The Castle Activity Guide
click here for castles, villages & projects of the past
What is the Castle Activity and how should we approach setting it up?
It's the responsibility of the Castle Builder, the Castle Activity Staffperson and the House Counselors to work together and with the campers to create a magical, inspiring and festive place for campers to be in the Castle Activity. You will ramp into this over three or so days. Overall we want to invoke the sense of a fantastic village in the midst of a grand faire or festival, freely allowing campers to 'hang out' in these cool structures in almost any way they like with invitations to engage in free role play that may or may not cohere into a story, but at its best will foster an overall irrepressible sense of freedom; the feeling that any of us have the time and respect and freedom to try almost anything we want. The old wiccan maxim of "And it harm none, then do what thou wilt!" comes to mind.
Counselors roles are primarily to find opportunities for themselves and campers for intrigue, music, storytelling, role play and some sense of ridiculous danger or mystery surrounding the castle and village by
1) building a village around a castle and decorating the castle,
2) running mechanics for low maintenance ongoing games to keeping stabby and non-stabby play coexisting and
3) planning and running a variety of activities and festive events and contest while jumpstarting free role-play whenever possible.
The Castle Activity culminates in an all-camp elective opportunity called Follow Your Bliss on Thursday and Friday where kids can freely roam between the Armory Activity and the Castle Activity and to some extent the Games Activity.
Finally there is the expectation that there should a Castle Battle on Friday morning - at least one good, spirited defense of the castle. Some bands also create another final event with the same sort of hyperbolic fun and focus on Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon the Castle should also be open for parents and friends of campers to explore and play in during our Community Field Day at 2pm.
What is the flow of the week in the Castle Activity?
Monday: Demonstrate how to make buildings, compile a book of inspirations with campers, set up mechanics for ongoing game structures, start building the village.
Tuesday: Finish the village, ramp up characters and role playing, start running organized activities, throw in a few events or contests.
Wednesday - Friday: Initiate Follow Your Bliss with a Daily Schedule of Events written on cardboard so campers know when to stick around for the things they like to do. Keep ramping up free role playing and run festivities along the concept of an ongoing Faire, Festival or Cirkus.
Friday: Run the Castle Battle in the AM, then more Follor Your Bliss! Hold a Community Field Day at 2pm!
Role of the Castle Builder
Sunday Set Up
The Castle Builder should finish as much of the castle as possible on Sunday. Make sure your Sunday build happens when all three Coordinators and their setup staff are also around on Sunday setting up tents and unloading other materials from the truck, it will help you with unpacking the heavy castle pieces and getting them where they need to be and it will help you lift any towers into place!
Minimally, the wooden armature should be completely finished with guardrails before you leave in Sunday. If you can get a basic cardboard skin on the thing as well, it will be more impressive for campers when they arrive on Monday, they'll have more time to play in it and you'll have more time to customize the structure according to your and your campers' desires. Expect it to take you between 2-4 hours with a crew of 2 to get the armature built. Expect it to take 2-4 more hours to get the castle skinned with cardboard. Decorating that skin in an adequate way can take a few hours beyond that, but that can also wait until Monday!
It also helps to have at least a few pre-built box forts for your village before the kids arrive– but your Castle Activity Staff can and should help you make these early Monday morning.
Castle Builders should follow this Truck Schedule over the summer to prepare ahead of time for set ups and strikes. Look over the Truck Schedule to make sure you understand it and if you think something should be changed let your Coordinators know ASAP. When summer begins we'll all need to follow the finalized plan with no deviation.
Castle pre-builds will not need to happen every week; we can leave the castle up most weekends.
Why we pre-build on Sunday:
- Kids that don't want to work on the castle won't have to sit and mope while our attention is on construction. The Castle Activity Staff can get House Counselors working with campers right away to create a book of inspiration, set up a village, introduce background mechanics for villainry, and even start running activities and schedule events. The House Counselors must help facilitate all of these activities; a majority of the kids will likely choose these activities over carpentry or castle-skinning.
- Any kids that WANTS to work on castle construction certainly can help the Castle Builder instead of the Castle Activity Staff and House Counselors.
- The Castle Coordinator should be free from a lot of kid wrangling, if need be, on Monday and Tuesday to focus on making the castle safe and look completely awesome (see attached photos for ideas of what can be!)
The Castle Builder During the Week
During the week, the Castle Builder is responsible for making sure the castle is finished, safe and looking really awesome. The castle should look as good as it can because it is just inspiring to have an awsome castle and the thing is a huge reflection of our camp for our families and for passers-by. It is advertising.
On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday the Castle Builder should be allowed to concentrate on this task and bring their full artistic talents into it. Whenever campers want to help making the Castle, the Castle Builder will of course put them to work either with power tools and/or cardboard décor, but more campers traditionally prefer work on their personal or small group box forts or start playing games. In the unlikely scenario where many kids want to help the Castle Builder we can always assign an number of House Counselors to help the Castle Builder accomplish this.
If the Castle is pretty much done on Monday (because it's already been up for several weeks and the weather hasn't destroyed it yet), then the Castle Builder should join the Castle Activity Staff and House Counselors in managing events and activities early in the week.
The Castle Builders' Many Duties
Castle Builders! Please look over the language in your contract so you're aware of the multitude of responsibilities you'll have to handle. You will have an extra Coordinator to help you that will always roll into the Castle Activity when they are not busy handling some other needed task, but don't make the Coordinators remind you of your expectations - they have enough to do. The Castle Activity Staff are present to help you get activities rolling for the kids, while you will be relatively more free from watching kids to make sure the castle is safe and awesome looking - this might require extra trips for supplies or staying after camp or coming way early before camp starts as written into your contract. One of the three Band Coordinators will be assigned to work with you on coordinating supply runs, but it’s primarily your responsibility.
Tool and Tower Safety
It will also be the Castle Builder's shared responsibility with the Castle Activity Staff to go over the rules of tool safety and playing on the castle structures on Monday morning. You can limit tool safety to those who are ACTUALLY going to be helping you with power tools and let the Castle Activity Coordinator start in immediately on the village and free role playing. Don't waste your whole first day on a 45 minute tool safety lecture when most kids won't even look at a cordless driver.
Safety Rules for Playing in the Castle
- anything that doesn't have a ladder should not be climbed up into because it’s not finished or secure or equipped with guardrails yet
- 4 people maximum on a short tower
- 2 people maximum on a tall tower
- only climb a ladder belly inward, one person on a ladder at a time
- weapons should not be drawn in the castle until there is an approved battle, it's an area of law (see below)
Role of the Activity Staff & House Counselors
Castle Activity Staff and House Counselors are responsible for helping campers find their own unique invitation into this world building where almost anything goes as long as it’s fun for more than just the person who thunk it up! The Castle Activity Person is ultimately in charge of organizing this - especially during the first two days while the Castle Builder may or may not be occupied - it's a huge role and the person overseeing this should have lots of experience but will also need lots of help from the House Counselors and, if at all possible, the Third Coordinator. Leading the Castle Activity is easier for people with strong acting or performing skills, who have loads of kid experience and who are somewhat easy-going and unflappable! They will still need the help of House Counselors and Coordinators!
Making the Village & Starting with a Book of Inspirations
It's highly suggested on Monday to start creating a village right away. Quickly assemble the kids before you and demonstrate how to make a box fort in a lively and entertaining way. Have sample box forts on hand to show off if you have time to make them before the kids arrive. This can help immensely. Here's a hands-on example of how to make a box fort.
After you make and/or show teh kids some box forts, brainstorm a number of ideas for structures and/or projects they would like to make or see built. Poll the kids for their ideas - shops, inns, cemeteries, blacksmiths, dungeons, haunted houses, labyrinths, magical sanctuaries, libraries, restaurants, barracks, labyrinths, etc… The village is a tradition already in the minds of many kids so they will usually have plenty of ideas. Write them up on a piece of cardboard to refer to. Also try to get kids to group-up on projects to both save on cardboard and to get them to play together more. You can incentivize this by stating that there's typically more boxes available for larger groups. That said, if a solitary kiddo is obsessed on making something alone, we usually try to accommodate them.
Set up a village in or around the castle and field in a way that suggests streets, squares, piazzas or other crazier designs, but put some thought into clumping the box forts in interesting ways so it looks more than just a bunch of boxes spaced out in a field. Merge their projects into one large city in a field or about the castle or if you have enough space in a large field or hill, you might let each House set up a little village of its own around. You can opt to set up the village inside and the castle or connect to it the castle in other creative ways. Often there are towers and spaces that are part of the castle but that campers can use to set up larger groups projects like a tavern.
The village is a great and fun place to start because anything can happen in a village. Making a little village usually gets kids excited about free role playing. Many kids will want to create a shop and make things to sell for gold.
Sometimes you can dream little village scenarios that kids may fun to play out, or you can just let the chaos roll as long as its happy chaos. Set limits of course, and watch for crappy behavior; don't be negligent, but you also don’t need to control everything that happens and it will make everyone happier if you don't. You are mostly around to make sure everyone finds their own invitation into the play. You and other counselors should join in this play as yourselves (or as a character) whenever you can – the kids will love you for it. You should at least be seeking to spend all your gold on whatever they are selling!
Rain and Box Forts
A drawback of box fort villages is that you will need to pull any forts under the pavilion or tent at the end of the day or on rainy days. Some thought about this before the week starts helps… and letting Counselors know that this will be a part of the end of the day clean up will go a long way to easing frustration… and you will need to load an extra 30 boxes or so to pull this off. You can fold and save really cool box forts on the truck to use again if you like – kids are usually happy to inherit something already made. Don’t worry about this too much though if saving projects becomes too much of a pain in the ass – we have plenty of post-consumer fridge boxes in 2022, and they are all headed to the recycling plant in one form or another!
Other Building Projects? Hell yes!
If the Castle Builder or the Activity Counselor or any House Counselors for that matter have ideas for special projects other than a village, you can present these too! Boats, siege engines, a guillotine, large monster puppets, a giant labyrinth are some things that have been done in the past. Just try and listen to what the kids seem to be yearning for. If they don't seem inspired think of something you can sell to them - if you think it's fun, likely they will find it fun too - your enthusiasm can get many things rolling!
Jumpstarting Free Role Play
There are so many ways to jump start ridiculous free role play and if you have kids or little nephews and nieces or if you run theatre classes I’m sure you have your own methods. Just remember this is free role play, its not an acting class. Don’t make kids do stuff like Zip, Zap, Zop. Just get them inspired and let them rip about. Even the theatre kids at AIC tell me that’s not why they come to AiC – they don’t want to do theatre excercises they want to play. Well, some kids do want to perform and do improv excercises and you can do this, but make it an elective opportunity or build a damn stage or proscenium for them and tell them to put on a play or puppet show. Likely they WILL!
Sometimes a Counselor in a costume playing a character can really get things moving. A storyteller, a merchant in trouble, the Captain of the Guard hiring and training royal guards, a King or Queen or other part of the royal family, a Banker willing to lend credit, a mysterious visitor, a jolly inn-keep, a troubador looking for a worthy band or choir, a criminal setting up a racket, a brewer of potions looking for help finding components, a ranger from the out-country with stories of a monster loose in the woods, etc... If you're really into it, they will likely be too, and this is a place to let any talents you have shine. And if you don't have the props or materials needed to carry out an idea, ask your Coordinator - Adventures in Cardboard has a basement full of props and costumes and supplies and each band a petty cash account to purchase more.
Setting Up Roles
Sometimes we'll try and jump start the action in Follow Your Bliss on Wed, Thu and Fri by quickly and rapidly setting up some roles to play and seeing what happens. The Castle Builder or Activity Counselor can place themselves somewhere high on a tower and with great fanfare (and Counselor support) ask for the town to quickly muster up. In a lively and entertaining manner they identify a number of roles and assign them rapidly - the Queen, her dottering father, her cruel mother, her wicked siblings, the Captain of the Guard, the Burgomeister, the executioner, a lawyer, a healer, a bard, troubadour, a rebel or revolutionary, a banker, a traveling riddler, a sage, a spy, a zealot, Jaqen H’ghar, etc... You can pull out props and costumes specifically for camper use from the green room to help you! This year Rachel and Logan picked out many, many new options specifically for kids and Alison and other staff have been making them as well!
Other Activities Related to Free Role Play
These are all merely suggestions of things that have been done before successfully and so have been repeated, but we welcome experimentation!
Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes you can give kids quests to fulfill for either gold some kind of renknown, but if you do this, start on the simpler side of things. A kid can uickly be turned off is something seems like it will take too much time or be too hard to finish - these kiddos like to keep their options OPEN! Don't we all? Sometimes quests are better left for the Games Activity.
This activity goes well with Bandits and Royal Guard. If a Royal Guard tags out a Bandit you can role play a travesty of justice by standing the accused somehwere up high and go through accustations, defenses, cross examinations and then allowing the asembled crowd to decide as a spontaneous jury if the accused is innocent or guilty. Having a guillotine created heightens the thrill of course.
Set up a Bank
Not necessary, but it can be helpful to have a counselor play a banker who can hold on to campers gold for them, or lend out gold if needed. The banker should of course have a box-fort base.
Set up a Tavern
If you have a lareg area for assembly in or near the castle, creating an inn or tavern can be the locus for a lot of fun free role playing and music. Scroob's tavern was one of the most famous taverns ever seen in Adventures in Cardboard
Set up a Stage
Either as part of the Tavern or Separate building a stage can of course be conducive to seeing performances happen on it!
Set Up an Art Museum
Kathy and Zoe used to do this in a quiet shaded area, and it was always a place of peace, quiet and enlightment. It's also fun to auction the artwork atthe end of the week!
Set Up a Library
Maggie is an expert at this. Set up a library and have kids make books for it, save the books all summe rlong so this gets easier and bigger each week!
Set up a Gladiators Arena
Do I really have to explain this one? Just have fun with the architecture and throw in a monster once in awhile or plac eit where the Rolyals can watch and throw flowers down!
Set up the Royals’ Area of Castle
Decorate their chambers and practie your silly accents.
Hold a Feast in the Castle
Elicit the making of fancy cardboard food and have a feast in the upper levels of the castle.
Set up a Dungeon
Great for the Game of Bandits and Royal Guard below.
Set up Mazes and Catacombs
And hide prizes and monsters in them.
We can never have enough music and it adds so much. Live music is best, instruments, bands, choirs, singalongs, camp chants... otehrwise we have some bluetooth spekers to keep a constant and relaxing festive din going from the castle. Fantasy tavern or medieval tavern music? Gregorian chant?
The Selling of Food
This is Ranea’s special racket, but sometimes campers will want to sell treats and generally we don't advertise this but we don't really try and stop it. It can be quote fun as long as the only currency they accept is camp gold!
Use Whatever Else Kids Give You!
Kids will want you to buy stuff from them, chase them down, have you come worship at their temple or get lost in their hanuted house... or even just come into their little hideout or fort and compliment it. Have fun playing with them and complimenting them and seeing the crazy Activty blossom into something memorable.
“The Good, The Bad and The Stabby”
Setting up Mechanics for Ongoing & Low Maintenance Villainy
While free role play is going on, kids of course will want to continue with stabby and villainous play. They will want to try out being thieves and bandits and assassins and we should absolutely encourage this as long as it's not an excuse for behaving shitty to each other. What we dont want to see happen is stabby and non-stabby play start to wreck each other. Here are some background mechanics to keep these two type sof activities happily co-existing. If you invent more (and the work) please let us know!
Marking Out "Places of Law"
Mark out a "place of law." Take some marking flags and mark out islands of stab-free zones for kids who want to play free from the carnage of cardboard tagging. I usually mark out a majority of the town and leave out one neighborhood as a dangerous place in town to adventure in and call that 'Knife Alley.' I also usuallt mark out the castle as a safe place, but the village and castle might be separate islands or connected by a twisting path. Role playing kids can do their thing unmolested in a place of law and stabby kids can also continue to do their thing outside ‘places of law.' If someone wants a little thrill they can spend some time in a lawless zone and then run safely back to an area of law. Also, getting from one area of law to another may require have to sneaking or run through a lawless place which can also be a lot of fun. This also creates a dynamic for a lot of free role playing a small games.
Also if you set up places of law, set up a graveyard area for respawning players. Whenever they are tagged out they can let thmesleves back in the game after spending a minute or two in teh cemetary. If you leave some cardbaord and markers, they can design a quick tombstone every time they visit. A singing ghost character in the cemetary is also a lot of fun.
Bandits (and the Royal Guard)
First of all, make it clear that it is NEVER ok at AIC for anyone to really take, steal or borrow iwthout asking anything anyone else has made or has in their possesion!
That said, a great set of mechanics to get going right away are Bandits and the Royal Guard. This requires places of law, lawless areas beyond the marking flags, and woods beyond that.
Bandits (who may also be robbing the merchants traders and also playing thieves, assassins or rebels - see all these below) try to sneak thrugh areas of law without getting caught or jailbreak their friends or steal the guards coffer. Guards try to caopture bandits in areas of law or chase them out to lawless areas to duel them.
In an area of law no swords can be drawn, but guards can two-hand tag any bandit in these areas and the bandit must either respawn or consent to be put in the castle dungeon. In the dungeon a bandit can only escape if another bandit slips them a key through a window. The prisoner can show the key to the guard and they get a free escape.
In lawless areas both guards and bandits can tag each other out.
In the woods only bandits can tag guards out.
Start by explaining the mechanics, then send bandits out to set up a cardboard base in the woods while you have a lot of fun roleplaying the ridiculous hiring process for the guards, decorating badges of tape and building a dungeon if you need one. Then let it rip. If you have a guillotine, hold a trial once in awhile if a bandit shows a sense of humor about it.
Merchant Trading Missions
If you have Bandits and the Royal Guard going, have a counselor play a merchant or burgomeister and have another counselor play an agent out beyond the woods somewhere. Give them walkie talkies.
Explain the rules up front: At various times the merchant will meet adventurers interested in making a little gold, at secret rendevous places around the castle or village. The merchant will put prop items like fake onions, garlic, bread, cheese in a burlap sack and the adventurers must find the agent and deliver these sacks to them. When on a trading mission an adventurer must hold the bag so it is visible. An adventurer may sneak through the woods and/or bring weapons and extra muscle if they like. If they succeed in delivering the bag to the agent, then the agent will give them a gold reward based on what is in the bag. If adventurers are intercepted and killed by bandits, then the bandits may deliver the bag back to the merchant (or agent if you prefer) who must pay them for it.
Typically kids will want to be assassins. It can help to have a counselor play an Assassin Guild Master or spend a little exrtra time organizing the Game of Assassins.
Assassin Guild Master - simple, it works ok
Any kids who wants to be an assassin must find the guild master first who has a list of counselor or mature kids that can be targeted. Sometime we just tell kids at the top of the activity that there IS an Assassin’s Guild Master and they have to figure out who it is. The Guild Master’s role is just to give the activity some focus. Give the kids assignments to ‘off’ counselors or other very mature older kids for gold or other rewards.
The Game of Assassin - very cool but takes a lunch break or an hour after work to set up.
- The Master of Secrets (MS) goes over the rules during camp announcements on Monday morning and asks who wants to participate. Individual children come up to the MS that day and add their name and house to the secret list.
- That night, the MS assigns everyone a target. The target’s name is written on a “Death Scroll” (something small and sturdy…maybe a small cardboard skull with masking tape across it with the child’s name and house written on the tape?).
- On Tuesday morning, the MS gives everyone their targets via the Death Scrolls. The MA also gives everyone a blowgun (12” or longer PVC pipe) and a single nerf dart.
- Over the course of the week, each assassin tries to assassinate their target. If successful, they collect their target’s target, and then turn in the eliminated target’s Death Scroll to the MS, along with the eliminated target’s blowgun and dart.
- When only two assassins remain, they have a knife fight. The winner is declared the King of Assassins
Rules of the Game:
- Assassinations may not be conducted in the Armory
- Assassinations may not be conducted in Games or on any Game trails.
- Assassinations may not be conducted during any camp meeting or announcement.
- Every assassin’s correct nametag must be clearly visible on their body the whole week. Anyone who tampers with their nametag is banned from the Assassins Guild…FOR LIFE.
- You have to shoot your target in the back? This way, if an assassin is sloppy and they make themselves known to their target, then their target can sort of defend themselves by keeping an eye on their assassin and not letting them get behind them.
- Assassinations allowed during lunch? Y/N
- Assassinations allowed before morning circle-up? Y/N
- Rules around touching other people’s darts? If someone tries to assassinate me and they miss me, can I steal their dart and render them impotent? Or can I not touch their dart?
Thieves & Burglars
First of all, make it clear that it is NEVER ok at AIC for anyone to really take, steal or borrow-without-asking, anything anyone else has made or has in their possession!
We used to allow thieving, pickpocketing and burglary with a little piece of cardboard note that reads "You have been robbed." This would be placed in people's shops or stuck to their backs with taped or placed in their pockets. When found the robbed person could raise an alarm and make an accusation which usually lead to a chase by the royal guard and perhaps a trial or time in the dungeon. You may see this happening and it's ok, but it also can get a little of crazy-making. We're trying a new thieving mechanic this year and if you'd like to try it, I'm eager to see how it works!
These mechanics for villains are supposed to be 'low maintenance mechanics' that can sustain themselves for the campers with minimal counselor oversight. Our attention can then be spent more on roleplaying, helping kids build things and running events and contests.
New Rules for Thieving & Burglary
- Each player will make a Thief’s Pouch, a narrow and shallow pocket of cardboard worn on a
strap so that it is behind the player on their waste or back, like an open fanny pack.
- Each player receives a single thief coin to begin. These are cardboard coins that are used exclusively for this game.
- A thief's goal is to pickpocket thief coins from the other players while not allowing their own coins to be stolen.
- You must have a thief coin in your thief's pouch in order to attempt a pickpocket of another player. You must be wearing your thief’s pouch in order to attempt a pickpocket of another player.
- If you successfully steal a thief coin, you are able to use it as a backup for the coin currently in your pouch and it also counts toward the total number of thief coins you have collected. Most coins at the end of a multi-day period will win a similar amount of real gold and/or additional prizes.
- Thief coins can be hidden on your person, in the woods, or in a secret stash within the town area, inside or outside shops. Coins cannot be stored in backpacks, lunchboxes, or any other “private” storage device.
- Thief coins are always in play and can be stolen by any player at any time - even during lunch - if a stash is found at all. Thief coins are always up for grabs.
- If you do not have a thief coin you may do a task for the Bandit King / Queen in order to gain a new thief coin.
- If you are caught attempting to pickpocket a player, that player can point at you and shout “Thief!” At this point any guard in the area may attempt to capture or kill you. If a player is caught or killed by a guard, they must forfeit their thief coin to the guard. You cannot attempt to rob a player who caught you for half an hour.
- Thieves can be caught or killed just like bandits, i.e. thieves can be killed in a lawless area but not in the woods and a two-hand-touch within the castle walls or other area of law is enough to capture a thief or if she chooses send them to respawn.
- Inside the dungeon, escape can be managed either by a key sneaked inside by a friend or by solving a key puzzle. Key Puzzle: This can either be solved by the friends of the thief outside the cell, or with a bamboo stick located inside the cell. When the key is formed the cell opens
- If the Captain of the guard deems you too nefarious or infamous to go back to the dungeon an umpteenth time, then they may put you on trial and if you are found guilty and formally executed you must drop all of the thief coins you are carrying.
- If a player is killed as a thief they can respawn at the Bandit Camp, or perhaps at the cemetary.
- All thief coins collected by the royal guard go into the castle treasury. and the captain of the guard guards the only treasury key. The treasury key must be left on or hanging near the treasury box. If a thief is able to steal the treasury key and touch it to the treasury box they get to collect all the thief coins inside it and also get a free walk back to the woods with the booty!
- If the guards have the most thief coins at the end of the game period, they spit the gold prize between them.
Creating Festival of Events (and/or Throwing in Random Events)
Each day, especially during Follow Your Bliss, take a little time to devise and post a schedule of festival events. This wee bit of structure may help keep things fun and interesting and it also helps kids manage their time and make sure they are around for the things that interest them most.
Bring your own interests and talents into this! Here are some examples and some notes on past successes. We're always interested in learning from your trials and experiments!
- Hold a Dance Party
- Demonstrate the workings of a Trebuchet, catapult or other siege engine.
- Hold an Archery Contest or any contest.
- Set up a Obstacle Course with prizes for the fastest through.
- Set up a Clue Hunt throuight the village area and nearby trails.
- Publicize back street Gambling at an appinted place and hour.
- Host random Intrigue of all sorts.
- Schedule an Election, get candidates to organize campaigns leading up to it.
- Roast Marshmellows and tell Scary Stories on a rainy day.
- Give a Concert or have a wandering Troubador and her band play all day
- Set up a Sing-Along at the tavern, teach sea shanties leading up to it.
- Hold an Art Auction at the castle or art museum, elicit artwork leading up to it (this may best be planned over several days,)
- Host a Play, storytelling or other performance.
- Host an open stage Talent Show at the tavern.
- Hold ongoing Duels in the arena or a special duel at an appointed hour when the Queen is present.
- Host a Philosophers’ Duel over a metaphyiscal question (essentially a Socratic Circle.)
- Teach and play Wizard Duel from two separate towers.
- Schedule an Attack on the Castle where campers must muster up and defend teh structure if they like. Zombies, goblins or other enemies of the people.
- Schedule a Catastrophe that everyone must role play through... a plague, a storm, abn earthquake, etc...
- Hold Trial for a notorious Bandit or Thief with the Guillotine.
- Play the Game of Traitor!
- Hold a Masquerade Ball, teach dances (courtly or otherwise) leading up to it.
- Hold a Fashion Show with a runway.
Setting up a zombie attack from time to time can be fun especially if you make a rule that everyone is safe inside a cardboard building. Everyone holes up and waits for the zombies to rot away. For that matter sometimes just calling out random calamities is fun... bang your drum and say a storm is on its way, etc...
You can really do ANYTHING you want. I remember setting up Philosopher's Duel every day one week, where in the morning I would post a philosophical question of the nature of the Realm. "Why are we cursed to always come back to life and respawn in the Realm?" Philosophers show up to debate like a Socratic Circle or something to define what shall be doctrine on the question and what shall be heresy - this opens up a lot of fun options for further roleplaying.
Sometimes kids like to play a good Game of Traitor if you have a deck of cards or can make some quick cardboard cards. The town and castle can be a lovely backdrop for this game.
Dan Jones in the Blue Band (now Band of Storms) has done a million different things. So have Meg and Mikha in the Band of Mountains. So have Lacy and Mark and many others – ask them about the Ship or the Sphinx on a hill. Lewis has his schtick, stock characters and certain hilarious scenarios and they are just great! Gaea and Satya had their favorite games and activities that I dearly miss as well! Noah's characters and castles are out of this world and he has developed the idea that each week should have a Monster, a Scholar and a Warrior. Each band develops its own flavor.
The Castle Activity is like a mini Theatrical Week. Theatrical Weeks are 80% free role play. It’s fun as hell but it can also be exhausting - constantly devising collaborative improv theatre - if you don’t pace yourself and take care of your own needs on purpose many times during the day you'll burn out! Remember, always step out and take a five or ten-minute break whenever you need too!
The Final Castle Battle
It will be the Castle Builder, the Castle Activity Staff or the 3rd Coordinator's role to set up the final castle battle on Friday morning. Sometimes groups do alternative special things at the end of a week, but I highly encourage a Castle Battle as well, it is an expectation for many kids.
Here is a set of rules for final castle battles that work pretty well. The writing of these rules is being cleaned up and wisdom for all four bands is being added to this, so chekc back in a week for better, clearer details. Castle Battles can work, they can be fun and you can run them multiple times!
Imperfectly written rules (for now):
- No more than one or two groups will defend the castle. The rest will start at some distance from the castle and rush in to try and breach the walls, tag their way to the flag and hurl it to the ground. Usually the team that gains the most victory points during the week playing capture the flag (a war of succession for an empty throne) becomes the dominant force on the Realm and is assumed to have seized the throne. They can choose one house top help them defend and either this house can bunker down with them or assist from the field.
- Go over whistle signals. Thee whistles starts and finishes the game. A short sharp whistle means look for a counselor pointing at you because they need your attention you’re probably out, no arguing. Two long whistles means FREEZE!
- There will be pre-determined breech points. Typically these are gates. You must build a battering ram or have a large pounding relic like Mjolnir to breach a gate by lightly pounding it against the breech point thirty times slowly. If the person pounding it is tagged out the breach is delayed while another warrior picks it up and continues. When a breach has been made blow the pause signal while the gate or door is removed. Blow the start whistle and referee tag outs very very actively. Short whistles, points and the thumb-out gets dead kids out of the way fast, pause when needed if it turns into a cluster-f!@#.
- Climbing ladders is similar. Have a counselor up in the keep playing referee. No one can be tagged on a ladder. One kid climbs at a time, pause to let one or two attacking kids climb a ladder and set up on a deck if there’s room. Start the battle. Pull tag-outs aside. Pause and do again and again until one side is victorious on that level.
- The Logan Experience: To keep all the action from cluster-fucking in the castle and for a more varied strategy, you can set House Counselors called Logans (it was his idea) out in the field around the castle. The Logan may only move within a ten foot circle of space, carry a long flag in the color of their House and cannot defend themselves at all. If a House’s Logan is tagged out pause the game to take that entire House out “Arko is Defeated” to watch the rest of the battle from the sidelines. Defending a Logan means a number of kids must stay in the field to keep their frontline attacking squads in the game. Some kids also get sneaky and hide out in the woods after a battle begins looking for an assassination opportunity. Much fun.