“Here and Now”: A Flashback

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.

One response to ““Here and Now”: A Flashback”

  1. The real definitely counts

    I like a fanciful or non-actual location and concept for play as much as the next person. But I absolutely recognize what you're talking about.

    For me, it appeared in the mid-ish 1980s, playing Champions (3rd) for the first time ever, with some friends who hadn't role-playing before. The location of play was on campus, just down the street from my apartment, indeed, right in front the administration building. 

    I didn't like that building very much. The campus is famous for its kooky gothic extravagance, and the admin building was a modern addition which absolutely represented the prison-monolith campus style of the 1960s. It squatted there among the other buildings' spires and scrollwork like a nasty tan brick.

    That's where a bunch of action happened in this session. When the hero Moses delivered his shockwave attack on the ground, causing everyone around to lose their footing, I described among various other things a crack forming and running up most of the face of that building.

    To me and to everyone who played that session, whenever we passed the real building again, that crack was there.

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