First of all, my thanks go out to Andrew, for his guest post on this blog, introducing the topic at hand. I would also like to thank the players and storytellers of Lost Chronicles for sharing their thoughts and opinions.
This past week revealed outrage at White Wolf Publishing, which has made no secret of their hope that players will use their settings and themes to work through and better understand many of the problems facing the real world and the non-supernatural people in it, for asking that organizations not censor broad swaths of content.
The World of Darkness is our dark mirror. It is not the setting for playing out superhero fantasies or saving princesses. In it, we explore our darker sides while learning more of our humanity, which we cannot do unless we can confront the horrors of which humanity is capable. To deny the ability to discuss a topic is to ignore and deny the existence and occurrence of that topic. We are an organization with a mature audience and and a founding goal of delving into not only the darker corners of the supernatural part of the genre, but also the human side.
Beneath every supernatural character is or was a human (or human concept in the occasional exception), tied to an exaggerated struggle mirroring social, moral, and psychological challenges in the real world. It is that, more than anything else, which gives the stories and experiences depth and appeal. We can shift our perspectives to that of our characters and experience scenarios both familiar and alien, we can examine the motivations of ourselves and others in a setting with few “good guys”. When handled with respect, this can provide a perfect stage for conversations on difficult topics and provide insight and empathy toward those with different lives and backgrounds. Have you seen “The Wire?” How would it feel to step into McNulty’s shoes? How about Stringer Bell’s?
We do, however, need to make sure we handle difficult or adult topics with care and respect, for the sake of our players and the stories we build. Some of this is covered in our Codes of Ethics. The rest requires constant consideration of the audience, which is not always easy to anticipate or monitor, understanding of the topics, and respect for the subject matter and players involved. Avoid resorting to cheap horror movie thrills and baseless shock value. If a story element of this sort is not of direct value to the narrative or setting, reassess its actual value and how the event will be taken.
Players also need to feel comfortable and confident out-of-character in their ability to express when a scene is beginning to go too far and remove themselves from it. Some chapters elect player representatives to help handle problems after the fact, and there are systems I have been looking to adapt from Nordic-style LARPs to ease communication and prevent problems within the scene with maximum fairness and minimum disruption. This will be a future post, as we explore and test options.