[history of gaming] Confessions of a Dungeon Master

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Comments

  • Nah. I'm not interested anymore.
  • If you're not interested in actually communicating with people, Johnstone, I'm a little baffled as to why you're even here.
  • This might be obvious, but as usual, I think people's reactions will tend to have to do with their own experiences with such early games - as well as how they view those games of their youth now. What people call "red flags" are really ways that this resembles experiences they now view as problematic.
    Posted By: JohnstoneThe 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.
    I read the article. (One note: Psychology Today is not a psychology journal - it is a magazine for a non-psychologist audience about popular psychology-related topics.) My thoughts on this are:

    Regarding #2, I don't think that saying a character is seduced necessarily requires an explicit meta-game discussion of exactly what people's lines are. It is perfectly viable to rely on social skills to see if a players is annoyed or disturbed by this, and make it open for players to speak up. I've had plenty of games that have had lots of flirting and/or seductions without ever sitting down and having such an explicit talk. The same applies to life outside of gaming. I don't think that it necessarily requires a discussion beforehand to tell a dirty joke or to flirt with someone in a non-gaming situation, particularly when you are among people you know. Now, I have certainly seem among gamers some who lack social skills and make people uncomfortable - but I don't extend that to mean that flirting at a game is a "red flag".

    Regarding #1, again, I have run and played in tons of games where characters lie, cheat, pillage, and even kill without having explicit discussion about how such behavior isn't socially acceptable in real-life. While there are a few rare players who have issues with reality, they aren't a significant concern to me. If anything, I am looking to bring more of this back into my games. I am quite fond of many games - such as Paranoia, Fiasco, and Hellcats & Hockeysticks - where anti-social behavior is expected. I think that treating the game and in-game actions as not being real can be quite normal and healthy as a standard.
  • edited February 2012
    ............"This might be obvious, but as usual, I think people's reactions will tend to have to do with their own experiences with such early games - as well as how they view those games of their youth now. What people call "red flags" are really ways that this resembles experiences they now view as problematic.
    "..........


    Yeah. See that's my guess, too.

    But it's a guess.

    I'm not going to guess all over someone if they are not willing to cop to it.

    And if they think they have a better explanation I'd like to hear it.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: jhkimI think people's reactions will tend to have to do with their own experiences with such early games - as well as how they view those games of their youth now. What people call "red flags" are really ways that this resembles experiences they now view as problematic.
    John, I don't think this is fair. I think one can have a negative opinion about Dr. Holmes' depiction of our hobby without having been triggered by it.

    I think it's generally useful to be sensitive to potentially abusive situations, and especially so in a hobby that can test its participants' boundaries like this one.
  • For what it's worth, I find that situation to be incredibly uncomfortable to read, and I have had no such experiences, ever. Sex hasn't actually ever come up in my D&D, because we're generally out to save the world, not fuck the nagas. If the bags had been an NPC, this situation actually wouldn't bug me. However, this is the worst kind of EM trapping upon player agency that I can imagine. Whether Holmes recognized the significance of taking away his player's right to her character's virginity is another matter, but I don't think it necessarily makes him less culpable. There were lots of white people demeaning and otherwise abusingblack people in the USA before the civil rights movement began (not that there seen't today, unfortunately), but it doesn't excuse those people's actions for me to say "oh well they didn't know any better, those were different times," does it?

    If I don't get to decide whom my character has sex with, that's tantamount to virtual sexual assault through coercion. I wouldn't be a part of any game that included that. again, I think a key part of this is that this character was not a faceless NPC but a player character solely authored by a person sitting with you at the table.

    If the DM had said, "right, so we're at a tavern, who's drinking?" And I said that my character was an ascetic who'd vowed never to imbibe alcohol, and someone said, "no. remember how I've been trying to get your character to drink for the last three games? You might drink." then I look to the EM to shut this clown up and let me play my ascetic. how I want, who among us wouldn't balk if he replied with, "ok, so what's the percent chance you change your mind about your established beliefs and just slug back a beer?"

    What would it take to bother you? A Hindu character forced to roll dice to decide whether she eats a steak?

    A pacifist character forced to roll to decide whether he kills his unconscious foe?

    What is this? I don't even.
  • Pardon my instances of autocorrect.
  • edited February 2012
    Yeah, it's not (just) that it's about sex, it's that he simply doesn't accept the female player's "no". "Nope, I didn't have sex with you" "Well are you suuuuuuuure?" "Yes" "I, the GM, demand you tell me that you're not sure" "Yes, you're definitely not sure!" "Okay fine, whatever, I'm not sure". What a jerk.

    Here's how it would have gone if the guy actually believed in listening to the players:

    Snake girl: "My Naga is still a virgin."

    Lothario: "But wait, I've been trying to seduce you for the last three sessions."

    GM: "Key word is 'trying', idiot. She just told you that you failed."

    Here's how it would have gone if the guy believed in allowing all characters equal agency in sexual matters instead of forcing it on the woman's character:

    Snake Girl: "My Naga is still a virgin."

    Lothario: "But wait, I've been trying to seduce you for the last three sessions."

    GM (thoughtfully): "Well, what do you think the odds are that you would have given up trying to seduce her?"

    Lothario: "Zero! Absolutely zero!"

    Snake Girl: "No, I think it's more like 75 percent. You're a lazy asshole, you never stick to anything."

    GM (stroking chin): "What are the chances you abandoned the seduction project?"

    Lothario: "Fine! Fuck you, there's a 42.1 percent chance that I gave up trying to seduce her."

    GM (smugly rolls dice with the most satisfied look anyone has ever had while rolling dice)

    But he didn't, he only believed in forcing a sexual decision on one of the characters.
  • Posted By: StephaniePeggit'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?
    Gonna pull my girl card. I've had this happen to me in games. And I've played with a variety of genders (and transgenders, and queers, and sexually liberated folk) over the years. The account in Holmes' article is exactly how it happens. Uncomfortable pushing about sexual situations (you're the girl, why don't you just flash them your tits as a distraction? I'm totally seducing your character right now cause that's the only way I'm interested in interacting with a girl at the table. I'm pretty sure our characters have had sex at some point, even though you're saying you're a virgin) come up all the time. Actual accounts from women gamers should kinda be enough to show that yea, this kind of pushing is a thing that happens.

    I think it would be a different story if she laughed and said, yea, you're probably right, my character's a total slut. She's totally slept with you. So, who's gonna capture that unicorn then? But there was insistent refusal on her part, and then even negotiation in an attempt to save her character from being seduced. Yea, that makes me pretty uncomfortable. That's pushing.
  • edited February 2012
    It's true that we don't know how it actually went down in "reality", what actually happened. It's possible that it was just fine and dandy. But then why not talk about that? There's no particular mention of how much fun it was or how much the players enjoyed it.

    Regardless, like Jason above, I do find it very odd that the transcript we're given *does* mention the girl refusing *twice* first, *before* the other two players (the would-be seducer and the GM) decide to discuss the odds. That IS something Holmes chooses to bring out in the account, so presumably he considers it important.

    Maybe the situation was just fine... but it comes across as potentially very creepy and uncomfortable in the article.

    Anyway, it's all conjecture at this point.

    Aside from the discussion about the Naga's virginity, the only information I can see in this article about the sexual content of the game is this single paragraph:

    The sexual innuendos of my teenage Dungeons & Dragons game did not become manifest until my players reached their adolescent growth spurt. Before that, the game was all hack, slash, loot, pillage, and burn. Later, characters began to get interested in sex and, eventually, marriage.
    It's interesting how some people are interpreting this paragraph as:

    * This is an older dude with a bunch of young teens "acting out" on each other, and creating weird uncomfortable situations without any prior discussion of what they want out of the game. This girl is being bullied, basically.

    And some people are, rather, assuming:

    * This is a group of mature people who tackle love, marriage, and sexuality openly in their games, and I'm sure they have discussed this kind of issue in the past and enjoy dealing with it in play.

    I don't see a ton of evidence for either side, frankly, based on that single snippet above and the anecdote about the naga.

    The thing that bothers me, I suppose, is that there's no mention of that particular moment or exchange being a fun thing. There's no mention of this girl Cicely particularly enjoying this moment, or why it was cool, or how it fit into the bigger picture. (Like Kira says, what was the girl's reaction to this? It's not mentioned at all.) There's also no mention of discussing this, particularly, to make sure everyone's on board, whether before or afterwards. Surely in a Psychology article, this would be an interesting thing to discuss?

    If I had to make assumptions myself, I would say that, yeah, it sounds like this girl's been bullied into giving a "percentage" chance after she's clearly refused twice, and about an area of play that's clearly not the focus of the game (otherwise, wouldn't they *know* by now whether the seductions have been successful? why is her virginity *suddenly* in question?).

    How likely is it that this was actually the case? I'll give it 75% odds, and roll the dice.
  • edited February 2012
    .........."I don't see a ton of evidence for either side, frankly, based on that single snippet above and the anecdote about the naga.

    The thing that bothers me, I suppose, is that there's no mention of that particular moment or exchange being a fun thing. "........



    My guess is that either:

    1.-You're all right and Holmes is a terrible GM and a worse human being, or...

    2.-It never occurred to Holmes that he would have to remind readers that his players were having fun (obviously, duh) since they were playing a game that his players were volunteering to show up to play week after week

    ________________

    Now, (2) may seem naive to you all, but until I read Ron Edwards essay (2 years ago? 3?) about his experiences with people who are totally dedicated to D&D but hated it and never had any fun the existence of people that play and simultaneously do not enjoy the game was unknown to me. If you didn't like it, you left, period.

    (And I still have never met these people in real life.)
    _


    Before that I would've said (and many people I know would have said, and perhaps Holmes would've said) "Why on earth would anyone be playing with a group if they didn't like the playstyle? It should be assumed they'd leave if it was an issue"

    If you read about a bowling league, I used to think it's safe to assume these are people who enjoy bowling.

    Now, as I know from Story-Games people patiently explaining it to me, and to Noisms, and other clueless RPG-enjoyers (here, f'rinstance:
    http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15676
    )
    There are apparently lots of reasons that people who are not having fun play RPGs anyway. It is still strange to me, but I know now that it occurs.

    However, you have to believe me when I say it is such an alien concept (like: "I hate pizza, I eat it every day and it's terrible") to so many gamers--especially ones who saw old D&D and had a good group from day one and liked it--that it may never have occurred to Holmes (who was so excited about D&D he wrote an edition of it) that there would one day arise a whole group of people who wanted to make sure a group playing a game every day was having fun.

    And if so, it never would have occurred to Holmes that he had to include all of these tidbits reminding these future-readers-whose-concerns-he-could-not-imagine that he and his players were enjoying and had chose to play in the playstyle he was describing unless his anecdote ended with "And then that player walked away and never played again".

    __________________

    (Now, I am not saying that it would never have occurred to Holmes (or me) that players of D&D sometimes do not have fun--merely that it many circles and in many contexts it is assumed that nonfun is a catastrophic and unusual disaster and so actual fun is the default if you are describing any kind of ongoing campaign. Which Holmes is.)

    __________________

    Even now, it never occurs to me when I write an AP to remind my readers that everybody had fun. (Even though they did.) It never occurs to a lot of other people.

    However, I have seen more than one indie AP report that ended with things like "Afterwards everyone said they enjoyed the game and felt satisfied with the outcome for their characters". Which still seems like an odd thing to have to say. But I believe you when you say that it is necessary for you otherwise you might think someone didn't have fun and had been pushed around by the rules/GM/social contract.

    ___________

    Does anyone here see that?

    Outside the context assumed here in this forum in 2012 it doesn't necessarily seem oh-so-obvious that you need to report to your readership that the members of your bowling club liked bowling the way the bowling club they were members of did bowling.

    Now, again, as I've been saying all along--there's a possibility this is the tip of an iceberg and Holmes is actually a bad DM and a jerk, but the inability to see past your own context and see why Holmes may not have written the words you want to hear provides an equally reasonable explanation.
  • Posted By: Zak S
    until I read Ron Edwards essay (2 years ago? 3?) about his experiences with people who are totally dedicated to D&D but hated it and never had any fun the existence of people that play and simultaneously do not enjoy the game was unknown to me. If you didn't like it, you left, period.

    (And Istillhave never met these people in real life.)
    Zak, I think it's pretty interesting that you actually typed this entire paragraph, and then ended the post by suggesting that it's just the other people in this thread that "can't see past their own context".

    I'm glad you have never, ever experienced a bad game of D&D, or a bad group, especially at a time in your life when social issues trumped the pursuit of in-game fun. I'm guessing you've never, say, been at a family outing you didn't enjoy either, because if you weren't having fun, you would just walk away, right?
  • edited February 2012
    Are you saying I'm lying about my experience?

    Please answer that question because you have not made your point unless you think I am lying.

    If I'd written "This is the only explanation of Holmes's game: it was fun, there is no chance it was not" you'd have a point.
    My point is not that. My point is that we have to remain agnostic.

    And yes, I have walked away from many a family gathering. Though--again--the idea that your RPG people put the same economic pressure on you to do what they want you to do as a family is alien to me. Though I'm sure it's possible--it just does not match my experience.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak SAre you saying I'm lying about my experience?

    Please answer that question because you have not made your point unless you think I am lying.
    No, I don't think you're lying. I do think you seem to be pretty dismissive of anyone whose experiences don't match yours, though-- you always seem so very incredulous that anyone's life or opinions could differ.
    Though--again--the idea that your RPG people put the same economic pressure on you to do what they want you to do as a family is alien to me. Though I'm sure it's possible--it just does not match my experience.
    Well, here's a first step in making the alien human-- replace "RPG people" with "my friends". Have you ever done something to humor a friend, even if it was kind of a drag?
  • edited February 2012
    @Joe

    You seem to think I am saying something I am not saying:

    I am not saying:
    "I deny the existence of people who play a given RPG regularly but do not have fun"

    Or
    "People who play a given RPG regularly but do not have fun are bad people and wrong"

    I am saying:
    "Like many gamers, until recently, the existence of people who play a given RPG regularly but do not have fun doing it was unknown to me"

    I am also saying:
    "John Eric Holmes may indeed have been a gentleman not unlike myself in this regard, which is a plausible reason why he did not attempt, in his essay, to reassure readers at every turn that his group had fun"

    _________

    Does that make sense to you, Joe McGufin?
  • It seems very plausible that a game could be fun enough to keep playing, even if parts of it aren't fun.

    I think one big area of disagreement here is whether things relating to seduction should be assumed to be fine or assumed to be problematic. For a lot of people (including myself), the misogynist culture we live in (and the especially misogynist culture of gaming) leads to the conclusion that seduction should be assumed to be problematic, unless specific steps are taken to make it not problematic. That's far from being an uncontroversial claim, though.
  • I dont think anyone is attacking Holmes as a horrible human being or a DM that ruined peoples lives or something so drastic just that in this instance, likely without realising it, he's been a jerk to this young woman. Further that the group interactions where they flaunt social norms and behaviors is rife for causing interpersonal conflicts between people if they cant seperate game from reality and it sounds like there are crossovers (the couple, the brother-step brother, etc.)

    These characters are mostly acting like incredible jerks, as he says looting, pillaging, sticking their hands down the queens shirts. They're getting license to break societies rules and get a rush from the freedom in a safe environment where the DM is acting as a paternal figure keeping them safe. That protective role the DM is taking on gets trickier when it becomes player vs player.
  • .................."I think one big area of disagreement here is whether things relating to seduction should be assumed to be fine or assumed to be problematic. For a lot of people (including myself), the misogynist culture we live in (and the especially misogynist culture of gaming) leads to the conclusion that seduction should be assumed to be problematic, unless specific steps are taken to make it not problematic. That's far from being an uncontroversial claim, though..............


    I think that is a good point.

    For obvious reasons, over at D&D With Porn Stars we kind of have to assume the appearance of sexual themes in the game is unproblematic or else the blog is just an unending series of disclaimers and no actual writing about games gets done.

    Would you say that the lack of disclaimers in J Eric Holmes AP might be because he did not assume that matters of seduction reported publicly in a popular magazine in 1980 were going to be assumed to be problematic and he might have included such disclaimers had he known they would be?
  • Ignorance doesn't excuse sexism.
  • @Vernon

    The problem for me with everything you said is that it assumes those in-game behaviors were dealt with in a problematic way rather than that they were dealt with in a (very common) reasonable way.

    I mean, pretty much every situation he describes comes up in an AP report in some OSR blog every week and everyone had fun.

    In other words: why are you assuming the players regularly cannot separate play from reality or do not enjoy PvP play or that his social contract with this girl is definitely not the Ok kind?
  • edited February 2012
    @anansi

    I am not saying "He didn't know he was being sexist, forgive him"

    I am saying "Maybe he was not being sexist but did not know someone 20 years in the future would assume he was and so did not write defensively"
  • @anansi

    If I ask you questions about how you see the situation in this essay will you answer them, or do you just want to rest on the "exasperated Wonder Woman" card as your final word here?

    Because if you want to, I can totally ask Mandy to get on the computer and post Exasperated Batgirl right back at you.
  • I'm not making any assumptions Zak, I'm not saying for sure there's anything wrong with what he describes as play for his group. It can be tricky and it's obvious he has had problems at points where game spills to real world, i.e. the magicuser-centaur incident. I am saying it sounds like he made a mistake with the Naga and the virginity question, if you want to know why look to JDCorley's post #59 above.
  • @Vernon

    If I explain to you why JDCorley's post at #59 does not seem exhaustively descriptive of all ordinary possibilities of the facts of this case will you respond or will you not respond?
  • Zak S - I've been reading through what you and other people have had to say on this over the last couple of days, and there've been some good points but also... you're sounding pretty emotionally invested in how people interpret Holmes' conduct in a game 22 years ago.

    You made a comment about people's lived experiences. Sure, my lived experience is that when I was a teenager that kind of sexual hazing was something that happened in my group, and in OOC terms I got hit on a number of times by men up to 15 years my senior who wouldn't take no for an answer - not a graceful no, not a blunt no; my choices always devolved down to throwing a big public tantrum, cutting the guy dead, or leaving both my social group and a hobby that I liked. And of course, hurting the feelings of someone that I did like at a friendship level, which sucks to have to do. And I grew up and got a broader range of people to know, and found more of those kinds of guys, and a lot more who could be responsible for their own actions, but it's the jerks who make themselves disproportionately known. And that's in a lot of different places, not just roleplaying, but any hobby or workplace that's dominated by men - the jerks make themselves known. It's easier to cope with when you have more choices about who you're going to spend time with, but for me as a teenager, there was only one game in town.

    You mentioned having mobility? Even walking out on your family if you weren't enjoying yourself? That's a choice you get to make for yourself - for a lot of people there are often going to be social reasons for trying to make a group event work out, whether it's family or hobby related. And also, because other parts of the experience are fun and worth making an effort for. That doesn't stop it being a red flag if someone's being leaned on in the game.

    Another thought for people who are interested in textual analysis - in his article, Holmes spends a lot of time emphasising how people's characters are agents of the players, where detachment is important. They're talked about as "my thief does X", "my magic-user does Y"; they're being given the opportunity to act out compared to their regular lives; the couple of expy ports were 'failed' characters that tended to hang out at the back observing instead of engaging with the world. But the instant they start talking about sex it gets tied to real life - the hazing in the game was linked to real life sexual tension, Grog the beast was known to the player's real life girlfriend as someone she saw in the bedroom. An interesting shift, yes?
  • I wasn't being "exhaustively descriptive of all ordinary possibilities of the facts", I was just pointing out the guy acted like an ass, according to his own account.
  • edited February 2012
    @StephaniePegg

    Basically the interpretation:

    "We have no idea what these games were really like or whether Holmes was an ass"

    seems the only rational conclusion anyone can draw from this article.

    I am transcendently fascinated by the fact that there seem to be several people on this forum who actually believe they can divine more than that from this very vague article.

    I am curious.

    I want to know how this could happen.

    I will reiterate: curiosity about the varieties of gaming experience is my motive here.

    The "people bring their own baggage to the text" interpretation--while plausible--seems possibly condescending to the Holmes-Is-An-Ass people and the same goes for the "if you see sexual content in a game 20 years ago, just assume it was handled wrong because society is sexist" explanation, and I would like to give the pro-Holmes-Is-An-Ass people an opportunity to explain themselves in a more convincing light if they'll take it.
  • edited February 2012
    Dear Vernon, JD, Stephanie, Paul, Kira, Joe, and Johnstone: a timely piece of advice.
  • I didn't assume anything, I just read what he wrote.

    I didn't think it would be controversial that the guy might be an ass. Have you never been an ass in a game? I know I have. Pretty regularly! I try not to be but I'm not perfect.
  • Posted By: JoelDear Vernon, JD, Stephanie, Paul, Kira, Joe, and Johnstone:a timely piece of advice.
    I will see you in Sto'Vo'Kor!!!
  • @JDCorley

    It is not controversial that he "might have been" an ass

    It is controversial to say he "was" an ass.

    Or, in your much more aggressive, over-reachy and extreme language, he does not:

    " believe in listening to the players:"

    " believe in allowing all characters equal agency in sexual matters instead of forcing it on the woman's character:"
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak SWould you say that the lack of disclaimers in J Eric Holmes AP might be because he did not assume that matters of seduction reported publicly in a popular magazine in 1980 were going to be assumed to be problematic and he might have included such disclaimers had he known they would be?
    Well, yeah. Of course he didn't think people would see it as problematic. Why would you publish something you know people would hate? (Unless you have an axe to grind, which doesn't seem to be the case.) The question is whether he had good, supportable reasons for thinking it was non-problematic, or whether he was overlooking real problems.
    Basically the interpretation:

    "We have no idea what these games were really like or whether Holmes was an ass"

    seems the only rational conclusion anyone can draw from this article.
    I agree in absolutist terms. There is no way to really know that it was problematic. It's possible that Holmes was a very conscious feminist who had a carefully negotiated (explicitly or implicitly) framework for handling potentially touchy situations. But I think I think we can be relatively certain that it was bad, given its very close resemblance to incredibly common sexist situations (as testified to by all of the women who have posted in this thread), and it's utter lack of resemblance of the perfectly positive forms of sexual interaction that I see every day. (I am an active member of the BDSM community, so I am totally aware of the possibility for very sexually charged situations and the way they can be non-problematic.)

    I want to digress a bit and talk about the "Holmes-is-an-ass" gloss of our position. I don't think it's very fair, because we're not accusing Holmes of any special malice. The whole nature of sexism is that it's primarily unconscious and not thought about. It's more than likely that he didn't give the incident a second thought. I don't think he's a terrible person (even if our interpretation is correct) or even that he should be singled out for rebuke. Rather, he's acting as an example of the general pattern of sexist behavior which is the default, and which we would like to break out of. We're the ones doing the weird thing, not him.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak SOr, in your much more aggressive, over-reachy and extreme language, he does not:

    " believe in listening to the players:"

    " believe in allowing all characters equal agency in sexual matters instead of forcing it on the woman's character:"
    Well, his example that he chose and wrote about shows he doesn't adhere to those beliefs all the time, if he has them, so...he acted like an ass? I don't get it. I just read what the guy did and he acted like an ass. He didn't listen to the player who said "nope, I'm a virgin"and he didn't impose the same standards on both characters. I know this because he said it. He acted like an ass. What's so hard to understand?

    Edit: I am just being casual here. Sometimes perfectly normal, nice people act like an ass. Like me! He blew it, according to his own account of what happened.
  • Broadly speaking, there are a couple of things here. What I mostly disagree with is two things:

    1) The idea that if the PCs are acting anti-social, then that is inherently problematic and rife with issues.

    I don't agree about this. In lots of games - including Paranoia, Hellcats & Hockeysticks, Fiasco, Amber Diceless, Apocalypse World, and many others - I've had a lot of player characters acting like major jerks and the atmosphere among the players is that this is all in good fun. For example, I ended one Fiasco game by gunning down another PC after having set his house on fire, without having had any special negotiation over it.

    2) The idea that using die rolls to resolve seduction of a PC is sexist and related to rape as it removes sexual agency.

    This depends on interpretation. I definitely agree that there is a lot of sexism within RPGs. However, I don't think that a roll for seduction is inherently sexist or bullying. A lot of games - including many modern ones - use rolls to resolve social conflicts. For example, while I haven't seen a PC-to-PC seduction per se in Dogs in the Vineyard - I have seen social conflicts where actions are forced on another PC that involved pushing for the "Physical" dice by a kiss.
    Posted By: Paul T.It's interesting how some people are interpreting this paragraph as:

    * This is an older dude with a bunch of young teens "acting out" on each other, and creating weird uncomfortable situations without any prior discussion of what they want out of the game. This girl is being bullied, basically.

    And some people are, rather, assuming:

    * This is a group of mature people who tackle love, marriage, and sexuality openly in their games, and I'm sure they have discussed this kind of issue in the past and enjoy dealing with it in play.

    I don't see a ton of evidence for either side, frankly, based on that single snippet above and the anecdote about the naga.

    The thing that bothers me, I suppose, is that there's no mention of that particular moment or exchange being afun thing.
    I don't know where you get the above. I don't think either of the above seem at all likely, yet you are presumably saying that Zak or I are assuming the latter. In my view, people can be immature and not discuss issues - but yet still not be bullies or jerks. For example, when I watched young teenage kids in my class last year, I saw some playing Truth or Dare. They were awkward, immature, egging each other on, and didn't maturely discuss the issues raised by their game - but they also weren't being sexist assholes, and it wasn't something that I felt I had to come lecture them about. (Among other things, it was the girls who were dragging the reluctant guys into the game.)

    I agree that the situation raised in the article with the naga is ambiguous. My view is influenced by a few things. The GM does demand that there be a chance of seduction, but he accepts what the player says as the odds, and the PC is indeed not seduced in the game. That doesn't strike me as consistent with the interpretation that the GM was set on bullying the player into accepting sexual advances. Also, that the character happened to be a virgin was something that was only invented at a point in the adventure where it would be really useful to be a virgin. (While UserClone compared it to forcing a defined Hindu character to eat steak.)

    It seems to me that the general tone of his article is that the game is a fun pastime for the players. He doesn't specifically mention player-level reactions at most of the points, but unless stated otherwise, my reading is that he (at least) felt that that part was consistent with his overall point.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: jhkimThe GM does demand that there beachance of seduction, but he accepts what the player says as the odds...
    No, he doesn't. He flat insists that her first two statements are wrong and demands she set a percentage.

    He doesn't do the same for the guy in the pairing, either.
  • edited February 2012
    I can easily write a detailed version of this situation out in such a way that it is completely innocuous and ordinary sounding without changing what Holmes said happened in the text one bit--as an example of how this could've gone down and not been in any way violative of anybody's anything.

    However, I'm not going to bother to do it if:

    1) No-one will read it, or
    2) People will assume I'm asserting that's the only way it could've gone down.

    So, I am asking the Holmes-Is-An-Ass/Holmes-Is-Unconscously-Sexist people posting on this thread:

    If I write it out, will you read it and respond to it, or will you not?
  • Posted By: Zak SSo, I am asking the Holmes-Is-An-Ass/Holmes-Is-Unconscously-Sexist people posting on this thread:

    If I write it out, will you read it and respond to it, or will you not?
    I will read it and respond to it.
  • Well...I assume he put the salient features of the game in what he wrote? Why would I think there was something relevant he left out? I can do the same thing you will do, but what would be the point? He wrote a story in which he was an ass. If he didn't want to appear to be an ass he could have written it differently, yes? That's kind of been my whole point all along?
  • Posted By: JDCorleyI will see you in Sto'Vo'Kor!!!
    K'plah!
  • Posted By: JDCorleyI don't get it. I just read what the guy did and he acted like an ass. He didn't listen to the player who said "nope, I'm a virgin"and he didn't impose the same standards on both characters. I know this because he said it. He was an ass. What's so hard to understand?
    This doesn't seem particularly clear-cut to me. Let me try one possible parallel:

    The party discovers a powerful magic sword that can only be wielded by one who is pure of heart and pure of body. One player says "Hell, yeah, I'm pure of heart and body - I can take the sword." The GM questions this - saying that the wielder must never have had sex or taken a drink. The player again affirms. One of the other players points out, "Hold on, Pat's been hanging out with us in the bars for the past three adventures with all our drinking and philandering." So the GM demands a roll.


    I assert that even though the GM did not accept the players' statement as absolute truth about the character, the GM in the above is not necessarily a ass.

    I think it not necessarily behaving like an ass to treat PC temptations as something that must be rolled for.
  • I'll respond but I dont think a bunch of hypotheticals will prove anything. I dont think Holmes is being an ass more mindlessly enabling poor behaviour on the part of the guy who's trying to say he had sex with the other character (which sounds like it's crossing into real life territory).

    I'd have to echo Stephanie's observation that you seem to be very emotionally invested in how people are reading this account. You are coming across argumentative about the article and it seems to be tied to the fact that it's about gaming. People are seeing signs of sexism and I can bet there is a good chance they'd see signs of it in a ton of articles written 30 years ago about any number of activities. As someone said it was a different time.
  • Posted By: Vernon RPeople are seeing signs of sexism and I can bet there is a good chance they'd see signs of it in a ton of articles written 30 years ago about any number of activities. As someone said it was a different time.
    We're talking about Psychology Today here. Even today, it would be shocking to read one of their articles that wasn't blatantly sexist.
  • About your example John I think it's at least problematic. If that's the way the GM has run the game in the past maybe it would be acceptable but to me it's stepping on the players toes. If you've said your character is pure then who is the gm to argue that unless the player had acted in a different way in the past? Having a roll for it seems like a jerk move on the DM's part, next things the idiots in the party will be clammering about male prostitutes and making the character homosexual with a fetish for kobolds or some other craziness if the DM starts making characters roll anything someone suggests.

    If the character says he's pure let him go with it, but know he's made a commitment. If he starts acting impure then he's going to have problems with that magic sword in the future.
  • What a thread. Not that anyone needs backing up or help in this thread, but I agree with this:
    Posted By: Zak S
    "We have no idea what these games were really like or whether Holmes was an ass"

    seems the only rational conclusion anyone can draw from this article.
  • Zak is performing a classic troll: Taking an argument about what someone said, and turning it into an argument about who someone is.

    We don't know anything about Holmes, or what really happened. All we can do is interpret what he wrote, and what that scene communicates to us. To me, as someone familiar with the dynamics of sexual coersion, it comes across as super creepy. That interpretation is reinforced by the other references to rape and sexual assult in the text.
  • I fail to see how there is not an obvious parallel between making a Hindu character eat steak if he rolls poorly, and forcing a virgin character to have had sex. Whether or not I establish at the beginning of the game that my character is Hindu, if I say he's Hindu, that should be that. No damned steak. As a matter of fact, unless I have eaten steak in character, there is no reason at all to force me to roll for whether I eat steak. I just told you no. I am a Hindu.

    Or...a virgin.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Vernon RIf you've said your character is pure then who is the gm to argue that unless the player had acted in a different way in the past? Having a roll for it seems like a jerk move on the DM's part, next things the idiots in the party will be clammering about male prostitutes and making the character homosexual with a fetish for kobolds or some other craziness if the DM starts making characters roll anything someone suggests.
    Well, or the DM rolls for everybody's offscreen actions based on what other players insist the chances are.

    DM: "What? You say you went out drinking and philandering?! That doesn't sound right, what are the odds that you gave up drinking since the last session?"

    Party Dude: "Zero! The odds are zero!"

    Pureheart: "Noo, I'm pretty sure you're a boring stick in the mud. I say there's a 983.1 percent chance you're a teetotaler now."

    DM (strokes chin thoughtfully): "Can you tell me the percentage chance that you stopped drinking and philandering since the last session?"

    Party Dude: "Fine, yes, whatever! It's an 18 percent chance!"

    DM (picks up dice, smugly smiling, begins to roll)

    Or, to take it back to the original example:

    Casanova: "I've been trying to seduce you this whole time!"

    Virgin: "I said no."

    DM (stroking chin thoughtfully): "What are the odds that you heard her say 'no' and decided you didn't want to seduce her anymore?"

    Casanova: "Zero percent! Zero!"

    Virgin: "No, I'm pretty sure you respect me as a person and respect my wishes and backed off. It's at least an 80 percent chance."

    DM: "Why don't you put a percentage on the chance that you gave up?'

    Casanova: "Fine, whatever, it's a 9 percent chance I gave up."

    DM (picks up dice, smug, roll)
  • edited February 2012
    When I look past the specific instance of the retroactive naga seduction and consider Holmes' campaign more generally, I still get some seriously bad vibes.

    Holmes affirms the idea that players are not culpable for their characters' acts, even if those imaginary acts cause distress or harm in the real world. We see this when the ordinarily placid centaur player loses his temper when his PC was "robbed and abused" by the magic-user. "It's the magic-user who did that to you," says the magic-user's player. "I didn't do it, he did!" Holmes lets this assertion stand.

    His game also freely imports material from real life. Never mind the magic-user/naga sex thing; you've got players playing themselves as PCs in this game!

    It seems to me like there's a big opportunity for a bully to use the imaginary world as a fig leaf for real-world abuse. I feel that the DM in such a game, by legitimizing the character-actions-are-not-player-actions defense, would be a complicit enabler of such bullying. And in this case, the potential harm is compounded because the players are pre-teens or teenagers and the DM is not just the in-game authority figure but is the real-life authority figure as well.

    I think that if I were the adult DM for a group of D&D-playing teenagers, I would use a different approach than Holmes, and I'd monitor like crazy for this kind of thing.

    I wish Holmes were here to ask about the risks of bullying. I wonder if he ever felt like he had to confront a bully in his game, and if so, what did he do?

    Also, it's interesting that the characters are never referred to by name; they're refered to by their race or class. I wonder if the characters in this game even had names?
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Simon CTaking an argument about what someonesaid, and turning it into an argument about who someoneis.
    To play devil's advocate, it's not the trolling that's doing that; he's empathizing with a Hobby Elder, and seeing the arguments posed against the behavior that guy expressed as an attack on That Guy. And the Hobby, and likely Himself. In other words, he thinks that "we" (Story Games? Some folks? A few guys? Whatever, anyway...) are taking an argument about what Holmes said, and painting him as a creepy/ill person in real life. I don't /actually see/ that conclusion drawn anywhere above (I just reread the first page; nope! no personal attacks, just people having problems with the depiction of that one session, and making no "I bet Holmes is THIS KIND OF PERSON IN REAL LIFE" claims from there), but it's not too large of a leap for someone really invested in Holmes' character to make.

    While the behavior is kinda boorish, it's not so much trolling as the confusion of attack on behavior for attack on character. Folks* are really invested in what kind of a person this Holmes guy was!

    The best comment which underlines this thread of the discussion comes from JD: Yep, looks like the guy was being a jerk here. (followed by "I'm a jerk sometimes, too! I try not to be, but sometimes I am!")
    Not that he was a jerk In Real Life. Or a "crypto date-rapist" (WTF?) (shit, how many folks do we know who are awesome in real life but a little too aggressive at board games, video games, sports, etc)
    Nor was he a jerk in all of his games, even with women! (what's that joke about the statistician seeing a black sheep and saying "all sheep are black?")
    Plus, haven't we all been jerks at the table at least once? Let the person who was not a jerk at the table cast the first bronze d20

    Do we need to take a poll here, and every participant in this thread steps up saying "While I said that I found that behavior in the example sexist/unfun/creepy/dumb/whatever, I don't therefore imply that this is how Hobby Elder Holmes was in real life, or even in his other gaming sessione; I am simply calling upon the behavior I see in this single example" ? Cause I'd wager that most of the folks would agree to such a thing (the only one implying that this discussion is about ALL of Holmes' games and his personage is Zak), and that the only way to prove otherwise is to like look up/interview other women that Holmes gamed with at various times in his life, how he conducted himself, etc etc.

    That would be a worthless waste of time, I think folks would more than concede to the Court of the Old School Renaissance:

    "I concede that I don't know anything about this man, what he is like, or what his other gaming sessions were like. I will heartily accept that he was a Good Man, Great Friend and otherwise Excellent Game Master. I simply see the behavior in this one single example, and call what I saw. I do not therefore stain the reputation of the Gaming Elder by declaring him sexist, a rapist, a creep; just solely the behavior witnessed on the night in 1980 in Psychology Today."
    Would that allow the defense to Rest Their Case, to the satisfaction of the jury?

    -Andy

    * (well, one Folk anyway)
This discussion has been closed.