What should I do if a gamer starts bleeding?

edited April 2012 in Play Advice

I've had this come up a couple times in games. You're narrating back and forth, the shared imagined space is rich, everyone is having a good time with your specific story game. And then someone starts bleeding profusely.

It's tricky, because:
(A) they're getting the book and the character sheets all soaked in blood,
(B) it's difficult to read die results when they're covered in blood,
(C) they could die,
(D) some people in the group might get uncomfortable about that fleshy content,
(E) panic could ensue.

Now, some of you will probably suggest that I should just rely on tried-and-tested social contract tools, like lines ("You can't bleed here") and veils ("You can bleed, but I don't want to see it or hear about it"). But I think this situation is a bit more complicated and nuanced than that. So I think it warrants its own conversation.

But I'm not really sure where this conversation should go. Should we talk about how/why people end up bleeding at our gaming tables? Should we talk about how to staunch the bleeding, given different types of cuts and punctures? Should we talk about how you handle bleeding risks, like people asking to bring machetes to the gaming table? The floor is open. Take this conversation in any direction you care to.


  • I would go back to the "I will not abandon you" style of play that was discussed so many years ago.

    - Ryan
  • Joe, this is a little hypothetical for me. Could you give an example of actual bleeding at the gaming table? What happened before, what happened after? Was this bleeding a part of the stakes that were set up in the conflict? Or was it narrated after the card draw/dice roll? I've seen this happen too, and I might have some advice, if you can flesh it out a bit more.
  • Posted By: Hans c-oJoe, this is a little hypothetical for me. Could you give an example of actual bleeding at the gaming table?
    Sure. One time, I was playing Apocalypse World with Jim, Cricket, and Lucia. Lucia was playing a Battlebabe, and was really excited about getting into character. You know, deep immersion. So one session, she shows up wearing scavenged animal furs and smeared in rag-paste. The smell was atrocious, right? So we asked her, politely, to find a different way of getting into character.

    So the next session, she shows up with a machete. Much better, I think to myself. The machete didn't carry any noxious odors, so was far less disruptive to play. Whenever she was thinking about her next move, she'd twirl it on her left index finger, kind of like one twirls a basketball. We asked her not to do that when others were talking, obviously, but didn't see the problem with her using the machete as a sort of focusing device.

    But then, her Battlebabe was showing down with Brigadier Bonsai, the notorious bike ganger. Its the two of them standing on the cliff-face, the fate of the village resting on this confrontation.

    And then Lucia slips up with the machete, and it slices three of her fingers clean off. And, of course, the rest of the table immediately starts bickering about what we should do. Cricket and Jim think that we should find out what happens next, with the battlebabe and the brigadier. I feel like we should find some gauze and stop Lucia from bleeding. Lucia wants us to just cut to a different scene and return to her in a minute. We find ourselves at an impasse, and end up just calling the session off. It was quite unsatisfying.
  • I find the whole 'staunch the bleeding' part a bit railroady for my tastes: it's a very old school approach which leads to the same old set of predictable conclusions. The binary choices of 'the bleeding stops/doesn't stop' don't really allow for much creativity and heavily limits player agency.

    When this kind of thing comes up in my games, I find it more fruitful to ask, why are you bleeding? There must be some deeper story motivation to be dug out here, something that can drive play forward in an interesting and fruitful direction; taking the machete as an example, I'd be seeking answers to questions like:
    - Where did you get that machete? Who did it used to belong to?
    - What do you use that machete for? Has it ever been used as a sacrificial weapon of any kind?
    - Why the hell is that freaking machete in my house?! Are you some kind of mental case?!

    At the risk of derailing the thread, how can we apply this discussion to players who have seizures? Is there any overlap between the situations or do we have to treat them as two entirely separate phenomena?
  • Okay, that's clarifying, Joe. I thought we might have similar experiences when you talked of deep immersion, but it seems I can't help you out after all. We play Norwegian Style, and I usually don't shake my character off until a couple of days after a session. So, when someone's started to bleed in the past, we all just focus even deeper on the fiction, making healing rolls and stuff. It usually works itself out, but there was that one time when, a few days after game night, I realized my apartment stank and it was because Mike was dead in a pool of his own congealed blood. And I swear I remember healing him!

    Oh well, live and learn.
  • I'm just not seeing it. This is some kind of serious issue? You're actually concerned about the implications of bleeding in the middle of a roleplaying game?

    I mean, I believe you. I'm not calling you a liar. It's just so alien to my experience and the experience of all my friends that I I'm just jaw-droppingly floored by this hilarious reaction.

    Gaming isn't some sort of deep exercise in philosophy and exploring our feeeelings and shit. Gaming is about FUCKING PLAYING and that means being grownups and simply unironically playing a character and rolling dice and having fun and drinking beer and laughing and talking in funny voices and bleeding sometimes. Gaming is NOT about fucking self-care or triage or gauze or calling 911 or whatever the fuck else they taught you in liberal arts college about personal needs or "first aid." This is not an emergency room; this is a gaming table. We are here to GAME.

    Can you help me understand, because I totally sincerely want to know out of absolutely genuine respect for you, why the fuck you're such a pathetic baby about bleeding and screaming and dismemberment and shit? I mean, are you playing at a daycare center or something? Are you still in diapers sucking your mama's tit while you roll your dice? I'm just throwing out some conjectures here. I'm not assuming anything.

    Seriously, just roll your dice and wave your machete and have fun. If someone is making you "uncomfortable" with their "odor" or their "machete" or their "imminent danger of death," just wave a machete or a hatchet or a cleaver right back! I promise, it's not hard or complicated.

  • Joel, please don't harsh the zen.

    Joe posted in good faith, and if you're not going to be on board with the premise of the thread, it might be better to back out? Just a thought. Hope you're doing well!
  • If you start bleeding it's not fun to stop it yourself, roleplaying is about interaction after all (some people would argue that cutting yourself at home is roleplaying but they are wrong, I think it's a kind of lonely fun). You must look at the agent though, some groups like to cut each other and in that case the cut person will be satisfied binding her own wounds.

    Your case is tricky though since it was an accident(?) so it wasn't really the battlebabe's player who started the bleeding but randomness. I'd say involve the whole group! Let them bind a finger each.
  • This happens more often than you'd think especially when playing Vampire. I guess the sudden blood loss, cardiac arrythmia, the minutes spent clinically dead, have all contributed to more than a little brain damage. But we're so into it, we just can't give it up.
  • edited April 2012
    I had a friend who used to bring firearms to the sessions. I had to ask him to stop doing it because the neighbors already thought we were weird enough when my friends appeared in bizarre costumes and wearing masks and I was afraid that they considered to call the police with all that shooting and shit. So, sometimes you have to say 'No'. It is better to lose a friend than having to go back to video games.
  • Sometimes the old remedies are the best remedies. With bleeding, it pays to take a tactical approach. Where is the bleeding occuring? It helps if someone is willing to draw a map. Now, what about that blood? It helps to ask lots of questions. For example: Do you have any blood born pathogens? I wouldn't touch infected blood with a 10' pole. Perhaps if someone thought to buy gloves... If anyone has string, consider a tourniquet to staunch the flow of blood. I mean, seriously, we're all adults and our roleplaying time is precious. Anyhow, some may find my old school sensibilities revolutionary but you can't deny, they still work.
  • edited April 2012
    I find this thread totally offensive. Have you ever considered the position of people who sometimes bleed at the gaming table? I mean, just because you don't bleed doesn't mean they don't have a good reason for it. Why do you have to be so bitchy about a few bloodstains on your precious books? They're smeared with coffee stains and candle wax anyway! And puh-lease don't give me that "I can't see blood, I'm fainting" crap or hand over all your death metal albums at once. Everybody should be allowed to express themselves at the gaming table whatever way they want. You are making it sound as if it was my problem if you feel uncomfortable!
  • Only play with a DM who has good first aid skills. Problem solved.
  • This whole thread is a bunch of touchy feely Yin bullshit. None of you pansies are macho enough to call yourself gamers.

    Just keep a hot iron on the side table next to the Doritos and Bacos Dip. Some fool starts to bleed they can just get up, go over, cauterize that shit and get back to the table. If they bleed in the Bacos, though...fuck that shit, then you teach 'em what real bleeding looks like.

    Game Yang mother fuckers.
  • edited April 2012
    Jesus, Joel. You fucking *know* Joe is Canadian, right? You're being pretty insensitive here. Responses like that that are why we don't have more Canadians in our hobby.

    Edit: meant as whisper, but whatever...
  • This is why Lines and Veils are so important.

    Before the game, discuss whether anyone has a problem with bleeding at the table. If they don't, then cool! Let the guy bleed! If they do, then when the guy starts bleeding, remind them gently that bleeding is not allowed. If the bleeding continues, ask the bleeder to leave the table.
  • The first thing I would do is check what the rules say to do when a gamer starts bleeding at the table.

    Lots of games don't have such rules and that is because they are incoherent.
  • That's because you don't need rules to handle bleeding. You should handle it through roleplaying.
  • I'm not familiar enough with CoC but shouldn't the pansies roll for insanity in such case?
  • Posted By: McdaldnoIt's tricky, because:
    (A) they're getting the book and the character sheets all soaked in blood,
    (B) it's difficult to read die results when they're covered in blood,
    (C) they could die,
    (D) some people in the group might get uncomfortable about that fleshy content,
    (E) panic could ensue.
    These are all ideal scenarios. I am known as a "killer GM," and that's what my players love about my style. If they can't read their character sheet or continue to feed oxygen to their cells, that's part of the fun. I'm trying to challenge my players and put them up against insurmountable odds. Roleplaying is about the making of heroes, not waiting for paramedics.

    I would expect most players to shrug it off and keep moving on. I could see maybe a scene of panic or uncomfort. I've had a table once break out into uncontrolled wailing and screaming all at once. It was a beautiful bit of spontaneous group improv. No one felt the need to call for dice rolls or reference their character sheets for the full 10 or 15 minutes that the shrieking lasted. Things like that are what make roleplaying great!

    But you can't do that for a full 4-8 hours or however long a session is. If it becomes really disruptive, like it is spraying in people's faces or starting to ruin other people's clothing or personal belongings, then I'd have the bleeder go lay down in the tub to staunch the flow or die peacefully. But I really only see that happening at a con game. Everyone I play with by choice knows to bring clothes they don't mind getting blood on.

    And people, stop dog-piling on Joel. I'll admit, he came off a little antagonistic, but lets read charitably here. The underlying message he's saying is spot on. Let's not get caught up in semantics, or get offended just because he used some bad words. We're all adults here and sometimes our words sound more emotionally charged than they really are to help make a point.
  • How hard is this, guys? We're playing fucking roleplaying games here! Any gamer worth his salt has a cauterizing spell in his Satanic toolkit. A little saltpeter and aloe and you're good to go.

    And don't give me that shit about how hard it is to draw an incantation circle with just your thumb and pinkie finger. Man up, okay?
  • Posted By: JoelSeriously, just roll your dice and wave your machete and have fun. If someone is making you "uncomfortable" with their "odor" or their "machete" or their "imminent danger of death," just wave a machete or a hatchet or a cleaver right back! I promise, it's not hard or complicated.
    Joel, maybe you can give me some advice as there are some cases where that doesn't always work.

    My biggest issue is when close friends or family are playing together. They tend to show favoritism. How do you combat that?

    I'll give an example.

    I had a husband-wife duo in a game recently, and the wife got murdered (admittedly, it was pretty out of the blue). I am not surprised when someone wants to call an ambulance, but this guy was out of control. He refused to sit down and stop touching the corpse. At one point two other players needed to restrain him from going after me. Then he started ranting about calling the cops, calling me "monster" and "maniac" (great praise, BTW), and how I was going to "pay for this" (joke's on him, convention fees are waived for GMs).

    This was a long weekend con, so maybe he wasn't getting enough sleep (this was a Sunday morning game), but even accounting for that, it was a major overreaction. It pretty much killed the mood of the game for the rest of the session, too.

    Paramedics did come and take the body away, only then did he calm down and end up leaving. But I'm not sure what I could have done to hurry that up. Should I have kicked him out of the game and even though it would mean losing two players? Should I have killed him to bring everyone's attention back into the game's life and death struggle?

    If you or anyone else has any advice on how to handle favoritism and emotional attachment like this, I would love to hear it.
  • Don't play with jerks who leak body fluids all over the place. This isn't really that hard.
  • This actually happened once.

    We didn't do anything.
  • I hate these threads.
  • What drives me crazy is when the GM is expected to cut everyone else, honestly. It never bugs me when the non-GM players cut themselves, but the constant weight of that expectation really burned me out when I was running our game every week. I'd rather be surprised and delighted by my fellow players' creative approaches to wounding, than to have to keep shopping at the TSA-seizures store for new edged implements every week.

    My advice, generally, is to treat bleeding as a flag that a player wants to address themes like bandaging, cautery, and hemostasis. YMMV.
  • Story Games is like RPG.net but everyone wears a beret.
  • @nemomeme: I honestly don't think of Mcdaldno as canadian. He's just another poster. here. I was simply responding to his words without any regard for his actual feelings as a humann being. This is the internet, after all. Are you really going to call me out as racist? I'm just trying to make sure i'm clear on what you're saying here. That's a really serious accusation and if that's what you meant I'll be expecting an apology.

    @Jogesh EZ: Seriously? Johnstone has it right. You just need good GMing skills.

    Being GM means having a firm hand at the table and nipping this hysterical bullshit in the bud. That's what players look to you for. You need to make it clear that you won't stand for that kind of prima donna emotional outburst ruining the fun of people who just came to game and have a good time.

    If this is too hard for you then maybe you should consider a different hobby. GMing a roleplaying game is difficult and demanding and not everybody can hack it. That's just the way it is. It's ALSO straightforward and simple and easy and requires absolutely no discussion of techniques.
  • edited April 2012
    You are all over thinking this.

    If you step in to stop the bleeding or come up with goofy mechanical workarounds so that players can bleed only a little bit and no one has to talk directly about the blood, you will never know what narrative possibilities would have been created by letting the player bleed to death.

    I mean, where do you go from there? It's all blue ocean. An unexplored niche. The kickstarter would raise dozens of dollars.
  • Posted By: James MullenAt the risk of derailing the thread, how can we apply this discussion to players who have seizures? Is there any overlap between the situations or do we have to treat them as two entirely separate phenomena?
    These are two entirely different cases. Circulatory vs. nervous - system matters!
  • I've been playing rpgs for 97 years so trust me when I say that seizures sort themselves out if you just ignore them and keep on playing.
  • Posted By: JoelThat's a really serious accusation and if that's what you meant I'll be expecting an apology.
    I apologize only for not keeping this to whispers. I'm not saying you were intentionally hurtful, but your response revealed some serious ignorance of history.

    Sure, down here we Yanks can be all cavalier about players bringing knives and even guns to the gaming table; we just sort of expect that. It's such a part of our gaming culture that we don't even notice it. But are you even remotely aware of the Kootenays Miner Massacres of 1885 or the subsequent Machette Control Act legislation that came out of that bloody period? Apparently not. But that's the place Joe is posting from and your response didn't account for any of that did it?

    Joe's got a big heart and I'm sure he tried to read your response charitably but I'll bet be doesn't talk to or even look at you at the next social gathering you both find yourselves.

    I'm done with this thread. As far as I can see hardly anyone is addressing the core issues Joe was getting at.
  • Matthew,

    I understand that you're trying to help, but - and maybe you can't see this from your own position - I am capable of fighting my own battles, and indeed need to. Thanks! Jesus.

    Now Joel,

    Sure, if you want to just bleed out unaddressed at your table, that's fine. I'm not saying that it's a bad choice, and for a con game it's a pretty appropriate one. There's no one true way to deal with medical emergencies - we really don't need to re-hash all of 2007 here, do we? What I'm saying is that every group is going to handle profuse bleeding differently. Your (I think?) dismissal is actually proof and contribution to that conversation!

    So, let's all chill out and talk about how and why and when and for how long people gush blood all over our gaming tables.

    But since Matthew brought up the cultural divide, it makes me think about a question for all the Americans in the crowd: what's it like, dealing with player bleeding and critical injuries, in a country without any measure of universalized health care? Sorry if this question is offensive! I totally mean to ask it in the spirit of genuine inquiry.
  • Posted By: McdaldnoSo one session, she shows up wearing scavenged animal furs and smeared in rag-paste. The smell was atrocious, right? So we asked her, politely, to find a different way of getting into character.
    You pussies. The Apocalypse doesn't exactly smell like roses, you know?
  • edited April 2012
    Posted By: Jared A. SorensenStory Games is like RPG.net but everyone wears a beret.
    Then why aren't you selling berets Sorensen?

    p.s. I'm wearing two!

    p.p.s. All truth be told, the one is very small and I'm wearing it on my penis. Very small.
  • I think it comes down to creative agenda. I often play Bleeder Stance but don't enjoy Murderer Stance. I'm not saying its badwrongfun... It's just in the games I've played it wasn't for me. (in hindsight, I probably should have drawn the veil on those occasions where I was expected to kill another player. I still miss Xander, god rest him...)
  • Many of you are using the term 'bleed' incorrectly; please review the appropriate Forge articles.
  • Posted By: Jared A. SorensenStory Games is like RPG.net but everyone wears a beret.
    Except for me. I wear a driving cap.
  • How do you guys handle public bleedings?

    My group meets up in a gaming store and plays there.

    In the past, if they didn't make their save roll, we've just hid them behind the d20 books..

    However, I'm worried we will run out of space soon. Any suggestions?
  • edited April 2012
    Listen, ya'll are missing some deeply ingrained cultural practices that are assumed here. Bleeding, as such, only became popular within Western society in the late 17th century. It is bound up in deep metanarratives of masculinity, capitalism, statism and generally hemocentric worldviews. Y'all should read your Heidegger.

    Joe, I know we've met in Real Life, and I know you to be a pretty radical brother and I assume that you don't suffer hemophilic fascists at your table nor are you one yourself.

    I think really what you ought to do is ask your player to check their blood-privilege. Not everyone can just bleed freely like that, nor do all of just have the privilege of being able to afford such losses of blood.

    And to the rest of you: just because 'bleeding' is normal does not make it okay.

    Really, Story-Games is just too hemophilic for me lately.
  • I've been dealing with gamers bleeding for many years, and in all of my experiences, none of the systems I used were satisfying on this issue. Thats why I've written my own game that new and revolutionary and unprecedented and better. Instead of just letting the bleeding happen, you have to stab the organ responsible for pumping the blood through the body. I swear, no other game is like it, even though 99% of the procedures are identical to my game.
  • I played with a fellow once who seemed eager and engaged enough at the campaign's start, but about halfway through started getting listless and inattentive. I and the rest of the table tried to reinvigorate his contribution to the fiction by hitting his flags more directly, giving him clearer oppurtunities for spotlight, even setting aside a little pre-session time to talk frankly of why the game was failing to hook him in (annoyingly he never answered with more than a mumble). All for naught, his disengagement just got worse until during the final session, during what should have been the emotional high-point, he blatantly lay down on the table and went to sleep. We were so disgusted we didn't even bother to wake him, just finally called his roommates to pick him up. Sometime later we found out the real cause: the player had been secretly bleeding internally the whole time.

    At first this just made me madder, that the fellow had been putting all his time and attention into this private experience, even engaging in it between sessions, while letting his contribution to the group experience slide. Over time though I've realized the failure was not one of engagement but of communication. It was only stressful because we weren't aware that was how he was comfortable playing, and really it wasn't actively disruptive outside our attempts to "fix" it. Some people get more enjoyment writing elaborate private prose about their characters in reaction to evnts at the table, others want to hemorrhage from an undiagnosed intestinal ulcer.
  • Posted By: ziphtHow do you guys handle public bleedings?
    Really, this is just an opportunity. When a non-beret-wearing gamer or an outsider looking to pick up Pictionary for a retirement party wanders into your FLGS while a player is bleeding at the table, you can simply explain to them that this is what indie gaming is all about. Splatter patterns = immersion. Immersion in blood! Mwahahahaa ::cough cough:: ahem...
  • I feel that the association bleeding = simulationism, implicit in several posts here, it is merely a misunderstanding. I'm not a 100% sure, but bleeding sounds more as some narrativist meta-game thing to me.
  • edited April 2012
    Problems can arise if you have more than one type A bleeder at the table. They tend to bleed profusely and aggressively. Your evening will go much smoother if you have a number of type B bleeders presant. Oops, typo...
  • Annnnd my hobby has become self-aware to the point where it can engage in self-satirizing threads where everyone just seems to understand how to participate.

    I love you all.
  • If only they could be persuaded to use their powers for good...
  • lol ive been gaming for a long time and never had bleeding at my table thogh there is often flem or vommit i just deal with them the same b/c body fluid is body fluid rite?
  • edited April 2012
    Listen, can we at least agree that it's all relative and that any dialogue on the subject is impossible due the vagaries of experience and the ultimate ambiguity of language's inability to articulate the possibility of the cleaning of the Real and an adequate metaphysics of presence that isn't essentially hemophallocentric ontotheology? Honestly, your attempts at categorical definitions of phenomenal ludology fails to appreciate the complexity of Saussurean semiotics or Lacanian psychoanalysis and merely comes off as undergraduate naivety that is hopelessly jejune. What is needed before we can begin to address the banal and uncritical question of "What should I do if a gamer starts bleeding?" is a questioning of the question. That is, before we can provided a definitional understanding of the terms or terrain of the question, we must ask the question of definitions as such and not simply as whatever. Once we have a coherent account of an a priori axiomatic ethico-phenomenology that is sensitive to the radically alterity of the always already Other, we might begin to think a metaphysics of 'blood' or the performativity of 'bleeding'. Moreover, in the spirit of rigorous 'science,' I have contacted Joe with the intention of conducting an eight-month deep ethnography of his play-group and township. Once it's been approved by the Canadian Tri-Council Panel on Responsible Conduct of Human Research and I receive adequate funding from Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, undertake the field-work, publish and disseminate the results of the exploratory research, we should be able to conduct further research that is more broadly targeted on 'bleeding as intercultural phenomena'.
  • edited April 2012
    Orlando, you are so wrong that you are almost as wrong as JDCorley.
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