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How to use power marks

Mon Dec 05, 2005 3:05 am

After seeing some very bad placement of power marks in a packet I was looking over recently, I thought it was time to refresh everyone on how to use these magical items when the tournament you're writing for asks for them.

(To avoid calling anyone out, which is not the intention here, I've taken the sample question from my packet submitted to the 2005 Terrapin tournament, which did not use powers, and placed the marks myself to demonstrate.)

The main thing is that you should place the power mark immediately before the first substantive word in the clue that makes the question significantly easier. For example:

They occupied Mount Ithome for five years until being evacuated to Naupactus. Ephorus wrote that Agis I captured their namesake city and created this group, which was dissolved during the wars of Nabis. They (*) revolted after the Battle of Hysiae and as conspirators with Cinadon, even though their complacency was enforced by the Krypteia and the ephors' annual declaration of war on them. Some were Messenians, others descendants of the indigenous Laconians conquered by the migrating Dorians. While they could not be sold and owned some property, they were otherwise enslaved. For 10 points, name this lowest class of Sparta.
ANSWER: helots

I assume most people know that there were some helot revolts, and would likely buzz there if they had any inkling as to what the question was about, or perhaps would just guess "helots" upon hearing the word "revolt" after some Greek names. That's definitely the break between the deep-knowledge clues and the guessable material.

However, the point here is not to lecture on the inexact science of judging difficulty, but rather to tell everyone how avoid egregious mistakes that I've been seeing, such as this:

They occupied Mount Ithome for five years until being evacuated to Naupactus. Ephorus wrote that Agis I captured their namesake city and created this group that was dissolved during the wars of Nabis. (*) They revolted after the Battle of Hysiae and as conspirators with Cinadon, even though their complacency was enforced by the Krypteia and the ephors' annual declaration of war on them. Some were Messenians, others descendants of the indigenous Laconians conquered by the migrating Dorians. While they could not be sold and owned some property, they were otherwise enslaved. For 10 points, name this lowest class of Sparta.
ANSWER: helots

Now, the above power mark rewards the exact same knowledge, but doesn't give the player the benefit of an extra, clue-free word "They" to react and buzz in. There's no way a player who buzzes in on "Nabis" actually knows more about helots then a player who buzzes in on "They" since no extra clues have been given. Too often, people place the mark at the end of sentences just to do so, when it ought to go before words that actually help.

It's often very hard to judge what's "power worthy" and what isn't, but it's always easy to remember that the power mark goes right before a word that can actually give someone a reason to buzz, rather than before clue-free words included only for grammatical purposes.
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