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Author Topic: Lines, Veils, Breaking the Ice  (Read 23817 times)
lumpley
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« on: April 29, 2004, 01:53:54 PM »

(Anybody who happens to not know, "lines and veils" is a way to talk about players' comfort with in-game material.  Ron introduced the terms in Sex and Sorcery.)

Emily Care and I made characters for her game in development Breaking the Ice.  We were driving out to Tom's gargantuan game gala just past.

Breaking the Ice is about dating.  You play a character who's unlike yourself but like your fellow player - so I was creating a woman and Emily a man.  The idea is to get some informed feedback about your portrayal of your character.  Emily's duty is to give me insight into playing women, mine's to give her insight into playing men.

So you brainstorm some words using a cool process and then you use the words to inspire your character.  I'm not the brainstormer Emily is, so I was skeptical, but it worked.  I'm sure we'll talk more about that part as she brings the game out.

Turns out that my character is a 32 year old woman who works for the county housing office.  She has car trouble and she broke her leg skiing, it's still in a cast.

Em's character's a 31 year old man who works building houses.  He volunteers time to Habitat for Humanity and has several birds as pets.

She broke her leg, he keeps birds.  They date!

Emily's driving and I'm scowling at our characters.  They're, y'know, completely flat.

"They could just go happily along forever," I say.  "There's nothing to them, they aren't in motion."

"Well there's a last step," Emily says.  "It's: what makes their upcoming first date problematic?"

Bam! it comes straight into my head.  But I don't say anything.  I keep scowling, for a long, long time in fact - Emily glances over at me more and more.

"Can't think of anything?  Do we need to go back to -"

"Oh no, it's not that," I say.  "This is a real moment of truth, you realize?  I have just the perfect thing, but I don't know if I'd want to roleplay it."

"Well, that's good though, isn't it?"

"Yeah.  It's: I'm a virgin, I've never had sex."  (Isn't it funny that I felt the need to define "virgin"?)

Emily's eyebrows are up, though, anyway, in a "yeah, that'd make dating problematic" way.  Also a "yeah, that kicks your character into motion" way.  And definitely also a "yeah, that'll make the roleplaying more personal and intense" way.

I have this picture in my mind of my character, this woman, stressing and in almost a crisis over shaving her legs before the date, which I don't even tell.  "Your turn," I say.

"My last relationship was really bad," Em says.  "Not restraining order bad, but..."

"Why not restraining order bad?"

"Well," she says.  "Men very rarely get restraining orders against women, you know."

"Sure.  But I meant the other way around."

"...Oh shit," she says.  And I'm like, ha!  Put that in your what makes dating problematic pipe and smoke it.

I'm not really like that.  But kinda I am.

"Oh shit," she says.

She's a virgin with a broken leg, he's got power tools and a restraining order against him.  They date!

Much better, no?

But about actually playing this...

"I've got an idea that the players choose a movie rating to set the limits of the game," Emily says.

"So we could play this out at PG?" I say.  With obvious relief, I'm sure.

"PG?" she says.  "With all the sex and domestic violence issues?  Are you on crack?"

"We could," I say.  "I mean, we could."

"It'd be a fucking after school special, Vincent.  You suck."

Owie.  "...PG-13?  PG-13 please?  No way I'd play this an R.  Way too scary."

She rolls her eyes and doesn't press me.  Which sure, I suck, that's okay, but whew.

So I dunno, I don't think I have a conclusion to draw.  Lines and veils.  Just imagine me there in the car, turning over and over in my mind this woman's anxiety about sex and love and loneliness and dating.  I don't even say anything, it seems so intense to me.

-Vincent
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Jason Lee
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« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2004, 02:16:22 PM »

Hmmm... a 32 year old woman who is a virgin is probably not having anxiety about sex, she's simply not seeing it as an expectation for dating.  

From what I've seen it seems to me that the longer a person remains a virgin the less they care how they lose their virginity.

This is, of course, assuming there isn't some psychological trauma keeping her away from the act - like molestation as a child.  Which could go all sorts of awful in lots of exciting ways with creepy stalker man, particularly if she has that 'submissive victim mindset' thing going on.  All right, now I'm making myself depressed.

Just some random thoughts, which may have no basis in reality.  Hope I didn't 'R' it up too much ;).
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- Cruciel
DannyK
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2004, 04:04:54 PM »

Interesting.  A 32-year-old virgin might also be one of life's natural celibates -- someone who is very passionate about other things and never saw a good reason to go through all that indignity with another person.  Sort of like the Katherine Hepburn character in African Queen.

Or, she could be a very closeted lesbian.  

Honestly, I can't imagine playing this game unless it was played somewhat for grim laughs, sort of The Bachelor Kills Puppies for Satan.  But then, I've never played a female character; I just can't get my head around it.  Running female NPC's, no problem.
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Emily Care
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2004, 04:23:54 PM »

Quote from: DannyK
Interesting.  A 32-year-old virgin might also be one of life's natural celibates -- someone who is very passionate about other things and never saw a good reason to go through all that indignity with another person.

Or someone who is shy and socially awkward and so has not found a relationship of that intensity, but with enough whatever was required (luck, self-esteem, strength) to allow her to retain her virginity rather than to have sex in a less than satisfactory situation.  In fact, what does it mean that she's a virgin? Could mean many things. Maybe she's never had sex with a man.  Maybe she's never had an orgasm (can I write that here?), maybe she's had many romantic involvements, but never had intercourse for emotional or health reasons.  Lots of possibilities, and many possibilities to explore this character as a human being.  
 
Quote
Honestly, I can't imagine playing this game unless it was played somewhat for grim laughs, sort of The Bachelor Kills Puppies for Satan.  But then, I've never played a female character; I just can't get my head around it.  Running female NPC's, no problem.

I don't see that, though Jason's suggestions would be quite dramatic, and very intense. But still could be played true to life.  My take was different. I saw the male character as someone who got entangled in a relationship that he tried to end peacefully, but it got out of control.  Maybe he struggles with a short temper, maybe he was accused of violence that he didn't commit. Maybe he did do something he deeply regrets.  Lots of possibilities.  

It's curious for me to imagine not being able to play a character of the opposite gender. Its something I don't quite get.  Vincent's strong reaction to just imagining the character he created feels very rewarding to me. It will be interesting to see if I can convey this to other folk, not so inclined normally.

What makes it hard to imagine really playing a character of a different sex or gender?

Yrs,
Emily Care
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

Black & Green Games
Andrew Norris
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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2004, 05:44:13 PM »

Quote from: Emily Care
It's curious for me to imagine not being able to play a character of the opposite gender. Its something I don't quite get.  Vincent's strong reaction to just imagining the character he created feels very rewarding to me. It will be interesting to see if I can convey this to other folk, not so inclined normally.

What makes it hard to imagine really playing a character of a different sex or gender?


There was a really out-of-control thread about this very topic on RPG.net this week, and I thought it was interesting to note that every one of the people rabidly arguing cross-gender roleplay was impossible was male. Most of the arguments against it were along the lines that there's some ineffable quality to women that men simply can't understand, which I found rather amusing to hear men argue.

I've personally found that my most rewarding sessions (both as a player and a GM) dealt with relationship issues, and further that the less experienced a player was with roleplaying, the less hesitant they were about jumping right into these issues. I'd be fascinated to explore these types of situations from the perspective of a woman, as I have to admit many of the cross-gender play situations I've been involved with were more "Here's this person, in this situation... oh, and they happen to be female." Both male players in my current game who play female characters have steadfastly avoided any relationship entanglements in-game.

As a matter of fact, I'm really intrigued about Breaking the Ice, the more I think about it. The last two people I've introduced to roleplaying have been women, and they showed, without my prompting, a very pronounced tendency to want to explore relationship issues. (One of them was so intense it was almost scary -- the character creation session I did with her for Sorcerer felt like therapy over her recent divorce.)

My mind is racing at the idea of introducing a few couples I know to Breaking the Ice as a kind of party game, introducing them to roleplaying without going through the usual spiel about why they might like this. It just seems like a setup that would provoke a lot of interesting conversation. Any chance you can tell us more about the game? I'd love to playtest it.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2004, 07:44:49 PM »

Um, they're gonna do it, aren't they? Aren't they?

I mean, y'all were just about to deal with that, and wham, we start this bogus discussion about cross-gender play (like we haven't beaten that into its perfectly obvious conclusions a couple of times here). Talk about sublimation!

C'mon! Are they gonna? Are they gonna right now?

Best,
Ron
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Doyce
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« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2004, 08:34:00 PM »

Quote from: cruciel
This is, of course, assuming there isn't some psychological trauma keeping her away from the act - like molestation as a child. Which could go all sorts of awful in lots of exciting ways with creepy stalker man, particularly if she has that 'submissive victim mindset' thing going on. All right, now I'm making myself depressed.


Man, that reads like Actual Play for Nicotine Girls. :)

Not that that's a put down, because I like Nicotine Girls, if only for the Riding in Cars with Boys feel.

Hmm.  I'm trying to think of a book or movie parallel to Breaking the Ice and coming up blank.  Anyone have any thoughts?
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Doyce Testerman ~ http://random.average-bear.com
Someone gets into trouble, then get get out of it again; people love that story -- they never get tired of it.
talysman
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« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2004, 09:26:48 PM »

Quote from: Doyce

Hmm.  I'm trying to think of a book or movie parallel to Breaking the Ice and coming up blank.  Anyone have any thoughts?


I thought immediately of Amélie, which I finally saw recently. or, well, tons of romantic comedies.
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John Laviolette
(aka Talysman the Ur-Beatle)
rpg projects: http://www.globalsurrealism.com/rpg
C. Edwards
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savage / sublime


« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2004, 09:34:33 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
I mean, y'all were just about to deal with that, and wham, we start this bogus discussion about cross-gender play (like we haven't beaten that into its perfectly obvious conclusions a couple of times here). Talk about sublimation!


There was even an audible sigh of relief.

Vincent's "way too scary" is intriguing.

Hey, Vincent. Would the scary level go up or down if you were to play with the R rating with someone you didn't know as well as Emily?

While thinking about playing with the R rating, did you even briefly consider "cheating", like using satire, parody, spoofing, etc. in order to avoid an uncomfortable amount of disclosure?

Oh yeah, and are they gonna do it?

-Chris
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lumpley
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« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2004, 05:29:52 AM »

Hey!  C'mon.  They're gonna do it under these circumstances: a) Emily's satisfied enough with her resolution rules that she wants to give 'em a try, b) Emily catches me in another long drive or something where I can't weasel out.

To admit that yes, they're gonna do it right now would be to play before play, which is improper.

Quote from: Chris
While thinking about playing with the R rating, did you even briefly consider "cheating", like using satire, parody, spoofing, etc. in order to avoid an uncomfortable amount of disclosure?

Y'know, that's a really interesting question.  No, I didn't, it never even occurred to me.  I think that - with Emily - if the disclosure'd been uncomfortable I would have been able to disclose anyway or not disclose, safely either way.  Like how I told her about the virgin thing but not about the shaving thing.

Quote from: Chris
Would the scary level go up or down if you were to play with the R rating with someone you didn't know as well as Emily?

Up.  Good lord.

-Vincent
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bluegargantua
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« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2004, 05:31:38 AM »

Hey,

The Virgin Issue:  There is also the possibility that she could be a "technical virgin".  This comes with a completely different set of problems (some of which may be even more warped than usual).

  The "Do It" Issue:  I dunno.  Is the game all about the first date or do you follow the relationship?  When it's a date (as opposed to picking up someone in a bar or something) there's not usually an expectation around having sex that night (OK -- at least *I* don't have those expectations, but I sense it's also a general policy in American society...I might be wrong).

  And here's the other deal -- it's a first date.  It can be a little awkward, but it's also a time when people try really hard to put a good face on things.  What's going to tease out all the problems these people have?  If the guy isn't a complete bastard, he probably won't act up.  If he really does have a short temper well, you might be able to annoy him to the point of losing his cool, but I don't know how that really moves things along.  The virgin issue is interesting but I think it'll be very tough to move that forward.  And again, unless the guy is a complete asshole No Means No and that'll be the end of it, possibly without any explanation as to why.

  I suppose you could rate it at NC-17 and have the No be ineffectual and I think there's potentially some powerful stuff that could come out of that, but...it's not what I game for.

  Em:  I assume this is meant to be played mostly in co-ed situations?  Huh, actually it appears to be just for a pair of players, which is neat.  BTW -- I totally call dibs on the polyamorous bisexual kinky woman because nothing will make a first date go more awkwardly than constantly running into people who remember licking your boots at the club that one time.  Possibly more romantic comedy than serious drama, but still...

later
Tom
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Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.
lumpley
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« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2004, 06:15:59 AM »

Tom, the game's about their early relationship, their first three dates.

Building rules that provoke us into digging in instead of backing away is what Em's challenge is, I'd say.  Left to freeform, I'd scramble away like a scared monkey, our character's'd have a polite first date with no spark, no second date, and I'd be relieved but nobody'd pay to watch that flick.  I'm totally counting on the rules to get me through my avoid-y suckitude.

Properly provoked, I can imagine them doing it on their first date.  Or instead of their first date.  But we'll see (provided a. and b. above, of course).

-Vincent
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Christopher Weeks
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« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2004, 06:29:38 AM »

Quote from: Vincent
You play a character who's unlike yourself but like your fellow player


Quote from: Tom
BTW -- I totally call dibs on the polyamorous bisexual kinky woman


Dude!  If that's you're with, don't you have something better to be doing?

Seriously though, I think the idea of this game sounds fantastic.  If you can pull it off, I think it could be a very important piece of work.  Also, how would play of this game work _as_ a first date?

Chris
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bluegargantua
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« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2004, 07:00:56 AM »

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
Quote from: Vincent
You play a character who's unlike yourself but like your fellow player


Quote from: Tom
BTW -- I totally call dibs on the polyamorous bisexual kinky woman


Dude!  If that's you're with, don't you have something better to be doing?



  Of course, but there's that pesky refractory period.

  I guess I missed that point when I was reading the play example.  And it doesn't seem to hold up in any event because I'm pretty sure Vincent's never had a restraining order slapped on him and I don't think Emily is still a virgin.  I have no proof for either statement (and I apologize for making such familiar assumptions with Vincent and Em), but it seems like those elements were added by the players themselves and don't reflect knowledge of the person they're playing with.  And reading a little further into that paragraph of Vincent's quoted above, it's mostly their cross-gender portrayals that are of interest (or initial interest at least).

  Personally, I would never use this as a first-date game.  Too meta.

  I'll be interested to see what Em comes up with to get people to dig in.  Is it something like, you have to reveal part of "your deal" in order to accomplish tasks?

later
Tom
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The Three Stooges ran better black ops.

Don't laugh, Larry would strike unseen from the shadows and Curly...well, Curly once toppled a dictatorship with the key from a Sardine tin.
Emily Care
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« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2004, 08:32:00 AM »

Quote from: Ron
C'mon! Are they gonna? Are they gonna right now?

Sure, s'long as it fits yer social contract.  That's actually what I'd envisioned the rating being about, primarily.  You know, "G" they hold hands, "PG" they kiss,  "PG-13" heavy petting and so on. Trust between the players is a huge issue in this game, so as I'm working on it I'm paying attention to ways that the steps of the game can function to help create safe-space and easy transitions for the players.  It's very interesting that this kind of game gets such a strong response about how intense and difficult it would be to play with strangers, while blowing folks to bits is easy peasy with any old body. Go figure.

Quote from: bluegargantua
 And here's the other deal -- it's a first date.  It can be a little awkward, but it's also a time when people try really hard to put a good face on things.  What's going to tease out all the problems these people have?  If the guy isn't a complete bastard, he probably won't act up.  If he really does have a short temper well, you might be able to annoy him to the point of losing his cool, but I don't know how that really moves things along. The virgin issue is interesting but I think it'll be very tough to move that forward.  And again, unless the guy is a complete asshole No Means No and that'll be the end of it, possibly without any explanation as to why.

What I'm aiming for is for the first date to actually be pretty darn awkward. (Awkward for the characters, comfortable for the players, that'll be a trick.) Of course everyone will be trying to put their best foot forward, but that's also the time when you're feeling out the boundaries with somebody else. Anything you say could piss them off, you don't know what they're allergic to, you have no idea how what you do or say will come off.  Balanced off with a healthy dose of emotional/physical attraction, you've gots of juicy stuff for conflict that will get resolved over the course of the game. You're trying to see if there's enough common ground underneath all the differences to be a good foundation for a relationship.  Sex is just another area where you've got to figure out your boundaries.  Higher stakes, but same same.  

Quote
Em:  I assume this is meant to be played mostly in co-ed situations?  Huh, actually it appears to be just for a pair of players, which is neat.  BTW -- I totally call dibs on the polyamorous bisexual kinky woman because nothing will make a first date go more awkwardly than constantly running into people who remember licking your boots at the club that one time.  Possibly more romantic comedy than serious drama, but still...

To spill the deal, it's not just about gender differences, it's whatever difference lies between the two players. (Yes, it's a two player game).  A bi-girl could go on a date with a gay-girl, a punk with a geek,  a GOP member with a Green Party activist.  Gender is kind of an easy target.  The assumption is that anybody can play any character. "Use your imagination dummy."  But it helps to have somebody closer to the source to explore situations outside your RW experience in a deeper way. And the point is to exploit those differences for their dramatic potential.

Quote from: Chris Edwards
While thinking about playing with the R rating, did you even briefly consider "cheating", like using satire, parody, spoofing, etc. in order to avoid an uncomfortable amount of disclosure?

More social contract stuff.  Or maybe good for a different system. I can also totally see a spoof type game where you play out all the most stereotypical versions of the "other" you're dealing with. Traditional role reversals played to the hilt for humor.

As far as the inspiration for this game: romantic comedies, natch.  I'm working on making folks dig in by working out a conflict resolution/reward system that pulls you into the hard stuff. Thanks so much for all the input!

--Emily

ps Chris w: It's an ideal cover for a first date, don't you think? :)  I'm hoping it will be cool for that, but we'll see.
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Koti ei ole koti ilman saunaa.

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