* Information taken from reviewing the Melee Board, observation, and interviews with Kane and Damian.
What are Scenarios, exactly?
Scenarios, boiled down to their simplest form, are themed melee fights. Whereas duels take place between only two people, Melees include at least two groups of people of varying (but traditionally even) numbers. If you need/want information on what Melees are, you can look at the Basics of Melee lesson here. From here on out, this article will be written as if the reader has a knowledge of how Melees work.
Melees have set rules, whether they be Line Fights, or whether it is made up of groups running around and completing various tasks in Woodland. Usually, the point of a Melee is to just defeat every member of the opposite team, but Scenarios often expand that goal. Scenarios, by way of a theme or kind of added game, tweak the conditions of a traditional melee, giving it added goals (or different victory conditions), loosened or stricter rules, and an added sense of fun.
Why do we have Scenarios?
The Order of the Rose (and all of Terrasylvae) takes great pride in considering itself special. Just read the first few paragraphs of the About page (or, you know, all of it). We’re comrades, friends, outcasts, brothers-in-arms. We aren’t an established academy for the study of fencing. We love to compete, but we aren’t primarily competitors. We learn, we have fun, we make friends, and we stand up for one another. What Terrasylvae has is unique, and the way we go about things is unique. Likewise, the way we do scenarios and melees is also unique, and isn’t likely to be seen anywhere else. If I told you, would you believe that almost no one (speaking generously) uses props for their scenarios? What if I said they didn’t use the plots from our favorite books and movies as bases for setting rules for melees? What if I told you that many groups use the same three melees for every occasion, and have no way of changing them or adding more scenarios to the mix? Now, we deeply respect other groups and what they do, and we do not think less of them for doing things differently than us, but we do like to think that the creativity and openness we put into our mentality about scenarios makes what we do even more fun, and makes our scenarios special. But, enough gushing; let’s get to the nitty gritty of Scenarios.
The Nitty Gritty
First off, what you essentially need to know, is that there are four different kinds of Scenarios. There are:
- Practice Drills
- Standard Games
- Terrasylvan Missions
Ordinary drills would be something like a Kata, or perhaps something like aiming at a certain spot on a pole, and stabbing at it to practice Point Control, or Breaking your Shot. Doing drills are an excellent way to perorm a skill over and over to develop muscle memory. A Practice Drill Scenario is a modified melee meant to help you practice with unconventional combinations of weapons and different goals and tactics than you ordinarily would, in order to have fun, and do something different than repetition. Take the Wise Man Bear Pit for example.
The Wise Man Bear Pit starts with all weapons and sides on a table, and one person chosen as the Wise Man (Sensei, Guru, etc.). All players line up in front of the Wise Man, who assigns them a random selection of weapons and/or sides, giving players anything from sword and dagger, to two bucklers. The Wise Man then assigns the player a specific goal to accomplish (only hit your opponent in the head, only kill with draw cuts, place both bucklers on your opponent’s body like defibrillators), and the player may not leave the melee until they have accomplished that goal, and then they get back in line.
You see what this scenario does? It makes you practice unfamiliar skills in order to help you become more familiar with new tactics. Would you ever actually go into a duel with two bucklers? No, of course not. After playing this scenario, would you know how to handle a buckler more effectively and learn to block with it in future duels? Absolutely, you would! This fun Practice Drill Scenario helped you become more familiar with something or get you warmed up and ready to go.
This will be the most common form of Melee besides Line Fights and Kill Pockets, though these may be incorporated into the Standard Game. Standard games are typically melees with simple rules and usually repetitive cycles of gameplay. The purpose of this Scenario is usually a simple goal to be the last man/team standing or to kill the entire other team. This scenario may be indefinite, or close to it, and will need to be finished by either asking killed or “downed” players to leave the field, or by consent of the majority of players that they are done playing. Here are some examples of Standard Games:
Inverse Snowball has all players arrange themselves into a circle, with the purpose of fighting each other until there is only one person remaining. The fight will begin, and fighters will proceed to fight and “down” other players. The catch is, is that when one fighter is downed, all the fighters that were killed by that person come back into the game. If Player A kills Players B, C, and D, and Player A is then killed by Player E, Player A goes down, and B, C, and D are back in the game. The only way for this game to end is if one player kills every single other player in the game. Grueling, certainly, but perhaps a welcome challenge for those wanting to prove themselves.
Duck Duck Goose, the time honored children’s game, but with more lethal consequences. Players are once again in a circle, facing inward, being Ducks. Three or so players are chosen as Geese (or Gooses, for the layman), and they will stand outside the circle. The Geese will circle the players, and the round will begin with the Lay On, on which, the Goose will choose a player they wish to challenge. At selection, they will perform a Death From Behind, at which point the Duck and Goose will duel for their position within the circle. If the Duck wins, they remain in the circle, whereas the Goose will take their place if they win, and the other player becomes a new Goose. At the end of the round, which grows progressively shorter with each round, the players who are still Geese are removed from the game. This is until the last man standing.
These scenarios are simple, often difficult, and are excellent for passing the time or for perhaps choosing certain fighters to be leaders in future scenarios.
Ah yes, the Scenario scenario. These and the Terrasylvan Missions (which will be explained next) are the most commonly designed scenarios. The Scenario enjoys the greatest level of creativity, as it can be based around anything. Before we get into what you can do with scenarios, let’s explain what basis you have to work from. There are 7 Primary Archetypes from which all our scenarios are based. Those will be discussed later. Games and scenarios can have themes from anything you want. Do you want to re-enact a scene from the Princess Bride? Perhaps you read this great book that includes swordplay, or would be way more interesting if it had more of it. Maybe you’re a fan of mythology, games, movies, whatever. Find a way you could turn it into a game. What goals could be achieved, which abilities or restrictions do certain characters have? What could make the story you have in mind interactable?
Terrasylvan mission function similarly to ordinary Scenarios, but with some small yet important distinctions. Missions take place exclusively within the Lore of Terrasylvae, and focus around places, people, and events in Lore. Haute or Blackkoven could be your antagonists; they could be sending mercenaries to capture the Captain of the Order of the Rose, and execute them later. Sylvanus could be in trouble, and he needs worthy Terrasylvans to help him. Titania could be throwing a fit because someone has picked her favorite flower and she wants it returned. Something is happening specifically in Woodland, and someone must help. So, a specific person, or a few select Terrasylvans will be chosen as Heroes, and often have special powers or extra lives, or must be the ones to reach the goal, while the other team hunts them down or impedes their efforts. If you need some help refreshing on Terrasylvan Lore, click here for a groups, places and people of interest page, here for a huge collection of stories, or here for a guide of why we make Lore and a list of places (We have a lot of really good Lore.)
7 Basic Scenario Archetypes
*HUGE thanks to Kane for writing these down, describing them, and for drawing diagrams to illustrate the scenarios.
- Hide and Seek
A Barrier Scenario is any scenario in which there is a physical obstacle between the teams involved, and which must be crossed or gone through to reach the goal. For example, there are Bridge Battles (like the bridges at the Castle in Middle Woodland) which are narrow, easily defensible areas, or there are Board the Ship Battles (on opposite sides of a table in the pavillion), in which you need to kill your opponents, climb over a table, and stay alive long enough to win.
A Tangle scenario is just as messy as it sounds. This is a scenario in which players may not have a clear path to their goal. Players are likely to get caught in the middle of a bigger battle, or are going to get bunched up, or may lose track of team members in the chaos (remember to play safely). The Inverse Snowball, or battles that require teams to run through the woods or explore routes past the enemy, are considered Tangle battles.
A Pinch scenario is a fight where at one point, or perhaps as the whole battle, fighters are bottlenecked into a small space to fight. There is a limited space that needs to be defended/pushed through to reach the goal, but meanwhile you have your movement restricted by the small space at hand. Bridge battles are also good examples of this, as well as Kill Pockets or Defend the Cabin, which has players fight through a narrow opening to enter into the Goal Area.
A Siege scenario is one in which one team has to defend a position, or a series of positions, and are tied to tone spot or defensive stance, while the other team(s) have the freedom to change tactics, positions, arrangements of troops, anything in order to break through the defensive line. A perfect example of this would be the Battle for Minas Tirith (or the Battle of Pelennor Fields), which is a real scenario used for 2019 Woodland War. Soldiers are sent to hold a defensive line in the several layers of Minas Tirith while Orcs try to break through and kill everyone before Aragorn and the Undead Soldiers arrive. The Soldiers cannot move, but try to keep the enemy at bay, while the Orcs try every tactic they can to get around the soldiers and kill them.
The VIP scenario focuses around either one person or object that must be protected or taken in order to win. In most cases with a person, the VIP is being moved around and protected by a certain team, whether friend or foe, and they either need to escort this person safely to a certain location, rescue that person, or find and kill the VIP. If an object, the VIP will need to be located, captured, and brought to a certain location in order to win. The Gallows Fight is a good example, in which the VIP is being escorted to the Hangman’s Rope by the enemy, the enemy needs to escort the VIP to a certain spot, defend while counting to a certain number, and execute the prisoner, whereas the other team needs to rescue the prisoner, arm them, and kill their captors.
The Traveling Scenario is similar to the VIP scenario, but with no particular person being the center of the scenario. One team must follow a predetermined path until they reach a certain goal location. The other team seeks to stop that team and kill them before they can reach their goal. Fugitive and Race through the Woods are good examples of this.
A Hide and Seek scenario is a game in which the location of the goal is not known and must be hunted down. Capture the Flag is an example of this. The flag is hidden somewhere in Woodland, unknown to the other team, and must be first discovered and brought back to a certain area for the game to be won.
You may see some similar threads between these different archetypes. Perhaps you recall certain scenarios which use several of them and have mixed elements to make them more fun or challenging. That’s completely okay, even encouraged. Scenarios can be as complex or as simple as you want them to be, as long as they are fun and don’t make your players groan at the mention of them. But more on that later. When considering Scenario design, use one or several of these archetypes, just so long as it does make it seem like you’re trying to accomplish everything at once. Make it flow, make it smooth, make it something you’ll want to play again.
Fun Vs. Complex
Fun scenarios and complex scenarios are not by any means opposites. Simple scenarios like the Practice Drills and Standard Games are fun to play, serve a purpose, and are easily replayable. They’re fun, and we like them. Shay has made a series of scenarios called Star-Cross’d Lovers, which is in four parts. Each part of the story is a different scenario, has different rules, different rez-es, and different goals and restrictions for each team. We have a VIP scenario, a Travelling, a Tangle, and a Hide-and-Seek! Complicated? Certainly. Wildly fun? Indubitably.
There’s a balance you have to maintain when designing a scenario. When you start making rules and giving disadvantages to players you have to ask yourself questions like, “Am I making this game un-winnable for one team?” “Is this so hard we’ll only play it once?” “If this scenario is unbalanced for one side, is there a condition I can add to balance it back in their favor?” “Is this something that we’ll use to have fun, to practice something, or both?” Things like that.
Remember when I mentioned the Battle for Minas Tirith, a little bit ago? Let me describe some of the conditions for that game. Soldiers had to hold their position, right? And the Orcs had to punch through them, just like the movie. The Orcs had to punch through the line seven times, and if they did that, they won the scenario. Meanwhile, the soldiers were waiting on reinforcements from Rohan, and later from Aragorn. What would happen is that at a certain time known only to the person leading the scenario (who wouldn’t be playing), Rohan would arrive, and so the team that had originally been fighting for Minas Tirith would have to split, and they would send a group away to be the Rohirrim, who could fight the Orcs from behind, after fighting through some forces the Orcs would send to intercept them. Later, the same thing would happen again, with the soldiers splitting off again to send a group away to become Aragorn and the Undead Army. The Undead would be completely unkillable, anad are meant to just mow through the rest of the Orcs and save the day, ending the scenario.
Big and complicated, I know, bear with me. Let’s analyze this. Both teams were equally sized, both given a simple goal. Soldiers were waiting on reinforcements with abilities that would make the team far more powerful than the Orcs and enable them to win. The Orcs had to kill the soldiers before that power came into effect. The reinforcements would, however, take away from the number of soldiers immediately available, making the soldiers more vulnerable to Orc attacks. In the end, after all the reinforcements and Undead came into the picture, the scenario became un-winnable for the Orcs, but the key point of this scenario is that the Orcs actually had a really long time to win before the scenario became un-winnable. The scenario is complicated, but it was fair to both sides (albeit at different times), and it was a ton of fun to play.
Creating and Tweaking a Scenario
So, you have all this information under your belt. It’s about time to start making some Melee Scenarios. Let’s walk you through some things to keep in mind for making your own Scenario.
First, have an idea for what kind of Scenario you want to create. Is this something to warm people up/practice something, is this something involving Terrasylvan Lore, or is this just a fun game we want to play? What theme will you have, if any? Is this something you want to play at a certain time of year?
Be original. This is your time to shine, and show off your creativity. Create something new and interesting. Some advice for figuring out how to do something original is this: Find something we do a lot, and don’t do that. Now, you don’t have to come up with something completely bizarre or out of the blue, but picture this example: We have three made up Capture the Flag games; one is called Reclaim the Dragon Egg, another is Take the Token, and another is called the Flag of Inkom (these don’t actually exist). All three are essentially the same game, but you can add a bunch of different conditions to each game to make them unique. Let’s say in Flag of Inkom, there’s a system where prisoners can be taken, and can be rescued. Maybe in Reclaim the Dragon Egg, everyone has only one life, but can be resurrected by one designated player. In Take the Token, if a flag is taken and then dropped, other players then take the flag back and replace it, or maybe players on the defending team can then carry it wherever they will. To be original in your Scenario design, you don’t need to be wildly different. The 7 Basic Archetypes are there for a reason, but try to make something a little different. If these three fictional scenarios here were all the same game, with the same rules and rezes and number of players, we might as well just have the one game, instead of three identical Scenarios.
Tweak the rules. When you start making a scenario, start with some basic rules. Make the rough draft, and play it out in your mind. When you have that down, tweak the rules. Does one team get more rezes but slower rez times? Can you take prisoners? Are there any special powers or restrictions you want to add? Remember, make it fun, make it fair. The more complex your scenario becomes, the more fun it should be to balance it out.
Know the territory. More specifically, know where your scenario will be taking place. If your scenario is meant to include a lot of running around, and is meant to last a really long time, try to avoid limiting the scenario to Upper Woodland. You’ll tire yourselves out and no one will have fun when they’re drowning in sweat. When you’re designing a game to play, imagine where it’ll be played. Is it being played in the Pavillion, in the open field, in the castle, where? Will the place where you are fighting make the game more interesting or challenging?
Last of all, COLLABORATE. Share what you have with friends. There’s no doubt your scenario will be awesome, but maybe there are ways in which it could be improved. Maybe there’s some hidden way that something in your scenario could be exploited and make the game un-winnable or too winnable. Maybe after your scenario is played, you should sit down and discuss with everyone what could be changed or added to make the game even more fun.
Alright, you should be about good to go. This article is a little large, so take it easy, re-read it if you have to. You aren’t in any rush to get this stuff done. As a matter of fact, don’t ever rush into making a scenario. Have fun with it, and make something you’ll be proud of.
Enough of my blathering. You want to make a scenario. Here’s a link to the Melee Scenario Planner. While we’re at it, here’s a super helpful guide on how to use the Planner.
On Trello, you can actually find the library of all the Scenarios we have on record. Download the Trello app and take a look at the OotR Melee Board. Here’s another super helpful guide on what Trello is, and another guide on how it works.
Okay, you creative kids you, go make some scenarios. Have fun!