Giving Good Trivia

Perhaps the greatest difference of opinion amongst the leagues operating in Toronto is in their definition of good trivia. The most critical part of your job as party host or league organizer is setting the questions, or selecting from someone else's questions. I have a simple rule that I give to anyone who wants to try their hand at writing trivia rounds for us:


It's very easy to make up rounds that are too hard;
it's almost impossible to create rounds that are too easy.


The toughest local league calls itself "The Inquisition," which gives you a pretty good idea of what these folks are about. They are very serious about their trivia. Each season, one team sits out of their league play, and is responsible for generating all the questions and acting as Quizmasters. Unfortunately, this sometimes creates an attitude of "Okay! Now I'll show you guys!" and the questions are too difficult. It requires a seasoned question-setter to ensure that the better players in the league generally get seven out of ten questions right, on a consistent basis. It's not a lot of fun for a player to be constantly getting only two's and three's throughout a season.


Another good rule is never to let someone create a set of questions in a subject on which they are an expert. What they think is ridiculously easy will probably mystify the rest of the world. As someone once remarked to me, there is a world of difference between trivia and minutiae. Trivia, which is what this game is all about, is the kind of thing that anyone with a good general knowledge has some chance of knowing or guessing; minutiae is material that only an expert or someone who needs to get a life has much chance on. Again, an example will illustrate the point. In the movie "The Godfather," there is a famous scene where the Don wishes to persuade a movie producer to cast a certain actor in an upcoming major project. The trivia question that pops out easily from this might be: "What does the producer find in his bed one morning that convinces him to cooperate?" (the severed head of his prize racehorse). The question-setter who strays into minutiae might ask: "What was the name of the horse whose head was found in the producer's bed?" (Khartoum, if you're interested). And yes, this really did crop up as a question in one of the other leagues.

Using My Book (Pub Trivia Night Book)

The questions included in my book have all been used in our league, and selected from the thousands that we have used over the years. They are well tested, therefore, and we know that good trivia players will average seven or so deuces on them. They could make a good starting point for you.


If you are going to follow our model exactly, and create an audio round, a current events round, and a miscellaneous round, you'll need to select seven more rounds each night from the ones in the book to make a complete game. You'll notice that they have been loosely sorted into categories, which are identified at the bottom right of each right-hand page. Be careful, though -- some rounds only approximately fit. However, the categories will give you a rough guide as to what the round is mostly about. For the most part, try to select a mixed bag for each game. Obviously, if you're inviting the gang over for a movie trivia night, that won't apply, but mostly people will find it

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