Category Archives: Peaky

Blog posts about Peaky, a writing workshop held annually in the UK.

Reporting from Peaky 2014

Back in April Mo and I attended the Peaky 2014 freeform writing weekend. (I wrote about that last year.) This year Mo and I both pushed boundaries – his group took his idea from last year (“What Happened in Blackpool/Picking up the pieces”) and expanded upon it to create a version (currently unnamed) that works for up to 40 players! (They tested it with 18 – I wasn’t part of the testing group but it sounded like the players were having a lot of fun.)

Upper Rectory Farm Cottages
Upper Rectory Farm Cottages in Leicestershire – where the Peaky Writing Weekends are held.

I, meanwhile, co-wrote The Truth, a team-building business politics game for 15 to 30 players. We were under quite a bit of pressure for a couple of reasons. First, there were only two of us in the team. A normal Peaky writing group has at least four or five members, sometimes more. So having only two people meant that all the writing was done by just the two of us – and we didn’t do enough proofreading. However, it also meant that there were fewer arguments and once we had agreed what we were doing we could just focus.

Second, Jerry, my co-writer, had promised that he would run a game for an annual trade union conference just four weeks later. So the game had to be playable by non-gamers from the very beginning. That’s unusual for Peaky – the games are normally written by gamers for gamers.

Luckily, once Jerry had outlined the kinds of things he wanted to include in his games (we had a sheet of paper listing design goals), I realised that I could use much of what I had learned from previous Peaky writing weekends, and we were able to write and play a workable game over the weekend.

So what’s The Truth about? Well, it’s a politics and negotiation game. The players are all employees and managers of Megalith plc, a financial services company. (What the company actually does is irrelevant.) Everyone starts the game assigned to one of five offices, each of which has office goals(for example to host the annual Christmas party, or to be the best at something). Individual employees also have goals (such as recruiting union members or moving office). Sometimes those goals coincide – but more often they don’t… The characters are purely roles – there are no personalities in the usual sense.

Whenever I run a game at Peaky I always have pen and paper to hand as I find I am taking copious notes – there are always things we missed during the frantic writing. The Truth was no different, and Jerry took my notes and his away to fix them prior to running it for “real”.

From the feedback I’ve seen, The Truth was really well received at the conference. Jerry did quite a bit of work beforehand, and the game was more polished than when we ran it. Where there was criticism, it was aimed mainly at the opening instructions rather than the game itself. (We were probably guilty of that at Peaky as well – but we were playing with experienced gamers who we thought knew how this kind of game worked. But more instructions would have helped.)

I would have liked to seen The Truth being played at the conference to evaluate the market for business-related games. It’s not something that Peaky Games nor Freeform Games have any experience of. Not yet, anyway.

Peaky Writing Weekends

Players scheming in a corner in Venice
Players scheming in a corner in Venice

Last month Mo and I attended the annual Peaky freeform writing weekend along with 27 other like-minded writers and players of freeform roleplaying games. We formed into six groups and over the course of Friday evening and Saturday each group wrote a freeform. On Sunday we played five of them. It’s a fabulously intense, creative weekend and it’s one of the highlights of my year.

(A quick aside – a “freeform” is a type of live role-playing game. There are different flavours of freeforms and many are very like our murder mystery games, although they don’t necessarily contain a murder and they tend to be more fantastic than our games.)

The Peaky writing weekends started in 2001. The first few were held in Edale, in the Peak District, and that’s how the weekend got its name. In 2004 we moved to Upper Rectory Farm Cottages in Appleby Magna and since 2006 that’s been our permanent home.

Upper Rectory Farm Cottages

If was building a venue just for Peaky, I’d probably end up with Upper Rectory Farm Cottages. It’s perfect – eight or so interconnected but fully self-contained holiday cottages, plus a large refectory. This gives each group space to write, plus a large space for communal meals and playtesting.

This year I co-wrote Venice, a 15 player game of families, politics and power set in 16th Century Venice. Mo co-wrote What Happened in Blackpool, a very experimental game for 12 players set the night before a wedding. Other games were based on M*A*S*H, the villains of James Bond and Old Harry’s Game (a Radio 4 comedy set in hell).

We’ve published a couple of the Peaky games – Pirate Island and Monster Mash/Trick or Treat.

Peaky also publishes some of their games – you can find them here. A word of warning, though – they are less refined in terms of instructions compared to our games (they assume you know how to host a freeform) and they aren’t as flexible with player numbers. Oh, and I wouldn’t run any of them for a very conservative group. But they are cheaper, and if you’ve played one of our games you should find everything pretty familiar. I should note that I’ve had a hand in all of them at some level, whether as co-author or proofreader.