When you read this it will be ending, but this weekend Curious Pastimes have been celebrating their 20th anniversary.
I’ve said good things about the system before and it’ll always be a little bit special to me. It was my first large LRP system and, while I’ve missed a few years and haven’t always felt like it’s a game I want to play, it has evolved into a beautiful game with some really lovely people.
LRP systems are built on the beliefs and experiences of their creators and their players. Rules systems are based not only on what people have done and liked, but also on the avoidance of things that haven’t worked. The areas that the game team support are the areas that they tend to consider important in a game. People will write something that they believe is good, and it will be influenced by that which is around them.
Some games very successfully pull of things that other game writers believe to be utterly inconsistent with a ‘good’ game. Either they’re running for a different audience, or people have seen something done badly and will never try doing that thing because they no longer believe it can be done well. This has caused a few fairly spectacular arguments between groups of people with mutually incompatible beliefs about how things work.
Games are also influenced by media. They’re often based on films and tv programs. People have seen something and decided that that is what they want to live. We’re trying to move away from direct influence and run games that are more our own creation. However, if we run a sci fi game we will still be referring to the decoration as being from the Martian or from Aliens, as that’s our common reference material. It’s an aid to communication as well as being our past experience.
Games evolve. Plot doesn’t survive contact with the players. We tend to try and work out what we think they’ll do, in order that we can be prepared for the 2-3 encounters we consider most likely. We had a couple of groups of players run through a similar scene at an event I played recently. They had the same stuff in front of them and each group approached it in an entirely different way. They both got an answer and had fun, but the way they achieved that was utterly different. In the same way, the game you run will change depending on who is playing it. If there are elements of the game the players aren’t using then you’re less likely to use those. You might change rules to make them more useful or you may remove them entirely. You may leave the rules there and have a moment of confusion when four years in a new player turns up and tries to use stuff that most people have forgotten exists.
In the run up to CP we’ve been sharing photos and stories about the history of the game. It’s been interesting to see how people started, and occasionally I’ve had ‘That was you!?’ moments. It’s also interesting to look at characters that wouldn’t work so well now. The game has moved on, it’s more defined by the things that have already happened. Most of the key groups that made the game work when I was first playing have gone or have changed so utterly as to be unrecognisable. The same is apparently true for the players. That shared history has created a rich game world that feels quite natural and is as open to interpretation as the real world.
(Photo courtesy of Curious Pastimes – circa. 2001)