House of the Argent Aspis Bardfest Rules

These rules were laid down by the House Aspis Bardfest Committee and are not negotiable. If you have difficulties with the rules, please accept our pardons. Every contest must have guidelines and these are the ones by which you will participate in the Annual House Aspis Bardfest.


1. The rulings of the judges will be final and without dispute. Unfortunately, because of the nature of the contest, we cannot consider an appeal process. While all judges shall attempt to remain objective in their deliberations, artistic works must, in the end, be judged upon subjective criteria. We have attempted to give as much objectivity to the judging criteria as possible, yet the judges are "human" and it is sincerely doubted that any artistic piece could be judged by automation. That's as it should be. Please keep this in mind if you are disappointed in the outcome of the contest.

Time Limits

2. No piece is to be longer than 10 minutes in duration. If Elanthian weather is lagging, judges will determine any additional time allowed. If you are experiencing lag within your portal, it’s up to you to let the Head Judge know. Should your performance go over time (barring weather allowances) an automatic deduction will be made to your Total Score. The timekeeper will inform you once you’ve reached your time limit.

Overtime & Score Deductions 

a. For the first minute a performance runs over, one quarter point will be deducted from your Total Score at 30 second intervals. After the first minute, you will lose an additional point at 1 minute intervals. For example, if your performance lasts 11 minutes exactly, you will lose half a point from your Total Score. At 11 minutes and 5 seconds, you will lose 1 ½ points.

b. At 15 minutes total time, you will be asked to stop your performance and 4 ½ points will be deducted from your Total Score.

c. So there is no confusion as to when a performance begins or ends, these will be the criteria for beginning and ending the official time for a performance:

i. Your time will start immediately following your first action (speech or movement) once you stand up. If you choose to remain sitting and perform from the audience, the time will begin once it is clear your performance has started, and your showmanship will be judged accordingly.
ii. Your time will stop when you either bow/curtsy or leave the stage. It is essential you make one of these actions clear so the timekeeper can stop your time accordingly. If you plan to employ a unique method of ending your performance (like dropping dead on stage), it would be in your best interest to inform the Head Judge in advance.

Order of Performances

3. Order of performance will be random. The contestant must be ready at the start of performances on their scheduled night. Should there be a scheduling difficulty (such as work conflicts which do not allow you to attend until a half hour after performances begin - or days you can not be in attendance) such difficulty needs to be brought to the attention of the head judge PRIOR to the day of the performance. A contestant called on to perform who asks for more time will be put to the end and assigned an automatic 2 point deduction to his/her Total Score. Should there be two or more such requests in one evening the order in which they shall perform will be random.

Walk-On Performances

4. Walk-on performances will be allowed on a first come basis and only if there are openings for that particular night. Those wishing to perform as a walk-on will make their request to the MC the night of the performance and will be called on as time permits after all of the scheduled performances have concluded.

Disruptive Audience Behavior

5. Although the Bardfest staff will do everything in their power to insure the civil behavior of the audience, unforeseen incidents can occur where an audience member performs actions disruptive to the performance. The performer has the option to request that the MC silence the room for his or her performance. This request can be made at any time before their performance begins. If the performer sees any potential issues that may cause a disruption of their performance, it should be brought to the attention of the head judge in private (i.e. whisper) before the performance begins. If an interruption still occurs and is in the Head Judge’s opinion severe enough, the performer will be given the option to begin their piece over. It is the performer’s option whether or not they elect to continue with their piece or start over. If the performer is not given the option to start over by the Head Judge, he/she should continue the performance and express his/her concerns to the Head Judge only after the performance is completed.

Performance Types

6. Poems, songs and stories, dances, and all other art forms are all acceptable but all are limited to the same time and rule constraints.

Plagiarism and Original Works

7. Each presentation must be original. Plagiarism is grounds for immediate disqualification and dismissal from the contest.

Previous Performances

8. The presentation must never have been performed in a previous Bardfest or any other competition or performance troupe. Any such performance will be disqualified.

In-Character and Genre Requirement

9. All compositions will adhere to the genre of Gemstone IV, and will be presented IN CHARACTER. Any out-of-genre references will cause a down scoring in the appropriate category, depending upon the infractions and according to the individual judge's discretion.

Finalist Announcements

10. Finalists will be announced in random order. All scores are confidential, though performers may ask for their own scores. 

Finals Performance Requirement

11. Contestants accepted for the Aspis Bardfest must accept that, should they be chosen as finalists, they will prepare and perform a piece meeting all the original requirements and guidelines at the final competition. All finalists will be given the same subjects and they will be assigned on the last night of the preliminaries.

Judging Criteria

These also are not negotiable and have been set down and accepted by the judges of this contest.


Is the composition on topic?
Is the composition in genre?
Does the composition scan well? Is there meter and rhyme?
If an accent is used in the piece, does it continue throughout the piece?
Does the composition adhere to accepted grammatically correct norms?
How difficult is the piece? Difficulty does not necessarily mean better, but a difficult piece, well done, will score higher than an easy piece well done.
Is there a beginning, middle and end to the piece?


How well is the composition presented?
Do your actions follow the words, or are they merely placed there for something to do?
Are there actions at all, or is the piece presented with only verse?
Do you use props? If so, do you manipulate them properly and are they always present, or do they disappear without reason?
Do you sing, or do, or relate an impossible feat that your character could not possibly accomplish? (ie. performer does something impossible given the profession of the character or common powers and magics within the lands. This is considered out of genre. Example: smiles as he flies around the room tickling everyone's ears.)


How well does the piece flow?
Is there imagery and if so, is it appropriate for the time and place. Is it appropriate for the piece?
Do you set the mood? Is it the mood that you intended?
Do you elicit an emotional response in the audience?
Does the piece tell the audience how they should feel or what they are doing? (Considered poor RP.) Your songs, stories, or actions should entice feelings and actions from the audience not determine them).

Judge's Preference

This area gives the judge the opportunity to decide whether they liked the piece or not, without regard to the other criteria. This is a subjective scoring and is the judge's prerogative. It will not be a score reflective of friendship or family ties, but solely based upon the work.


This category applies only to finals night. It is weighted equally with the remaining four categories and assesses how well the subject(s) is(are) used in the performance. Although there is no penalty for using only one of the two subjects, the added difficulty of using both will be taken into account when scoring this category.


A maximum of 10 points will be assigned to each category. Once the judges have assigned their points, they will be passed to the Head Judge. The Head Judge will not score the performances, and the scores will not be shared. The Head Judge will then total the scores from each judge and compute the average. This average will be the contestant’s Total Score. Any automatic deductions will be subtracted from the Total Score at this time. In the event of a tie, the judges will resolve the tie with a vote. If there is still a tie, the Head Judge will cast the deciding vote.

A side note. Any judge may disqualify themselves for any given performance if they feel they can not remain objective in their scoring of that person's performance. In this eventuality, the absent judge’s scores will be tallied as the average of the remaining judges’ scores. This is done so that any point deductions from the total score have the same weight for all contestants. The judges shall attempt to present themselves with honor and score without regard to personal feelings.


Please remember that winning the competition is not the most important thing here but that participation and enjoyment of the event are. It is our opinion that every performer is a winner. We wish you all the best of luck and look forward to your creations!