Quests-n-SCA-art - 9/9/17
"Questing for Something" by mistress katherine kerr. Putting on quests in the SCA.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
You can find more work by this author on her website at: http://webcentre.co.nz/kk/index.htm
Questing for Something
by katherine kerr of the Hermitage
Quests, whether simple scavenger hunts or fully scripted LARP-style theatre in the round, can add a certain magic to an event, particularly if the subject ties in with any overarching theme for the event. They provide a means of adding theatricality, even at a relatively low level, as well as educational opportunities or a means of enhancing an event theme (or both).
For me, some of the most memorable moments in the SCA have happened at quests:
• being chased through a dark park by a scary giant (yes it was someone who could run on stilts, but they'll always be a giant to me)
• hearing the clang of a hammer and coming round a corner to the magic sight of a lantern-lit island housing Wayland the Smith
• seeing a wolf talking with the King, and an eagle change into a man
What is the theme of the quest? Check period sources for ideas for plots or take elements from stories or poems. It can help to use known tropes, characters or quotes to make your quest world familiar to your players. Get a general feel for what you want your quest to cover, where/how it starts and finishes and how it can best be structured to suit the story and your aims.
Linear (structured to work from A to B to C): probably most common type
Pros: simplest to develop as it is based on a plotline or narrative that defines the structure and moves the story
Cons: frustrating if questers get stuck and can't progress; limits the possibility of multiple winners
Radial (structured to work from a central starting point to a number of goals)
Pros: allows different paths to operate simultaneously; caters for differing capabilities
Cons: if a final endpoint is desired, you have to have a way to bring people back together
Or mix it up a bit. Think about how the story should unfold and keep the progression logical/consistent (players will complain if things seem too arbitrary). The beginning and end points are likely to be the easiest to define, with the rest of the structure supporting how the questers get there and what you need to do to achieve that.
You're not likely to be able to rely on time for pre-event rehearsals, so it helps to draw up the storyline with set characters or personalities in mind which can be readily explained to your cast. Bear in mind who you want as cast members and try to ensure that you cast them to play to their strengths/character. If you don't have a set/reserved timeslot for the quest, it helps to take advantage of places they would normally be, or things they would normally be doing.
Character notes (max one page!) can help to give your cast members an idea of:
• their place in the context of the quest eg hero, villain, helpful by-stander, official, ranking individual, revealer of information, distraction (in turn, this will help the players know how they should react to the character and how they might help them move through the quest)
• prompt lines: those items of information or interactions necessary to advance the story; incidental useful information to reward good questers; misleading/irrelevant information (bear in mind the things your cast members shouldn't know too – the simplest approach is not to tell them); be sure to identify what are the most important points or characteristics.
The Quest Environment
Questers tend to be generous enough to play along with the quest environment – people will understand that a kid's playground represents a mighty fortress; a piece of fabric is really an impassable river, but you need to be sure to tell them! Weave the story into the surroundings and take advantage of any physical elements you use in the context of the quest. The same holds for props and the more unusual cast roles (eg giants, dragons, trolls and the like). If you get the chance, darkness provides a great setting for a quest - it does add certain logistical difficulties, but the willingness to suspend disbelief is much greater when the mundane is hidden.
You may have some quest resources, which are limited. This could relate to things such as certain items, which questers have to find; or the availability of cast members for certain scenarios. To avoid frustrating your questers, try to make it clear when these are available, and when they are not. Or design the scenario such that there are multiple chances for encounters or numbers of items so that you can move more than one group on.
What's a good way to start off your quest? How do you draw people in?
Find a relevant or interesting way to bring people together. The announcement of a scavenger hunt will see people assemble to get the scavenger list; but you can dress that up with some theatre – an inciting incident - to open and set the scene eg:
• a dramatic performance such as a play or a puppet show; a reading
• a slice-of-life reveal: eg discovery of a murder, reading of the will, arrival of a traveler with a strange tale to tell
Way Points and Reveals
It pays to keep an eye on how the quest is progressing – what way points have been reached? Are people stumped over the same clue/element? Is a major point/path being ignored or misunderstood?
Give yourself the option to introduce new characters or release new information to help questers if you need to. Don't be afraid to step in and tweak things if you see the need to move things along.
When plotting out a quest, have an idea of what things need to happen and, if relevant, in what order. Way points are set situations or actions which help towards achieving the ultimate goal. They can give you, as the quest director, an idea of how the questers are progressing, especially in linear quests. Reveals are set situations or actions which provide additional information at a specific time or when prescribed conditions occur. These can be useful to spur flagging interest, extend the amount of time the quest runs, or otherwise control pacing.
Way points and reveals can involve all sorts of situations:
• information seeking: interacting with the cast or with each other
• conflict: physical/mental via challenges, puzzles to be solved; actual combat of some form
• item acquisition: for achieving victory conditions or progressing to another way point (if the latter, be wary of bottlenecks or choice limitations)
End Point and Victory Conditions
It helps a great deal to have a set end point, which is clearly explained to questers so they know what they need to do and by when. The victory has to be attainable by the average quester -- make it too easy or obvious and the quest is over very quickly; make it too hard and you'll run out of time or (worse!) people will get bored and stop playing.
The quest may be declared over when the victory conditions are met by the first person/group to reach the conclusion. But you'll make it more enjoyable if you can provide a means for multiple people/groups to get there. Think about how you can draw people back into one group towards the end so that a suitable denouement can occur - you don't want a bunch of questers off at the other end of the site wondering where everyone went.
With a bit of thought, you can make magic.
Copyright 2010 by Vicki Hyde. vicki at webcentre.co.nz. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.