Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Core Elements of Eventholding: Editing

Eventholding is a complex art. It has a lot of moving parts and capturing them all in one article would be pretty daunting. So today I’ll rant about editing. 

I hate it. The end. 

Okay, so that’s not really fair to say. The bit about that being the end. I do factually hate editing. But it’s an important part of writing, and also event holding. 

If you want to create an event that flows well, that tells a story, that leads to epiphanies, and has depth, you’re going to have to look at it more than once. You’re going to need to have someone else look at your work and tell you: “Hey man, you know, this looks like the players are only fighting for 12 hours. That might be epic for some players for sure, but maybe some content for your other guys too?”

And it’s also important for the mechanics we play by. I’m almost positive I’ve NPC’d at events where where the notes for the night quest were “and the  PCs solve the puzzle and  get the ( plot device.)”  As someone who was just tasked with helping to run the night quest, that’s sort of a daunting and ambiguous idea. What puzzle? Did you have a prop for it? Where is this being held? Sometimes while writing content your brain will just sort of fill the gap for you, it will insert a bridge between point A and point C in the plot, without actually working out what point B is. You can read over that point half a dozen times, and not even see it. To that end, having a second set of eyes look over your content, to tell you what’s missing, can be crucial. I think rolling with it, and course correcting your event as it goes is an important skill, and I don’t want to take away from that skill, in the same way you probably don’t always want to have to fix the engine of your car, you probably shouldn’t want to have to fix your plot. Sometimes it should run smoothly without having to roll with it.

So yes, it’s important to edit your written content before running it. But can you edit your content on the fly as well? You can plan ahead, to sort of edit your writing content to tweak the flow of your event day of, and make a more cohesive story for your players. And also to tweak for time constraints. I think it’s a good strategy, and it just takes a smidge more planning and forethought.  

 For the purposes of this strategy, you should consider these three things when planning your encounter 1) The time the encounter is intended to take. 2)What it adds to the plot. 3) What kind of player the content serves. 

  1. The time the encounter is intended to take

The time an encounter takes can be hard to judge. It takes practice, and even with practice  it’s always possible to under- or overestimate your timing. A prime example that I have seen over the years is solving puzzles in the dark. The puzzle seems easy enough in your living room when you test it in advance, and originally you’d planned to get that content out during the daylight, but it just didn’t end up happening. So you throw it into the night quest, and bam. The players take an hour to solve a 10 minute puzzle. It just happens. You learn to think about those angles. You make different mistakes. You learn some more. Time is hard to judge, but it’s important, because every quest must end. Whether it’s because the park is closing, or you only rented the area for a certain amount of time, or its Monday and PCs have to work. Timing is essential to throwing a good quest, so it’s something you always have to be thinking about when planning your content.

  1. What the encounter adds to the plot

Encounters should have a meaning within the context of the relevant plot. I’m not a big fan of loose ends, or story strands that are left without any closure. Events have time constraints, so your story should have parameters on what happens within it. Parameters don’t have to be strong, you could write an encounter with low importance, that just gives tidbits of world building, and is fun. That should still become relevant information at some point. But it doesn’t need to be immediately relevant. 

I like to rank importance in tiers. Tier A: being immediately important and relevant to the plot of the event day. Tier B: being relevant to the plot, and perhaps having more levels of foreshadowing for future events, with maybe a nod to current mechanics to reinforce an idea introduced in a Tier A encounter. And then Tier C content: this content is more relevant for world building, future events and side content. it’s just there to make it so that I can balance out the content for the types of players I have. 

  1. What kind of player the content serves

The way I think about player types constantly evolves as play styles evolve within our game’s culture, but here are some example play styles and content styles to consider: Fighting, Puzzles, Roleplay, Physical Challenges, and Theater.

 Fighting is fighting. I’m a fighter myself, and I like the rush of a challenging but fair fight. I think there are many people who play the game for the challenge of fighting. 

Puzzles are a little bit more broad. It could be a mechanical puzzle, a word puzzle, a riddle, or something else. 

Roleplay encounters should be where the meat of your exposition or direct storytelling happen. The drama. 

Physical challenges are anything physical that isn’t fighting. I consider physical challenges as it’s own thing because over the years, it has become apparent that fighting isn’t the only type of exertion people enjoy in the game. Sometimes a foot race adds to the story. Burpees never add to the story. Okay, maybe sometimes. You can do them though, not me. Obstacle courses are great options for physical challenges too. 

Theater can kind of overlap with roleplay, in some ways, but it’s a little different. While roleplay is a content piece that has interaction between multiple parties to tell a story, like Vlad the Vicious, and Markus the Wise, a theater piece is when the PCs use their creativity to perform something. For example giving them a silver chalice with ancient rites that must be performed under the moon but only giving limited parameters on what those are. In that way, the players are able to be creative in what the ritual looks like.

So you’ve broken your encounters down into these distinctions. How is that helpful? Say your A tier encounter in the first act of your quest has gone on for an entire hour longer than you intended on a 5 hour quest. What do you do? Cut all your C content. Bye. Say your next A tier encounter goes over too, but you only have A and B tier stuff left. Now you combine content. Add the relevant parts from your B tier encounter into your A tier encounters. Make them stronger and more interesting by mixing components from a Theater Encounter with a Combat encounter. Or just make it more challenging by combining two important Combat encounters into one. Its okay to make those edits behind the scenes. And it’s not too hard if you’ve planned it in advance. If you consider what to look for, and you communicate with your crew. 

If you do it right, your players won’t even know it happened at all. 

Those are my thoughts on editing before and during events to make your events better. 

Do you have any examples where editing could have helped make a quest better?

I look forward to your answers and seeing you on the field, also special thanks to Danny and Jen for editing this article for me. 

Keith “Saegan” Cronyn