We created a Facebook group for the players of our game immediately after they booked, so that they could discuss things on the run-up to the game, including where to find appropriate costume and props, lift-sharing and so on.
To do this, they all had to ‘friend’ me on Facebook. This allowed me to have access to their photographs. It’s important to remember quite how much of your life is out there, and how it can be seized on as source material by unscrupulous games-makers.
We made use of the group and the photographs in several ways.
For a start, the group contained both the players and our ‘stooge’ players; see Crossing The Threshold for more details on the stooges, but essentially they were players/characters controlled by us who infiltrated the player group. Facebook allowed this to feel more natural, as they were able to take part in pre-game discussions together.
We created a fake player, Rebecca South, and gave her the character of Aunt Sophie. This was designed to have a particular effect on the players when the game started – see here for much more detail. We couldn’t have done this without Facebook.
We had a complex web of secrets and relationships; in amongst that, we had a few people blackmailing other people. One way they did that was through photographs. So, unbeknownst to the people involved, we borrowed some photos from their Facebook photo albums and Photoshopped them into various compromising situations. Happily, being the 50s, most people have photos of themselves in clothes which will work pretty well (particularly when attending weddings). This served as a double-whammy when the blackmail came to light – for the character, it was ‘oh no! how did someone get that photo!’ which was reinforced by the player genuinely thinking ‘how did someone get that photo!’. A nice way to make out-of-character shock reinforce in-character shock.
This was the story of the Northmoor family, and many characters were members of that family. So we decided to put up some paintings of Northmoor ancestors. To do that we simply ‘borrowed’ photographs of players and adapted them into paintings that looked suspiciously similar to them… this raised smiles, and we had no need to explain who these people were or that they were related.
The Threatened Lawyer
Extending the idea in the blackmail photographs, we had one character – Hugh Fitzwarren, a lawyer – who knew for a fact that the master of the house (Godfrey Northmoor) was involved in all sorts of shady deals. He had been blackmailed and cajoled to work for Godfrey for many years, and had come to the end of his tether, and his briefing pack included a bottle of strychnine and a confession that he’d written, effectively saying ‘Dear wife and children, if you don’t hear from me again, it’s because I’ve gone to this house to deal with this terrible monster of a man…’
On arrival at the house, every player had a greeting card on the bed from Godfrey – such as the one pictured on the right. Hugh Fizwarren also had a gift, a framed photograph. His card said ‘It’s important to think about family at Christmas’. The photograph was that of the player’s real wife and children in 1950s outfits (with his wife’s assistance). Again, using out-of-character shock to provoke in-character shock – by using the real family we didn’t have to explain who the photo was.