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[Gen Con][Steal Away Jordan]Clyde, Racism, and the threat of sex. (adult)

Started by Clyde L. Rhoer, August 21, 2007, 10:26:29 PM

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Clyde L. Rhoer

After lugging my damn equipment all over the convention all Gen Con, I was finally done with interviews on Sunday and stopped by the Forge booth. I asked about Steal Away Jordan and ended up in a demo of the game. The demo had myself, was run by Julia Bond Ellingboe, and another very nice lady whose name I can't remember. My apologies Very Nice Lady. I found the game quite fascinating. I also have learned some important things, and am considering other things because of that demo. Let me get into one of those play by plays I hate so much in actual plays. It should help me focus as there are multiple things I want to share. It's a nice way to reinforce the theme.

I played a character named, I think named Kimo. I wasn't allowed to write this name down, instead I had to write down the name I was given by my slavemaster. Interestingly I have no idea what this Christian name was, I identified more strongly with that hidden name. Kimo was a rice farmer from Ghana before being captured. This knowledge helped increase his worth. Worth gives you the dice you use in a major conflict, and it appears not to be an inner self value, but one's saleability. In other words how much you would fetch on the slave markets.

Very Nice Lady, played a character named Buttons. Buttons was an attractive slave woman who was also a cook.

The demo started with my character being brought to a new farm. The slavemaster told him that he was responsible for the health and management of the farm. Afterwards he introduced Kimo to Buttons and orders them to build a cabin and make babies. This was a difficult moment for me and I definitely did not engage here. I was unsure what to do as this was a hard situation and brought up some issues which I only understand after later examination.

I've engaged in the playing of fictional relationships to a small extent, typically with an edge of humor so the participants know these aren't real feelings. The introduction of this kind of relationship by force, the slavemasters decision we would "make good babies," was particularly difficult for me. Folks who have been sexually abused as children tend to respond in one of two ways, promiscuity, or celibacy. Promiscuity was something I could only do drunk, and having been sober for almost 20 years, I've been celibate for the same time. I think this introduction of force hearkened back to not being in control of my own body, and also played against my complete lack of understanding of this element of humanity. I didn't allow this to drive me away, but stayed in the game.

I find this response coming at a strange time, as I noticed at Gen Con that I was touching people on the arm or a shoulder to reinforce elements of a conversation. Which was fascinating to me as I don't touch, and don't like to be touched. Putting these two things together has me thinking it may be time for me to regain my ability to be touched, and in turn touch.

Back to the play by play. Very Nice Lady and I kind of nodded our heads and sat there awkwardly and the scene sort of faded. She then had her character strike up a deal with mine that we would just put on appearances and have an open marriage. Getting left off the hook I immediately agreed, and we had to roll dice even though we agreed. I found this interesting and my guess is this is because we were making a bargain to get around what the slavemaster wanted. If so this is an absolutely wonderful mechanic that totally reinforces what the game is addressing.

Time went forward and the next scene the slavemaster was disappointed with the lack of forthcoming children and wanted Buttons to meet him later that night to discuss it. She came to Kimo and asked him to help her be sick, so she wouldn't have to go. Kimo had her drink the rice wine he had been fermenting secretly. The slavemaster paid a visit that night and was fended off by the then vomiting Buttons. During this scene the slavemaster said something that caused me to respond, "yes, masta." in the voice of old blackface movies. This brings us to the second issue.

I've always poo pooed the talk of folks talking about 400 years of oppression. As a kid I lived in many predominately Black neighborhoods. While I did see some racism typically in the form of police, I saw a lot more of people choosing to kill themselves through alcohol, drugs, violence, and trying to constantly get over on other people. I saw people working hard to stay victims of society. Young men disdaining the gaining of knowledge. Young men choosing the pride of being feared over the pride of being respected. So much so they have substituted using the word respect when they actually mean feared. I can't claim to be much better, you can see some of the same decisions right on my face.

This experience has always made me not accept the 400 years of oppression argument. As an individual there is no way society can stop you from achieving. The problem is you have to not give in to people who want you to stay where you are. That's difficult. Anyway... that yes masta moment has me reexamining some of my thoughts as that's the first time in my life I've ever felt wrong, like I'd done something racist.

The slaveowner confronted Buttons the next day with the bottle of rice wine from the previous scene, that he had been polishing off. He attempted to rape her, but she was able to escape. He then told Kimo that he was going to be sold, which prompted Kimo to try to beat the slavemaster up. That didn't work out well for me and I ended up picking up and rolling the death die twice. Buttons had a similiar scene but was did better and the story was left off with two friends being sold together. I'm guessing that is as close to a happy ending as could be hoped for.

I'd like to thank both Julia, and Very Nice Lady for this demo, especially Julia for not pulling punches. Julia you can add yourself to the small group of game designers who have caused someone to reconsider/change their lives based on a game they've designed.

    What I don't want from this thread.
    • Support. I get frustrated with people trying to support or defend me when I do something like this. It makes me feel then don't think I'm strong enough to deal with it myself. I understand this isn't the intent most times, but it's how I feel. So. Don't. I'm fine.

      What I do want from this thread.
      • Discussion. I'm not sure what the discussion topic is here, but there likely an important one is lurking.
      • Curiosity questions. If you're curious ask some questions.
      Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.


      I'm not sure I have any questions/comments at this stage, but I am curious to know if you could provide a little more information about the game itself (as in the book/product), to get some more context


      Wow! I am really moved.

      So I am Julia Bond Ellingboe, the game designer. Very Nice Lady's name is Alexis. I don't know if she's on The Forge, but she's an awesome gamer.

      Anyhow, I'm really moved. I'm moved that my game and the short demo did stir something in you. Mission accomplished. In turn, I appreciate that you did not run screaming from what I threw at you in the demo.

      My first question for now is do you think you'd play this game again, even if "only" as a GM? Sexual abuse is tough to play, slavery not much better. I hope the demo won't cause you to shy away from the game, and that you'll venture further into it. Throughout GenCon I half-joked that my game makes slavery fun. I didn't set out to make a fun game about slavery. I wanted to make vehicle for players to create fictional slave narratives. Naturally that would take people down some dark roads. I want people to get something positive, thought changing, and challenging out of that experience, dark as it may be.

      I hope that gives JC a little more context. I don't have a website yet to point you to it other than my personal blog at luckylamb dot blogspot dot com. I just got back from GenCon a few hours ago, but Steal Away Jordan should be available at IPR real soon, and through me at Stone Baby Games. Or you can click on my Forge name for my contact information.

      Thank you, Clyde!


      Clyde L. Rhoer

      Hi Julia,

      I would absolutely play again. I bought the game with that intent. I think one of the beauties of RPG's is that sometimes we can be taught things about ourselves through their play. I'd like to encounter that more often.
      Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.