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Rape in Role Playing Games        Posted by:  A. M.
4/6/99    09:18 AM

This topic has come up elsewhere, and I thought that it deserved a thread of it's own.

Several women have mentioned either having had their female characters raped or knowing other people whose female characters were raped. I have no idea how common the experience actually is, but it's come up enough to make me think that it's an issue to be considered. What do people think about this sort of thing? Rape is something that happens in the real world, but it can be traumatic even by proxy. Does it make a difference if the violence is committed by an npc or by a pc?

I believe that this subject's going to be a pretty difficult one if we really start talking about it, but I think it's worth exploring. I've never had a character of mine raped during play. I suspect that I'd react badly to it under most circumstances. I have used rape or the fear of rape in some of my character histories (for the 20 year old living on the streets on Manchester in the 1890s, it was VERY big concern), but that seems different to me. I've also had npcs raped in games I've run, but that also seems different because an npc is purely fictional while a player character run by someone else isn't quite.

My view of the issue is further complicated by the fact that, as a GM, I once had an npc rape a player character (The situation was complicated, but I did leave the player plenty of outs). I still feel bad about it even though the player consented to it and ended up building a lot of character development around it.  How much does player consent matter?

I think that this may be one of the areas when role playing can become dangerously personal for some people. The line between player and character blurs a bit too much for some people.

Untitled        Posted by:  L. T. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/6/99    10:41 AM

I have had characters raped by NPCs but never PCs. I can say from experience that even though I know I am not my character it is very traumatic. The GM in question did not give me an out (this was AD&D by the way), he also decided to rape my character simply based on the fact that she had an 18 charisma not because of where she was or who the NPC was or anything else. He then had the nerve to be surprised when my character hunted the NPC down and killed him very messily. This was definitely a case of bad GMing in my opinion. Needless to say I never gamed with this particular GM again.

I also ran a campaign during college, where player characters were raped by NPCs. This was a sci-fi game set during a war. In that case the players knew up front that the enemy liked to rape both male and female prisoners as a way of breaking them. We also pretty much skimmed that part. All of the players in question knew this was possible and accepted it as part of the reality. If anyone had complained or seemed upset I certainly would have simply removed that part of the campaign with no problems. It gave the PCs a lot of focus on getting rid of the major bad guys, and everyone involved did a wonderful job of character development and effect. In fact one of the PCs started teaching classes about how to deal with rape if you were captured by the enemy to the NPC members of the military.

> How much does player consent matter?

I think that player consent matters a lot. If you are role-playing in a world where rape is possible the players have a right to know that and think about whether or not they want to play in that type of situation. In my opinion the point of role-playing is to have fun not to recreate reality. If people understand that rape is possible or you give them plenty of outs when dealing with the situation then I think you will be OK. You also need a level of maturity when dealing with this or any other harsh subject matter. If your players are mature enough to handle it then you will be fine.

I do not ever approve of PCs raping PCs or NPCs. Mostly because I want PCs to be heroic and heroic people simply do not do things like that. If I ever had a PC rape another PC in a campaign which I was running the rapist would have to deal with strong consequences. If the other PC wished to kill them (I also do not normally allow PCs to kill other PCs for the same reason stated above) I would be inclined to let them do so.

If two players came to me and told me that they wanted to do a joint rape scene, they'd better be very convincing of their reasons why. Normally I would turn them down and say "Not in my campaign."

L. T.
"Duct Tape is like the Force there's a light side and a dark side and it keeps the universe together"

Untitled        Posted by:  C. F. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/6/99    11:57 AM

Wow. I was not at all aware that character rape scenes were as common as that...

As for me, i've only had one of my character's raped:  It was during a live action rpg (whitewolf: wherewolf) and it happened to my 14 year old character. Needless to say this was not roleplayed. The GM was one of my better friends and anyone who was anywhere near the scene was warned that it may be offensive, so if they personally couldn't handle it to PLEASE speak up....He had my consent to run the scene, but even so it was pretty traumatic for my character> i spent the rest of the evening just shivering and crying. Even though it does help build up good character development, it is something that players take very seriously...i think you are right to say that the line between character and player blurs in this instance. Also, there is a difference when it's NPCs being raped or raping...My character was raped by an NPC, and i think that if she had been raped by a PC...well, it would have been a lot worse...(NPCs are so impersonal)

I have never been raped personally, but i have had many friends who have been...I'm very interested to hear what other people in this group have to say about this...


A sensitive subject        Posted by:  J. R. in response to Untitled by C. F.
4/6/99    12:59 AM

Given the sensitivity of the issue, I think consent would be vital. If a consented role played scene can induce such trauma, I can't imagine what it would do to an unawares player who may have been raped before.

I have not had a character raped (though there have been a couple of close calls), and as a GM, I have avoided it. In my recently ended Amber campaign, a PC had gotten herself into a situation with an NPC where rape was an high possibility. It would have probably created some phenomenal character development (the NPC in question was the identical twin of the half brother she worshiped). The player even said after the game that she was surprised I hadn't brought it to that conclusion, and that she wouldn't have minded, but I think I felt uncomfortable with the thought. I'm not sure how I would handle such a situation again.

Rape in RPGs        Posted by:  M. W. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/7/99    11:57 AM

When my character was raped, it was also in a live action Werewolf game. She was the sept alpha, and she was raped by a packmate and a septmate. It was an unintended consequence of a plotline of an ST, and there was no warning that it could happen or any pretense of consent. The two characters in question drank a Changeling drink that made them desire the first member of the opposite sex they saw. Other characters had drunk this potion, and none responded in this manner. My character tried to fight them off, but she was Mental primary and a Ragabash, and thus could not fight off two at once. Afterwards she became much more physical, and banished them to Erebus. It radically changed the character in huge ways. I was somewhat upset, but blamed the players more than the ST, for while he had been somewhat irresponsible, it was the players who decided to act in this way.

I have also experienced an occasion where an ST claimed an NPC was raped, when no one else involved in the scene saw it that way. That turned out to be a disaster for all concerned, as she tried to punish a PC for what she felt was clearly rape while everyone else (myself included) insisted it was not. Yes, the NPC had had some champagne. But she *was not* visibly drunk; if she had been, our characters would have acted very differently. Honestly, the player whose PC was accused of rape was quite upset by it. While I understand that the ST had had some bad personal experiences, the way she chose to punish all players involved and insisted that the PCs actions with this NPC constituted a personal attack eventually led to our quitting playing in her games.

So, there are my experiences with rape in RPGs. Yes, rape in RPGs is an emotionally charged issue, and NPCs versus PCs doesn't always seem to make a difference. Player consent would be preferred, in all honesty. If I think of any more comments on this issue, I'll let you know. :-)

Untitled        Posted by:  D. B. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/9/99    11:05 AM

That's a REALLY hard topic. I haven't had any experiences like that personally, but a friend's character in a Vampire LARP was attacked pretty graphically in her prelude embrace, and even that was very disturbing -- even to just watch. She played it very realistically ... lots of screaming & thrashing, clawing, crying ... it was hard for me to stay in character & remember i should just be ignoring it ... don't know how other people who _have_ had a PC go through that react, but my friend was a little ... OFF ... for several weeks after that session, and eventually quit the game. The topic really bleeds into the idea of how much of the trauma of rape is related to the physical reality, and how much is based in the psyche of choice and force ... looking forward to seeing other thoughts on it.

LARPs        Posted by:  A. M. in response to Untitled by D. B.
4/13/99    11:05 AM

It's interesting. A lot of the responses have mentioned rape in LARPs. Is it more prevelant there or is it just that LARPers are more willing to talk about it?

I would expect that in LARPing the line between player and character would blur further than in a table top game. I know that when I've run or played LARPs that seems to be the case for most players. Somehow being mobile makes things seem more personally real.

Of course, LARPs also tend to have a broader range of character types, and the pcs are not always heroes or even nice people. When I run, I take the approach that seductions and rapes require the permission of the person playing the target character (not the permission of the character, of course) or they simply don't happen. I also require consent for physical contact between players in an effort to prevent anyone getting carried away in acting anything out (I once had one player tackle another. That's plenty to put visions of lawsuits into your head). I can't really enforce it except by kicking people out if there's a complaint, but I figure that a stated policy is better than nothing.

LARPs        Posted by:  M. W. in response to LARPs
4/22/99    05:43 PM

I'm not entirely sure why it seems to be more common in LARPs, but I'm willing to speculate. :-) First, there are more players and hence the players don't have to have the same bond between their characters as in tabletop. Second, characters are not automatically heroes. Third, stories told through the LARP venue tend to be more personal and psychological than those told through tabletop, largely due to the differences in capabilities of the medium. Thus, when dealing with such subjects as psychology and interpersonal relationships, politics and power almost exclusively, rape is much more likely to come up.

Untitled        Posted by:  A. Y. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/9/99    11:39 AM
Anne writes:
> Several women have mentioned either having had their female characters
> raped or knowing other people whose female characters were raped. I have
> no idea how common the experience actually is...

I actually have only roleplayed it as a GM once - I had a PC who was intentionally trying to put an NPC into a compromising situation in order to be "justified" in attacking him. The situation went horribly awry... (The players were fully aware of the potential outcomes - they had discussed them in-character before planning their course of action - and everyone seemed to feel after the fact that it was a good gaming session.)

> What do people think about this sort of thing? Rape is something that
> happens in the real world, but it can be traumatic even by proxy.

I'm usually not running serious RPGs (or, more accurately, running RPGs in a non-serious way), but I have a feeling that I'll be confronted with this issue someday due to my love for Steve Jackson Games' In Nomine. One of the Demon Princes available for use is Andrealphus, DP of Lust; I've already had to play him once and his mind is very...squicky. He's the personification (demonification?) of the use of emotional and physical abuse for power and control, and rape is a standard part of his repertoire. I'm avoiding him for the moment, but someday I'll write a scenario that makes the experience worth the waiting darkness...

> Does it make a difference if the violence is committed by an npc or by a
> pc?

I'd be VERY careful of any PC in a group of mine wanting to rape anyone (NPC or PC). I can see how it might be a valuable experience, but I can see LOTS of ways the experience (and the group) could get out of control quickly.

> How much does player consent matter?

Vital, IMO. If the experience I described above had not included the discussion beforehand, I would have been much more leery about things progressing the way they did. As you pointed out, it's one of those "dangerously personal" areas that can suddenly suck the fun and neutrality out of an RPG experience...

> A. Y.
> SJ Games North US MIB RD/Cheapass Demo Monkey

Rape in RPG's        Posted by:  J. B. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/14/99    08:22 AM

I have had a my PC raped in a WOD Vampire game. I was playing a Giovanni Ghoul. When she was raped by an NPC it was played very very carefully. The scene was set and I was told OOC that this might happen.  Sure enough it did and when it became clear that it would my ST simply stated, 'Okay he rapes her pretty harshly' I must say that my character grew alot after that. I had anouther character that was raped again by a NPC. This was a changling game and was made even worse for me due to my playing a Childling Pooka. I had the best ST for that thou and he was way cool about it. He asked me BEFORE the game started would I be okay and able to play this game if that happened. I said yes I thought so and we went from there. It really did freak me out a bit. But afterwards the group I gamed with sat around and talked about it. This was a mixed game of men and women. Was kinda intresting the insight gained. The guys were MORE upset than the women in the group over the whole thing. I think we sat around for 3 or 4 hours talking about it. I was never as proud of the group I gamed with as I was that night. I do think that player consent is important. I know that if I HADN'T known before hand in the Changling game I would have been upset and may have walked out on it. If a PC raped anouther PC thou, I am not sure how I as a ST would handle that. I had one come close once, and was able to detour it. But something else, not all people like to play the good guys. In VtM by WOD you are able to play Sabbat and the are the bad guy Vampires. So saying that players are suppose to always be the good guys is wrong. Thou I am not sure WHY people play the bad guys. I think that if you are a always really good in life, maybe you just like to be a little evil in your games. Kinda like taking anything but a goody goody nature. Oh well my two cents worth on the subject.

Rape in Role Playing Games:  A Male Response        Posted by:  C. W. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/18/99    04:46 AM

Rape is always a touchy subject... there's so much emotional turmoil, and psychological pain behind it, that in terms of character development, at first it seems like it's an excellent plot hook..

As long as both parties agree that is what it is, then in my belief, the play is okay. But I happen to be of the old rule placed in the storyteller's handbook of Vampire... that sometimes, you will touch on something that will honestly disturb your player.. if you broach that ground, stop. (almost akin to the safeword of BDSM)

what often happens, unfortunately is the player of the rapist, actually wants to express his power over another character, the victim. Rape itself, as is well known, is a crime based on that exact same scenario. That can be very disturbing, esp. when one conciders that such a scene is often not just played out, but condoned by other players' silence on the matter. I watched what happened to someone playing a female character in a group I watched... needless to say I never played wi


Psychological impact        Posted by:  S. B. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
4/22/99    12:51 PM

Wow. These posts have been very informative. While neither I nor anyone I know has ever had a character raped, I know just how personal some actions can be taken. I just posted a thing on the advice section (I hadn't gotten to this section yet, I guess I put it in the wrong place) about sex and love in the game world. I know that when I went out on a limb and had my character hit on an NPC, I was definitely blushing. Everyone was both shocked and amused, me most of all. After that, it became commonplace for my lovin'-life fighter to oggle the men. After a year of playing this, I was still shocked and more than a bit taken aback when another player suggested that our characters actually get together. In the game play, my fighter had the hugest crush on his character and would have (and did) follow him to the ends of the world. She saved his life on several occasions, and the favor was repaid in kind. The outcome was actually kind of predictable, but it was still a shock for me. I had to constantly tell myself about the difference between player and character - and this was a positive occurance for my character. She was walking around on clouds for a week! For the player (me) it was bit different. While friends with this guy, I was already married and he engaged to be married. I found I had a hard time looking him in the eye. Eventually I got over it, though. But sex aside, I feel the euphoria or disappointment when the character succeeds or fails. I guess that all gamers are, on some level, voyeours - living life through the eyes of another. And even though we all know it is not REAL, the psychological and emotional investment we make with each character comes from US - the player.

As to the consent topic, I do agree that preparation and presentation are of paramount importance. The more graphic the DM (ST) is, the more real the scene is. The more real it is, the more psychological issues are raised. If it's okay with the player, then just gloss it over. We can all imagine the horrors of rape (hopefully no one on this post has real life experience to draw from) - no female needs an ST to graphically describe the particulars.

Well, that's my penny's worth.

Response to Rape        Posted by:  J. R. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
5/25/99    06:58 AM

First off, I would like to state that this has never happened--in detail, implied, or historically--in any game I have been in. Also, I notice that almost all games rape has been in have been WW games; I played WW once, didn't like it, and never plan to play again. I don't know for sure why it seems to be so predominantly WW, but there it is.
One: consent would have to be a must, I agree. But I'll add (I GM as well as play) that if I thought rape might become an issue, it is because the players would be dealing with a particularly cruel and evil NPC, and I would therefore pick another method of exposing the PCs to this, and probably intensify the cruelty to make up for deleting the rape scene. I think this might also be linked to LARP games. Players in LARP games seem to be more personally attached to their characters, probably because they are doing the closest thing possible to actually becoming them. Most tabletoppers become very fond of their characters, but never are emotionally impacted upon by the results of a gaming session. This is probably a much more delicate subject for LARPers.
Two: I see no advantage of describing the incident in detail. What can possibly be gained from this? One post said a rape scene was merely described to the players as '...rapes her brutally.' That is enough. I think this especially applies to LARPs. I personally have no problem to any kind of crime being commited in my games nor the ones I play in. But, I tabletop. There would be no way in hell you could get me to be a rapist, probably not even a witness to rape, in a LARP. There is just simply too much connection btwn our minds and our actions, no matter how strongly we understand we are only playing a game.

On another related topic, what do the rp'ers of this forum think of _consensual_ (sp?) sex in games? My first adult gf had played only once before meeting me. She had complained that her boyfriend, running a D&D adventure for her alone, got personally offended when she had sex with NPCs to get out of a sticky situation. (FYI, she was a rape victim in RL.) First reasonable chance she gets, I am running a solo Rifts game with her, and she has sex with an NPC to try to get information. That's my experience with this topic.

Rape in Role Playing Games        Posted by:  C. M. in response to Rape in Role Playing Games
6/11/99    06:47 PM
I agree that consent of the player is important. Just last game session, my character was being attacked by a 'clone' of her boyfriend. He got a solid hold on her and was trying to kill her, when the DM takes me outside. He tells me that the fake bf is going to try to rape my character and am I okay with that. I was, so we went back inside and continued. At about this time game-wise, the other characters decided that I should have joined them by now, so they came back to find me. The DM then, in a very glossed-over way, explained what was happening. I think that in this instance it was less traumatic then it could have been because of it's very japanese-anime description (the fake bf's appendage's were stretching and growing.. all seven of them... by that time, it had six arms and no legs ). But, with the aid of my associates, the incident was averted. I know that had it happened it would have GREATLY affected my character... the situation would have been bad enough, but the fact that it was an evil clone of her actual boyfriend would have made it worse. As it was, almost happening will greatly affect my character (especially when she sees the real bf again).

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