[history of gaming] Confessions of a Dungeon Master

edited February 2012 in Story Games
In 1980, John Eric Holmes, editor of the first Basic D&D book, wrote this article for Psychology Today describing what it was like to play RPGs. I think it's a priceless historical document, giving us a first-hand perspective and analysis of what "old school" gaming was actually like.

Why is a D&D writer getting articles in Psychology Today? Because he's also a practicing physician and associate professor of neurology.

Confessions of a Dungeon Master

I read it back when it came out in 1980. The image of the player characters seeing one of the DM's loving creations and walking away, uncaring, has haunted me ever since.

(spun off from the Moldvay/Mentzer thread)
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Comments

  • edited February 2012
    Holmes fascinates me, both because his Basic set is what I cut my teeth on, and because having been a grad student in neuroscience at UCLA I feel some kinship with a neurologist-gamer at USC.

    I highly recommend his novel Maze of Peril - still available from the publisher at cover price here - and concur with Delta's assessment that "To whatever degree Holmes based this on his home game, I'd have to say that it's flat-out the best conversion from game to written story that I've ever read."

    Holmes' book Fantasy Role Playing Games is harder to find and interesting mainly as an example, like his Basic Set, of early attempts to write introductions to D&D. The part I remembered being most piqued by - that his players who are medicos have a touching faith in the power of healing - turns out to be in that Psychology Today piece.

    I'm happy to lend my copies of each of these to NYCers!

    Also well worth checking out is the Holmes sub-forum on the OD&D boards, not least because it introduced me to this representation of Holmes Basic chargen as a dungeon map.
  • Posted By: TavisI highly recommend his novel Maze of Peril - still available from the publisher at cover pricehere- and concur withDelta's assessmentthat "To whatever degree Holmes based this on his home game, I'd have to say that it's flat-out the best conversion from game to written story that I've ever read."
    I would so love to get a copy (or five!) of the book, but sending a check overseas and all that seems like a daunting task to a youngling like me. Why doesn't Space & Time (time!) live in the future like the rest of us? ;____;
  • I am agog. Thank you for posting this. It's amazing how he manages to fit everything that is wrong and bad about roleplaying games into his games and this article.
    It's also shocking to me that the game mechanics he describes bear little resemblance to the rules that I only very recently read (though based on the last passage about his game, it sounds like he's playing AD&D).
  • I don't generally have the highest opinion of some of the sort of go-it-alone, disruptive play that's described in the article, but am unable to resist the irrepressibly invisible gnome.
  • @Luke Wheel

    I'm curious about what parts you think are "wrong and bad"...

    For my money, the only badwrong things evident are:

    -the young couple working out their issues at the table,

    -Holmes not being willing to kill PCs, and

    -the implication that his teenage players are sorta the stereotypical wish-fulfillment kind

    Only the second seems like it might lead to mortal sin, and even that depends on details of how he handled it which aren't given in the piece.
  • Interesting things to note: the examples include women players matter-of-factly and issues of sex, love & marriage were included in play. Did you notice that when a dispute came up about player character actions the DM used something like an Engles-Matrix roll to resolve it?

    This seems very true too:
    The "alternate universe: feel to the world of Dungeons and Dragons is produced by its social reality. It is a shared fantasy, not a solitary one, and the group spirit contributes to the tremendous appeal of the game.
    A folie à deux, trois, quatre, or cinq, indeed.
  • I had issue with his date-rape resolution for the situation with the Naga vs the Magic User. The dice make it turn out in a palatable way, but the young lady said no. What if the dice had indicated she was date-raped by her boyfriend?
    Also, everyone is acting out, behaving like jerks to one another while he blithely and blandly presides over the situation. Plus he admits he fudges against character death.
  • what is very strange about that exchange is the "twenty-five percent" the Naga's player answers with
  • Posted By: Luke WheelI had issue with his date-rape resolution for the situation with the Naga vs the Magic User. The dice make it turn out in a palatable way, but the young lady said no. What if the dice had indicated she was date-raped by her boyfriend?
    There is no date-rape, at least not in what is described. He says he's trying to seduce her. She says her character might agree. That's a different planet than rape.

    Also, Holmes went with her odds (25%). If she had said zero, I think it's fair to say it would have been zero.
  • If she had said 0% then would Holmes have said "alright, she's a virgin"?
    If so, he's a good DM, if not--that is indeed some kind of trouble.

    Though, again, aside from this weird boygirl incident....

    Where do you see: " everyone is acting out, behaving like jerks to one another "?

    (Direct quotes, if you can)

    What? Where? It sounds to me like whatever adversarial stuff is going on, the players are into it and having fun doing it.
  • Man, I remember reading this decades ago. Bits of it echoed in my head as I was re-reading. "There goes that damn gnome again." "Leaves a whole new dwarf to be desired."

    The thing that stuck out when I first read it was that the character description is given in the third person: "The gnome is going to turn himself invisible" rather than "I turn invisible". I now wonder if that was a journalistic liberty taken by Holmes, to make it immediately clear to his readers that the players didn't literally think they were turning invisible or whatever. (And I notice that the descriptions shift into first person towards the end of the article: "I'm going to get down on my knees and pray real hard.")

    Also, I don't think I've ever been in a game where someone shouted "Be ye for Law or be ye for Chaos?!" I feel like I've missed out.

  • It's hard to tell what's going on with the seduction roll. Did Cicely really think there was a 25% chance her naga would've given in? Did she feel pressured to give a non-zero answer? Would Holmes have supported her if she'd said "zero percent"? I can't tell from the text.

    Why roll at all, if "the actual conduct of our characters is up to us"? Does Holmes require the thieves to save against conscience before picking their comrades' pockets?

  • Ben, I read two men bullying a young woman to accept sexual advances.

    Zak, I call the dwarf grabbing a woman's boob while the magic-user tries to do some legitimate research and the gnome going inviso-solo while the group tries to make a decision and the thieves stealing and killing everything in sight acting out and bad behavior.

    I read it as the author putting lipstick on a pig.

    Anyway, I can't discuss this stuff on a forum. It's flaming troll bait.
    -L
  • edited February 2012
    @Luke

    You may be right that this is flaming trollbait.

    Which is a shame, because I think this gets at a real what-you-think-is-a-bug-i-think-is-a-feature philosophical difference here.

    Oh well.

    If you ever want to discuss this in a troll-free place, let me know. There are several
  • I stand by my "super creepy" asessment from the previous thread.
  • Posted By: Luke WheelAnyway, I can't discuss this stuff on a forum. It's flaming troll bait.
    I, for one, would love to have---and read--this discussion. I think that it DOES get at some fundamental differences of gaming philosophy that explain a lot about various gamer disagreements, whether online or at the game table.

    One possible solution: we trust that Story Games is a relatively intelligent, mature, grown-up place where we can have such a discussion (and ignore the trolls, if a couple do come our way).

    Another possible solution: we start a new thread, and agree to make it a thread exclusively for you two, Forge-style, no butting in. You can finish the conversation without having to fend off various other side-arguments.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Luke WheelBen, I read two men bullying a young woman to accept sexual advances.

    Zak, I call the dwarf grabbing a woman's boob while the magic-user tries to do some legitimate research and the gnome going inviso-solo while the group tries to make a decision and the thieves stealing and killing everything in sight acting out and bad behavior.

    I read it as the author putting lipstick on a pig.

    Anyway, I can't discuss this stuff on a forum. It's flaming troll bait.
    -L
    I don't mean to troll, and I don't view what you said as a troll. I just don't understand what kind of person you are. Clearly you're someone or a type of someone I've never met?

    I play D&D with my friends. We've all had sex, some of us with each other. Sometimes we joke about sex or racism. Sometimes we tease one another. Teasing is a way that we communicate affection to each other.

    No one is 'pressured' into anything. All of us are degree holding mature adults, who know what an appropriate boundary is and we speak up if someone is breaking that boundary.

    Sometimes we play characters that do awesome things, like try to seduce player characters, run around drunk and get into trouble, and sneak off when they are invisible.

    An example: One of our girls in one situation sacrificed a village child, so she could get a nice wand for her demon mentor. The mother of that child in game then put up a notice on the bulletin board that her child had gone missing, and the very next week the party (who did not know about the sacrifice, being that it was done over e-mail) was surprised to discover that the killer was one of them! (http://hackslashmaster.blogspot.com/2010/10/session-twelve.html)

    Highly entertaining play.

    Do you not have sex or sexual tension? You don't play games with people you fuck or would like to fuck? Is sexual tension not a healthy component of your life? Do the women in your life not like sex, or being pursued? Most women I've met, when I say "Oh, yeah, my character is totally going to try to fuck you." think it's cute or hot to be perused.

    I should note that because I do this, does not mean I'm a creep or in total creep mode. We have per-existing healthy relationships built on respect, openness, and good communication, which is sort of my default stance with everyone in my life (and therefore a per-requisite for gaming with someone).

    I want the characters to not be perfect. I want them to be interesting, aggressive, and get into shticks. His game sounds awesome and a lot like mine. What I don't understand (and the point of this post which I wouldn't make except for my impression that storygames is one of the more mature boards) is what are the social norms at your table?

    My assumption of your norms is that you shouldn't do anything that anyone else might dislike because the players may not be comfortable or have enough social skills to assertively communicate how they feel about that interaction? And I'm assuming that you don't play with any women (I usually have 4 to 5 players, with 2 or 3 girls, currently 4 players, 2 girls). Is it in a public area, thus limiting the topics you can discuss aloud?
  • Posted By: valis I'm a creep in total creep mode.
    Case in point.
    Clearly, my opinions are so suspect that my sex life needs to be put up for examination.
    Vally my friend, I promise my character will grab your character's boob/balls every time we play together.
  • This place is weird.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Luke WheelPosted By: valisI'm a creep in total creep mode.
    Case in point.
    Clearly, my opinions are so suspect that my sex life needs to be put up for examination.
    Vally my friend, I promise my character will grab your character's boob/balls every time we play together.

    Well, I was genuinely curious.

    Your response is enlightening; in spite of its intent.

    Edit: To clarify: equating teasing, sexual tension, and adults that are aware of their boundaries with sexual assault might be the reason behind his interpretation of my behavior as creepiness.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Luke Wheel I read two men bullying a young woman to accept sexual advances.
    That's... that's just, wow.

    I thought that was a pretty functional piece of gaming.

    (1) There's pre-existing fiction -- the earlier seductions. The fact that these parallel stuff going on in real life is perhaps unfortunate, but not automatically badwrongfun: when players know each other, this stuff is nothing to blink at. If it keeps causing trouble, then it's a problem. If it doesn't, it's life.

    (2) The players involved have come up with different ideas of what might have gone down. This also pretty clearly says that the seductions weren't played out in detail or foregrounded -- which is the time when they can also more easily go bad or cross boundaries. Not that playing out seductions is badwrongfun either, but perhaps a bit tricky if it's an older GM running a game for teenagers...

    (3) Just what went down turns out to matter, and matter now.

    (4) She says there's a 25% chance they had sex. Holmes goes with that.

    If there's something I'd point at and complain about it is the Holme's phrasing of "being talked into it". Had he said "What do you think are the chances she did it?" I don't think I'd have any complaints at all.
  • This is heavy stuff.

    But let's have this discussion without personal attacks, okay?

    If you can't do that, please step out of the thread. Thanks.
  • The pdf you linked to seems to be broken, Ben. It doesn't work for me at least.
  • Hmm, just checked and the link seems to be working. It's a must-read Johnstone, so if you still can't get it for some reason whisper me your email and I'll just send you a copy. Or send one by postal courier. Or carrier pigeon.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: valisI want the characters to not be perfect. I want them to be interesting, aggressive, and get into shticks. His game sounds awesome and a lot like mine. What I don't understand (and the point of this post which I wouldn't make except for my impression that storygames is one of the more mature boards) is what are the social norms at your table?

    If you haven't already, you owe it to yourself to snag a copy of Monsterhearts. This sounds like your cup of tea, and more to the point, that of your gaming group.
  • It's pretty interesting reading someone's take on gaming social dynamics back in 1980, but yeah, the Adventures of Cicely the Naga made me feel off when I read that article a couple of days ago. Thinking about how Me As Teenager would have reacted if that had happened in the group that I gamed with back in the 90s - I would have felt uncomfortable and isolated and not able to talk about it with people. If it had happened to Me As Adult right about now... well, it just wouldn't happen with the people I roleplay with regularly - we play out character relationships pretty often, but trying to assert that a seduction happened in the past with a dice roll? It just wouldn't happen. If you want to seduce someone, in game or out, then actually seduce them and give them a chance to negotiate it. If it happened at a convention, with someone I didn't know so well, I'd either be speaking up straight away or walking out of the game or just not roleplaying with them again, depending on the vibe of the group and the expectations I'd had when the game started.

    How Cicely felt about it, 22 years ago? No idea. She might have experienced it as a form of flirting with a guy she felt comfortable with; she might have felt creeped out or coerced in a way that Holmes observing from a position of privilege didn't notice. I just have no idea. Since then, there's been an entire wave of feminist theory, and two big waves of roleplaying innovations, and Holmes' account is like looking at a time capsule. If nothing else, did you guys note the crack about whether Cicely in real life made her saving throw. That kind of joke in a psychology journal?
    Posted By: valisWe have per-existing healthy relationships built on respect, openness, and good communication, which is sort of my default stance with everyone in my life (and therefore a per-requisite for gaming with someone).....
    My assumption of your norms is that you shouldn't do anything that anyone else might dislike because the players may not be comfortable or have enough social skills to assertively communicate how they feel about that interaction? And I'm assuming that you don't play with any women (I usually have 4 to 5 players, with 2 or 3 girls, currently 4 players, 2 girls).
    It sounds like your group has negotiated its boundaries about where its comfortable roleplaying, and that's great. But, y'know, it's pretty easy to find internet accounts of sexual hazing that's targeted at female players in roleplaying groups, particularly when they're teenagers, and particularly when they're interacting with teenage boys. It's not always rainbows, y'know?
  • I think Luke's observations are pretty spot-on. There's a lot of context missing from Holmes' account, but man, there's also red flags all over the place.
  • edited February 2012
    Holmes clearly said that sex was not a foreign topic in the game -- so presumably the players were on board. While it's definitely true that people can end up playing in uncomfortable situations and feel forced to continue, there's no real evidence of that here. It may have been the case, but we weren't there, and I have no particular reason to assume the worst.

    Obviously the boyfriend is acting a dick in saying "I think we had sex" when she had just said her character is a virgin.

    So how do you think Holmes should have handled it? (Assuming he has to hand all the tools an modern older dirty-hippie story gamer running an old-school D&D game for teenagers focused on wish-fulfillment and oddball hijinks has. ...let's not try to guess which innovations he might have had access to or not.)

    The options I can see all seem inferior to the one he picked:

    - Ask Cicely to decide. Talk about being put on the spot! This doesn't sound like a good one to me at all.

    - Ask them to negotiate it, now. Same thing, again. This is where pressure can be applied.

    - Play a flashback scene to determine what happened. Same thing, plus it interrupts the game severely. Focus was on the unicorn, now it's not. Others are going to feel voyeuristic, since they explicitly know the purpose of the scene is to determine if sex happened or not. Yuck.

    - Make it a fiat. "You did/didn't." Complete loss of agency. Even worse. At least with dice it's impartial and you had a chance to say how likely it seemed.

    - Make it a fiat againt the boy. "You couldn't get it up." ...serves him right for being a dick, but not what I would recommend either, as it removes agency from both Cecily and him -- and humiliation is never good.

    - Say that since it hadn't been established at the time, it didn't happen. This has possibilities, but also removes a whole bunch of veils. Earlier the players might have been comfortable with their characters going for romantic walks and whatnot -- and now the GM is saying that they need to let the others know if they start having sex. Um. No thanks.

    ...ok, now that I've written that I *can* see two options that could have worked fine:

    (1) "It doesn't matter if you said yes or no, you would not have had the privacy to do anything." Fine, though considering the ingenuity of horny teenagers I call this patently unrealistic. :) ...but it would have flown unless the opportunity had been clearly established.

    (2) The second the boyfriend pipes up with his "wait a minute" crap, shut him up with: "I think she knows if she's a virgin or not." This might have worked fine, but it is a putdown, and also a question of established procedures of play: they might not have had explicit rules about this, but they sure as hell had a praxis. Would Holmes have been out of line to squash the comment? Or would it have been inside his purview? (I also get the impression that Holmes isn't acting as any kind of authority -- aside from what happens in the game world -- but keeping out of the way, not acting as the chastising adult.)

    Still, as on the spot-rulings go, going to the dice on the odds she gave? Fine.

    Really. Put yourself in Holmes' shoes, and ask what you would have done. (If your answer is that you would never have run a game like that, fair enough.)

    EDIT:
    If nothing else, did you guys note the crack about whether Cicely in real life made her saving throw. That kind of joke in a psychology journal?
    Yeah. I read it as a dig at the boyjerk.
  • @Johnstone

    You were right, the link is broken. It apparently only shows people what they want to read.
  • Posted By: Ben RobbinsBut let's have this discussion without personal attacks, okay?

    If you can't do that, please step out of the thread. Thanks.
  • Posted By: nikodemus- Play a flashback scene to determine what happened. Same thing, plus it interrupts the game severely. Focus was on the unicorn, now it's not. Others are going to feel voyeuristic, since they explicitly know the purpose of the scene is to determine if sex happened or not. Yuck.
    I think that, given the assumption that this is a group which enjoys dealing with this kind of material and is capable of handling it in a mature fashion, this would be have been a *fantastic* choice. It would be a cool in a movie or a book, and even cooler right there at the table. A good "story/hippie games" choice, also.

    Given your average gaming group, one where we don't know the dynamics well enough to say what's what, however, much better to just let the whole matter slide, for all the reasons Stephanie mentions up above.
  • edited February 2012
    The weird thing to me about it is, why is there even a discussion about the sex/non-sex? Shouldn't that have happened, y'know, when it happened in the fiction? Direct quote from the article:

    ...Remember my magic-user has been trying to seduce her for the past three games. I think there's a good chance he may have done it.

    Was this not rolled for/decided when the magic-user tried to seduce her in those past three games? Why is it being brought up again? He's not trying to seduce her now, he's just calling on the fact that he tried in the past. That's the baffling part.

    Player: "But shouldn't my character have a hundred more eeps because I tried to kill that troll the last three sessions?"

    GM: "Ok, roll to see if you killed him".
  • "It was a different time, bro," ...and just leave it at that, I think.
  • Posted By: Andy"It was a different time, bro," ...and just leave it at that, I think.
    Because there are definitely no creepy sexual situations in games now, right? And these days no one tries to make excuses for such creepy behaviour?

    If things are any different these days, it is because of people actively challenging fucked-up behaviour, because of people critically examining things which are problematic. So let's not leave it at that.
  • I think Hans has a point and to me the answer is one of the interesting things about gaming in that era or mindset if you're trying to get back to that play. I'd guess that it's a part of the whole all the rules are up for negotiation aspect of early D&D or "Rulings not rules" as the saying goes. There's no actual established proceedure just the dm deciding what happened based on his best reading of the situation.

    As for the sexual content, there are definite alarm bells ringing in the situation but I dont know that it's any worse than a multitude of other situations with teenagers interacting especially with a group of mostly boys with a few girls.
  • edited February 2012
    .........."It was a different time, bro," ...and just leave it at that, I think........

    ...or maybe it was the same time and people are reading into it based on some assumptions about what could have happened rather than remembering we are talking about an actual real incident that we don't know anything about.
  • edited February 2012
    See, here's the thing: Holmes is actually talking about what Luke calls "acting out," and he's essentially encouraging it.
    Posted By: J. Eric HolmesIn order for the game to provide vicarious release for unacceptable behavior, the entire group of players must go along with the convention that game roles are independent of the actual players.
    The second half of that sentence is a pretty obvious part of playing role-playing games, but the first half makes it clear that Holmes is very interested in the differences between real-life behaviour and the way people act when they can create "alter egos" in his game world.

    Essentially, he's saying he introduces the players to a fictional setting, and allows the players' characters to do whatever they want them to.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, Zak, but I believe this is what you would call "a feature, not a bug." And frankly, any debate over whether this kind of game is "good" or "bad" is meaningless. If that's the game everybody wants to play, that's what matters. However, we can start to see a problem here:
    Posted By: J. Eric HolmesDuring a lull in the action, I am apt to receive several notes from those present: "My thief is going to pick the paladin's pocket." "My magic-user is casting a Detect Magic on the staff the gnome just found." "My dwarf is going to slip some of the unknown potion into the elf's canteen." While I do have difficulty, sometimes, deciding (and remembering) who did what to whom, the players never erupt into bloodshed. The characters do, rather frequently.
    Again, if this is the game everybody agreed to play, cool beans. Some people like this kind of game. Sometimes I like playing this game. Nothing wrong with that, unless there's somebody playing who doesn't want to play that kind of game. And right before that paragraph, we have this:
    Posted By: J. Eric HolmesOne teenager, who rarely complains, objected with untoward violence when his centaur character was robbed and abused by a character of his stepbrother's. "It's the magic-user who did that to you," protested the other lad; "I didn't do it, he did. He's a thoroughly despicable person!"
    Here we have not only one player who doesn't want to play this back-stabby game, we have another player using the "it's what my character would do" defense. This is a pretty old issue for some people, and maybe Luke can provide some links, as he's railed against it enough times. It's an incredibly poor excuse for making a game experience shitty for someone else. It's a manipulative tool for avoiding any discussion about other peoples' dissatisfaction with a game. If everybody is on board with playing that kind of game, you never have to say this.

    I'll also note that these are players from the group of kids Holmes says he has been running D&D for since they were quite young. He is an authority figure for these kids, both as an adult and as the DM. But instead of mentioning any sort of negotiation with the players to see what kind of game they might like to play, instead of seeing whether this one player might be tired of constantly being fucked over by the other players, instead he revels in this sort of disagreement. He's deliberately giving his players a venue for "acting out" and allowing them to engage in behaviour they know is socially unacceptable, whether or not the other players are on board with this kind of game or not. Whether he makes this clear up front, or whether new players have to discover this in play is unclear, although I suspect the latter.

    So that's the first red flag. Granted, this is 1980 and there's not a whole lot of variety in game styles, like there is today. At this point in time, there's really only one play style for Holmes to present as an option to players, and it's heavily influenced by the competitive nature and "tough guy" stance in wargames. Even so, he represents himself as putting no effort whatsoever into accommodating the game to any of his players' preferences.

    And, I should point out I'm not particularly concerned with what really happened. Obviously, we don't know very much about what happened, since we have only Holmes' rather truncated anecdotes to work with. It's the way Holmes represents himself and his game that I'm taking issue with.
  • And yeah, fine, I'll tackle the sexual content in this article.
    Posted By: J. Eric Holmes"My Naga is a virgin, of course," said one player.
    "Now wait a minute," said one of the males, "remember my magic-user has been trying to seduce her for the past three games. I think there's a good chance he may have done it."
    There was a minute pause. Everyone knew that the same tension existed between the young couple at the table that now made itself felt between the two imaginary personages in the magical garden.
    "Do you think that's possible, Cicely?" I asked.
    "I think she'd refuse."
    "What do you think the chances are that she got talked into it?" I asked.
    "Fifty percent," said the young suitor.
    "Twenty-five," said Cicely.
    So first we have a player declaring her character is a virgin, so she can attempt to take a unicorn. Then we have another player essentially back-stabbing her character, in keeping with the behaviours I noted in my last post. And he essentially does this because he wants to bone her in real life.

    Let's take a detour here. In this article, Holmes doesn't really give a shit what the characters are doing. This article is about the behaviours of the players. At the beginning of the article, he seems concerned with the way player and character (or "alter ego") behaviours are so different. When he moves on to sexuality in his game, he's discussing the ways in which real-life stuff makes its way into the game. He maybe could have done this when the one player is protesting being back-stabbed by his step-brother. Are these in-game rivalries reflective of real-life bullying? But no, Holmes goes for the salacious details.

    Now, obviously Holmes can't mention this in the Psychology Today of 1980, but if we're talking strictly about characters here, he's declaring that there's a 25 per cent chance of this Naga* character getting fucked in her snake pussy. That's pretty weird. Certainly weirder than one player hitting on another in the game. Maybe it's not "creepier," being fictional (or maybe you think it is creepier, I dunno, but that kinda has to reflect on the players to, doesn't it?), but it's certainly weirder.

    *(As another aside, I thought nagas were giant snakes with the faces of women, like the golden-faced naga from an early Conan comic. A google image search keeps bringing up pictures of the Marrilith demon, though, so maybe that's what they were thinking of in Holmes' games. Still, both of those have snake pussies.)

    But that's not the issue here. Holmes is concerned only with player behaviour. So let's go back to that. This male player says his character has been trying to seduce this Naga for the three previous sessions. Did he just make this up now? If so, that's a bit of a dick move. If not, if he's been role-playing or describing advances for these three previous sessions, then she said "no" to him for three previous sessions. and she did it again by declaring her character a virgin.

    After Holmes gets involved in this exchange, she says "no" again, by saying "I think she'd refuse." But Holmes doesn't let it go. He wants a percentage chance from her, and the male player won't even give her a chance to respond before he's pushing a number on her.

    So yeah, we don't know what really happened. We don't know how she felt about it. But there's a fuck of a lot of red flags in there, and simply ignoring them is gonna make you look like a creep, much like Holmes makes himself look like a creep.
    Posted By: J. Eric HolmesAnd what about the young lady and her suitors? Did Cicely, like her Naga, also make her saving throw? I'm too chivalrous to ask, but I think I know the answer.
    The dice never lie.
    Oh, you're too chivalrous to ask, but you're not too chivalrous to publish this shit in a magazine? I know Stephanie called this a joke, but I can't even call it that. This is straight-up unsubstantiated gossip, with little or no analysis as to why this is actually a matter of academic interest.
    Posted By: J. Eric HolmesWhen Grog went into action, several of the rest of us turned to her. "That's Grog," we explained. "You've probably never seen Grog before."
    "Oh yes," she corrected us sweetly. "I think I've been in bed with Grog several times."
    John Eric Holmes, you a gossipy muthafuckah! Yes you are!

    Not that I'm particularly surprised. I've seen this kind of attitude before in academia, primarily in Classics, actually. Not that I'm condemning an interest in salacious details, mind you, but using academia as an excuse to spread salacious gossip is a bit like school in the summer: no class.

    And that's not what I want representing me, or my hobby.
  • edited February 2012
    So Holmes presents one person complaining once about a centaur and this somehow lends credence to the theory that Holmes is regularly running a game that many people at the table don't want to be involved in and being a total jackass to this female player while doing it to boot?

    A. Everybody knows that some DMs are jerks--there's no need to take that out on Holmes.

    B. Everybody knows that women are sometimes harassed through the medium of RPGs--there's no need to take that out on Holmes.

    C. Everybody knows that different people like different playstyles--there's no need to take that out on Holmes.

    I see this guy not-defensively writing an article about his game and then people using it to score polemical points (and prove they know points A, B, and C) rather than to talk about what it actually says and I hope to God if any of you are game designers this doesn't happen to you after you die.
  • Posted By: JohnstoneIf not, if he's been role-playing or describing advances for these three previous sessions, then she said "no" to him for three previous sessions. and she did it again by declaring her character a virgin.

    After Holmes gets involved in this exchange, she says "no" again, by saying "I think she'd refuse." But Holmes doesn't let it go. He wants a percentage chance from her, and the male player won't even give her a chance to respond before he's pushing a number on her.
    Yeah, this is a big, big problem. He simply did not accept the player's decision. He demanded that she give it up to the guy. "I wonder why women think this hobby is creepy."
  • edited February 2012
    Zak, it's cool with me if you have a different opinion about the article. I stated my concerns with it and I stand behind them.

    But I'm not arguing for any theory about Holmes' regular game. All of the incidents he describes could very well be isolated and exceptional, but these are the incidents he uses to represent his game in this article, which is what I take issue with. I don't give a flying fuck what really happened in his game.

    The two issues represented in this article that I have a problem with are:

    1. Character vs. character activity and other socially-unacceptable-in-real-life behaviour in the game is great and you don't need to discuss it with players, even when they complain about it.

    2. It's also great when sexual agendas are played out in the game, and you don't need to discuss whether anyone is comfortable with this or not.

    It's the blatant lack of any sort of discussion between himself and the players about the game that I think is a bad message to send out. So yes, I am going to "take that out on Holmes." He's the one who wrote the article.
  • Did it not occur to you that just because it's not discussed in the article that doesn't mean it wasn't discussed in real life.

    I mean: do you assume that he didn't let the players eat anything all day because there's no discussion of snacks or that they played in the dark because there's no discussion of the lighting?
  • Zak, that's a ridiculous question. I've addressed the article at length already. If you disagree with my analysis, you can just say so.
  • I disagree and I do not know what possibly could have prompted a reasonable honest person to assume there's any reason to say it and I think it is kind of offensive and over-reachy and frankly a little scary considering how many people put actual-play reports on-line without a thought to how it looks to someone capable of turning Exhibit A into Argument B.
  • You find it scary that somebody on the internet might say something bad about somebody else's actual play report?
  • edited February 2012
    I find it scary that you might accuse a person of sexual harassment (which--I dunno about you, but where I live is serious business and a felony) based on an actual play report simply because you are assuming any mollifying event not explicitly described for your 20-years later benefit did not take place.

    I mean, I'm lucky: most of my players are girls, I don't have to worry about this.

    But do you really assume someone is sexually harassing their players if a sexual situation comes up in an AP and they don't fall all over themselves making disclaimers ?

    This is a crime you are accusing the man of--or saying "There are serious red flags" concerning.

    Every time a Carcosa game gets talked about and the blogger doesn't explicitly say "I checked to make sure these adult themes were acceptable to my players before beginning" do you assume they didn't and think "Gee that guy probably just committed a felony"?

    This is a serious question.

    Because, for me, knowing what your players are and are not ok with is as fundamental to DMing as turning the lights on.

    If Holmes did that: Good.
    If he didn't: Bad.
    Which one was it? We don't know.
    Why make conjectures? What do we get?
  • Well, I think that's quite a stretch Zak, but if you get the impressions from any of my posts that I'm accusing someone of criminal sexual harrassment, I apologize.
    I mean no such thing. I made no claims about what actually happened, and I feel that I have explained myself adequately in this regard.
    I'm sorry if you don't understand that.
  • Holmes makes "himself look like a creep" (in your words) to you because--I think--you are looking for Red Flags.

    You are looking for this to Not Be Ok.

    I think the reasons you are looking for reasons for this to Not Be Ok are actually more interesting here than some violative behavior that did or didn't happen 20 years ago or whether some author of some article ticked your Trigger button accidentally by not sharing your assumptions about What Ways Of Talking Make You Think Someone Sounds Like A Creep.
  • edited February 2012
    If you're not interested in actually communicating with people, Zak, I'm a little baffled as to why you're even here. I don't think I have anything else to say, really.
  • edited February 2012
    I keep asking questions, you keep assuming they are rhetorical and not serious and not answering them.

    1. How is this different from assuming he didn't turn on the lights or let his players eat?

    2. Every time a Carcosa game gets talked about and the blogger doesn't explicitly say "I checked to make sure these adult themes were acceptable to my players before beginning" do you assume they didn't and think "Gee that guy probably just committed a felony"?

    3. Why make conjectures? What do we get?

    4. So Holmes presents one person complaining once about a centaur and this somehow lends credence to the theory that Holmes is regularly running a game that many people at the table don't want to be involved in and being a total jackass to this female player while doing it to boot?

    5. Why would you (or anyone) assume that he was playing a style of game his players did not want to play?

    I know that all this may be so obvious to you that you don't think you need to answer--or you may think you have already answered, but I don't get it and am asking specific questions and would benefit greatly if specific answers are given.

    Answer those questions, then accuse me of not wanting to communicate.

    Or ask one of your own and then see if I don't answer.
This discussion has been closed.