Tina Heebøll Arbjørn and Anders Frost Bertelsen are the new Scenario Coordinators for Fastaval with a plan to coordinate scenarios for Fastaval 2017 and 2018.
This year the deadline will be Friday August 12th 23:59 CET.
This page lays out in some depth their thoughts regarding their task and the process around it. Later in the year they’ll write a formal “call for synopses” with a more thorough description of what these synopses must contain.
You’re welcome to write them at email@example.com if you have questions or wish for a sparring partner at this early stage. We’ll also be linking to this post from Fastaval’s Facebook page, where you can ask questions or raise debates.
The Seasons of the Year
Summer = Synopses
Over the summer, our primary task is to pair up hopeful first-time scenario writers with seasoned writers to get them the help and sparring they need to make a good synopsis. Other writers can have a synopsis too, but the focus is on the first-time writers as far as synopsis sparring partners are concerned.
We’ll also be holding a workshop or two to help all potential writers develop their ideas and get the synopsis written. We also have thought about having workshops online – both in Danish and in English – so you don’t have to turn up in one particular place. More on these later, but we hope to have online hangout workshops where writers can spar without being in the same place physically.
August = Synopsis Selection
The deadline for synopses is Friday August 12th 23:59 CET, and then we’ll get busy. One the deadline has passed and all the synopses are in, both of us will read them all, separately. Then we’ll have an all-day meeting which will start with us talking over all synopses and identifying good and less good things, without selecting any. We do this to make sure that we cover all aspects of each and every synopsis. It also helps us get an idea of the total body of synopses, how many short games have been submitted, have everyone chosen to write Star Wars scenarios etc.
Then we’ll go over all the synopses again, sorting them roughly into three piles: The games that we’re sure we want, the maybe pile (which experince tells us clearly has the greates number of synopses) and the sorry, no-pile. The third round is about making decisions about all the scenarios in the maybe pile, resulting in the year’s field of scenarios for Fastaval.
Then all writers must be told if they’re in or not. There won’t be time for this on selection day itself, as the time is spent on careful consideration. These mails will be written over the following days and released at the same time, so all writers will find out at about the same time if their synopsis is in.
Then we’ll write short presentations of all the scenarios that are in. The sooner after deadline we can have all this done, the less impatient everyone will get who are looking forward to seeing the field.
Autumn = Scenario Development
The next task is to help the writers write their scenarios. We’ll do this on the one hand by finding sparring partners for everyone and on the other by organizing workshops and a writers’ weekend, and hopefully by having a day of playtesting.
Winter = Deadline for Scenarios
As winter comes, the final programme must be laid, that is deciding which scenarios go in which time slots. We’ll try to spread genres and themes over as many time slots as possibly, and also try to keep scenarios that we expect to attract the same game masters from ending up in the same time slots.
Then we get to the deadline and if all goes well, our inbox will be overflowing with scenarios, and we can send them on to the Otto judges and game master coordinators. Experience does tell us that a couple of writers will have trouble finishing on time, and it’ll be our job to handle it. Do they need more time? Do they need help to finish it? Or will it be better for everyone to cancel the scenario quickly, if finishing it will be too difficult? We’ll keep all options in mind, but of course we’d rather see the writers finish their scenarios.
Spring = Fastaval
Once the scenarios are turned in, we’ll primarily be in charge of coordinating with game group organizers, game master coordinators and the head of activities in case there are questions, controversies and dubious situations. And once we get to Fastaval we’ll of course be so very excited to see how all the scenarios go and hear wild war stories from all of them.
Principles for Selection
The clearly most debated part of our job is the scenario selection itself. This is where it’s decided what scenarios get in, and we’re well aware that emotions are involved. We’ve both had synopses rejected previously, and we’re really not looking forward to giving a lot of people the unfortunate message that we’ve rejected their synopsis.
Our guiding principle is to select the field which we believe will ultimately give the participants of Fastaval the best experiences. However, the participants of Fastaval are a large and very varied crowd, so there are many considerations to keep in mind.
The first thing we look for with the synopses is quality, but what that concept entails isn’t quite straightforward. First, it’s about clarity: Do we understand what’s going to happen in play? Second, it’s about whether it’s a good idea. It’s important to underline that ”a good idea” isn’t the one that we personally find the most exciting, but one that we think there will be an audience for at Fastaval.
Next is diversity. We can’t take in 30 Jeepform close-to-home dramas about couples in relationships, even if those are the 30 best synopses. So we’ll try to consider as many different parameters as possible. Genre, theme, form, content, system, role length etc. However, you aren’t guaranteed a spot if you write the best or only synopsis in a given genre. If we think the difference in quality is too great, we might have to accept that this genre will be underrepresented for the year. But we’d really rather have both action, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, social realism, epic, documentary, live, in-crowd, system and all things in between.
We also consider the spread of experience. We’d like to have some first-time writers each year, people who have the chance to try their hand at scenario writing, so that we keep getting fresh blood into the pool of writers. We also want some writers with a scenario or three under their belts to have the chance to further develop their abilities. Finally, we also want some seriously seasoned writers to write, in part so that they can pass on their experience in workshops etc.
We also have to look a bit at languages. We’re really fond of the international participants who have begun coming to Fastaval, but there’s a fair-sized fraction of the participants at Fastaval who will only play in Danish, so the proportion of English-language scenarios can’t be too big.
Finally there’s the question of short versus long games. It might be possible to rearrange the existing time slots a bit, but in the end two long and one short time slots are what you can fit into a day, and that gives us a pretty fixed ratio of the two, but clearly, if the scenarios pull very much in one particular direction, we might have to see about tweaking the time slots.
Can the scenario coordinators submit their own scenarios?
Yes, we can. But the other scenario coordinator will be solely responsible for evaluating the synopsis, and for years and years it’s been the tradition that as scenario coordinator, you only turn in a synopsis if it’s so sharp and well prepared that anyone who read the whole field of synopses would take it.
Can one writer write several scenarios for the same Fastaval?
Yes, at least if one of the projects involves another writer. Ultimately, our guiding principle is to have the best possible field, and that might involve the same writer writing several scenarios. But there’s a risk that a writer working on several scenarios won’t be able to give any of them the time and love that they deserve, so it’s an important parameter how far along in the development process the ideas are.
But isn’t it too hard on the writers who are rejected? Wouldn’t it be better to make another writer happy?
It might be hard, but in the end we aren’t here to make the most writers happy. We’re here to make the best possible field, based on the information we have, so that as many as possible of the participants at Fastaval will feel that there’s a scenario that’s just their thing.
Why reject anyone at all? Can’t we just take in all the scenarios?
We see it as a good quality that the field at Fastaval is small enough that you’ll meet plenty of other participants who have played some of the same games as you, so you can trade war stories. At the same time, with about 30 scenarios, sometimes some of them have difficulty getting enough signups for more than two game groups in the same time slot, so with 60 scenarios there’d be some that would have trouble getting game groups at all.