Back to rules

Example of play

In this example, Alice, Bob, Carol, and Dave are playing Zap in a modern-day superhero setting. Before the session starts, the group decides together that superpowers are caused by mutations affecting a small percentage of the population, giving them superpowers unique to each person, and that all of these mutations will occur in roughly the same timespan. Everything else, including the ending, they leave up to the coverage to come.

Alice has an idea for a first scene. Right before starting, she quickly writes down the words “reporter” on one note card and “athlete” on another, offering them to the other players. Bob takes the one labeled “reporter” while Carol chooses “athlete”.

Alice: Zap! Good morning and welcome to Metro News! I’m Ang Ehrmann, going straight to the big story of the day out of the Summer Olympics: less than an hour ago, the world witnessed for the first time a human being running 100 meters in less than five seconds. The footage that you are seeing has been confirmed by multiple outlets and experts as being genuine, and the event was witnessed by our own journalists on the ground. For more on this, we go to our sports reporter on location, Corey S. Pondant. Corey, I can see behind you the sheer disbelief among people in the stadium. Could you fill us in on what has happened since the race took place?

Bob: Well, Ang, there is still a lot of confusion here about what actually happened, with many assuming that the five-second run was in fact some form of hoax. The IOC has announced a press conference set to take place at 1 PM but they have yet to make any comments beyond that. According to a widely reported leak, the committe has ordered an immediate test for banned substances to take place. The athlete himself, Warren Dash, commented briefly on this incident right after the race.

Bob looks over at Carol, indicating that it’s her cue to reenact some archival footage.

Carol: Everyone in the race did a great job and I’m proud that I managed to come out on top in such a great starting field. Me and my team worked very hard for this and I’m really happy it paid off.

Dave, who wasn’t explicitly cast in a role before the scene, spontaneously decides to jump in as another reporter.

Dave: You completed the race in less than five seconds, much faster than any human in history. How do you explain what just happened?

Carol: I guess I was just born to do it.

Bob: As you can hear, Dash himself hasn’t provided anything else for us to go on, and our attempts to reach him for further comments—

Dave, feeling that the clip has served its purpose, decides to zap. While he thinks about zapping to the scheduled press conference, he decides that he wants to skip forward a bit and rather focus on the reactions to it. He doesn’t write down any characters in advance, instead setting up a clip where the other players will easily be able to jump in spontaneously.

Dave: Zap! I’m standing right outside the Olympic Village, where a large crowd has gathered in reaction to the press conference given less than an hour ago by the IOC. The committee confirmed that the athlete who earlier today broke the 5-second barrier for 100 meters was not under the influence of banned substances. Through that statement, they have also indirectly confirmed the existence of what is now being called “superpowers” in humans. Although we are waiting for the results of a more comprehensive scientific investigation into this matter, as you can guess, this has prompted dramatic reactions across the world, none more immediate than right here outside the center of it all. I’m going to speak with some of the people who have come here today.

Dave turns to the “crowd”, prompting them to prepare their reactions, and begins asking a question as if he had an interviewee in front of him.

Dave: What’s going through your mind right now?

Alice decides to jump in as the first unnamed guest.

Alice: Whoa, this is just too much to take in right now! Yesterday I was watching a superhero movie in the cinema and today I wake up and suddenly people are using superpowers for real. Dash was already my favorite athlete, and now he’s a superhero as well? It’s just… my mind is just blown!

Dave turns to the remaining “crowd” and continues asking questions.

Dave: What do you think about the IOC’s announcement today?

Bob casts himself as the second guest.

Bob: I think this is an incredible development and it really gives me hope for the future. All day we have been hearing on social media people reporting their own encounters with superpowered people in the past few days and weeks, so there just has to be a lot of them out there and I think that’s a great thing! Looking at the state of the world, I think there’s just so much these superheroes could help us with.

Dave: This gentleman is actually holding a sign. Excuse me, sir, what does your sign say?

Carol takes on the role of the third guest.

Carol: It says: “The Second Amendment Doesn’t Protect Superpowers”. I don’t mind if people turn out to have superpowers, but it’s once they start using them willy-nilly that we’re in trouble. Who is going to regulate this so that anybody who happens to have superpowers doesn’t go around being a vigilante? From what I’m hearing there’s lots more of them than this one, and not everybody is going to use their powers just to win gold medals. If we don’t take the right measures right away, we’re going to be sorry in the future!

Dave: As you can see, Ang, the reactions are all over the place. Nobody is quite sure what to make of this just yet, but one thing is clear: we’re witnessing history in the making. Back to you, Ang!

Although Ang, now a recurring character, was played by Alice in the last clip, Bob decides to play him this time around.

Bob: Thank you, Corey. Turning now to economics, the discovery of superpowers has sent shock waves through Wall Street, causing—

The players set up a few more clips that go into the details of the setting and set up some conflicts, all the while progressing the in-universe time. Bob then decides that he wants to try their first real “action scene”, inspired by superhero movies but told from a different perspective.

Bob: Zap! We’re taking you live now to an ongoing event in the city center. Reports are coming in of a police operation near Pinnacle Tower, allegedly involving the recently outlawed Platinum Legion group. Our reporter was on location when the situation started and now joins us live from the street just outside the skyscraper. Corey, what are you seeing?

Dave: Ang, what’s going on here can best be described as a standoff. A large group of police officers has arrived in armored vehicles and stopped right outside Pinnacle Tower, taking cover and aiming their weapons at the windows several stories up, where mercenaries from the Platinum Legion are reportedly holed up. There are also several police helicopters hovering above us, covering the stories even further up. We are being pushed back by officers who are in the process of evacuating the area, likely anticipating a possibly violent situation.

Dave goes on to narrate what happens next.

Dave: Suddenly, rockets start flying out of the windows of Pinnacle Tower and one of them hits one of the police helicopters. The helicopter crashes to the ground and Corey just narrowly avoids being hit by it, then the picture disappears.

Carol reminds Dave of Zap’s rules.

Carol: Could you describe that in first-person?

Dave: Oh, right! Let’s just rewind a few seconds… We’re seeing rockets being shot at the police helicopters from the windows of Pinnacle Tower. Some of them are dangerously close to hitting, and the police is opening fire in response. Alright, Jack, we need to go. Let’s get to the subway! Leave the camera, run! Hey, watch out for the helicopter!

Dave pauses and everybody goes silent for a couple of seconds, simulating the picture disappearing from the newscast.

Bob: It appears we have lost our connection with Corey… We’ll make sure that he is safe and update you as soon as we have gotten in touch with him again. We’re moving now to Haley, who is covering the situation from the outskirts of the city in our news chopper. Haley, what’s going on up there?

Alice: I don’t know how to even begin describing this to you, Ang. The entire city just turned dark as night, even though it’s still midday. What’s even more unbelievable is that we’re seeing an enormous beam of bright light reaching from the top of Pinnacle Tower straight into the sky.

Bob: Does this appear to be a sudden shift in the weather, like a thunderstorm?

Alice: No, we’re not hearing or seeing any lightning anywhere—it’s just this beam centered on the skyscraper.

Having set up the overall situation, Bob now wants to get a closer perspective on the action where he can introduce some superhero elements.

Bob: I’m sorry to interrupt you, but we have just received a recording of the Pinnacle Tower incident captured by a bystander in an adjacent building. We’re playing it right now, and as you can see, it’s filmed from an apartment or office with a clear view of Pinnacle Tower. Right around the tip of the tower, we’re seeing what appears to be airborne members of the Platinum Legion fighting several individuals from the Freedom League, who are also using their superpowers to fly. They’re also apparently using their superpowers to attack, battling each other in what can best be described as a firestorm meeting an electrical storm. The picture is shaky and out of focus, but it seems like the Legion is trying to protect someone or something at the top of the tower, preventing the Freedom League from reaching it. As far as I can tell—

Enjoing the coverage so far but getting ideas for clips that she thinks will make the story even better, Alice makes a bold choice and decides to fast-forward the story by an entire decade.

Alice: Zap! …and ten years ago when we first discovered superpowers, we didn’t know what this was and how to handle it. Obviously, things like that take time, but after so many years and so many incidents around the world, it is mind-boggling that an international body still hasn’t been set up to oversee and regulate these people. We all saw the horrible images from the attack at Pinnacle Tower, and we promised that we wouldn’t let something like that happen again—but what has actually been done?

Bob: I think most people agree with you that something needs to be done, but a lot of those you criticize would say that this is not an issue of morality but of feasibility: how do we even begin to regulate superpowers in an effective way?

Alice: Let me tell you what doesn’t work: just outlawing groups and calling it a day. The Pinnacle Tower incident took place despite the Platinum Legion having been outlawed right before it. The Legion is still around, and now there’s a dozen other organizations on the radar that haven’t been affected whatsoever by purely legal actions. The time has come for decisive and multilateral action, involving the international community but more importantly involving those individuals and groups with superpowers who are not using them for crime and destruction. If we organize all of those factions into a single body with a single purpose, that’s when we’ll get the a chance to actually do something effective about the problem!

From here on, the players continue to set up and play clips for as long as they want to keep playing, or until they feel that the events all lead into a satisfying conclusion. If they can’t get enough in a single session, they might even decide to schedule a follow-up, picking up right where the first session left off. How will their story end? The only way to find out is to zap!