While reading the Annotated Sorcerer rulebook this evening, I came across the phrase “here and now” again: the default “setting” for Sorcerer. And I had a sudden flashback.
It is the summer of 1998, and I am GMing an ongoing GURPS game for some close friends and a rotating cast of friends-of-friends who want to give it a try.
Though the campaign includes several science fiction and pulp elements, the setting is “here and now”—1998 Earth as we know it—even though we never say so. Later, we will introduce more and more wild fantasy concepts, as I find more GURPS supplements at the used book store with ill-fitting ideas I can’t wait to use. But we don’t know about that yet: Right now, we’re just using the 3rd edition Basic Set and immersing ourselves in the moment.
We’re playing into the wee hours downstairs at my friend’s house, where I’m living. Nothing separates us from the night except the pane of a sliding-glass door.
In the fiction, one of the player characters is flying through our area unexpectedly, and we realize that the character would be seeing the landscape familiar to us. The character descends in our neighborhood, and comes down in our back yard. He sees the light on through the sliding-glass door. Does he see us?
Play stops before we find out. We all turn and look out the sliding-glass door and wonder.
This kind of wonder will slowly fade from our experience as we introduce more wild and crazy escapism, including the magic system from GURPS Mage the Ascension, and travel to an alternate universe with a hand-drawn fantasy map in lieu of our familiar landscape. We don’t realize what we are losing.
There’s a postscript that feels too personal to write here. But the idea of “here and now” fiction in role-playing strikes a chord.