein, you may not wish to read these articles.  But if you are looking to throw events and see how other people put them together, then read on!

Phase 1: the origin.
So this all started off with my PC having “too much gold”.  Well, not really, but it is a good place to start.  In March of 2015, I posted to the Realms Facebook Site that within a 3 month period, my PC, Master Sir Therian of the Felwood, had acquired through work and through gambling, over 1500 gold.   Keep in mind that at my shop, half of what I take in is given as monster drops.  So actually I made much more than that.  Then there was a 500 gold bet on one hand of blackjack.  Anyway, one of the mechanics of our game I work on is helping/ making money flow.  I have paid to garb newbies.  I have bought in- game Horses for individuals and groups of people.  I have donated gold and green money to various Realms related projects.  I purchase items from other artisans in the Realms as much as I can.  I have given thousands over the past few years to monster drops.  Or, in short, I am generous.  Because the money should flow (for many years in the Realms, money tended to be stagnant.  You got some, but it seemed rare and there were not a lot of places you could spend it.  But that really is another, much longer story).  And so, here I am, with a ton of IC cash, wondering how I should spend it.  Putting hits out on other PCs, while was a tempting idea, was not the style of my existing PC.    And just going to events and passing out cash didn’t seem right either.
So why not throw an event?  Throw an event to make cash flow.  I talked to my fellow countrypeople in Felwood and the idea grew.  Why not design an event to re-distribute as much stuff as possible, both in IC goods and in artisan items, magic items, etc.  We would go out and ask for donations, see what we could do to get gold into the hands of as many players as possible.

And what better way to do that than to have a Dragon Horde.

Last year, I started a mini plot around a baby Dragon.  The idea was to help out a friend who because of medical issues could no longer really fight, but wanted more than anything to continue to play in the Realms.  Well, I owned a dragon puppet.  She liked puppets.  So the idea was born.  And this new idea, of having a true horde of stuff to give out, played right into these plans.

So the basic plot of the event was born.  PCs, at the behest of the baby Dragon, would clear out an existing Dragon Nest, luring PCs with the promises of gold and treasures.  Sounds easy.  What could go wrong?

Phase 2:  designing the event around the place you are holding it.
But before any real design in any real detail could be done, we needed to have a place to hold the event.  At the time, we were unsure what Dungeon pieces were available, how elaborate a setup we could make, what kind of setup time we were allowed…. There are a lot of things to consider with designing a dungeon. Initially and realistically, we did not know what kind of draw this type of questing would have.  The Event schedule these days is tight: lots of events up on the board.  So we would not only need to find a place, but one that was available at a time other people are not throwing events.  On top of this, the focus is LOOT, so we wanted to make sure the budget for the event went into both content and material items.  In the end, the best option we had available was a Sunday, using Riley Commons.

OK.  Riley Commons, has some historic issues as an event site.  We, as an energetic team, want to throw the BEST EPIC EVENT POSSIBLE (because, hey… EPIC).  So we now need, as a team, to define our goals:

1.)    Re- distribute gold (preferably give greater chances to newer players, if possible).
2.)    Have a High amount of items that could be found/ taken away from the event.
3.)    Throw a High Immersion event to make people forget about the Real World for a While.
4.)    Not loose money in the process.

The major advantage for Riley is that we traditionally do not have to rent the space, or if we do the cost is minimal.  Considering we were not expecting a high turn out, this means we can focus on content and design rather than sinking most of our cost into the site.

However. Based on the many past complaints of using Riley Commons, we needed to address the following known concerns.
1.)    Small space means a small event (30 person cap, or it becomes a fire hazard/ too crowded).
2.)    Small event cap means small budget.  If we increase the fee too much, we may not even make cap.
3.)    “Loading Time”  Since Riley is one room with essentially two side rooms, usually a dungeon crawl in this space was limited to  them interacting with the room, then going somewhere while the next room is built.  This creates a lot of down time, boredom and thus unhappy PCs.
4.)    No time for NPCs to get food or drink.  Usually NPCs not only fight, but also set up the dungeon space.  The result is 8-12 hours of work with little to no food.  For someone like me, who is a diabetic, many events become health issues quickly.
5.)    Challenge.  Even in a group of 30, many players would get bored.  The backline people would not feel engaged, or once the fighting was over, the “thinky”/ puzzle and RP lovers would take over, and the fighters would get bored.  As the saying goes in Felwood:  Silence is the enemy.  And in this case, Boredom equals lack of engagement equals silence.
6.)    SUNDAY QUESTS: in general are poorly attended.  So we are asking people to show up on a difficult questing day to a place that historically has a lot of issues as a place to hold and Event.
What we decided to do for this space was to re- think how to use it.  Go back to an earlier style of questing and apply it to this space.  What I am referring to is the Linear Night quest.  We would run groups of people at various times.  What this allows us to do is to still not charge a lot, make the groups smaller so the space does not feel so crowded, but running multiple groups through, but increase the budget.  As it was, the Dragon itself to design and build would run at least $150 (it ran higher) and that would severely limit what we could do other than throw a big monster at the PCs.  By running multiple groups, we now had a more comfortable budget to run the event.

And that is partially where the “Good, Old Fashioned” comes from.  “Gofer” really was the first title, as in “Go fer gold”, “Go fer stuff”, “Go fer Knifler Pins”, etc, since I wanted to have people come and relieve me of my coffers.

The advantage to running multiple groups is that we could also run smaller groups.  Smaller groups eliminates the cramped feeling Riley can have some times.  It also means the ratio of  PCs to NPCs can go down (from previous discussions, a 2 to 1 ratio allows for people to be engaged on a quest.  If you can get more NPCs, bring it to even a 1 to 1 ratio, then everyone is engaged.)

But the Linear Quest has its own set of challenges:
1.)    Story line.  Throwing multiple groups at a Linear Quest means different content.  If we throw the same content, then part of the immersion factor is gone.  Why would multiple groups encounter the same thing?  From within the game, this makes no sense.
2.)    Stuff.  In general, Linear quests did not always have extra stuff for each subsequent group.  So that means either no items are obtained on the quest, or later groups got the things the first groups couldn’t find.  Conversely, if the Magic Item for the quest was found early on, it means all the other quests would not. 
3.)    Time.  The group ahead of you takes too long, so all quests get pushed back. Suddenly your 10pm quest is being thrown at 2am.
And finally, there are the general issues from just throwing an event.
1.)    We said there would be gold.  A lot of the time when this is announced, many people claim they didn’t see much at all.
2.)    We need to justify the cost.  In this case, we are asking people to pay in advance to drive a long distance for a shorter than usual time.  Many times, people say they do not see where the money for an event goes.  People want to not only have a good time, but to feel what they paid is worth the time they had. 
3.)    We need to make sure there is enough challenge for the skill set of every group.
4.)    We need to make sure the people who are NPCing also feel engaged and looked after.  And that means, food, rest and dynamic characters and goals, as much as possible. 
So those were the challenges we had to face.  …Why were we doing this again?

Next Article:  The Event Process:  Planning, Design, Advertising, Recruiting.


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