Storywriter’s Guide

Storywriter’s Guide to Dealing With Production

Being a storywriter is a crazy, exhausting, and magical experience. The magic lies in seeing a world and characters who have previously only existed in your head come alive for the adventure game. Having strong production for your game can transport the players to an unrecognizable world, full of beautiful sets, transformative costumes, and badass weapons. However, for this to happen you need to work with your Production department, which is not always as easy as it seems! Here’s a guide to dealing with us that will make our jobs easier and your game the best it can be.


-Have your lists completely finished before load-out from the office, AT THE VERY LATEST. This will always ensure that you get exactly what you want for game from the office. It’s okay to add in small things during camp, but allowing your Sets and Props staff to plan starting on or before the first day of camp can never go wrong!

Example: When already at camp, it’s okay to add a quest item – a golden cup or a bloody dagger. We probably brought those anyway or can make them quickly. It’s not okay to add a big scene, like a palace, or a big item, like a newly made dragon sword that glows red at night.

-Don’t be afraid to dream big. Don’t worry, we are more than willing to talk you down if you’re asking for something impossible. Tell us what your ideal big scene or awesome prop would be (before camp), and let us tell you whether or not we can make it. We are there to make things for your game and often having a challenge is fun and exciting! With big-ticket items, though, be they an elaborate costume or a large, complicated prop, be prepared for alternatives and always give Production advance warning. For us, planning is half the battle and things go better if they were planned before camp started.

-We are artists! Tell Production about your world, your story, and the flow. Instead of (or in addition to!) asking for ‘a room with a table covered in green fabric and candles’, ask for ‘an altar to the god of nature, who is a benign forest-themed god’. The more information and context we have, the more we can make sure the scenes fit your vision of your world. Once we know the specifics of the scene and how it fits into the context of the game, we can apply our creative energy to making it look awesome. Knowing what will happen in a scene or what will be done with a prop makes it much easier to make a good scene or a good prop. In general, err on the side of more information, not less, but be prepared to be flexible about specifics and construction. We will almost certainly have ideas that you won’t about the aesthetic of the game, just because it’s our job to approach the game from a visual standpoint. Which leads me to…

-Try to work out an overall aesthetic. Is your game medieval high fantasy? Arabian nights themed? Post-apocalyptic science fiction? It’s good to decide on an overall look for the game that can inform the sets and props as well as costumes and weapons. If you don’t have a strong feeling about how your game looks, talk to the Production head(s) and see if you can figure something out. Good questions to consider: what do basic colors signify in your world? What is the level of technology in your world? Are there any meaningful symbols you would like us to create? Is there a real world culture you could compare your game’s culture to? Do you want your game to look like a specific movie or video game?


Tips for Costuming:

– At the beginning of the summer, contact the Head of Costuming Department (if they don’t contact you) so that they have the opportunity to do prep work for your game if necessary. Also check in with the costume head for your camp; some costumers have the skills to create or modify costumes during camp, but you need to have a conversation with them beforehand.

-Start off with an overall aesthetic for the world, different countries, or factions. Then, if you have ideas, get specific for the group descriptions. Color is a great place to start, but don’t depend on it! Descriptors like ragged, elaborate, geometric, militaristic, simple, layered, & regal will give your costumer a better sense for the “feel” of the group & will lead to more interesting costumes. When people are grouped together they usually don’t have to wear the same color! Feel free to add in pictures to describe the aesthetic. Don’t be shy about asking what you want for your game, but always prepare yourself to be flexible.

-Other good things to add to the costume list are:

* the status that SPCs should appear as (low, high, godly)

* any costume changes that happen

* which costumes are highest priority! Costumers often have to be flexible with the lists & never follow them exactly. Additionally, with the time constraints at camp it’s helpful to know what is most important for the game.

* on a similar note: any costume items that are plot important! Please include their use in the game.

During camp, changes can be made, especially when cast lists are changed. Just make sure the costume team knows as soon as possible!

If you are running a big production game, like sequential games (Legendary and Apocalypse camp), Finale, or Omega, consider basing the groups on the costumes that are available, not the other way around. This happened at Apocalypse camp this year and it worked excellently! For the alien group, the costume team set out the costumes & the story team used those as inspiration for the different races. If you involve the production teams in the game writing process, the camp will go more smoothly & look it’s very best. Once again, this is done best with early communication with both the Department Head for the summer, & the specific camp.

Tips for Sets and Props:

-Not sure where a scene should be? Ask us. Believe me, we are all pretty tired of setting up the main space at Ashokan as the main scene. Every Sets and Props head I’ve talked to about this has ideas for spaces we don’t use as much or ways to make them look new and different. The main space and dining room are tricky because the campers spend lots of time there and so it’s familiar – consider using spaces that we don’t get to see as much during camp, or put an unexpected scene in a familiar place.

-Technology is tricky. Even if they are small items, make sure to inform Sets and Props before camp about anything that uses technology. The lighting, speakers, and fog machine that we have at the office are generally the least reliable resources we use and sometimes require someone to start game late or not play at all in order to operate them. Basic lighting for scenes is not a problem; having a weapon that lights up when it tastes blood or creepy sounds that start when people walk into a room are more complicated and will happen more easily with advance notice.

To recap:

-Have your lists done.

-Work out an aesthetic for your game and individual groups. If you don’t have one, work with us.

-Communicate clearly before camp about any big items.

-When meeting with us, err on the side of giving us too much information about the items that you want.

-Drink water! (unrelated but important)

Original post 1/16/2014

Guest writer Molly Ostertag