Gentler Sex My Ass – the LARP Version

Maybe it’s the old age and treachery thing but I have been surprising/horrifying storytellers since I started gaming 12 years ago.  The first thing that stands out in my memory is when I came up with my first character concept on my own.  I start with a general idea and then create a history for her.  There is often research involved and I generally end with costuming choices – either from my own closet or trips to Value Village and such.  I get irritated when cheese mongers use the blanket excuse that we are playing in the “World of Darkness” to explain and excuse any all sorts of random cheesy violence without any real thought or consideration actually going into it.  They explain this in that condescending, long suffering sort of way that conveys that, clearly, they don’t expect a frail, withering flower of a girl like me to understand.

Oh really?

I got news for them – I understand much more than many of them do.  The very first background/history I wrote for the first character concept I created entirely on my own got the following response from the 20-something storyteller in charge of backgrounds at the time:  “It’s kind of icky.”

In a nutshell:  Her parents had been killed in a car crash, her foster father locked her in a basement room, beat her, and was a pedophile, she bided her time until she was able to escape the situation, she became a prostitute because she was not hung up about the sex thing and she was underage.  She used that to secure a place to live as well (she was freelance).  She was working the airport and came to the attention of a vampire.  He embraced her, took her to Amsterdam, and made her one of his working girls to get info & gossip.   One day he screwed up and got himself killed and the other vamps told her to get the fuck out of town because they didn’t want to deal with a young, ignorant vamp and had no real reason to kill her.  She returned to Seattle to start over – the end.

That was one of the nicer backgrounds I’ve done.  Seriously.  One of the later characters that I created and, sadly, didn’t really get to play had a sire who contrived to have her picked up and severely tortured in Inquisition proceedings as part of her indoctrination and training to be a follower of Lilith.  This went on for days – with her would-be sire feeding her bits of blood to keep her alive.  She was finally left, broken, on “The Wheel”.  Some hours later her sire took her off the wheel, took her home, and then embraced her.  By the time I was bringing her into play she fully believed she needed to look for other disciples, gain their trust, and bring them to the truth in a similar manner for their own good and growth.  She was not evil in an expected way – she fully believed she was doing what was best.  I did a fair amount of research into interrogation methods used during the Inquisitions (there were actually many).   Again, I horrified the storytellers who read the character history.

My current character had the most traumatic and violent circumstances to her embrace that I have ever heard or experienced in game before.   She was jumped by a gang of Belial’s Brood vampires where she had been a key character in thwarting them from using a machine to change history, again (long story).  They tortured her for hours because the leader wanted to completely break her before embracing her.  This included beating the crap out of her and the use of the power nightmare to make her believe and experience the feeling of having her foot cut off, being on fire, and worms crawling into her eyes. This was the brain child of another woman – who also plays one of the best low humanity, barely contained, will kick your ever-loving ass (a point proven in several games now), violent characters I’ve ever role played with.  This character showed up unexpectedly and came to her rescue – except that the leader pulled my character on top of him as a shield when her charcter was about to deliver a death blow – so she very nearly cut my character’s head clean off – which is why she had to embrace her.  She buried her in a hole in a wooded park and fed my character congealed animal blood when she woke.  There’s much more to the story but those are the basics surrounding her embrace.  Conversations between sire and childe have often involved my character exhorting her sire to please not put severed fingers in her pockets.  One set her sire gave her happened to be what was left of her own mortal fingers accidentally severed the night of her embrace – a defensive wound.

My fellow girl gamers and I have done far worse things to our own and each others characters than many of the storytellers in our games.  We are at times delighted and horrified with what we’ve done.  I like to keep track of it in an In Character (IC) journal on Live Journal.  It’s friends only as much of the information there is not stuff other players/characters would necessarily know.  There was a storyline about her dead lover from a previous existence (long story) being stuck in between time periods.  My character’s choices for resolving the issue and ending the pain her lover was experiencing was to either A) Kill a mortal and condemn their soul so that her lover could take over their body or B) do a ritual to put her lover to rest (which, incidentally, involved Native American spirits literally consuming her after she was made manifest in this time period).  This was also the brainchild of the same woman storyteller who narrated her embrace.  I love her brain!

Talk to the girls you game with about their characters and their backgrounds and what “World of Darkness” means to them.  The answers just might surprise you.  If you want violence with an actual story behind it, consider asking the girl gamers for their ideas.  You might find that we have just the deliciously evil ideas you were looking for.

6 thoughts on “Gentler Sex My Ass – the LARP Version

  1. I just now had time to read this post, life has been crazy. I LOVE your character backgrounds, and the fact that they are coming from women makes perfect sense to me. That it baffles anyone is what confuses me.

    Women have been inculturated over thousands of years to live daily with the very real reality of exactly that kind of deep dark horror. Men have not. We’ve not only been property, and property whose behavior determined the “manliness” of the owners in question, but property with no recourse to anything other than hoping we could find a kind master.

    Even now, Domestic Violence is no longer “expected”, but it certainly isn’t shocking or unusual. It’s rarely a man being physically abused (although this does happen). All women have seriously worried about, talked about, known someone who has been abused or has been abused. It’s a very real concern.

    Serial killers are almost always men that torture, rape and abuse children or women. Men sometimes prey on other men but only very very rarely will you find a woman preying on a male, or on other women. Every woman, everywhere is aware on some level of the possibility that she could be attacked, beaten, raped, tortured, dismembered or killed. It happens every day somewhere.

    We grew up with the threat of the Green River Killer present in our minds everyday. I couldn’t go to the park or the store or my friends house without my brothers or my dogs. Men are outraged, pissed off, anxious about their loved ones when this kind of thing is going on, but they don’t stop and think “If *I* don’t watch my back, it could be ME!” We do, every day on some level. Even if we don’t leave the house, we know women are brutally murdered in their own homes, every day.

    It’s so much a part of our reality we make adjustments for it without thinking about it. It’s as natural as breathing to us.

    The idea of a woman serial killer, or a woman rapist, stalker etc preying on a man is so sensational that movies like “Fatal Attraction” were groundbreaking, Oscar winning cult classics. Put a man in the same role and it would have been nothing special. Or “Single White Female”, shocking! Why, because we aren’t an ingrained threat, especially not to men.

    Most men never think, really on any serious level, about being tortured, brutalized, etc. And when a man is – say as a P.O.W., well that’s a heroic story about overcoming horrendous odds and suffering so horribly yet surviving somehow through sheer determination and grit. He’s a HERO.

    Women live with that kind of thing, or die by that kind of thing, every day. It’s sad, it’s tragic, boo hoo, life goes on. No one really stops what they are doing, or gives it more than a passing thought. Even in Horror movies, the men die too, after fighting to the death, being overcome by superior forces, etc. Women routinely knock the bad guy down and run away only to be chased down and brutally murdered. It’s so common we groan in weariness when it happens, “oh not THAT again – pick up the fucking stick and bash his head in you dumb bimbo!”

    So women gamers who play a “dark” game – makes perfect sense their darkness kicks the living shit out of the average males darkness…we live with it every day. It’s not a foreign concept, it’s not something we pulled out of the ether’s, it’s very simply expressing that deep, dark, not very hidden reality we are so used to living with day in and day out until it’s just so much white (black?) noise it blends into the background.

    Furthermore, I think a “dark” game is a wonderful way to let some of that out of the psyche and into the light of day – something I think most women need to do far more often. We’d either get more respect or a damn good representation of it out of sheer fear if the average male started getting any idea what kind of shit lives inside our melons!

  2. Hi Julie – thanks for your great reply!

    Just the other day I was hanging out at a comic shop and a guy started to say something about that if women were afraid of being attacked, they should take martial arts and take some personal responsibility. I can agree that it would make the person feel more empowered and is a fine idea if they think it would help them feel more confident. I also told him that he would probably not like or put up with the sorts of personal safety checklists that women are expected to follow daily. I said it was about bloody time that we started focusing on the idea that it’s wrong to assault people rather than victim blaming. The fact is that no matter how much training you have – if someone is determined to assault and hurt you they can probably do it. One can not be vigilant every moment of every day and – for fucks sake – we SHOULDN’T HAVE TO!!

    If I want to take a walk around my neighborhood or to a nearby coffee shop after dark I should damn well be able to! It shouldn’t matter if I was alone or what I’m wearing. But I digress…

    I’m also debating doing a post on the idea of subtlety when gaming. I haven’t noted that women LARPers are necessarily better at this than men LARPers – and it’s one of my pet peeves when gaming: that the SCREAMING wheel gets the attention and those who are more subtle tend to be ignored or steamrollered over…

  3. Oh that is the truth – and even “tough” girls have this inbred thing of NOT being the “problem”. We’re the compromisers more often than not, if for no other reason than we have too much to do to fight every injustice. There simply isn’t enough hours in the day, and as we get older, not enough gas in the tank either. So we learn to compromise and compromise and compromise which automatically comes with being tactful and subtle to some degree.

    I miss the days when I was young enough, dumb enough and energetic enough to fight the good fight for nothing more than the principle at stake. Now ~ pffft…there better be a life in the balance or some other drastic repercussion for not fighting or it’s not happening.

    Funny how gaming and socio-economic-cultural realities are so closely paralleled. It’s like a microcosm of Womens’ Cultural Issues all wrapped up in a shiny little globe for examination.

  4. Oh and as far as the “self defense” – BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT! I have two boys, both HUGE! I taught them that they can’t EVER hit a women – the most they can do is block a blow. I base this on a simple scientific fact – men are built denser and heavier than women. I tell my boys, my girlfriends, random guys on the street, pretty much anyone who will listen –

    The average man can hit the average woman in the jaw with half (or less) of his strength and shatter her jaw. The average woman can hit the average man on the jaw with all of her strength and give him a good bruise – maybe knock out a tooth.

    Martial arts is good and it can save your life – if you’re strong and quick and very well trained and get lucky. I have a form of MD that started atrophying my muscles before I knew it existed or could drive. I’m “tough” compared to a shit ton of women I know (or I fake it better.)

    I’m 5’8 and 250 lbs with almost not strength in my distal limbs and I’d be more comfortable taking on the “average” male than many women. I’m lucky, I have heavy bones, shoulders like a linebacker and an attitude gleaned from being raised by NW Lesbians and spending my early adult years at cons and SCA events.

    I know SEVERAL women, family included who are 5’4, under 125 lbs and have bones like a bird. I don’t care HOW much martial arts they know – the average man can overpower them in about 2 seconds flat. The average man with no particular training of any kind.

    It should not be OUR responsibility to make sure we can fight off attackers who are evolutionarily built to be stronger – it’s our society and cultures fault that we should have to!

  5. Most men never think, really on any serious level, about being tortured, brutalized, etc. And when a man is – say as a P.O.W., well that’s a heroic story about overcoming horrendous odds and suffering so horribly yet surviving somehow through sheer determination and grit. He’s a HERO.

    As a child bullies used to hold me down and systematically torture me. I grew up in redneck Maine and this behavior was sanctioned by the teachers. In fact if I got lucky and lashed out I would be punished.
    And I would not say my experience was anything like the many boys I know who were abused.

    Oh and as far as the “self defense” – BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT, BULLSHIT! I have two boys, both HUGE! I taught them that they can’t EVER hit a women – the most they can do is block a blow. I base this on a simple scientific fact – men are built denser and heavier than women. I tell my boys, my girlfriends, random guys on the street, pretty much anyone who will listen

    I would advise my children not to hit anyone. Someone might get hurt and it might be them. But seriously don’t hit a girl, you’ll get your ass sued.

    What it comes down to though is that you can’t live your life in fear. If someone comes after you with a crowbar, you are dead. Just get used to that idea.

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

  6. Wow I would like to have you in a game. Though I admit my storytelling skills may not be up to such a detail background as your characters have.

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