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Author Topic: In-Fiction Sexual Exploitation: blarrrrgh  (Read 6686 times)
JoyWriter
Member

Posts: 500

also known as Josh W


« Reply #15 on: March 08, 2010, 02:31:15 PM »

I have never encountered that, thank goodness! I've played very occasionally with players who will put their concept before other players feelings, but we've generally been able to pull them back beforehand (out of character "hang on, pull back a bit"). And with most of my friends, if we have issues, we generally engineer a bust up out in the open, and only sit down to play together when we've chilled a bit.

More broadly, our games relation to sexuality has been awesome, and I hope it continues.

If I did come across this, I would say "stop this game a sec", trying to clearly demarcate that this was out of character player talk, and say that that was too far and offensive to me etc. I might agree to the thing happening if we were going to spend some time cleaning it up and dealing with it properly as an abuse of power. But if it was a really serious problem to me, and the other players weren't going to get involved in some kind of thematic reparations, then I'd have to "take my ball and go home", apologising to the GM for it and making my objections as explicit as possible. In my experience the faster and more honestly you say it (providing you can articulate it of course) the less you need to put emotion in, and the less someone will feel like they're loosing face.

If you just go streight in with it, the worst that I've seen is total blankness that leads to awkwardness, as people simply don't process what you had a problem with (hasn't happened in an rpg, but has happened in random social situations with joking going too far, in fact I think I've been on the receiving end of an unexpected objection before now).

I'd also like to leave open the possibility of future games, because that guy might have been regressing a bit, (old school friends etc) and might be willing to play a different way, assuming he didn't feel like he lost face (or maybe just thought about it and decided to change regardless). It might even be that without him changing there are worthwhile games you can play with this guy, within certain constraints.

My suspicion is that this is more likely to happen playing with strangers, as people who know you will already be pretty tuned up to your principles and attitudes, and you to theirs, so the sort of calibration that stops this stuff is more likely to have happened.

But then I only have a few years experience, so I can't give you any statistical answers!
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greyorm
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« Reply #16 on: March 08, 2010, 02:57:20 PM »

James, honestly, you described the guy as playing a character who was "creepy" and apparently a little sexually obsessed with your character. I'm not seeing the problem, fictionally, with that character grabbing a chance to ogle some boobies. Your failure to say, "Whoa, guys, I'm very personally uncomfortable with this. Can we not do this?" is, for me, the big issue.

And the whole "Let's bash and armchair psychoanalyze some guy we don't know" nature of this thread so-far is just really wrong. Because in my group of male and female friends talk or behavior like this would be considered pretty fucking tame, inside or outside an RPG (or card game, or anything else). In social circles that are apparently not the social circles you guys hang out in, what Earwig did isn't necessarily "wrong" or "broken" behavior, and if you don't know that you're dealing with entirely different cultures of sexuality, then wires like this can get crossed.

So he and players not from your circle may not have considered this to be "nonsense" or "bullying" at all, and might not even have understood they were crossing one of your personal low-tolerance lines.

As an example, I play cards weekly with the same group and have been for a few years. "Your mom" jokes are regular and raunchy. So one day, I make a "your mom" crack towards another of the players, and he froze stock still and said, "Listen, I know all of you hate your mothers, but I love mine. Don't ever say anything about her again or I will hurt you."

There was this weird silence around the table, because what? And I pointed out, "Um, we don't all hate our moms. My mom is great (haha, don't say anything, guys) these are jokes." He responded, "I don't care. Don't ever say anything about my mom." So I shrugged it off and we know not to make those jokes towards him (even though I still personally consider his reaction fairly funny because it is completely bizarre from my perspective).

The point is, this is a guy our group has been playing cards with for two years, and somehow he went that whole time without being nailed by "your mom" until just that moment. No one else had any clue, and wouldn't and shouldn't have had any clue, that he thought that way, even though we weren't a bunch of new players sitting down together. Now, if he runs off to his friends elsewhere and they all badmouth us and psychoanalyze us as being sexist, nerdy anti-social mother-haters, bullies, or some nonsense or similar along the lines I'm seeing in this thread, it would be ridiculous.

There is an assumption that James' expectations and boundaries are the default and should have been clearly understood by everyone because they're just so OBVIOUS. And I'm saying "Not necessarily at all" and that it is disingenuous to think so, especially in a group where the members don't know each other well at all and so don't know what social or cultural climate one another are coming from and thus what each other's social boundaries and tolerances are.

And it isn't as though you can guess. You can't just say, "Oh, well, clearly HE should have JUST KNOWN that was RUDE!" Because maybe it is to you and your group, but maybe not to him and his. It may be that he would view your reaction as completely bizarre, thus it may not even have been considered.

Like going to a foreign country and being shut-out of the local social group for breaking some social taboo you didn't even know was a social taboo, and being told you should have JUST KNOWN not to say "thank you" to your mother-in-law because how rude and dismissive and hateful was that?

James has a thing about sexism in comics, and that got thrown in his face during play and pissed him off (because he viewed it as exploitation and harassment), but he didn't say anything about it. We can work on that, we can't go "Oh, that other guy not involved here whom we don't know what he was thinking, that guy was totally a wrong-thinking sexist dick, and how dare he, any right-thinking individual..."
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
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Callan S.
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« Reply #17 on: March 08, 2010, 03:03:58 PM »

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Only good when leaving comfort zones?  No.  It can be good; it's often good.  But not only good.  We might be defining comfort zone differently.
Or defining good differently. Things might be mildly nice or amusing without leaving that zone...but that's like alot of feel good movies, ya know? But on the other hand maybe I stress leaving the CZ too much and should myself think about how staying inside it can be enjoyed.

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Really here, the rules on valid actions seem to have been left wide, wide open. We could look at how to patch that, here together. . . .But if we just look at it in terms of how he was a fucking fucked fuckwit, we just write it off that it's just about not playing with guys like him, and how the host should have done X...and the evolution of rules just does not happen.
Well, in this case, the rules patch would be a Line.  Lines are basically social sanctions.

Yes, but the symantics of it are very important - the wording may be broad, which leads to a walking on eggshells/am I breaking a rule now non confident play. Also that comes with 'who judges the meaning of the words in the line we drew? And what not all members agree? What's our default? (good thread on that here)

Or if you tighten up the meaning of the words in the line, well then it becomes more specific and what about other instances that you want covered? And indeed what about stuff you don't realise you want covered, until it happens? That's a particularly interesting rules design challenge!

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It's just not a solution, I think, because we need a little bit of assholism (so to speak) to push us out of our comfort zones a little bit. How little a bit - well, it's up each designer - perhaps only a tiny amount.
Well, I guess what I saw in this game was a type of adolescent bullying - the equivalent of one player slapping or mocking another, or pouring beer on them during play, or grabbing and tearing up their character sheet in the midst of play.  Not the end of the world!  But qualitatively different than productively forcing the players to engage in a cathartic fictional process.

As a thought experiment: Paka told a story on Knife Fight one time when a fellow player punched him in the mouth over something that happened in-game.  It certainly took Paka out of his comfort zone!  But I would have a hard time saying that's remotely productive behavior, nor do I see how someone who can't help himself from punching a fellow player would be constrained by a rule. 

I think the better thing is that at most gaming tables, "Don't punch someone in the mouth" should be an unspoken precondition to play.  I would posit that "Don't sexually denigrate another player's character without some degree of assent from that player" is probably another unspoken precondition, at least around most gaming tables.
Gah, I didn't cover this properly, sorry to give the wrong impression. I'm not advocating playing with that guy but with new rules. I'm just advocating for people being able to push a little bit, within the limits of rules, or as you say, lines.

I think people can push a little bit, with a mutually constructive intent in mind. Those two things at the same time - your guy was only doing one of them, the pushing, and alot of it. I'm not trying to preserve what your guy in the account did, since he was only doing one.

I'm kind of in a tricky spot where in trying to preserve only part of what he did, I might sound like I'm advocating for him. I'm not, of course.

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"Don't punch someone in the mouth" should be an unspoken precondition to play.
Well, this is another design issue because trying to add conditions like this can go on forever AFAICT.

Personally I'd try and look at creating an arena or bubble, everything inside of which is a valid game move (and conversely, everything outside - which would include the punch to the face, is not a game move at all).

To me, having a 'don't punch' rule is more like making a picket fence or comb rather than arena or bubble - and while some stuff stops at the fence/comb, some stuff will get through the posts in the fence/teeth of the comb. It's not effective, to my mind. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm describing the understanding I'm working from.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 on: March 08, 2010, 03:27:08 PM »

James, honestly, you described the guy as playing a character who was "creepy" and apparently a little sexually obsessed with your character. I'm not seeing the problem, fictionally, with that character grabbing a chance to ogle some boobies. Your failure to say, "Whoa, guys, I'm very personally uncomfortable with this. Can we not do this?" is, for me, the big issue.
I'll pitch a dissenting view to think on that, no, it isn't his 'failure'. Such an idea suggests there was a structure in place that he'd agreed to that he should say he's uncomfortable but failed to. And you don't want to say he should just know this structure.

Quote
And the whole "Let's bash and armchair psychoanalyze some guy we don't know" nature of this thread so-far is just really wrong. Because in my group of male and female friends talk or behavior like this would be considered pretty fucking tame, inside or outside an RPG (or card game, or anything else). In social circles that are apparently not the social circles you guys hang out in, what Earwig did isn't necessarily "wrong" or "broken" behavior, and if you don't know that you're dealing with entirely different cultures of sexuality, then wires like this can get crossed.
Some people roleplay rape - they get quite physical, perhaps even leave bruises, but at its core it's actually very consensual. And some people might touch their coworkers breasts at a drunken office party - does the tameness of that breast touch relative to the activities of a roleplayed rape make it tame and okay? (I'm assuming here your group is actually at it's heard, consensual about all your 'wild' stuff). The relative tameness of the physical actions is irrelevant.

In some chess accounts I've heard the other guy would say quite unpleasant things and make annoying noises, but make valid game moves.

And I've heard of 'street chess' where your supposed to say unpleasant things to the other guy to put him off his game.

In the latter, it's consensual - well, assuming the other guy knew in advance it was like that and went 'Hey, I'm up for that!'. It might seem the same and thus validate the first case - that it seems the same is a mistaken perception.

Something for other readers to consider as well.
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contracycle
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Posts: 2984


« Reply #19 on: March 08, 2010, 04:07:34 PM »

Seems really simple to me.  You just bumped into a little pockert of mutually reinforcing misogyny.  Nothing really special there, happens all the time, this years Superbowl commercials demonstrate that it's still cool and fashionbable to treat women as second class citizens.  They didn't think you'd be "offended", probably because their own social circle reinforced their views, and if they acknowledged any objection at all it would be as "political correctness".  In fact, if they did think you would be offended, they would probably have done it anyway, out of spite.

In this Raven is both right and wrong.  Right inasmuch, it is a local culture, and expectations are not universal, and wrong because this behaviour is quite correctly sexist bullying and "local culture" doesn't excuse that, any more than it excuses any bigotry.
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #20 on: March 08, 2010, 04:09:10 PM »

So there's a certain degree of "James, your point is wrong because you are thin-skinned" going on in this thread.

Whether my skin is too thin isn't the issue.  The (lack of) severity of exploitation in this specific case isn't the issue.  They were the baseline facts of this Actual Play report.  I'm happy to discuss other people's Actual Play in this thread, but mine is mine.  We don't have to game together.

What's at issue, from my perspective, is whether the following logical inference is, or is not, valid, starting from given axioms:

The Axioms
A.  Let's assume that there exists some condition of play which you find objectionable.
B.  Prior to play you assumed (possibly with justification, possibly without) that these conditions would not obtain.
C.  The condition obtains due to the actions of another player
D.  You communicate your desire to avoid these conditions--maybe not strongly enough, but so a reasonable person would understand
E.  The other player persists in enforcing those conditions, directed specifically toward you.

I'm not going to discuss whether these axioms were valid, fair, or whatever.  

The Logical Inferences
1.  If the other player knew this behavior was unwelcome (and there's indications he did but it's arguable, so if), then he's a dick
2.  People don't like playing with dicks (or may feel bad about acting like dicks), so it's important to handle consent issues prior to play
3.  If you don't explicitly/implicitly discuss consent ahead of time, don't be 100% surprised if someone does something objectionable
4.  If you decide to press ahead without knowing if you have consent, don't be surprised if someone objects
5.  If you're genuinely unsure whether someone's given consent, it's probably safest to assume it wasn't given.

Does anyone dispute those inferences?  If so, which ones?  

Apparently #5 is controversial, but it seems to be how most non-gamers live their lives most of the time with respect to sensitive issues, recognizing that it's always possible to make mistakes in good faith about when consent was or wasn't given.  E.g., in Greyorm's example, you'd figure that after two years of hanging around "yo mama" jokes the guy's given consent, so Greyorm wasn't in the wrong, he just make an understandable mistake.  And I'll grant that maybe the Earwig player genuinely didn't know I was withholding consent--I find it hard to believe, but maybe that's possible, and if so it's just a "hey, my bad, man" situation on both our parts.
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 726


« Reply #21 on: March 08, 2010, 04:10:58 PM »

Quote
I'm not going to discuss whether these axioms were valid, fair, or whatever.

Ooops!  Editing error - please read that to include,

"Because those were the facts here.  Maybe there are situations with different facts, but if so they yield a different set of inferences."
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Callan S.
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« Reply #22 on: March 08, 2010, 04:47:52 PM »

If your saying their logical inferences as in all other people would also come to the same conclusions - well, do most people logically infer the same things as yourself, without prompting?

My own experience is that the vast bulk don't. Nor with each other (whether they would admit it or not). From my experiences, you can't rely on anyone coming to the same logical conclusion, ever.
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Jeff B
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Posts: 35


« Reply #23 on: March 08, 2010, 05:03:56 PM »

James,

I disagree with #2 of your inferences:  "It is important to obtain consent before play."  No, it is not important because the type of consent you are talking about is implicit in any social interaction.  What you experienced was an out-of-game issue with harassment.  It is pointless to try and capture such situations within the game mechanics.  The only thing you can do is avoid socializing (including gaming) with people who have no social skills or boundaries.

There is no need to defend your reaction of being offended and uncomfortable.  Your experience could have happened during any activity, anywhere with that group.  The only solution is to find socially functional people to play the game with and avoid the others.  The viewpoint that "anything is fair unless expectations are expressly set" are clinging to a socially pathetic position, equivalent to a small child screaming that nobody told him he *couldn't* snip off the cat's tail.  It is like a 12-year-old saying that spraypainting the school is his interpretation of art, or of play, and therefore he shouldn't be suspended.  Such arguments are thoroughly without merit.

Socialized people are socialized people.  Mr. Earwig and his friend simply are not.  Furthermore, all the rest of the players were unprepared for this, as apparently nobody else at the table objected.

The situation and the actions taken by earwig, et. al. were clearly wrong.  The possible lesson is how to apply that experience to the future, to avoid being left feeling bad about what happened.  As to whether this sort of thing should be addressed by rules, that's ludicrous.  That's like saying Monopoly rules should tell people not to swallow the dice or start a bonfire with the paper money.

Jeff

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James_Nostack
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Posts: 726


« Reply #24 on: March 08, 2010, 06:06:23 PM »

Jeff, obviously I'm inclined to agree, but I would add the following caveats:

(1) I don't think anybody here is arguing in bad faith (and I'm not sure you're implying they were)

(2) It's entirely possible that the Earwig player is a decent dude and, for whatever reason, didn't realize that his behavior was annoying me.  And even if he's a jackass, well, all he did was make my Saturday a little less pleasant for no good reason.  Other people in the world have far bigger problems.

(3) I'm totally fine with a no-Lines, no-Veils style of play, when there's some notice given.  I don't think this kind of behavior is necessarily abusive so long as there's (often implicit) consent - I just don't think that a stranger's consent should be automatically assumed in gaming, any more than it should be automatically assumed elsewhere in one's life.
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greyorm
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« Reply #25 on: March 08, 2010, 06:10:12 PM »

Callan, that isn't a dissenting view at all. It plays well with my statements about different cultures. Where it dissents is whether or not someone should or shouldn't say something.

I'll say when you are playing with new people: yeah, it really IS up to you to speak up when your boundaries are violated. Because each new group is a new social culture. You can't expect to not have to suss that out by mutually communicating one another's boundaries. And I think assuming you don't/shouldn't have to say anything is just an excuse for cultural entitlement (at least of the culture of you).

Basically, it looks to me like you're advocating "non-communication...because who would know they have to communicate discomfort"? That doesn't make sense. And it simply doesn't work. Because there's no framework involved with that, just plain old basic social interaction stuff that even apes and monkeys do.

On the other hand, if we take your statement as true and that he shouldn't have known he should speak up when uncomfortable, then it is also true that James would have no right to complain about the situation, because how would anyone know he was uncomfortable and therefore be responsible for "doing something wrong" or "failing to accommodate James"? They wouldn't.

Gareth, I do not know how to say any of this without potentially seeming rude to you, so I'm just going to say it and you can take it however you take it: I do not accept your moral absolutism. You want to see it as misogyny and demeaning and etc, that's fine. You can rally against porn because it supposedly exploits women, call the admiration or open interest in female sexuality "objectification", and so on and so forth. I'm sure not stopping you or anyone else from doing so; but just because the post-modernist culture of current academia believes their subjective views of behavior are truth, doesn't make them so.

I'll stop there for fear of dragging this thread wholly off-topic into the political arena, but I think the above does segue into the discussion, or least in terms of culture-clash and assumption.

Regardless, to topic: James, I didn't get the sense from your original post that you were that clear about it towards the other person. I got the sense you didn't say anything, but I'm assuming that didn't come across for me in your post given your later statements here. So are you certain he was reading your "stop this, now" cues, and wasn't confused by them (and hence ignoring them), or taking the wrong signals from them?

Because there are a lot of people who keep insisting this person was a horrid person and should have known better and so forth, and knowing how non-monolithic culture actually is, I just don't buy that "well, ANYONE would have known that was WRONG" argument, especially in something as potentially . Seriously: a bunch of guys playing a game of pretend and one of the female characters is tricked/magicked/whatever into getting naked? That doesn't exactly scream "WRONG WRONG WRONG failure of socially acceptable behavior" to me, more like "par for the course".

Which is why even though looking at your #5, I don't really see that as contentious, given the other statements and situation. I still think #5 is contentious insofar as it is difficult to do, because you can't run about assuming everyone hasn't given consent, because you would literally end up not doing anything for fear of someone having not given consent. If only because you can't know what someone else considers objectionable, especially if you don't know them. It may well be that -- as in the case of saying "thank you" to your foreign mother-in-law -- you just assume it is fine to do. That is, you can't assume they haven't given consent, because you're not even thinking of it as an objectionable situation.

As such, I think #2 needs to include both "before play" and "during play, if issues arise". As per my situation with the guy in the card group, because stuff like that is going to happen. It just will. And it will happen with even less obviously touchy stuff (Years and years ago I knew a girl who freaked out after meeting me, and I had no clue why. I learned later it was because I used a word starting with the letter "v", and she had a thing about words that started with "v". Seriously).

Which is part of my response to Callan, above: yeah, you NEED to tell people when your lines have been crossed; it's an expectation. Period. It's part of how social species work on a basic level. Not doing so is really and truly a failure on their part.

Though, if as you say, you communicated clearly enough to him to stop the behaviors, then there was definite dickery happening and he was trying to harass you specifically for whatever reason. I don't know that it was even sexual -- it could just have been, "This guy is reacting when I do this, so I'm going to keep doing this to watch him react."

I just had that situation arise in my group, between myself and another player, who decided the "fun" part for him was doing everything he could do to stymie and frustrate me even if there was no point to it, because he liked watching me "freak". The player had to be taken aside by another player and told, "This is not cool. I don't care that you're getting a kick out of messing with him. Play the game or don't come." Which seemed to help.

Some people just get on a social-dominance kick, using it to establish group "identity" and hierarchy, and use whatever weapon is at their disposal: your frustration with your character being sexualized might have been that sort of hook if Earwig was that sort of player, or got into that sort of mode/mindset. He might have been trying to harass you, or he might have genuinely expected and believed everyone was in on the joke.

There's really nothing in the report so far that indicates either is incredibly more likely than the other. I think the important bit, though, is "How am I going to deal with this in the future?"
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Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2010, 06:28:08 PM »

I suppose most of you have seen this post coming.

Everyone who's posted so far has aired a viewpoint. That's fine. I'm moderating here to remind everyone that we are not here to lock horns. If someone says something you disagree with, log your disagreement and don't stay there fighting to defend yourself, even if, or especially if someone logs their disagreement with you. Such a disagreement is not an attack and doesn't diminish you or make you look stupid. Once the views are out in the open, then remember, it's James' thread, and it's up to him to work with the information and ideas as he sees fit.

(There are limits to "let live" - discourtesy and intellectual dishonesty, for instance. But those are dangerous waters to enter, in terms of challenging the posts, and I suggest you consult with me, or if the offense is grievous/obvious, tag the post for my review and don't give it the respect of your time.)

This has been a friendly reminder from me as moderator.

Best, Ron
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Judd
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« Reply #27 on: March 08, 2010, 06:42:17 PM »

For the record, I wasn't punched in the mouth and the physical contact that did occur happened because of a thousand things that were occurring AWAY from the table and the table's events and frustrations were the straw that broke the back of the game.

That said, back to the thread.

Having played over skype (but not with a webcam) I have to wonder if the webcam player was also having trouble picking up on other's discomfort and your own discomfort due to non-verbal cues.

There is a real point where the game has to stop, the brakes have to be slammed on and if you are feeling shitty, you just have to express that and either get the game back on track or stop for the evening.  It is difficult  but it really needs to be a part of the culture.

That said, I have seen play like this without a webcam, at a con game with a stranger who had given me a thousand and one heeby jeebies before play, and I'd imagine it is more common than we think.

I am thinking of that one youtube vid with the DM talking about the female player's character going to hell and getting gang-raped and him recounting the story with pride.
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Callan S.
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« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2010, 08:37:00 PM »

Quote
Which is part of my response to Callan, above: yeah, you NEED to tell people when your lines have been crossed; it's an expectation. Period. It's part of how social species work on a basic level. Not doing so is really and truly a failure on their part.
To me James is saying something like "This guy NEEDs to consider other people might be offended" then ironically your telling him that's not how it is, he NEEDs to tell other people...etc etc.

If your need was true just as much Jame's need could be true. I think, maybe wrong, you dislike how people will develop their own dislike into what they see as a truth and then apply that to others as if they have absolute right to. Which is why I can only end this particular post on a wimpy, undramatic note that: What I just wrote is some physical evidence to consider that I think is important (as a personal endorsement, as far as that might go).
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 on: March 08, 2010, 08:50:42 PM »

Hello,

Callan and Raven, give the rest of us a break for a while, please. You guys are getting abstruse beyond my grade and maturity levels. I'd like James to bring the thread to its specific purpose as he sees it now, and if that purpose includes the need of truth and the truth of needs, or whatever, then you're free to resume.

Also, here's the post I was working on.

As an example for contrast, here's a situation from a game I played in, let's see, this would have been in 1988 or early 1989. It was Champions! (And I'm super pissed-off that James played Champions and this show-the-boobies stuff steamrolled what might have been an excellent discussion about one of RPG history's most important games.) I was playing a character named Nocturne and Ran (Randy) was GM.

The insider/outsider context for the subject of my post is a little different from yours, James, but similar enough to be useful. All the other people in the group had known each other forever, and most of them had played in Ran's previous long-lived college game, a few years before. Ran had just moved to the city (this was in Chicago) and they decided to play a kind of "years later, the sequel" with the events of the previous game as history for this one. I had been invited in via one player's wife, a co-worker of mine.

However, by the time of these events, I'd been playing with the group for a year or more and we were a very tight bunch by that point; Ran and I were now buddies outside the game as well. I'm trying to avoid flashbacks and just riffing about the game in the post; the point is that although I wince at a lot of my self-reflections from that time, the game was quite socially solid and fun. I took the text in the Strike Force supplement very seriously and considered the experience point and Disadvantages rules to be the real meat of the game for thematic character development, what we call "arcs" now. The other players found this attractive and although they hadn't thought in those terms in their previous game, by now our characters were all pretty psychologically and mechanically interesting - and more importantly, very invested in their individual issues about different aspects of the problems we faced.

So, as a visitor and guest, a former player in the old group arrives and plays a character he makes up more-or-less on the spot as a kind of guest star character in the story. If I remember correctly, the (real) guy's name was John, and he was a very good artist; I still treasure the picture of Nocturne he drew. My impression of him right away was that he was funny and cool. My personal alarm bells went off only because his character was a classic Armored Guy, which, although some Champs veterans may disagree with me, usually entailed the most boring-ever same-old material possible. So that's different too - there was no creepy vibe.

Anyway, on to the subject of the post: John played his armored-type hero pretty aggressively and without much regard for an individual or personal take on the situation we faced in that session. As it happened, the events weren't much to do with Nocturne's interests, and I now realize that our group had an unwritten Screen Presence rule in effect. We "just knew" that if your character wasn't directly tweaked through relevant events, and if you didn't feel like the character would jump into action for his teammates' sake alone, then it was OK to be Color Man for that session and enjoy the break. We had absolutely no sense of everyone in the party pulling his weight at maximum tactical drive for every fight scene.

I want to be fair - clearly, Ran's Game Mark II had become a different creative beast than what John had played in previously, and different in genre too, a lot more like the loose and often rambunctiously individually-tracked Avengers of the 1970s than the crack paramilitary team ideal of the 1980s X-Men. So John was walking into something he didn't know about (and we probably couldn't have articulated it anyway).

What was the deal? Well, in some kind of fight with some kind of off-kilter foe or foes in some icy cave in the wilderness somewhere ... which is to say, not tied into the characters' back-stories or the current mess of entangled mysteries and sexy evil-occult stuff we were generally caught in ... I basically opted out of fighting at all. Not only were Nocturne's basically mental/Presence abilities not very effective against these things (I really can't remember what they were), but it worked for me to have him fade back and enjoy not helping. Nocturne could be a self-involved bit of a bastard although his heart was in the right place most of the time.

This pissed John off. When the fight was over, he had his character haul off and smack Nocturne, doing some damage, saying, "And that's for not helping." From that point on, we didn't speak much and I emotionally tuned out of the session in general - that's probably why I don't remember any of the details, although regarding most of our several years of play, I could cite you chapter, verse, and villain almost by session. Looking back, I think this event was one of those things groups choose not to remember, never comment upon or reflect upon, and essentially move on from without incorporating it into the institutional record of the game.

So James - no sex, no female characters, no exposed body ... but to us, a clear breach of what characters do with one another. Nocturne had a friendly rival with the mechanically-inclined regular character named Cyclone, for instance, but the idea of the two of them, or anyone else in the group, making an attack roll against one another was flat out of the question, for any of us. Given the social circumstances - was John or I the "outsider?" - I think we had absolutely no language at all to deal with the actions and emotions.

I bring this up because I think that to a large extent, we're looking at two variables in your account. One of them is the female character in an all-male group thing, compounded by rules which include mind control. James, as a long-time participant in the Adept forum and its mind control discussions, and also as having recently re-read Sex & Sorcery, I'm sure you can see there's a lot to talk about for that one. The other variable is the outsider-insider breach of local contract thing, and I think that you guys also had a similar curious situation in which you were in your way the outsider or new guy, and he was in his way the outsider, technologically as well as otherwise. So there's a disjunct about who's who at a very basical social level, and I think that in itself is like a kind of unstable chemical solution regardless of what in-fiction content gets co-opted into the resulting reaction. But whatever in-fiction content it grabs, the reaction itself is some kind of deal-breaker for someone, no matter what.

Best, Ron

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