Skirmishes 101

Much of this page is adapted from a series of forum posts in 2023 by @vivalarayna, updated with information regarding the new Skirmish scheduling feature.

What is a Skirmish?

A “Songskirmish” — or simply “Skirmish” for short — is a timed challenge in which participants each create their own piece, but they are all inspired by the same prompt.

A skirmish begins at a predetermined time when the prompt is released by the Skirmish host. The Skirmish lasts for approximately 60 minutes. At the end of this time, Skirmishers post their pieces to their song list and then share that link with the group in the designated forum. They are then encouraged to listen to or read the other participants' pieces and provide constructive and kind feedback.

By the way, no one quite remembers how and when this tradition emerged within the FAWM community. But it has been around for well over a decade, and was certainly inspired by and adapted from the Song Fight! weekly songwriting contests (credit where credit’s due).

Why do we Skirmish?

The goal of a Skirmish is to turn off the internal editor and have fun! You can create an instrumental piece. You can write lyrics and leave them unaccompanied. You can write lyrics and music. You can create a demo - or not! You can post an unfinished piece and come back to it later. There is no right or wrong way to create your Skirmish piece.

How do I participate in a Skirmish?

Skirmish times are posted in advance. If there is one you want to participate in, simply show up at the designated time and wait for the prompt. Some Skirmish Hosts have recurring events (e.g., 7pm EST every Wednesday) and others will host them intermittently. You may also see a SuperSkirmish scheduled (see "What is a SuperSkirmish?" below).

Starting with the 5090 challenge in 2023, a “Skirmish” feature has been baked into the core FAWM website functionality. You can find a list of upcoming (and completed) Skirmishes in the side menu.

What if I’m not available at the start time?

That’s okay! FAWM and 5090 are worldwide events that take place across all timezones. If you are not available for the exact start time, then come back when you can and participate that way. Don’t look at the prompt until you are ready to begin creating - that will spoil the fun! When you are finished, post it to the designated forum and then comment on the pieces created by your fellow Skirmishers the same way you would otherwise.

What if I don’t finish in an hour?

That’s fine, too. There are no Skirmish Police. The one-hour timeframe is meant to keep this challenge consistent, but it's okay if you need a little longer.

How do I add my song to the Skirmish?

When you click the “Add New Song” button, there is a dropdown to select which Skirmish your song is in response to, and it will automatically be added. You can also go to the skirmish page and click “Add My Song” to go to a new song form with the skirmish pre-populated.

You can also feel free to post a link in the discussion section for that Skirmish.

What about commenting etiquette?

It's considered good manners to listen to and leave comments on some of the songs from any skirmish you participate in. However, please do not feel pressure to comment on all of them! As FAWM grows, so too will participation in skirmishes. And while it was common the early days of skirmishing to comment on all songs from a particular skirmish, that is not a reasonable expectation.

When going in to leave comments on other skirmish songs, we encourage you to keep a look out for those with fewer comments at the time, and choose a handful to leave feedback for, so that it isn't always the earliest (or latest) songs that get comments!

How do I host a Skirmish?

Hosting is easy! Good etiquette is to make sure you are not overlapping on an already scheduled skirmish, and that you don’t host so many that it leads to skirmish fatigue — for you and other fawmers!

The FAWM website allows you to schedule skirmishes in advance, subject to the following rules:

  • Skirmishes must start at the top of the hour.
  • Skirmishes must be at least 2 hours apart.
  • Skirmishes from the same host must be at least 24 hours apart.

Once you have selected a time that you can commit to hosting, you can schedule it in advance, and a forum thread will automatically be created for you to start a discussion, ask and answer questions, assign hashtags for the skirmish, etc. This is also a place for people to post links to their songs once they are finished.

When you schedule your Skirmish, you have the option to assign a prompt in advance, as well. You may change this as many times as you want up until the skirmish begins, but it will be read-only once the skirmish begins. PLEASE REMEMBER TO ADD A PROMPT or else the FAWM bot will make something up and blame you for it.

Keep Skirmishes out of the Forums!

Also, PLEASE REFRAIN from using the general forums to announce/schedule skirmishes. The only exceptions for that are: (1) asking questions about skirmishes or (2) coordinating a SuperSkirmish, which isn’t yet a feature in the website (see below). Please use the “Games and Challenges” section) for these.

What is a SuperSkirmish?

A SuperSkirmish is a series of skirmishes that all take place consecutively over the course of one or more days. They are usually scheduled every 3 or 4 hours and often over a weekend. This allows Skirmishers in all timezones to be able to host or participate in a real-time skirmish.

You can participate in one, two, or the entire series of Skirmishes over the SuperSkirmish. Remember - there are no Skirmish Police. If participating in all of them seems overwhelming, just choose the ones that feel manageable. Other than the frequency, everything else about participating is the same as a regular Skirmish.

Who hosts the SuperSkirmish?

There is one SuperSkirmish Host who will organize the event and create the main schedule, but each time slot is hosted by an individual Skirmisher who will create the prompt and run that particular Skirmish (See: How do I host a Skirmish?)

At this point, the new Skirmish scheduling feature doesn’t have features for coordinating super-skirmishes, so you may still need to start a regular forum thread (use the “Games and Challenges” section) for planning.

When the main schedule is announced, you can comment with a preferred time if you want to host. Please BE SURE you can commit to hosting at that time. Once the time slots have been assigned by the SuperSkirmish organizer, you can post your individual SuperSkirmish event to the forum.

Remember to have fun!