Creating a Role-Playing "Sphere of Activity"

Discussion in 'Fire Lotus Tavern' started by Scottie, Mar 4, 2018.

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  1. Scottie

    Scottie Master Artisan SOTA Developer

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    Hello there everyone! Scottie here!

    Having recently had the pleasure of witnessing the wonderful Café RP event that was hosted on Valentine's Day, and after discussing with Winfield not long ago his idea of eventually creating a "Living Castle" ongoing roleplaying scene on someone's property, I am inspired to share some methods I've always used when hosting my own live roleplaying events. I'm hoping that these thoughts might translate nicely to the kinds of online player-hosted events that folks often seem interested in hosting here within SotA... Hopefully, for those who may be unsure about how they might consider running an RP event of their own, but have always wanted to, these ideas may be a good place to start!

    Creating a Sphere of Activity

    Over the years of my life I’ve been asked to be involved in, and been asked to spearhead, many different events and activities meant to engage folks either producing or participating in such pastimes. Whether it’s a single feast or party, a weekend-long event, or an ongoing or recurring activity by itself or a part of some greater whole presentation, my involvement as well as my attempts to involve others have caused me to develop a method by which I’m able to create the best experience I can for all those involved… No plan “survives contact with the enemy” as they say, but these essential guidelines help make sure that each person’s part in the process happens with the least amount of oversight from others, allows the greatest amount of autonomy and individual creative influence, and helps provide a network of folks interacting with one another during the event in ways that enrich the experience of everyone participating…

    Of course, anything like this begins with an idea or a theme, and someone who believes in it enough to “Bear the Torch” for this theme; to enthuse others around them to help make this idea a reality… This person could be YOU, in which case you are the “Primary You” who initially inspires others; the “#1 You” who must carefully pick all the other “You”s (as seen in the list below) to begin the process of bringing this event Idea and Theme to life! Picking the right “You”s means picking those who you would invite and trust to take part in this event; this…”Sphere of Activity”… Carefully picking those who you would invite to produce this Sphere of Activity is important because, assuming this isn’t a solo project of some kind, having the right people with the right level of motivation and creativity involved with you is essential to making an event enjoyable, fulfilling, and memorable for everyone involved… Involving folks lacking such qualities is a sure-fire way to doom you to feeling like you must do everything yourself, which is the exact opposite of what a well-planned event should feel like…

    One important thing to remember in all of this is that being the Idea and/or Theme’s “Torch Bearer” does not mean you should “assume control” over everyone else involved in the production, nor should you feel solely responsible for everything going as planned… Why? Firstly, picking other “You”s means picking people who are capable of being responsible for their own success in the part they choose to play… Secondly, that means that once picked, THEY no longer need YOU to lord over them… Once you pick them, do your best to give them the autonomy they need to make the decisions you wanted to trust them with in the first place. Being the “Torch Bearer” still means they might choose to come to you if they need inspiration or a refreshing of ideas and thematic understanding, and you might move among them as they prepare and perform (when you’re not doing your OWN thing), asking how they’re doing and if they need anything, but removing yourself from the temptation to “be in charge of them” helps keep your stress down, and helps them feel enabled and confident at the parts they are playing… The best “leaders” are not those who seek others to lead, but those whose leadership is sought out by others, and who’s “hands-off’ presence inspires those around them to excel.

    For the sake of the kinds of events I’m talking about (though these concepts could be applied to almost anything you want to go well in life), once folks are involved with you, though you may be the “Torch Bearer”, ALL of you are “Producers”, each producing some small part of the event as a whole, to be enjoyed by other Producers and invited Participants… I firmly believe in “the power of three” which, like a table with three legs, has the best chance of stability using the least amount of support. In this case, the power of three translates into three basic Elements. Making these Elements clear to all Producers involved in any endeavor along with you will help insure their success, your success, and the success of the event itself. These Elements, considered carefully and communicated clearly by everyone involved in the event (including you), will help manage expectations throughout the event, and help avoid many of the common pitfalls often found when producing such an event…

    Element #1: YOU
    This is the first (and most important) Element to consider for each and every Producer, including the “Torch Bearer”… Who ARE you, for the sake of this event? There are three Sub-Elements to consider:
    • What are your Talents? – Can you sing? Can you dance? Are you a good artist? Are you a decent craftsperson? What things are you good at that you can bring to this event in general? If you’re not sure, don’t be shy about asking the ‘Torch Bearer” why they felt you would be a great fit for this event… Perhaps they already have something in mind they’d appreciate your talents for…

    • What are your Weaknesses? – This is important for you to be honest about, and to communicate clearly, to avoid creating false expectations! Is having spare time to devote a current issue for you? Do you need to avoid heavy lifting? Can you not carry a tune? Does having a large audience freak you out? Making sure those around you know your limits helps them use your skills and talents most effectively while avoiding dependencies upon things you are less comfortable with or less capable of. No one deserves to be accidentally set up for failure. Avoid that by communicating these things clearly and well in advance!

    • What makes you Happy? – At the end of the day, we all want to spend our time doing things that make us feel happy and fulfilled. Sure there are hardships along the path to that happiness, but that’s what makes us appreciate success! Make sure that what you have been asked to do, or what you have signed up for, matches what will please you in as many regards as possible... You may break a good sweat getting there (along with a nail or two), but the end results should be personally enriching in some way… Being able to define what makes you happy, concerning the parts you could play in the event, will guide you to success just as much as the end-result of pleasing the Participants.
    Element #2: THINGS TO DO
    This is the second-most-important Element to consider for each and every Producer, including the “Torch Bearer”… What things will you be DOING for the sake of this event? There are at least three Sub-Elements to consider (perhaps more if you like handling multiple Activities):
    • Be Someone! – If one has not already been suggested to you, based on why you have become involved or what Talents you possess, then it’s time to “Choose your Persona”! If your event’s theme is “travelling circus”, are you one of the barkers out front calling in the audience, a seller of peanuts and cotton candy, an animal tamer, a daring trapeze performer, a mid-performance clown, or one of the ring-masters themselves? If your event is meant to be an on-going representation of a medieval fantasy village, are you a dirty peasant or poor street beggar, a rosy cheeked tavern-wench, the village blacksmith, a travelling knight in armor, the local mystic soothsayer, a beloved bard who sings beside the fire, a mysterious druid, or perhaps the mayor of the town itself? Pick a persona that truly helps support the theme of the event in some way and make that character your own! Do your best to BE that character during the event, even if it’s merely a background support persona.

    • Do a “Thing”! – Choose an Activity of your own based upon the Persona you are playing. This Activity does not need to be an “all day affair” if the event is a long one. If you’re limited on time or energy, or merely wish to have time to wander the event and see what others are up to from time to time, choose or create an Activity for yourself that happens only once or twice, and for a short period. Create limits for your Activity that you’re comfortable with, but go “all out” with it when it’s time for you to shine! Remember those Talents you took stock of earlier? ENGAGE in them with this Activity! Your Talents should reflect your Persona and the Activities they are engaged in. If you love to bake, and are pretty good at it, and have decided to be the Town Baker, pick a time or two during the event to actually BE SEEN pretending to bake (or if there’s a real kitchen set up, actually DO it!)… Remember, this Activity should be something that Participants and other Producers (in their spare time), should at least be able to enjoy observing in some way, if not actually getting engaged in the activity WITH you themselves! The more they can interact with you and what you’re doing, the more enjoyable the Activity will be for everyone involved!

    • Help others do ANOTHER “Thing” – Assuming that this whole event isn’t some solo endeavor, then find out what the other Producers are involved in and find at least one OTHER activity to help out with! This makes the entire event feel more interactive and “alive”, and creates a support network among the Producers that really sets a tone of communal inclusivity that all Participants will absolutely “feel”. Are you the local Herbalist? Well, perhaps after you have finished providing the Participants who have visited you with all the “healing poultices” they need to continue their adventures (while also giving them a tour of your shop), you suddenly remember that your spouse, the Baker, forgot to send someone to pick up all the herbs necessary for tonight’s herbed bread! Now that you are done with them, you take leave of those Participants to march over and give your Baker spouse a piece of your mind! A hilarious argument ensues at the bakery and then spills out into the streets for everyone to witness just as the Baker is reaching the end finale of his or her particular Activity, and the flustered married couple now end their entertaining debate by closing up shop for the moment to head off and attend to their private affairs. This entire interlude would have been pre-scripted, of course, with both Producers having decided to engage in this “Argument Activity” together, potentially involving other Producers who just happen to be nearby at the time. Having as many different Activities inspiring and playing off (or with) one another is an excellent way to fill an event with engaging entertainment for the Participants!
    Element #3: WHAT IS INVOLVED
    This is the third important Element to consider for each and every Producer, including the “Torch Bearer”… This Element should absolutely be written down as part of a “master schedule” of Activities for the event, maintained by, and available to, every single Producer involved. What specific requirements are involved in pulling off your chosen “Things to Do” for the sake of this event? Each Producer is responsible for communicating his or her own Activities and their listed details in this “master schedule” as a living documented to be updated and filled in as things change or become fully-fleshed-out. All Producers should become somewhat familiar with the Activities of the other Producers in case help is needed or in case Participants happen to ask about things that may be happening during the event. Are you unsure about any of these details? Don’t hesitate to ask the “Torch Bearer”, or other Producers for help and inspiration! There are three Sub-Elements to consider for each Activity:
    • When does the “Thing” happen? – Literally, when does your Activity begin, and how long does it last? Clearly communicating (and sticking to) this simple information may be one of the most crucial attributes contributing to the success of both the individual Activity and the event as a whole. Timing, as they say, is everything!

    • Who’s involved and How? – Whether as helping Producers or engaged Participants, who do you imagine being involved in your Activity? What will they be doing for you, and how will they be engaged in your Activity? What roles (if any) will they potentially play along with you? Will improvisations be required? Are there spoken lines that assisting Producers might need to memorize? To what extent can the Participants interact directly with you when you are engaged in your chosen Activity? How “hands on” can they be? Remember, engaging in an Activity with no expectation of an Audience doesn’t really do much in events that depend on “role-playing” as their primary source of entertainment. Of course, this may not apply to Activities which essentially help the event from “behind the scenes”, but that doesn’t mean you won’t still be engaged with other Producers. Knowing who you’ll be working with, and how, is JUST as important as knowing who the Participants will be, when it comes to living up to people’s expectations (ESPECIALLY your own)!

    • What “Stuff” needs to be bought, borrowed, or made? – Many Activities, especially for “themed” events, require props of some kind. Foreground and background elements help set the stage for an Activity, and really help draw Participants into the action! Great props, sets, and other accoutrements really aide in “immersion” for everyone involved, including (and especially) YOU! Really being able to lay your hands on something “real” assists in the game of “pretend” that turns events like these into truly memorable experiences! Whether you’re dealing with an online set of events in a multi-player game, or an actual staged event in the real world, props that Participants can experience help build a believable world upon which their imagination flourishes! Once you know what role you’ll be playing, and what Activity you’ll be engaged in, make a list of all the props, set pieces, and other helpful backdrops you may need to bring your “scene” to life! Not sure how to get what you need? Not sure how to bring it all to the event? Ask for help!


    Assuming each person involved as a Producer does his or her part, and assuming the invited Participants know what to expect, and what’s expected of them, most of the details I mention above will get taken care of by the interconnected web of individuals involved. The “Torch Bearer” shouldn’t need to burn themselves out trying to micro-manage everyone individually, and should be able to enjoy their own individual part in the event as a whole while still taking time to have fun with getting somewhat involved in the other Activities going on. The event should essentially “run itself” once things get going, if everyone involved is essentially responsible, generally proactive, and openly communicative.

    Hopefully my insights have been helpful! May you have many wonderful events and activities, and may you enjoy those times with many good folks both helping you along the way, and supporting you with their attendance…

    Scottie ^_^
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
  2. Elgarion

    Elgarion Dev Emeritus Dev Emeritus

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    Really good points -- empowering folks around you is highly important! Whether in RP, guild events, or at work, all attendees present, feeling as if they have autonomy to steer entrusted aspects of the project really helps them to enjoy the endeavor. Perhaps, empowerment also encourages them to care more deeply for the project, event etc. as it also encourages a sense of ownership. Sometimes the hardest thing for me, albeit your words are extremely sound advice, is to apply and remember these items when it matters. Ego's, personalities, defensiveness and definitely shyness are hard to overcome. Practice makes perfect, I suppose. Perhaps attempting one's best to avoid fearing failure. Trying to be appreciative of the efforts of others even if they did botch it a bit and to keep encouraging each other to try again (and again). The more events and projects folks offer to the community enriches the game and offers all these soon-to-be newcomers additional options for participation and fun.

    I really think you should consider making this a guide its own sticky post at the helm of Fire Lotus Tavern. It would serve quite well as a guideline to event planning and empowerment of your comrades at arms. :)
     
  3. Scottie

    Scottie Master Artisan SOTA Developer

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    Thank you! That's quite the endorsement! I didn't want to assume to do something like that since I'm just a dev pitching in my "two-cent's-worth" on a thread that's largely meant to be "by players...for players"... Are you sure I wouldn't be overstepping my bounds?
     
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  4. Bowen Bloodgood

    Bowen Bloodgood Avatar

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    It's totally fine. Good advice is plain and simply good advice. Shouldn't matter if you're a dev or not. We're all RPers here yes? ;)
     
  5. Scottie

    Scottie Master Artisan SOTA Developer

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    Indeed! Excellent! I'll get Berek to help me move it correctly! Thanks!
     
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  6. Scottie

    Scottie Master Artisan SOTA Developer

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    OK everyone! Berek helped me move this whole conversation to become a separate post... Enjoy!
     
  7. Elgarion

    Elgarion Dev Emeritus Dev Emeritus

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    Awesome Scottie -- thanks! This could serve as a very good RP, event planning AND guild leadership guide!
     
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  8. Scottie

    Scottie Master Artisan SOTA Developer

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    Excellent!

    Scottie ^_^
     
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