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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The day my character was raped...

Yes, Wheaton's law applies to RPs

My cardinal rule of GMing is: don't be a dick. I've broken this rule on numerous occasions the two of which I regret most are: the little horse farm known as 'fecking kill me now' and getting my most level headed best friend to yell 'you're a bitch!' at me during an OC conversation (might be persuaded to write a post about these later).

These were also times when I broke my second rule as a GM: shut up and take it. You literally control your player's characters lives - if they have feedback sit down, shut up, and listen to what these nice people who are putting up with you have to say. If you know me, you know that for me to shut my mouth and listen is a big thing, so I pride myself in the ability to do this as a GM.

These two rules I have set myself come from years of being a GM, but also being a player. Namely, they come from the time one of my most beloved character's got raped.

Like every group who has played far too much Vampire the Masquerade, after numerous chronicles, my friends and I thought it would be a cool idea to play a super high-powered campaign set in the First City. Being a University student with a shameful amount of time on my hands I planned my character down to the last details. I made drawings, I wrote a forty page backstory (very badly), and I had millions of meets with my ST to flesh out every detail of my 4th Generation, Lilith- worshiping, Malakavian character.

Still have some of the things I drew for it!

Then we started to play. The First City, the time before Christ, and everything was just too awesome. My friends and I were having a fantastic time playing - OK our character's lives sucked, but that is World of Darkness and why we loved the game.

Then, I managed to piss off a low dharma Kueijin, who my very honourable character considered to have no honour...

One night my character was meditating on a rock, in the middle of the desert, and my ST asks me to come into the hallway with him. I am nervous, nothing good ever happens when the ST asks you to go into the hallway.

"Liz, you are sitting on the rock in the middle of the desert and you feel a presence behind you." ST

"OK, I turn to see who it is." Me

"It is Chen, he holds you down and he rapes you." ST

My eyes go wide, I literally do not know what to say. I just stare at him.

"OK, can I do anything about it?" Me

"No, do you want me to describe it to you?" ST

"No. Is that it?" Me

"Yeah, that's it." ST

"OK, thank you." Me, as I walk back into the room.

While the loud Italian-American part of me is kicking the conformist Thai part of me for saying thank you, I sit back down in the room.

Erik, then my boyfriend, whispers to me excitedly, "What happened?!"

"My character just got raped." Me

"What? Do you want me to say something to X?" Erik (X being our ST at the time)

"No, it's OK." I was quiet for the rest of the session.

The next session things got worse, but this time for my best guy friend (bgf). The ST asked him into the hallway, he comes back in and announces, "Well, my character just got raped!" As my bfg flopped down onto the bean bag next to me the ST went back to his chair, rolled a few dice, and said, "No, you enjoyed it."

This is when the entire room exploded. I won't go into the discussion we had, because after a few hours it just got ridiculous, but sufficed to say no one was happy.

I won't discuss in this post whether or not rape can be a story telling tool or not, I don't want to offend people and I have never really been able to be eloquent with my words. I can just talk about how it made me feel as a player and why I swore that day never to do it to a player and to not be a dick when I was an ST.

So, I am gonna ask myself some questions now:

Liz, how did it make me feel? Like shit. I wasn't allowed to fight back, I was never asked if I was OK with this happening, and in the end my ST asked me if I wanted him to described my character's rape. I felt (and feel) a keen empathy with my character that only comes from being given literally no choices as a player. I felt powerless.

But Liz, seriously now, WoD is a dark setting... I acknowledge World of Darkness games are dark with adult themes. I friggen love darkness and adult themes - browse my book shelf all you will find is vampire novels and smut. However, there are boundaries.

But did the rape enhance the story? The rape had no purpose to me. I think it was meant well by my GM, trying to confront me with a situation and improve my RP, but it didn't. I just felt paralyzed as a player, I was afraid to take any action with my character for the rest of the short-lived chronicle for fear that it might happen again.

As a GM I have threatened my players with rape a few times. I find it scary, utterly terrifying actually, and so do my players. In these situations they have fought tooth and nail against it. They have triumphed, they have sunken to depths they never believed possible, and this was all done without taking power away from them as players.

Was your character ever the same? No, but I still love her and would love to play her again. While what happened to my character can never and will never compare to this happening to someone in real life, I very much feel about her as I do about any rape survivor: what happened to my character had absolutely nothing to do with her and everything to do with the person who hurt her. This happening to her, while it changed the character, it never detracted, lessened, or tarnished who I believe she would have been as a person.

I want to end this post on a happy note, something that will make you laugh, and undoubtedly the thing that made my ST want to punish me in a really horrible way. In full acknowledgement of how utterly crappy it is (and that I almost plagiarize a line from Poe), I give you a piece of my backstory for the chronicle we played, unedited, uncensored, for your reading enjoyment.

~
“No, no you mustn’t cry,” he said to me, “you must cry for them, for I have lived forever and a day, this shell is nothing but a price to pay.” Reached my hand out to touch his curly brown hair and as I twisted my fingers gently in it, it seemed as if a chunk of the hair came off into my hand. The man flinched again, “Shh, child come to me, there will be enough time for revelry…” He held me close in his arms claming me, “What you see is but a dream and things are never how they seem. Departing now seems the sweetest goodbye, but my eyes I fear have no tears to cry. I have lived and loved, lived a life blessed from above. And now I give a life to you. For fear, no pain, no chores to do. I shall leave, my soul remain, my child you have the world to gain.” 
~


Have you had your character raped? As a GM have you raped a player's character? Let me know how you felt about it.

I also just want to apologize to anyone who has been hurt my this post. The subject has been on my mind for a while and I thought it worthy of some writing.

9 comments:

  1. With all due respect, that ST should've had his lights punched out. Introducing rape into a story is one thing, but the way he handled it... it makes me mad just thinking about it, for all the reasons you mentioned.

    Unfortunately, in my starter days as GM I've done it to one player as well. It was a much more lighthearted game, and it happened like this:

    The player (Arnout, you know him) played a crazy and coy drow girl in a D&D adventure. At some point in the story, he decided to use her wiles to lure a guard away from a doorway to some nearby bushes. The guard, obviously interested due to her high Charisma score, followed eagerly.

    When the guard was nearly upon her, she tried to knock him out. But what do you know: Arnout rolls a 1. The guard falls over the drow girl, and she tries a more violent approach. Arnout rolls, and... another 1! At that point the table bursts out laughing, and I look at Arnout in a way that says: "You know, there is only one logical outcome to this...". He smiles, and accepts her fate. One very satisfied guard and traumatized drow girl later, the party manages to gain entry to the next plot point.

    Later Arnout told me that he turned the experience into a roleplaying opportunity. From that day on, the poor drow girl absolutely despised men, and made it a point to show that clearly :)

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    1. Wow, that sounds like a horrible thing to happen to a female Drow of all people. I think you handled it a lot differently than my ST did! Was it a hard call for you?

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    2. Well, Arnout was like "luck of the dice, man", so that made the thing more consentual in the game (consentual rape? Hmmm...). We had a conversation about it at some later point in time, when he told me about the RP opportunity.

      And, important point as well, the act of the drow getting raped happened offscreen, as all intimate/sexual in-game acts should. We just acknowledged that it happened, and moved on with the game.

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  2. Liz, did your ST bring this rape thing on all out of the blue, or was there some kind of warning beforehand? If all involved in this session would have agreed upon this kind of stuff being OK, it wouldn't have been so bad. You would all consent to the idea of incorporating edgy concepts like rape or torture. However, if this negotiation never took place, than the ST was way out of line to just jump this on you. In that case, he didn't just violate your character, but also put you in a position you were unprepared for. It would have been non-consentual. Consent is key in this.

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    1. Yes, I agree! Consent about the kind of topics or actions that might happen in game is very important. It will vary between players and groups.

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    2. Unfortunately, we didn't agree to it at all. Actually, we never talked about it at all and to be honest I never thought it would happen.

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    3. Oh I should add that I found out later he had done this to another female player that played with the group before me, so my guy friends were not surprised when it happened.

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  3. In my many years of GM-ing, two characters have been raped in my games.

    The first time, a player had raped an NPC. I was pretty horrified on the spot. I didn't know what to say or do. I kind of laughed it off. Luckily, one of my female friends talked it over with him and made it clear it was not cool or funny.

    The second time was when a player character had worked it into her backstory. It became a point of contention in-game during one of the sessions. It lead to some really great roleplaying, and actually was a good jumping off point to talk to some of my male players about rape who had no concept of how horrific an act it is.

    I do have a player in my games currently who refused to play anything but male characters for the longest time because she was sick of rape and pregnancy being forced on her by her previous GMs. She's become comfortable enough to break with that and start playing women again. Though I have no problems with my players cross-playing. I do it myself often enough as a GM.

    As a male GM, I've been proud that my games have had a very good mix of male and female players over the years, with a nearly constant 50/50 ratio or even a majority of players being women. I attribute that to learning about my own problematic behavior and correcting it, being progressive, listening to my players, and not forcing shitty things on them, like rape.

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    1. Hi James! Thanks for sharing your experience! I've also had a few players who have incorporated rape into their back story and as you and Peter mentioned it was their choice to do so, so it made for some really cool role play moments.

      Also, it is super coincidental that you had a player cross play due to being raped too much. I had one friend with the same experience, except she decided to make a character so amoral and terrifying that she could never be raped. Sadly enough this is what it took, this tactic worked for her and the GM who was raping her character, stopped raping her characters because she refused to fight back and would just say, "Oh well she enjoys herself then."

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