Anyone with a report from the White Wolf panel at Grand Masquerade?

DocShoveller

both a doctor and a fox
Validated User
#11
I've only been involved with MES for a few years (and honestly, haven't done much in the last year or so since I've moved), so thankfully I didn't have to deal with any of that kind of shit (as if I did, well, I'd probably peace out before long myself).
I was a Camarilla officer some years ago (until 2011), and player culture was very keen to talk about rape. We had rape in backgrounds, rape in downtimes, rape in plotlines... and a lot of this was top-down (i.e. introduced by STs and senior STs). I think if MES wants to take action to break that cycle, they should be supported.
 

LCDR Seamonkey

Urban Monkey Warfare
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#12
So, some additional data points:

As an example of Mr. Ericsson veering sharply off-message, one of the players who was expressing concern about White Wolf seeming dismissive towards the issues that led to the MES topic-ban brought up the fact that for many players these are things they grapple with in real life, and don't necessarily want to deal with in game because LARP "is something they do for fun". The rest of the panel re-emphasized the point that it's up to each group to decide which aspects of they WOD they want to deal with, and they respect and encourage that self-determination. Everything seemed to be settling down, and then Martin jumped in with (paraphrasing slightly): "What does this word "Fun" mean anyways? It's kind of meaningless in the context of a horror game. We are trying to generate meaningful stories, and isn't it more true to say we are looking for a sense of catharsis from confronting the evils of the world?"
Which, you know, I don't think he's wrong, per se, but it certainly was not conducive to reassuring players that were afraid their concerns were being dismissed.

In addition, I don't play in any of the big chronicles/associations. I had no idea how bad things were in MES before the ban was enacted. And to be perfectly honest, as someone with no investment in the org but a desire to see the IP be successful in a larger sense, the more I hear the more I sympathize with the Shane's original remark. Because as an outsider, it looks like the real problem is that the org is infested with some terrible people, and my first solution would not be to make that specific topic off-limits. On the other hand, if I were put in charge of resolving the situation I'm not sure there'd be anything left of the org when I was done, so........

And as for the particularly unhelpful summary described above, I have to admit I was going through a phase when one of the individuals speaking up started providing some Feminism 101 reinforcement to her points when I was thinking "yeah, we all know this and we're on the same page, can we move on?" -and then some Jackhole (who I'm pretty sure is a bigshot player in one of the big LARP orgs) decided to jump in with a particularly mean-spirited and dismissive rejoinder. Again, to White Wolf's credit that was precisely when they reigned the conversation in, but it was an object lesson in the kind of personality challenges that the big orgs have to deal with.

My .02,
Me
 

theliel

Fan of Many Things
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#13
So the MES & OWBN are essentially asymmetric massively multiplayer live action role playing games (ammlarpgs). Because of this you need to think in terms of Second Life or any other sandbox style MMO and to paraphrase the Eating Bees blog by Sanya Weathers - If you have something that's being abused you ban it. You could ban individuals as they misuse the thing but you'll just be playing whack-a-mole and if you're relying on human intervention you'll wind up with people being protected because they're nice or useful or pillars of the community. So you just ban the thing because when you're dealing with large scale volunteer powered orgs you have to use inductive methods of problem solving instead of active. You have to prevent the thing from being capable of being a problem instead of attempting to contain it.

And yea, between taking 8 months to get anything back from 'high' to "if you didn't want rape all over your game maybe the WoD isn't for you" me and the other STs noped the fuck out.
 

Jadasc

Registered User
Validated User
#14
"Yeah, that thing about Assamites turning black as they get older is super racist…"
Which is weird, because Travis Williams, who is black, put that in because he disliked the idea that vampires of color would get paler as they aged.
 

LCDR Seamonkey

Urban Monkey Warfare
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#15
So the MES & OWBN are essentially asymmetric massively multiplayer live action role playing games (ammlarpgs). Because of this you need to think in terms of Second Life or any other sandbox style MMO and to paraphrase the Eating Bees blog by Sanya Weathers - If you have something that's being abused you ban it. You could ban individuals as they misuse the thing but you'll just be playing whack-a-mole and if you're relying on human intervention you'll wind up with people being protected because they're nice or useful or pillars of the community. So you just ban the thing because when you're dealing with large scale volunteer powered orgs you have to use inductive methods of problem solving instead of active. You have to prevent the thing from being capable of being a problem instead of attempting to contain it.

And yea, between taking 8 months to get anything back from 'high' to "if you didn't want rape all over your game maybe the WoD isn't for you" me and the other STs noped the fuck out.
I haven't read the blog, but that runs counter to my own experience running a (much smaller) LARP. In my experience, the kind of people pulling the heinous shit described above will just find something new to be heinous about if you take away their current toy - As an example, another topic that was brought up as a locus terrible behavior is "in-character" use of ethnic or racial slurs. So really, you're just choosing which version of Whack-A-Mole you're playing - either you're repeatedly banning whatever topic/gambit the terrible players have discovered this month, or you're repeatedly fixing/banning problem players as they come up. And if the kind of people we're discussing are being protected by the larger organization, then I don't think it's necessarily surprising if outsiders start to wonder if your larger organization is really a net positive for the hobby, or if the infection has spread too deep. Which, actually, seems to be a decision you yourself faced.

However! I am not Shane, and I cannot speak to how he may feel personally about various organizations - only what he actually said in the panel, which as I mentioned seemed very professional and encouraging.
 

theliel

Fan of Many Things
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Validated User
#16
I haven't read the blog, but that runs counter to my own experience running a (much smaller) LARP. In my experience, the kind of people pulling the heinous shit described above will just find something new to be heinous about if you take away their current toy - As an example, another topic that was brought up as a locus terrible behavior is "in-character" use of ethnic or racial slurs. So really, you're just choosing which version of Whack-A-Mole you're playing - either you're repeatedly banning whatever topic/gambit the terrible players have discovered this month, or you're repeatedly fixing/banning problem players as they come up. And if the kind of people we're discussing are being protected by the larger organization, then I don't think it's necessarily surprising if outsiders start to wonder if your larger organization is really a net positive for the hobby, or if the infection has spread too deep. Which, actually, seems to be a decision you yourself faced.

However! I am not Shane, and I cannot speak to how he may feel personally about various organizations - only what he actually said in the panel, which as I mentioned seemed very professional and encouraging.
In character ethnic slurs aren't something that have a good chance of causing 1 in 10 players a reminder of a horrible tragedy and typically only cause flashbacks or other horribleness in extreme cases. You also tend to get people to stop if a minority asks since no one (especially the venue) wants to wind up being known as 'those racists'.

Large orgs especially have a legal out in the "we're not going to get sued, so fucking stop it" incentive and generally are able to draft a coherent policy. Ethnic slurs are generally not tolerated well by society. Rape jokes are. Corrective Rape is a fucking trope in mainstream anime. "What's your motivation?" "I was raped" is bog standard for Hollywood. It's pervasive and if you bring it up the general reaction is "why so serious?" - just look at the discussion about Game of Thrones.

Contrast with someone who runs around saying the N word at every opportunity in a public space. You're very quickly going to run into the "dude, stop that or we loose the venue" - doubly true for student groups.
 

Tumbleweed

Supporting Cast!
Validated User
#17
Which is weird, because Travis Williams, who is black, put that in because he disliked the idea that vampires of color would get paler as they aged.
Huh. I was not aware of that. Then again, what works for tabletop doesn't always work for LARP. Anything that involves putting on blackface is a bad, bad idea to me.
 

Pheidias

herder of rampant stories
Validated User
#18
The first videos of the keynote speech are up on social media and people have started transcribing what was said. The passage that apparently led to a lot of discussion among the players of MES and the other clubs is this bit, starting roughly at the 28 minute mark of the speech:

"We’ve always been a community that enjoyed progressive products that often deal with dark and disturbing subject matter and we can not run from that because the current zeitgeist of the moment says its bad or makes us uncomfortable.

We firmly believe that it is up to the individual to determine their own comfort level in terms of depth of graphic and mature content that they wish to participate in, that is the very foundation behind the concept of collaborative storytelling, and the truth is theres never anything such as bad content, there are only bad decisions.

If you find yourself in a situation that results in you believing you need to ban or censor certain types of content, then the truth of the matter is you are treating the symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. In short, banning horrific and mature content doesn’t solve anything, banning bad and abusive players does."
Now, as far as I understand it, this was Shane outlining the policy of the company regarding any sort of controversial content/disturbing subject matter in their games. Now, I do not presume to know if he intended to reference the MES (or any other club's) policy of the rape topic ban, nor do I wish to guess at why members of said clubs felt attacked by it.

All I can see is that the new White Wolf is taking the exact same position the old White Wolf did concerning what type of content they will produce (you could easily find this part of the speech in other words in the rulebooks of the 90s) and leaving it up to player discretion what parts of the material individuals wish to include in their games (or what policy fan clubs decide on). While at the end of the excerpt Shane expresses the company's belief that it is better to ban problem players than ban certain topics outright, this seems like a very general statement.

Considering the Nordic LARP culture the new White Wolf people hail from (and Shane is merely repeating what Martin has already said in various interviews) this statement comes from a place where for them it makes absolute sense and is part of a larger tradition:

In my experience these types of LARP are very transparent as to their themes up front, so the player can make an informed choice whether they feel comfortable enough to participate. Scenarios can get very intense emotionally and physically and are often pretty cathartic in effect. But they also come with vetting of participants and a load of mandatory prep work, such as intense briefing/debriefing, workshops on player safety and sensitivity, trust building, responsibility and consent issues (which is typical of many Nordic LARPs, especially those with sensitive subject matter) and they often have dedicated personnel on hand that concern themselves with the well-being of players.

Considering the fact that the big LARP events the new White Wolf is organizing/has commissioned (End of the Line, Convention of Thorns, Enlightenment in Blood) all take that very same approach, I believe it is fair to say that this is what they have in mind when they talk about there not being bad content only bad decisions.

Part of the controversy may simply be a clash of cultures and a lack of clear communication about just how different these points of view are.
 
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theliel

Fan of Many Things
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#19
The first videos of the keynote speech are up on social media and people have started transcribing what was said. The passage that apparently led to a lot of discussion among the players of MES and the other clubs is this bit, starting roughly at the 28 minute mark of the speech:

Now, as far as I understand it, this was Shane outlining the policy of the company regarding any sort of controversial content/disturbing subject matter in their games. Now, I do not presume to know if he intended to reference the MES (or any other club's) policy of the rape topic ban, nor do I wish to guess at why members of said clubs felt attacked by it.

All I can see is that the new White Wolf is taking the exact same position the old White Wolf did concerning what type of content they will produce (you could easily find this part of the speech in other words in the rulebooks of the 90s) and leaving it up to player discretion what parts of the material individuals wish to include in their games (or what policy fan clubs decide on). While at the end of the excerpt Shane expresses the company's belief that it is better to ban problem players than ban certain topics outright, this seems like a very general statement.

Considering the Nordic LARP culture the new White Wolf people hail from (and Shane is merely repeating what Martin has already said in various interviews) this statement comes from a place where for them it makes absolute sense and is part of a larger tradition:

In my experience these types of LARP are very transparent as to their themes up front, so the player can make an informed choice whether they feel comfortable enough to participate. Scenarios can get very intense emotionally and physically and are often pretty cathartic in effect. But they also come with vetting of participants and a load of mandatory prep work, such as intense briefing/debriefing, workshops on player safety and sensitivity, trust building, responsibility and consent issues (which is typical of many Nordic LARPs, especially those with sensitive subject matter) and they often have dedicated personnel on hand that concern themselves with the well-being of players.

Considering the fact that the big LARP events the new White Wolf is organizing/has commissioned (End of the Line, Convention of Thorns, Enlightenment in Blood) all take that very same approach, I believe it is fair to say that this is what they have in mind when they talk about there not being bad content only bad decisions.

Part of the controversy may simply be a clash of cultures and a lack of clear communication about just how different these points of view are.
That's a fair interpretation, and one that could well have been meant, but it bears a striking similarity to the discussion of online harassment. "no bad speech, only bad people" is pretty close to what various organized harassment campaigns say every time one of theirs is caught or a community creates or incorporates anti-harassment policies. It's damn near verbatim the response to anti-harassment policies being written into convention guidelines.

In short I will give that the intent was good but the verbiage doesn't read well given all the other horrible shit going on in the gaming/sci-fi/fan community right now.
 

Pheidias

herder of rampant stories
Validated User
#20
That's a fair interpretation, and one that could well have been meant, but it bears a striking similarity to the discussion of online harassment. "no bad speech, only bad people" is pretty close to what various organized harassment campaigns say every time one of theirs is caught or a community creates or incorporates anti-harassment policies. It's damn near verbatim the response to anti-harassment policies being written into convention guidelines.

In short I will give that the intent was good but the verbiage doesn't read well given all the other horrible shit going on in the gaming/sci-fi/fan community right now.
Not disagreeing with you at all, just adding another thought of my own.

VtM has an incredibly dark subject matter. At its core it's about people who have been turned into literal predators who need to feed on other people to survive.

This isn't mere cannibalism, which would be horrific enough. They take blood from unknowing victims whom they charm or straight out assault to force them into a life-threatening form of extreme physical intimacy where one party has all the power and can easily override any sort of resistance through mind control or superior strength. Even more horrific, the taking of vitae causes involuntary physical arousal and an Impulse to just let it happen. A human who has been bitten might even become addicted to the sensation.

Because of the strangehold of the Masquerade on most mortal institutions, no one will believe the victims if they come forward and they might find themselves ostracised, persecuted, declared insane or even killed if they report it.

Even the most well-intentioned of vampires will sooner or later victimize humans on a regular basis and their society actively rewards those who become ever more clever and subtle predators, while dehumanizing mortals to the point where they are considered kine not people.

While this is often handwaved or straight up overlooked in all too many games, the moral implications of the act of feeding have been at center of the published Material since day one. Approaching and exploring such very real topics through the dark mirror of the vampire metaphor was one of the goals explicitly set forth by its original designer in the first rulebook's afterword.

The old White Wolf was very hit and miss with how well they went about tackling sensitive content. Sometimes they produced beautiful and profound material, sometimes they published offensive trash, very much depending on the individual authors and the line editors overseeing their work. But even the most tone-deaf, cringeworthy stuff never appeared to me ill-intentioned or purposefully offensive, or veering into hate speech territory.

I believe it would hurt the core themes of VtM if one were to sanitize it. Dialing down the horror of what vampires are and what they do would dilute and lessen what can be achieved with this game when at its best. I think, downplaying the sheer monstrousness of the Kindred condition would make it actually a lot worse, painting them in a better light, sort of like buying into their in-universe propaganda.

However, this makes it all the more important to publish game material that handles this dark and disturbing content in a mature and sensitive manner. Which is very much a question of the intention and ability of individual authors and a competent editorial oversight. This is were I agree with the rationale of "there is no bad content only bad decisions".

I also believe that it is a very important responsibility of gaming troupes and their participants to communicate which of the offical material they will use, what they are comfortable with and to make sure that no player is hurt or feels threatened/harassed in real life.

This is not something that the New White Wolf can do, except to lead by example and make sure that their own events live up to these standards and that the books they publish have advice on this subject and clearly delineate things that are never okay (which the old company did frequently and well in many, many official publications, sometimes long before the fan orgs formulated bylaws against unacceptable behavior.

In short, I think that in theory all topics should be open to be tackled in principle. The onus is on those writing about them to do it well (by which I mean responsibly, not just dir shock-value or titillation and with a firm ethical grounding). If they don't they should be called out on it, if and when offense occurs not before hand.

When the old White Wolf produced 'Charnel Houses of Europe', their book about the Shoa, I was initially very skeptical, because this is a very personal issue for me. But when I read it, I found it to be one of the best pieces of their Oeuvre they had ever written. From my point of view it would be very sad if they hadn't dared to publish it, because the topic was off-limits. The fact that they did it well and really showed their work justified the risk.

If the new publishers hold themselves to the same standards, then I for my part remain optimistic.
 
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