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Curious Pastimes – A LARP Review

Having recently won ‘Large LARP’ and ‘LARP of the Year’ at the UK award ceremonies, Curious Pastimes is said to be the best system in the UK. So what makes it so great and how has it maintained it’s status as one of the best LARP events?

The quick answer is: the attendees. Everything that LARP (Live Action Role Play) is – and should be – revolving around the players. What Curious Pastimes does so well is that it invites you to be part of the crew throughout the weekend using its Monstering system, where groups of attendees (factions) take it in turns to play the bad guys for the rest of the players over a two hour period. This system not only gets new players involved and helps them learn an otherwise quite dense rulebook, but keeps the system alive and vibrant. It also allows for camp attacks – something rarely done in other systems, which enables a constant sense of danger in players. Likewise, the shorter two-minute death count as compared to CP’s Parent LARP, Lorien Trust, which opts for a ten-minute death count, means that you are always in danger of being taken out at any time. Far from becoming a detriment to the players, the sense of thrill, danger and the regular influx of new characters means that the game is constantly evolving and changing – the players deciding which location to travel to next in the surrounding world, and who to fight alongside.

The Monstering in particular has produced some of my best LARP experiences to date – enabling good play in others, as well as having a good fight when your main character isn’t in danger of dying allows you to try out personas, magic and fighting styles that you otherwise wouldn’t be inclined to try. Though complicated, the magic, training, crafting and alchemy systems are well-developed and respected. Everything done within the game has been well managed to negate the possibility of God-modding, as well as keeping the players just powerless enough to evoke that sense of thrill.

Curious Pastimes do state that no monster in their system is unkillable, which in-game terms means that every named creature has an air of intrigue around it – whether a monster can be killed by an alchemists potion or by a specially crafted weapon is always of great discussion, and means that even non-combatants can have a hand in battles, even when not actually present in them.

In terms of safety, Curious pastimes is reasonably well monitored, though I would prefer if they had an enforced weapons check on the first day as it regularly gets forgotten. Likewise, repeating rules about Non-combatants and relevant safety bulletins means that 90% of the players are aware of what to do in emergency situations. Twice I have heard the ‘Non-Com’ shout go up and be subsequently ignored by Monsters and Referees, one of which was called by a pregnant woman who was tucked well away in a tent and shouldn’t have been targeted in the first place. This year CP have done well to enforce the non-invasion of tent space rule, but where safety calls are concerned, I should like to see them excel themselves; let it be said that Curious Pastimes have always been good at responding to criticism.

The scouting system is a particularly fun mechanic, as well as foraging and scrounging. I would personally like to see this further augmented with a sort of witcher-style ‘hunt’ system for the players who aren’t as sneaky but want a good fight without waiting for a camp attack. Understandably this would be difficult to achieve in terms of staffing and equipment, but I feel it would be an interesting development that could contain good plot fixes for the players.

Like the overwhelming majority of attendees, the referees are helpful and honest, and though none profess to know every rule in the book, I’ve never known a single one to blow off a question about the system, even when they don’t know the answer. The wonderful ladies at the GOD desk appeared unfriendly at first, but quickly became welcoming upon being treated with respect and jokes. My theory here is that it must be quite a difficult job, facilitating play for 2,000(ish) people, and though they would likely much rather be outside, they are there keeping it all ticking over. Well done and keep going!

As a system, Curious Pastimes has been around a long time and it feels solid and well thought out. Thankfully for the players, the head honchos at CP also don’t seem to be running out of ideas anytime soon, and I look forward to chasing after all of their plots in the future. Long live CP!

All Photography (c) Oliver Facey. Find him here: http://gallery.oliverfacey.co.uk/

Curious Pastimes logo (c) Curious Pastimes.

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