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The Festival in the Forest

From EverybodyWiki Bios & Wiki
The Festival in the Forest
GenreStorytelling, Collaborative Fiction, Roleplaying Games
Location(s)Hinckley, Ohio
CountryUnited States
Organized byFab Festivals

The Festival in the Forest is a unique weekend-long, outdoor collaborative role-playing experience held in Hinckley, Ohio each year that uses large-group, collaborative role-playing, as its model. Collaborative Role playing is non-linear storytelling technique that combines the mechanics of a rules-based role-playing system with collaborative fiction models.

The Festival in the Forest is an event that combines traditional Dungeons & Dragons tabletop role-playing games with actors, actresses, and musicians who act as 'out of session' NPCs (non-player characters) who interact with attendees between tabletop gaming sessions. Players participate in multiple gaming sessions that are intertwined within a single story line that continues year after year. Players have attended from across the United States and Canada.


The Festival in the Forest began as an experiment in collaborative roleplaying in 2014 in small groups in planning for a larger activity. In 2016 the experience expanded to a public audience using Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition) as a catalyst to bring storytellers and a large member participants together. The use of this roleplaying rules set was chosen for its vast adoption in society as well as it having a new edition (5e) that simplified the existing rules set and generated a high degree of interest on its release after a long beta test. The experiment exceeded expectations, and after a bit of minor tuning of process and team members, the second installment of the continuing epic was even more successful. The Festival in the Forest is now booked for a multi-year experience through 2020 named The Chronicles of Shadow.

The concept is based on using a single, epic back-story in which a team of Game Masters (GMs) act as storytellers and collaborate their own sub-story adventures throughout the weekend. The collaboration of the GMs was the initial hurdle in the success of such a project. GMs not only had to create multiple chapters of a sub-story, but had to incorporate their sub-story within the context of the epic backstory. Additionally, GMs had to further collaborate with the other GMs to incorporate aspects of each of those sub-stories together, creating a very rich tapestry of adventure. Players at the event switch between GMs (and story lines) throughout the weekend, following clues gathered from other GMs in prior sessions.


The process of collaborative roleplaying is based off of social research of storytelling and collaborative analysis. The concept is influenced by the works of various researchers, particularly Timothy Koschmann 'The Edge of Many Circles: Making Meaning of Meaning Making' and Yiannis Gabriel's 'Co-creating stories: Collaborative experiments in storytelling'. The Festival in the Forest contributes to Koschmann's focus of how collaborating participants develop a shared understanding of both their task and their shared participation in it.[1]

The design aspects of the this collaborative roleplaying event include the following:

  • Backstory: The backstory is designed as an epic story providing a world-perspective, critical characters and challenges, and a framework by which GMs and participants follow for each of their stories. The Backstory is designed to be flexible, accommodating of non-linear stories, and should be seen as a framework and not a script. The Backstory gets shaped by each story contribution while maintaining the framework.
  • Stories: The stories are unique epics that fit within the Backstory. The stories are authored by each storyteller/GM and further subdivided into sub-stories. Each story is a dynamic narrative of related events that is shaped by the actions of the participants that may even alter what the author/GM had intended, but still maintaining compliance to he backstory.
  • Sub-stories: Unique stories that are authored by each storyteller/GM designed that are tied to the overall story (and backstory) through a set of related events, characters, objects. Each sub-story is designed to be shared, interacted with, and concluded with a small team of participants.
  • Participants: Participants are individuals that are directly involved with the storyteller/GM within a sub-story. Participants actively interact with various aspects within a sub-story and may even shape the same or other sub-stories/stories/backstory through this active participation. Participants may or may not be directly involved with the other sub-stories of the author or other stories but are responsible for sharing information and interactions they learned within the sub-story with other participants so that they all gain a shared understanding of the events, characters, and objects in the sub-stories, stories, and backstory. Sharing, active participation, and collaborative analysis is critical for all participants.
  • Storytellers / Game Masters (GMs): These individuals are the authors of each story and sub-story. They usethe Backstory as the framework for their own epic and collaborate with other Storytellers / GMs to include events, characters, objects from others into their own works. It is critically important for the Storyteller / GMs to collaborate prior to the beginning of The Festival in the Forest event to align on these aspects. Additionally, they must collaborate between sub-stories to understand if the participants altered the course of any sub-story or story.

The process of The Festival in the Forest is adjusted from story to story to accommodate number of participants, number of GMs, and venue for the annual event, but the general framework stays the same based on close collaboration of GMs and the close collaboration of participants as well. Much like a traditional 'Murder Mystery' game, participants must put together clues and share information with each other to understand and see the full plot. An organizer defines and outlines an overall backstory and framework for other GMs (storytellers) to work within as a series of adventures that continue for 3-5 events. Each event is held yearly, so the conclusion of the overall story takes 3-5 years. Each GM creates their own sub-story and ties it to the backstory, including primary and secondary characters, events, objects, and other elements. Each GM's story is divided into ‘sub-stories’ that is ‘stand-alone’, meaning, one that is a complete story into itself complete with introduction, body, and conclusion. Each sub-story may follow a linear or non-linear story-telling model where the sum of the sub-stories delivers a richer plot and conclusion and is based on the actions of the participants interacting with the story. Participants (players), rotate between GMs after each chapter. To maintain a sense of cohesion between the different GMs, it is critical for GMs to integrate some events, characters, objects that were in other sub-stories. This is where it is critical for GMs to collaborate so that players can experience a comprehensive story.

A GM may focus a sub-story or their entire story on a specific antagonist character in the narrative thread, and then collaborate with other GMs to incorporate the character to another GM for further additions, different contributions, or in support of another antagonist all together. The higher the degree of collaboration between the GMs, the richer the overall experience for the players as they begin to understand and shape the overall backstory as they interact with each sub-story.

If there are a large number of GMs engaged in the process, it is better to have them work in teams for a specific story under the backstory while encouraging players to stay with the same team of GMs throughout the event so they maintain cohesiveness between the plots/sub-plots.

What to Expect at the Festival in the Forest[edit]

When you arrive at the location of the event, you will drive through a beautiful forested road and then turn off to get to the Forest Inn and Tavern. This is set within the forest of pines, oaks, and ash trees. You will be greeted by costumed staff members who will welcome you to the Forest Inn and thank you for sharing the weekend adventures. After registration, you will be asked to set up your tents (if you decide to stay on site) in the large glade that sits directly to the east of the cabin. If you come early enough, you can investigate the local rock cliffs, beautiful lake, mysterious rock carvings, and a lot more!

Orientation to the weekend activities starts around 7:00PM and it includes an introduction from the host, introductions of the dozen or more Game Masters, and introductions of the ‘Live NPCs’ that will provide hints, clues, healing, and other help between your gaming sessions. Players will then head off for their first gaming session that introduces them in the latest chapter of adventure! Later that evening, you will all be welcomed into the Forest Inn and Tavern for hours of live entertainment and fun.

On Saturday, players wake up to a great catered breakfast and share with other players what they learned from their adventures the night before. They then start their next set of adventures for the day. Breaks occur between each session so players can collaborate, share, and put together more clues from other comrades in arms. these clues are often used to help them in the upcoming sessions. Lunch and dinner are also catered between sessions, and the Forest Inn and Tavern opens up once the lat session is over for more stories, interactions with NPCs and other players. This time is used to prep players for the adventures to come the next day.

On Sunday, players will be served breakfast and have some encouraging talks by the GMs to set the stage for the climactic session of the weekend. learn what you can, team up with the players who can make your party the strongest, and work with other parties to win the day! Lunch is served on Sunday as well.

On Sunday afternoon, the closing ceremonies take place. The players learn of what they have accomplished and what dangers still lurk for next year. Players pack up after the closing ceremony and head home.

The Chronicles of Shadow[edit]

Theme Date Location GMs Actors/Actresses Entertainment
The Breaking of the Seals August 26th- 28th, 2016 Hinckley, Ohio Jim Carsone, Chris Beason, David Cecil, Samuel Nieves, Grady Cook, Alex Sturgil, Adam Locke, Baron Cain,C Truman Aitken, Ed Fife Philip Howard, Stephanie Henry, Tonia Brown Joe Conrad (Storyteller) Akron Ceili Band, Ballinloch
The Shadows Awaken October 20th- 22nd, 2017 Hinckley, Ohio Jim Carsone, Chris Beason, Edward (Chip) Bodnovich, Grady Cook, Jim Pelton, Adam Locke, David Casper, William Comedy, Colin Kennat, Ed Fife, Keith Cavey, Jeremy Losek Alex Ford, Lisa Ford, Jim Joyce, Jenn Joyce, Steve Pack, Dan Mazur, Pam Mazur, Stephanie Henry, Tonia Brown The Rampant Lion
Kingdom's Blood September 21st-23rd, 2018 Hinckley, Ohio Jim Carsone, Chris Beason, Grady Cook, David Cecil, Edward (Chip) Bodnovich, Jim Pelton, David Casper, William Comedy, Ed Fife, Jeremy Losek, Doug Friess, Stephen A Davis, Jeno Mozes, Matthew Cordell, Marty Gambitta, Cheryl Clark. Alex Ford, Lisa Ford, Jim Joyce, Jenn Joyce, Dan Mazur, Pam Mazur The Reelin' Scrids, and Phoenix Down


  1. Koschmann, Timothy. "The edge of many circles: Making meaning of meaning making". Discourse Processes. 27 (2): 103–117. doi:10.1080/01638539909545053.

External links[edit]

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