Tuesday, October 22, 2013

30 Days of GameMastering--Day 19!

Okay, brief warning before this entry in Lindevi's "30 Days of GameMastering" challenge:  this one might be a touch triggery for those sensitive to certain issues.  Apologies in regards to my fully admitted poor judgement, though I believe this story is worth telling.

What was your worst session and why?
This is a story that I don't tell lightly, because despite my cynical nature, I try to focus on what's good and what's exciting in the gaming world.  While I've gone on my share of rants--mostly regarding the upcoming D&D Next and my issues with Monte Cook and Mike Mearls--I tend to only review things in a positive manner and do my best to provide constructive criticism at every level of a game's development.  But this session stands out as my absolute worst; I feel guilty about it to this very day.

Roxanne Butler
Roxanne Butler:
our unfortunate Huckster.
When I was running my Dark Tower/Deadlands crossover, the PlatinumChick played as Roxanne Butler:  a card-slinging New Orleans Huckster, trying to find her missing father.  Roxanne had worked for years as a "lady of the night", using her Huckster abilities to delude her 'johns' into believing they'd had a sexual liason, while actually preserving her virginity.  Roxanne came coupled with numerous bonuses to persuasion and charisma, often serving as the party 'face'.

While in Alderman's Creek, a small town plagued by numerous problems, Roxanne went off on her own to investigate a Paul Ashby, a preacher with particularly loose morals, who might have some leads on the town's issues.  The intention, naturally, was to use her feminine wiles to convince the preacher into revealing something of note.  I had intended to play up Ashby as being overly aggressive, resulting in a more difficult interrogation.

What I had not anticipated, however, was that scenario devolving into an in-character, attempted rape.  Lost in game-space, the scenario quickly degenerated into an ugly scene of the Ashby pinning Roxanne down and attempting to penetrate her.  Luckily, Roxanne was able to escape as one of the posse's followers shot Ashby before he could complete the deed.

I fully admit--as a GM, I was in the wrong in narrating/GMing this scene.  The description of this scenario was overly graphic and traumatizing.  I really have no excuse for my actions in this regard; that night after the session, I actually made a full written apology to my players afterwards and offered to retcon the scenario, but the damage itself was already done.

Now, I have no issues with including sexual material in my game.  In one of the playtests of Cold Steel Wardens, my players actively pursued a lead to a BDSM dungeon, hoping to find some information on a recent visitor.  However, sexual content and sexual assault are two very different animals.  In this Deadlands game, I neglected my players' personal comfort in favor of letting the dice fall where they may, and there's simply no excuse for that.

I can't stress this enough:  you've got to know your players and know their limits.  I crossed my players' limits, inexcusably, though they were kind enough to forgive me and give me the benefit of the doubt going forward.

So, what can I say?  I've learned a harsh lesson from this experience, reminding me of something very valuable.  As a GM, your job is to provide entertainment and amusement for your players--not to play things out 'realistically', especially without giving thought to the consequences.  Be aware, be sensitive, and when in doubt:  err on the side of PG.

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