|System||Curious Pastimes (foam weapons)|
|Event style||Weekend fest events with up to 800 participants|
Curious Pastimes (sometimes abbreviated to CP) is an organisation that runs one of the best-known live action role-playing campaigns in the UK. CP is a private, profit-making company headquartered in Moreton in the Wirral in Northern England. The company was formed in 1995, as a break away group from the Lorien Trust.
Curious Pastimes’ ongoing LARP campaign, Renewal, is a spin-off from Lorien Trust’s Gathering campaign. The campaign uses its own set of LARP rules, adapted from the Lorien Trust Rules System. Renewal is a "Fest" Game, in which large numbers (typically hundreds) of players interact with one another and with a small number of briefed non-player characters, climaxing in pre-arranged mass battles between roughly even numbers at the two longer events. These battles represent one of the major variations from the Gathering parent-game, being exclusively Player-versus-Monster battles (the Gathering's battles are chiefly Player-versus-Player).
The Renewal Campaign comprises four events each year, culminating in the flagship event, also called Renewal, held every year over the August Bank Holiday weekend. All the events take place on weekends; two of them run from Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, and two, occurring on Bank Holiday weekends, run to Monday afternoon. Curious Pastimes also runs a system for formally approving smaller events (see below) staged by the various participating groups and factions throughout the year.
The events vary in size from 100 to 1000 people and present different aspects of the ongoing Renewal Campaign. The events are:
- A battle event (variously titled Crusade, Bastion, Invasion etc.), traditionally on May Day Long Weekend, which will be held on Easter Weekend at Paccar Scout Camp, Chalfont Heights in 2011. The event emphasizes two mass battles against an identified game-plot enemy. The event normally attracts about 400-500 players.
- A plot event (titled to give some hint as to the details of the event, as Heart of Darkness, Great Council etc.) on the second or third weekend of June at Barnswood Scout Camp in Leek. The event emphasizes introducing new plot elements, giving players access to significant non-player characters, and distributing in-game information. The event normally attracts about 250-300 players.
- Fayre (generally named after the hosting nation, as Fayre of Albion etc.) on the second or third weekend of July at Woodhouse Scout Camp in Bristol. The event is an almost wholly player-led opportunity to trade and interact in-character, and several games and contests are held. The event normally attracts about 250-300 players.
- Renewal on the August Bank Holiday weekend at Tolmers Scout Camp in Potters Bar. The event is promoted as a "catch-all" event with two mass-battles, heavy interaction with plot and non-player characters and extensive opportunities for players to interact with one another. The event normally attracts about 700-800 players.
The May battle event was staged at Bispham Hall Scout Camp in Wigan until 2009, and Renewal was staged at Phasels Wood Scout Camp in Hemel Hempstead from 1998 to 2007. Both events were moved following negative customer feedback regarding the sites. Two smaller-scale events (40-70 players, peaking at 100 in April 2002) entitled Prelude (in March/April) and Aftermath (in September/October) were discontinued after Prelude 2002, due chiefly to rising venue costs.
Curious Pastimes classes itself as a "family-friendly" event, allowing parents to bring along children of any age. All children are entitled to full characters, though only those 16 or over are allowed to participate in the mass battles.
Curious Pastimes offers formal "sanctioning", allowing affiliated groups (generally groups who also participate in the Renewal Campaign) to run their own events within the ongoing Renewal storyline. There are degrees of sanctioning, ranked from ‘Level 1’ (lowest) to ‘Level 3’ (highest); lower-sanctioned events have little effect on the main Renewal storyline but can be organised and run with minimal involvement by the company, while higher-sanctioned events may have a concrete effect on events at main events but need to be extensively co-ordinated with company staff.
Mandala LRP, a non-profit company founded by some of CP's staff and volunteers, ran several small, ‘Level 3’ sanctioned events from 2004 to 2007; in addition, each of the factions runs one or two sanctioned events most years, bringing the total number of events taking place in the Renewal game world close to twenty in some years.
The Game World
The game’s setting is a unique unnamed fantasy world. The world is more or less Earthlike, and the known, populated continent that hosts the player characters and their communities is a temperate-to-subarctic landmass broadly equivalent to Eurasia.
There are nine intelligent humanoid races in the CP setting: humans, elves, dark elves, dwarves, four "greenskin" races (orcs, ogres, goblins, and trolls) and a variety of animal-human hybrids collectively known as beastmen. All are more or less evenly-distributed across the world's population (and thus player base), with some variation among the different factions.
The known continent is populated by a number of monarchies, nation-states and confederations known as Factions, modelled very loosely on various real-world historical communities, with influences from fantasy literature, films and other sources, as well as original ideas. The majority of player characters belong to one or other faction, with the exception of a group of non-aligned players collectively labelled "mercenaries." The factions average about 100 in size at Renewal (i.e. 1/8 of the average Renewal turnout of 800), but are presumed to govern (or at least represent) populations in the hundreds of thousands, appropriate to those of equivalent pre-Industrial states.
In real-world terms, each faction is run as a more or less independent club, with a small administrative team assigned by CP and internal In- and Out-of-Character hierarchies. Many of the factions host websites for their members, and several of them stage small-scale "sanctioned" events set in the Renewal continuity. At events, members of a faction camp together; the factions' communal In-Character camps are the major focus of the game, with attacks against fortified camps and diplomatic missions between camps providing much of the storyline at each event.
The factions are:
- Al'Gaia: Equal parts Elves and Renaissance-era Spanish and Italian humans, united by a form of Mother goddess worship. The Al'Gaia are from Estragales and Lyonesse.
- Fir Cruthen: From the Irish Gaelic for "The Painted People". Predominantly human Bronze Age Celts, pursuing the ideals of the Celtic heroic tradition. The Fir Cruthen live in the allied kingdoms of Erin, Caledonia, Cumrija and Mann.
- Jhereg: Originally inspired by Stephen Brust's Jhereg books. A motley of outcasts and nonhumans from different backgrounds, recreating a long-lost nation. The Jhereg have made their homes in Siberia.
- Lions: A largely human traditional kingdom based on Arthurian Early-Medieval Britain and the ideals of Chivalry. The homeland of the Lions is Albion.
- The Steppe Alliance: A mix of nomadic cultures, the Alliance lives in The Steppe.
- Teutonians: A notionally Germanic culture, with the exception of the Roman-Imperial city-state of Riga. The Teutonians are marked by strong militarism, an open attitude to traditionally "evil" practices such as necromancy and a high proportion of nonhumans. Their home is Teutonia.
- Wolves: Predominantly human Scandinavians, united by their worship of the Norse Pantheon. The home of the Wolves is Norsca.
- Mercenaries: A "catch-all" category of non-aligned groups who share a camp but no common leadership or goals. Many are true mercenaries; others have independent political goals analogous to those of factions, including notably the Discordials Travelling Theatre Company (The Discordials). The Discordials are a group of would be entertainers who, though primarily concerned with ‘playing the gig’ supplement their income as swords for hire and refuge for those requiring hiding or cocktails. Previously no identifiable opponents existed for the Mercenary camp, however in 2011 a group diametrically opposed to the Discordials verbose acting style arose, Les Mimes. Although the Mercenaries camp together at events, they have no single homeland.
Within the broad faction concepts stated above may be found a broad spectrum of characters, from the comical to the serious, from a range of historical (or pseudo-historical) backgrounds, and from the mean and humble to the high-heroic. Formally, Renewal is an "Open World" campaign setting, so players are permitted to submit any concept they wish, with the exception that neither gunpowder-weapons nor any more advanced technology are permitted.
The Empire of the Golden Isles
Most of the non-player character groups (generally threats of one sort or another) come from the same nations and communities represented by the player factions (plus mercenaries) listed above; many of the ongoing antagonist-plotlines therefore revolve around treachery and civil war. However, over the years a number of non-player characters and monsters have arisen from nations, cults, and other groups that belong outside the general context of the known player-character world.
Foremost among these is the Empire of the Golden Isles (often referred to as the "Greenskin Empire" or just "the Empire"), a large empire of nonhumans (ogres, orcs, goblins and trolls) modelled on Feudal Japan, that supposedly rivals the collected population and magical and military might of all the player nations combined. The Empire originates on a previously unknown archipelago that lies to the south of the continent occupied by the factions, and roughly equal to it in overall land area.
They first became known to the player characters at Prelude 2001 (see above), and quickly fell into a war with the factions until peace was reached in 2004 (1104 in the in-character calendar). Now they exist as an imposing political and military presence, producing many of the high-profile non-player characters and several of the more "political" plotlines. Two recent events - Fayre of the Empire (Fayre 2005) and Suukou Kaigi (plot-event 2007) - took place on Imperial lands and were focused predominantly on the ongoing Imperial plotline.
The unnamed Renewal campaign world (sometimes referred to as "The Land") lies at the centre of the campaign's cosmology, surrounded by six more or less earthlike worlds and twelve supernatural worlds (including a plane of the undead, a plane of demons, a "pole" of spirits and the like). People from the Land very rarely travel to any of the other worlds, and the denizens of the other worlds only slightly more frequently visit the Land.
Several nations from one of the more earthlike worlds - the Keltoi, the Tagmatoi and the Amgeara (parallel versions of the Fir Cruthen, the Teutonians and the Al'Gaia, respectively) - invaded the Land in 1108 and 1109, before the portal connecting the two worlds was eventually sealed in 1110.
- "What is LARP?". LARP Entertainment. Retrieved 2007-10-16. Describes Curious Pastimes as one of the “most well known” providers.
- "Merseyworld: Fun Activities". MerseyWorld. Retrieved 2007-10-16. Lists CP as a local business.
- Hook, Nathan (2006-06-05). "The History of UK LARP". The LARP Magazine Newsletter 2.
- "The Lorien Trust". Lorien Trust. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-10-31. Battles at the August event field "over 1200 a side", therefore overall turnout is 2400+.
- Hook, Nathan (2008). "The Children of Treasure Trap: History and Trends of British Live Action Role-Play". In Markus Montola, Jaakko Stenros. Playground Worlds. Ropecon ry. ISBN 978-952-92-3579-7.
Player numbers have gradually risen, with nine hundred players attending the last event of 2007
- "Company Home". Curious Pastimes. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- "2011 Dates". Curious Pastimes. Retrieved 2010-09-14.
- "Important Announcement Re Renewal 2008". Curious Pastimes. Retrieved 2007-12-11.
- "Races". Jhereg Nation. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2007-11-02.
- "Known World". Curious Pastimes. Retrieved 2007-10-15.
- Barrell, Tony (2003-10-26). "The Land of Make Believe". The Sunday Times (London)., describing "bible-bashing nuns" at a CP event.