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Modern RPG Safety and Wraith20

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  • #16
    It has been a very long time since I've played any RPG, let alone Wraith. Since it is near and dear to my heart, I hope I can provide some kind of answer. This game can run the gamut from shallow to drowning ocean depths. I have ran groups where the focus was always on the Shadow tempting the player, and we had amateur psychology sessions as he dealt with his pain from a deceased parent. I've also ran games where it was D&D but dead. It was about destroying Spectres, amasssing power, and kicking Oblivion in the groin. I love the world for my own reasons, but its such a great take on the afterlife I will adapt the setting to my players. It took me the longest time to realize, there is no right way to run the game. Fun, therapy, sorrow. Any story you write with Wraith starts with death, and we all handle it differently.

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    • #17
      Originally posted by atamajakki View Post
      One of the things we’ve thankfully come a long way on is explicitly providing tools to keep players safe: session zeroes, discussion of lines and veils, the X card... Wraith perhaps suffered because it is a game strongly about personal suffering, with ready parallels to mental health, addiction, abuse, and suicide in the fiction (or sometimes, not metaphors at all), and with the potential for intens emotional bleed, it may have been too unruly for the hobby of the time.

      So I have to ask: will Wraith20 incorporate some of these newer tools into it? I can’t imagine play without them, and in thinking about how much Wraith seems to share with younger offerings like Monsterhearts or Bluebeard’s Bride, I can’t help but hope for it to learn modern games’ best lessons.
      I never had anything like that and neither me or my friends had issues with our sessions, not once. We know each others and we can take whatever the other says, especially if we meet them only in a game. Personally I've a quirk to have my friends cats die horribly as their Werewolf character eats them while hunting.

      So, I may sound a bit old style, but I think people should grow up a bit to play Wraith.
      It's maybe the most mature game of all the WW setting and you just shouldn't play it if you're too sensitive to need X cards.
      I see a lot of people today fearing confrontations so much that they hide behind a safe space the moment they touch something it doesn't compute for their mind and I'm really scared at the thought of seeing third wave feminism behaviours in RPGs. I may be wrong but I think I even saw somewhere the suggestion to have the Shadows provoke the characters on their players' weak points, just to augment immersion.

      Back in the '90s, when people protested against the role playing games because of their high content of paganism, violence and Christian heresies in their games the WW wrote some polite "fuck you" in their manuals, clarifying how it was only a game and that they didn't endorse any kind of behaviour or philosophy in their games. I wonder how they games would have been if they've instead put "nope" cards inside just to have Mormons play.

      The whole point of RPing is that you're not your character and you should not project yourself in it, if you can't separate character and player then you should probably start with something easier and not Wraith: just like you said, it's a game about facing pain and oriented to people willing to feel strong emotions in their sessions. If you don't like it you should probably play something else rather than throwing yourself in a game that forces you to face death and loss.

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      • #18
        Originally posted by Maris Streck View Post


        So, I may sound a bit old style, but I think people should grow up a bit to play Wraith.
        It's maybe the most mature game of all the WW setting and you just shouldn't play it if you're too sensitive to need X cards.
        I see a lot of people today fearing confrontations so much that they hide behind a safe space the moment they touch something it doesn't compute for their mind and I'm really scared at the thought of seeing third wave feminism behaviours in RPGs. I may be wrong but I think I even saw somewhere the suggestion to have the Shadows provoke the characters on their players' weak points, just to augment immersion.

        The whole point of RPing is that you're not your character and you should not project yourself in it, if you can't separate character and player then you should probably start with something easier and not Wraith: just like you said, it's a game about facing pain and oriented to people willing to feel strong emotions in their sessions. If you don't like it you should probably play something else rather than throwing yourself in a game that forces you to face death and loss.
        I think it's pretty offensive to act like people who want to deal with sensitive themes with some form of safety valve need to "grow up," and I think your random call out of feminism as some kind of blight on the hobby is pretty much uncalled for.
        Last edited by atamajakki; 10-23-2017, 06:21 PM.


        Call me Remi. Female pronouns for me, please.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by atamajakki View Post
          I think it's pretty offensive to act like people who want to deal with sensitive themes with some form of safety valve need to "grow up,"
          I think it's pretty offensive to think that people should be treated like porcelain dolls.

          This kind of obsession to shelter adult people's psyches is exactly what concerns me. I assume that grown-ups have the maturity to protect themselves quite enough and that can pick their own games, just like they pick their favourite movies: if they don't like scare jumps or ghastly settings they won't watch horror movies, and even if they do it "just to try" they can stand up and go away at any time.
          And there's a specific subgroup of third wave feminists quite notorious both for overreacting and bullying people that think differently; so, even if I don't want to call out the whole feminism I think it's not really that random to write that I'm troubled when someone calls for safeguards on a role playing game. I mean no offense to you or any good hearted feminist out there, but it really feels excessive to me.

          Because, just like 20 years ago when Wraith was first published, this is just a game and your character is not you. If you can't take a ghost story is fine, we don't have all the same tastes and as a group we're theng going to play something else, but what I'm definitely not having is people agreeing to the ghost story but raising a hand and say that the master should stop describing his troubling scene. Because I want that description and I think I deserve a certain kind of emotional trip in a game tailored precisely for that.
          Last edited by Maris Streck; 10-23-2017, 09:28 PM.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Maris Streck View Post

            I think it's pretty offensive to think that people should be treated like porcelain dolls.

            This kind of obsession to shelter adult people's psyches is exactly what concerns me. I assume that grown-ups have the maturity to protect themselves quite enough and that can pick their own games, just like they pick their favourite movies: if they don't like scare jumps or ghastly settings they won't watch horror movies, and even if they do it "just to try" they can stand up and go away at any time.
            And there's a specific subgroup of third wave feminists quite notorious both for overreacting and bullying people that think differently; so, even if I don't want to call out the whole feminism I think it's not really that random to write that I'm troubled when someone calls for safeguards on a role playing game. I mean no offense to you or any good hearted feminist out there, but it really feels excessive to me.

            Because, just like 20 years ago when Wraith was first published, this is just a game and your character is not you. If you can't take a ghost story is fine, we don't have all the same tastes and as a group we're theng going to play something else, but what I'm definitely not having is people agreeing to the ghost story but raising a hand and say that the master should stop describing his troubling scene. Because I want that description and I think I deserve a certain kind of emotional trip in a game tailored precisely for that.
            Your rambling about feminism as some kind of insidious evil ruining the hobby is pretty Not Great.

            I don't understand acting like offering some optional mechanical guard rails and advice in a book is some great offense to you. If you don't want to use them, you're more than welcome to, but going beyond I don't like this! and spiraling off into a huge slam on people who like to feel more comfortable or safe during a hobby designed for play as somehow being fragile or immature is needlessly cruel.


            Call me Remi. Female pronouns for me, please.

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            • #21
              There is a difference between recognizing the potential for psychological distress that certain themes can create for people with past situations dealing with them and taking the appropriate steps to ensure that a game that deals with those themes - a recreational past time, usually not a professional therapy session - has tools and mechanisms in place. Those tools and mechanisms won't be needed for every group, and their existence does not mean you need to use them or that they will be used at the drop of a hat. When a game very specifically and primarily deals with confronting traumas, past experiences, and abuse then it is doubly important that there be an awareness that for some people, maybe one of those themes will need some special handling - or maybe it won't, but it can't hurt to have the tools right there.

              This is not about third wave feminism or treating people like porcelain dolls. This is just being a responsible adult capable of empathy and of understanding post-traumatic stress and anxiety. This is because the safeguards being considered are not about, as you have nominated, 'scare jumps' or 'ghastly settings', but rather things like sexual assault, suicide, extreme mental illness, self-harm, and substance abuse. There is also no suggestion that these topics should be off limits, as you tried to insinuate with your earlier commentary on 90s WW's 'fuck off!' disclaimers, which were written at a time where that very much was the suggestion. The only suggestion, the only request, is that since the game can get real dark real fast in ways touching on actual traumatic experiences for actual people, it should have tools in place to facilitate keeping it enjoyable.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by loomer View Post
                There is a difference between recognizing the potential for psychological distress that certain themes can create for people with past situations dealing with them and taking the appropriate steps to ensure that a game that deals with those themes - a recreational past time, usually not a professional therapy session - has tools and mechanisms in place. Those tools and mechanisms won't be needed for every group, and their existence does not mean you need to use them or that they will be used at the drop of a hat. When a game very specifically and primarily deals with confronting traumas, past experiences, and abuse then it is doubly important that there be an awareness that for some people, maybe one of those themes will need some special handling - or maybe it won't, but it can't hurt to have the tools right there.

                This is not about third wave feminism or treating people like porcelain dolls. This is just being a responsible adult capable of empathy and of understanding post-traumatic stress and anxiety. This is because the safeguards being considered are not about, as you have nominated, 'scare jumps' or 'ghastly settings', but rather things like sexual assault, suicide, extreme mental illness, self-harm, and substance abuse. There is also no suggestion that these topics should be off limits, as you tried to insinuate with your earlier commentary on 90s WW's 'fuck off!' disclaimers, which were written at a time where that very much was the suggestion. The only suggestion, the only request, is that since the game can get real dark real fast in ways touching on actual traumatic experiences for actual people, it should have tools in place to facilitate keeping it enjoyable.
                Said more eloquently than I could.


                Call me Remi. Female pronouns for me, please.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by loomer View Post
                  The only suggestion, the only request, is that since the game can get real dark real fast in ways touching on actual traumatic experiences for actual people, it should have tools in place to facilitate keeping it enjoyable.
                  Is it so wrong to expect that an adult has enough self-knowledge to refuse a game that deals with death and traumas if they have history? Or, is it wrong to expect that in a group of friends the ST knows who the others are and suggests a different campaign, knowing that one of the players had to deal with his brother's suicide?

                  The point is that I want to deal with suicides in my Wraith game - hell, maybe I even think suicide is a cool way for my character to die. But rather than having someone asking me to to redo the background because one of us can't deal with suicides I'd rather play something else (if i'm with friends) or play without him (if we're strangers); because, as a player, this is exactly the kind of dark theme I want to explore in a game made esplicitly to deal with pain and I think I have the right to ask for them.

                  I'm not against a session zero (even if calling it this way is needlessly formal), but rather than talking about safeguards only I'd like to talk about the creative agenda and what we're expecting from the game, so that all the players can be on the same page about the chronicle. So, if someone is uncomfortable with the themes the ST or the other players are bringing out he can say it right there and leave the group the chance to decide how to proceed.

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by Maris Streck View Post

                    Is it so wrong to expect that an adult has enough self-knowledge to refuse a game that deals with death and traumas if they have history?
                    No one is saying that. We are, however, suggesting that the door should not be slammed shut in people's faces and there is in fact a middle ground between 'in' and 'out'.

                    Or, is it wrong to expect that in a group of friends the ST knows who the others are and suggests a different campaign, knowing that one of the players had to deal with his brother's suicide?
                    Again, no one is saying that. The reason why tools like a red card are useful is because traumas are often unknown to other people (often even very intimate friends, even long-term romanticpartners) because they can be exceptionally personal and, quite frankly, not the business of everyone present at the table. This is especially the case where you have new groups or groups trying a new genre involving these themes where previously they played only, say, Pugmire and it was unlikely to be an issue. It is also entirely possible that a sexual assault survivor (purely as an example) may be comfortable playing in a game where that is a theme and where the ST is aware of their history, but unaware of certain details that push it into not-okay territory (a particular form of assault, say).

                    A responsive ST is the ideal. These tools do nothing more than give them more to work with and - using the card again - players a way to quietly signal, without having to explain to a table of people, that something is either edging into or is in outright discomforting territory for them. The response could be a temporary pause, a check in, a readjustment - or whatever else the player(s) and ST feel is appropriate.

                    Because triggers are rarely as straightforward as people think and can be complex and highly situational, discussion beforehand in 'session zero' or the use of cards is an excellent way to ensure there are no accidental steps into that territory. It's one thing entirely to explore suicide or child abuse with a player who knows it's coming and has some baggage around it (in those circumstances it may even be helpful to them, if handled appropriately, by giving them a safe place in which to recontextualize things and process emotion) and quite another to spring it on people unsuspecting where it's a risk factor.

                    The point is that I want to deal with suicides in my Wraith game - hell, maybe I even think suicide is a cool way for my character to die.
                    Cool. No one is saying you can't - just that it's generally good practice, as a mature adult, to be aware that certain subject matter may be difficult for others and to have empathy. It's the same reason Aussie tv shows mention a warning on content with indigenous persons who have died that this is the case - there are cultural taboos that mean that for some indigenous viewers, that content is deeply upsetting/ritually impure/absolutely forbidden, and it's just plain old polite and decent to let those people know.

                    But rather than having someone asking me to to redo the background because one of us can't deal with suicides I'd rather play something else (if i'm with friends) or play without him (if we're strangers);
                    No one is saying you can't get up and leave the group or suggest a different game.

                    because, as a player, this is exactly the kind of dark theme I want to explore in a game made esplicitly to deal with pain and I think I have the right to ask for them.
                    And the other players have the exact same right to ask that certain themes be put off limits or handled in a careful way - especially if the pain they're dealing with is one you have no experience with. Your enjoyment of a game should not come before the emotional wellbeing of another human being.

                    I'm not against a session zero (even if calling it this way is needlessly formal), but rather than talking about safeguards only I'd like to talk about the creative agenda and what we're expecting from the game, so that all the players can be on the same page about the chronicle. So, if someone is uncomfortable with the themes the ST or the other players are bringing out he can say it right there and leave the group the chance to decide how to proceed.
                    No one is suggesting that this not be the case. Session zero - I'm with you on disliking the terminology, incidentally - encompasses creative agenda, expectations, character generation, all of that as well as an opportunity to flag certain subjects as needing delicate handling or being too sensitive. All that is being sought are additional tools to make it easier for often socially awkward people to have the discussion about how to proceed in a mature and safe way, and to prevent it from going pearshaped when it has.

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                    • #25
                      Originally posted by loomer View Post
                      This is especially the case where you have new groups or groups trying a new genre involving these themes where previously they played only, say, Pugmire and it was unlikely to be an issue. It is also entirely possible that a sexual assault survivor (purely as an example) may be comfortable playing in a game where that is a theme and where the ST is aware of their history, but unaware of certain details that push it into not-okay territory (a particular form of assault, say).
                      Hey, you can get trigger-issues from ANYWHERE. You want to play Pugmire, cool... I had my ear bitten off by a dog when I was 8. They reattached it. No one can tell. There definitely exists the possibility that snarly-ear-ripping-dog-violence could be problematic for me. (Not that I have any issues about it. I was more upset by the fact they put down the dog after than I was by the hospital trip....I genuinely have more issues from some car-wrecks I've been in, but the possibility exists).

                      I doubt if ANYONE from my gaming group knows that and I've known everyone in the group for at least 7 years and a couple from up to 25 years in which we've played together. Why would they? I don't talk about it. I don't think about it. BUT, all that aside, I could easily agree to play Pugmire and, if it was more of a concern for me, a great ST might be able to "trigger" something, I guess... probably not, but the possibility is there.

                      And that's a nothing. That's not a suicide attempt. That's not an unexpected pregnancy at a bad time. That's not an addiction issue. That's not a major illness and the resulting consequences. That's not coping with issues relating to cognition on a daily basis. Any or all of those things could be in play with people you THINK you know because you've been gaming with them. I bet the cat thing wouldn't be a joke AT ALL to someone who saw their pet torn to pieces in front of them or found the remnants of their cat after it was mangled. Going over what's going down in a game that is specifically going to be mucking around in the deepest parts of people's psyches explicitly? Not a bad thing.

                      This is a game where suicide is effectively a career path.... Being beat to death in a back alley for some aspect of your person (race, gender, whatever) is actually a door to future advancement. Where body horror issues go off the rails with things like Moliate. Where taboo subjects like slavery are put back on the table front and center alongside Dachau lamp shades so de jure they're the coin of the realm.

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                      • #26
                        Okay, my take on the subject: I don't mind it. I didn't mind the sidebars about transgenderism and mysticism and pronouns in M20, neither the sidebar in the D&D 5e PHB, neither the few lines about using hard topics in W20, or the same stuff in Paizo's Horror Adventures.

                        I don't need X-cards and the other "modern safety mechanisms". I think they aren't even really good solutions to the problem, since if you have to tap it, you've been already encountered the traumatic scene (although it could put a short end to it, but that has other negative sides, regarding the game and story itself). So, I don't need it and don't particularly like it, but Wraith is a dark game (honestly, I find the setting interesting as a background and Wraiths are interesting NPCs to me, but I'm not particularly inclined to play it as a PC, it's too much nihilism for me and I love Vampire), but other people clearly want it to be there, so hey, what's a sidebar, or a column of text? As long as it doesn't take away from the game, from its darkness (pun not intended), as long as WoD games are still dealing openly with hard topics, and don't shy away from them (which is a much bigger issue, in general, nowadays as weel as catering t certain narrative here and there), I really don't care if there's some text about safety mechanisms in the ST chapter.

                        Sneering at the "edgyness" of WoD is far more toxic, IMO and actually bad for the game and setting.
                        Last edited by PMárk; 10-24-2017, 10:12 PM.


                        If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                        • #27
                          Wraith is a game designed to make you feel uncomfortable so it's a little weird to hear people talk about avoiding that discomfort while they're playing it.

                          Of course, there is a narrow possibility that a player who happily signed on for a game about death at literally every moment and with another player specifically roleplaying the darkest part of their character's mind could encounter some other subject during the game that makes them way more uncomfortable than those things, and in that case X cards would be helpful. I don't think Wraith is any more subject to that risk than any other game; it has plenty of darkness, but it's pretty obvious, and X cards are for unanticipated triggers.

                          I would be annoyed if someone used an X card during an entirely basic description of Deathsight. I wouldn't ask for an explanation of course, but I'd wonder why they agreed to play Wraith in the first place if such a basic component of it discomforts them enough to stop the game.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by haldir2012 View Post
                            I would be annoyed if someone used an X card during an entirely basic description of Deathsight. I wouldn't ask for an explanation of course, but I'd wonder why they agreed to play Wraith in the first place if such a basic component of it discomforts them enough to stop the game.
                            I frequently feel some people just want to play WoD, but not with all the implications, due to personal reasons. Mind those reasons aren't invalid, but when they're going straight against the core premises of the specific game, or established setting elements, I just have a hard time to understand why those people insist on playing those games? Ok, probably because they like other elements, or the idea they have about the game, but not the actual execution.

                            Still, if you don't like to see deep, ingrained and even somewhat unchangeable inequality in society, Masquerade isn't the best game for you. Same with Werewolf and bigotry. If death or other, deeply traumatic things could bring up your own traumas to the point that it's harmful to your well-being and gaming experience, Wraith isn't the best game for you. If you're just bothered by the implications of a setting described as "our world, but even more shitty", then, probably WoD in general isn't really the best for you.

                            Thing is, I and a lot of other people have fell in love with WoD, because it is what it is. Don't like it? There are million games out there with similar, but differently executed themes. WoD should remain "edgy", thanks.

                            To reiterate: I really don't mind some description of safety mechanics in the book, as long as they aren't taking up much space. There are other, targeted publications for that. In a WoD book, I want WoD material and WoD specific ST advice, but a sidebar, or a column? Well, yes, why not?

                            Also, despite some people's tendency to throw as much mud on WW as possible, I'm actually fully expecting to see some talk about safety mechanisms in V5, considering the developer team and how important the whole concept is in Nordic LARP and how central and prominent it was in their big LARPs.
                            Last edited by PMárk; 10-25-2017, 09:28 PM.


                            If nothing worked, then let's think!

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                            • #29
                              Surprisingly, I am an enormous fan of the 'edgy' WoD, as you'd put it. This isn't an attempt to cut that down - it's an attempt to provide tools to make it easier to explore with a broader audience. Also, why on earth are we now debating the use of an X card during a basic description of death sight? It has zero relationship to what those of us advocating for the use of the tools are talking about, just like the random rant upthread about feminism didn't.

                              Just to reiterate: Suggesting these tools be in place is not an attempt to 'cut down' on the 'edge'. It is not a suggestion that they be used around basic gameplay mechanics (in a case where a person is so seriously affected by them that the use of X cards and safe words when describing a basic game mechanic or lore point, then yes, the game is probably not a good fit, and I don't think Lex or I would say otherwise) or an attempt to in some way neuter the game. It is not a suggestion that people shouldn't exercise common sense and good judgment when deciding if the game is appropriate for them - it's a suggestion that there be tools in place in case things take an unexpected turn, or a person is less able to handle it than they expected. No one on the side of these tools is going 'well, the basic themes of the game are bad/i don't like the implications of a shittier world/inequality upsets me, so x card please' - we're talking about a specific game in the line that deals with a lot more potential triggers than any other, and our comments are solely in reference to that basic aspect.

                              We are very specifically addressing a game line where discussions of domestic violence, sexual abuse, suicide, and other serious and real problems is par for the course. The reason we're suggesting the tools might be good is because we are actually fans of the idea. You'll notice we aren't asking for it to change, we aren't asking 'please make suicide discussion off limits in the corebook thanks', we're asking 'hey, so, this game can get really dark, could it be a good idea to include a few basic and possibly helpful tools that have developed around games that deal with dark content?'

                              Rambling complaints about feminism or intellectually dishonest attempts to paint the tools as being aimed at basic gameplay or attempts at defending the setting's 'edge' where no one is trying to blunt it - unless you define the setting's edge as 'has the potential to trigger unsuspecting players with severe emotional trauma from prior life experiences', that is - is unhelpful.

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                              • #30
                                Asking for mechanics like the X card is explicitly in favor of having triggering content in the game, so that it can exist in play responsibly and safely for all involved. The alternative answer is “I’d rather not have that content at all,” which isn’t what anyone advocating for this are saying.

                                Anyone who doubts my cred is more than welcome to kiss my Silent Lrgion tattoo.


                                Call me Remi. Female pronouns for me, please.

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