Friday, 31 October 2014

Boundaries - The edge of the game

LRP events tend to happen within a set space. Often this is a scout site or other campsite. The space has edges and beyond those edges is the real world. Even within this space there are places people shouldn’t be.

There are different approaches to edges. They can be ignored (either with signposts or verbally or using common sense) or they can be obscured (either with reason or physically). Ideally you don’t even want the players to encounter them. In drakelow we literally walled in the edges, they were contained in tunnels, and we built walls blocking the crew area from the player area. With earlier Alone events, at John Lees Wood they needed to wear space suits to go outside and the air tanks didn’t last long enough to reach the site edge. They shouldn’t have been able to get there. Having said that, they couldn’t see too well in the space suits and did manage to break into a crew area because it had an ooc notice on the door, but they couldn’t read it.  

Fields, with a wall, looking over sea to the horizon.

With the Alone games we ran into a regular issue in that we wanted the players to be alone. They were marooned in an area with no way in and no way out and as stated above couldn’t reach the edge of site due to some game mechanic. Overnight they were attacked by Aliens (they mostly come at night, mostly) and during saturday…. ummm…. We couldn’t have people visit, because if people can get in then we need to get them out before night, and if people can get out then so can players. It was a major problem for us, that we had to solve each time we ran, and after four games we’d reached the limit with that particular issue and decided to retire the series and run something new (for Alone 4, there was no daylight so it wasn’t the same issue, but it was still there).

That’s also a boundary issue. There is a limit we have, that is vital to the atmosphere of the game, and we need to consider the implications of breaking it. The limits that affect our players also affect our npcs. The players should be able to do as much or more than an npc can, otherwise the npcs might as well do it, and the players become observers.

For our games we like to have fairly complete control of the situation. In theory we know who has gone in, and what equipment they’ve taken, down to the photos of their family back home. Keeping control of the movement of stuff in and out is important, and because it’s sci fi we can use technology as a reason for things to be able to appear without offering a way out for the players. We also use networks and communications to enable ourselves to expand the world beyond the immediate. We will have AIs on computers and people who can be emailed or chatted to. In these last cases we can again maintain control. we often decide it’s only possible when satellites are aligned meaning the players have to make things work in up time.
Communicating offscreen is an awkward boundary, because if you give the players a way to breach it, for example with messages, then you need to have a system whereby these can be received, read and responded to. In our example above, we had an it team that were constantly online replying to players. It took a lot of manpower, but it was an important way to stay in touch with the players.

Slenderlrp (which I keep coming back to, as it has a different way of working, mostly due to being modern world) removes the barriers. It’s one of those games where players can move into the real world. This means that trips to tea houses work, that we can cater events by going to a pub down the road, and that characters can use the internet to solve issues they have. It also means that characters can have an independent internet presence. (It all got a little bit nerdy. Katy is my Slenderlarp character. I wanted to claim she was an author)

So boundaries can be ignored, with players expected to ignore them as well. They can be explained away by rules. They can be hidden by keeping players from them or they can be removed, which is an expansion of the first one. You ignore the boundaries and let the players cross them. As with ‘show, tell, do’ we tend to use a mix. The values of each change depending on what it is you want to achieve.