Like many of us, gamers, I have been playing role-playing games since I was twelve years old.  Unlike many of us, I am Latino and my first GM was black.  From early on, race and ethnicity have played a large role in my gaming, either consciously or unconsciously.  A few years ago this topic came to the forefront for me when my GM at the time started a game about the Irish mob.  Race and ethnicity had been coming up frequently in my life, but when I heard about this game, I frankly got very bored and somewhat dejected.  As I saw it, this was yet another story about Europeans and their problems without representation of other minorities. This topic came to a head recently, when friends were running a 7th Seas one shot, and that same sense of boredom at the setting washed over me, yet another eurocentric game.  As I look back, I can think of the overwhelming number of white players and characters in my groups.  As a geek and ex-goth I have met and played with countless white people as these subcultures are centered around European cultures.  It’s not that I wasn’t welcome, these people were and are my close friends, it’s that I wasn’t counted.  


Drow – From Forgotten Realms

As a player, I know of many games, but I will admit to not knowing the full gamut of games out there and all their varieties, so I focus in this essay on the games that I know, and the games I know are popular.   Off the top of my head I can think of two games, Shadowrun and White-Wolf, that paid any attention to minorities.  Everything else I can think of gave lip service to any ethnicity except chop-socky Asian stereotypes (giving particular looks at Ninjas and Superspies, 2nd Edition AD&D monks, and the Akashic Brotherhood books).  And often, when the players did try to embrace these other cultures, the characters were white-washed caricatures.  Medieval fantasy role playing games are particularly bad culprits of euro-centrism, as their definition of medieval is specifically exclusive of any other culture.  The best (or possibly worst) attempt to create diversity were the Drow in D&D.  My wife has a

A Runestone with Andvari (maybe a Svartelf)

particular issue with the Drow because she sees them as playing in blackface.  I see it differently, because I know based on history the Drow aren’t trying to be black people, they are just a race that happens to be black based on Nordic myth.  My issue with the Drow is that instead of trying to expand beyond European folklore, the authors invented a new race, notably the only one of color, that fits within their eurocentric world.  To make matters worse they are all evil except the one heroic Drow who decides to embrace the mainstream morality and culture.  It’s not to say that the authors imagined non-whites as evil, but as a minority player, this was a message I received. 


My favorite system to play are the Old World of Darkness (OWOD) games, mostly because I like the pathos inherent in the games.  OWOD, in the 90s, was one of the first games in my recollection to really take any consideration of non-European ethnicities, and they did it badly.  But, they did it, and they gave a real attempt to go beyond pure stereotypes.  The Werewolf books integrated a Native-American style animist philosophy into its core principles and it included African characters with the Silent Striders.  The Mage books attempted to recognize Hindi religions with the Euthanatoi (aka Chakravanti).  The Mage Book of Shadows introduced the Ali-Batin, Arabic mages based not on any sort of extremism, but on the Islamic Golden age of the 10th through 12th centuries.  Even the Kindred of the east, as chop-socky as it was, delved deeper into Asian mysticism than just about anything that had come before it.  I reiterate, these weren’t good, but they were a start.  I felt at home, in a sense, because in this system I existed implicitly.  


I could have asked to exist explicitly in these worlds but that would not have been possible.  I grew up in a very diverse area.  I lived with people of all ethnicities in Washington, DC.  I don’t know how to feel normal without a massive amount of diversity around me. From ethnic, to political, to sexual, I had all types of diversity around me.  As a foreigner I spent my early years travelling back and forth from Venezuela, and though I want to say I identify more with that particular culture, I don’t.  I do identify as Latino but I don’t carry that sense of patriotism, that love of the land, that I see in many other people have for the native country.  So for me, representation, however bad, was enough.  It was a start.  It attempted to create a world in which I exist. I’ve heard from others that they’ve known people from somewhere in the world that were offended because these games didn’t get their ethnicity right.  Grapevine hearsay aside, I’m okay with this.  We are not going to get these games right, particularly not on the first go around.  And it’s going to be particularly difficult to get any one culture completely in a short fictional summary of text.  We are playing a game of course correction; we try to hit a target, miss, and try again.  As the 20th anniversary edition of the old White Wolf games comes out, they work to get create better representations.  http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/144495/Vampire-20th-Anniversary-Edition-The-Dark-Ages


I focus on the White Wolf games as the best example I know, not to put them on a pedestal as the best example in the industry.  Part of my particular emphasis is that I do not know of any other games with a global reach.  I’ve seen Mage fan movies in Catalan.  I’ve met a surprising number of native Portuguese speaking players, particularly Brazilian.  I’ve run into Greeks, Bolivians, Mexicans, Chinese, Blacks, and Muslims that play these games.  This is impressive to me. But enough fan-boyism.


I understand where this eurocentrism comes from: white privilege.  I despise that term, not because it’s not accurate, but because it feels slimy to me.  Yet, that’s exactly what it is.  The majority of gamers I’ve played with are white, and have identified with the British Isles or Nordic countries.  If I had a dollar for every Nordic rune or Celtic knot I’ve seen I’d have enough to buy me a couple of new next gen consoles.  Even the minority players I play with have a hard time playing characters that aren’t white.  We are inundated with white-washing in our media and have come to accept it as normal.  Whites in the US are the cultural rulers, and as such in a position of power, whites as a group are not bothered by the lack of representation of other minorities.  It’s not that the individuals don’t care, they do in their individual lives, they just haven’t had examples of players or characters from other ethnicities in their midst.  We need examples of games that include other ethnicities as central points, not as villains or stereotypes, but as proper representation that the world is larger than what we have seen and experienced.


There is a very similar, parallel issue, which is women in gaming.  I’ve run into many men that won’t play women, and vice versa, as well as players that will not stray outside of their own culture.  These players claim this is somehow a defense of that other culture or gender, that they don’t want offend or misrepresent.   I am calling this behaviour out as ethnocentrism, fear, and laziness.  Ethnocentrism in only being willing to engage in something the player already knows.  Fear as in retaliation or rejection for stepping outside the box.  Laziness for an unwillingness to explore and research other cultures.  The cure for this is courage and compassion.  Courage to be willing to explore unknown cultures and courage to be wrong.  The compassion is to open up your heart and mind to seeing other cultures and ethnicities as human.  Investigate a new culture, seek people out from that culture, learn as much as you can about them.  You’re never going to get the whole picture, but the effort of trying to approach something outside yourself makes you more compassionate in real life.  


Image by African History,  Yoruba Practioner

I challenge anyone has never gone outside of their particular box to pick a culture for their next game and make a character from it.  I have done this, my most notable example was a gay black practitioner of Yoruba, specifically Angolan Yoruba as opposed to the Vodou or Santeria offshoots.  I had played multi-ethnic characters before but this endeavor helped open my eyes.  This character was about as distant from me as I could think of, or so I thought.  The experience was eye-opening, not only learning how Yoruba spread with slavery into my own country, but also how other-ing it was to be gay and black in a room full of white people representing European countries.  I was fortunate to have a very good storyteller that was able to run with it.  One of most poignant experiences I had was that other players continuously forgot that my character was black.  The notion of someone who didn’t look like they did was so foreign they couldn’t keep it in their heads.  One of the best surprises I received was realizing that another player in the Irish mob game decided to play a black Vodou practitioner, a player that very much would have otherwise expected to play a white Irish character.  I don’t take credit for influencing him, but I would like to think that playing my Yoruba character touched someone somehow.


I don’t mean to malign anyone by this article.  This is not a pointed finger at white people, but a pointed finger at ourselves, whatever ethnicity we are.  As gamers we have the power to become someone else, anyone else, let’s flex this power.  We have a powerful tool at our disposal, role play, that allows us to become someone else for a bit, to walk in someone else’s shoes. I want us to all realize that we are a broad diverse people, that we have so much richness in culture to draw from.  It’s okay to explore and play any culture, European or otherwise.  We should be acknowledging that the European myths from which our games come from are a tiny part of a broad vast world, and that we no longer live culturally isolated.  Let us realize that we are again and again playing the same song, and excluding many of the people whom we love in our external lives.  Let us realize that we are people living the same struggle, and that the struggle of others is interesting.  Let us realize that by exploring we create compassion within ourselves.  If you are a game writer ask yourself about who you are representing in your games.  If you are a player, ask yourself whom in your life do you want to know more about.  Allow yourself to grow.

Miguel Ludert is an artist and software developer, originally from Venezuela, then Washington DC, then Richmond, VA, and now Seattle, WA.



Tell me if you’ve heard these before. “I liked Changeling the Lost so much more than Changeling the Dreaming because they got rid of all the childhood garbage.”  “When I read Changeling the Dreaming, I turned and ran and never looked back.” “Changeling’s a fine game I guess, but it doesn’t belong in the World of Darkness.”

I have seen or heard every statement above when WoD players talk about Changeling the Dreaming.  I am a long time fan of Changeling, and specifically I am a long time fan of the horror themes inherent to the game.  In truth it can be the darkest setting in the line, but the themes are difficult to approach for a variety of reasons.  Some of those reasons are tied to how the game was developed, but some of the problems have to do with the perspective players bring to the game.

Changeling the Dreaming fundamentally speaks to a distinctly queer experience.  No, I do not think Changeling is exclusively queer, but I think the horror of the game is particularly resonant with the lived experience of queer gamers.  I do not know if this was intentional on the part of the developers, but I want to take some time to really dive into the horrors of Changeling through my experiences as a gay man, and how I feel these experiences show up in Changeling.

There are a handful of moments in my life that I think about when I think about Changeling.  When I was in 7th grade I was at the counter of a small kitch store with my mother in front of a cashier than I am now quite certain was a gay man.  A box of rainbow rings sitting next to the register caught my eye so I picked one up and asked what it was.  The cashier told me they were gay pride rings and I dropped them like my hands were on fire.  I don’t know how the cashier responded (I can’t imagine well), but my mother awkwardly tried to tell me I shouldn’t react that way, while at the same time obviously not wanting to be angry because she wanted to cultivate empathy in me, not shame.  As much as her reaction was the right one, she didn’t understand why I dropped them.  She hadn’t spent years on the playground with me, and she didn’t understand the fear of the slurs being true that only really exists when they are.  Until I finally started dating guys I never thought about that moment, but it lingered in high resolution in my mind.  Now it defines how I understand gay men before they accept who they are.


I had that dream again.  The one where I tower over all the bullies on the playground.  I’m also blue, with horns and . . . it’s a weird dream.  I didn’t have it while I was asleep though.  I had it on the playground.  Steve was getting it again for taking all the toys apart and trying to make them better.  Chuck was leading the chant, and it was the same insults the kids always used.  Geek, Dweeb, Tinkling Tinker, Queer.  My vision went red, my skin went blue and I swung.  I was huge.  I towered over them.  They couldn’t possibly win. . . Except they did.


Steve and I both ended up in the dirt, filthy and bruised.  I got up first and tried to help him up but he smacked my hand and started screaming at me.  Why did I stick my nose in his business? They would have been happy to just scare him if he’d played along, and then I butted in.  His cheeks were red with tears and rage.  For a moment I saw two red spirals twirl out of the flush on his face.  I cringed back and closed my eyes, trying not to listen to him screaming.  I don’t want to be this anymore.  I don’t want to care about him.  I hate myself.


When I was in high school I fell for my first boy.  I mean, I’d crushed a few times before that, but I always found a way to convince myself it was something else.  I can’t say we “dated” or that he was “my boyfriend”.  His parents were Pentecostal.  That was just never going to happen.  Not in any way that normal people get to have boyfriends or girlfriends.  We fooled around though.  Did the sort of things 16 year old kids do with each other that their parents like to pretend “kids” that age don’t do.  I loved him as much as a 16 year old is capable of coherent love.  It was messy though.  His relationship with his adolescent sexuality was complicated and capricious, and as hard as it was for me to accept liking boys because of the children I’d grown up around my entire life, I knew I could never understand what getting that from my family was like, so I was ok with it.

Then his parents found out.  Not about us specifically, but that he liked boys.  I wish I had learned about conversion therapy in a book or from the news in college like most people.  I learned about it from our mutual friends when I found out why he wasn’t living at home any more.  I am forever grateful his parents never knew we had messed around, because when he finally got home after months “at camp” I was able to see him.  We joked about his stories.  Made fun of the idea of all the boys at this camp being forced to bathe together. They wanted to stop him from being gay right?  Clearly they were morons.  We didn’t joke about the majority of what happened though, because he didn’t talk about it.  He wasn’t quite the same as before.  It wasn’t until years later that I really wrapped my mind around what that “not quite the same” really meant.




I sit in my dorm room thinking about Steve and Chuck.  It’s been a long time since I traded blows with Chuck on the playground, but for whatever reason here I am thinking about it.  I know now I wasn’t just dreaming that day.  I can be tall now, huge beyond measure, and Steve isn’t just some kid who’s good at putting things together.  I’m a Troll, Steve’s a Knocker, and laughably enough Chuck’s a Redcap.  He doesn’t smell out other Changelings to torment anymore.  Now he eats the fear of the assholes who made him afraid enough of his blood soaked dreams to turn on his own.  I shouldn’t relish the nightmares he dredges up in those wastes of skin.  I’m a seelie Troll.  I’m honorable, respectable.  Not every Autumn Fae gets a happy ending though and I can’t help but think he’s due a little payback.


Every other Troll in the court might shove their unseelie legacy down when it comes knocking, but I understand what that simmering hatred that locked me away from my chrysalis does to a person, and I understand what it drove Chuck to do.  So when he feeds, he’s feeding for every Changeling he smacked around as a kid, and I savor his feasts almost as much as he does.  It’s just one of those truths about being a fae in this world you don’t admit in polite seelie company.


My phone chimes.  It’s Steve.  He’s back from his break with his family.  I can’t wait to tell him what happened in court while he was gone.  It was an epic summer.  He’s living off campus now, and I thought it was going to be awesome.  I’m standing on his stoop waiting for him to answer the door and I can tell something’s wrong.  When the door opens I see what it is.  His face . . . the spirals on his cheeks that glow a deep candy cane crimson when he works are grey and dull.  His seeming is there . . . kind of, but I wish it wasn’t.  The mists are kinder than whatever I’m looking at.  He’s happy to see me, but everything is wrong, and I don’t understand what’s happening.  We go downstairs into his workshop and it’s immaculate.  No knocker has an immaculate workshop.  He’s building something and he sits down to start working on it again as if I’m not even there.  I watch him counting holes and rows on a prototype circuit board over and over again.  He’s counting exactly 3 times before putting his circuits in and I uncomfortably lean over him and joke, “whatever happened to the kid who always knows where to put the wire?”


He looks up at me and smiles, “Yeah, I was a pretty sloppy kid wasn’t I?  But after the work I did for my dad this summer I know that if it isn’t perfect it isn’t worth making . . . right?”  


Changeling’s themes aren’t only queer, but the horrors come into deeper, more vibrant contrast when you are.  The Nephandi of Changeling wear psychologists outfits and tell you you’re wrong, and the hardest part is the people telling you to listen to them aren’t motivated by some Wyrm tainted Bane curled up deep in their gut.  The people telling you to listen to them are your parents, and girlfriends, and family.  They are telling you to listen because they are afraid of you.  They are afraid for you, and most painfully they love you.  So they can’t just sit by and not do something.  In the worst situations they are just like you.  They are victims of the world around them and that’s the very thing that makes them so dangerous.  Most people don’t understand that experience.  It’s easy to see childhood silliness in Changeling if you don’t look too deeply, or if you’ve never taken a knife to your own ability to love because you’re more afraid of what the people in your life might think than the loneliness that haunts you.

I’m a gay man, and the words above are about my experience, but I will say I’ve seen these themes even more starkly and painfully when I hear my trans friends speak about their lives.  This rabbit hole is so much deeper than I can ever pretend to illuminate and for that I am uncomfortably grateful.

If you’ve ever found yourself saying Changeling doesn’t belong in the World of Darkness, or that it’s full of silly childhood themes, take a second and think about it a little more carefully.  I don’t ask that you dive in and drag the horror out of the game.  It’s a game after all, and no one should tell you what should or shouldn’t speak to you. Instead of saying the game doesn’t belong in the World of Darkness though, I just ask that you take a second to be appreciate why you weren’t able to see that horror and be grateful it doesn’t belong at your table.


Victor Kinzer has been roleplaying since he first picked up Vampire Dark Ages in high school.  He nabbed it as soon as it was released (he might have been lusting after other Vampire books for a while at that point) and hasn’t looked back since.  He role plays his way through the vast and treacherous waters of north Chicago, and is hacking away at the next great cyberpunk saga at http://redcircuitry.blogspot.com/.  He is an occasional guest on Tempus Tenebrarum (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvNp2le5EGWW5jY0lQ9G39Q/feed), and is working to get in on the con game master circuit.  During the rest of his life he works in Research Compliance IT, which might inform more of his World of Darkness storylines than he readily admits.

Grand Masquerade – What ELSE To Do

Hey everyone!


Enjoying New Orleans and the Grand Masquerade? I know I am!

However I do plan on leaving the hotel at some point this weekend, and I figure I would share some of my interesting finds as a first time visitor to the city. I have never been here before, so all of these recommendations are just from what I could find online. There are lots of other places other than what I’m listing here, but these are the ones that seemed the most interesting and required no more than about 15 minutes of walk or trolley ride from the main hotel in most cases. Directions to any of these places can be found by a very easy Google search of the name of the shop, restaurant, attraction, or bar.

If you aren’t at Grand Masquerade this weekend, consider seeking out similar places to these in your home town. Locally owned restaurants, specialty stores, museums, and other local curiosities can really be fun places to go, even in your own home town. Reach out to your other locals and find somewhere interesting to go this weekend.

midnightboheme at pixabay.com

If I covered 1/4 of the French Quarter, would it be the French Sixteenth?


  • Daisy Dukes – Open 24/7, delivery is available, they have a bit of everything, it’s barely two blocks from the hotel, and it is not expensive. These people will know my name and face by the end of the weekend.
  • Country Flame Restaurant  – About a block and a half away, they have Mexican, Spanish, Cuban and Latin American food, and they deliver.
  • Merchant – This coffee shop is close, about two blocks away. They serve fresh made in front of you crepes and good coffee, as well as some sparkling bottled natural fruit drinks.
  • Addiction Coffee House – This was a tie for the closest coffee shop I could find, less than 2 blocks from the hotel, and it doesn’t seem any more expensive than Starbucks, and it’s local blends.
  • Jimmy J’s – NOT Jimmy John’s, but a tiny little cafe about three blocks away. A good place to pop in for snacks or a full blown meal.
  • The Ruby Slipper Cafe  –  Open for breakfast and lunch about 3 to 4 blocks away, this will be a good place to trek to for an omelette as that seems to be their specialty.
  • Salt n’ Pepper – About a 5 minute walk away, here is the Indian place for all of you. I am a bit of a spice wimp so Indian food is not for me, but I know so many people who like it that I found a place just for them.
  • Mona Lisa – About a mile from the hotel, Mona Lisa is a moderately priced Italian joint. I’m not a big Italian food fan, but this place also makes custom pizzas so really anyone can eat here as long as you’re not avoiding carbs.
  • Angeli – About 15 minutes away, Angeli does delivery as well as is open until 2am for all of us vampires in the area.
  • Croissant D’or Patisserie – 15 minutes away by trolley, this one is a cute little bakery and it’s open at 6am, so those of you who stay up all night can pop out for a quick snack before sleeping all day.



  • Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak – This one is only a bit more than a block away, an American style steakhouse. Dinner jackets required for men, this place looks very fancy. Ventrue only.
  • Cafe Giovanni – 3 blocks from the hotel, this is the upscale italian joint for the trip. Vampire the Masquerade players will appreciate the name of the business for sure, and sometimes there are even opera singers in the lounge. Be sure to dress appropriately in business casual, like a good Giovanni.
  • Broussard’s – An upscale French and Creole style restaurant located about 3 blocks from the hotel. This place will serve nice upscale versions of what you would consider local New Orleans fare.  You will need to make reservations, and dinner jackets are preferred.
  • Attiki Bar and Grill – 5 Minutes from the hotel, this Mediterranean seemed very interesting. They have a full hookah bar and sometimes feature belly dancers. They are open until 4am, so have fun being a well dressed (business casual) night owl here.
  • El Gato Negro – About 15 minutes away, this is the fancy Mexican restaurant for all the Lasombra out there, they make fresh guacamole at your table and have a ton of gluten free and vegetarian options, so if you have dietary restrictions and want to go eat fancy, this is a good place for you. Business casual dress, so no jeans here.



  • Boutique du Vampyre – This was an amazing Google find. It’s all vampire themed accessories, props, jewelry, and more. It looks so amazing, and it’s only half a mile from the hotel. I am definitely going there before my big game on Friday to do last minute shopping.
  • Southern Candymakers – This one is about half a mile from the hotel. It’s one of those candy shops you see in most tourist towns, but if you’re like me you have a need to go in these places when you are on vacation. I personally am curious about their sweet potato candy.
  • Papier Plume Stationary – A little over half a mile away near the VooDoo Museum, this place carries lots of stationary tools. Interested in getting that letter writing trend started back up in the Underground Theater? This would be a good place to go. I loved that myself, and I’m hoping they carry sealing wax because I want more.
  • Cigar Factory New Orleans – While I don’t smoke, I know that quality makes a difference, and by all accounts this place is quality. They’re about half a mile away and make everything locally from what I can tell, so cigar connoisseurs enjoy yourselves.
  • Brass Monkey  – This one is about 5 minutes away at 407 Royal Street (I included the address on this one because Google will put you in Shreveport which is a few hours away!) It’s an antique kitsch shop and I am all about these. I can spend all day in here, and I’m very excited to take home a little piece of history.
  • French Market – Located on Jackson Square about 15 minutes away, this is an open air stall market with food, accessories, and more. There is a lot of stuff here and I’m excited to browse.
  • World Famous N’awlins Cafe & Spice Emporium – About 15 minutes away by trolley, this one is going to be fun. It’s a small cafe and place you can buy some of the spices they would be cooking your food in, so if you order something delicious you buy the spice blend they used. I’m excited to get some new cooking spices here.



  • Audubon Butterfly Garden – About five minutes from the hotel, this is a cute butterfly garden and insect museum. There is even the opportunity to eat a bug if you’re feeling brave, which I am not.
  • St. Louis Cathedral – About ten minutes from the hotel, this is the oldest continually active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the US. The current one was built in 1794, but the original is 70 years older!
  • Irish Cultural Museum of New Orleans – Only open Friday and Saturday from 11am to 3pm, this is a museum of 200 years of Irish history in New Orleans. It’s located about ten minutes from the hotel in the French Quarter.
  • Audubon Aquarium –  On the riverfront about 15 minutes away, this aquarium has region specific exhibits, and you get to feed parakeets! I am most excited about going here, because I love going to aquariums.
  • 1850 House – About 15 minutes by trolley, this house is furnished with art and furnitiure from the period, the 1850 House showcases a middle class home from the most prosperous period in New Orleans History.
  • Jackson Square & Cafe du Monde – About 15 minutes away by trolley or walking, I only have one thing to say about it: beignets. Seriously. Jackson Square is a great place to people watch and browse the shops nearby and Cafe du Monde is famous for their coffee and their beignets.
  • VooDoo Museum – About 15 minutes away by walking or trolley, why would you not go to a VooDoo museum while you’re in New Orleans? It’s a good place to learn about why it’s so popular even now and how it got that way in the first place.
  • Adventure Quest Laser Tag – This one is a little far from the hotel, about 15-20 minutes by car, but it is worth it if you like this kind of thing. Featuring laser tag, bumper cars, mini golf, an outdoor maze, rock climbing, and a huge arcade, if you want some family fun this is the place to go
  • Audubon Zoo – About a 20 minute drive away, this is a pretty neat urban zoo. Plus, if you play Pokemon, it’s got around 30 pokestops!



  • Carousel Bar and Lounge – It’s a bar that is built onto a carousel, and it actually spins! They have live music most nights, and it’s only about a block over from the hotel!
  • 21st Amendment – Another bar with less moving parts that features live jazz most nights, and it’s also only about a block away from the hotel. It’s got a mobster, speakeasy vibe and is named after the amendment that introduced Prohibition.



  • Patrick’s Bar Vin – About two blocks over from the hotel, this is a wine bar, but they do serve a few cocktails and a few beers. It’s clientele is apparently mostly locals and the owner is there most nights and friendly. The tourist reviews I could find really liked the calm and inviting atmosphere.
  • Bourbon “O”  – This one is about a half mile away, and is located in what claims to be the most haunted hotel in New Orleans. They have a seasonal menu that changes often so it’s a mystery what they will be serving when you get there!


There are a TON of other places that I didn’t list on here; I didn’t even cover Bourbon Street! Hopefully this gives you a fun starting point to branch out to other places and enjoy yourselves out of character this weekend as well. I look forward to seeing you all in different places around the city, if I can ever bring myself to leave Daisy Dukes, Brass Monkey or the Grand Masquerade hotel. You’ll probably find me out of character at the gaming hall most of the time, losing at board games. Look for me in character at the Grand Conclave event for Underground Theater, I’ll be the one wearing dragonfly jewelry and slightly ridiculous heels.

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


Generally when we are role-playing characters in conflict, we aren’t also having conflict with the players.


Jensjunge at pixabay.com
Unless you take your Witcher cosplay VERY seriously.


Notating the difference between the use of “Player versus Player” and “Character versus Character” is very important to maintain a healthy gaming relationship with those around you, especially those that your character comes into conflict with. 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. If you missed part one, you can find it here. Today we will discuss the the difference between the phrases “character versus character” and “player versus player” or PvP and CvC for short.


Player versus Player (PvP) and Character vs Character (CvC)

Think of a videogame that you play against another person, like Street Fighter or Mario Kart. In those games, you the player is playing against the other player. Your avatar in these games has no motivation or thought driving them to their actions other than your thumbs. No one else wins if you win, and no one else loses if you lose.

Nintendo & nazo-gema.deviantart.com
Except Luigi. He always wins.

Videogames are a perfect example of Player versus Player, or PvP for short. In a video game you are a Player, and the other person is a Player. You as players are using your own skills and abilities in a contest to see who comes out on top. In a LARP setting, the opposite is true. In LARP it is not Player versus Player, but instead Character versus Character. Your character Taylor is fighting Janet’s character Kara. Would you go over and actually injure Janet? If not, then you the player is not fighting Janet the player. Taylor the character is fighting Kara the character. The reason it is important to refer to character’s competing as CvC instead of PvP is that we as players are not competing with each other.

Using the term PvP to refer to your character’s conflict with another character can be harmful to the out of game perception of what is going on. People who are not you or the player of the character that your character is fighting with could perceive it as you the player not liking the other player involved. It can lead to hurt feelings when someone finally wins, as sometimes CvC actions can lead to the death of one or more characters involved. Using the term CvC helps keep that perception from happening and helps separate the negative emotion of the loss so that way you can speak to the player afterwards to make sure everything is okay out of character.

Recently some LARPing organizations, such as Underground Theater, have begun using CvC to describe times when characters fight with each other, and it has been very helpful in reducing hurt feelings and miscommunication issues related to the scenes. In a recent game one character kidnapped another character. The scene went smoothly and after the game the two players were laughing and shook hands, smiles all around. These two players used a combination of possessive and objective language throughout the night, and made sure to frame the conflict as CvC instead of PvP. Both contributed to the general good mood after the game.


Be Respectful, Get Respected, Have A Good Time

unsplash at pixabay.com
Only imagine those as beers if you’re 21+


Language is the most important tool you as a player have when interacting with other players. It can make the difference between leaving your game with a new friend or the other player leaving the game and not coming back. Remembering to use your words as a barrier between yourself and your character can help soothe bad moods and make interactions positive for everyone. Using CvC instead of PvP can also reframe the situation and separate it from the negative in character feelings.

When you respect other players through language, you get respect in return. Treat other players respectfully and you may make a new friend, even (especially?) if your character just murdered theirs and left them in a ditch somewhere.

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


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



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.


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.


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.


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)


Article Originally appeared here: High Level Games




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.


Good news, everybody! You can, in fact, improve your role-play without having to spend precious XP.

In most gaming systems, there’s an oft-ignored facet of our characters: Archetype. Sometimes it is a “prestige class”, UT Headeror a caste, like Exalted, but there is always a bit of something that we usually just choose for mechanical benefit. In my current LARP, the Underground Theater Vampire: the Masquerade, it allows for a willpower retest when you are in a challenge where you are pursuing your Archetype.

What exactly is an Archetype? Carl Jung identified them as universally understood symbols that are common to all cultures. All cultures understand the concept of a mother, or a hunter, or rain. It is basically a short way to describe your character in her most basic form. To paraphrase the late Sir Terry Pratchett, if you cut your character in half, what word would be written in the middle?

Carl Jung

Archetypes span the entire length and breadth of the human experience. Some of them are good and noble and pure, and some of them are most definitely not.  Some of them are more relevant, especially if you have a Gamemaster/Dungeon Master/Storyteller that is paying attention. “Trouble Magnet” or “Curious” are simple, and pure catnip for sadistic GMs. Others, like “Architect” or “Royalty” are a bit more nebulous, but can be great fun, especially if your other primary characteristics, like clan or caste, clash slightly with the Archetype.

Instead of just choosing whatever Archetype seems to be the most mechanically beneficial, I urge everyone to start with an Archetype and build a character around it, rather than the other way round. Despite the fact that this is actually an instruction during character creation in many games, I have found that it is frequently overlooked in the mad dash of making a character.

CrownWith your Archetype in mind, you can look at each situation you encounter and approach it through the lens of that perspective. For example, my Vampire character has the archetype “Royalty”. She looks at things through a lens of noblesse oblige, and this has opened so many avenues of role-play for me, because she truly thinks she knows what is best for the greater good in most situations. She doesn’t have the most impressive social score, and she isn’t a clan that is known for their sociopolitical skills, but through diligent and immersive role-play I have gotten her to have a powerful position that, on paper, she is not really qualified for. It adds a whole level of dimension and verisimilitude – I have to dance harder and faster to keep her from being found out. It takes a challenging play and turns it up to hard mode.

This results in my very favorite kind of roleplay: the kind where mechanics are secondary to the story and the interaction between characters. In my entirely biased opinion, I think this is the best kind of roleplay, the kind that feels most real and the kind that will leave echoes throughout a campaign or chronicle. If you can learn to embrace your archetype and let it flavor your roleplay experience, it will add that extra dimension, that je ne sais quoi that can make a character truly memorable.

Watch this space for the next in my occasional series of ways to improve your RP experience without having to move dots on the sheet.


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.