I often feel that when I’m writing this blog I’m writing in a way that’s too authoritarian. I write as if I’m telling you what to do, which is not my intention. I’m telling you what I do.
There is one rule we should all follow; never go back. You can’t unmake decisions and actions that have already hit the field of play. If a character has died and it seems unfair you can’t bring them back to life, because you can’t know who did what to make that happen. You might think they were killed by NPCs and that no other players saw, you could be absolutely certain of that, but you may still be wrong, and the bad that will come from letting those characters live will taint every event you run in the future.
Everything else I write is about me, and my beliefs. I have learnt some of them from friends who run events. I have learnt from other people’s mistakes and successes and I have learnt from running events myself. I like to think that as Mandala we put on a pretty good event. However, other people will look at our systems and say that they are awful.
Anyone can run a LRP event. You can pretend to be being hunted by dinosaurs anywhere (natural history museum is pretty good for this), you can sit in McDonalds and be who you like for a while (discussing armed robberies may still get you into trouble even if you’ve not actually committed one, use an appropriate amount of discretion) or you can charge hundreds of pounds a ticket and throw thousands of pounds of resources and hours of skilled work at an event. What you get at the end should be something you’re pleased with. It should be fun, and it should be based on your beliefs.
Whilst it is important to listen to people it is also important to listen to yourself, and to the other people running the game with you.
It’s very easy to get critical of other people’s games. I’m very critical of Odyssey, this is reasonable because it did steal my birthday and replace it with wasps. People don’t like me being critical of odyssey because it’s something they’re proud of, and something they enjoy, and I suspect because they’ve stopped listening before I tell them why I really don’t like Odyssey. (It’s a valid reason for not liking the system that doesn’t actually undermine their reasons for loving it, so I can’t see that any of them would actually take offence if they had listened. Having said that, is my criticism of Odyssey going to undermine the chances of a new player going to the game? I hope not, if they listen to my reasoning the only issue they’re likely to have is wasps, and I tend to make it clear to new players that that’s not really an issue anymore).
We should be pleased with what we do. We should feel that any game is a good use of our time and our effort. It should be something that we can develop and build on. It’s important that we play a range of games. It’s not that you can’t run a good game if you haven’t been a player at a number of systems, it’s that you’ll run a better game if you have.
It’s important that we have a range of events and systems out there, and I’d say it’s one of the strengths of the British LRP scene. We have a lot of small events and a wide variety of good systems. People are exploring, they’re pushing numerous agendas, and whatever type of system you like there’s stuff out there that’s somewhere close to what you want to do. The issue from an organiser’s point of view is that very often the system that is the closest match to the one you want to play is the system you run.
This is where the LRP as art debate falls down. Some LRP is art. Some is merely a game. In some systems the players are trying to create a particular atmosphere, world and feeling, and in others the players want to be scared witless and shoot aliens. The first is not necessarily the hardest, and the same people might like both sets of events but in different ways. There are a lot of events that both types of people will go to, and that’s another place where we get people telling each other that ‘you’re wrong!’
Sometimes people are wrong. They might turn up to Empire with only jeans, just wanting a good scrap and to talk about the football. Empire has stated that it is not the system for that. Equally they could turn up to Empire in a bowler hat and a frock coat, and get upset when their free text downtime isn’t accepted. Empire has said no to several of those things. When you get a system that is close to what you want, there may be room to play what you want to play in it, but more often there will be a compromise to be made, and in a lot of systems you’ll be the one that has to make it.
I know at the workshop we’ll often have three people express three different interpretations of the same rule set/idea, and whatever Wookie says there’s no consistency as to who is ‘right’.
We write well together because with multiple people inputting ideas we get a game with a range of elements that are interesting to a range of people. It creates a depth and a richness that is hard to achieve with only one person writing, but it requires each of us to listen to, accept and add to each others ideas. It doesn’t work if we block things because we can’t see them as being useful. Something might only entertain 10 percent of the people playing, but with a 50 person game, that’s 5 people for whom it could be a major factor in their enjoyment, and it means that there’s another conflicting interest to add to the inter-character play.
We wrote Zap fest to focus on people who wanted to be the centre of attention. It was designed for a group of people with massive personalities. It was also an interesting challenge for players who don’t normally take that role. With the exception of Mike (please don’t include a photo of Mike’s character here) everyone was trying to make people take note of them. Their goal was to be the star. Certain mechanisms had more overt gamification than is normal for LRP, but it did seem to work.
Your games can be whatever you think works. Don’t assume people are right when they tell you, or someone else, that something is impossible, and do the things that you think are good. Do keep listening to people. Not everyone will like what you do, and trying to cater for everyone won’t work for anyone. Most importantly, never bring anyone back from the dead.