Advice for New Rallyemasters
Are you considering writing a gimmick rallye? Congratulations!
And welcome! TRC needs new rallyemasters.
Writing the Rallye
If you're writing a TRC rallye, then don't go it alone! Other TRC members will help you with details like:
- registering rallyists at the start
- participation plaques (refrigerator magnets)
- tools and expertise for posting CMs (if necessary)
- recruiting precheckers and checkpoint workers
We can also help by matching you up with a more experienced mentor, who can help, guide, and encourage you. As a new rallyemaster, you should look for a mentor whose rallyes you enjoy, and whose critiques you understand and agree with.
As soon as you are considering writing a rallye, please contact any of the TRC board members, or drop by one of our business meetings (usually the third Tuesday of the month, but check our calendar to be sure).
Please join the TRC-RM list. However, there are a lot of rallyemasters on this list who will want to enter your rallye, so you shouldn't ask "spoiler" questions on this list. Save those for your mentor, or for your precheckers.
If possible, wait until you have a fair bit of experience as a rallyist before you try writing a rallye yourself. You should be able to understand all the gimmicks described in the critique for someone else's rallye before you try to be a rallyemaster for a similar rallye.
Some find it easier to start by "rethrowing" an old rallye. That is, take an existing rallye and change the theme and other "chrome" as necessary, rather than write your own rallye from scratch.
If you do not have the support of a local rallye club, then study whatever sample rallyes you can find (e.g., on the web). Use them as a source of gimmick ideas, and as an example of what the general instructions (GIs) should look like, about how scoring should work, etc.
Choosing a Neighborhood
Not all neighborhoods are created equal. Don't sabotage yourself by placing your rallye in a difficult neighborhood.
For a coursemarker rallye, pay attention to the available poles. Some neighborhoods have only concrete poles, which make it difficult to post coursemarkers. Some neighborhoods have few usable poles, either because there are few poles to begin with, or because trees/shrubs obscure motorists' view of anything signs posted on the poles.
It is best to avoid neighborhoods with heavy traffic on Saturday nights, or with narrow streets that make U-turns difficult. If your rallye will be on a holiday weekend, then consider how the holiday traffic might be different from normal Saturday night traffic. Make sure the neighborhood is well lit. (Yellow street lights can cause rallyists problems, even though the streets appear well lit.)
Don't fall in love with a neighborhood with street names that fit the theme of your rallye. Make sure it is otherwise a good rallye neighborhood before using it.
The route instructions (RIs) should get people from the start to the finish if they ignore the misspellings and gimmicks and just follow them as though they were written by a well-intentioned person who is bad at giving directions. You shouldn't need emergency envelopes or other tricks to get lost rallyists back on course. They should be able to follow the RI course (AKA "the turkey route") and make it to the finish.
All rallyemasters need to be able to give ungimmicked instructions to rallyists. We do this with Special Instructions (SIs). There are never any gimmicks on SIs. Don't even think about gimmicks on SIs. Don't let rallyists even think about gimmicks on SIs.
You therefore need to be explicit about where SIs start and end, such as, "Begin SI at Main. . . . End SI after passing Lilac." If an SI is in effect, a rallyist won't (shouldn't have to) use an "uninstructed T" rule. And beginners may be confused if they will see CMs while on their SI; perhaps you need to explicitly say something like, "Do not record nor use CMs while on an SI." Some RMs define a Traverse in the Order of Precedence, so it is not an SI and can be gimmicked.
There are situations where there wouldn't be a gimmick on the SI, but the SI somehow would be associated with something that has a gimmick. An example would be an on-course CM that brings an "on course" SI into effect, but some other gimmick uses the CM. Technically, this is not a gimmick on the SI; it is a gimmick on the CM that brings the SI into effect. However, rallyists (especially inexperienced rallyists) don't always understand that distinction. To avoid confusing them, you should avoid using SIs in these situations. For example, you could have the CM bring a Supp into effect, rather than an SI.
It's better for problems to be found by your precheckers than by your rallyists. If a prechecker disagrees with your interpretation of a gimmick, then either drop the gimmick or fix the wording so your prechecker is happy.
After making changes, precheck it again to make sure you haven't broken something else.
Often, it helps to have precheckers with styles that differ from yours. They will bring a different point of view to the precheck, and will catch problems that you wouldn't have noticed. Likewise, it also helps to have precheckers with different experience levels (e.g., Novices and Master Experts).
Keep It Simple
It's better to make a gimmick a bit more obvious and have more people figure it out, than to leave it ambiguous and have more people protest it (or just be disgruntled). Remember, you're trying to help the rallyists have fun, not to thwart them at every turn. There should be plenty of easy and moderate gimmicks, and just a few hard gimmicks.
If you don't have the support of a local rallye club, then keep it extremely simple. If you're doing this on your own, then none of the rallyists will have much experience either. (If they do, then they should be writing the rallye, or at least helping you.) Complex gimmicks will go over everyone's heads. Besides, you'll probably have less help with the basic logistics of the rallye.
Complaints about TRC rallyes being too short are extremely rare. Complaints about TRC rallyes being too long are common, and we usually have a rallye or two a year where we need to extend the closing time at the finish. When in doubt, it's better for a rallye to be too short than too long.
Here are some rules of thumb for estimating whether your rallye is about the right length.
Checkpoints take time (verifying readiness, talking to the checkpoint workers, reading carefully any CP slips). If there is no checkpoint, your rallye can be a little longer.
For a coursemarker rallye:
- Limit yourself to two "alphabets" of CMs (i.e., use 52 CMs max)
- Use about 28-35 good CMs (full-credit and partial-credit).
- 20 to 35 RIs are typical, but this count is no proof the length is right.
- Drive the entire route to "read" every CM pole (both the good and the bad CMs). This will take less time than actually running the rallye, so if you cannot complete this test well within the time allowed for rallyists to run the rallye (after studying the materials), then your rallye is definitely too long.
For an A–B or multi-style rallye:
- 50 RIs is usually about right for an A–B rallye.
- For a multi-style rallye, start with the above guideline for A–B rallyes, but convert 10 RIs into 10 CMs or 10 Questions. An A–B, CM, Q–A rallye might have about 30 RIs, 10 CMs, and 10 Questions.
Furthermore, our insurance covers events up to 50 miles long. Rallyemasters must verify that the length of the rallye (including all traverses) does not exceed 50 miles.
A good rule of thumb is that a rallye should have no more than two types of "gimmick instructions". That is, in addition to the types of instructions that every rallye must have (e.g., SIs, GIs, RIs, Supps), you can use two other types of gimmick instructions.
As an example, many rallyes include Notes and Bonuses. Monster Mash rallyes often include Monsters and one other type of gimmick instructions. However, a Star Trek rallye that included distinct Vulcan, Romulan, and Klingon instructions runs the risk of being too complex.
If you have theme ideas that aren't integrally part of your rallye, consider if you can use them somewhere:
- Characters in the story or changing rules temporarily (as in a "Monster Mash")?
- Kinds of instructions, or alternate names for rallye objects, such as the score sheet, CMs, CPs, rallye workers.
- Checkpoint activity?
Determine if you want to do manual scoring (probably with a scoring template) or machine scoring. Machine scoring may be more work up front, but less work after the rallye.
Because we order pins ahead of time, we only have 2 for each car. Therefore, ties must be broken. Consider using the fewest denied protests as the first tiebreaker. This will discourage frivolous protests of the "I didn't get the gimmick" type.
Before the Rallye
See the Gimmick Rallye Timeline.
At the Rallye
It is traditional to have a short (20 minutes) briefing for first timers and beginners (novices are normally invited, as well) at the midpoint of the registration window. You need to explain the basics of the rallye and how to use the score sheet (e.g., how a CM is recorded and invokes SUPPs or SIs). This is typically done using the club's whiteboard and markers. Have a route prepared ahead of time. (It may, but need not, be a portion of true roads encountered in your rallye). Have a rallyist read the applicable definitions or GI sections, SUPP parts, etc.
The RM phone needs to be answered by someone other than the one giving the briefing, since the briefing occurs during the rallye (particularly for upper division). If you're a lone RM, ask another experienced rallyist to give the briefing and negotiate which gimmicks should be given away at the briefing.
While you are at the start, you will get questions. You might also get phone calls during this time. Don't let your phone answers be overheard by other rallyists.
- You probably want to get the rallyists' class and perhaps their car number.
- Try not to give answers, but to confirm rallyist guesses.
- For lower classes, try to lead them to the pertinent section(s) or sentence(s).
- Have rallyist read to you and perhaps they can find their own answer.
- Sometimes a rallyist will find the relevant portions of the GI, but still need (class-appropriate) help in drawing the correct conclusion.
- Remember that English wording is almost always ambiguous, even if crystal clear to you.
If a rallyist finds a "bug" in the rallye, consider notifying other cars:
- You might post a sign with an SI to help those who have not yet passed that point.
- Tweet a notification during the rallye, if necessary.
- Remember to also have CP workers notify all cars, to reach those not following TRC on Twitter.
There are no perfect rallyemasters. There are no perfect precheckers. Therefore, there are no perfect rallyes.
Expect protests, and don't take them personally. Carefully consider the point being made in each protest. Try to give more leeway to lower classes than you would to an expert.
If a gimmick is truly broken, then you should grant it for all cars. If the protest describes an alternate interpretation of the instructions that is as reasonable as your intended interpretation, then consider granting credit for that car, and possibly for all cars with the same answers.
TRC's competition director (or someone designated by her) will organize the protest committee and assure that protests are handled according to the TRC Gimmick Rallye Protest Policy.
Protests and their outcome are public documents. Allow rallyists to read (but not take) their protests and those of others.
After the Rallye
A rallyemaster's job isn't over when the rallye is done.
Shortly after the rallye, read any written comments on the evaluation forms, and reread the protests. Write yourself a few notes about things that went well in the rallye, and things that you should have done differently.
If you used coursemarkers (or other rallye-erected signs), then take them down promptly. Many experienced rallyemasters schedule a couple hours the day after the rallye to take them down. They come down more quickly than they go up, so just get it over with. Never leave them up longer than a week.
Ask the Treasurer for any Expense Reimbursement
Send email with a summary of the results to the TRC-Talk list, to TRC's webmaster, and to the email addresses provided by any rallyists. Use the bcc feature for the rallyists' email addresses, to prevent the unlikely abuse of rallyists' email address by other rallyists.
In general, it's best not to rescore your rallye. Just post the same results you announced at the finish.
File naming convention
Mail your results (text or PDF) as an attachment named yyyy-mm-dd-Results-NAME.suffix where:
- yyyy-mm-dd is the date the Rallye was run
- Results is just like that (case matters)
- NAME is the name of the Rallye
- suffix is pdf or txt
For example, the results for Ghostchasers, a rallye that was run on October 6th of 2012, is 2012-10-06-Results-Ghostchasers.pdf
At the Next TRC Business Meeting
Come to the next business meeting to give a report on your rallye (during the "previous events" section of the meeting). This is a good time to share any lessons you learned, as well as general comments about how the rallye went.
Give scoresheets to Treasurer to be filed, probably at that business meeting.
If you have any TRC equipment (such as checkpoint signs or CM removal tools), return them to the TRC Equipment Chair.
Get Receipts to Treasurer
If you asked the Treasurer for reimbursement and didn't scan the matching receipts and E-mail them, bring them to that business meeting.