Gimmick Types

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This is not a comprehensive explanation of all gimmicks and their variations. Rather, it's a broad overview of general gimmick types that are common in TRC's gimmick rallyes (most of which are CM or A–B rallyes). It is intended to help rallyemasters write better rallyes. Rallyists may or may not find it helpful.

Most every gimmick has an "equal and opposite" gimmick. In many rallyes, a "forced turn" is not an intersection because you don't have a choice; but an alternative definition of instruction makes it a valid intersection, and what rallyists learned from prior rallyes will not be helpful. See Bandits Section for more switcharoos.

Please note that there are certain Gimmicks That Should Be Avoided.


Basic Gimmicks

Most of these basic gimmicks are found in almost every TRC gimmick rallye.


Misspellings will appear in almost any gimmick rallye. Misspelled street names can be obvious (e.g., "R AT WASHING A TON" at Washington Dr.), or they can be subtle (e.g., "L AT FOREST" at Forrest Ave.). However, don't limit yourself to misspelled street names. Be sure to misspell a defined term or two (e.g., "AR AT WALNUT" when "R" is defined, or "L FIRST OOP" when "OPP" is defined).

Floating Instructions

In addition to following the sequential route instructions, rallyists should also be looking for opportunities to execute various floating instructions. These floating instructions often remain in effect for an extended length of time (perhaps even the entire rallye).

Many rallyes include a theme-related story in the general instructions, telling rallyists to turn on any street named in the story. Note instructions typically appear on the RI page and come into effect when the preceding RI is completed, but may remain in effect for quite some time before there is an opportunity to execute them. Bonus instructions may be more cryptic than Notes, or may come into effect as soon as they are received. Rallyes often use unusual theme-related names for various kinds of floating instructions. And sometimes an instruction to turn on a given street is simply buried in the middle of a random paragraph in the general instructions.

Words Not On Signs

There are many possibilities here.

  • A word may not appear on the physical sign (e.g., a "Washington" sign at Washington Boulevard).
  • A sign may use an abbreviation, rather than the word itself (e.g., an "E 3rd Av" sign at East Third Avenue).
  • The General Instructions may specify that certain words (e.g., "north", "south", "street", "avenue") and their abbreviations do not exist on signs.
  • A defined term (e.g., "intersection", "T", "signal") may be used in a way that requires the term itself to appear on a sign.

Many rallyes (especially A-B rallyes) use quotation marks, specifying that quoted words in an instruction must appear on a sign. Other rallyes (especially TRC's CM rallyes) use some variation of the "at rule": Instructions using the word "AT" can be executed only where everything that follows "AT" in the instruction can be found on a sign.

Valid CM at the Start

Any CM rallye should provide a valid CM at the start. This lets everyone see what your CMs look like, and lets everyone start off by getting a very easy gimmick. Normally, the corresponding instruction on the Supp/SI page will be an SI with a simple, reassuring message (e.g., "Welcome!" or "Good luck!").

On-Course CMs

Any CM rallye should include on-course CMs that are found along the basic route-instruction course. This reassures rallyists that they haven't gotten lost, and lets everyone get a very easy gimmick. They can also be used to clean things up after a potentially confusing set of gimmicks, by using a CRI instruction to make sure everyone is working on the same RI.

Some rallyemasters give everyone the points for on-course CMs, whether they recorded them on their score sheet or not. It's often a good idea for the general instructions to tell rallyists where to expect on-course CMs, either by specifying on which streets they will be found, or by specifying on which RIs the rallyists will be working when they find them.

Fish CMs

Any CM rallye should include a few CMs that are worth minus points. There is no reason to record "fish" CMs: They're just there to keep rallyists honest, and to penalize those who drive around "fishing" for CMs. Often, they're clearly visible on a well-lit pole along the RI course.

Invalid CMs

Many CM rallyes include at least one invalid CM. The general instructions define what a valid CM is, and thus determine what could make a CM invalid. Examples of invalid CMs include:

  • The CM "N 12" would be invalid if "north" and its abbreviations don't exist on signs.
  • The CM "9 RR" would be invalid if CMs must have letter(s) followed by a number.
  • The CM "BBB 27" would be invalid if CMs must have one or two letters.

Broken Supp Instructions

Most CM rallyes include at least one broken Supp instruction. For example, a Supp's parts could be unnumbered or lettered, when Supp parts are required to be numbered. Or a Supp's parts could be numbered 1-3-2, when Supp parts are executed in ascending numerical order.

Easy Gimmicks

Most rallyists (even beginners) should get these easy gimmicks. Also, most rallyists will get any gimmicks that are explained during the introductory rallye school at the start of your rallye.

Entering Checkpoints

Everyone should be able to find your checkpoints and enter them correctly. Simple interactions between your checkpoint workers and the rallyists will go off without a hitch, including having rallyists recite a saying (which should fit the theme of your rallye) and giving them an easy quiz about something in their general instructions. And few rallyists will make mistakes about whether checkpoints are supposed to be on the right, or whether they can be on either side of the road.

Having rallyists sign a checkpoint log helps your checkpoint workers know when everyone has reached the checkpoint, so they know when they can leave. If you have a gimmick based on signing the checkpoint log, keep in mind that later rallyists will be able to see how earlier rallyists signed, so keep such gimmicks simple.

Take care if you create more complex gimmicks based on precisely what actions are performed at a checkpoint. Your checkpoint workers will be busy and shouldn't need to spend too much time with any one car. Also, it should be obvious to your checkpoint workers (and to the rallyists themselves when they read the critique at the finish) whether someone got a gimmick.

Off by One

The typical off-by-one gimmick will leave rallyists working on the route instruction before the one they would expect to be working on. A forced turn may cause them to turn without executing the instruction at the expected location. After rallyists find a CM, the corresponding Supp may return them to the RI course, without deleting the broken RI that caused them to find the CM. Another possibility is for a Supp to delete only one RI when the rallyists are actually two RIs out of sync.

Forced Turns

A turn is considered forced if rallyists can proceed in only one direction (excluding a U-turn). A typical forced turn occurs at an L-shaped bend in the road where the road changes names, but other road configurations can create forced turns, too. Some rallyes define "turn" and "intersection" in such a way that you cannot "turn" at a forced turn. Others state that "forced turns are otherwise uninstructed", or "do not execute instructions at forced turns", or something similar.

Since rallyists can proceed in only one direction, they appear to make the instructed turn. However, because the turn was forced, they cannot consider the instruction to have been executed, and must continue working on it. Depending on the situation, this can set up an off-by-one gimmick or a parallel-sign gimmick.

Additional constrains on which roads exist or what constitutes an "intersection" make this type of gimmick more complex.

Parallel Signs

A parallel sign is a sign that is parallel to your direction of travel. By looking to the side, you can read it as you pass it. A common example would be a street-naming sign for the street you are currently on. The street-naming sign for the cross street will be perpendicular to your direction of travel, but the street-naming sign for the street you are on will be perpendicular to that, and thus, parallel to your direction of travel.

Gimmicks using parallel signs can stand alone, or they can be combined with other gimmicks. For example, forced-turn gimmicks often feed parallel sign gimmicks, as rallyists execute the instructed turn "late", at the parallel sign at the next intersection.

See also Parallel Sign Gimmicks.

Instructions in Unexpected Places

This includes floating instructions buried in the middle of a random paragraph in the general instructions. It also includes instructions that "can appear anywhere" according to the general instructions. And yes, "anywhere" can mean pretty much anywhere.

Other Easy Gimmicks

[These need to be fleshed out.]

  • The heading of the Supp/SI page is obviously wrong (different rallye/date).
  • basic theme-related concepts, definitions, and paragraphs in the GIs
  • precise CP schtick (e.g., the order of providing your scoresheet, saying the phrase, and signing the logbook)
  • U can be done immediately after turn or CS
  • Sealed envelopes must remain sealed until instructed to open them.
  • RI 1 not in effect at beginning of rallye.
  • AT rule: words can be in any order
  • AT rule: does not apply to Supps, so "R AT T" is valid as a Supp part
  • AT rule: crossword puzzle text itself must be on sign
  • ONTO: instruction to turn after being put onto

More Difficult Gimmicks

Less experienced rallyists (and some experienced rallyists) will miss most of these gimmicks.

The Aristotle

The story behind this gimmick's name is that the gimmick is so old that Aristotle used it in the "chariot rallyes" of his day.

To set up the basic Aristotle gimmick, the general instructions will prohibit rallyists from executing two consecutively numbered route instructions at the same intersection. At some point, the rallye will loop back around itself so that the route approaches an intersection a second time (often from a different direction). One route instruction is executed at the intersection the first time, and the rallyists will still be working on next route instruction after that when they approach the intersection again.


Bandits look like gimmicks, but aren't. There will be a CM for rallyists who "catch" the fake gimmick, just as though it were a real gimmick. However, recording the CM for a bandit is worth minus points.

The difference between a fish CM and a bandit is that there is no reason to record a fish CM, whereas a bandit tries to trick rallyists into recording the penalty CM with a fake gimmick. The problem with bandits is that they penalize only intermediate rallyists who "catch" the fake gimmick, but don't understand the bandit. Neither experts (who understand the bandit) nor beginners (who miss the fake gimmick) will record the penalty CM.

A bandit is often a technically valid instruction that looks broken. But bandits can take other forms, such as a floating instruction that never comes into effect, and thus should never be executed.


A blackjack is any gimmick that is located immediately before a major landmark. The landmark acts as a distraction, making the basic gimmick more difficult to catch. Common landmarks for blackjacks include checkpoints and major intersections that mark the beginning of a traverse.

Instructions Executed Early

These gimmicks are usually set up by definitions that apply more broadly than the rallyists might expect. For example, the general instructions can define "stop" in ways that describe a normal octagonal stop sign, but which could also describe other signs (e.g., bus stop signs, or yield signs). Thus, it might be possible to turn at a "stop" before encountering a normal octagonal stop sign.

Instructions Executed Again

There is a strong tendency for rallyists to ignore an instruction after they've done it once. Sometimes, a floating instruction will remain in effect. Other times, some event will cause an instruction to come back into effect.

Other More Difficult Gimmicks

[These need to be fleshed out.]

  • duplicate lettered spaces on score sheet
  • "intersection" requires differently named streets
  • ONTO: subtle name changes when continuing straight
  • ONTO: odd street naming/signing
  • ONTO: quirky "onto" rules (something other than "remain on")
  • "L FIRST PL" when PL is undefined, but can turn on [Something] Place.
  • adding instructions at CP that are slightly off (e.g., "VOW L AT GREENWOOD")

Harder Gimmicks

[These need to be fleshed out.]

  • stop signs are not valid ("street naming") signs
  • hanging Supp: repeat a Note (or other high-precedence instruction) at a parallel sign, delaying the execution of a Supp part
  • re-executing persistent instructions (e.g., second time passing a street mentioned in the GIs)
  • invoking Supps in weird non-CM ways (e.g., CP personnel recording numbers on your score sheet)
  • using Supp to "fix" a higher priority instruction, when SI is required
  • DX (Delete Xxx) instructions that "take out of effect" (bringing back into effect later)
  • Heading: RI page subtly wrong (e.g., "RI Page" vs. "Route Instructions")
  • passing parallel CMs again, deleting uncompleted Supp parts
  • reusing Supps with deleted parts later in the rallye
  • "Opp" includes opportunity to turn in either direction
  • "invalid" RIs that can be done at CM
  • "completing" (executing OR DELETING) an instruction using ONTO puts you onto (whether or not you are physically on a road by that name!)
  • define CMs to allow government-erected signs

See Also

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