IMPORTANCE OF LANGUAGE PT 1: SUBJECTIVE, OBJECTIVE, AND POSSESSIVE LANGUAGE

No one likes to be told they are stupid, or mean, and no one wants to feel like someone hates them. It usually results in feeling somewhat like this:

PublicDomainPictures at pixabay.com

See also: Me when they cancelled Firefly.

 

The way we speak in relation to our games is important. Being mindful of tone when speaking out of character can drastically improve your experience in both areas. Being sure to use the right terms and tone of language out of character can help make stressful situations go smoothly and leave everyone involved happy. On the opposite side of that, using the wrong tone or words can turn a neutral situation into a stressful one for everyone involved. Taking the time to pay attention to how things are said will be beneficial to you. These articles aim to help you conquer one of the topics that is the most harmful to out of character interactions: the language you use. Today we will discuss the language should use to clearly separate your character’s thoughts and feelings from your own when discussing them with other players.

 

Subjective, Possessive and Objective Language

Here is a quick English lesson to start this section out. Subjective language is when you use I/we to define the subject of the sentence. “We should eat ice cream” uses subjective language to convey the subject is the self, or a group including the self. Possessive language uses my/your to define the subject, such as “My shoes match your jacket.” Objective language defines the subject with his/hers/theirs, and refers to a subject that isn’t the speaker or the listener, or a possession of either of them. “His dog is cute” would be an example of objective language use. Using the correct language is important to managing out of character relationships, and we’ll be going over some examples below. In the examples below, your character will be named “Taylor” and the other example player will be named “Janet”, with her character being named “Kara”.

 

geralt at pixabay.com

…and now, for advanced math. I hope you studied!

 

SUBJECTIVE:

Let’s say that your character Taylor absolutely despises Janet’s character Kara, and you wanted to talk about the situation with other players. If you use subjective language, you’d be saying “I hate Kara” which could make Janet think that her character wasn’t any good and she may stop playing the character or the game as a whole. Even worse is saying “I hate you” when talking to Janet directly. If Janet didn’t know you were talking about your character, she could take this as you meaning that YOU the player hates Janet the player and that could leave her feeling upset and make her dislike you as a person.  Even in situations where Janet is clear that you are speaking about your characters, the fact you are not taking the time to make the distinction in your wording may make her feel like you don’t care much about the distinction.

 

POSSESSIVE:

If you were to use possessive language, such as “Taylor hates Kara” then Janet the player would be much more receptive to the conversation, and that would lead to a much healthier dialogue between the two of you. By speaking with possessive language to refer to your character, their thoughts, and their feelings you create a barrier between yourself and your character. Having this barrier lets people know that you as a person do not dislike them and allows players who play even the most bitter hateful rivals in game be civil and cordial out of game. Referring to your character’s opinions this way also helps you as a player keep those opinions separate from your own.  That separation is both necessary and healthy, especially if you play for bleed.

 

OBJECTIVE:

Objective language can be tricky because it needs to be used in addition to possessive language. “I think his character is not very smart” is a combination of objective and subjective language. Phrases like this could still lead that other player into thinking you as a person think that his character is dumb, and possibly lead to hurt feelings and misunderstandings. Using objective language with possessive language clearly defines the meaning of the sentence, for example “Taylor thinks that his character is not very smart.” In that sentence you are saying that your character Taylor thinks that another player’s character isn’t very smart, and that is all.

 

Clear and concise language reduces the chance for hurt feelings.  Remember to use possessive language when referring to your own characters thoughts and feelings, and you will be seen as a much more mature and respectable player. Look for part two tomorrow where we’ll be discussing the differences between the phrases “Player versus Player” and “Character versus Character.”

Anna is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, and is the proud owner of two loving cats, and another that’s kind of mean but loves her anyway (probably). She can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/squeenoodles

LARP & THE SOCIAL DEFICIENCY

Despite the social, shared experience that is Live Action Role Playing, the social aspect sometimes falls short.

Awkward

 

I started gaming as a late teenager, first in AIM chat rooms in a friend’s D&D campaign, then moving on to weekly tabletop games at a local store. Boy, was I awkward! That guy who raises his voice a bit too high when laughing, or seems to not quite get the flow of conversation? Yeah, pretty sure that was me. It took me some time to improve, but I credit gaming for a large part of that success. It gave me an environment to watch how other people interacted on a typical basis, and emulate them. I got to act out characters, help in group decisions, and come together to craft wonderful stories.

 

LARP taught me social interaction a bit differently, given its much broader scope: the first event I played in had dozens of people playing monsters or their own character. The game I play in now averages over 40 attendees a month, and the largest LARP event I’ve been to had almost 400 players in one night! Through LARP, I learned more about personal display and expression on a larger scale, as player and storyteller. I learned to act and reign in emotions better. I’m not the only one, either. My game has other players who, over years of playing, also improved their ability to relate to and get along with others. If that’s beneficial, I’m really happy for them.

 

Even if you don’t care about the social skill-building aspect, just having friends you regularly see, and spending time together, generally makes us feel good. The stories we make are fun! Character improvement is fun! Practicing your acting skills is a kind of fun! I can’t think of another experience quite like Live Action Role Playing, which is why I’m disappointed when the social aspect fails its players.

 

Let’s imagine these scenarios from a LARP game:

  • You’re taking a bit of a breather after finishing a scene. Coming back to the main room, you notice that someone’s been sitting on the couch since the game started.
  • The game has ended, and the players are giving a nod to who they thought displayed great role play. Good role players get extra experience. You hear a lot of familiar names.
  • An event happens, and it seems that like usual, a certain group is going off to deal with it rather than you.

 

Are any of those scenarios familiar? I’ve seen them many times myself. Some players appear to be waiting around forever, or are just bored, but we might be unsure how to approach them or we’re busy. Nods for experience, going to the same players, could just means those players learned how to get attention, have good friends, or are superb actors. It’s the same with the last case: players who know how to form their parties and participate will get a lot of the hooks. Games may have an equalizing factor – our abilities in real life don’t need to have anything to do with our characters’ – but they are not egalitarian. Social systems, too, are played and gamed.

 

Split the party

Get Everyone Involved

Why does this matter? Because some people constantly feel left behind.

 

I still see myself as the awkward kid who never quite grew out of it. I still struggle with joining events, getting myself noticed, or keeping my energy up in large groups. I know I’m not the only one out there who finds the social aspects difficult, even if the game can be a lot of fun. Sure, everyone shares responsibility to improve themselves and fit in, but there’s only so much one person can sometimes do; our internal resources are limited.

 

It’s not as if there’s a single cause for this situation. There are plenty of active players and storytellers who try to extend plot and scenes to those who don’t participate as much, but keeping track of everything and everyone is a tough job. At the same time, there are also plenty of less active players who don’t want to make as much of an effort to be active in the game. Maybe they’re less invested for personal or historical reason. Cliques will also happen anywhere we have people – you can try to stop them from forming, but that won’t happen.

 

That said, I wonder if something could actually be done on a larger scale. I’ve seen increasing numbers of LARP organizations, and individual games alike, make strong statements of various inclusivity in their policies. It looks like a trend of increasing acceptance and diversity. If we understand that LARP is an intrinsically social activity, and we want to be inclusive, what do we do with people who have more trouble on the social part? We could put our foot down and say that some people just aren’t a good fit, but that’s exclusive. Maybe those of us who aren’t as easily social come because we harbor a hope of improvement, as at odds with the systems as we are. Maybe it’s our only outlet, or only way of keeping up with our friends. We’re not here for real life!

 

Could there be a more systematic approach to fair inclusion and participation? Do we want our games to just be games, or acknowledge and further develop the aspects of personal development? I’m not sure. I can imagine the push-back from people who fear the game becoming less about gaming and more about support. Even so, I think it wouldn’t be impossible to have an organization promoting conscientious behavior to its players, a “best practices” kind of deal.

 

For those of us who are a bit less comfortable but still having fun, I hope we can at least have the conversation.

 

Ariel is a player and former head of a World of Darkness LARP, as well as an officer of its parent organization, The Garou Nation. He enjoys trying different game systems ever since he encountered his first rulebooks at the age of 13. In the rest of his time, he works on many projects ranging from computer tech and language learning all the way to Queer media, when he’s not trying to find the best bowl of ramen outside of Japan.

PLAYING PAST THE NUMBERS II: OBSERVATION

How many of us have gotten in trouble wNew Haircutith a friend, family member, or significant other for not noticing something? Whether it is dishes in the sink, a full trash can, or a new haircut – may the gods have mercy on you if you didn’t notice.

LARPing is a game of make-believe, and the best players go out of their way to preserve immersion and make things feel real. So if your honey will get irritated because you didn’t notice a change they made, it only makes sense that players may get irritated if they put a lot of time and effort into doing something that was designed to be noticed.

I’m not saying you have to memorize every detail of every player you come into contact with, but make note of obvious things. Every item and piece of clothing we bring into a LARP situation should carry significance, because we chose to bring it into that world of make believe. 

A change in primary color worn might signify that the character has undergone a change of their own. More jewelry, less jewelry? Maybe they came into money, or were robbed. Someone who usually dresses like they rolled around in a Goodwill reject dumpster suddenly shows up in a suit? Definitely a thing to notice. 

Caitiff Clan Pin

Yep, Caitiff Clan Pin… Buy from By Night Studios!

There are more subtle things too. In Vampire: The Masquerade, each Clan has a symbol, and players frequently wear pins or something similar that show their clan symbol. If you see someone /not/ wearing their pin, and they always have before, it may show that there is a possible rift, or they wish to temporarily dissociate themselves from their fellows. 

(There is, of course, the caveat that someone may have not been able to find all of their bits and pieces, or had something happen to their wardrobe. A quick out-of-character explanation should solve that mystery fairly quickly – and if they say that their character would appear as normal, roll with it.)

There is a sweet satisfaction that comes from being the first to catch something subtle, to see another player’s eyes light up that /someone/ noticed their extra effort. There’s also the mental high that comes from pulling a Sherlock and putting together the clues to unlock another character before anyone else does. Disclaimer: you may put together the wrong pieces and get something entirely wrong, but it’s still fun.

If you decide to hone your observation skills, I have a few tips for you:

Notice one characteristic about a character, and mentally label that their primary characteristic. I recommend something semi-prominent, such as a clan pin, gang badge, or a piece of jewelry that looks really obvious.

Take note of the whole package, and how that primary ties in. If that primary doesn’t really seem to jive with the picture as a whole, choose a One of these thingssecond primary, but make note of the first. We’ve all watched Sesame Street. “One of these things just doesn’t belong here…”

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, in or out of character. “I love your new hat, my dear; was there a special occasion?” “That’s an epic jacket, where did you find it?” This can double as a fantastic way to break the ice with a new player or a new character.

Look at yourself before you walk into the game. See if anything stands out, positively or negatively. Are *you* conveying the message you want to convey? 

This is a skill that is definitely more useful in an in-person role-playing scenario, because we lose a LOT of context in online interaction, but subtle changes can be visible there with a touch of extra effort.

Challenge yourself each game session to try to notice something that others don’t, or test your fellow players by changing something and seeing how many take note. You can thank me later.

Stay shiny! 

Georgia is a fervent convert to being a gamer, having come to the gaming world later than most. She is a diehard World of Warcraft player, an enthusiastic Vampire: the Masquerade LARPer, and a neophyte player of Exalted, 3rd Edition. The game that solidified her love of tabletop games was a legendary Star Wars: Saga Edition game that consumed most of her life for three years and provided an introduction to her husband. When she is not throwing dice or murdering pixels, she is often found working on her urban fantasy novel, cooking anything that does not resist being thrown into the pot, and attempting to make a living as a freelance editor. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and feline overlords. She can be contacted through Facebook via her page, In Exquisite Detail.

ECLIPSE PHASE AND THE TRANSHUMAN PHILOSOPHY, OR, HOW I STOPPED FEARING DEATH AND LEARNED TO LOVE NANOTECHNOLOGY

transhumanismTranshuman

The term is getting thrown around a lot these days and when I write the words a lot I mean a lot.  Transhumanist groups all over the world have seen their numbers swell over the last five years, an example being the Singularity Group, a Transhumanist group that went from 400 members in 2011 to over ten thousand by 2014.  The idea of “beyond human” has found itself coloring the cultural landscape in music, movies, television, novels, and especially in gaming.  At first these change were small bits and pieces of what is an all-encompassing philosophical movement.  Then Posthuman Studios in 2009 dropped Eclipse Phase on our collective gaming culture like a unknown hip-hop artist dropping the mic after proving themselves in an epic rap battle.  The team at Posthuman integrated and deftly arranged Transhuman philosophy into and around every element of EP and created a game that is in the same vein as Shadowrun, forcing deeper thinking about the gaming experience from both a mechanical and setting perspective.  Now in the uncertain future, which all gaming companies get to enjoy, in an industry that much like amateur theater is more a matter of passion than profit, the question becomes what is the direction of EP as the Transhumanist movement itself slowly saturates and bloats beyond the bounds of philosophy and into the realm of faith and cult-like attraction?

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Philosophy is Fun

Let’s take it back to basics; what is philosophy?  What is a philosophy?  Why is Transhuman philosophy, at least initially, the truest descendant of those original Grecian deep thinkers?  Start with the word: philosophy, the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.  The word itself is made of two; philo, “to love”, and sophos, “knowledge”.  The first word, philo, has layers of meaning, being of the same literary family tree as phyle, “a race or tribe”, phyein,”to bring forth, produce, or grow”, and physis, “nature”.  What is the Transhumanist movement but a collection of “tribes” all trying to “grow” more powerful so as to control “nature”?  More so than any philosophy in history Transhumanism fulfills the faceted meanings of philo.  Being a member of the movement doesn’t bring riches; followers love the promise of the movement.  A golden apple of, if not immortality, then extended lifespan and health that no human being has ever enjoyed and expansion of the mind to match.  Of course minus the necessary transition of death required by many other golden apple offering organizations who will remain nameless.  I’m sure we can all think of a few off the top our collective heads, hm?  Or wait, maybe there is a shuffling the mortal coil price of admission?  We’ll get to that later.

Sophos, knowledge, in Ancient Greece men who so debated and argued over the meaning of life and everything were referred to as sophists; teachers who used rhetoric and philosophy to teach arete, excellence, to paying noble students.  If the previous sentence sounds like a set-up for a winding downward path of corruption and misunderstanding than you’re paying attention.  A modern day sophist is considered a charlatan, a hack, a cunning master of words who uses clever but ultimately fallacious and deceptive arguments.  Yes, that’s right, a con man fleecing retirees in Florida has as much in common with a sophist of ancient Greece as the modern philosophy teacher.  They are two sides to the same coin.  Did I mention ancient Grecian sophists were also the first lawyers?  Thanks, Greece.  

It is in this respect that I feel Transhumanism cements a place as the truest spiritual successor to ancient Grecian philosophy.  The Transhumanist movement offers a bright shining future filled with reason, logic, intellectual pursuits, and wonderful advanced technology.  It also offers existential threats to both the continued prosperity of the our species and our very sense of self-preservation.  Both of these futures are painted in golden words and clever arguments.  One is classic sophist and the other modern and the movement has started to mix the two arguments freely.  

“Wait,” you said while finishing that last sentence because you think I can hear you through the magic of the internets, “isn’t this a gaming website?”.  You are correct!  Eclipse Phase brings this murky complexity into the table-top arena and through the games we play and the campaigns we run forces us to face the questions of Transhumanist and Posthumanist thinking while laying the groundwork in the very bedrock of the mechanical dice system.  Posthuman studios has created a game that from page one of character creation gently reaches under our chairs and elevates the conversations at our gaming tables.  

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Buy the Book

There are effectively two characters being created.  The hardware; the body: whether bone and blood or steel and circuits; and the software: the mind, skills, and memories of the player character.  The software is, in contrast to our experiences with computers, the permanent element of your character, while the hardware, in true Transhumanist fashion, is disposable and replaceable and upgradable like that cherry keurig in your kitchen.  You can get a bedeviling assortment of enhancements both biological and mechanical for your body but never forget that you’re only stuck in it until you finish the payments… though, get the Gap insurance just to be safe.  This is a pure idealist view of a bedrock technology for a Transhuman future that borders on posthuman.  The idea of the mind and body as something that can be uncoupled is perhaps the easiest to understand concept at the center of Transhuman thought, and more importantly, is one of several fulcrums for playing Eclipse Phase.  The body is a housing and with proper technologies for uploading, recording, and processing human personalities it may be abandoned.

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Word Creator


As a player this will be one of the most difficult things to accept on a deep instinctual level as ironically the ideas of libertarian politics and individual liberties can be quirky and the popularity contest of a post-scarcity economy; which isn’t actually in Eclipse Phase; can be complicated, they are rooted in ideologies we can interact with in the real world.  However, to abandon your body and not feel a deep loss when being uploaded away is an instinctually difficult idea to grok.  FYI; “grok” is loaded into all spell checkers; that’s a big “W” for Heinlein.  There isn’t anyone who can predict with any accuracy what would happen to a mind without all the support biology of a million years of evolution connected to it.  Remember above about golden apples and transitions of death?  When a computer moves a program it copies it first then deletes the original.  Two whole and complete instances of self would exist and for those few moments be the absolute same person having the same experience. The entire experience would be so far outside our own reference points as to do unknown damage to the psyche.  Thankfully Posthuman Studios agrees and included insanity and Stress points as an alternative type of damage and health in addition to the usual physical indicators of health.  

The idea of sanity and more specifically the relation between perception and reality is another core tenet of EP and an important “big question” part of Transhuman thought.  The world of EP has folded what a modern perspective would call virtual into the the physical world.  The idea of technology so closely integrated as to be genetic means the street of virtual advertising that you can’t without the proper implants becomes reality.  A city block, gray and tan buildings four to five stories tall, the thin skies of Mars overhead.  There are crowds of people all moving along chatting but there’s no noise other than feet and mouths.  However, with the proper implants, the street is lit with a dizzying array of animated signs for business.  Holographic greeters stand outside door ways offering sense memories to sample products and digital menus with encrypted coupons to take home and order with later.  The ears are alive with soundtracks being offered like radio a number of HD channels from private casters to a particular storefront offering a soundtrack with their commercials subliminally layered underneath.  The clothes of the people are alive with neon art, short animations advertising a new popular band or movie.

Should you want more information about that popular band or movie the image itself acts as a hyperlink to the movie’s launch site or the band’s fan page illuminating the integrated instant access to information.  We in the modern day have some understanding of what it’s like to always be plugged in, connected to a vast resource of information.  However, the tenets of Transhumanist thought call for a deeper integration of this access.  An almost subconscious access, your implants; a solid state hard drive, networked cellular sized processors operating inside a shell made of your cloned neural cells, a multi-band high speed wireless connection made of micro-line that grows along your cardiovascular system.  Imagine your virtual half offering up information and data without prompting as you take in the sights.  Even downloading small sense memories, another person’s actual memory of doing something or experiencing something that they’ve digitized into a small file to be added to your own sense memory.  As you integrate other memories then the questions arises of identity.  What is identity in the face of the moldable nature of mind and awareness?  

What is the value of self in the face of neural uploading?  The first time the mind is uploaded, assuming from a healthy human, there are then two of that person existing, staring at each other through their perception of the world and both wholly formed people.  The two would be identical people for only the briefest of moments and then they will be ever so slightly different.  The in-setting laws and sections in EP about that moment is one of the most complicated sections of the entire line of books and is one of the most complicated ideas of Transhumanist thought.  The process of “forking” involves rolls to prune the neural structure of your characters duplicate and allows a purpose built version of self minus any distractions like sense of self or memories in the case of beta forks.  The much more complicated; re: fully realized duplicate; alpha fork is the more legally, philosophically, ethically, and spiritually dangerous concept.

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Probably the Wrong Kind of Fork

This is where Transhumans falter in the philosophy and EP expresses it beautifully as few if any can agree on the moral and ethical nature of the above situation.  Is it suicide to transfer your consciousness, to upload a copy of self away from your birth body?  Is it a murder/suicide pact between your self when a fork is sent to collect information returns and is reintegrated into the “original” or does the fork demand the “original” integrate into the fork?  Which is the legal entity known as that person?  Who has legal precedent and who is the true person?  EP handles this by providing every major answer in the characters of every major power in the solar system setting of the game.  The Jovian Republic says there is a soul and if you’ve left your original body you are not human anymore.  The Scum Fleets encourage experimentation of self that sound more like a John Carpenter movie than the well reasoned choices of an advanced species.  The Martians focus on survival and let others tackle the big questions.  The Titanians actively explore the concept in academic settings while Extropians enjoy the full width and breadth of the technological advances but don’t clamour for the extreme experience the Scum pursue.  There are more and more and more factions, clades, tribes, clans, hypercorps, small city-states (village-states?), and ever more exotics forms of community. Like flipping through the pages of a book they are each different in their approach and reaction to the neural freedom of technology.

What does this do to the psyche?  The far reaches of Transhuman technology create monstrous abominations that chant “long live the new flesh” while charging to break the body while their very appearance breaks the mind.  A mind already ablaze and saturated with this constant input of sights and sounds that must be actively managed.  A mind that isn’t tethered to a body and may also roam fully into the digital world of restaurant menus and subliminal advertising.  How does this affect an originally “normal” human mind?  The Stress point and insanities system of Eclipse Phase reflect the downside of this morphic freedom and by reflecting the darker side of the malleability of mind they embrace all of Transhuman thought.  The rolls for resleeving, the adjustment periods, and all the bonuses and flaws of switching bodies is a fundamental element of Eclipse Phase and this neural freedom is key element of Transhuman thought.

The idea of a “mind” as software creates interactions with the environment not possible in other games and dangers that simply can’t be found outside of EP.  The mind can be transferred to newer and/or better bodies but is also a target for psychological invasive memes, malware consisting a bad case of schizophrenia where the voices give you specific instructions to leave the back door unlocked at the bank, even whole other personalities with separate skills ready to take over when needed most.  In this element of EP the Transhuman thinking at it’s core shines very brightly indeed. You must have faith in the process upon which you embark because after it’s done your mind will be humanely wiped from the meat like quietly putting down a old dog.  

Transhuman thought asks massive questions about the mind and Eclipse Phase brings all those questions and the underlying technologies to you as a player in a variety of combinations.  Just like the neural and morphic freedom that Transhumanity strives for the world of EP offers a way to play and approach these massive questions from any angle.  Is the mind the soul?  Do we have a separate element of ourselves which make us that can’t be transferred?  Is there really a difference between real and virtual?  Can a human be duplicated and if so are both the original?  Can a mind be programmed, firewalled, infected with a virus, and upgraded like a desktop computer?  Is there a point where the you that exists isn’t the same that existed?  

Those are big table breaking questions and they won’t be answered in this article or in the Eclipse Phase setting so…good luck with that?  The next time we meet we’ll dive into morphological freedom, the technologies and philosophical concepts behind re-sleeving, morphs, biotech, nano-tech, and the point where artificial and natural becomes very blurred indeed.  We’re going to be with Eclipse Phase for a while really exploring the ins and outs of the Transhuman heart that beats at the center.

WHAT WOMEN WANT IN GAMING: ADDRESSING ISSUES OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY – PART II

Part 2: Developing Solutions

If you have not read through my previous LARP post, please do so.

Yesterday I shared my observation that we can do a better job in addressing issues of harassment and sexual violence within our respective LARP/Gamer/Fandom communities.  Today, I’d like to share with you a couple of things that we can do to try and move forward. This is not by any means an exhaustive list, and I would encourage you to share additional ideas and suggestions in the comments.

The first thing that we need to do is acknowledge that this problem exists. We need to avoid the blame game on why this has gone on for so long, and focus on what we can do going forward.

As for the specifics on “what can we do?”, here’s my list:

 

We need to educate our community about consent.

Fries

High-immersion LARPs are on the rise. In the early days of parlor LARPS, we were able to get away with having a “no touching” rule.  At this point, such a protocol is like abstinence-only sex education – too restricting to be realistic. We need to teach LARPers how to communicate what level of physical touch is acceptable in various scenes, and how to break the scene to reassess physical boundaries if one of the participants feels uncomfortable.

 

Every LARP – from troupe games to full networks – need to have an anti-harassment policy.

Even though we are adults, sometimes we have to make doubly clear what is considered inappropriate behavior.  That way, if and when something happens, we can point to the line that we drew in the proverbial sand and show how it has been crossed.

 

Incident response needs to focus on the safety of the victim, and include law enforcement when necessary.

When I refer to the “safety of the victim”, I speak of their mental, emotional, and physical safety. That means having individuals who are trained to help someone through a potentially traumatic experience. This means having people who can walk the victim through their legal options if needed, and who can serve as an advocate. It means being willing to keep their identity anonymous if asked, and pursuing in-club corrective action even if they do not wish to press legal charges.

 

We need to be willing to tell assailants to leave.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to those who commit sexual harassment or assault within the LARP community. Some feel very strongly that we need to ban any perpetrator with extreme prejudice. Their logic is that by allowing them to remain within the community, we are sending the message that the “value” that this person provides to the community is worth more than protecting the victim (and other future targets) from additional harm.  It furthers the image that perpetrators receive a “slap on the wrist” response to their actions.

The challenge with this is how realistic this approach is. How many of those who rally for such a wholesale ban would actually do so if the perpetrator ends up being a long-time friend? Would they still support such a ban (and potentially put a strain on said friendship), or would they try to seek a way to bring that person back into the fold?

This leads me to the second school of thought regarding how to move forward after an incident occurs: to review each situation on a case-by-case. There are some habitual assailants who may not be able to (or aren’t willing to) change, and we should not feel guilty for cutting them out of our LARPs. However, there are those who can be reformed with enough time and effort.  There are members of our community whose sexist thoughts and behaviors are a product of their culture and upbringing. Some may not be aware that their attitudes towards women contribute towards an unsafe and uncomfortable LARP environment. This is where male allies are vital in providing a solution – they are often the ones who are able to get through to these individuals and show them how their thoughts and behaviors are hurtful and guide them on how to be better.

While the latter option (treating situations on a “case by case” basis) acknowledges that people can change and gives them the opportunity to do so, the LARP must weigh the risk of the perpetrator harassing and assaulting others in the future, and how their community may be perceived for allowing the assailant to remain among them. It is also important to take the wishes of the assailant’s victim into account; if they do not feel comfortable with the perpetrator remaining part of the community/club, then the LARP should follow through with banning that individual. Doing otherwise sends the message that the wishes (and emotional well-being) of the victim do not matter.

 

Jessica is one of the founders and president of The Hidden Parlor, a World of Darkness LARP network dedicated to supporting the in-person LARP experience and creating a cohesive setting while empowering players and storytellers at a local level.  In addition to her executive duties for the club, she is also their Arch-Technomancer (web developer) and graphic designer.  Her support of the fandom community extends to CONvergence – an annual science fiction/fandom convention – where she helps oversee the care and feeding of hundreds of hungry volunteers.  When not trying to save the world (one geek at a time), she portrays her Child of Gaia at the local werewolf LARP (The Last Stand: part of The Garou Nation), plays 16-bit video games, and tends to her three cats (Pirate, Ninja, and Doc Holliday)

WHAT WOMEN WANT IN GAMING: ADDRESSING ISSUES OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE WITHIN OUR COMMUNITY – PART I

Part 1: Admitting the Problem

Every time I am asked to speak about women and gaming (especially women and LARPing), I get nervous.  This isn’t the usual “butterflies in the stomach” type of nervousness that one experiences when being asked to speak in public. As the seconds tick towards the start of a panel or podcast recording, I can feel my hands become clammy, my chest and throat tighten, and my breath quicken from anxiety.

I have identified as a gamer since the late 90’s (and as a LARPer since the early 2000’s).  My name is known – not only for the personalities that I have crafted on the game floor – but also for the ways that I’ve influenced at least one LARP organization.  I’ve worn the hat of Storyteller, Marketing Strategist, Web Developer, and Executive Officer (in One World by Night, it’s called “Head Coordinator”) – all in an effort to improve a community that I called home.  I’ve since shifted my energies and time towards The Hidden Parlor, a new LARP organization that seeks to enjoy the World of Darkness as further developed by By Night Studios while also tackling some of the tougher issues that face the larger LARP and fan community (more on that later).

Even when I reflect upon this resume and the reputation I’ve built for myself, being asked to speak about LARP from a woman’s perspective scares me. Part of me wants to simply scratch the superficial surface on what women gamers want.  Telling an audience to just ask their female players about the types of plots that they enjoy is considered a “safe” response.  Delving into the topic further – on issues involving the safety of and respect towards female (and minority) LARPers – paints a huge target on me.  Gamergate happened only two years ago, and it showcased how some within the larger gaming community are willing to react when faced with a progressive cultural shift.

I’m one of the lucky ones in that I never received a death threat for any decision I’ve made as a leader within the LARP community, and I would prefer for there to not be a “first”.   However, given that I know others – including men – who have been harassed online and received death threats over LARP-related issues, I think this visceral fear is justified.  Today I swallow back those fears. Someone needs to speak for those who LARPed and left, those who are LARPing now, and those who will join our community in the future. We as a community can do better on this topic. We owe it to the fellow fans of this hobby to do better.

We need to take issues of harassment and assault within the gaming/LARP community more seriously.  This is a collective problem, and the community as a whole needs to participate in the solution.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of being a guest on Tempus Tenebrarum – a bi-weekly World of Darkness podcast – for their Women in Gaming episode.  During the episode (about 27 minutes in), one of the hosts brought up a situation he dealt with:

  • He had invited a woman to join his gaming group.
  • She found out that a former stalker was also invited to the group, and declined the invitation.
  • Now made aware of the other individual’s past behavior, he told the female gamer he was willing to un-invite the other individual.
  • The woman declined the offer, indicating that she did not want to draw additional attention to the situation.

Due to the tangential nature of that episode – as well as my previously stated nervousness when asked to approach such topics – we were not able to share an in-depth response. Looking back, I would have liked the opportunity for us to deconstruct the cultural “norms” that led to that situation and its outcome.

Why S*** like this continues to happen

Harassment

 

This webcomic by Jim Hines that was published on Facebook in August 2013 gives insight into why harassment at geek events (LARPs included) is an issue. Three years later, it is still very much an issue.

There are some who may take my drawing attention to this topic as a claim that LARP scene is extremely dangerous. That’s a straw-man fallacy. For the most part, LARPers are nice people who want to have fun in their fantasy world and want you to have fun with them. There’s a subset of that group who have not been taught how to check for consent, and there’s an even smaller group who feel they are beyond needing consent in order to get what they want (the real predators).  In those times where harassment or assault occur, we as stewards of our community must do a better job of providing support to the victim and taking proper corrective action against the assailant.

 

Why isn’t this reported to the police?

When a LARP club or event organizer hears about past instances of harassment or assault, they ask about law enforcement’s involvement, or lack thereof. Some have gone as far as to suggest that a club should not intervene in such issues – like banning the assailant, for example – unless a police report has been filed.

First, let’s take a step back and examine whether a filed police report should be a litmus test on whether a club responds to allegations of harassment or assault.

There are many reasons why a victim may not go to the police, which include:

  • Fear of reprisal
  • Reported to a different official (ex: security team at an event or a LARP club officer)
  • Victim feels that incident was not important enough to warrant further action
  • Belief that the police couldn’t/wouldn’t do anything to help
  • Did not want to get offender in trouble with law
  • Unsure about perpetrator’s intent (well-meaning vs predatory)
  • Did not want others to know
  • Did not feel they had enough proof (victim’s word vs the aggressor)
  • Fear of the justice system
  • Did not know how

Source: Reporting Sexual Assault: Why Survivors Often Don’t, Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault

 

Put yourself in the victim’s shoes – Imagine that you’ve been touched without your consent, catcalled, or noticed someone constantly following you around an event space. If you don’t know the person, spending hours to file a police report may seem futile because you are unable to identify your assailant. If you know the person, then the situation can become more complicated. Mutual friends may take sides. Some may defend the assailant by saying their intentions weren’t predatory, and that you overreacted by going to the police. Worse, others might spread rumors that you had ulterior motives to get the other person in trouble, or that you didn’t care if the club/event’s reputation got dragged in the mud. The risk of fallout to you seems far greater than the potential of justice against your assailant.

 

If you want to do your own research on why incidents of harassment or assault go unreported, look no further than Google:

 

Google

There are articles/blog posts from other coutries (like this one – translated from Swedish) that show that this problem is not limited to the United States.

The problem isn’t entirely a lack of information – it’s a lack of people acknowledging it is a problem that we can act upon.

 

Why isn’t this reported to the clubs?

 

Remember earlier when I gave the list of reasons why sexual harassment and assault victims don’t report those incidents to the police? A lot of the same reasons carry over to why they don’t report those issues to their LARP’s incident response / disciplinary team.  There’s often a fear of ostracism, especially if the assailant is higher up the social ladder. Some clubs also have a cumbersome disciplinary process.

A couple of years ago, I developed a membership engagement survey for one of the LARP clubs in order to help identify community issues and potential solutions. One of the sections focused on the organization’s disciplinary policy. I wanted to show how members perceived their game’s disciplinary process and how that might influence their willingness to utilize it in the event of an incident that might require a higher level of discretion (like, for example, incidents of harassment or assault).

110 people completed that section of the survey (the % of total members is unknown, since that network doesn’t keep count of individual participants)

 

Graph 1

 

Let’s take a look at the final question. An average rating of 2.3 out of 5 (especially when 63% of respondents said they “Disagree” or “Strongly Disagree” with the statement) is not a vote of confidence for that disciplinary system.   The low ratings on several of the other questions (specifically on the perceived impact of the accused’s popularity) also are fairly disturbing.

I decided to examine the responses of those who responded with “Agree” (8 responses) or “Strongly Agree” to the (11 responses) to see how they compare with the group as a whole.

Graph 2

 

“I would feel comfortable bringing forth a disciplinary action involving a sensitive issue (requiring discretion) using our club’s current disciplinary system” – response of 4 Agree) or 5 (Strongly Agree)

While better, these results still aren’t comforting.

Unfortunately, when I tried to broach the topic of disciplinary policy reform with said club, I was met with a lot of resistance. Some dismissed the results outright because they thought the respondent pool was “too small”.  Others felt that PR work needed to be done to assure the public that the current disciplinary process was effective. While no one stepped forward to bell that cat, I am grateful that there were participants who realized that public perception needed to be changed.

If there’s little faith in a LARP/Club’s disciplinary process – even if the volunteers overseeing it are hard-working and impartial – members will be less inclined to report issues when they are small because they feel it isn’t worth the personal drama. This is especially true for matters that require discretion, like incidents of harassment or sexual violence.

I think back to the various instances where lines were crossed.  I’ve had guys (yes, multiple instances) think it’s okay to put their arm around me and caress my shoulder without permission.  I’m not a fan of being touched beyond a hug unless it’s someone who I am comfortable with.  I’ve had other guys get into my personal space and not understand my nudgings for them to leave me alone.  Each time, I felt that what happened to me – while inappropriate – was not severe enough to outweigh the potential drama reporting the incident and having it go through formal channels. Looking back, I wonder if I did the right thing by not coming forward during those instances.  I think of who else may have seen what happened, and took my lack of follow-through as a sign that such behaviors (or worse ones) are okay.

I am not one to bring out a problem without also proposing solutions. However, I want to give you all time to reflect upon the severity of what I’ve written so far.  In my next article, I will share what I see as actionable solutions to this issue.

 

Part II

Jessica is one of the founders and president of The Hidden Parlor, a World of Darkness LARP network dedicated to supporting the in-person LARP experience and creating a cohesive setting while empowering players and storytellers at a local level.  In addition to her executive duties for the club, she is also their Arch-Technomancer (web developer) and graphic designer.  Her support of the fandom community extends to CONvergence – an annual science fiction/fandom convention – where she helps oversee the care and feeding of hundreds of hungry volunteers.  When not trying to save the world (one geek at a time), she portrays her Child of Gaia at the local werewolf LARP (The Last Stand: part of The Garou Nation), plays 16-bit video games, and tends to her three cats (Pirate, Ninja, and Doc Holliday)

 

5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT HORROR IN MAGE: THE ASCENSION

Article Originally appeared here: High Level Games

 

Horror

 

Games set in the World of Darkness were all designed as horror games. Mage though, Mage is a game that doesn’t immediately set off the horror music in your mind. Mage instead reads like a game of hope, of a search for Nirvana. Like the rest of the WoD though, Mage is a game embedded with horror elements. Sure, it’s a different kind of horror than the personal horror of Vampire: The Masquerade or the ecological and rage filled horror of Werewolf: The Apocalypse, but the horror is still a core concept within the game. Horror in Mage is often about the questions left unanswered. In a search for enlightenment, the secrets one cannot find answers to are some of the most horrifying elements.

  • Control – The Technocracy might come to mind at first; the technological organization that believes it has to control ‘sleepers’ so that it can bring the world to ascension. This sort of control boils down in the books to long detailed and scary descriptions of mind wiping and personality manipulation. On top of that, Control is an actual ‘thing’ within the Technocracy helping to lead the world to… somewhere. Control is not only the purview of the Enlightened Citizen though. Concepts of control seep through Mage in subtle ways. The Order of Hermes believes that they control the forces of the universe. They believe that they should be the ones to herd humanity into growth and enlightenment and that they will eventually find the formula to bring the world back to the height of their power, the Dark Ages. Every Mage struggles to control the world around them, to show how their version of reality is true. Control and the lack of control permeate the WoD for Mages, and stories done well around control or a lack of control can be deeply terrifying.

 

  • Paradigm and Consensus – The world is what we make it and for a Mage the world can literally be what they imagine. Or, it would be if consensus reality didn’t hate those who try to change the foundations of that reality. The Mage has to have a paradigm, a worldview that their magic is crafted around and through. This worldview can include everything from a hacker’s excitement over the connections we make through the internet, or the ceremonial magician that believes blood, symbols engraved on the floor, and incense can help them make connections with Hell. For the first group, they may think they are making connections with other people, but what if they are simply making an opening for monsters that inhabit the digital web? What happens when a Mage sends himself physically or in astral form into the web? Can a computer virus kill them? Do trolls cause them physical pain with their attacks? What does the Mage believe? Do they think they can be killed via the internet? We’ve all heard stories about people addicted to games that die of heart attacks at their computer… that explains why he died perhaps… and it fits our consensus of reality much better than the fact he caught a virus meant to harvest data and is now harvesting something else.

 

  • Paradox – This ties into the last point. Paradox is consensus reality slapping a Mage for thinking they can remake the universe in their image. Paradox can appear as a shift in luck for the Mage; the things they once did with ease no become more and more difficult. Paradox can appear as a literal hobgoblin to destroy the mage. Paradox is the boogeyman for even the most static of Technomancers. Paradox is the universe pushing back; it is the power of the sleepers en masse. Does that mean the sleepers are truly asleep? Maybe they are tapping into a more universal avatar, a connection to the universal awakened entity? A good storyteller knows how to encourage her players to get their Mages to bend reality, and slowly reminds them that they are not as powerful as they think… maybe they aren’t the ones in control of the universe… oh there is that control thing again…

 

  • The Universe has Secrets – Whether it is the Deep Umbra or deep in the ocean, the universe has secrets that it is trying to hide. Reality hides deeper evils than we might ever know, but the Mage is seeking ascension, so they tend to trip right over the tentacles curling around the world as we know it. Do the Nephandi truly control the Technocracy from the inside? Are the Euthanatoi actually empowering the Abyss with their interest in Entropy? What about Ether, does it exist? What is it, if it does? The Universe has secrets and it is trying to hide them but they slip out into reality and even the most dedicated of Void Engineer crews might not be successful at destroying every deviant that pops up. A good storyteller never reveals all the things hiding in the shadows of the World of Darkness, and in Mage that can be hard. Mages are seekers of truth and may run headfirst into the darkness. That drive offers a perfect opportunity to show them a tiny glimpse of the creatures hiding in the dark.

 

  • Magic is dying – For the traditions; they believe the lifeblood of the universe is being drained away by stasis. Magic no longer powers the world in the way it once did. For the Technocracy, the world isn’t being locked into stasis; it is instead being ordered and brought to a greater state of enlightenment. Who is right? Is the very essence of dynamic reality being funneled into a state of greater good, or is it being destroyed by forces that seek to bring a halt to everything? Or even, is the world being slowly deconstructed from the inside out by forces of entropy and the Abyss? An Akashic performs their katas every day for years, and one day, it fails. Her actions no longer change the world in the way they always have. Do they seek a new way of doing things? Or, do they feel the creep of fear from their lack of ability to do what they have always done? Maybe magic is dying, but what is taking its place? Maybe if magic isn’t dying, it is instead the hope of the mage that is dying or already dead.

THE CLOTHES MAKE THE CHARACTER

Have you ever looked at someone walking down the street and thought about how they look like they should be a character in a video game?

Credit to Unsplash on Pixabay.com

This guy gives cloth collection quests, obviously for those awesome jackets.

In a LARP set in the modern day, or just  one that uses modern day styled clothing, it can be hard to make a costume that stands out from your everyday wear without breaking the bank. Buying nice clothing for your character can be a good way to costume, but not every gamer has that kind of budget. Luckily for those of us not as rich as our characters, there are easy ways to make a costume from everyday items without taking out a second mortgage.

 

Dress Differently Than Normal

Wearing clothes you as a player wouldn’t normally wear can go a long way to making an easy costume.

lightstargod on pixabay.com

Left: European X-Men recruit Right: California New Age Hippie

If you play a particularly feminine character, consider wearing a skirt or clothing with a more feminine cut such as a flowing blouse. If you often wear your favorite color blue, consider dressing primarily in other colors for your character. If you primarily wear graphic tees from your favorite rock bands, consider playing a character that would choose to wear clothes that fall into the “business casual” style of dress or a graphic tee that you wouldn’t normally be caught dead wearing. By wearing different clothing than you do in your day-to-day life, you will create a new look for the people that you game with which shows that while you might be in jeans and a graphic tee, you are clearly dressed as a different person.  If you choose to costume this way, make sure you are consistent, and try to stick to the same general themes.

 

Wear Something AWFUL

This sweater is ugly, and that is great for a costume.

thriftingnightmares.tumblr.com

Grandma’s 1987 Mardi Gras Jacket

 

Think of the clothes you see at the thrift store that no one ever buys: the bright red corduroy pants, the tacky Christmas vests depicting Santa’s flight, and the poofy, gold sequined 1976 formal wear. All of these seem horrendously ugly and not something you would wear in 2016, right? Hideous clothing like that is exactly what can make a good costume! Hawaiian shirts, brightly patterned sports jackets, plaid kilts with denim jackets; all of these things are visually unique and make your character stand out in a way that still remains comfortable for you as a player. You may have to swallow your pride  to be willing to wear the outfit to and from your event, but rest assured that visitors to your games will be talking about “that jerk in the denim overalls and a trilby” on their way back home.

 

Accessorize!

Accessories add finishing touches to an outfit, and can really help differentiate a costume from an everyday outfit.

ministajazz at pixabay.com

That’s one magical outfit! …I’m so sorry.

 

Accessories come in many forms and can help flexibly flavor your character’s outfit. Jewelry such as piercings, rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets can add flair and help portray your character’s personal style or their wealth and status.  Trinkets also make common gifts, so a simple ring can represent deep connections or secrets to those paying close enough attention. Doing makeup and styling your hair for the character can be another great way for the character to express themselves and help you really get into their headspace, since your own reflection will be altered. Something as small as wearing eyeliner and lipstick and putting your hair up can drastically change your appearance! You can sometimes find a friend who is skilled enough to put makeup on for you if you lack the know how, and there are tons of tutorials online that help you achieve certain looks, from film noir dame to goth rocker and everywhere in between.

 

Have Fun and Get Wild

The right mix of clothing, style and accessorization can transform you into your character quite easily. You can go from this:

sabinemondestin on Pixabay.com

Joanna Smith, who works in an office downtown

…to this:

sabinemondestin on Pixabay.com

Roxy Wake, who sings in a club uptown

…in just a matter of minutes! Swapping out your personal look for your character’s style can keep  you in character and make your character memorable in a positive way in the minds of other players and characters at the game. You may even discover that some of the things you pick out for your character to wear end up transferring over to your personal wardrobe once the character leaves play, or even  discover how good you look in a certain color or style of clothing.

Remember these tips next time you costume and don’t forget to look awesome!

 

Anna is an avid LARPer, and on weekend when she isn’t being a vampire she treks out to the woods to beat up her friends with assorted plumbing supplies and birdseed. Outside of LARP Anna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ* community, and is the proud owner of two loving cats, and another that’s kind of mean but loves her anyway (probably). She can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/squeenoodles

STORYTELLING SPOUSES AND CURIOUS CATS

I can’t really remember what I was doing when I walked into the living room to see my husband going through my dice bag, but I do remember asking him what the hell he was doing going through my dice. It was the second time that week, and it was starting VtM Diceto get bizarre – not to mention annoying. His Vampire the Masquerade dice had gone missing and so naturally he’d been turning the place upside down looking for them all. As a fellow gamer, my dice bag had naturally come under suspicion, twice. The first time, I’d let him get it out of his system, yeah sure, knock yourself out and look in my dice bag. But the second time, it irritated me because it was like he thought I was secretly squirreling away his VtM dice for some nefarious purpose.

I wasn’t, but all of that is pretty much beside the point. No, the point today, dear friends, is that living with another gamer – especially the Storyteller of a game you’re playing in – comes with its own set of shenanigans.

Telugu_RIPI’m a curious sort, and as much as people say that curiosity kills cats, I’ve always found enough satisfaction in pursuing my curiosity to keep me coming back. Over the years, this curiosity has led me to geek out over the most
obscure things (and even learn some weird dead languages in order to do so). It was what made me move to a bunch of different countries when I was younger, and has led to some of my most cherished adventures.  When that curiosity met gaming though, it sort of morphed into a kind of ‘arms race’ in our home. It’s really not my fault that I’m something of a natural detective, and well, if my husband leaves the various gaming books outside the bathroom that he’s using for research for the various games he’s running (that I happen to be playing in), it’s totally not my fault if I take note of that and do a bit of reading, right?

 
Not that I’d use that knowledge in-game though, it’s just that curiosity thing again.

It’s like when I’m at a store and find a game book we don’t already own that I suspect *might* be relevant to the story. Our local gaming place has a “no smelly person’s” rule, it’s nice…you know, to just stay and read a while.

And it’s not like I remember everything I read anyway; or much of anything I don’t write down; or read a few times.

Even so, my husband has gotten wise to me and has started putting his research books away again. From a housekeeping perspective, I’m considering this a score (even if it is a setback for curiosity).

Then there are the conversations about games in a more general sense. These conversations are so frequent at our table that I wouldn’t be surprised if our 2 year old daughter thinks that Nephandi are a bunch of assholes she might one day come across in the world. I love these conversations, they help me to learn the game and remember what I learn. I also really like discussing in-game possibilities and bouncing ideas off my husband for future games; which brings me to my next point…Mr_Burns_evil

Sometimes in these conversations, I obviously stumble across something plot-related to one of the games we’re currently playing. I say “obviously”, because it’s really not that common that my husband starts laughing maniacally and tenting his fingers like Montgomery Burns. He gets this look of utter glee on his face, and that cackle – well, that lets me know I’ve hit pay dirt. I don’t even think he has control over this reaction, to be honest, it just kind of comes out; bubbling up out of his mouth like some kind of geyser of megalomaniacal delight.

 
If there’s one thing my husband loves, it’s building his stories and being (mostly) in charge of the chronicle he creates. And while it might seem like I’m some kind of planet X-type wrecking ball in all of this, I’m really not, because if anything, I think we’re getting to know each other even better through gaming (both in and out of game). Given how many friendships (and relationships) are forged around gaming tables, this is hardly surprising. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been gaming (at least on a regular basis), it’s that it’s not just about dungeon-crawling tomfoolery or exploring new worlds and paradigms, more than that, it’s about the gamers as people themselves.

We live in a weird era. We all inhabit Facebook as though it were a village and think we know people well for them posting photos of dinner or their most random of random thoughts. But we don’t, and if we don’t take care, it’s all too easy for our online friends to become little more than self-generating content for a website that keeps us all hooked for hours on end. We’re missing the human, and it just so happens that a good way to get it back is found in pretending to be something (often) inhuman with a bunch of friends and a shitload of dice.


Cat Heath is a newbie gamer who is developing a love of all things White Wolf (Classic WOD). Although a long-time student of folklore, mythology, and the occult, Cat resisted getting involved in gaming in any major way despite the best efforts of her husband – Josh Heath of Reach-Out Roleplaying Games. However, more recently the laughter and pieces of story floating from the gaming table drew her in and she’s found herself getting sucked in. Naturally her husband is rubbing his hands together with glee. Cat can be found online at http://seohelrune.net where she writes about those more occult topics, and is currently working on putting the final touches to a couple of books.

MY 5 TOP ROLE-PLAYING GAMES – JUSTIN’S PERSPECTIVE

DevonShire
When I was asked to write for keepontheheathlands.com I first thought my old friend might not remember how acerbic my writing style could be.  I then thought I don’t have an opinion or insight into gaming and its related interests that someone might find interesting.  I have, however, realized that my old friend likes my acerbic writing style and that I have been gaming for over two decades and yes, I do have a thought or two about gaming the pastime, gaming the industry, gaming as art, and gaming people.  So here I am trying to string together a series of sentences that you; the endlessly consuming hordes of internet travelers desperate for an endless flow of content; might find entertaining and perhaps a little bit illuminating.

 
In the name of manners and taking the first step in our newly birthed relationship I’m going to introduce myself with that most time honored of internet traditions the “Top 5 List” article.  You can get a feel for my gaming preferences, likes, and dislikes, while I can learn to read the inevitable comments both in favor and against my deeply held favorite games without weeping at my keyboard.  Seriously though; keyboards do not like being wept upon, apparently all keyboards are allergic to human tears?  Which seems ridiculous to me; it’s like saying all keyboards are allergic to coffee and we all know that can’t possibly be Ack!  I kn0ck3d myne cof33 O g@wD ZweXienntsszzdl…

 

Dungeons_&_Dragons_5th_Edition_logo5.  Dungeons & Dragons by Wizards of the Coast LLC has been around for ages and could pretty easily be considered the big daddy of gaming in North America if not the whole western world.  We all in one way or another have been influenced by D&D either by playing it ourselves or playing games created by those who have.  It could even be said that every game developed in the western world is a reaction to this gaming juggernaut.  While my tastes have evolved over the years there’s something delightfully simple and direct about saving the princess of fancytowertown from a reliably evil villain while murdering hordes of his or her minions and never a doubt in our minds that we are the good guys.  No you nevermind about the forty year genocide we’ve been committing against the goblinoid races.  They’re bad… it says so in the book. (Editor note, this is a topic we will address in a series of articles in the future)

 

MnM-logo-wordpress

4. Mutants and Masterminds by Green Ronin Publishing on the surface checks the boxes for every four color comic trope you care to name and several you
wouldn’t care to name; for example the total lack of black superheroes until the late 60’s. Now to distract you from the political commentary; hey look!  A fantastically flexible rules system that literally lets you build any kind of world you care to!  The M&M rules set allows for the creation of space marines, alien monsters, classic monsters, time travelers, soldiers in WW1 trench warfare, survivors of a crashed plane in a land ruled by dinosaurs and talking apes, and a host of other possibilities.  That’s not to dismiss the deceitfully deep setting that Mr. Kenson and Co. have put together; a city that so easily is compared to a certain gleaming Polis of the Metro persuasion where in lives a rather strapping undocumented immigrant.  This setting can be played at its surface level of “Bamf”s and “Ka-pow”s but leaves all sorts of doors open for deeper commentary on the necessary blindness of such a “perfect” society.

 

Eclipse Phase3. Eclipse Phase by Posthuman Studios LLC is a game so deep, so layered, so mind-bending that the game is almost impossible to play as intended with less than an engineering degree and a working knowledge of philosophy, computer programming, and orbital dynamics. I love it.  This game creates a credible future for our solar system and illuminates all of the worst fears of technologists and futurists the world over.  We’re talking next level nightmare scenarios which include neural viruses uploaded into your brain via a weird image file attachment to an email, nanotechnology that rewrites your body against your will and while you watch, and suicide bombers whose entire cellular chemistry has been altered into that of a single megaton bomb.  The subtlety and cunning necessary to survive the universe that Posthuman have put together makes the goblin race invaded fantasy city fancytowertown seem like a relaxing vacation in comparison.

Everything about this game, from the rules to the setting, forces player thinking on a level that most of us don’t commonly experience.  The premise of the game puts characters immediately in the gray area between classical good and evil concepts as Firewall agents.  The measures of your success is how few people died during this or that adventure and the idea of ultimate evil is dismissed by a kaleidoscope of motivations ranging from survival to so advanced the human brain is physiologically incapable of understanding them.  Yet the corrupting influence of things like ideas and ideologies is baked directly into the rules system such that even trying to understand the motivations of some of the more powerful entities in this universe can reactively alter your brain into a sleeper agent for said entities.  The added bonus of multiple layers of reality with physical and virtual realities opens the door for any number of genres and stories to be told and that’s something I can always get behind.

 

2. World of Darkness by White Wolf Publishing is both immensely expansive as a world and setting but tightly focused in story driven games and campaigns.wodlogo_348 The smooth system, simple character creation, accessible ideologies of the various factions, and the classic monster flair makes for an easily approachable game to new nerd and grizzled gamer alike. The WoD has become a true rabbit hole of a universe where in there is always another secret to unlock, a deeper layer of reality to comprehend, and deeper understanding to achieve.
While at first glance this setting seems intent on a gritty “real world” setting the added layers of virtual realities in Technomancer enclaves and the endless options the spirit world provides creates a literally endless universe of possibilities for players and gamemasters alike.  In this game we are all storytellers and those stories can range from tight dramas about families and loyalty to insane adventures in the deepest realms of imagination.  Don’t be afraid to look into the abyss; it has beautiful eyes.

A note before I reveal my current all-time favorite game.  The idea of a perfect table-top game is a tricky one.  As we age and experience the “reality” of our own lives our tastes, preferences, and opinions change as more and more information is compiled into these wonderful processing machines we call a brain.  Our inner lives expand as our outer lives chart a course through time so my number one game is my number one game for this current version of myself.  The version of me gaming ten years ago had different priorities and tastes while the self that will; minus random wolf attacks or a late night duel with a demonic tanker truck on a lonely highway; in ten years’ time have different priorities and tastes.  There are only two things about a human life that are set in stone; birth and death.  Everything else is a result of before and a precursor to after.  I just made a really big philosophical statement in a Top 5 article.  Here’s my number 1 you clever apes.

 

Shadowrun-5-Logo1. Shadowrun by Catalyst Game Labs stands the test of time like few others. I’ve watched this game grow from the angry punk ripped jeans seed of the 80’s into the Chinese style suit dystopia of the 90’s adolescence to the chrome and grime nanotech realism of the early 21st century young adult incarnation it currently enjoys. The mechanics are brutal and all-inclusive; there isn’t anything you can’t attempt with this rules set in this setting.  This has been my go-to game for close to a decade and the endlessly twisted surprises keep vibrant what could easily have gotten stale ages ago.
Every part of the world is represented in this setting from the slums of Lagos to the glittering high rises of Seattle.  The very idea of what’s real is bent with virtual, spiritual, and physical worlds layering on top of each other in an ever deeper connectivity.  No other game delivers that sensation of something amazing on the horizon of time like this one.  The dazzling array of factions, nations, tribes, gangs, crews, crime families, and religious movements offer every avenue and option of story.  The clash of ideologies for the soul of humanity as our abilities outstrip our understanding has gifted us gamers with a world so rich it’s like having a third piece of cheesecake with strawberries while drinking a chocolate frappe.  The giddiness of this game leaves you shaking with anticipation for what’s next.  So chummer, I’ve dropped some wiz pay data on you shaikujin; now slot, run, and buzz.

 

What are your top five?  Anything good?  Comment below and let us know if I dissed your favorite game by not liking it as much as you do.  Better yet, comment below if you think I’m brilliant in my choices and you want to reinforce this list as the superior choice.  ‘Cause that would be awesome.

Justin has been playing, running, and designing games since he was 14.  He enjoys reading, writing, eating, and sleeping.  He also enjoys a good think but not too often as he’s very heat sensitive and doesn’t want his brain to boil over.