Welcome to anyone coming here as a result of listening to me blather on at Norwescon! All of my panels were great fun, particularly the Victorian Sex panel, where I’m sorry if I burst anyone’s bubble by bringing a lot of historical reality into the picture. But, you really should know about the bad, too. You know, in case you want to create a historically accurate whore costume. A couple of folks told me it was kind of an info dump, but other people thought it was awesome.
I may expand it, if they let me come back next year. And I REALLY want to do a panel on Weimar Berlin.
Gamers Need Love, Too and Alt Scene Etiquette both went well, as did Body Acceptance is for Everyone. But I want to talk about the Putting the ‘R’ in RPG panel.
We did this one last year, as well. Last year it was myself, the Geek Husband What Rules, Phil Brucato (Vampire the Masquerade and Delirium), and Wolfgang Baur (Kobold Quarterly). This year, the part of Wolfgang Bauer was played by Jennifer Brozek (author and editor of Edge of Propiniquity).
We discussed how to work adult themes into your game, and I’ll sort of give you a text run down of what was covered.
Step one to including adult themes in your role-playing experiences: Talk to your players. This doesn’t have to be, as I have seen people propone, a written quiz and contract. It can be as simple as sitting around during char-gen, drinking and discussing what people are comfortable/uncomfortable dealing with in game, be it violence, deep emotions, child abuse, drug abuse, animal abuse, sex, romance, prostitution, whatever. The GHWR, for example, really, really, really hates two things: pet (dogs, cats, etc…) abuse and the abuse of stuffed animals. Rape, murder, eating babies, all that’s on the table, but in game, thou mayest not slay a teddy bear.*
And that’s part of it, it doesn’t have to make sense to YOU. You just need to know that your player, or GM, doesn’t want to deal with that subject matter, that having to deal with that subject matter means they will be unhappy and potentially even leave your game, your house and your friendship.
This conversation has the added benefit of giving you, as the GM, more info on what you CAN do to mess with your players, as well.
Step two, now that you know what they don’t want to deal with, DON’T INCLUDE IT IN THE GAME.
Step three, PROFIT!!!!
Actually, sometimes Step Three is, dealing with things people didn’t realize would freak them out or hit them that hard, and guess what? SURPRISE! In the kink community, we call those “landmines.” Because you can’t see them coming, the person who’s freaking out didn’t see them coming, and they can explode spectacularly.
What do you do if you hit a landmine?
Stop the game, even if just for a moment, to ask the person if they can go on. Do they need a break? Hey, maybe we should order some pizza. Take them aside privately and ask them if they’re ok if you just fade to black what happened, or is it so disturbing they just need to leave, maybe for the rest of the campaign? Tell them you don’t want them to leave, but it is entirely up to them and do NOT pressure them. They may need some time to digest what just hit them. They may be fine after a five minute cry in the restroom. The GHWR had one of my male characters raped, and he figured it wouldn’t be that triggery because the character was male. I got up, went to the bathroom, cried really hard for few minutes, and then went back to the table and finished the session.
I would also like to note that the GHWR has not done anything like that since. At least not without negotiation. Because role-playing can be a really useful tool for working through charged issues, and we have had some really Gut-punchy Emo-porn games, where we’ve tackled things like my (sort of) former eating disorder, or drug use, or family bullshit.
So, what I’m trying to say here is that you can totally do all the edgy, adult stuff you want. Just make sure your players, and GM, are up for it. Because GMs get to have limits, too. And if they don’t want to help you work through rape trauma or having had your drunk uncle shoot your dog, they get to say no to that, no matter how much you think it will help. That’s what we have therapists for, punkin.
Ok, wow, this is already really long. So I think I’ll cut it here, and the next GGR post will be on making horror scary and sex sexy, and romance romantic. Because THOSE I think I can fit into one post. Or maybe I’ll split it up some more. In this one, I just wanted to stress that you really should find out if your players are ok with dead children before you throw a roomful of dead babies at them. What if one of your players, male or female, is dealing with the miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy? I’m guessing, game over. Not necessarily the end of a friendship, if you didn’t know. But if you thought it would “help” them work through it without asking? Yeah, not so much.
Ok, so I guess I’ll leave this here, and hit you with the next installment later this week. I’m hoping I can talk Danielle into continuing to give us a play by play on Game of Thrones, since I don’t have HBO. I have heard one negative review of it, complaining about too much nudity, but I have to say, “Did you read the books? Shit.”
Also, this last week the GHWR and I were guests on the Double-Meat Podcast, talking about sexism in the Skeptic community, libertarians, and the fact that I should really ask before I start swearing on other people’s podcasts.
*He says, “I’m not fucking kidding. I’m just broken that way.”