Society Spy: Treasure Trap

Dungeons, dragons, drunkards and damsels in distress: The Treasure Trap Society.

Cambridge Lord of the Rings Peggy Mitchell Sidgwick Site Society Spy the tab Treasure Wessex Arms

You’re in the Wessex Arms on a Friday night, swigging a pint of cider. You find yourself immersed in conversation with an eloquent warrior, standing poised in shining armour and chain mail with the cross of St George hanging heroically from one shoulder. At the table opposite are two maidens, whispers emanating every now and again from behind softly hanging veils. Just visible behind a crowd of raucous locals is a mysterious individual draped in a black cloak with a hood that throws his features into shadow. Suddenly a creature bursts through the door and there is a flurry of activity throwing the scene described into disarray. You are wacked over the head with a rubber sword by someone dressed as an elf, (plastic ears and all), who shouts, ‘single’. Fortunately you don’t receive the other three blows (or one ‘triple’ blow) required to render you unconscious and when the brawling battle ceases you see that the trouble making creature is actually a Cambridge student, face painted with blue and purple spirals and now lying on the floor feigning unconsciousness.

Your first thought is probably that the cider must have gone to your head but fear not, you only had one pint and in any case cider doesn’t generally cause hallucination. All is explained when you realise that you’re in the imaginary town of Grantabrugge, otherwise known as Harvey Court JCR, just 100 yards from the Sidgwick site. This is the fantasy world created by the Cambridge Treasure Trap Society. Unfortunately their world does not include everything on and around the Sidgwick site: your lectures will not be overthrown by magical powers and alchemy and will recommence at 9am on Monday morning.

Treasure Trap is a game of live action role play, which was first played in the early 1980s at Peckforton Castle, Cheshire. It was adopted as a university society in 1983 in Durham, was brought to Cambridge by ex-Durham students in 2003 and has been running two events per week ever since. The Friday night session is known as an ‘interactive’. Players establish a character for themselves which has skills in one or more of six categories: wilderness scout, urban street-fighter, warrior, priest, mage or alchemist. The character must have a costume and your society spies were incredibly impressed with the ones they saw. The Lord of the Rings’ costume designs are amateur compared to these bejewelled and bestudded medieval meets bohemian get ups. Players then fill in forms describing the character created and giving details about his, her or its background, motives and aspirations (murder of a hated enemy, realisation of a so far unrequited love, theft of a coupon which allows half price off at ye olde Domino’s…) and give this information to the ‘refs’ who then use the profiles to author complex and intriguing plots, which are only revealed to the players throughout the game. The scenes unfold in the imaginary Wessex Arms, Granatbrugge’s equivalent to the Queen Vic and the place where (in the words of Peggy Mitchell), ‘it all ‘appens’. New players are not expected to have an established character and can enter the game as monsters or smooth talking devil’s advocates, directed by those omnipotent refs with the purpose of steering the story. Your society spies took part in the game in this way, one of them thinking that he kicked ass with his rubber sword but very much looking like ‘ass’ kicked him from where the other was standing. The people behind the characters are skilled in combat and thrash their blades about with fury in ways that cannot be pre-empted by your average Cambridge student who has never visited Grantabrugge.

The second session takes place on a Saturday afternoon and is called a ‘linear’. The Treasure Trappers let their world loose on Grantchester meadows and resolve problems that have arisen in the unfurling of the plot through a good old fashioned war. If a character is killed, this does not spell disaster for the player as he can imagine up a brand new character!  If only it was possible to conjure up a new supervisor every time you manage to kill off any hopes he or she had for you. The Treasure Trap Society provides a unique escape from everyday life in Cambridge but is definitely not for the faint hearted, the unimaginative or David Cameron. The refs are welcoming to new players, going out if their way to ensure they have a fun experience and we recommend everyone to try this at least once before leaving Cambridge. Dungeons, dragons, drunkards and damsels in distress; the Wessex Arms has something for everyone and being shrouded in mystery and rich in ongoing sagas, it is definitely the place to be on a Friday night.