Every college and university in the country has its own set of customs and traditions. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, PA is no exception. One of the more unique traditions of CMU is a semi-annual game called Capture the Flag with Stuff (CTFWS).
Run by a campus organization called KGB, CTFWS is one of the most popular activities on campus. Every time it is run, it attracts somewhere between 100 and 200 participants. Furthermore, it has such a lasting appeal that it doesn’t only attract current students, but also attracts alumni, students from other universities, and even locals who are not affiliated with any university.
As the name suggests, the game is a variation on tradition Capture the Flag. Full rules for this variation can be found at the KGB web site, but the short version is that the game is modified by adding unusual props to the game. These props are various colors of felt belts, foam rods called wands, and foam balls called potions. According to the rules each colored item has a different ability that can be used during the game. For example, one wand allows you to hit someone with it, say “Toast”, and then capture that person even if you are on the opponent’s side.
In addition to the special abilities of these items, the game has additional complications. One of those complications is the fact that the game is played inside of two attached academic buildings called Wean and Doherty. These two buildings, some of the older buildings on campus, have a veritable maze of hallways, stairwells, and rooms. These convoluted passageways make stealth a much more important part of the game than in a traditional game of Capture the Flag. Also, each team has multiple flags in this variation of the game. Thus, simply capturing one flag does not end the game. Only when all flags are captured or time runs out, does the game end.
With the exception of Carnival, few other campus events compare to the popularity of this unusual game. The complex rules appeal to the average Carnegie Mellon student while managing to not turn off players who are more interested in the physical challenge of the game. Despite the fact that the KGB club is actually quite small, the never is. KGB takes advantage of this by selling shirts for CTFWS and actually manages to make quite a profit. In the simplest terms, this twice a year activity is one of the most exciting and ingenious events that occurs on campus.