[history of gaming] Confessions of a Dungeon Master

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  • Well, I'm not so much concerned about the extreme edge of accusations of sexual harassment - but more about how the described behavior is bad regardless of social circumstance.

    So first the agreement part - weird sexual issues do certainly come up in games. I am reminded of an old thread on The Forge that I start called "Horseplay gone too far?" There I had some issues in a Lord of the Rings game, when I shapeshifted to a horse and went to interact with another horse - and the GM rules that the horse was a stallion, implying that talking was out of the question because he just wanted to mate. (And when mating was questioned, he rules that as a human transformed, my horse form was constantly in heat.) That to me was definitely an odd sexual dynamic - but in part because I knew the social circumstances, since the player was me.

    However, I don't see that this case necessarily problematic, though it could have been. In many games that I've been in, things were left undefined unless they were important for the plot. So, for example, two characters might flirt during scenes of the game, but it is never brought up as part of the game whether they have slept together. That is left discretely undefined, until it is important for the plot to know - such as needing to know virginity for the unicorn.

    If Holmes' game were similar to games of my experience, then the GM would have asked a roll for the boy player if it was important to know that for the current action. If the only thing important for the action to resolve was the virginity, then that's all he'd roll for. However, I could picture the following happening:

    Boy player: "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."

    GM: "Do you think that's possible, Cicely?"

    Cicely: "I think she'd refuse."

    GM: "What do you think the chances are that she got talked into it?"

    Cicely: "Well, have I seen him flirt or seduce anyone else? That would majorly affect the chances."

    GM: "Well, Richard?"

    Boy player: "No way. I only have eyes for you, babe."

    Another player: "Dick, you totally would have hit on the bar maids. That's what your last character did."

    Richard: "No, I'm a one-naga man." (lamely)

    GM: "OK, I'll set it at 50%."

    Obviously, this is hypothetical, but that's one way that I would interpret the GM's actions in this case. While a double-standard could be at work, it is also consistent with the approach I'm showing here.
  • Feminist culture (read: third-wave-internet-feminist culture) tends to see call-outs as inherently useful. The argument goes: People's assumptions and instincts are shaped by the culture around them. That culture makes a lot of bad assumptions and tolerates a lot of bad things. Therefore we should point out the bad assumptions and bad things, so that people can train themselves to notice and avoid them.

    I think if there hadn't been disagreement (if this were on a site populated mostly/solely by feminists, for instance), we would have said, "That was weird and rapey", and then everyone would have said, "Yeah, it was", and then we would have gone on to more interesting things.
  • This is a site populated mostly/solely by feminists. If you can find a single person on the thread who doesn't claim to be a feminist I'll give you 10 bucks.
  • Posted By: Zak SThis is a site populated mostly/solely by feminists. If you can find a single person on the thread who doesn't claim to be a feminist I'll give you 10 bucks.
    If that's true (I'd doubt it, but ok), then replace "feminist" with "the corners of the 3rd-wave feminist blogosphere that I'm familiar with".
  • Posted By: Zak SThey're using her possible predicament to...I don't know "Prove to other people on a forum that they are good people?" I don't know.
    Which means that you're trying to prove to the forum that... what? Because it clearly means a whole lot to you.

    Would you consider that these people who've been spending hours arguing with you aren't trying to present themselves as morally superior, but maybe have a real concern about how their friends get treated. Not just twenty years ago, but in the here-and-now. Or that there are people they'll never get to make friends with that they'd like, because the public face of roleplaying has sexist aspects and that discourages interesting people from even saying hello.
  • edited February 2012
    @stephaniepegg

    I already explained my motive for being on this thread in comment #79

    If you think that I am lying in comment #79, then explain why you think that.

    If people are concerned about how their friends get treated then they should start a thread about actually that and not use another human being in a much more ambiguous situation than we'd encounter if we were watching a real gaming table as a framing device or pedestal.

    It cheapens a serious issue by tying it tangentially to a place where it may or may not apply
  • edited February 2012
    [removed because I realized I don't want to engage this.]
  • @PeterBB: For reference, I identify strongly as a feminist. If you're interested, here's the articles tagged "feminism" on my blog:

    http://jhkimrpg.livejournal.com/tag/feminism

    As for what I'm trying to prove...

    I think my motives are to portray sex and flirting as at least potentially positive, rather than assuming that sexuality is all about danger and rape and negativity.

    My impression is that many interpretations here portray the player Cicely as a hapless victim being bullied, that her accepting a chance of her character having sex must mean that she was abused into doing so, and in general that having sexuality in the game is a dangerous, problem-laden thing that requires lots of serious, mature discussion or else it will be rape-like.

    That just doesn't sit well with me. I know that rape-like circumstances happen, but I dislike the interpretation that - say - any seduction of a PC is inherently problematic and rape-like. I feel like there should be some acknowledgement that at least in some circumstances, a player might have fun in a game where you roll to avoid being seduced.
  • @StephaniePegg

    The drow were introduced in G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King published in 1978.
  • @JimLotFP: Ta.

    @jhkim: Thank you. I think that portrayals of seduction in roleplaying aren't as of right problematic and can be done well, but that this particular instance as described by Holmes in the particular language and context he used implies a reasonable likelihood that it was problematic and involved danger and rape and negativity. I have no idea what real life Cicely thought about it all - but it shares characteristics with the lived experiences that me and friends of mine have had that were unpleasant, and targeted at us because of our gender.

    I think that Zak S has a presumption that where there is doubt, public opinion should by default side with the men in the equation. I find this also to be problematic.

    Anyway, it's late, I'm tired, and incidentally away from the keyboard for a few days, and the conversation will either have died or moved on without me by the time I'm back. Good night, all.
  • @StephaniePegg

    I did not say that we should "side with the men". I said the default assumption should be "do not pick a side" period.

    That is profoundly different.
  • I do not directly identify as feminist, as such (though in the interest of full disclosure, there is a special place in Hell for misogynists). However, accepting that a person is something as fundamentally simple as being a virgin (especially in the sensitive contexts of sex and sexuality) is not a problem for me. I only turn to the dice when I feel that things are both important AND uncertain. In this case, the former was true, bot not the latter. And not trying to tell a woman that "yeah, he might have fucked you after all" isn't what I would consider feminism. I would call it "common decency."
  • edited February 2012
    This is an incredibly frustrating thread, but at the risk of beating a dead unicorn:
    Posted By: PeterBBJackass was being a bully, and Holmes did not see the problem with this. If he saw a problem with it, he should have acted to stop it, rather than facilitate it. EDIT: And I think it's pretty clear that we're meant to assume they identified with their characters.
    I don't see that at all. They're explicitly acting out. They have clear boundary between players and characters. There's also this:

    "In order for the game to provide vicarious release for unacceptable behaviour, the entire group must go along with the convention that game roles are independent of the actual players."

    That's pretty explicit. Obviously there was bleed. There's always bleed. Going to dice is a good way to control bleed, because it reduces identification. It also reduces agency, yes, but that's part of controlling bleed. The more freeform you go the easier bleed gets. No, Holmes probably didn't think of it in terms of bleed.

    Holmes also mentions that they'd had players playing themselves. I find this consistent with low character identification: we used to do a fair amount of this, and while those games were weird they also tended to distance the player very quickly from the character -- if you try to identify with yourself as a character in a game it either becomes very boring or way way too troublesome, so in my experience the typical reaction is to step back. (Which is also why those characters didn't happen in high-identification games. They would not have been fun.)
    Posted By: JDCorleyWhat do you mean "why would she have responded?" Because she's roleplaying
    Because that wasn't relevant at the time? Because while the seduction situation was presented in the game, the details were not played out but rather veiled? Because possibly most of the time, in that game, only two people who would need to know their characters are having sex are their players -- who would quite possibly talk about that outside the gaming table. I've played in several games like that.

    Here's how such a thing can appear in game:

    A: My character brings out the wine, and asks your character to come for a walk. "We can find a nice place to sit, look at the moon, and talk of small things."

    B: "I'd like that."

    A: We come back, what, two hours later?

    B: Sounds about right.

    Maybe A thought they had sex. Maybe B thought they had sex. Maybe not.
    Posted By: StephaniePeggOK, so can your point be summarised as: "the act of calling something sexual harassment is more serious than the act of being sexually harassed"?
    I know that wasn't directed at me, but... ouch. Obviously not.

    If anyone says they have been sexually harassed, the obvious correct assumption is that they're right and know what they're talking about.

    If anyone is present when something that looks like sexual harassment occurs, the obvious correct action is intervention.

    ...but we're not talking about either of these. We're talking about putting an interpretation on something that happened over 30 years ago without having ever laid eyes on any of the principals, and having only a single account of the situation -- from a popular magazine, strongly tinged with the sexist language of the period.

    (Yes, a lot of the language in that article is sexist. It is also par for course: it's that not sexist for a 1980 rag. It's also pretty clear Holmes wasn't at the forefront of feminist thought -- that still doesn't mean we get to point a finger and call it harassment from here.)

    I don't for a moment dispute that it could have been harassment. I don't see that as the obvious reading, though.
    Posted By: jhkimMy impression is that many interpretations here portray the player Cicely as a hapless victim being bullied, that her accepting a chance of her character having sex must mean that she was abused into doing so, and in general that having sexuality in the game is a dangerous, problem-laden thing that requires lots of serious, mature discussion or else it will be rape-like.

    That just doesn't sit well with me. I know that rape-like circumstances happen, but I dislike the interpretation that - say - any seduction of a PC is inherently problematic and rape-like. I feel like there should be some acknowledgement that at least insomecircumstances, a player might have fun in a game where you roll to avoid being seduced.
    QFT.

    For the record, Zak's "Interpretation B" was pretty much my first reading. Yes, I can see how it could have been terrible as well. We don't know. The obvious reading to me is boyjerk being a horny teenager, and Holmes using this as an example of how sexuality could come up in games without it being all wet and explicit. He's also telling how he and the rules mediated the situation.

    Yes, it could have been a terrible situation, and yes, Holmes may even be trying to put a spin on it. It could also have been fun for everyone involved. Or it could have been an inconsequential speedbump en-route to the unicorn. We don't know.
  • Posted By: Zak SI did not say that we should "side with the men". I said the default assumption should be "do not pick a side" period.

    That is profoundly different.

    Well that pretty much sums it up.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Zak S"You are trying to convince her to sleep with you, right? Ok, you-- is your character going to resist his charm"
    "Yes"
    "How hard?"
    "Only 75%"
    But he didn't ask Lothario how hard he was trying to convince her to sleep with him, or how dedicated to the idea he was, or roll any dice to see if he actually did what he was attempting to do. "Sorry pal, you only rolled a 4. You flat gave up when she shot you down over the last three sessions." He didn't question Lothario's attempt at all, only hers.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: nikodemusBecause that wasn't relevant at the time? Because while the seduction situation was presented in the game, the details were not played out but rather veiled? Because possibly most of the time, in that game, only two people who would need to know their characters are having sex are their players -- who would quite possibly talk about that outside the gaming table. I've played in several games like that.
    Sure, but she gave a clear answer to this twice, in the article, and nope, that wasn't good enough. She said what happened! She really did, guys, it's in the article, you can go and read it, it's not that long.
  • edited February 2012
    And on that note, we've reached the "Board Game of Risk" stage; army washes over China from the left, taking all the territory; army washes over China from the right, taking all the territory, and so on in an endless cycle.

    This is a good place to wrap up. Thanks to those who contributed charitably!

    Also, while this thread has been... accumulating... there's been the creation of lots of interesting threads, many of positive bent, some of the finest in recent history! Go browse around the rest of the front page.

    A random selection:

    Bite Sized AP for February (Bite Size AP is all about what we're about): http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15750

    A Tale of Two Maps (revisiting classic D&D and rules you may have forgotten about): http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15909

    A Cool Thing Happened in my D&D Session: http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15822

    Help Me Make My Dungeon Awesome: http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15923

    Beat Yourself Up About Your Bad GMing Habits (a kind of workshop for recognizing your own areas of growth) http://story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=15916

    -Andy
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