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.