Monday, 5 January 2015

Set Dressing

You can run an event with almost any setting. Your event will be better if you can phys rep the setting in which you are aiming to run your event. I take this seriously. It's something that can really make you up your game.

It applies to everything - to the world, to the rules, to the costumes, and to the technology. In my opinion, if you're having to tell people what they're looking at you're doing it wrong.

We love SciFi events, and we try to do them well. We're pretty good at making the inside of a building look fairly futuristic, but we'll be the first to admit we struggle with dressing the outside of a scout site. We can do pretty cool looking set pieces, but we can't cover all that 'England' with something more blingy. 

The inside looks pretty sci fi

The outside looks like a scout hut (Cool photo though)
Medbed which looks quite awesome.
The drop pod, but it's just sat in the woods.

Other challenges are the tendency for SciFi games to turn into camo and guns. I really loved that with ZapFest because of the 1950s movie set theme we didn't turn into a sea of camo and guns. The same is true for rockets and rayguns. I can see why people so that. It's easy to get hold of, relatively cheap and it gives people a good basic military character, which a lot of people use for SciFi. We're not the only game that's done that. Both Serenity and Rockets and Rayguns are doing the same.

It's not just Sci Fi. Post Apocalyptic games also have a huge amount of military surplus kit. They also get the mad max look. These are fine, but it does make these games all seem a bit samey, especially as they tend to be run on scout sites.

The most important thing when working out how to dress your site is working out how much you care. You can do fairly simple things that make a difference and you can do massive things to make a difference. What do you want your players to have to play with? The second point is to work out what you're actually budgeting to do. We typically have at least one extra day on site to  set dress and build. We run quite top heavy. There's often 10-12 of us on site 24 hours before the build trying to get the place set up. We'll have people building set pieces around site, and others covering walls. We'll have plans of the building and documents that list what needs doing in each room. This enables us to give any willing volunteer the document and hopefully they'll be able to get at least part of the build done for us.

Wall coverings depend on genre. For Sci Fi events we'll typically cover the walls in white tarp, cutting out fire extinguishers so they can be accessed, and add a strip of table covering (which glows under UV). We'll redo the lighting, where possible resorting to UV or coloured lights, and adding lighting gels to existing strip lights, as well as opaque covers to drop the light level down (we like making our players operate in low or unusual lighting situations).

For fantasy events we'll aim to hang banners and fabric over the walls where possible. The image below is a banner we painted for a fantasy event. Clues were hidden through the wall hangings that related to the plot. We also heavily hinted at the involvement of wolves in everything that happened that event. This helped there.
4ft wide wolf wall hanging from Dark Hearts
We plan our set dressings in detail. We know if we want each room to feel sparse, or warm and cosy. We know who lives there and how we want players to react to the space. We also have a fair idea which spaces will be used for combat, whether we'll be using lights and sounds, and what else needs to be in the space. We want players to be able to respond to what they see and we want our events to feel natural. We do want them to remember our events and we want them to really feel like they're there.

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