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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 76 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: GenCon Poison'd, but you don't get the whole story  (Read 12068 times)
lumpley
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« on: September 03, 2007, 05:29:53 PM »

Me, Rich, Julia, John, Matt. Some other people watching for some of it, Julie, Ben, Ram. I was the GM. If you weren't at the table with us, then some of it, the best parts? You just don't get to know.

It's okay. There's plenty to tell. Let's start here. If you're delicate of sensibility, please cover your eyes now, okay?

It wasn't that I'd never played a game with rape in it before. Far from it - I've run towns in Dogs in the Vineyard that would curl your hair. It wasn't that I'd never played a game where a player character committed rape onscreen, not that either. Running kill puppies for satan all those times means that I've gotten pretty jaded about what PCs will do. By coincidence, it was the first game I've ever played where one PC raped another onscreen, but it wasn't even that. What it was was, it was the first game I've ever played where one PC raped another onscreen and everyone at the table liked it.

Remember this Perfect post of Ron's? Read the paragraph beginning "Brian provided a classic example of a Line in play..." It was a moment like the one he describes there, only the opposite: James Dobbins' player was watching us all to see if there was a line, and if he was about to cross it, and nope.

"Liked it." Jesus. But it's true. Raping Ebenezer was absolutely the right thing for James Dobbin's player to have James do. We at the table were like, holy fuck, but, fuck yeah. We laughed out loud because of how right it was. Because of what a monster former Captain Pallor had been and how he had visited his monstrousness upon all the characters in the game. The power vacuum he left behind was made of sex, violence, and their conjunction; to fill it, James Dobbins had to fucking FILL it.

Later in the game, Cuntface raped the governor's daughter. (Yes, the character's name was Cuntface. That's all you get to hear about that from me.) He didn't do a single thing that Errol Flynn wouldn't do - he scaled the wall, put his hand over the girl's mouth, fought off the guards with her slung over his shoulder, swing down the rope, took her aboard ship. We watched Cuntface's player tell about it with our mouths in thin lines, not laughing at all. Fuck, no, not fuck yeah. Oh Cuntface, you shouldn't. Shit.

Ebenezer had tried to castrate Cuntface. a) To subjugate him, yes. But also b) out of love, like a big brother's, to prevent this very thing. It's one thing for Ebenezer to rape and be raped. It's not cool when Cuntface does it.

Here's an important Poison'd GMing technique: "do you fight, or do you endure duress?" Enduring duress has the same mechanical benefits as everything else in the game, where fighting eats those benefits up, so the only reason to fight is because your character will. "Do you endure duress?" means that you can buy into even the most horrible experience for your character. It encourages a long view.

After the storm and the madness passed, while Cuntface was scaling the wall and fighting off the guards, Abyssinia, charged up with storm and madness, fucked James Dobbins. Threw open the door and bent him over. She had "a device," we called it. It had figured earlier, and you won't hear that part of the story from me either.

But. "Are you enduring duress?" I said.

"No," James' player said. "It's not that."

So, there you go. One rape no-holds-barred that made us laugh. One attempted rape I didn't tell you about. One romantic Errol Flynn rape where she was too scared to struggle and we didn't laugh at all. And one plain hard fuck.

You can uncover your eyes now.

Were we comfortable with what we did in the game? Yes. Well - we thought it was horrific, tragic, fitting, gruesome and bad. But whoever was talking, no matter how horrific and bad the things they were saying, never once did we wish they'd shut up.

After the game ended we sat and talked for another three hours or more, as friends. As, in fact, very good friends. None of us wanted to get up and go anywhere else. None of us wanted to open the circle to include anyone who hadn't been there. We split up for the night reluctantly and only very late. It was too good to leave behind.

-Vincent
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John Harper
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« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2007, 11:08:22 PM »

Too good to leave behind. That's what it was, indeed. "The game most vile and beautiful," I told someone when I got back from GenCon.

I played James. By far the most vicious and damaged character I've ever played. I played James, but I wasn't the sole author of his sins onscreen. Like Vincent said, I was looking around the table the whole time we were moving across line after line, pulling down veil after veil, and not only was no one flinching, but everyone was nodding and sometimes smiling and sometimes laughing and all the time supporting. In the midst of the most transgressive and risky game I've ever played, I felt the most overwhelming sense of safety from my fellow players.

It wasn't cool when Cuntface did it, but it was okay. No one wanted the horrible things to happen, but no one objected. At no point did we hold each other in judgment. And, yeah... when James kicked down the door and fulfilled his twin ambitions to be revenged upon Ebenezer and to fuck him, too... yeah, we liked it. The extreme rightness of it was almost a joyful thing.

The bit at the end when Abyssinia fucked James was so important! Our ship was cursed. James did some black magic to see about lifting the curse, and he got an answer: Slit Abyssinia's throat and swab the deck with her blood. This he agreed to without batting an eye. But then, Abyssinia came to him and she made her move and he didn't resist her. I asked Abyssinia's player, "What's it like?" (the sex) and she says, "It's real. It's not power or revenge." After all the blood and curses, betrayals, revenge, and horror: it's something real.

Vincent asks if I'm enduring duress and I'm all, "Hell no. It's not that at all. Our ship can be cursed forever and to hell with all of us because not one drop of Abyssinia's blood will ever be spilled as long as I live."

And just like that we had a pirate marriage; knee deep in blood, but a marriage still.

Vincent is right to say we sat and talked after the game like good friends. Good, close friends were made during that game. We have been to war together, and seen each other's mettle and compassion under fire.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2007, 11:13:18 PM by John Harper » Logged

Agon: An ancient Greek RPG. Prove the glory of your name!
contracycle
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2007, 04:51:40 AM »

If you weren't at the table with us, then some of it, the best parts? You just don't get to know.

In which case, I just don't care.
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"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
lumpley
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2007, 05:18:56 AM »

So, what's up, then? Most of the time when someone doesn't care, they don't post.

-Vincent
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contracycle
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« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2007, 05:23:50 AM »

Because I think its bad form to go out of your way to tell us that you have a secret. I gave up on people running around advertising the fact that they have a secret in junior school.
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Impeach the bomber boys:
www.impeachblair.org
www.impeachbush.org

"He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast."
- Leonardo da Vinci
lumpley
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« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2007, 05:51:18 AM »

Please. If you really didn't care and you were really done with it, you wouldn't be here cluttering up my thread.

Whatever's under your skin, out with it, please. Or make good and move on.

-Vincent
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2007, 07:19:20 AM »

Further discussion in the thread needs to be about the Poison'd game. That shouldn't be too difficult.

Best, Ron
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drnuncheon
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Some call me Jeff


« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2007, 08:22:02 AM »

Hopefully this thread doesn't become the shitstorm that the RPGnet one has.  In the interest of re-railing, for VIncent and John and anyone else who was in the game:

Since I don't recognize all the names, how well did all the players know each other before the game started?  How much trust existed between the group before all this started?  Do you think that changed the way the game played - were you more willing to let things happen because of yuor relationship (or lack thereof) with the other players?

It definitely seems like you felt closer afterwards.  Do you feel like you trust the other players more now?

Looking at it now, after the immediate aftermath of the session has passed, how do you feel about what happened?  Have your feelings changed at all now that you've had more time to reflect on the experience?
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lumpley
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« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2007, 08:49:21 AM »

Those are great questions.

Me, Rich, Julia, John, Matt:

I met Rich at GenCon. He's a good friend of a good friend. I'd played D&D with him the night before (or two nights before), here, but I didn't know him too well.

Julia lives across the street from me. We play together all the time. She'd played Poison'd with me before, but it had never gone like this. Here is how it goes with my home group.

I've known John online for a while. I met him at GenCon '06, but didn't play games or hang out with him much.

I've known Matt pretty well for a while. We've connected at GenCon since 2004. He designed and published a game I absolutely adore, which has given me some of my best times roleplaying to date. He's visited my house with his family and his dog and stuff. We haven't played together much, though - this was maybe our third game ever?

Very, very significantly, Ben Lehman, Julia, John, Matt and I (plus our friend Seth) had played Ben's game in development The Land of 1000 Kings just the night before (or two nights before). I'll write about The Land of 1000 Kings soon. For now, it's a friendly game, deeply and designedly so, and Julia, John, Matt and I were already feeling comfy and good about one another.

So: we all liked each other and wanted to play a fun game together, but we ranged all the way from knowing each other well to not knowing each other well at all.

I absolutely feel like I trust the other players more now. Not a question. At the risk of embarrassing myself and them, if my house fell down? They're the first people I'd call. If their houses fell down? They'd be welcome in mine indefinitely.

Here in the cold light of day? I feel proud of the fiction we made. It was challenging and good. I feel good that we trusted each other and I feel super-good that we were all up to it. We could have freaked someone's shit out, but we didn't.

My feelings haven't changed, except that I feel more reserved about sharing the game now. I talked more publically about it the next morning than I have since. It's hard to convey the right "we did fucked up things, but no, it was good. We weren't fucking around."

-Vincent
« Last Edit: September 04, 2007, 09:07:35 AM by lumpley » Logged
wreckage
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« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2007, 10:58:57 PM »

The most compelling stories are usually not wish-fulfillment (talking books etc, here).
I have a couple of cool ideas I want to work into some fiction (RPG session will do fine) someday, but it's hard to get past people's assumption that your invention is a kind of.... well, a kind of fantasy in the positive, "wouldn't it be nice if this happened!!" way. I mean, Zombie movies.

No-one REALLY wants to get their face eaten off by animated rotting corpses, thereafter to have their mortal remains join the shambling horde and visit unspeakable horror on all those they once loved or valued. It's the wrongness of it that makes it compelling.
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....but you can call me Sam
lumpley
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« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2007, 05:26:08 AM »

I just posted this in a thread at RPGnet, and I'd like it here too:

Over at the rpgsite, in the midst of the hilarity, someone called jeff37923 had a moment of real insight about this game:

Quote
This reminded me of some child abuse case studies I read in a developmental psychology class.

As a group we decided to play in this hyper-violent, blood-saturated way. It was a stylistic choice; we played it like we were directing a horror flick and we had all the budget for effects that we wanted. Walking by the table that's what you'd see: this nightmarish, unrealistic, stylized violence, tinged with madness, all caught up in sex and perversion. And no lie, we played that stuff up.

But underneath it, where you wouldn't catch it if you were just walking by, we were telling a story about an abusive family. The people I was playing with are smart, perceptive people, informed about child abuse, sexual abuse, and cognitive development. None of us are professional developmental psychologists (I don't think), but most of us work or study in fields where we have contact with pro-level subject matter.

So here I have this opportunity to create a story about an abusive family with people who can bring some real insight to the table. Too good to pass up.

If anything, the stylized violence was protective. If we'd set the same story in a modern-day urban setting, with only real-world violence in it - well, it'd still have been very, very good, but it may have been too intense for me.

-Vincent
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Parthenia
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« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2007, 09:14:22 AM »

I played Abyssinia in this game. I'm really happy to talk about this game and all its awesomeness.

Vincent lives across the street from me, we play together all the time, and our families hang out together all the time.

Matt's game was the first role-playing game I ever played. I met him for the first time a few months ago, although I've had internet correspondence with him in the past.

I'd never met John or Rich before GenCon. But I played in that D&D game Vincent mentioned with Vincent and Rich, and had played Land of 1000 Kings with John and Matt.

In short, I made some great friends in playing this game. Vincent and I found out that we both like to play in a  style that we don't normally play in with our regular game group. We got to know each other even better.

I really want to play more games with these people.

This game session was easily the best one I've ever played. It was intimate and devilishly fun. It definitely accomplished what I like to do in play, why I wanted to play role-playing games in the first place: build relationships, have significant emotional and social interactions with people, and tell a good story.

I recycled my character from the other Poison'd games we'd played. I think she was best suited for the game we're discussing here, and I feel like I got some closure on her. I changed a few things here and there. For example, in her previous crimes I added adultery, which another player then mentioned that his character and my character had committed the adultery together.  Most significantly I did not add that in the past she had been raped, even if she was the only known woman on the ship. She could use sex to her advantage and as a bargaining chip. At Vincent's suggestion, when we went around and explained what previous bargains our characters had with each other, I wrote that one of the other characters had sworn to protect Abyssinia from rape. That to me explained why she'd not been sexually assaulted.

That I was the only female player at the table certainly had implications for the tone of the game, but maybe not in the way it would be expected. I was comfortable with the brutality and sexual violence because I felt safe, and was able to keep my character as safe as I felt comfortable. I also trusted my fellow players and their characters to hurt Abyssinia with a reason. It would make sense to hurt her if she was the only woman on a pirate ship, even with all the pre-conceived protections, and I was willing to let that happen in the spirit of logical and dynamic story-telling. I was ready for James to try to kill Abyssinia (not without a fight, of course). After it was declared that the curse could be lifted if James slit Abyssinia's throat and swabbed the deck with her blood, she walked into the captains quarters unaware, but prepared to incite a fight. (She told him she thought he was acting strange and she was collecting her things to go sleep elsewhere.) Obviously I'm glad things turned out okay for her, but it would have been interesting to see it go the other way. If my character was gonna die, let it be gruesome, and bloody, for the benefit of the ship, at the hands of someone she cared for. (One of her ambitions was to fuck James Doggett, and when it was disclosed it hadn't happened yet, even though they slept in the same bed, I said, "well, they snuggle.")

Abyssinia wasn't the worst (in deed and motive) character I've played in games, but the one I got to play the nastiness I envisioned the most. I had a character in another game who was cruel and enjoyed being cruel, who was by all accounts, a bad person. Abyssinia was probably a bad person in deed, but her motives were to keep the ship running smoothly, protect the captain, and keep the gunner happy so he wouldn't go after the captain. Fair motives for someone on a ship, pirate ship or not. And being a pirate, she did these things best when she benefitted from it. There's often an Abyssinia in dysfunctional families, too. The one who tries, even at a personal cost, to make things work.

One plot thread I really loved about this game was the corruption of Cuntface. I imagined that Abyssinia wasn't more than a few years older than him, but unlike Cuntface, grew up in the life. In character, watching him try to kill and rape and fit in, she did not think it was cool when Cuntface did it, and was secretly happy when he failed and was humiliated. After he had failed at raping an NPC in a flashback scene, she said, "You did the right thing, Cuntface." She also held him down while Ebeneezer tried to castrate him. That was to fulfill her revenge on him, but there was also a little of her wanting to prevent him from becoming what she'd seen all her life. She was jealous of his inexperience.

I could talk more about the game, but I'll leave it at that. There's something that I won't disclose about Abyssinia and another character because she swore not to tell anyone what she knew about said character. This isn't me saying, "ha ha, I have a secret and I'm not telling". It reflects how intimate the game was. If the other player wants to mention it, so be it, but it's not m secret, or Abyssinia's to tell.

Julia
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Matt Wilson
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« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2007, 11:48:55 AM »

Oh noes!

So yeah, I've been thinking ever since Gen Con if I'd want to talk about this game publicly, not because I feel bad about it but because it was kind of a personal experience. Like V says, some of it just isn't shareable.

I was in this play, long ago, where I played an ugly character who raped another character in a scene. It was ugly and powerful and always left me feeling unpleasant afterward. Not regretful, but unpleasant. That's sort of how I felt about the game afterward. I was like, wow, that was powerful, and erg, it was horrible.

So here's something: right off the bat I thought, I'm going to cross my own lines. I'm going to take this game to 11--the bad 11--for myself. I wrote down a name, and then thought, holy shit I can't do it and crossed it out and wrote a different name, then thought for fucks sake didn't I just say I was going to cross my own lines? so I re-wrote Cuntface as my character's name and it set the tone for my voluntary discomfort the rest of the way.

There's something really unsettling, at least for me anyway, about horrible fucked-up kids (The American Me, anyone?). so I played a 14 year old, the ship's boy, and that was what everyone called him, because they were all horrible too and he was being raised by them to grow up to be horrible. It's funny, in the not-funny way, that nobody was ever in scenes with him. It's like the idea of this character as a product of all the pirating evil was best kept at a distance. Except when Rich wrote himself into CF's backstory--which holy crap did that make us all squirm. And the attempted castration scene, which actually stirred up this panic in me, like I couldn't bear to see this poor fucked up kid suffer one more thing.

The part in hindsight that makes me laugh (uncomfortably, I mean) the most is when V nudges me, and without speaking points (desperately?) to the text that says "you can retire the character if he or she becomes too despicable to play." Yeah, no. There was coming of age to be had still. Horrible, horrible coming of age.
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Temple
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Skjalg Kreutzer


« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2007, 12:46:42 PM »

Oh noes!

So yeah, I've been thinking ever since Gen Con if I'd want to talk about this game publicly, not because I feel bad about it but because it was kind of a personal experience. Like V says, some of it just isn't shareable.

I was in this play, long ago, where I played an ugly character who raped another character in a scene. It was ugly and powerful and always left me feeling unpleasant afterward. Not regretful, but unpleasant. That's sort of how I felt about the game afterward. I was like, wow, that was powerful, and erg, it was horrible.

So here's something: right off the bat I thought, I'm going to cross my own lines. I'm going to take this game to 11--the bad 11--for myself. I wrote down a name, and then thought, holy shit I can't do it and crossed it out and wrote a different name, then thought for fucks sake didn't I just say I was going to cross my own lines? so I re-wrote Cuntface as my character's name and it set the tone for my voluntary discomfort the rest of the way.

There's something really unsettling, at least for me anyway, about horrible fucked-up kids (The American Me, anyone?). so I played a 14 year old, the ship's boy, and that was what everyone called him, because they were all horrible too and he was being raised by them to grow up to be horrible. It's funny, in the not-funny way, that nobody was ever in scenes with him. It's like the idea of this character as a product of all the pirating evil was best kept at a distance. Except when Rich wrote himself into CF's backstory--which holy crap did that make us all squirm. And the attempted castration scene, which actually stirred up this panic in me, like I couldn't bear to see this poor fucked up kid suffer one more thing.

The part in hindsight that makes me laugh (uncomfortably, I mean) the most is when V nudges me, and without speaking points (desperately?) to the text that says "you can retire the character if he or she becomes too despicable to play." Yeah, no. There was coming of age to be had still. Horrible, horrible coming of age.

This post was when the seriousness of that game hit me.

I envy you gameplay like this, I really do.

And thats awful.
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With regards,
Skjalg Kreutzer
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