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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: [carry] Gun-butts, dope, non-mutual masturbation, and massacres  (Read 10969 times)
Christoph Boeckle
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« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2007, 06:52:32 AM »

Yes, Ron, I read that post Meguey wrote about I will not abandon you and Nobody gets hurt, but I suspect I only understand it on an superficial level, I need to work through some play still.

I'm the oldest of our group of twenties to mid-twenties aged guys, so your comments are square on. We're only beginning to address such stuff in our roleplaying.

It's not the sexual content that was my concern about deprotagonization though, it's rather framing the character into a problematic situation without the player's input. You perfectly addressed this concern though.

I especially buy into your comment about plausibility: I was mentally comparing with a scene we recently played in Polaris about a protagonist bedding his mother (without knowing it) as proposed by the Mistaken, which is quite "embarrassing" too, but perfectly suits the themes of tragedy and decadence.
The Heart had the same split-second hesitation before running with the scene without even trying to tone it down. I mean, after killing one's father, one ends up sleeping with their mom, right?
Jerking off behind an icy boulder beside the Mistake would have been a harder fit...

Your explanation helps me get at the things that worked in our Polaris scene and hopefully we'll get more used to such material cropping up in our play. Not only sex-oriented of course, just any zone of discomfort.


Thanks for the help, Eero and Ron!
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Christoph
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« Reply #16 on: February 28, 2007, 05:44:21 AM »

I could see all kinds of players who would never let me frame such an embarrassing scene for their characters


Thanks for the explanation Ron. I must admit I'm with Christoph on my personal reaction. I figured that your group was ready for that though. This sex scene does epitomize story now. I suspect that the vast majority of gamers would not be comfortable enough to do that. It is a pretty heavy psycho-drama interaction. It highlights why I don't want too much realism in games. There are places I don't personally want to go. Experiencing the drama of a gay bash is one of them, You are definitely avant garde.

Can you tell us how you created this level of trust in your group - and do you think having all the players be male made a difference? I run psychothearpy groups and am interested to see how similar your techniques are to what we do in profession.

Chris Engle (at the moment with his social worker hat on)
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Callan S.
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« Reply #17 on: February 28, 2007, 06:28:28 PM »

Hi Ron,

The really hard-hitting system element of the scene relied on the fact that Tommy did have a chance, although small, of resolving the scene quickly and relatively neutrally ... because we all knew that if that didn't work, the remaining options were all very grim, as Tommy's burden was kicking in just as hard as Wendell's.
If it fits the thread, could you give more of your perspective on how its hard hitting? I've my own perspective on how it is as well, and would like another to contrast it against for a bit of perspective.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2007, 06:56:35 AM »

Hello,

Chris, this will be difficult, because to answer those questions directly, I may come off as dismissive toward you. For example:

"How did you create this level of trust in your group?" The answer is, I didn't, and it's not "my" group, and trust is not the issue. This probably looks like a brush-off answer, or perhaps one intended to promote the image of a mysterious sage, but it is neither. The problem is that the angle your questions are arriving from isn't relevant to how play proceeds in my experience these days. And unfortunately, to communicate to you how it does proceed would require ten years, exactly ten in fact.

In 1996, I embarked on an attempt to see whether role-playing was fun for real. Not fun because it reminded me of being 14, not fun because it was better than sitting around lonely, not fun because it reinforced my position in a subculture, not fun because it was a way to get laid, not fun because it celebrated something else like movies or comics, and not fun because I'd bought books and hence it must be. I wanted to see whether it was fun in the sense that doing something uniquely rewarding with people I liked being with is fun. The answer turned out to be "yes," but for that to be reliably the case, a whole lot of subcultural, economic, and procedural aspects of role-playing had to be abandoned.

By abandoning those aspects, then issues of trust, for instance, became irrelevant, because trust (and friendship) are not at risk during play. This means the question is not "how can you build that sort of trust," but rather, "why are most role-playing groups characterized by lack of basic trust?" We addressed that question here at the Forge during the Infamous Five threads, with the issue of Social Context. Once that was established, Meg could arrive at her two constructions of I Will Not Abandon You vs. No One Gets Hurt (basically two kinds of trust, and about what), and I could lay out, and distinguish between, roles of leadership and roles of authority, as I did last summer.

Another issue is content. If you track my actual play posts and related articles from the beginning of the Forge, you'll find an ongoing process* which puts [identification with characters] at the service of, or subordinate to, or derived from [identification with conflicts]. It also places single-individual imagining at the service of group-level communication. During this process, incredibly explicit material suddenly became ... no big deal, across several different groups at once. The point is that explicit content is not a difficult issue after all, and although Lines and Veils (my terms) are a reality, they are easily observed in all media and therefore easily established in play. The real issue is relevant content.

Bluntly, Chris, your reaction to the use of masturbation as a framing scene for a conflict for a latent, conflicted, violent gay guy is an imagined mountain regarding a molehill. The question is not why I and my group are comfortable with the mountain, but why you and yours are frightened and disoriented by a molehill.

But in saying that, I bet a reader or two is thinking that I'm talking about masturbation's sexual content. I'm not. The reason this scene functioned in our game is the same reason it would function in any story media. (1) The situation is familiar - non-controversially familiar. (2) The situation raises a unique crisis for the character in question, as we know from his Burden (go back and read it, please). The key point here is that the situation did not raise a unique crisis for any of us, the real people, because of point #1.

That's why Christoph's comparison with incest in Polaris is actually off the mark. This isn't about sex, or graphic-ness, or transgression. This isn't Legend of the Overfiend, in which a woman performs a blowjob on a demon and when he comes, her head explodes. That movie relies on going over the line. Our scene during play relies on staying inside the lines and seeing what's there. The reason the masturbation stuff disturbs gamers is not because it's so edgy and so freaky and so wild, but rather the opposite.

This game, carry, concerns young and (despite their weaponry) desperate American men in the worst jungle fighting during the Vietnam War. There are no zombies or androids. There are no super-powers. There are no other dimensions. There are no angels wandering through the scenario. There are no fantasy elements at all. In gamer/fandom culture and in most role-playing design, such fantasy elements are a safety feature, to a numbing extent which renders most role-playing content of no conceivable interest to an adult human.**

So in playing this game, if these guys are to be facing conflicts, and with these rules my job as GM is to present situations which do so, we as a group must rely not upon the gaudy and fantastical, but rather upon the human and upon the familiar. We not only must rely upon it, we must commit to it.

Now, all that said, I'm going to hit you guys with a question to consider, although I'm not calling for answers. I described our first action scene in the scenario. In that scene, Chris Weil described his character's action - striking an unarmed Vietnamese woman in the face with his rifle butt.

No one posting seems to have reacted to that detail of our game-play to any extent of all. A young man taking a private moment to jerk off late at night, Oh My God. Another young man breaking a woman's face with his gun butt because it's hot and he'd rather see all these people shot rather than concern himself over who hid these weapons ...nothing. My question is, what is wrong with you, or rather with us as gamers, such that this is the case?

I'll also anticipate a possible answer that I do not accept as valid: "oh, see, our puritanical culture says violence is OK but sex isn't." My response to that is, bullshit, or rather, partly. I agree that we trivialize violence in many of our stories in a variety of ways. However, I'm claiming that it is not the larger culture at issue here, but rather gamer/fandom culture, which amplifies that trivialization to an astounding degree. This subculture is arrested at age 15: it equates sadistic violence with personal power, greatly desires sex but only experiences it as masturbation or experimentation, would go to any extreme to protect self-esteem from imagined slights, and utilizes fantasy elements to numb or distract from relevant conflicts rather than for highlighting them.

When I deliberately asked myself whether role-playing would continue to be fun for me as an adult, I had to abandon its adolescent trappings and habits of presentation. I had to recognize that avoiding familiar conflicts and recognizable situations for framing them is a defense mechanism, not a maturation. I am not recommending suddenly inserting explicit sex into your games or throwing out all fantastic elements. I am suggesting focusing on relevant and familiar conflict, and to utilize content, of any kind that works, to accentuate and dramatize the familiarity of the conflict. Without doing so, gaming becomes one of two things - nostalgically recapturing what was fun back when we were 14 or 19, or neurotically revisiting what wasn't fun at all in the hopes that maybe it'll work this time.

Best, Ron

* Search for my and others' threads on playing Hero Wars (including my Daedalus article), Violence Future, le mon mouri, kill puppies for satan, Sorcerer, and Bacchanal. See also all my threads regarding Sex & Sorcery, and It Was a Mutual Decision.

** Side point, not for discussion here. In the kind of science fiction I like most, the fantasy elements highlight and productively distort the relevant political and personal conflicts, rather than water them down into safety. But that perspective is vanishingly rare in published role-playing games, nor have I ever seen it acknowledged in any kind of SF fandom.
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Calithena
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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Posts: 336

aka Sean


« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2007, 07:10:54 AM »

Hi Ron,

I actually agree with you in a general way about the psychodynamics of role-playing, but I question (as in, I'm mulling it over for myself) whether the kind of wish-fulfillment play you currently eschew, divested perhaps of the 'gamer culture' elements you so detest, must be nostalgic or self-infantilizing for the adult gamer, or whether it merely often is, especially in the context of gamer culture as it is currently (or, perhaps, was ten years ago currently - the demographics of mainstream gaming are changing) constituted.

I guess I don't exactly see what's wrong in an absolute sense with spending an afternoon with friends, fantasizing about, say, fucking your way through the Sultan's harem, getting a magic scimitar, and slaying the Undead Vizier and a Big Fucking Snake, mostly as a way of just pretending to be something you're not and enjoy the sheer wildness of it all. Playing this way compulsively is not healthy, I suppose I'd grant that; and I suppose I'd grant too that there have been times and places in my life when I used this kind of power-fantasy as a sort of escape valve from personal problems. On the other hand, I don't necessarily fault people for enjoying mass media entertainment, action movies, romance novels, etc. that mostly gratify this kind of fantasy, as an occasional escape; a lot of us seem to need that from time to time.

I can understand why a person who had done a lot of that might get tired of it and even sick of it, of course, but I'm not sure that the urge is inevitably pathological, even in role-playing. On the other hand, it's really better for many recovering alcoholics never to take a drink again, even if others might enjoy a tipple or three without particular adverse consequences. (Whether I belong in that group is part of what I'm mulling over.)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2007, 07:16:10 AM by Calithena » Logged
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2007, 07:19:41 AM »

Hi Callan,

In that passage, I am discussing the role of Fortune. It will also help to understand the rules for squad scenes in this game. One must choose an "approach" and roll a die. Victory goes to the high value, unless someone wants to choose another approach ("push") and roll again; one's character's Profile is cross-referenced with a given Approach for each roll, to see what size of die is rolled. One is limited in die sizes (and thus in available Approaches) by the contents of one's current dice pool, because you can't utilize a certain Approach unless you have a die of the required size or less.

The character Tommy had the Profile "invincible." He gets higher dice for more violent Approaches (not as much as the "brawler" Profile, but similar). If I remember correctly, Tim K had one d12 and one d6 die in his pool. Therefore, he had only one single chance to utilize a non-confrontational Approach, and that chance was small because it relied upon a small-sized die.

My point in the post was composed of two concepts. Tommy was not initially constrained to act violently, but if he failed in his attempt to act non-violently, he would be so constrained. He had a chance to resolve the situation in his favor, but it was a single chance, and not a good one. This is the source of the productive tension we all experienced as soon as the scene was framed.

If I recall correctly, the scene took three rolls. I'm trying to remember all the Approaches taken by each character, and I'm mixing myself up. I am not sure, but I think Wendell started Subversively and ended Peaceably. I also think that Tommy's first or second Approach was Honorable (trying to leave the tent, blocked by other guys walking by) and I know his last was Violent, the only mechanical option left to him, because to go Peaceable required a small die that he did not have.

It so happened that although Wendell was winning through the first two rolls, Tommy won the round by rolling and adding in the high value on the d12. I keep confusing myself about the details ... maybe it was just two rounds, not three. I think it might have been two.

Best, Ron
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2007, 11:07:03 AM »

Thank you Ron for a very thoughtful answer.

You're progression in role playing has lead you to make a mental shift in regards to game content. I can freely admit to not having made that mental shift. I'm sure part of that is personal defensiveness (I do subscribe to a pretty puritanical religion being Muslim) and all that cultural stuff but I'm not uncomfortable talking about such issues in my work as a therapist (having treated child molesters, sex addicts, etc.) A big part of it is where I want to mentally go. I did find the massacre scene disturbing to and would also not want to have personally played it.

This highlights the social contract part of play. Clearly you all have discussed wanting to do narrativist games that grapple with compelling social issues in a story now manner. You also had the discussion about what was allowed in the game - everything as long as it was plausible. The character problems clearly indicated a high potential for violence and gay content. Your players know from past play that there is not "nudge nudge wink wink" unspoken limit on sex in play. A player would have to be pretty clueless to not see where this was going - I believe that you communicate clearly. If a player started shuffling their feet uncomfortably during the SC negotiation phase I can see that you and others would pick up on that and take that into account in the contract.

Let me know if I got that sequence of steps right.

Those are what a therapy group would call trust building steps. You were able to run through them quickly because you know one another while a new group (gaming or otherwise) would have to take more time to clarify and feel one another out.

Once play has started you have the understanding that play will not always feel comfortable but that it will be intense and exciting. It will also be very direct, with people giving clear interpersonal feedback to one another (with a small distance in that it is about "my character" rather than about "my self".) This happens in group therapy, when the ingredients are right, after around four sessions. I've grow to trust that in therapy the process won't go farther than people can handle because people just won't go there but in games I guess I'm just not there.

Way back in the social contract phase I would have given off signs that I want more emotional space and less emotional intensity than you do. I've played in some cool intense games but in general the fun I get from games is a problem to solve and the non-game related banter that orbits play. I'd characterize it as a light social game. Komradbob described a game a while back called "Hungry Hungry Dragon" which sounded real fun to me. Sure there would be violence but in the end the good guys would likely win. I can see that "pulling back from extremes" in all games I write. I set up situations that could spiral out of control but when I play my actions are to not do that. Instead I seem to act out issues from my present life - staying calm, forming plans, persistently carrying them out, and building up colleague relationships.

Thanks again for your reply. I think it might be a concise overview of your gaming ideas that you can refer people to in the future.

Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games

 

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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
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Nathan P.
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« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2007, 04:46:49 PM »

Hi Chris,

It may interest you to know that one of the rules of the game is to explicitly talk about two things during/after Burden creation; whether you have any military experience (or any family members, and so on), and if there's anything you don't want to see come up in play. This is very blunt Line/Veil-setting, but I've found that it's useful not only for everyone to get on the same page about the tone of the game, but also as a reminder that "hey, we should be thinking about this stuff."

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Nathan P.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #23 on: March 02, 2007, 05:16:20 AM »

Hi Chris,

You've just about nailed it. As far as I can tell, you've described us. Also, and this may or may not be directly related, in both of the groups I'm in right now, we usually have a discussion before or after play about real-life issues of the day. I don't want to get into politics at the Forge, but it so happens that all of us, in both groups, have generated an atmosphere of processing about those issues which also relies on a lot of trust.

One small quibble or clarification is that in the current group, only two of us knew one another well prior to our regular play. Tim A and Chris are long-term friends, and I'd met them briefly; Tim K and I knew all of the others only through the Forge and brief con meetings. All of us, especially the two Tims had played a hell of a lot of Story Now and both of them are Trollbabe nuts. We jumped into play together quite far along the steps you've described. The lesson I take from that is that the trust-building steps can occur in part at a level of community and role-playing experience, rather than specific to the interactions of a set group of people, for that group.

Here's what I see in your post - that as a person, you do recognize and are concerned with serious things and approach them as an adult, and where appropriate professionally. (One might call it "life now," I guess, but that sounds like EST ...) Whereas in your games, as a role-playing guy, you don't typically do the fictional equivalent. This can be a matter of preference, or as you point out, perhaps a matter of faith/conviction, as opposed to the flat defensiveness that I described as a feature of gamer subculture. I stand by my points about that (this, our, whatever) subculture, but I want to be absolutely clear that I do not accuse you, specifically, of representing those points as a person.

Best, Ron
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MatrixGamer
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« Reply #24 on: March 05, 2007, 05:42:39 AM »

Bravo! An excellent thread.

Chris Engle
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Chris Engle
Hamster Press = Engle Matrix Games
http://HamsterPress.net
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