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Author Topic: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh  (Read 6929 times)
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« on: March 07, 2010, 10:00:00 AM »

I guess this is a solicitation for similar AP; there's some analysis questions at the bottom.  But mostly I feel like venting a little.

The other day I played Champions, and my female martial artist super hero got mind-controlled by another player (a stranger to me) into exposing herself for the amusement of a third player (also a stranger).

That was pretty fucking lame.

Here's the social situation:
* The GM is a guy I've gamed with a couple of times.  He ran a Marvel Super Heroes session about six months ago.
* Two players are pretty decent gamer-friends of mine: though mainly we meet for gaming purposes, we socialize occasionally and respect each other.
* There were two players who were high school friends of the GM twenty years ago.  "My crowd" had never met them before.

One of my character proposals was sort of a Black Canary/Mockingbird rip-off, and so the GM statted that out and we ran with it.  One of the GM's high school buddies played a psychic whose backstory is that he was a D&D-obsessed teenage nerd who got mind-control/hallucination powers ("The Beholder").  The other high school buddy played a creepy/kooky bug-themed Iron Man guy ("The Earwig").

("The Earwig" was playing over webcam; the rest of us were all there in person.)

Over the course of the game, the Earwig kept making increasingly wack advances toward my character, presumably to be funny and awkward.  They weren't especially funny and I basically ignored it.  I think it was clear, even over webcam, that I wasn't thrilled at this development but maybe I didn't communicate how stupid and annoying it was (or, maybe I did, and that annoyance was his motivation to keep going with it). 

So - no, my character doesn't want to date your character.  No, my character doesn't appreciate your character ogling her.  No, my character isn't going to let your character shrink down to Earwig-size and hide in her cleavage--though I did counter-propose that he hide inside my boot as I kicked down doors and other people. 

In hindsight I should have stopped the game and said this was fucking stupid.  But part of my reason to play was that I'd disrupted this GM's prior Marvel Super Heroes session (for reasons that had nothing to do with anything here) and felt a little bad about it.  So I didn't want to be disruptive again unless it really became a problem.  And I figured, y'know, it's juvenile but whatever: ya gotta pick your battles.

Finally at the end of the scenario, as we were fleeing the underwater base, the psychic guy was dying.  The Earwig manages to barely save his life, on the condition that the psychic guy mind-controls my character into getting naked.  The psychic guy is like, "Sure, okay," and I am like, "No, fuck you."  I probably should have stated that this objection was OOC, but I doubt that would have mattered very much.  Dice are rolled; my character takes off her costume. 

It's pretty clear that me and my friends are uncomfortable with this whole thing.

Whereupon I state that my character will now kill the psychic guy, and does so ("I don't care, it was worth it").  Before I can kill the Earwig character, my friends end up engineering a TPK--which was probably the only way for everyone involved to save face.

Anyway.

So, overall a shitty and gratuitous experience.  FWIW I didn't mind 85% of the session, but the other 15% devoted to sexually objectifying my character was pretty irritating.  It's especially galling because I have a personal thing about sexism in super hero comics.

If I had known that the GM's friends were prone to juvenile dumb-assery, I (a) probably wouldn't have played at all, and (b) probably wouldn't have played a female character.  (On the other hand, presumably the GM knows his buddies, so I'm annoyed that he handed me a character who was vulnerable in this way.)

Granted, my character wasn't raped or physically abused.  I don't think the other players were trying to be especially domineering or exploitative; the attitude basically was, "Dude, ha ha, you're playing a chick!"  Which, like, okay... I guess that's funny to a certain type of person...

====
Some questions:

1.  This is the first time I've seen this happen in-game, in like 25 years of play.  Maybe I'm unusual?  How common is shit like this?  Is it facilitated by people being strangers?

2.  How does sex-based hijinks like this, correlate to racial or sexual orientation hijinks?  I think if my character had been a gay male, I would have had similar treatment.  But if my character were black, I don't think people would be putting on white hoods and burning crosses.  But that's just a guess.  Why's the one okay, but not the other?

3.  I'm smart enough to know this is a Personal level problem and not a Fictional level problem, but I didn't address it on the Personal level because I wanted to be a good sport and it just wasn't worth the hassle for a one-shot.  Is there a better way to handle this?  What other reasons might induce a person to stay quiet here?

4.  If you're the type of player who does stuff like this, what's the appeal of making other people unhappy over fictional tits?
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CedricP
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2010, 11:32:06 AM »

You dint bring up the webcam in your questions. Could it have made it more easy for the player at the other end to act like this? You know, how sometime internet facilitate immature behaviors...
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Noclue
Member

Posts: 304


« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2010, 03:09:55 PM »

Well, on the bright side you now know not to game with this GM and his friends.
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James R.
Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2010, 03:46:52 PM »

Greater internet fuckwad theory?

But here's a hard question or two - is it a valid move? Was it within the zone of what you can do? Was there some notion that 'in a roleplay game you can do anything!', because this fits within the notion of 'anything' and that makes it valid gameplay.

How were you playing/what was the social contract you were aware of? Was it don't make a move if it upsets someone, or retract it if it did? Or playing like chess, where if it's a valid move but the other person doesn't like it, tough titty for them?


Also I played a female magic user in a D&D game over a decade ago and some guy, not someone I'd played with before, jumped my character, or tried to (I can't remember) and he was physically present at the table.

It's kind of funny how they are probably doing it 'because it's just a game/pretend', but do they target an NPC? No, it has to be something to do with a real life player. Ie, something non game/not pretend.

I guess my point is, I've stopped games over shit like this - but if the 'move' is within the zone of valid game moves, then it was actually me being disruptive to the game. Which I'd do again - but I'd still be being disruptive.

It's just in roleplay I've noticed stuff like this - instead of changing the valid zone of actions via rules, people tend to start thinking that stopping the game is actually a propper and good thing and the other guy was being disruptive with the move he made. When it's entirely the other way around. Your being disruptive to stop a game because someone else made an entirely valid move. Hell, I would too because they are into fucked shit(even if it's valid fucked shit by their thinking), but I'd try to only play games in future where these actions aren't valid.

It's just best to only play in games that seal the range of actions to begin with, rather than the nebulous idea that you can 'do anything!'.
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
Jeff B
Member

Posts: 24


« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2010, 04:52:37 PM »



1.  No, you're not unusual at all.  But maybe you are lucky.  I have a hunch this sort of thing goes on a fair amount.  Various things could inspire the world's earwigs to behave that way.  One of them is simply the fact that for most gamers (my opinion), roleplaying is a guys-only experience.  I'm just saying statistically, most gaming groups are all-male.  I think there is a perceived threat where introducing a female element into the game makes them feel that they can't "be themselves".  One also speculates, of course, that Mr. Earwig has a bit of trouble interacting with women, period.

2.  The racial issue would be much more explosive.  It would be extremely difficult for a white player to play a black character without being perceived as stereotyping, even if he makes an extreme effort to avoid such stereotyping.  His motives alone would be extremely suspect.  I think race/orientation would have been just as problematic as gender.  There's a great sociology tool available here, because for some reason, roleplayers immediately express hidden values and stereotypes (either in real-world terms or through their characters) when a situation like this arises.  For example, you'll get showered with idiotic comments about wearing pink armor, if you played an openly gay character.  I would expect so, anyway.

3.  Good question, worthy of discussion.  In my opinion, the GM has *some* responsibility to exert control over the social contract.  They are the host of the game.  But that is merely my experience and my style.  By entering into the social contract, all players give up the notion of being first-among-equals:  the playing field is theoretically flat and even.  The only person who remotely resembles a leader or chief influence would be the GM.  Along with the GM would be the person at whose house the playing is happening.  As the real-world host, he has some responsibility to make the environment comfortable for all his guests.  Either of these people probably should have called out the behavior, as perhaps you should have also (I understand your reservations -- you were blindsided on a "bad night", so to speak).

4.  I believe there is an instant perception (in myself as well as Mr. Earwig) that a male player playing a female is trying to gain an advantage that cleverly sidesteps the 'system' rules and the restraints of the social contract.  How many of us GM's have ever pulled our punches for the sake of a new, novice, female player?  I would speculate anybody who has GM'd for more than a few women has done so.  Is the male player therefore seeking some special protection from the GM or from the NPC's in the game?  Real-world discomfort and gender issues work their way into the game.  Many of my characters would behave differently toward a female player than a male, because my experience is the social differences between men and women extend straight into the fantasy game world, with no effort.  It simply happens.  For example, a female character played by a woman is less likely to betray, challenge, or threaten my character than another male is.  I can say that very easily, because I've never had a female player turn on me in a game, whereas men do it all the time.  At the same time, the women I've played with are usually less experienced and aren't looking for lots of competitiveness, and this makes trusting their characters easier.  Were it not for real-world concerns about sexism, the quality of "being female" could easily be written as a disadvantage worth points in a game such as GURPS, or contrariwise as an advantage, because people are simply less likely to slash a woman in half with a scimitar than they are to slash a male.  Statistically, the appearance of a prominent female NPC in an RPG will more often lead to something other than direct violence, than the appearance of a prominent male NPC will.  I cannot prove that, but I believe it firmly.  I think it should be evident to anybody giving it sufficient consideration.

Between Earwig's discomfort with women in the real-world and his sense that the game world is threatened by a cross-gender influence, he 'attacked' you, socially.  After all, he has no grounds to say, "Oh, you can't play a female."  It is his problem, but due to other constraints, he made it your problem.  On the other hand, consider this as a gain:  You have experienced in a socially real sense acts of bias that real-world women deal with constantly (at least, if you listen to them talk about it, they do).  Perhaps there is a real-world lesson to be gained from fictional events.

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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2010, 07:35:49 PM »

Quoting from Callan
Quote
How were you playing/what was the social contract you were aware of? Was it don't make a move if it upsets someone, or retract it if it did? Or playing like chess, where if it's a valid move but the other person doesn't like it, tough titty for them? . . . It's kind of funny how they are probably doing it 'because it's just a game/pretend', but do they target an NPC? No, it has to be something to do with a real life player. Ie, something non game/not pretend.  I guess my point is, I've stopped games over shit like this - but if the 'move' is within the zone of valid game moves, then it was actually me being disruptive to the game. Which I'd do again - but I'd still be being disruptive.
(emphasis added)

I dunno, Callan.  That makes zero sense to me.  "Hi, I know you're playing a chick character.  Therefore, although I wouldn't do this to a female NPC I'm going to try to sexually humiliate your character as a way of being a dick to you personally.  Oh, and if you object, it's you who's being disruptive."  Surely I'm misunderstanding something?

(I should explain that this wasn't some sort of cathartic Narrativist psycho-drama where pushing people's issues is expected and encouraged.  This was, "Hey, Teen Titans!")

Yes, in hindsight we should have explicitly discussed Lines before play.  Frankly, playing an early-80's super heroes game, I figured not denigrating another player's character sexually went with the genre, and that there are some things you don't do when gaming with someone for the first time.  In other words, I assumed this sort of asinine teenager shit was a default Line unless explicitly or implicitly waived.

But I can also see that a type of player prone to this behavior might have felt it was implicitly waived:

1.  In the very first scene, the GM offered us a choice between foiling a bank robbery (my vote) or stopping a super-villainous rampage (votes of the other players).  The psychic's player jokingly said, "I mind-control her into voting with us!" and I said, "Okay, let's roll for it!" (rubbing my hands a little bit of light blood opera, which is always part of the super hero team comic).  Naturally the psychic won, which at the time was acceptable.  But this set the precedent for mind-controlling my character.

2.  During combat, the GM offhandedly mentioned that one civilian accidentally killed another, in a way that we didn't expect and couldn't do anything about.  Accidental death occurs in Bronze Age supers comics, but it's rare and never something to shrug off.  Someone observed a little sadly, "I guess this game is going there [meaning Dark Age comics]."  And that's when the Earwig character really began to get annoying.

Taken in combination, I can understand why an asshole player would think, "Oh, okay, perhaps it's permissible to sexually humilate James's character now."

Except, y'know, fuck you for wanting to do that in the first place.
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Callan S.
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Posts: 3588


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« Reply #6 on: March 08, 2010, 12:31:45 AM »

I dunno. I could describe alot of moral structures, structures which I think make sense and match up with human needs. But those structures would be made up. They wouldn't really be evidence of anything.

I just think alot of gamers have been burnt like this, and the way they react teaches them to think that it's alright and normal play to stomp on someone for making a valid game move. And also no one makes rules to fix this because people have learned the habit of always leaving it up to this social sanction level of handling.

It's just that guys like this seem to fuck up other people sticking to rules even if they get uncomfortable/leave their comfort zone a little, because of the time they stuck to the rules and just got burnt.

When play is only good when we leave our comfort zone a little. Would you say that as well?

Really here, the rules on valid actions seem to have been left wide, wide open. We could look at how to patch that, here together.

But if we just look at it in terms of how he was a fucking fucked fuckwit, we just write it off that it's just about not playing with guys like him, and how the host should have done X...and the evolution of rules just does not happen.

It's just not a solution, I think, because we need a little bit of assholism (so to speak) to push us out of our comfort zones a little bit. How little a bit - well, it's up each designer - perhaps only a tiny amount.

Anyway, my position rests on the ideas that being pushed out of our comfort zone a little bit is what makes gameplay fun and that we need a little bit of someone having the capacity to do slightly uncomfortable things, for that comfort zone shift to happen. I may be wrong in those two ideas. Certainly in gamist board games it's clear cut - no one like losing - it pushes you out of your comfort zone - yet that is exactly what gives gameplay it's zing (or a large part of it's zing, atleast). So I'll leave that as evidence, even if it is about gamism and boardgames Smiley
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Philosopher Gamer
<meaning></meaning>
James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #7 on: March 08, 2010, 05:44:33 AM »

Quote
When play is only good when we leave our comfort zone a little. Would you say that as well?

Only good when leaving comfort zones?  No.  It can be good; it's often good.  But not only good.  We might be defining comfort zone differently. 

Quote
Really here, the rules on valid actions seem to have been left wide, wide open. We could look at how to patch that, here together. . . .But if we just look at it in terms of how he was a fucking fucked fuckwit, we just write it off that it's just about not playing with guys like him, and how the host should have done X...and the evolution of rules just does not happen.

Well, in this case, the rules patch would be a Line.  Lines are basically social sanctions.

Quote
It's just not a solution, I think, because we need a little bit of assholism (so to speak) to push us out of our comfort zones a little bit. How little a bit - well, it's up each designer - perhaps only a tiny amount.

Well, I guess what I saw in this game was a type of adolescent bullying - the equivalent of one player slapping or mocking another, or pouring beer on them during play, or grabbing and tearing up their character sheet in the midst of play.  Not the end of the world!  But qualitatively different than productively forcing the players to engage in a cathartic fictional process.

As a thought experiment: Paka told a story on Knife Fight one time when a fellow player punched him in the mouth over something that happened in-game.  It certainly took Paka out of his comfort zone!  But I would have a hard time saying that's remotely productive behavior, nor do I see how someone who can't help himself from punching a fellow player would be constrained by a rule. 

I think the better thing is that at most gaming tables, "Don't punch someone in the mouth" should be an unspoken precondition to play.  I would posit that "Don't sexually denigrate another player's character without some degree of assent from that player" is probably another unspoken precondition, at least around most gaming tables.
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FetusCommander
Member

Posts: 21

also Rudy


« Reply #8 on: March 08, 2010, 09:45:24 AM »

Punching a player in the mouth is a little different from psychically manipulating someone's character in-game.

I can see it made you uncomfortable, but from a play perspective, I'd ask: was that something in the "realm" of that psychic guy's character?  From his background, it sounds not like he was being "juvenile," but that he was remaining well within character, even if the act he did was out of character offensive to you out of game (which you admitted may not have been communicated).

Were you more upset with The Beholder, who actually did the act, or The Earwig?  It sounds like Earwig was doing some obvious telegraphing of out of character intent, so I could see you being miffed at that, but the psychic seems like he was acting in a way his character would- his character being "a D&D-obsessed teenage nerd who got mind-control/hallucination powers" using the moniker of a popular monster known for psychic slavery.


I've seen this type of thing in my playgroup, but it's never gotten to the point with our group where people were really offended.  Usually, the things that really offend people are the type of metagaming you mentioned, where player intent and character intent are sorta blurred.  It's usually the fact that someone feels "boxed in" that leads to upset though, and to me, this situation seems similar.  Your character had little option but to lose, since Beholder's numerical scores made winning very difficult.  Would you have felt  as upset if you had the mechanical option to toggle out of it?  I ask that, even knowing that you've admitted this is a personal issue. 

The fact that he was egged on by another player "out of game," along with the fact that the system didn't provide much out (never played Champions, but from the way you described it, it sounds that way), would piss me off in that situation.  I wouldn't be bothered by the act of in-character sexual abuse myself.

I'm not the type of player who does things that overt, but I am the type of player, and GM, who likes to push comfort zones, even with random strangers.  The appeal for me is usually folding those people into the group (I have one of those "fucked shit" groups), but if they withdraw in an obviously out of character way, I'll back off.  If someone were to say, for example, "I don't really want to play around with stuff like that," then I won't.

The way I play is more about desensitizing, and less about violating personal authority with game mechanics, since I know that's a slippery slope.  I'd be more likely to play a villain who has rape as a central part of their backstory (I have a few characters who are rape victims, and that plays some role in how they operate), than I would be to force a pass/fail violation scenario on someone else.  The mechanics of most RPGs are such that doing that as a player, or especially facilitating that as a GM always seems like a personal attack.
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James_Nostack
Member

Posts: 642


« Reply #9 on: March 08, 2010, 10:22:10 AM »

Punching a player in the mouth is a little different from psychically manipulating someone's character in-game.

In general, sure.  But I'm using the thought experiment to show that I think Callan left out an important ingredient: you have to get players' implied consent to make them uncomfortable.  Virtually nobody gives consent to being punched.  And I don't really see how choosing to play a female character [played in a manner identical to any generic male character] gave consent to fictional-level harassment.

I should stress that this wasn't a "generally fucked shit" type of game, where it turns out Player X is having sexual relations with Player Y's aborted twin, while Player Z engages in cannibalism as a reenactment of the Last Supper.  (I'm totally down with sexual harassment in that context.) 

But this context was: plain vanilla super hero game + plain vanilla super hero scenario + "let's sexually harass James's character."  The only fucked-up shit was centered around my character's breasts.  Which gave everything a (faint) air of specific, interpersonal bullying.

Quote
Were you more upset with The Beholder, who actually did the act, or The Earwig?

The psychic guy didn't bother me that much.  I thought it was kinda dumb, but, hey--psychic guy.  He wouldn't have done anything without the other player egging him on.

Quote
Would you have felt  as upset if you had the mechanical option to toggle out of it?  I ask that, even knowing that you've admitted this is a personal issue.

Maybe?  I'm not sure what a "mechanical option to toggle out" means.  Like, I think this whole thing could have been avoided if I just said, explicitly and OOC, "Dude, WTF are you doing, and WTF does this have to do with 80's comics?  Knock it off."  If a rule could do that, great, problem solved.

I didn't feel annoyed that "by the rules" this character was permitted to do this, because there's no fiction other than what the real people create.  I felt annoyed that the act of making a largely arbitrary choice about character gender invited me specifically into this sort of nonsense.
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FetusCommander
Member

Posts: 21

also Rudy


« Reply #10 on: March 08, 2010, 10:40:24 AM »

What I mean is: what if the game provided some way you could have negated his attack?  Would you still have felt as bad about him/Earwig making the attempt, or is there some part of you that's upset about the arbitrariness of a dice role determining that your character's fiction was violated? 

People do to a certain extent make the fiction, but in some games, the dice can take it into different directions.  From what you posted though, that doesn't seem to be an issue.
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CedricP
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2010, 11:01:38 AM »

Come on, striping down a female character is not about wanting to bring interesting by pushing someone else comfort zone.

The one time I have witnessed this kind of abuse was in a old AD&D game were a character played by a male raped a female character also played by a male.

What I remember:

The player playing the male character was a good friend of the GM.
He was not a regular player and the GM was often indulging him because he was "just his buddy who want some fun playing the game".
When this friend was not at the table the GM was more involved with our group and the game.
The player playing the female character was the cousin of the GM, who often the GM dint take seriously or was joking about him.
The GM buddy wanted to have "some fun" with his character while casually resolving the adventure.
The GM cousin was really involved in the adventure and wanted to enjoy some character immersion in the "story".
The GM buddy was playing a trouble maker character and the GM cousin was playing a good natured well intentioned female druid.
The two characters where often in conflict with each other because of this.
The GM buddy character raped the cousin character while she was under a enchanted sleep.
It was a "take this" moment for him. Like if he was scoring again the other player.
I think we forced ourself to play a scene or two after this and the game crashed. We dint play again together.

I think that the GM let it pass because of his attitude toward his buddy and because of his attitude toward his cousin.
I also think that the GM buddy felt free to do this because of his relation with the GM.
Note, in this game playing a female character dint bring any social advantage, the GM dint really acknowledge the character gender, and maybe he was also taking female character less seriously.

The only other case I remember, was also a old AD&D game where one player was talking about raping a elven maiden played by a male because the character was a virgin and had a unicorn companion. It was move aimed toward the other player to strip him of his unicorn companion. In this case, yeah the female character had a direct in-game advantage because she was a female (and a virgin). But I think that there was also some conflict between those two players. Again about difference in playing agenda.
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CedricP
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2010, 11:18:24 AM »

(sorry I am still new to the "no edit" feature, some words are missing in my post)
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CedricP
Member

Posts: 25


« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2010, 11:32:52 AM »

Quote
Come on, striping down a female character is not about wanting to bring interesting by pushing someone else comfort zone.
Should read: Come on, in this case, bullying by forcing a female character to strip down is not about wanting to be interesting by pushing someone else outside his comfort zone.
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Lance D. Allen
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Posts: 1962


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« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2010, 02:05:47 PM »

Game rules can never, ever solve social problems. This is true even if the player who is the social problem will always follow the game rules. If they're just a dick, they're going to find loopholes to exploit. The game rules, in these cases, actually give their dickery a veneer of validity, because they can point to the rules that they have, in fact, followed and say "See! I'm not doing anything wrong!" If the problem player is unintentionally disruptive, game rules can help, but only with the social sanctions and reinforcement that follows from their improved behavior.

The real power to fix social problems lies in the people, not the text. If the GM, perceived as an authority figure were to say "uh, no," at the proposed action, then it probably would have never happened. If the other players were like "dude, seriously? That's dumb." or even "Superheroes working together wouldn't do that. It'd bust up the team!" it would have brought to bear the disapproval of the rest of the group on the action. At which point it either becomes openly an issue of dickery, or the dude would most likely back down, probably with a "I was just trying to be funny. Geez!" or some similar thing.

However, the situation here was difficult, because no one seemed to be certain of the rules, including the person assumed to have authority... Either that, or he was okay with it. Hence, no one felt comfortable even making a minor protest, including James, who was obviously bothered by it, or his other friends, who seemed to be as well.

It was an awkward situation. You had to choose between possibly ruining everyone's fun (including your own) or just sacrificing your own fun to avoid ruining everyone else's.
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~Lance Allen
Wolves Den Publishing
Eternally Incipient Publisher of Mage Blade, ReCoil and Rats in the Walls
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