At long last, I’ve finished The Curse, a freeform game about hereditary breast cancer, the BRCA mutations, and making decisions around these issues.
It premiered at the Danish gaming convention Fastaval in 2013, where it nabbed an Otto nomination for best larp script.
I wrote The Curse in the Fastaval style. This means that it features a strong game master who cuts together the scenes like an improvised play. The game attempts to tackle a serious topic — BRCA mutations and the decisions they spark — with nuance. It’s not meant to be fun in the funny ha-ha sense, but it’s meant to be interesting and provide insight into a situation that many women face.
It’s free to download and distribute so long as you don’t try to make money off it. If you run or play it, I’d love to hear about your experience at LizzieStark@gmail.com.
THE CURSE AT A GLANCE
Would you cut out healthy body parts if you thought it might save your life?
Rita and Elle bear a heavy legacy: a mother who developed breast cancer at 30 and died of ovarian cancer 20 years later. When it comes to their family tree, that’s just the tip of the tumor. There’s a BRCA mutation lurking in the family DNA, an inherited genetic error that dramatically ups a woman’s chances of developing aggressive breast and ovarian cancer at unusually young ages. After Rita and Elle test positive for the family mutation, they can choose to live with their fear or cut it out with a scalpel.
Will they mutilate themselves to avoid their mother’s fate, or stay strong and face down dread? How should the men in their lives deal with the news? Will this condition mutilate their romantic relationships as well?
This freeform game is about making life-altering decisions in uncertain circumstances and passing on the horror of that choice to the next generation. A scenario about fear of death, vanity, and relationships under pressure.
Time: 4-5 hours.
Number of players: 4 +1 game master. Preferably two women and two men.
Genre: Cancer narratives, relationship drama, realism
Player type: You want to explore some challenging emotional territory, including cancer, unclear consequences, and amputating body parts you’re fond of. And you don’t mind talking about breasts. 18+ only, please.
Game master type: You’ll be the players’ guide and teach the techniques of the game. You’re equally happy pushing the players when they need it, or standing back and watching them twitch like fish on hooks.