The last few rounds were the hardest. Getting from 8 to 4 and then 4 to 2 were some hard decisions. I thought my efforts to make this a collaborative effort would make it difficult to judge and create patchwork settings with inconsistent visions. However, much of the opposite happened. The writers communicated with each other enough to keep the vision and theme, while subtlety adding new ideas and original concepts. However, this was a curse as well as a blessing and made things very hard towards the end for the judges.
Judging in general was difficult. Do we judge the setting as a whole or do we judge on the entries individually. In the beginning, we focused more on the entries. But as time went on, it became more apparent that our focus was going to be on the setting in general. The entries continued to be a factor but the setting was more important. Our end result is to come up with a good setting that exemplifies JustUs Productions, and MACE, so the setting gradually became more and more important.
It was amazing how similar many of the settings ended up being. And perhaps that was the nature of the collaboration. What we did not end up with was a platypus-setting like many suspected would happened. Because of good collaboration as well as the nature of the contest, I think that was easily avoided. The contest started with a macro vision in the first round, with the contestants submitting a general pitch for the world. Then we asked them to focus down to a sub-continent level. Then, they had to focus on a major kingdom or province region. Finally they had to come up with a location that will be the center of the adventure. This telescoping of focus prevented a lot of the potential for weird amalgamations. It was interesting to see each writer’s interpretations of what a sub-continent, kingdom/region/province and location were. There were some differences, telling me that we need to be more specific in requirements.
However, there is still a risk of a platypus-setting as we move forward. Our plan is to run another contest using the final setting. What makes that difficult is that while we have the setting, now we are expanding off of it. Now we have to worry about maintaining the theme and the concept of the original setting, while at the same time allowing for new ideas that take it outside the original boundaries. So as this contest grows, the more challenging it will get.
Never mind the whole living campaign nature of this, which I personally have not completely thought out yet. My experience with living campaigns are minimal but we have resources that can help us on that end.
Now we head into the final round which takes place at MACE in Charlotte. The judges are out of it. It’s up to those that play the setting. My end game plan was to have 2 settings with at least two tables of players playing in an adventure written by the final writer – which is the original writer of the setting. I have a list of criteria each player will score the setting on and I hope to average them out. I encouraged the GMs to work with the other writers on their setting to perhaps schedule other tables, and that is working out pretty well. So we will have multiple tables of each setting with hopefully enough players to get a good overall opinion of each setting.
Overall, I am very pleased how this worked out, despite the problems and missteps. We had some very good writers volunteering and some very good input from all of them. Going in, I was afraid that some egos may have been bruised and in fact, some may have, but I hope everyone understands the motivation and intent of the contest. It was a blast. I feel we were consistent enough, fair enough and everyone came out of it for the better. I look forward to doing a more extended one next year.