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"Treasure Trap was a live action role-playing game established at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire in April 1982. Various splinter groups broke from the original system, some retaining the Treasure Trap name, and helped to shape the later British LARP scene.

Peckforton Castle

The original Peckforton Castle game was a fantasy game run by business partners Peter Carey and Rob Donaldson. The group ran events mainly over weekends, but also some week-long adventures moving across country and ending at the castle.

The venue gained fame when it appeared on the popular BBC television programme Blue Peter, with two of the show's presenters, Simon Groom and Peter Duncan, playing the game. Shields with the show's ship logo on them were made for the occasion. When working as a local news reporter, Ben Elton once also presented a programme from the castle and took part in an adventure.

As in most role-playing games, players would assume an new identity (or character) during the game, each character having certain skills and abilities which were recorded on cards. Characters might join a guild, which was essentially a character class, giving them access to a particular set of skills. Players could progress through the guild hierarchy as their skills developed.

Players would play the game in costume, ranging from basic hessian tabards for novice players to armour such as chain mail for experienced players whose characters had gained game wealth (measured in Stells) in previous games to be able to afford its purchase. Conventional weaponry was restricted to padded or rubber weapons and wooden shields, although more unconventional weaponry was also allowed, such as tennis balls or dye-filled eggshells used to represent the spells thrown by a wizard character.

The game scenarios were created by referees, who would also explain the games' objectives, which might be such things as rescuing someone from a group of hostile monsters. Players would attempt to complete the objectives in small groups (parties). The monsters in each scenario would be played by group members who were not currently adventuring. The referees would follow the adventuring players at a discreet distance, carrying paper "Battle Boards" on which they would record combat scores between adventurers and monsters. The monsters were instructed in how to attack adventurers "in character", including falling down "dead" if they were inflicted with a fatal injury. Referees would count points based upon coloured markings left upon the adventurers' costumes, left by the monsters' weapons, which were coated in dye (actually poster paint) for this purpose, with different colours signifying different amounts of damage, or the presence of acid, poison, etc. Game play would continue until all the adventurers were killed or the objectives were achieved. Irish author Conor Kostick, then a teenager, was one of the system's designers.

Health was measured in Life Points, both total and per each body location (head, chest, abdomen, legs and arms). Weapon damage affected both of these and armour reduced this damage. This system was heavily influenced by the RuneQuest table-top role-playing game.

Peckforton Castle itself was built in Victorian times, which made it perfect for its new purpose because it looked like a newish castle. It had great halls, towers (one of which was burned out accidentally during a game), and underground tunnels, and was big enough so that several different adventures could be going on simultaneously, and players could play several adventures without getting to know the layout too well. The facilities were not great, however. Mice roamed freely, many of the dormitories had no beds in the early days, there was almost no water supply for washing and the toilets were famously dire.

Other Treasure Trap clubs

Although the original club closed in 1985 (as a result of financial problems as well as losing access to the Castle) many of its attendees formed their own games, clubs and societies around the UK, frequently adopting similar rules and settings, and sometimes bearing the same name of Treasure Trap.

Durham University Treasure Trap was founded in February 1983 with the aim of helping members travel to Peckforton Castle. When the original Treasure Trap folded, members began running day-long adventures in the woods around Durham using the original Treasure Trap system. The society remains active as of 2010, with over sixty events a year. Locations used by the society include Maiden Castle. While often stand-alone events, modern adventures are sometimes interlinked with the ongoing plotlines running in the Interactives, the society's other weekly event. The rules system has undergone many profound changes since the society was formed although it is still recognisable as a descendant of the original Treasure Trap.

Cambridge University Treasure Trap was founded in 2002 by ex-members of Durham University Treasure Trap who had moved to Cambridge and wished to continue the hobby in the local area. The society still has close ties with Durham Treasure Trap, both in terms of rules and world settings, and the two societies occasionally run joint events.

Birmingham University Treasure Trap was also originally formed to help students attend Treasure Trap at Peckforton Castle. When the original Treasure Trap closed, Birmingham Trap members continued to run their own games in the local area, adopting the same rules and some of the setting. Lacking the luxury of a castle, Birmingham Treasure Trap would typically run single-day events consisting of two adventures, often twice a weekend. Popular sites included the Lickey Hills, Kinver Edge, and the University campus. Due to declining membership, Birmingham Treasure Trap stopped running events in 2002, and the society was formally closed in 2005, although former members still occasionally get together to run events using the game system.

Other spin-off organisations which existed to run live-action role-playing games included Spirit of Adventure, Labyrinthe and others."

Source: Wikipedia, "Treasure Trap", available under the CC-BY-SA License.

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