I’ve spent the weekend at the LRP awareness party and have talked to a lot of people about a lot of systems. We’ve had a few people mention Zapfest and Alone and asking if they’re going to happen again. They’re not. At least, not in the same format.
Zapfest was an amazing event. It was really good fun and a lot of people worked really hard to turn it into what it was. We can’t replicate that. If we run another Zapfest event, it will be quite different. I feel quite strongly that the format we used for that event was a one hit deal. If we try to run again then our players from the previous event will find it repetitive. They’re expecting a good event. They’ll be hyped up for a good event, and while they will probably have a good time they probably won’t have as good event as they expected. Hype can lead to disappointment. You can get yourself in a position where you can’t possibly live up to the expectations your players have.
New players may also find an event disappointing. In the same way that a film trailer shows the best parts of a film, feedback from events tends to highlight the extreme positives and negatives, and often this means what people are expecting isn’t reasonable.
We also don’t want to run Zapfest again. We’ve done that, time to try something new. This doesn’t mean we’re abandoning the concept entirely. We may run other events that have some of the same themes, or events that are utterly different in concept but use some of the same characters. Alien was a horror film and Aliens was an action film. You can continue a series by doing something utterly new.
We didn’t reuse characters much between the Alone events. There were 4 Alone events. Alone 2 and Alone 3 took place on the same space station. One of the weaknesses of the Alone events was that they were all very similar in theme and style. It had a particularly negative effect with Alone 2. This is one of the reasons we took a break from Alone events. We don’t want to run an event just because people like our series. A lot of players like the next event to happen, and allowing a system to fizzle out isn’t the right approach for us.
The Alone events were stand alone events in that players could turn up to each and play without knowing anything about the events around it. Alone 4 happened because we found an amazing site where we could do something unique. There was an overriding story behind the events. We have a timetable that details what can be happening where in order that future events will always make sense with that story. We had a system that contained a reason to exist and a way for events to progress.
Not every game needs to have a set end point, but often the stories within it do. It’s really hard, when players are asking you to run more, or to run something again for them, to focus on running something that’s coherent, relevant and actually something you want to run. Being asked to always do the same tricks results in gloomy event organisers and also disappointed players. There were people who told me they would stop playing Maelstrom when they realised it was ending, and that was disappointed. Who wouldn’t want to be there to see how the story ends?
One off games suffer from not having a following. You need to attract a new audience for each game and it may be harder to judge how many people are likely to want to play the system. We’ve slowly realised that with Zapfest we didn’t so much tell the players how to play the game as left them to work it out. It’s been mentioned that that was a little bit disconcerting. With the Alone games players are often only getting to wear their costume for one event. Our players are willing to pay for costume that suits the setting even if they won’t necessarily get to reuse it.
There are things you can’t represent. These result in LRP games that are visibly poorer. Similarly, plan for endings. We always try to end our events with a big moment. This doesn’t suit everyone as it’s often the point immediately before everyone dies. We like that.
I don’t know what we’ll run next. We’re full of ideas, and we’ve got nothing booked for this year. We’re talking to a host of people about different ideas, and whatever we play it’ll be the event we’re most excited about as that’s the only way we can really do it justice.