THE SCENARIO JURY AT FASTAVAL
Each year at Fastaval a jury is assembled to decide which of the scenarios premiering are nominated and win the Otto awards. For many participants it can be difficult to see through the process of reading, evaluating, and shortlisting the scenarios, and how much work and effort the judges put into being fair and balanced to both the scenarios and the writers. In the following, you will meet this year's jury and read about the judging- and evaluation process at Fastaval.
Fastaval Scenario Jury 2024
Head of the jury
Anna Sigrid Pii Aunkilde
Sigrid has been involved in almost all aspects of Fastaval organization over the last 20 years, and Fastaval is the center of her role-playing universe. She especially appreciates techniques or structures facilitating those moments where strangers can meet and create storytelling magic. In the real world, Sigrid is a workaholic, and she uses board games as well as role-playing as both an escape and relaxation in a busy schedule.
If Sigrid was a role-playing character, she would be a stat-based mage in a free-form scenario.
Amalie Holmstrøm Sichlau
Amalie had her first Fastaval experience in 2017, when she played a scenario in every game slot - except when she was making cheesy toasts in the kiosk. Since then, she has had some organizer roles and she has been a scenario designer twice. Now, she is looking forward to reading all the amazing scenarios in the run this year. Outside Fastaval, Amalie spends time on board games, table-top and live role-playing. She likes most genres, but has a preference for character driven or storytelling games, or anything seemingly straight out of a theater.
If Amalie was a role-playing character, she would be a druid/bard multiclass in an absurd black box dance larp.
Anders Frost Bertelsen
Anders initiated his Fastaval life in 1999, and while he has since dipped his toes in both larps and other conventions, Fastaval has always remained his great love. He has designed scenarios and been an organizer in other ways for years, but his great Fastaval passion is playing the games. Outside Fastaval, Anders participates in several tabletop campaigns and has a preference for sparkly metal dice.
If Anders was a role-playing character, he would be a charlatan in Warhammer Roleplay, making a living from selling hot air and good ideas to the master merchants of the Empire.
Henrik was introduced to Fastaval in 2005, where he had his horizons expanded by the scenario Feuerteufel. To think, role-playing can be awesome even if your character dies in the end! This is the first time Henrik swaps the role of scenario designer for that of a judge. He loves cool mechanics, whether creative physical props, interesting storytelling techniques, or novel ways to roll dice. Outside Fastaval, he also designs role-playing games and his first role-playing system is launching this autumn.
If Henrik was a role-playing character, he would be a Savvyhead in Apocalypse World. He would have a workshop full of dice and markers, hidden away in a run-down suburb in mythical 8240.
Cecilie has wandered the hallways of Fastaval since 2004, where she has branched out into everything from baking cakes to being a scenario designer, and anything in between. Last year she was a judge for the first time, and she was so taken with reading the great scenarios that she has donned her reading spectacles again this year. Cecilie has a major preference for a well written character. When Cecilie is not attending geek Christmas, she fights weeds with her flamethrower or conjures magical creations from paper and pearls.
If Cecilie was a role-playing character, she would be a rogue in a character-driven, low fantasy sit-com, where her darker side would manifest through murderous booby traps.
Ida got irrevocably taken with role-playing when she moved into System Danmarc for a weekend in 2005. The year after, she discovered Fastaval and became a regular. Ida has previously been part of the jury at Fastaval, but other than that she has participated as player and GM. Ida equally loves a good storytelling game in a classroom, a blackbox scenario treating abstract subjects, or a multi-day larp in a Swedish cold-war bunker. The only thing that can keep Ida away from Fastaval, is when she is on a job outside the country. The last time was when she in 2022 was in Sierra Leone, missing her fastaval-family.
If Ida was a role-playing character, she would be a fox on a secret mission to find the meaning of life, in a colorful world drawn by a child of eleven.
The chief judge is appointed by their predecessor, and they go on to select a jury of five co-judges for a total of six. It is generally a priority to assemble a balanced jury with many different perspectives on role-playing and also with varying levels of experience. Writers, game masters, and players with different preferences are almost always represented. The jury typically meets up once before the scenarios are submitted, to agree on their process and to discuss and clarify the different Otto categories. But the real work starts after the scenario deadline. All the scenarios are read thoroughly by the jury and they typically include around 1500 pages of written material. Every scenario is analyzed and discussed on the jury’s internal forum and these form the basis of the feedback that writers receive after Fastaval.
A week or two before Fastaval the jury meets up for a long working weekend. Here they examine all the scenarios and the written feedback again and they lay down a shortlist of potential nominees in the different categories. They might even have a tentative idea about possible winners, but nothing is final before Fastaval. Even though the judges primarily examine the written texts it is still very important for them to get a sense of what happens when the scenario is played. There can also be elements of a scenario that are hard to visualize through the text alone but might emerge in playing the game and the jury is aware of this.
A significant part of being a Fastaval judge is to talk to both writers, game masters, and participants about the scenarios when they have been played. It is also the jury’s job to collect and read all the feedback forms that are handed in by participants during Fastaval. The conversations and especially the feedback forms are important tools for the jury to understand how the written scenarios work in practice – and are very much viewed as such. Saturday at Fastaval the jury retreats from early in the morning and begins the final deliberation. Again, the starting point is the written scenario text but now the jury is much more aware of how the scenarios work in real life because of conversations and feedback from players and game masters. In total five nominees are selected in each award category (minus the jury’s Special Award which can vary). Saturday evening the lists of nominees are posted all over Fastaval as well as on the webpage. Sunday the jury prepares for the Otto award show. They make diplomas for each nominee as well as write the award presentation for the show. After the Otto-award show, the jury is available for writers and participants who might have questions about the awards.
SHORTLISTING AND THE AWARD CATEGORIES
Each Otto category has a written definition (read them here) which is finalized by the jury before the scenarios are turned in. It is only these criteria that the jury relies on when selecting scenarios to be shortlisted for nominations and the winners. In short, the award for e.g. Best Characters goes to the scenario that excels within the criteria for that award. Even so, it takes many, long discussions to agree upon which scenario that is. Especially since it is also very important to the judges that each scenario is analyzed on its own premises. An action-based scenario is always evaluated on how well it performs within not just the action genre but its internal framework and rules. Not whether or not it might e.g. be good drama or comedy.
The judges have four principles when shortlisting the nominees and choosing the final winners. Consensus, discussion, no veto and no bargainingThe first two points are connected in the sense that the entire jury has to agree, and agreement can only be reached through open and informed debate. No Otto is awarded based on a vote, as only sound arguments count in the selection process. No veto means that it is not allowed for a jury member to block the nomination of a scenario if they don’t have any solid arguments, even if they might have another favorite for the spot. No bargaining means that the judges are not allowed to ‘strike deals’ or ‘owe each’ other anything. For instance, if a jury member loves a scenario and it is not shortlisted in a category (like Best Roles), the scenario cannot be “compensated” in another category (like the Jury’s Special Award). Every category is approached as a clean slate.
Two of the Awards are a bit different from the rest. These are the Jury’s Special Award and the Participants AwardIn the Special Award, the jury can nominate as many or as few scenarios as they want. A scenario can be singled out for an overall idea or a particularly strong element. With this award, the judges typically have more freedom to follow their hearts and reward scenarios that might not fit into the other categories. The Participants award is based on a vote by the participants, to celebrate a scenario that has given many people a memorable experience. If two scenarios are tied for the vote they both get the award.
When Fastaval is over the jury begins the substantial task of composing feedback for all the Fastaval writers. This feedback is based both on the jury’s many written and oral conversations about the scenario, but also on the feedback forms that the participants filled out. This feedback is mailed to the writers a few months after Fastaval is over, so the writers have it available if they should consider writing for Fastaval again.