A number of very useful things. And here we’re talking about synopses for con roleplaying games, to be specific. Our point of departure here is that we’re scenario coordinators for Fastaval 2015, but this text should be more broadly applicable.
What is a synopsis?
In this context, a synopsis is a brief document explaining how a future, probably not yet finished, convention roleplaying game will work in practice.
A synopsis should be no longer than two reasonably spaced pages. If your text turns out longer than that, you should seriously consider sharpening and clarifying your idea some more. If your synopsis is shorter tham about 2/3 of a page, you’re probably not telling us everything we need to know. Note that this is not a universal standard; some conventions will accept no more than a single page.
It needs to contain…
- Name. Both yours and that of the game. Also, contact info in the form of e-mail. If you would like to be pseudonymous, let us know – we’ll still need your actual info.
- Number of players/GM(s). Please make no assumptions. For instance, call four players and a GM “four players and a GM”, not just “four players”. Be concrete and as precise as you can at this point.
- Expected duration. This includes organizing groups and wrapping up. Of course you can never be quite sure about the duration before the game is written and tested, but give us your best guess. If you have an idea for a short game it’s a good idea to make sure that it isn’t rather a full-length scenario trying to squeeze into a very short time — that happens more than you’d think. If this is the case, perhaps either the expected duration or the idea needs adjusting?
- Catchwords. Give a few catchwords for what the players can expect to get out of playing the game. For example, realistic everyday drama or Space Opera violence ballet. Genre (e. g. horror), form (e. g. semi-live), system (e. g. Lady Blackbird hack) and the like go here.
Also you should explain in clear words what your idea is about.
A bit of appetizing flavour text can be OK, but isn’t necessary. If your flavour text takes up more than 5-6 lines or so it’s too much, and 0 lines isn’t too little.
Your text should explain…
What is the game about?
Theme, premise (you could take a look at Lizzie Stark’s wise words about that sort of thing) [http://lizziestark.com/2014/06/23/game-design-finding-premise/], and 1-2 lines about plot if your game has such a thing. It isn’t necessary to write a long explanation of your personal motivation.
What do the players get to play?
What kinds of characters (not in detail) and not least, how will the game work in practice? Will the players sit around a table rolling dice, or do they get up and act out flashbacks from their troubled past? Are there noteworthy techniques or mechanics shaping how the game will unfold? And we can hardly over-emphasize, be concrete and practical.
What do the players get out of playing?
Expand a bit more upon why players should sign up for this game.
Aside from the technical information (name, type and so on) you need not use the above headlines strictly, as long as the information is to be found in the text.
What do we scenario coordinators do with the synopsis text?
We need the synopses to pick games for the con. Overall, we need to make sure that a variety of interests are served with a selection of games that we feel reasonably confident will be good in practice.
Our primary interest is, how will this be for the players when they play?
You would do well to keep this purpose in mind as you write. Also please remember that we will have to read quite a lot of synopses, so be as clear as you can, so we can remember and use what you have written.
What can you use the synopsis text for?
There’s something in it for you too. Few things sharpen an idea like having to explain it to others who might not share your assumptions and knowledge. Take the opportunity.
With kind regards,
Troels & Marie
Scenario Coordinators, FV 2016 – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org