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How the system worked
device
jducoeur
For those who might be considering a job in the Heraldic field, or are simply geekily curious, here's how we actually ran the courts, from the heraldic perspective. The model was broadly suggested by mrgrumpybear, and evolved a bit from there. (Hopefully Edward and Marguerite will forgive me for pulling back the curtain a bit, but now that we're done, I figure it may be useful info for later reigns. Those who prefer not to know how the magicians pull the rabbits from the hats should just skip this post.)

To begin with, Signet would do a lot of the heavy lifting: contact the recommenders for the awards, find out which events the candidates will probably be at, and track the schedule of who should get what when. We set up a shared folder in Google Docs (which turns out to be a great tool for this sort of thing), with one master spreadsheet of the tentative overall schedule, and one spreadsheet per event of the awards we really expect to do. These per-event spreadsheets would typically get finalized about a week before the event, at which point Signet would send an email summarizing the list.

Once the email went out, we (the heralds) would put together The Cards. Everything ran based on decks of 3x5 index cards. We set up a simple template in Word: each card was essentially a copy of the row in the spreadsheet, including the person's name, the award, a few brief notes reminding who they are and what they've done, and the scroll information. We also added cards for things like expected presentations, quests and other items of business, as well as the two cards that were always included: Welcome Newcomers (which was a high priority this reign) and Thank Musicians (which was always included, although only relevant about half the time).

In parallel with this, tpau, in her capacity as Keeper of the Big Bling Box (a large tackle box full of little comparments holding different medallions and tokens) would take a look at the spreadsheet, and make sure that the Little Bling Box (which actually went with the Royalty) had any medallions that might be needed. (In practice, most Orders have someone pass on a medallion, but we ran on the assumption that we might need to provide everything.)

We would then print two copies of the card deck, one for the Heralds and one for the Royalty. I would prepare a proposed order for the docket along the lines that TRM prefer, typically an hour or so before Court. (Multiple "acts" punctuated by the big awards, for better dramatic tension.) They would review and tweak that to get the final docket; at that point, we would go through both decks, all of the scrolls and all of the cutsheets, and put them into matching order.

The Royal copy of the cards would go into the Little Bling Box between them, so they could keep track of what was coming up next. (Ideally, they would get this deck in advance, so they could review the docket while traveling, but that didn't always happen.) The Herald copy would be given to one of the chancery heralds standing behind the thrones (usually tpau or hfcougar). She would have the cards and a pen. Going in order through the stack, she would hand the next card to the Herald, who would do the item of business and hand it back; she would then number it. If things went askew from the expected schedule, we would shuffle the card to later in the stack. (We also tried to usually have a few blank cards, in case something came up in the middle of Court.) The numbered cards then got transcribed, after the event, as the Court Report. (For particularly long Courts, we occasionally printed a third copy of the cards, so that the Head Lady in Waiting could use it to pace the retainers.)

All in all, it was a fair amount of prep work (and OMG we went through a lot of index cards), but the process works quite smoothly, and is relatively tolerant of things shifting in mid-Court. By taking the tracking-what-happened job off the shoulders of the Herald who is actually yelling, it allowed us to be a hair calmer in Court (not quite as many things to keep track of). It takes some discipline, but so long as you set aside enough prep time, it's a good model...
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Very cool details. I already knew a lot of behind the scenes work went into organizing all the parts of a reign, but its fun to see all the nuts and bolts on part of it.

Someday, you and I (and surely mrgrumpybear) ought to crack open a couple brewskies, and I'll tell y'all how it worked in 1983. The differences are...rather profound when seen in bird's-eye view, but the changes are all trackable both as to individual influences, and responses to larger intra-organizational cultural shifts.

I think that would be quite enjoyable.

(a little behind in LJ)

And from 1993 . . .

Wow - that WOULD be a lot of cards. And also, they would have driven me crazy. I just KNOW I would have dropped them all, and not had time to reorganize. And the rest of the retainers were the royal retainers, not heraldic retainers - I pretty much organized the court by myself. Their Majesties were great about providing and tracking their "giveaways", though (the medals, cups, etc.)

I always organized Tsurunaga & Genevieve's courts based on the scrolls that I got, which I wouldn't know until The Day Of. There would be so many AoA's, and so many of the larger awards, but some of the scrolls would always be more humorous than others, and I would arrange around that - moments of humor, moments of drama.

Given the size of the polling orders, we tried to call them in only once per court (I can't imagine how large they are now!).

I wrote everything down on a lined pad, and numbered them. I left lines between each entry, so I could add in the inevitable things, and I tried to spend some time before court finding out how to pronounce some of the more difficult names. And rehearsing the scrolls, of course. I then created the Court Report from that list.

Bless Signet for all that work! I don't remember who was Signet in our reign, but what I DO remember is the work they put in just getting the scrolls done.

I just KNOW I would have dropped them all, and not had time to reorganize.

Oh, the system absolutely requires staff -- we always had at least two people working court, often four or five. But that's actually accepted practice these days, indeed encouraged: the Pocket Herald thing had sometimes gotten to the point of being a bottleneck, preventing people from getting involved in the game. So we try to give roles to folks who want to come play. (I think all the people who do the Vox Regis thing these days agree that it's beneficial to encourage more heralds.)

based on the scrolls that I got, which I wouldn't know until The Day Of.

Yeesh -- that's considered almost completely unacceptable nowadays. We got very occasional scrolls that weren't on the docket (usually backlogs), but it was rare and exceptional. I'd say that the week-ahead dockets were 95+% accurate, at least as far as scroll-bearing business is concerned.

Given the size of the polling orders, we tried to call them in only once per court (I can't imagine how large they are now!).

Huge, but I don't know that the numbers being *given* at any given time are any higher. We have generally been trying to call each order in once; the main problem, I suspect, is that there are just plain more orders than there used to be.

"based on the scrolls that I got, which I wouldn't know until The Day Of.

"Yeesh -- that's considered almost completely unacceptable nowadays. We got very occasional scrolls that weren't on the docket (usually backlogs), but it was rare and exceptional. I'd say that the week-ahead dockets were 95+% accurate, at least as far as scroll-bearing business is concerned."

Ah. I was unclear. What I MEANT was, that I couldn't arrange the court until I actually READ the scrolls, to see which were humorous and which were serious, and which were good theater, and which were "standard wording." We had the list (the docket) ahead of time, but that wouldn't help me until I saw the *actual* scrolls, so I could see which to put where.

I still remember:
"There once was a king from Concordia
Whose courts never would bore ya . . . "

Notes of humor are desperately needed in a long court, so scrolls like this have to be carefully placed for maximum audience-wake-up effect.

I couldn't arrange the court until I actually READ the scrolls, to see which were humorous and which were serious

Ah, I see -- yes, that's still usually the case. It was rare for us to use the scroll text to gate the theatricality of Court, though: generally, it had more to do with the rise and fall of the level of the awards, intermixing non-award business, and stuff like that. Indeed, while I certainly played each scroll according to the tone as written, I don't think that ever factored into the docket-planning at all.

(I should also note that I *think* there are far fewer purely funny scrolls than there used to be, and a lot more stuff based on period exemplars -- but also a lot more totally stunning C&I. So the audience wow factor comes much more from *showing* the scroll than it used to. I don't remember: were we reliably reading the scribal information when you did it? I know that's come in sometime over the years.)

Also, it's important to note that I was absolutely *not* the primary performer in Court: Their Majesties (and especially Her Majesty) have lots of stage presence of their own. So I was, *very* deliberately, the straight man. And that, in and of itself, means that the scrolls couldn't be the determining factor of the theatricality: it puts the emphasis in the wrong place for the style we were trying to project. (But it also meant that long-and-boring was rarely an issue: they tended to keep things entertaining themselves, and we ran some of the tightest Courts ever...)

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