[Monsterhearts] Serious Emotional Bleed (Trigger Warning)

edited May 2013 in Story Games
Trigger warning: rape; violence against women

So a couple nights ago was another session of Monsterhearts, and as usual, some real fucked up shit happened. Also as usual, the game pushed the boundaries of what I am comfortable playing, and of how much control I have over my character and her situation.

It also raised a question for me that I'll toss out to the group. Hopefully it'll make for an interesting discussion. I'll follow it up with the in-game situation that started this thought process.

Question: What was the biggest moment of "bleed" you've experienced between you and your PC ?

Backstory: My PC January (The Hollow), has this weird love/hate relationship with another PC, Cage (The Ghoul). They mess with each others' plans, flirt with each other, and have both beaten each other up and made out on more than one occasion. Sometimes within a span of minutes. It's a fucked up and not even remotely healthy relationship.

Recently, January decided that she wants to be top of the social pecking order at school. She's allied herself with the popular clique, fully intending to dig up as much dirt on them as possible and then blackmail her way to a position of dominance. She's discovered that Danielle, the head cheerleader and queen bee she's trying to depose, has the hots for Cage. January figures that if she can get Cage on her side, she can use him as a bargaining chip or as leverage to take Danielle's place. And the best way to get him on her side? Why fuck him, of course!

And that's exactly what happened. The next day in social studies class, January excuses herself to the bathroom, dropping a note on Cage's desk as she walks past. The note says "Meet me in the girl's room in 10 minutes. I have something to show you." When Cage arrives a few minutes later, she unbuttons her blouse to show off the new lingerie she'd purchased yesterday. (It had been revealed in the previous session that a surefire way to get Cage to sleep with her was smoking hot lingerie.) He gets turned on, and the two of them have sex right in the bathroom stall. That's when things go all to hell.

I'm pretty sure most people here are familiar with the Ghoul's Sex Move, but for those of you who aren't, when the Ghoul has sex with someone for the first time, they gain a new Hunger of "Having sex with [that character]". If they already have this Hunger, they mark experience each subsequent time they have sex with that character. When the Ghoul gets hungry, they'll go after the closest source of their Hunger with absolutely no regard to anything else. And the Ghoul is always hungry.

So afterwards, January composes herself and tries to exit the stall. Cage is having none of it though, as he's still eyeball deep in his Hunger. He grabs January and slams her up against the wall saying how they're not finished yet. It's right then that my PC and I both realize we've made a really, really big mistake. January is about to get raped in the third floor girls bathroom by another PC. This is not good.

She spends her last String on him in the hopes of giving him pause so she can get away. Cage's player nails the hold steady move with a 10+ and keeps coming. She somehow breaks free from him, runs back into the social studies classroom, shutting the door behind her. She's hoping that the presence of other students and a teacher will keep her safe. She's wrong. Cage stalks out of the bathroom, grabs a trash can from the hallway, and throws it through the classroom window. Glass and students scatter everywhere. Another trash can comes smashing though the door, followed by a bat shit insane Cage. No one stands up to him, and he heads straight for January. She swings a chair at him as he goes for her, misses, and ends up on the floor. Cage grabs her leg, and begins dragging her out of the classroom. She's screaming her head off, trying to hold onto desks, chairs, the doorjam, anything to keep from being pulled out into the hall. It doesn't work. Cage is monstrously strong. On top of that, no one is coming to her rescue. Classroom doors are opening and people are looking out to see what's going on, but no one is doing anything to help January as Cage pulls her down the hallway.

At this point, both as a character and as a player, I am fucking terrified. January is no match for Cage in a physical fight, and she has no resources to work with. Right before they get to the bathroom, Cage slams January up against the lockers. "Stay the fuck out of my business, or you know what's going to happen to you." he growls. I need leverage on this guy to do anything, but I can't bring myself to make a turn someone on roll. I'm too shaken up both as a player and as a character to pretend to be sexy. The thought makes me sick to my stomach. Finally a teacher shows up in the hallway, distracting him. January bolts and doesn't stop running until she's well out into the athletic fields.

After processing the situation for a few days, I can honestly say that situation was the biggest "bleed" between character and player that I've ever experienced. While the scene was going on I couldn't look the other player in the eye, as he represented my PC's attacker. I couldn't look the MC in the eye, because he represented all the onlookers who were refusing to step in and help my PC. I just kind of sat there, dumb, thinking "No! No! No! No! This can't be happening!" but feeling completely powerless to prevent it.

In this case the system really contributed to the bleed I was experiencing. When you mark off that 4th Harm, you're dead. When you deal Harm to someone, you deal an amount of Harm that's appropriate to the fiction of the situation. Bare fist fighting is usually 1 Harm per hit, however both I and January have regularly seen Cage dish out 2 Harm with a single punch.

Cage has a Volatile score of 3, the absolute maximum possible. That means all the player needs is a 4+ on 2d6 (4+3-7) and he's more than likely dealing 2 Harm to January. 2 Harm is serious damage that will have the cops at your door if it gets reported. If the player gets a 7+ on 2d6 (7+3=10), he has the option of dealing an additional Harm, pushing that to a total of 3. 3 Harm puts you in the hospital with serious fucking injuries. If he wants to, Cage can easily fuck January's shit up. Bad. There's no moves to block. There's no moves to dodge. There's no initiative. All I can do as a player is hope Cage doesn't decide to hit January, possibly breaking her arm or leg, or putting her into a coma.

Even if Cage's player rolls a 6 or less, there's no guarantee January will be safe. A 6 or less is not a miss like in other games. It just means that something is going to happen that Cage probably didn't expect. Usually negative. A wrench in the character's plans. The MC could narrate how Cage hits January harder than he intended. Basically, there is no roll or mechanic that allows January to be safe. And that feeling of complete helplessness was god damn scary.

As weird this may sound, this is why I play Monsterhearts. I enjoy being kicked out of my comfort zone in roleplaying games the same way that other people enjoy horror movies. It's a safe way to explore situations and emotions that you don't really want to actually experience.

At this point we're having a group discussion OOC to figure out what happens to our characters. As I said, January is not going back to school, doesn't want to confront Cage, doesn't want to be anywhere near him ever again. There's no thought of getting even. Only of escape. She has been damaged. Damaged to the point were, if we do continue the game with the same characters, I'll be playing as a new PC.

Comments

  • Heavy. My first thought was, "Wow, that's a fucked up situation I wouldn't want to play in." Then I thought, "Wow, I love Monsterhearts." I'm conflicted!

    Before I get to your question, I have to ask: Did you have a safe word or x-card or something similar available to you? In MH I like to use an x-card as well as house rule: 'This is a sexyscary game, but there's no rape so don't do it'. It's helped pull us back from some very intense scenes, for better or worse.

    To answer your specific question, my biggest bleed moment wasn't nearly as significant as yours. IRL, I started disliking a player. So then, of course, my PC started trying to murderdeathkill that player's PC! At the time I thought I was totally justified in-game. Only later did I realize I was being a terrible gamer and letting my personal feelings for the dude wreck the game. Bleed certainly isn't always bad, but it was in my case.
  • There's no moves to block. There's no moves to dodge. There's no initiative. All I can do as a player is hope Cage doesn't decide to hit January,
    I'd like to jump in here.

    As a player, you can also say, "Hey, this is a really scary scene. Can we take five minutes?" And then you can have five minutes to think about whether you're really okay with the fiction going there.

    You can also say, "This crosses a line for me. I need this scene to stop going like this. Change the direction." And then if the MC and other players are good people, they'll come up with another direction. Cage will see another source of Hunger and chase after it, leaving January scared but safe.

    You can also say, "Hey, I feel shaken up about this. Can we just acknowledge that this scene is terrifying? Can we take rape off the table as a possible outcome of this scene?"

    ***

    One thing I've been working on lately is a short PDF about handling problematic material & player lines in your sessions of Monsterhearts. I apologize that this isn't contained within the book itself. It is crucial material and in retrospect I should have included it.

    ***

    (In order for a trigger warning to be effective, you must state what the potential trigger is. At the start of your post, it might be a good idea to say "trigger warning: rape; violence against women." I'd personally leave the title as is.)

  • Duh. How would people know what the triggers I'm warning against are if I don't list them at the beginning of the post. Thanks for that, @Mcdaldno.

    First, I should have stated that I am both comfortable with all the players in my group, and that I am very familiar with what the Ghoul is and what it could do. We've never played with a safe-word or with an "x-card" (though those are both great ideas), but we are all aware that players can "throw in the towel" at any time. We also have the "lines & veils" talk at the start of every game (not just Monsterhearts). So as a player, I was well aware that I could put an end to what was happening to my character at any time.

    I spent the train ride home thinking of how to word this next part. Even though the emotions bleeding over from my character were distinctly negative, it was not a negative experience. I'm not going to go so far as to say it was a positive experience though. It was just, intense. As I said, I knew what the Ghoul could do. I knew as a player what would probably happen. I just wasn't prepared for the intensity of the bleed I would experience. In addition to the "I can't believe this is happening to my character!" feelings was a lot of "I can't believe I'm feeling this strongly for my character!"
  • I would do it a bit differently. First off, as MC, I'd rule that rape wouldn't satisfy the hunger, as rape doesn't equal sex. Had the hunger been Fear, I'd guess rape would qualify.
    Anyway, I'd rule that rape wouldn't count as a sex, therefore no sex move and no xp, but her resistance might rigger the ghouls OTHER hunger... And that could be even worse (*cackles*).
    As for bleed... I don't know that bleed has ever been triggered for me in monsterhearts, but that's because I'm the mc, not a player. I do know a player of mine shed a tear suring a particularly tender deathscene.
  • I know your question is about moments of emotionally bleed generally, but I think it's worthwhile actually talking about what happened in this instance.


    My basic response to your situation is "WTF was your MC doing?"

    One of the MC principles is "Be a fan of the PCs". In allowing this to happen, how on earth were they being a fan of January?


    I talk over here about violence in Monsterhearts.

    (see the 5th Spoiler tag in the post (Act 3))

    Here's an excerpt from it:

    -----------------
    "Violence is an inherent part of the Monsterhearts genre. At some point, the pressure of all the social manoeuvring builds until you reach the point where one character just smacks another in the face. Or alternatively, you decide that things are a bit dull and so have a bit of a punch-up to get things going. What would Buffy have been without a MOTW for her to whale on at the end of each episode? Even Charmed had a bit of pushing and shoving during the weekly vanquishing, and so – as MC – it’s perfectly legitimate to introduce a certain level of violence into your story.
    BUT
    Monsterhearts is not designed to be a combat heavy game; in social conflicts, the players have options in trying to gain an advantage, they can try to flirt, they can try to cut them down verbally, they can get all introspective to see what the other is hiding. In physical conflicts, though, it all comes down to Volatile. Fight or Flight. And it only takes a few poor dice rolls to leave one or more PCs really messed up.

    When you introduce violence – or it erupts spontaneously – I suggest going through the following mental checklist:
    - If you’re the one introducing it, are you being fair with the players? Did they know that combat was on the cards in this scene or are you dropping it on them out of the blue?
    - Do they have a chance to evade the combat or use other moves or are you forcing them into a Volatile move?
    - What will stop the combat before a PC is killed? Often this will be the setting: a fight in the school cafeteria is going to get broken up before things get too bad. If nothing around them would stop a potentially fatal outcome, then maybe others are coming to the rescue or the sounds of the fight will make someone alert the authorities.

    These are all manifestations of being a fan of the PCs. Significant violence against a PC can flow quite logically from their actions, but if the consequences are so severe as to effectively take them out of the game then you’re not being a fan of the PCs. Buffy goes looking for trouble all the time, but none of us wanted her so badly injured that she’d be deprotaganised. In those few occasions where a fight went bad for her, there would always be a ripcord to pull her out of it. Beaten once, but still a viable agent in the story."

    -----------------

    From your account, the particularly egregious moment comes when January escapes, runs away, Cage comes after her through a fully occupied school - and no one (meaning the MC) does anything. Yes, the MC didn't start it. Yes, it's a logical consequence of the PCs actions. Yes, January had her part to play. But - I can say - any time that a player is so shaken by what's happened to their character (either caused or allowed by the MC) so that the player doesn't want to touch the character any more, then the MC has indisputably failed to be a fan of that PC.

    (There are games, acting and psychological exercises that get into this territory, but they come with big warning labels, everyone knows what they're getting into and everyone knows how to hit the stop button.)
  • (long post, contd)

    Much of my caution comes from a similar incident I had in a one-shot game and it likewise led to a lot of emotional bleed between myself and my character. While it didn't include a sexual element, I felt similarly deprotaganised and emotionally affected by what had happened to my character. Notably I also had a low Vol character ( a hot Fae with -1 Vol).

    In this game there was an Infernal. The MC and the Infernal had decided that the Dark Power was a living person (or appeared to be). She was a local punk/criminal/'tough' and had a gang. Considering what was going to happen, somewhat ironically it all kicked off from something as low-key as the PCs being members of a chastity club and deciding on dates for a school dance the next evening. Started very GxB, ended very Fiasco.

    Much like your own situation, I had my own share of the blame in initiating what happened. I was also playing a female character (who was also black, but race didn't really come into it). Indeed, all the PCs were female.

    In brief:
    - I designed a 'hot Fae'. I'd been reading about people's interesting use of strings and turning people on is the only reliable way to get strings, so I chose a character good at Turning people on (and pretty rubbish at everything else).

    - In my initial scene, going to the chastity club, I get hassled by the local (female) cop/sheriff (an NPC). Being a hot Fae (and in the process of cavorting with nature in my garden), I gain a bit of leverage over the lady-sheriff by turning her on and get a string on her.

    - In my second scene, at the chastity club, I 'innocently' turn on the Chosen (by drinking a bottle of water in front of her). Our backstory was that I had captured the Chosen's fancy while helping clean her up after some battle she'd fought and so this was a 3rd string on her. Later in the scene, I then push to get the other PCs to promise that - instead of finding our own dates for the dance - we find dates for each other.

    - It's clear to me now that some of the other players were finding my play (in turning people on and pushing for a promise) pretty aggressive. The Infernal and Chosen had decided in backstory that they were best friends and so the Infernal gazes into the abyss about me and gains some insight that 'I'm not human' which she tells the Chosen.

    - By my third scene (this is where it started going bad), the Dark Power had appeared and already had sex with the Witch (in the bushes outside the chastity club). I decided to go and talk to the Dark Power. The MC decided that she was hanging out at a closed outdoor swimming pool. So I go to talk to her. And then the MC decides that actually her gang would be with her as well. Feeling as though I'm already committed, I launch into the scene and - as a Hot Fae - make a grandstandy entrance showing off some acrobatic moves. I land near the Dark Power (who has paid no attention to me) and go to touch her as part of a Turn On move. At that point, the Dark Power says she grabs my hand and so the Turn On move is never even rolled. The gang starts to surround me and the Dark Power gets off her lounger to focus on me.

    At this point, I realise I'm in over my head. I try to put up a brave front with some banter, but the MC isn't going to let me do anything else; the Dark Power wants a fight and the MC says "You have to either fight or run". With my Vol at -1 I knew that I was equally screwed either way, so I think I might as well go down swinging. I roll my Vol dice, I fail. The MC decides that the Dark Power 'Chinatowns' me (if you don't know it, don't look it up, suffice to say that it's a facially disfiguring injury). The gang beat me up and toss me outside. I take 2 Harm on my character, but actually that's the least impact the scene has.

    - I'm feeling pretty bad now. I can feel myself withdrawing from the group. The whole premise of this one-shot is to find a date for a dance the next evening and my attractive female character has just been facially disfigured (and yes, it is worse for a female character than a male). I'm starting to feel deprotaganised at this point because I can't see how I can still relate to the plot.

    - For my fourth scene, the MC asks what I'm doing to which I can only reply that I'm going to hospital. So we have a scene in a hospital room with my nose bandaged up. In comes the sheriff who then basically tells me that I had it coming to me and that she always knew I was trouble. I tell the sheriff that I want this Dark Power punk-ganger-bitch arrested and charged. The sheriff grumpily accedes and goes off (to do nothing about it). If I was still following my initial concept, I should have gone to turn the sheriff on again to get another string but honestly, injured, mutilated and laid up in a hospital bed, I couldn't bring myself to do it (and I especially couldn't bear the thought of the MC having the sheriff giving in to me.)

    - I get discharged from the hospital and go home. The MC asks if there's anyone at home for me, but I say no. I felt I needed saving, but I wanted another PC to come save me rather than an MC NPC. This could be my way back into the plot, joining forces with another character to bring down the Dark Power. The Dark Power already had the Infernal in their pocket and was humping the Witch. That left the Chosen.

    - Different PCs knew different things so our group were trying to keep player and character knowledge separate. So, to help prod things along, I send a text message to the other PCs telling them that I won't be coming to the dance and that I'm deeply sorry for 'breaking the circle' (i.e. failing to uphold the promise that we find dates for each other).

    - Unfortunately, by this time, the Chosen's player had decided voluntarily to go Darkest Self. Trouble was, the Chosen had no idea of the Dark Power's existence. There was a subplot running about one of her friends having disappeared and a particular tattoo being involved and the Chosen kind of investigating that. Following her Darkest Self script to 'chase down the biggest threat', the Chosen went after the only weird thing she knew of... me.

    - So the Chosen comes around the see my Fae. I try to make it very clear the scene I want by opening the door and then giving her a big hug and thanking her for coming around. This does not fly with the Chosen. Instead she grabs me, shoves me against a wall and demands to know "What is my deal?". I have no idea how to answer that. Faced with this brutality from a friend, I can only react in character to say that I burst into tears. Without getting a response, the Chosen then starts stripping me to try and find this tattoo (which has nothing to do with me). I could have tried a Turn On move at this point to try and change the scene, but my mind rebels. Given this situation, given everything that's happened, I (that is me the player) can't do it. I can't try to make this abuse something sexual. I have the opportunity to strike back and I consider it, knowing that I would fail, in order to try to get the additional harm to kill me and thereby convey the consequences to the Chosen. Again, I feel unable to lash out. Instead, I choose to burn a string on the Chosen to offer her XP, I say, I beg her "Please, please, stop hitting me."

    At that, the Chosen leaves the scene, and I mentally check-out for the rest of the game. It doesn't last long. The Witch, now working for the Dark Power, hexes the Chosen in a particularly unpleasant way. The Chosen, still Darkest Self, still not knowing anything about the Darkest Power, hits the police station to 'look for clues' and gets tazered by the cops. The Infernal is the only one who ends up going to the dance, but the Darkest Power has fixed it for her to go with the boy of her dreams.

  • edited May 2013
    (contd)

    I - the player - came out feeling pretty shaken. This remains my worst gaming experience ever (coming just a week after one of my best, also with Monsterhearts). I've had far worse things happen to my characters in GM-less games without it affecting me at all, but here I felt powerless. True to the Fae's skinbook, my character found it easy to get close and impossible to keep others at bay.

    Initially, I felt that the character was lost, beyond repair. Just like yourself, I didn't want to play her again. It was a one-shot, so continuing wasn't even a consideration, but my previous one-shots always felt like the start of something I wanted to continue, whereas this one I just wanted to bury.

    After some time passed, though, my feelings changed. I wanted to go back to my Fae. I wanted her to be able to put things right. I wanted the Chosen to apologise to her and ask for her forgiveness and then start leveraging the Faerie and go stick it to the Dark Power. Without continuing the story, my Fae is always as she was left - shattered. So don't write off January just yet; give it some time and see if there's more you want to do with her.

    My experience in this game went directly to informing my MC notes about the use of Violence and Darkest Selves in the (separate) AP I linked to. It made me realise that - this stuff that had happened to me - wasn't actually a million miles different to stuff I'd done as MC. I'm going to be more aware and hopefully a better MC in the future.

    So, for me, there are positives that came out of it. Not positives in the sense of "Everyone should go through it once" but "I went through it and now I can help to try and make sure that no one else has to go through it".
  • OK, going to come at this from a different angle.

    Yes I've had emotional bleed from characters, I spent most of a 2 hour car journey back from a Con realising the rest of the life of a Ribbon Drive character I'd played the previous afternoon for instance (they just wouldn't let me do otherwise). Probably the biggest issue here is that when it hits deepest it's rarely while you are at the table. During the game we get in to situation and we react to them, and we are all caught up in the story and the force of what's going on can be very hard to comprehend. So calling for something to stop 'at this point' can be a really tough decision and is one people just rarely seem to make. They push on, or they shut down and it's only after the game that the implications of the really hard hitting stuff start to come home.

    What that probably means is that the onus is as much, if not more so, on the other players at the table when strong emotional content comes up to recognise what is happening and check that nothing needs to be changed. Some people will call up a line or veil in good time, but the best practise should surely be for 'the audience', the other players at the table who aren't heavily invested in the scene, to be able to query if everything is OK. It can be done lightly, 'wow, that's a hard move?' or 'this is a bit intense isn't it?' and the offer be made of an exit. It'll often not be needed, but it's actually really easy to do all of the damage before you realise you're doing any.
  • That sounds like a really rough game.

    Some segments of the Nordic larp community has played around with similar scenes and subject matter. In general, it's a different scene than this, in part because there tends to be transparency around difficult subject matter, whereas here, it sounds like the situation surprised you a bit, and that the shock of it was part of what allowed the situation to continue?

    The Nordic larp community has developed some practices around psychological safety/bleed that seem salient, namely, the debrief, where everyone sits around and talks about why happened together or in smaller groups and how it made them feel. It sounds like y'all did a little of this with the OOC conversation about your characters afterwards. Another thing that's come out of this scene is that perpetrators of in-game violence often need more debriefing than the victims of violence, but can be less likely to seek help because it feels like they don't deserve it.

    Since it sounds like you're still feeling shaken up about this, maybe it'd be worth talking directly to the other player involved about how you're feeling, even if you've done so already.
  • edited May 2013
    There's no thought of getting even. Only of escape. She has been damaged. Damaged to the point were, if we do continue the game with the same characters, I'll be playing as a new PC.
    If I were watching this story, I'd want January to be the main protagonist.
  • My basic response to your situation is "WTF was your MC doing?"

    One of the MC principles is "Be a fan of the PCs". In allowing this to happen, how on earth were they being a fan of January?
    A fair question. As a gm who's made plenty of mistakes (and will, do doubt, make plenty of others), I'd guess that the MC either didn't realize there was a problem on an OOC level or was surprised enough not to think about whether or not there might be a problem.

    The second is basically deer in the headlights. The first -- well, I have missed problems before. Two PCs interacting intensely, so it must be cool, right? Should I interrupt this? Mm, nah, that'd be undercutting player agency. Or at least, that's one possible chain of thought I could see having.

    It's still a problem, yes. I once accidentally broke someone's PC to the point where she didn't think it was viable, and neither of us saw it coming. Essentially, I was doing temptation scenes where the PC had every reason to accept -- and did -- and had failed to take into account that this particular player is uncomfortable playing PCs she thinks of as evil or corrupted.

    This was not a game of Monsterhearts or Sorcerer, but a game that should have been safe for her.

    It didn't break her as a player -- I've gmed for her plenty since then, and she's had fun, and she's gmed for me, and I've had fun. It was an honest mistake. But, it was a big screw up on my part.

    I'm not sure whether or not I should have known better, but I am sure it was a screw up. I don't know if an X card would have helped, as I don't think she realized for several sessions that she was pulling away from her PC and why she was doing this.

    That said, I think having the X card is a useful safety device, eve if it isn't a complete failsafe.



  • Could someone explain or link to something which explains the x card thing? I'm unfamiliar with the term and Google doesn't appear to be helping.

    Some of this is rings true to a game I'm running at the moment, which I'm currently trying to figure out if it can be salvaged (I won't go into details; suffice to say that some of it has got a bit personal for the players, and I didn't pick up on the issue until rather too late).
  • It's one type of safety tool--literally a notecard with a big X on it. If things become too much for someone, that person simply raises the card and the table rewinds for a do-over, no questions asked. I've seen it used for excess gore, violence against children, among other things.

    Here's John Stavropoulos talking about it: http://thisjustinfromgencon.com/2012/08/20/this-just-in-from-clyde-an-interview-with-john-stavropoulos-of-nerdnyc/

    Advanced X-Card has an 'O' on the other side, used for encouragement.
  • The most bleed and the best scene I played was during Yttersta Domen (Final Judgement) when my character was getting dumped by her fiancé. Halfway through the scene I realize I'm almost word for word replaying my breakup with my girlfriend of four years a few months earlier except I'm playing her part. This scene was with a complete stranger at a con, the rest of the players were my friends.

    Yttersta Domen is the fucking shit, I've had bleed happen several times with it with very different characters and not always something I can relate to either.
  • You have a valid point, @Tore_V. Though whether rape counts as sex is a grey area that I'd prever to avoid in this discussion.

    It sounds like you had a similar experience, @EpistolaryRichard. I too have had worse things happen to my PCs in other games, but I've never felt as deprotagonized (good word by the way) as I did here. I like January. I don't want her to go away. But at this point in her story, she either run or get a gun and kill Cage and then run. I'm consoling myself at her loss by saying she's not actually gone. She's still out there somewhere. She's just not here right now. Maybe she'll eventually come back. And just for the record @kaser, January is the main protagonist. At least in my mind. ;)

    As @w00hoo said, often times while you're in the experience you kind of don't realize what's going on. You're too caught up in the event to think about putting on the brakes. There was one other player present (besides the MC) while all this was going on, but their PC was nowhere near Cage and January (they weren't even in school at the time) at the time. I'd also told him, player to player, to not butt in if his PC wasn't there. The player's usually really good about not metagaming, but this one session it felt, to me at least, as if he was offering too much advice to the other players despite his PC not being involved in the scenes. Still, I think relying on the audience to check when things are OK is a good idea. That will get added to my spiel at the beginning of Monserhearts games from now on.

    I haven't talked to Cage's player one on one yet, @lizziestark. He has been present for the OOC group discussions we've been having over FB messages (as we can only meet up in person once or twice a month). He hasn't weighed in with his thoughts yet however. Part of me thinks I should just let it go. He's a relatively new player and tends to shut down and withdraw from the game when we given him feedback in the past. I'm trying to think of a way to talk to him about this that won't cause him to check out.

    I think @Lisa Padol hit the nail on the head. The MC just made a mistake here, and probably didn't realize what was happening. After all, two characters interacting in Monsterhearts is gold, right? That's what drives the game. He was probably reluctant to step in.

    Unlike you @Krippler, I've never experienced anything even remotely close to what my character went through. So as I keep saying, it was surprising how much bleed I felt when I had no real life experience to draw from.
  • @hyvemynd if you're still not sure how you feel about the scene after all this contemplation, I'm not sure it's fair expect the MC to have made that call for you during play. Was there any way for him to have known you were in distress? And while everyone shares the responsibility to try to avoid hurting each other at the table, the MC doesn't have any special authority in this regard. It seems like any player who felt uncomfortable should have known they had the right to speak out, regardless of whether their PC was present or not.
  • I'm as big a fan of the 'everyone is just a player' ethos as anyone but I'm with Richard here. the MC is mandated by the game to be a fan of the PC's. They aren't to blame for what happened, but I think if it was all played through again they'd be better doing things differently. Letting a scene run to its obvious conclusion isn't necessarily the best story after all. Sometimes letting it hang is better and that's ignoring the OOC situation here.

    Where to go on, from what has been said about Cage's player I think my temptation would be to take January out of the story. Very obviously. Just have a hole where she has been and make it obvious that she's disappeared (being a Hollow that's even quite nice thematically) that allows you to look at the 'why' of all that in character which could be good for the game. Talk to the MC about the possibility of bringing January back, or playing them at a different time. Some distance all round will allow things to calm down and it leaves a good hook dangling should you find the replacement character leaves the game. You could try and thrash it all out with a big OOC discussion, but as I say, it sounds like the personalities of the players wouldn't work well for that and doing it over Facebook is just going to amplify that. The OOC discussion you probably do need is about how to recognise when a situation is spiralling out of control and reeling it back in, if Cage continues to be played this way then this won't be the only potential game killer that comes out. The characters are supposed to be somewhat controllable (outside of Darkest Self at least), the world is supposed to be against them and powerful enough to restrain them somehow. Playing characters that just don't care about that is going to cause more problems I'd have thought.
  • The characters are supposed to be somewhat controllable (outside of Darkest Self at least), the world is supposed to be against them and powerful enough to restrain them somehow. Playing characters that just don't care about that is going to cause more problems I'd have thought.
    Yeah, no kidding. Emotional bleed issues aside, it would completely break my suspension of disbelief in Monsterhearts to have a giant fight and attempted rape between two students happen in the middle of the school day and no one tries to intervene.

    Matt

    P.S. There are a number of problems with being a high school teacher in real life and trying to play MH. :-)
  • Where to go on, from what has been said about Cage's player I think my temptation would be to take January out of the story. Very obviously.
    There's a lot of personal stuff for HyveMynd to consider when going forward with his game, so I hesitate to give too much advice.

    But damn I dislike this solution. The most obvious fix is to remove the attempted rape victim from the game? I'm not trying to make a big thing out of a fictional situation, but this rubs me wrong. Frankly I'd suggest converting Cage into an NPC villain. If anything is obvious to me, it's that the central story here is January's return.
  • I haven't talked to Cage's player one on one yet, @lizziestark. He has been present for the OOC group discussions we've been having over FB messages (as we can only meet up in person once or twice a month). He hasn't weighed in with his thoughts yet however. Part of me thinks I should just let it go. He's a relatively new player and tends to shut down and withdraw from the game when we given him feedback in the past. I'm trying to think of a way to talk to him about this that won't cause him to check out.
    This is a HUGE red flag, in my mind.

    Why are you playing a game this intense with someone you can't have a constructive conversation with?

    I think you need to fix that, above all.

    If I felt this way about a person I was playing this kind of game with, I would not sit down at the table again with this person until I felt like I had that line of meaningful communication open. I would not play a sexyscary game with someone that I didn't feel I could talk to out of character.

    If it's a matter of newness, play something with a little bit lighter tone until you feel like you have the level of trust that you need to try MH again.

    I would play MH as a convention one-shot with strangers where I was playing my character like a stolen car. That gives you a little more emotional distance, if things get uncomfortable. But for a campaign, when I'm going to become more attached to my character, I would only want to play with a very special group or not at all.
  • So, we're looking at a few things here.

    1. The MC clearly made a mistake. Okay. Do you trust the MC to try not to repeat that mistake in the future? Can you talk to this person about it? It sounds like you are talking to the MC about it.

    2. Cage's player pulls away from feedback. This is a red flag. Okay. Do you trust this player enough to keep playing with him? Do you trust him enough to keep playing Monsterhearts with him? Do you trust him enough to keep playing Monsterhearts with a character similar to January as she was before this session?

    3. You don't consider January a viable character for future sessions. Okay. Under the circumstances, I'd say don't force yourself to play her. (I might suggest otherwise in other circumstances, but these are the ones we have.) We may be pushing for you to do that because we think it sucks that you're in this position, but you're the one there, not us. If you're good with the group and the game, sure, have her leave or vanish. She can always return later -- but make sure that everyone's clear on whose decision that should be. (I think it should be yours, but if you're good with a different answer, that's cool.)
  • Yeah, no kidding. Emotional bleed issues aside, it would completely break my suspension of disbelief in Monsterhearts to have a giant fight and attempted rape between two students happen in the middle of the school day and no one tries to intervene.

    Matt

    P.S. There are a number of problems with being a high school teacher in real life and trying to play MH. :-)
    I could argue that someone's called 911 and that everyone's too scared to intervene more directly. But, that's me looking at wiggle room. I'd actually expect folks to intervene.

    That said, looking at the situation tactically, ignoring the emotional bleed, okay, let's say I am the MC and I've managed to realize that the NPCs should not be standing around like statues, and I'm not worried about undercutting the players by interrupting their scene.

    What do the NPCs do? Well, more accurately, let's say teachers and students are trying to pull Cage away, and Cage is fighting to get to January. What's the correct move here?

    Do I say, "Okay, they pull Cage away, and we cut to the next scene" on the grounds that I am making the move Separate the PCs?

    Do I have students, teachers, and perhaps security guards pile onto Cage and just have the player roll the dice and do whatever carnage the dice say happens? That's also potentially interesting.

    If Cage's player insists on having Cage try to get to January -- and IF January's player is unambiguously cool with this -- under what set of moves and mechanics does Cage succeed?

    Either way, is Cage still a viable PC? At this point, we're talking facing serious assault charges, correct? And we're looking at expulsion, I'd guess. I'm not talking about whether it's fair to Cage's player. I'm not talking about whether Cage's player realized that having the PC do all of this would have serious consequences. Just, bottom line, is Cage still a viable player character? How much realism do we want?

  • After chewing on everything that's been said here, I realize the lion's share (if not all) of the responsibility rest squarely on my shoulders. The bottom line here is that I did not communicate to anyone else at the table how I was feeling. People aren't mind readers, and I can't and shouldn't expect them to know when something is wrong if I don't tell them.

    I've started an email discussion with Cage's player (which is the best we can do given our schedules and situation) about what happened, how I feel, and why January will be leaving for the time being. I've made it very clear (hopefully) that none of what happened was his fault, and that this was a result of me being unprepared for something I thought I could handle.

    Hindsight being what it is, there are things that I would have done differently or at the very least made much clearer if I had this to do over again. All that being said, I think this has overall been an important lesson for both myself and the group as a whole. Like grabbing a hot pan off the stove. At first you're like "Fuck that hurt!" but the pain really drives home the point of "Hey. There's a reason people say not to do that."

    To answer a few questions. Yes, I'm talking to the MC about it and yes, I trust him enough to lay this all out in the open. At this point, I trust Cage's player enough to continue playing Monsterhearts with him, even if I play another character similar to January. If that changes after conversing openly and honestly with him, then I'll reevaluate my decision. Yes, January is going away for now. I'm hoping she can come back in the future, but that still remains to be seen. She doesn't trust Cage, has no ties to the community anymore, and feels as if no one cares about her. She's just going to pack up and go, leaving, as @w00hoo pointed out, a "hollow" in the narrative.
  • I think that's a very positive and emotionally mature perspective. I hope that everyone involved behaves with equal maturity and mutual support.
  • After chewing on everything that's been said here, I realize the lion's share (if not all) of the responsibility rest squarely on my shoulders. The bottom line here is that I did not communicate to anyone else at the table how I was feeling. People aren't mind readers, and I can't and shouldn't expect them to know when something is wrong if I don't tell them.

    Very true, but don't be too hard on yourself. Often, there's this deer-in-the-headlights when something's in progress, and realizing, "Wait, that sucked. Wait, I should have stopped it," comes after it's over. I am very good at analyzing all the mistakes I made, rather than stopped before making.
  • Hopefully, the other players will respond by owning their part in things and everyone will be the better for it.
  • edited May 2013

    2. Cage's player pulls away from feedback. This is a red flag. Okay. Do you trust this player enough to keep playing with him? Do you trust him enough to keep playing Monsterhearts with him? Do you trust him enough to keep playing Monsterhearts with a character similar to January as she was before this session?
    One thing I want to say about Cage's player is that this part of the OP:
    "If they already have this Hunger, they mark experience each subsequent time they have sex with that character. When the Ghoul gets hungry, they'll go after the closest source of their Hunger with absolutely no regard to anything else. And the Ghoul is always hungry."

    makes him sound as though he was playing Cage in his Darkest Self. If Cage wasn't in Darkest Self then I think the MC needs to talk to him about Hunger and how it works. As per the Ghoul skin "Hungers should be big and difficult struggle for your character to deal with." The MC shouldn't be allowing a Ghoul to 'farm' XP out of their Sex Move by allowing the player to say "We have sex then we stop. Then we have sex again and then stop etc. etc."

    If a player plays as Darkest Self all the time then that character isn't going to have a long shelf-life. Darkest Selves are supposed to be a big deal, not a permanent state of affairs.

    That said, looking at the situation tactically, ignoring the emotional bleed, okay, let's say I am the MC and I've managed to realize that the NPCs should not be standing around like statues, and I'm not worried about undercutting the players by interrupting their scene.

    What do the NPCs do? Well, more accurately, let's say teachers and students are trying to pull Cage away, and Cage is fighting to get to January. What's the correct move here?
    That's a good question. Here are my thoughts:
    - The MC should never feel as though the scene is out of their control. You should never feel as though the mechanics are preventing you from following your principles. You have a lot of remit to pull both hard and soft moves. If the scene is wrong, then change it up.

    - If an NPC has a string on either PC in the scene, then burn it to come out of nowhere with a hard move. Cage is running amok through the school:
    -- What person could stop him? Put them together.
    -- What does he care about? Make him pay a price.
    -- Who didn't know before about his supernatural nature and can use it against him? Expose a dangerous secret to the wrong person.
    -- What's his abyss and how is his violence affecting it, what other-worldy attention is he drawing to him? Herald the abyss.

    - Looking at January, remember a 6- is not 'the move fails' - it's spurs an MC hard move. I presume that January rolled for Run Away at least once in this situation. Even with a 6- the MC can still allow her to get away from Cage, but just make her pay a price or expose a secret or tell the possible consequences and ask etc. etc.

    - Looking at Cage, even using soft moves, you can change up the scene. He's just torn through a classroom and he's dragging January back into the hall. At this point, soft move, a campus security guard is there. The guard points a taser at Cage and yells at him "Don't move!" What do you do? Let's assume Cage continues his destruction and lashes out physically, let's say the player aces the Vol roll. Narratively, Cage twists out of the way of the taser, smacks the guard in the head and the guard goes flying and lands with a sickening crunch. Cage turns back to January, but January is gone and now the alarm is going and everyone is trying to get out of the building and he's lost January in the crowds.


    So, to my mind, whether it's part of January's move or Cage's move, as MC you can always change it up if you want to.


    To be fair in the MC in this case, from the OP the last situation is kind of what they did - a teacher shows up and distracts Cage allowing January to escape. The tipping point for me is when January has gone to find refuge in the classroom, Cage has torn it up and is dragging her out. Dramatically, the scene is over at this point - January has made clear her intention that she doesn't want Cage, Cage has shown how far he's willing to go and that the lack of her consent is not a problem for him - what more needs to be said here?

    I don't know how long it actually was between Cage dragging January out of the classroom to the teacher showing, it might have been quite quick - but from the account it sounds as though there was a certain period of time in between where I think the MC should have intervened earlier. It sounds like they did the right thing, but too slow.

    If Cage's player insists on having Cage try to get to January -- and IF January's player is unambiguously cool with this -- under what set of moves and mechanics does Cage succeed?
    I'd be very very cautious about this, to the point of saying no, even if you (the 2 players) are cool with it, I'm not. This isn't just their game. You get taught this about 'crossing the line' in the workplaces - you may be fine saying something, you may know that the person you're talking to is okay with you saying it, but you're not the only people there and those witnessing the interaction may not be okay with it.



    Either way, is Cage still a viable PC? At this point, we're talking facing serious assault charges, correct? And we're looking at expulsion, I'd guess. I'm not talking about whether it's fair to Cage's player. I'm not talking about whether Cage's player realized that having the PC do all of this would have serious consequences. Just, bottom line, is Cage still a viable player character? How much realism do we want?
    How much realism is a good question. In Monsterhearts - as in its source material - the level of engagement with what would actually happen in the real world is negotiable. Legally, Cage would be arrested and charged and then either held or bailed (and obviously suspended from school). So logistically it's possible to keep him a factor in the story, but the locus of the story would have to shift to off the school.

    In terms of emotional and dramatic viability, I think back to Buffy where there are a few examples of "PCs" doing unforgivable shit to each other and then dealing with the consequences.

    You look at things like the Angelus storyline in season 2 or Faith in season 3 where the "PC" essentially flipped to being a Menace.

    When Angel returns in season 3, his introduction was in a manner so that the others could interact with an uncontrollable "PC" - to allow the character to 'serve his sentence' and still be a part of the storyline.

    Willow in season 6 was more akin to her Darkest Self so the "PC" was following a script here rather than being a true Menace. In this instance, the "PC" essentially had to have a time-out for a few episodes and pay a price in their abilities before the game could cope with having them reintroduced.

    The most similar instance in Buffy is "Seeing Red" - in that instance the "PC" Spike again has to be benched from the main storyline, but it was done deliberately to push him onto a penance-quest to set him up for the subsequent evolution of his character.

    Presuming that you don't want to flip Cage to a Menace or place him under another PC's control, then he would need to be benched for a while - either taken off the table or having his own sub-plot/side-quest - presuming that redemption is what he wants. If he doesn't, and doesn't see anything wrong with what he did, then he's just going to get hunted down. If he needs to be hunted by the other PCs (like Angelus) then he's a Menace, if by regular law enforcement then it almost becomes a separate game so the hunt for Cage either has to become the focus of this game or be side-pocketed.
  • This has been a great conversation.

    In addition to sharing your experience with your fellow players, and learning more about your boundaries, and developing/honing strategies for dealing with problematic content in play... it might be a good idea to avoid having the next activity you do together be your next session of Monsterhearts. If your goals are to re-establish trust and return to this (high-trust, high-demand) game, it might be easier to address those goals sequentially. Make a plan to meet up, have pizza/whatever together, play a board game together, and then optionally complete a half-session before calling it a night.

    This is just an idea - one of many ways to address the group's needs. But it'd allow you to all return to a comfortable place in your friendships, before attempting to correct a misstep in game. It'd also give you further chance to talk face-to-face with the other players about strategies for ensuring that people feel safe while playing, etc.
  • Also:

    HyveMind, thank you for being open and sharing this process and allowing us all to lend our ears and suggestions to you.
  • That sounds like a good idea @mcdaldno. There's just one problem. Delivery pizza costs a god damn fortune here in Japan and usually comes slathered in corn and mayo. Gag.

    I and the MC are going to lay out the issues and options for Cage's player. He's said he wants to keep playing as Cage, I don't think he realizes that means fully dealing with the consequences of everything his character has done. One option the MC and I have discussed is starting up again one year later (game time). That gives the setting time to calm down, time for Cage handle his consequences offscreen, and the other players time to work their PCs back into the story.
  • edited May 2013
    I've had some issues with violence bleed in my game.

    Namely, an argument broke out OOC after the Queen was taunting my Werewolf to be violent. It was totally in character for both characters, but pushed us as players both to an uncomfortable OOC situation. We resolved it, but there were hurt feelings on both parts based on the results of that physical and emotional encounter. I mean, it was totally fine after we talked it out, but that conflict happened. And we're usually pretty good at this stuff!

    I'm gonna throw in the opposite perspective (the antagonist in this situation was what I was playing).

    I've found it hard to tread the line, playing a Werewolf, between feeling like I'm being true to the werewolf character (violent, moody, slightly abusive, out of control, rebellious) and not completely fucking up the other characters physically all the time. It's really easy, as a werewolf, to do harm to characters. So I'm always like, I want to showcase her weakness and be violent and be an antagonist to the other players sometimes, but I also want to not kill them or be completely abusive all the time. So that's like, a challenge of some of the more physically aggressive characters in Monsterhearts, in my mind, is they're a lot of responsibility to play, and they're kind of hard. The way I do it is I measure how many times I'm violent in a game, and who toward. Also, as a werewolf, the focus of my character's physical rage tends to be whatever PC she's sleeping with, so that player is sort of aware of what they're getting into. Also... it's totally cool to have two aggressive characters duke it out, my werewolf and our ghoul had really interesting sexually violent interactions.

    There's this interaction between the aggressive and passive characters that's downright kinky. Passive characters need to be antagonized (the selkie, for instance, needs someone to steal her pelt). Aggressive characters need someone to antagonize (what use is the drama of being a werewolf if you're not horrifically hurting people you care about). That interaction, as long as it's understood that that's what's happening, seems pretty key to play. So like, players who are playing that aggressive character need to know where to draw the line, and where to take a second and ask "is this horrible thing I'm about to do to your character ok?" or afterwards, if someone seems shook up "was that cool what went down, you seem pretty shook up about it. Wanna retcon?" But, like any kinky interaction, the passive character has a responsibility to draw the line too, right? I would trust someone I was in a scene with to tell me what was too far, and play and X card, and respect that and such.

    edited to add: Also, what Lizzie said about people playing the abusers needing the debrief too. It is actually frightening sometimes, to me, when I play a kind of abusive scene with another player, and how they react to that. Like, my one friend is really good at reacting realistically as an abuse victim to my werewolf being physically aggressive with her. I'm sometimes taken aback, and have to pause and break the scene myself, because that is a terrifying role to be in!
  • edited May 2013
    @HyveMynd I think it's great that you've opened discussion with this player. I think it's great to talk about how you're feeling with this player, and I also suspect it might be important to ask him how he's feeling about the whole thing, how it felt during the moment of play, and also about his reflections on what happened, to give him a little space to say, "hey, this really scared me too," if it's true.

    "How are you feeling?" is a nice neutral approach for GMs to take during debriefs in general, in part because it opens a dialogue with other players. I guess my point here is that this isn't necessarily feedback for this guy, but an opportunity to address both his and your emotional concerns seriously and open a dialogue. If he isn't up for a dialogue, that's another bag of marbles, but I think approaching this as potentially a messed up thing for him as well may help you come to consensus.

    But obviously, I don't know all the specifics around the situation.
  • There's some great discussion here.

    I'll throw a tiny tangent:

    When you play games, how often do you "break character" and smile at the other players, speak about the game (e.g. "Wow! That was a great scene!")?

    I sometimes get really uncomfortable playing with people who are really into acting at the table and heavily immersive play. That can be intense and wonderful, but it's also nice to come up for air and make contact with the other players as people you're sharing a social activity with.

    Imagine how much easier it is to be the abusive werewolf beating her submissive Mortal girlfriend if the Mortal's player occasionally flashes you a grin and says, "Wow! This is awesome. I love how out of control your Werewolf is!"

    When people are playing very immersively, or staying in character very consistently, sometimes it's hard to tell whether you're upsetting just a character or the player as well.

    What's your take on this?
  • @Paul_T that's my preferred style of play.
  • edited May 2013
    Paul, that's a great idea.

    Right after a scene ends, it can be nice to take a five minute bathroom break, and use the opportunity to smile at one another and talk about stuff you liked / stuff that scared you / stuff that you're wondering excitedly about.

    Not after every scene, but at least a few times throughout a session, and especially following on the heels of a really intense or high-water-mark scene.
  • I sometimes get really uncomfortable playing with people who are really into acting at the table and heavily immersive play. That can be intense and wonderful, but it's also nice to come up for air and make contact with the other players as people you're sharing a social activity with.
    Agreed, we had a ridiculously intense session in a BtVS game I was playing. It was the conclusion to a months long plot that had just come out in the open between the characters. What made it work was that while we were really intense as the characters we were all able to back off and laugh and joke about how screwed up it all was inbetween scenes. If we hadn't had the chance of release as people I dread to think what state we'd have ended up in from being the characters for that long.
  • [Humorous Aside] [Trigger Warning: Bleeding, Sarcasm.]
    We addressed bleeding on SG last year.
  • edited May 2013
    Did I overshare? I might've overshared. Here's some more.

    Paul, actually, we have this really weird flow sometimes in our games, where we'll be silly and break flow a whole lot, and then have a few intense scenes, and then go back to the silliness. It tends to calm down strong emotions, for sure, like, in character stuff, or just out of character oddness. Sometimes it's annoying, cause we'll want more immersion though, but we can't help it cause we're hanging out having a good time or drinking.

    I think that's what it was that made some of this emotional stuff more intense for my group... we don't always play with the intent of hitting on emotional stuff. So Monsterhearts has been this big experiment for us. It's been mostly good that conflict has arisen around this type of play, cause it's helped us grow as a group, and like, learn how to play more emotionally if we want to.

    I feel like playing this game is like a good intro to some emotionally realistic nordic style larps. It begins to touch on emotional play and social mechanics in a way that most games I've played do not.
  • I had some rough bleed at times.

    One personal reflection I want to add to this discussion is that sometimes, for me, it easier to "ride out" the rough scene to some sort of conclusion rather then braking the scene. Sort of like seeing the horror movie through until it closure can ease the fears more then stop in the middle of the movie.

    Another thing to remeber is that sometimes it can take time before you reach the point where you are ready to debrief. I played a really fucked up scene at Just A Little Lovin'. I knew that I would have to debrief it with the player, but I wasn't ready to talk at the party after the game. I wasn't ready to talk until we got on the bus heading away from the camp area, and back to Stockholm. It can be like that at time.

    It was a lot of negative feeling I needed to sort out, but actually a positive experience. I just needed to process it.

    But if you feel a need to debrief the scene, you can debrief it with someone else if your fellow player isn't ready to talk. I think, you starting this conversation here is part of your debriefing.

  • Sorry it took me a long time to respond. There's a lot to read and absorb here.

    @anansigirl I'd never really considered the kinky interaction between passive and aggressive characters. Maybe because in my situation, both characters were fairly aggressive towards each other. But yeah, there does have to be both understanding and a high level of trust in a passive/aggressive relationship. As you said, both parties have a responsibility to make sure that the other person is OK with what's going on. Although it hasn't come out in play, I've often thought about how the game does not dictate what actions or situations result in turning someone on. The has the potential to get very uncomfortable, as someone can literally do anything and allow the dice to decide how the NPC feels. It's true that we can't choose what turns us on, but that can be pretty scary.

    To address @Paul_T's tangent, I don't think my group consciously realizes we're "coming up for air". I had to really think about it after you brought up that question. What I mean is, we don't intentionally take breaks (unless someone has to go to the bathroom), but there is usually enough OOC stuff going on that we're able to release. At least I think so.

    Despite lurking around these boards and running/playing PBA games, my group is still what I'd consider "traditional" gamers. I'm encountering a lot of this for the first time, and often don't have the correct vocabulary to express myself here. =P
  • Just to be clear, I don't necessarily mean "coming up for air" as in, "Ok, let's take a 15-minute break! Who's been watching Game of Thrones recently?"

    I like the game to keep going. But it's nice when the player who is playing the abusive bad guy suddenly smiles and winks before getting back to announcing he's rolling to establish psychological trauma on your character or whatever - just a little reminder here and there that we're all playing a game together and that we're having a good time.

    An uninvolved saying, "Ooh! That's awesome!" is just as good, to the same effect.
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