Tuesday, 25 November 2014
We usually start with an idea, some things we want to see, and then move onto a 6 word story. You can create a 6 word story for most events. They're just a way of getting it clear what everyone involved in writing thinks is important. It probably doesn't matter if you're working from different viewpoints, as long as you know you are. We use Google Docs for most things. We take a colour each and have a single plot document that we all add to. Separately we'll start working out what we have to spend, and how we plan to spend it. We'll look at 3-4 different ticket prices and often a couple of sets of player to crew ratios to work out what we need to run the event, and where we can afford to compromise.
We have previously run events that have gone over budget by several thousand pounds. We can't afford to do that now, so we need to have a realistic idea on costs and have managed to come in on budget on a couple of occasions. This does mean that we need every player to pay before the event. We normally can't accept cash on the gate because we've spent the money by then. It also means that for our events we don't offer refunds.
We've got a quite varied audience. We charge a lot (£150 a weekend for Alone) but we feel we charge about the right amount. We're aware some people can't afford to pay that for tickets. That's okay. They don't have to.
We typically work with a spreadsheet ( version of the Dark Hearts one) Huge amounts of useful information goes into this. It gives us a central place to look at budgets, prop lists, player lists, crew lists, dietary information etc. We'll also have a plot document. I also want to share an Alone 4 summary document. It bears little resemblence to the event we ran. Plot documents never do. I can't show you Dark Hearts as that is ongoing. We have piles of other documents that detail each character, or each scene and what we need to set it. Once we've written everything we show the plot doc to Humpo who declares it 'rubbish' and rewrites it as something that will work.
It's a short post today, but those two documents add a fair amount of extra reading. We need to know what we're willing to spend, and it's hard to break even whilst still pulling off the best event we can achieve. We're often hit by last minute costs that are hard to account for (fuel for the generator at Drakelow was a lot more than we anticipated).
Saturday, 22 November 2014
We also trust them to break the rules. To do what's best for the game even if it's not what we've said they should do.
Any rule should be there to make the game better. To enable players to do something they could not otherwise do. Doing away with rules about death and dying doesn't stop death happening. If it did I would expect Alone games to have had a lot more survivors even if they were still stuck on alien strewn moons. Instead it makes death occur as and when the players decide.
LRP is odd in that it's often without long term injury (ic). It takes a certain type of person to pretend to have a debilitating injury and enjoy it. It's unfair to hoist that on someone who isn't willing. If you give people the chance to be miserable they often will. Different groups of players enjoy role playing the effects of injury for different amounts of time. With ours, they've signed up for an action game, so I suspect they're not that likely to expect us to subject them to spending 40-50 minutes injured.
We've used games to represent the medic skill. Computer games where doctors had to balance how much of various drugs they were giving a patient in order to keep them alive. It was possible for the patient to die, but the patient had by this point decided they were seriously wounded, and it did lead to nice levels of panic.
Trust is good. Systems that allow players to decide what's happening encourage mature roleplaying and makes it more about the game and less about 'winning'. LRP is collaborative. We're all working together to create a game. When you pay us for a ticket you're not paying for entry into a competition, you're paying for your share of the costs of running that game. It's the same as paying for your round at the pub.
Winning is about the stories. My winning is hearing people tell other people about games I've been involved in. I love knowing that things that I've made happen, plot that I've written or discussions about rules that I've had have given people stories that they're telling to their friends years after they happened, or even that people are passing on as something they've heard about. We aim to do things that are considered beyond normal. LRP is good, but it can be better. I love the traditional games, but I want to run something different. I want to see if we can improve things.
I need to convince Matt P to let me rig his new site with gimbals. So I'm going to finish this here. I've got events for the next three weekends (Gunfest, Red Letter day and the lions banquet) and then I'll be working on Jurassic LRP over Christmas, so get building your dinosaurs. I expect you all to be there.
Friday, 21 November 2014
We don't run those games. The games we run are nicely contained, with minimum preamble and nothing after because usually everyone is dead. I like the idea that the games start with a bang and usually that bang is the point where people find out what's happening (at least for the first part of the game). We'll give them enough information to write a character, and find some stats, and that's pretty much it until they turn up.
It takes an immense amount of work to do anything personalised before an event. It will take longer than you think. if you only spend 10 minutes a player and have 20 players then you're already looking at over three hours, and you've just about read their backgrounds. You've not included them in anything you're writing. You've not looked at ways to link them together with other players. That's all extra. We normally run with 40-60 players (for Alone).
I've been thinking about augmented reality today. My day job involves training people to use software, and I'm fairly certain we can improve take up and accessibility using technology. We can use the same technology to blur the lines between LRP and events, and the real world. Games like Ingress are a form of LRP. You're pretending to be in a situation and playing with that to achieve targets. For some events these same technologies can be used to get information to players, either before the event, or during time in.
With Alone we wanted to be able to give the players a way that they could see the Aliens approaching them on a scanner. This is probably something we could do now. We'd need to build units into the costumes that the players could detect using smart phones or computers. If you're running a modern day event that requires players to travel to sites to gather information you can share that information with devices such as Gimbals.
LRP has fuzzy boundaries. A lot of the definition is based on experience. I would really love to see a sci-fi fest event. Now Matt has announced his permanent site we can begin looking into running one again. If he does run one then we'll need to investigate how these technologies can be used to improve our games in order that we can make sure we've got the best chance of making things work.
It feels like there's a huge amount we now can do. We're still trying to make it actually happen.
Thursday, 20 November 2014
In modern LRP there are fewer true monsters. We are starting to include the idea of causes and effects. We can see what created a behavior or a problem. Sometimes you want something to just be bad. Other times there's a little more flexibility there. You want your players to doubt themselves. We often play with emotions. Using small delicate people as something evil tends to play with peoples expectations. Making someone who is generally pretty together appear vulnerable also makes people have to think about what they’re doing.
Wednesday, 19 November 2014
With so many people with so many different opinions and interests communication is vital. We have several large systems in this country (Summer Fest, CP, LT, Empire, The Vale…) and each has a core of its own players who may not play anything else, or may play games only attended by other members of that system.
|Ruined Cottages on Lundy|
There are a huge number of games in this country that I barely hear about. I used to play Skullduggery when I lived in Kent. I spoke to Dan Lagrue last night, and the games changed utterly since i was last there. So much they’re playing a different game. I hear and see images from a whole range of games that are right on the edge of the circle I interact with. They’re often things I’m not especially interested in and I mostly ignore them. Every now and then something catches my eye and if I'm free and it's within budget and other people are interested we try it. I suspect it’s similar for most LRPers.
Do we end up with a lot of similar mush? I don’t think so in the whole. We may stop one or two people from proceeding with plans, but we seem to be getting a wider and wider variety of games at the moment. I was reading about LRP in Croatia (http://www.crolarper.com) and they seem to be splitting in a similar way. LRP is evolving fast. Technology supports a much wider range of things. The LRP and AR boundaries are blurring. We have more money, a more developed idea of what's possible and more expertise that we seemed to have ten years ago when I started (I certainly have all of those things, but I've gone from being a student with limited LRP experience to this).
Whilst a lot of games emulate games that have gone before, the majority of people running games want to do better. They have ways to improve and they want to try it for themselves. Cross communication can constrict creativity (“We tried that and it didn’t work”) but with the right people running games it isn’t a major issue.A lot of people will hear that it’s been tried, consider why it didn’t work and build on that. ZapFest for us was something completely new. We had no idea if it would work. Jurassis LRP is the same. Eye LARP are running a Nutcracker inspired game (https://www.facebook.com/events/333838756796280/), which is a deviation from the normal well defined genres. We've got many more games with cinematic and trust based rules systems (again, my experience).
There is a game I wish I'd played. I often visit Lundy, an island 13 miles off Devon. There was a game that ran there that has reached almost mythical levels of awesome in my mind. I can't imagine how they pulled it off. It apparently even had underwater monsters pulling people off boats. I am aware that nothing I have run has reached that level, and that I don't know how to take what I am running to that level, but it is there as a target. One day I will be able to say that I ran something that good.
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Mandala have been really good at Sci Fi. We're currently being really good at qwirky one offs. We don't run games that require downtimes. We don't run games that have recurring characters unless you're Jon Bliss. When I asked him if he would play his character again he told me what he wanted to have done since the last event. I had to explain that he was still in the same place in stasis and was not aware of anything since the last event. If anything he seemed more keen.
We're still discussing what next. Slender is giving us ideas, but running something so close to what we play may not be the best immediate plan. There will be another Sci Fi game eventually. We need to get the software written before we write the game, and we'd quite like a really stunning site, but that requires a bit of looking.
We've got one game that we've been holding onto for several years. It's a prison game. We've not yet found a prison. We've even bought and made props for it. We're holding out for somewhere perfect, so if you have a site that would make a nice sci fi prison let us know. I'd also like to run a paranoia game (who doesn't) which probably wants a similar site.
We've talked about running something larger - a monster hunter fest game. I have some idea of the amount of work that would go into that and am absolutely certain that none of us have the time to make that happen at any point soon.
We have also discussed shorter more intense horror games. They'd run at about 12 hours and I suspect we'd try and run twice over a weekend with lower player numbers.
I would like to build a cube and run games for two people. Lock them in as a remote listening station for a post apocalyptic game. Make it a space station for a sci fi, or use it for a horror game. If we had a small room with a toilet that we could isolate from the workshop but that was close enough that we could use it we'd probably try that. I'm not sure how it would work, and it would take a lot of repeats for it to pay for itself, but it's something a bit different that might prove interesting to write for.
I'd also like distributed LRP. We convince people up and down the country to convert a room to a cold war listening station. They'd need a computer and an internet connection. Then they role play according to the radio messages etc that they get. I'm not entirely sure when this stops being LRP.
I'm going to leave you with a link Paul Wilder shared with us, that I think is worth passing on.
Claus Raasted telling German LRPers how to get him to their games.
Monday, 17 November 2014
We write visually. We’re normally looking to produce key visual moments that the plot runs through. When we’re writing plot we will be talking about the moment the players first see the alien queen, or a player having to reach into the chest of a corpse, remove the heart, and destroy it, and we will work to make it happen. These moments are way markers. They may vanish from the final draft of the plot, but they help shape and direct what’s going to happen over the course of a weekend. Most of our events have major plot contained within a weekend.
A lot of our events are stand alone. When we’re writing for larger systems the plot will flow over a longer time period and if the players don’t reach the set scene then we’re not going to force it.With the alien queen moment we wanted her to be seen by some players and then vanish. We had tried to keep her secret and she was a lot bigger than players had any right to expect. We wanted her to become mythical, to be something that people saw and other people doubted, before the whole group could encounter her. As a result, we pictured that moment as having 5-12 players seeing her and running. With the heart scene it was going to be very intense for a small group of players, but as you added more it would work less well, so we restricted it to 5 players.
I don’t believe that key scenes need to be seen by everyone. Each scene will have a number of people it works for, and to increase this is to dilute the effect. If you have more people than can immediately react to what is going on then there will be people stood around. With LRP often this is the point where you take the excitement and involvement that they have built up and let it drain away. It will result in a degree of disempowerment. The look of an awesome set will only occupy them for so long and then it will stop being game building.
Hearing about something awesome happening does make people feel they’ve missed out. I heard about a lot I wasn’t involved in at Slender, and as I missed most of the key moments it changed the pace of the event for me. However, I was always somewhere else doing something else. I have some awesome visual images of the events that were described, and I was never left bored, but watching with 40 other people. Hearing about things going on that you don’t see does help build up a game world a bit.
For each encounter I’m running I know how I want it to look. I know how many people will probably be present. I know which of those people are directly involved and hence get the full force and while are bystanders, and I hope to have an idea how long people will be bystanders for. We put a lot of effort into ensuring that if an encounter will only suit 5-6 people then only 5-6 people at a time get to experience it. We do expect players to share a bit, and we will have other things happening to occupy the rest of the players. We may not let players know limits before. This can lead to disappointment.
Bystanders aren’t bad. There’s a moment of panic when you realise that you’re stood watching something really dodgy going on and no one’s doing anything. The more bystanders you have the less likely they are to react to what you’re doing. This is one reason why when we write a plot that involves people stopping the evil guys doing the clearly bad ritual so often no one does. Conversely, There are people who prefer doing to watching. LRP has a lot of them. They won’t appreciate being asked to watch something happen for long periods of time. Whichever situation you plan for you’ll get the other.
Disappointment can be a game killer. However, the aim is to have enough going on at a game that each player gets to do things that other people don’t, and whilst someone might miss out on one thing, they should hopefully get to see other things. We do run some encounters more than once. Three lots of 5 people talking with the hag in the woods is better than 15 people talking to the hag in the woods. They’ll have different conversations and probably play into PVP stuff that needs encouraging. Plus it’s scarier being in the woods with 5 than with 15. You sneak rather than stomp and you don’t rely on numbers to save you. There’s a much higher chance that you’re the slowest runner.
Friday, 14 November 2014
If you’re running a real world game, then your major advantage is the real world. It’d be a waste not to use it, and any character you’re playing would have to get by in the real world in order to manage normal life.
Wednesday, 12 November 2014
- My normal life is pretty strange. I spend a lot of time sat in pubs writing games or building creatures. The conversations I have when pretending to be someone else are often far more normal than my standard pub conversation.
- I don’t really care what people think, as long as I don’t get shot because of it. None of those people know me. Most of them have barely registered I’m there and very few are actually listening to me. If they are and I’m discussing demons - that’s not actually illegal. I very rarely play characters that would plot murder in the pub when I might be overheard, so it’s not a problem for me.
Monday, 10 November 2014
- Make torches rubbish. We normally run games with a 2 AA batteries or handheld only rule. We play games with uv torches and red gel over them to make them less effective, and then we find reasons to do that. I often use a lantern that illuminates me and the steps beneath me, and only gives me hints that there’s something out there.
- Split up. It’s really hard to be scared when there’re fifty of you. Visit the big bad alone, let other people visit the big bad alone. Work together to find reasons that things can get to you.
- Don’t hole up somewhere warm with proper light and easily sealed doors. If you OOC know they can’t get to you you’re forcing them to break the moment to move the monsters through a barrier or leave you be. Neither of these carry on the fear. There’s always a reason the safe option isn’t the best option, and whilst it might require doing something stupid you decide on your characters reasoning. No matter how much you talk about it in the third person your character is based on you and hence you can find a way to make them do the thing that gets you the game.
- Make sure someone knows where you are, if you care. I can quite happily terrify myself in the woods for a couple of hours by letting my imagination run away with the noise created by a mouse running past. However, if no one knows where you’ve gone then they can’t send anything to get you and more importantly eventually they get worried you might have fallen down a well.
- Take a radio. If the game allows carry a radio. That way when you fall down a well and get eaten by a terror mouse you can radio your fear back to base and they can share it while the people running the game wet themselves with laughter until they realise they’ve not sent any monsters out and whatever’s eating you is actually real.
Admittedly I play horror games, and I don’t go to be kept in my comfort zone. I stuck to that for the first 18 years of my life and things improved immeasurably as soon as I started taking risks and making things happen.
Thursday, 6 November 2014
Most of my writing so far tonight has been utterly uninspiring. I've filed it away to revisit later (I have a long document of titles and text that I haven't used yet) and instead I'm going to talk about what's on my mind.
Tomorrow night I am going to SlenderLrp. We're going to the old courts in Wigan and staying in a city centre building for the weekend. It's a huge building, having previously been a mix of council offices, and magistrates court, and it has a lot of period features and odd corners and is inhabited by some of the stranger residents of the North West. I haven't looked forward to an event this much for a long time.
I have a character I really like, a history and a need to know more, to follow threads and to understand what's going on. It's perfect.
I am aware that too much anticipation can ruin an event. The last slender event was very very good, but in my mind it's been amplified by my enjoyment of it. I am holding it on a pedestal and it is unfair to expect this event to live up to that memory. As much as anything, even if it is a spectacular event it will only be as good as the last one. So, I am tempering my enthusiasm and looking forward to an adequate event. That way it stands a good chance of being better than I am expecting.
It's a nice system. The characters are normal people so the themes can fit nicely into normal everyday life with almost no thought. The drive up will be in character, the site is in the middle of a town and all of those people will be our npcs. We've got the technology we're used to and the world that we are saving really exists. The boundaries are there. They had problems at the last one when they planted a sound system ic, and all the players worked around it. We assumed it was an ooc thing to create the effects. There will be places we can't go and rooms we can't see, and we'll have to be a little bit careful about summoning fake police to a real workplace. However, that's not a massive compromise to make for such an immersive environment.
I love that we're running a fake paranormal investigation in a building that is used by real paranormal investigators. I also love that we'll see far more than they do.
I'm going to leave it here tonight. I'm not up to anything especially insightful, so you'll have to bear with me until next week when I'll go back to thinking about writing things instead of playing.
Tuesday, 4 November 2014
UK LRP is very undefined and that’s one of its best features. You can decide what’s important to you and you’re not constrained by a very set idea of how LRP should be (individual players may have more set ideas, but people as a whole are very accepting). We can try things and people will go along with it. We aren’t necessarily trying to change the world, or our view point. We’re mostly having fun - even if by fun we mean being scared witless in the dark for 30 hours straight.
Sunday, 2 November 2014
The decisions we make help to determine how much we enjoy the game we’re playing. For example, if we don’t find reasons for our characters to go out and do things it can be quite easy to just sit around and hope that stuff happens and then get bored. We decide whether our character will go to an event or not, and how they’ll feel about certain situations. I’ve never played a character that’s interested in rituals because I find them dull. This doesn’t have to involve making unnatural decisions.
Saturday, 1 November 2014
Most events involve crew of some sort. They play the parts the players don't cover. They're often npcs and sometimes also monsters. In our games we tend to have a mix of both. The majority of crew are distinctly humanoid and this does limit the variety of roles that they can play. They can't fly, they haven't got 8 functional limbs and they're typically between 4 and 7ft tall.What's even worse than this, frankly inexcusable, is that most of them can't walk on stilts.
However, if they were a varied bunch who could play an assortment of inhuman beings and possessed the skills to make our special effects unnecessary that would also be a pain. We'd have to know exactly who was crewing an event before making costume for it, and buying morph suits to suit a range of limb quantities is bound to push the price up.
Because of what we do in the workshop, and that we like to think we run cinematic events, we tend to try and provide high quality monsters and something that goes a bit further than at your average event. It's one of the reasons we run so much in the dark (another being that a lot of our costumes get incredibly warm if warn in the sun for too long). For Alone we had the aliens. Wookie made about 7 for the first event, and they were on paper suits. Over time we moved them onto black morph suits, built more and made other changes. We ended up with about 12 suits, and each one used £90 of materials. I spent weeks gluing the things together before Alone 2. Given the resources we have we were still right at our limit to produce these things, and yet what really made them was the crew.
We specifically wanted tall crew with a chest size larger than their waist size. This last point was important. The costumes looked wrong on people with a belly. When someone puts on an alien costume they typically look like a man in an alien costume. As such they're about as scary as a man in an alien costume, that is, for most LRPers they're just not scary at all.
With the original alien costumes they took very tall actors and made them taller. The actor looked out through the neck, the shoulders were built up and the heads were several feet long. They wouldn't work for what we were asking our crew to do. Those of you that aliened for us over the years will know that you had very small spaces to see through, and effectively had to breath through a straw. Thank you for your awesome work.
So we asked our crew to act differently. Simply changing their stance made them look utterly different. This went through several iterations. We needed interactions that produced fear in the players, and a lot of the time having just a few aliens around and them staying in the tree line, being half seen was good. We typically wanted to build the aliens from a distance, and have them as a suggestion initially and then have more impact later. We wanted the players to feel surrounded especially when they had holed up and were refusing to come out of the buildings.
That actually caused some of our more difficult situations. The players had gone to ground and wouldn't come out. We dropped off the pressure to try and get them exploring (this was a mistake I think. We got both negative and positive feedback for it) When we couldn't bring them out and had pulled out the entire crew for hours we sent the crew into the building. Which meant a full scale assault and blowing a few doors away. We should have found other ways to split the players up. We shouldn't have let them all go to ground together. We gave them an option that meant they were shut up in a small space and wouldn't leave it, so they took it.
Building non humanoid monsters is possible. Lizzie - our alien queen - was a puppet that was mounted on a back pack. She was a bit too heavy for a single puppeteer to use (especially given that Mandala staff all have back problems) and became a static installation. We now have better ideas on how to build this sort of thing. Those of you that were at Empire may have seen the war rhino, which was the work of Bill Thomas. It took several people to carry, but bought a new dimension to the battlefield and required a totally different set of techniques to deal with it.
For monsters that are large, especially if they're being used to fight in, they tend to bring their own issues. They typically need ref supervision. The person wearing the costume often can't see or move properly and hence needs someone to monitor them, make sure they're coping, tell them when they've been hit, and in the case of the war rhino ensure they don't trample dying heroes. Building costumes that can stand up to a fight and be LRP safe is a different design challenge than building costumes that the players only have to talk to.
Large, inhuman monsters can add a nice dimension to an event. We spend a lot of time thinking about how we use them. Typically we use them in the dark, we limit the time the players can see the monsters clearly, we make sure the crew are briefed with the atmosphere we want to create, and we only use them for the appropriate number of players. Things have more atmosphere if you're alone.