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Old 03-06-2018, 06:28 AM   #231
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Default Lessons in Love

No amount of deception would have allowed Taylor to hide the way his face lost all colour with shock. Not that he tries to conceal his reaction, beyond looking away while he fights to recover his composure enough to speak. With tears in his eyes, he looks at Agent Richardson and addresses him in a voice raw with emotion.

Taylor: “She say that?”
Wong: “Look at me, Prisoner Taylor. And answer my goddamned question or so help me God, I’ll forget every objection I thought I had to Onyx Rain’s approach to civil rights.”
Taylor [dazed]: “I’m sorry, ma’am, what was the question?”
Wong: “You said that you ‘came to your senses’ before anything more happened between you and Ms. Bell? What, precisely, happened and what ‘more’ could have happened if you hadn’t ‘come to your senses’?”
Taylor: “I… uh, we done kissed. I guess you could say… we made out, I suppose. An’ then we stopped. Ain’t nothing more happened.”
Wong: “Who stopped your ‘making out’? Did Ms. Bell indicate that she was uncomfortable with what you were doing?”
Taylor: “No. I don’t… she never said nothin’ like that. We both decided, together, like, that in light of the circumstances an’ all, it wasn’t appropriate for us to… you know.”
Wong: “No, Prisoner Taylor. I don’t know. That is why you must answer, clearly, concisely and truthfully, not give me mealy-mouthed non-answers disguised as shyness about anything even resembling sexual matters. Please, as if anyone buys that Gomer Pyle act!”
Taylor: “I’mma real sorry, ma’am. I ain’t acting an’ I’m doin’ the best I can to answer.”
Wong: “No, damn it! You’re laughing at me behind those sly, savage [fornicating] Scots-Irish killer eyes, exaggerating your ‘just a dumb Good Ole Boy’ drawl and trying to act so stupid that we give up on getting anything from you!”

Taylor is still deflated and stunned by the accusation levelled at him, barely aware of his surroundings as he sits slumped in the chair opposite to the two agents. Adeline Wong slapped the table at beginning of her rant and now raises her hand to point a finger in Taylor’s face.

Wong: “Just drop the act. You kissed her against her will, she objected and before you actually managed to rape her, something made you stop. Come on, sexual assault is better than rape, if you just start telling the truth.”
Taylor: “She really say that’s what happened?”
Wong: “I’m asking you, Goddamn it!”
Taylor: “No. That ain’t what happened, ma’am. I’d never do that to Lynnie. To anybody. I’m ashamed that anything happened an’ it sure as heck shouldn’t have, but it was never against her will.”
Wong: “Oh, really? How do you know that, because she didn’t fight back hard enough?”
Taylor: “No!”
Wong: “Then how? Did she participate in any way? Did she initiate any sexual contact or ask for you to touch her in a sexual manner?”
Taylor: “Ma’am, I understand you got a job to do, but it ain’t easy for me to discuss this. I done tole you we kissed. I guess you got a right to ask if’n that mean we both kiss each other an’ it does. Okay, ma’am. I done kissed her and she… well, I reckon you understand what I’m getting at.”
Wong: “So you initiated sexual contact?”
Taylor: “I… uh, I reckon it was my responsibility, sure. Sherilyn is the one who’s vulnerable here an’ I recognise I never should have let her see I have feelings for her. An’ maybe she felt obligated or somethin’. I hope not, I, uh, sure thought she was kissin’ me ‘cause she wanted to kiss me, but I reckon if she’s saying now she didn’t want to, I musta been wrong.”
Wong: “After Ms. Bell informed you that she was not interested in sexual activity with you, did you continue to pressure her about it?”
Taylor: “No. I… well, she never did tell me anything like that. Like I said, we came to our senses an’ decided we’d jes’ be friends.”
Wong: “Was that your idea or hers?”
Taylor: “I honestly don’t see how it matters. I ain’t done nothing since then but try to be her friend, as best I know how.”
Wong: “I’ll decide what matters. It was her idea, wasn’t it?”
Taylor: “We both agreed. We talked, about our past an’ stuff an’ we agreed that it was best for us right now to jes’ be friends. If’n she wants y’all to know more about our conversation, I expect she tole you.”
Wong: “So you admit that her recounting of events is accurate?”
Taylor: “You ain’t tole me what she said. All I can tell you is that I never did nothin’ to hurt her or anythin’ but what I thought she wanted me to do. If’n I was wrong, I’mma sorrier than I ever can say… I never want to hurt her...”

Taylor’s voice breaks. Agent Richardson, who has been observing the interplay in silence while reading something on a tablet, addresses him quietly.

Richardson: “As you can imagine, son, Ms. Bell wasn’t entirely coherent in her account. She’s been through a lot. We just need you to tell us what you can, to help us make sense of everything. Let’s skip over what happened between you, exactly, or who said what to whom. Just help me narrow down time and location, please. When you kissed, where did that take place?”
Taylor: “Uh, the barracks. Guards’ barracks, mess hall. Maybe fifteen minutes before eleven, I reckon.”
Richardson: “And the conversation between you where you decided to just be friends took place when and where?”
Taylor: “Immediately subsequent, sir, but we done went to the foyer to have us some privacy.”
Richardson: “I see. Did anyone see or hear you?”
Taylor: “Doc Anderson, he come in jes’… when we’d stopped kissin’. I don’t reckon he heard our conversation, he stayed in the mess hall, on account of us wantin’ privacy, like I said.”
Richardson: “Thank you, Chase. Now, this is important. Can you tell us if anything happened between you after this that Ms. Bell may have experienced as pressure to pursue a sexual relationship with you?”
Taylor: “I… uh, I cain’t think of nothing, sir. I done my best to jes’ be friendly. There was them rats an’ people shootin’ at us an’ I don’t think she was best pleased when I had to give her orders about room-clearin’, but I never did nothin’ romantic or anythin’ like that.”
Richardson: “Did you touch her in any way after that conversation?”
Taylor: “I, uh, I pushed her against a wall once.”
Richardson: “Why did you do that?”
Taylor: “We were talkin’, uh, arguin’ you might say, an’ I thought done heard somethin’.”
Richardson: “Had you?”
Taylor: “Yeah, guards talkin’. We needed to be real silent, real quick an’ I didn’t feel I had time to explain jes’ then.”
Richardson: “So the push was done in a tactical situation, to try to avoid attracting attention?”
Taylor: “More or less, sir. If’n I’d had more time, maybe I’d have found another way, but that’s what I did.”
Richardson: “You said you were arguing. About what?”
Taylor: “The guards we’d just subdued, in that hallway, mostly. We had us a disagreement about how to move around an’ how deal with guards. It ain’t important. Everyone gets edgy when nervous an’ she weren’t trained to handle any of this, but she did real fine.”
Richardson: “And that push was the full extent of your contact after you decided to be just friends?”
Taylor: “I reckon there might could have been some other touches. In them tunnels under the asylum, we gave signals by touchin’. I wasn’t holding hands with her an’ I mostly gave Dr. Anderson signals, but I suppose I could have tapped her arm a few times.”
Richardson: “But nothing beyond that?”
Taylor: “That’s all the times I kin recall touchin’ her after we decided to be friends.”
Richardson: “Any sexual comments, suggestive gestures or other interaction that she might have experienced as unwelcome sexual advances?”
Taylor: “No, sir, I never done nothin’ like that.”
Richardson: “You didn’t do anything like that. Did Ms. Bell do anything that could be interpreted as sexual advances after your conversation?”
Taylor: “I reckon you’re gonna have to ask her that, sir.”
Richardson: “The problem is, Chase, when there are only two witnesses and one party won’t give answers to certain questions, people tend to believe the other party. I can tell that this accusation really bothers you. Are you sure you don’t feel able to talk about things in more detail, even if they are embarrassing, if it means a better chance of setting the record straight?”
Taylor: “I might could talk to Sherilyn, if’n y’all kin allow me. If’n she say it’s all right, I’ll tell you anythin’ you wanna know.”

At that, Special Agent Gerald Richardson stands up and gathers up his things.

Richardson: “I’m sure you know we can’t do that. I’ve got another interview, Agent Wong will finish up here.”
Taylor: “Please, sir, kin you tell her that if’n she feels scared or don’t trust those she’s with, if’n they gonna take her anywhere she don’t wanna go, jes’ cry out to me. I’ll hear her an’ come runnin’. An’ make sure she don’t do nothin’ rash. She don’t mean to be no trouble to y’all, it’s only that she ain’t got no reason to trust nobody.”
Richardson: “Except you, is that it?”
Taylor: “No, sir. I left her in here an’ I ain’t ever gonna make up for that. I done promised to be her friend an’ take care of her any way I could, but I know I got to earn her trust first.”
Richardson: “Agent Wong thinks you’re acting. Me, I’m starting to think that if you are, you’re a damn sight better than that blond, dino-wrangling Pratt fellow my daughters like. And if you aren’t, hell, son, this is the sort of thing that ought to tell it’s time to quit a girl, not try to win her back.”
Taylor: “I ain’t gonna do nothin’ she don’t want me to. I jes’ want her to be safe an’ happy. There’s no harm in carin’ for a person.”
Richardson: “At your age, son, you ought to have learned better. Nothing that hurts more.”
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Old 03-06-2018, 09:11 AM   #232
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Anderson: “Warren Otis?”
Richardson: “He’s the truck driver Taylor killed in Decatur, Georgia on the Fourth of July, 2011. Just so you don’t forget why your boy was in Ft. Leavenworth.”
Anderson: “Ah, yes. Of course. The unfortunate Warren Otis. It would probably be interesting to see what Onyx Rain has in its classified files on the case against Taylor. No apparent motive, of course. Nothing that would ever be placed in evidence about Project Jade Serenity. But having witnessed the sensory acuity that Taylor displays, is it really so far fetched that he could have known, somehow, that Otis was going to drive his truck into a parade full of children?”
Richardson: “Yeah. It is. Super-senses aren’t going to help you detect evidence that isn’t there. Otis was an ordinary guy, no connection to any extremists, hell, no political or religious views he didn’t share with most of his neighbours. No money problems beyond what anybody might have from time to time, always managed to stay current on his mortgage. Even had modest savings when he died. No gambling problems and been on the wagon twenty years. Married, six kids. No Earthly reason he’d want to drive into a parade crowd on the Fourth of July and kill a bunch of innocent kids he didn’t even know. Not a shred of evidence to suggest he ever so much as thought about it, either. Taylor shot him for no reason and that’s a fact.”
Anderson: “I defer to your expertise, Agent Richardson. All I know about that case is what I read in the papers. So maybe Taylor’s reaction and the unfortunate results for Otis arose from a side-effect of Taylor’s heightened senses. Ordinary combat veterans sometimes exhibit hypervigilance as a symptom of PTSD. With sensory input far more detailed and richly textured than what the human brain is wired to handle, I would not be surprised if there were a few glitches. That seems more credible than a man of Taylor’s temperament and psychological profile suddenly becoming indiscriminately homicidal.”
Tex: “You seem awful sure ‘bout Taylor’s lamblike nature, doc. Considerin’ that your boy confessed to murderin’ two men last night.”
Anderson: “You asked for my professional judgment of the mental state of Chase Taylor and any psychological risk factors connected to it. I happen to be in a very good position to make such a judgment; having had access to all of Taylor’s medical records for an extended period of time, conducted weekly in-depth diagnostic interviews with him for almost a year, observed him in a high-stress situation and around people he has strong emotional responses towards. Would you gentlemen agree that this puts me in a position to evaluate his mental state?”
Tex: “As much as any feller can fathom another, I reckon, long as his hat’ll fit ya an’ you can tell where his boots pinch.”
Richardson: “We’re asking you because we believe that your expert opinion is of considerable value, Doctor. You may be assured of that.”
Anderson: “In my opinion, then, Chase Taylor is not irrational, homicidal or abnormally violent. He confessed to murdering Warden Tyrrell and Dr. Cotton because he believes that having desired their deaths, for reasons which ought to be obvious in light of his feelings for Ms. Bell and the abuse she suffered at their hands, he committed a mortal sin by taking their lives. By a strict reading of Christian doctrine, that may be true. I am not sure that this is a majority opinion or that Onyx Rain can reasonably demand adherence to the same strict standards of morality as those by which Taylor judges himself. There is a saying in Texas, I believe, about the justice of hanging horse thieves, but not necessarily all those who commit unlawful killings. Can you recall it, Captain Trevino?”
Tex: “’Round those parts, folks reckon that there ain’t no horses that need stealin’, but allow that there might be a few fellers who stand in need of killin’.”
Anderson: “Theft of a horse might no longer elicit a visceral response from the average person, but make the universally condemned crime something along the lines of the abuse which Ms. Bell suffered in this place, and I think that a comfortable majority of Texans, and Southerners in general, might consider Dr. Cotton and Warden Tyrrell the sort of men who stand in dire need of killing. Even a Connecticut Yankee might be tempted to express qualified approval for summary justice in such a case.”
Richardson: “So, you believe that Taylor’s actions here were an aberration, brought on by the terrible nature of Cotton and Tyrrell’s crimes against a person of whom Taylor feels possessive?”
Anderson: “Actually, no. Taylor might believe that he acted out of a primitive desire for vengeance, but I think that revenge was ultimately not the deciding factor. Taylor killed these two men not because of what they had done, but to prevent future harm. I simply do not believe that Taylor is a danger to anyone who does not pose a legitimate threat to him or to someone under his protection.”
LCDR Dao: “You almost sound like you admire him.”

By the way Dao says this, Dr. Anderson confirms his earlier suspicions, that the Navy SEAL officer has profound reservations about what he might be called upon to do in light of the implied threat from Onyx Rain to Taylor. One of the more melancholy ironies of fighting men is how often even those who might find themselves instructed to kill one another find a much deeper sense of spiritual kinship with fellow warriors than their civilian masters.

Anderson: “I did not say that. Whether he is considered as a fortuitous accident of self-reinforcing psychological factors that resulted in an almost ideal recruit to the Special Forces or as the product of experimental chemically-augmented training methods, Chase Taylor is a remarkable specimen. Personally, however, I am with Professor Tolkien when he said: ‘I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend.’”
Richardson: “In this particular case, your own life?”
Anderson: “I am grateful that Taylor was here on Jewell Island, certainly. I believe that his particular skills and overdeveloped sense of protective obligation toward others contributed materially to the successful resolution of the situation. No doubt it has occurred to you that the violent mutiny of more than twenty trained men with military weapons was resolved in a remarkably fortuitous manner for Onyx Rain and the people at risk. More lives might have been lost if Taylor had not been here. My own probably among them, as you say. But I am trying to give an objective analysis, nothing more.”
Richardson: “Right. Well, by your objective analytic metric, can Taylor be trusted to obey orders well enough to function as part of an undercover team in Mexico?”
Anderson: “That is hardly my field.”
Richardson: “Let me put it this way. If you were going to Mexico as part of an undercover team tasked with convincing Vargas and the AWOL Special Forces team to accept conditional immunity, would you trust Chase Taylor to handle your security?”
Anderson: “Without reservations. In the extremely implausible hypothetical scenario that I should ever find myself willingly doing anything so spectacularly dangerous as going on an undercover operation to a foreign country to deal with some of the most lethal commandos trained by the US military as well as the terrifying head of the most lunatic, murderous cartel in a country full of breath-taking villainy, I would want Taylor or someone very much like him by my side.”
Tex: “I reckon we’ve got good and bad news for you, doc.”
Richardson: “Your contract with the Department of Homeland Security did not specify a time limit on your consulting duties.”
Anderson: “I believe that the nature of my employment was fairly precisely defined, however, and I do not recall agreeing to serving in the capacity of a federal agent, spy or covert operator.”
Richardson: “You’re right. We can’t force you to go. All we can do is ask. You say that Ms. Bell needs extensive therapy and that she needs to be around people she trusts. Well, how many people do you think that is just now? As you reasonably reminded us, Ms. Bell regards most everyone from the US government as her enemy. How likely is it that she’d trust anyone we assigned as her handler? She does need someone to provide psychological counselling and teach her coping mechanisms, but if you will not go, I don’t see how we’ll manage that.”
Anderson: “Indulging further in your hypothetical, if I agreed, who else would be going?”
Richardson: “There would be a senior federal agent leading the team, a Special Agent Ilana Rubio. The team would consist of Ms. Bell, to approach Raul Vargas safely, and Agent O’Toole, whom she requested specifically as her assigned protection. There would be a potential benefit of having Chase Taylor present while making the offer to his former comrades-in-arms. Unfortunately, the accusation made by Ms. Bell and the risk of Taylor going off the reservation make it all but impossible to send him.”
Anderson: “I believe that if I were to speak with Ms. Bell, I could clarify what lies behind this allegation. In any case, I would trust Taylor around Ms. Bell rather than O’Toole or, indeed, any soldier or policeman unknown to me. Taylor can be trusted to do his duty, to the best of his ability, in the performance of any task he views as compatible with his honour and conscience.”
Tex: “And if he feels the task he’s given ain’t compatible with his tender conscience?”
Anderson: “I suspect that Taylor would die rather than serve any dishonourable cause. Of course, before dying, he might kill anyone whom he saw as trying to make use of him for evil purposes. That is a risk that I would be most unwilling to assume, no matter what protections I had in place.”
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Old 03-06-2018, 05:58 PM   #233
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Default Re: Project Jade Serenity [Supers/Technothriller]

Sexual assault, and even a false accusation of sexual assault, takes careful thought before inclusion in a campaign, and for many groups I'd never do it, at all. In my more than 40 years of gaming, at this point, I only ever sort of included it, twice.

The first was back in high school, when my friends and I were 15 and 16. One player had his character kidnap some young peasant women and use them as slaves, because "teenage boys." Even then, we kept it "off-screen," as it were.

The only other time took place with the rape spirit in the Facets campaign, and I described it in that thread.

This situation is a bit fraught with the possibility of degeneration into No Fun. How have the players responded, so far? Do all of you know each other well enough that the GM knew it lay within the comfort zone of the players?

Given that most of my players are female, right now, I don't know that I'd go with a sub-plot this close to something that has the potential to carry such unpleasant emotional weight. Even the rape spirit, as removed from reality as it was, gave me a moment's pause.
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Old 03-07-2018, 05:44 AM   #234
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Default Re: Project Jade Serenity [Supers/Technothriller]

Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
Sexual assault, and even a false accusation of sexual assault, takes careful thought before inclusion in a campaign, and for many groups I'd never do it, at all.[...]
I'm not certain how much thought there was before introducing the element into play. 'Cherry' Bell is Impulsive and it made some amount of sense that having found herself momentarily emotionally compromised, even to the extent of losing several Quick Contests of Influence skills vs. Will, she'd lash out vindictively against the person responsible.

From something the GM said yesterday, 'Cherry' Bell viewing Taylor as a threat to her future with Raul Vargas (even if that 'threat' just constituted of her realising that she was actually attracted to Taylor, when she'd meant to be merely cynically manipulating him through his attraction to her), her Delusion and Obsession might cause her to react irrationally and in a way that she'd later regret.

The GM seemed to quickly realise once investigators brought it up that an accusation of this nature might mean that either a PC, Chase Taylor, would never be allowed to be anywhere near future adventures, or an NPC, Ms. Bell, that had several vital story hooks connected to her, would meet the same fate. As such, the allegation, which started out as 'sexual assault', was quickly downgraded to 'sexual harassment' and Ms. Bell's testimony seemed to lack specificity or detail.

Unfortunately, depending on Reaction Rolls, it's not exactly unknown for an investigator to decide for themselves what they think happened and then try their best to shape the investigation to yield any kind of evidence that can be used to fit their preconceptions.

Only Zachary Holden's behaviour in the interrogation room is actually outside the behaviour I've seen from real cops in cases with a sexual element and this is because he's the only interviewer not actually trained by a law enforcement agency and he happens to have a visceral hatred of Chase Taylor.

Once the accusation came up, I told the GM that I really did not want NPCs to behave unrealistically or out of character by brushing it off, even if he'd realised that it had the potential to derail future adventures. Of course, things would have gone a lot smoother if Taylor's swingy reaction modifiers hadn't, unfortunately, been negative for both of the investigators who interviewed him.

Agent Richardson has Empathy, expert Body Language and Psychology (Applied) and very high Detect Lies skill, however, so while he may not like Taylor, he can be fairly confident about being able to tell when he's telling the truth.

Of course, with Very Beautiful, Charisma 4, Smooth Operator 4, Pitiable, Classic Features (Innocent Teen) and Honest Face, 'Cherry' Bell can tell an inconsistent, implausible story that contradicts all other evidence, but still find people eager to believe her, champion her cause and explain away all inconsistencies. And be very, very furious at the person they perceive as having hurt her or caused her fear.

Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
The first was back in high school, when my friends and I were 15 and 16. One player had his character kidnap some young peasant women and use them as slaves, because "teenage boys." Even then, we kept it "off-screen," as it were.[...
I note that two PCs in Jade Serenity have actually committed acts 'on screen' that might morally and legally constitute sexual assault, even if there is almost no possibility that it could be proven or even brought to anyone's attention.

First was when Danny O'Toole, in exploring a cell with his telekinetic touch, brushed the genitals of the man confined there. The accidental touch wasn't sexual assault, of course, but when he deliberately decided to grab them, it might rise to the level of sexual assault in some jurisdictions. Of course, his intent wasn't sexual gratification, it was simply to distract the man while the door was opened, so I guess I could argue it down to simple assault, without the sexual element, at least in my jurisdiction.

Dr. Anderson, however, unambigiously raped Ethan Ball, the guard we met in J Wing, guarding Ms. Bell, and on whom Taylor smelled ejaculate. Yes, the act took place in a dream, but to Ethan Ball, it certainly felt real and the psychological damage would be the same as from a sexual assault that took place in the physical world.

Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
This situation is a bit fraught with the possibility of degeneration into No Fun. How have the players responded, so far?
The other players were amused that the one PC who had actually tried his best to act like a decent person seemed to be punished for it. They also expressed some indignation that Bell would do something so mean-spirited and so obviously calculated to hurt someone they thought she genuinely cared about, which was useful in establishing her character.

Ideally, she ought to be able to inspire pity, make people want to help her and take care of her, but also occasionally remind those around her that just because negative behaviour may be tracable to psychological issues caused by trauma doesn't mean that it's not cruel, vindictive and hurtful to the victims. Just because an abuser may have suffered abuse of their own doesn't make their acts any less horrible.

As Chase Taylor's player, I obviously am in favour of anything that allows melodramatic ongoing storylines with complex, engaging NPCs. There are few things less conductive to easy episodic fiction than to have protagonists achieve their goals, wallow in happiness and avoid any complications. I really want Taylor to be able to help Bell cope with her psychological issues and as the final chapter to their story, a romantic relationship between them would be narratively satisfying, but obviously, that can't really happen in Season 1.

Demonstrating that the attraction between them is in some way mutual but then establishing huge, seemingly insurmountable obstacles to any kind of happy ending to their story seems like a good recipie for a particularly twisted version of the typical TV 'Will they / Won't they' storyline.

Especially as this technically allows the apparent Big Bad (Raul Vargas), the object of Bell's obsessive affection and the reason she was in an asylum, to have a weird kind of love triangle going with one of the protagonists*, as Taylor would inevitably perceive him as a rival for Bell, even if Taylor wasn't consciously pursuing her in any way.

More generally, as consumer of fiction of any kind, I guess I have an intolerance for obviously 'sanitised' versions of reality. A world where sexual assault doesn't happen isn't in any sense similar to the real world. I'd have a hard time accepting villains that are less villainous than the real people I deal with at work, for example.

You're not going to be able to find a group of real convicts, mental patients and people with profound psychological issues in the real world where no one has been personally impacted somehow by sexual assault. It would feel facile and false to have all the PCs and important NPCs in a campaign focusing on people in marginal and vulnerable positions utterly ignore the issue.

*As well as one of the other protagonists, Danny O'Toole, believing that Vargas is his father. :-)

Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
Do all of you know each other well enough that the GM knew it lay within the comfort zone of the players?
We've known each other for periods ranging from 15-30 years.

Ironically, the GM of Jade Serenity is probably the member of the gaming group least comfortable with 'on screen' depictions of sexuality, especially explicit, violent or abusive aspects of it. He's uncomfortable, as are many other people, of course, with rape scenes in movies or TV series, or dwelling on details such as sexual trauma, sadism or human trafficking for sexual purposes. In the past, he's been uncomfortable with fairly innocuous scenes of consensual sexual activity that were in some sense transgressive of social norms, but it's been a long time since we were teenagers and that seems no longer to be an issue.

On the other hand, a game designed to be a more 'realistic' treatment of many Comics and Supers tropes pretty much can't ignore the negative aspects of human sexual behaviour, as even mainstream superhero media now handles sexual themes and the issue of consent in a world of powers pretty often (e.g. Jessica Jones), and the kind of superhero fiction which glosses over the subject falls squarely on the 'rubber-sociology' part of the spectrum, which I specifically asked to avoid when agreeing to play in a superhero game.

And, of course, the GM knew that in focusing the negative repercussions on my character, he could be certain he wasn't making things Not Fun for a player who would be uncomfortable having his PC suffer.

After all, I designed Chase Taylor to carry his heart on his sleeve and be a helpless victim to any abusive, manipulative shenanigans of those who appeal to his protective instincts, and then I specifically decided that he was carrying a torch for the profoundly broken mental patient who was still obsessed with the villain.

Originally Posted by tshiggins View Post
Given that most of my players are female, right now, I don't know that I'd go with a sub-plot this close to something that has the potential to carry such unpleasant emotional weight. Even the rape spirit, as removed from reality as it was, gave me a moment's pause.
I strongly believe that for fiction to work, it has to have the potential to carry emotional weight. And fiction which purports to handle interpersonal relationships between relatable people pretty much has to have the possibility for unpleasant emotional weight for there to be any possibility of emotional investment.
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Last edited by Icelander; 03-07-2018 at 10:40 AM.
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Old 03-07-2018, 06:56 AM   #235
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Default Re: Project Jade Serenity [Supers/Technothriller]

Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Especially as this technically allows the apparent Big Bad (Raul Vargas), the object of Bell's obsessive affection and the reason she was in an asylum, to have a weird kind of love triangle going with one of the protagonists*, as Taylor would inevitably perceive him as a rival for Bell, even if Taylor wasn't consciously pursuing her in any way.
Indeed - "I want the best for her, and this guy is so far from the best for her that there are whole legions of guys who would be better…"
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Old 03-07-2018, 04:21 PM   #236
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Originally Posted by RogerBW View Post
Indeed - "I want the best for her, and this guy is so far from the best for her that there are whole legions of guys who would be better…"
Just so.

It's not even subtle. Taylor promised Bell that if she really thinks she can be happy with Vargas, he would help her reach that goal in any way he could. But he doesn't make any secret of the fact that he believes Vargas is an evil man, incapable of love or affection, and not likely to make anyone happy.

In fact, while Taylor wouldn't put it in those terms to her, he thinks Bell is being actively Delusional in believing that Vargas cares a whit for her. After all, Vargas dated her for a few months seventeen years ago, managed to convince her to throw away her life and any future she might have had in order to help him escape military custody after he was arrested at Camp Mackall for a drug offence and then left her behind to face the consequences.

Over the past seventeen years, Vargas hasn't showed any sign of caring about her, either. There may have been some contact between them recently, but he certainly didn't take any risks for her or send anyone to help her escape at any point during those years.

Bell claims that Vargas sent the man with fake ID in the name of 'Special Agent' Vicente Berrocal of ICE/HSI who was at Manhanock Asylum for the Criminally Insane when our PCs arrived there, but even if he did, sending one idiot with badly faked ID to talk to her is a far cry from actually caring. If he did, he'd have done something earlier and he'd have devoted some actual resources to freeing her.

More likely, Vargas had reasons of his own to send someone to Jewell Island and it had more to do with Dr. Bruce Cotton's experiments there than any lingering affection for Sherilyn Bell. Vargas somehow knew Dr. Edward Vanderbert, the chief scientist of Project Jade Serenity and the preceding research at Jewell Island, long before he was one of the subjects in the Project. Hell, he knew the Chief of Security at the Project, Zachary Holden, from way back as well.

Taylor believes that Vargas has rarely, if ever, thought about Sherilyn Bell during the long, long time she's been locked up. Vargas might well be curious about her, now that she's out, but he'll realise that if she turns up in Mexico, she'll have either assassins, spies or both following her, waiting to target him if she draws him out.

Vargas always had an eye for a pretty girl and while Sherilyn Bell has always been cute, she's now utterly enchanting, magnetic and irresistable, due to her emerging superpowers. So it's not implausible that Vargas would desire to possess her as soon as he saw her. It's just that Taylor doesn't believe that Vargas even has the capability to genuinely fall in love or maintain a healthy relationship, so any arrangment based Vargas' desire for Bell would necessarily be short-term and probably end with Bell's death, as soon as she became tedious, annoyingly possessive or otherwise inconvenient.

So Taylor is not going to just hand Bell over to Vargas, under any circumstances. His promise to her was to help her to see Vargas and allow her the chance to make up her mind on what she wants to do next. So Taylor's goal is to gradually show her that the Vargas she thinks she is in love with doesn't exist and help her understand how horrible he really is. Which is extremely optimistic, as it assumes that Delusions can be cured with sweet reason, the accumulation of evidence and patience.*

Also, Taylor needs to ensure that any meeting with Vargas is under conditions where the PCs and their allies have the upper hand, and Vargas cannot kill them all (and maybe kidnap Bell, if he doesn't just kill her too), which would otherwise be the most likely plan for the paranoid, ruthless and hyper-violent Vargas to adopt.

So, if Vargas actually agrees to conditional immunity, as long as he works for Onyx Rain, Taylor wouldn't do anything to sabotage that. That would mean Bell wouldn't be left at his mercy and while the potential for Bell being harmed somehow just by associating with Vargas would frighten Taylor (not to mention make him crazy with jealousy), he'd at least try to avoid acting like a possessive boyfriend and simply hope that Bell would see through Vargas on her own.

This possibility, however, doesn't worry Taylor too much**, because he doesn't for a second believe that Vargas will ever agree to give up his burgeoning drug empire in Mexico to become, effectively, a constantly monitored prisoner of Onyx Rain with the illusion of some minor freedoms.***

What Taylor is most worried about is Vargas agreeing to meet them, being a courteous host, declining politely to return with them in order to serve Onyx Rain and then offering Bell the Sun and the Moon if she'll be his Queen of the Underworld.

Granted, Taylor doesn't think this is all that likely, given how suspicious Vargas has to be of her when she arrives in the company of what are clearly covert operatives from the US government that is hunting him, but it's absolutely what Taylor fears most, because it would place Bell in extreme jeopardy without leaving him any honourable way to protect her.

Edit: In general, Taylor really doesn't want to decide for anyone, even a person he loves, what would be best for them. Whenever he is forced into giving orders, it reminds him of his bully of a father. His ex-wife used to complain that he doted on and spoilt their daughters and thus always left her to be the unpleasant disciplinarian.

Nevertheless, the more Taylor comes to realise, with his folksy, experience-based variant of Psychology (Applied), just how broken Bell is, the more inevitable the conclusion that she is probably not ready to make life-changing decisions until she is better. Which he believes she can be, with patience and affection. Until that time, however, Taylor is torn between a desire to protect her from anyone who might try to take advantage of her and his personal distaste for restricting her freedom of action. As he's aware that he might be influenced by motives of jealousy to be rather more protective than is strictly necessary, he'll probably overcompensate and end up allowing her far too much space, which isn't sensible when she's likely to use it to scheme, plot and manipulate in some way that lands everyone in danger.

Yay, Disadvantage feedback loop!

*Well, that is usually how they are cured, more or less, but the depressing reality is that most psychological problems which include something severe enough to qualify as Delusions in GURPS aren't so much cured as they are managed well enough to enable some kind of life, through pharmacology, coping mechanisms and constant, heroic work by the person trying to overcome the problem.
**I suggested to the GM that it would, of course, be a really neat surprise for Taylor is Vargas were to meekly agree. Naturally, it would be a part of some nefarious scheme of his, but no matter what Taylor did, he could not convince anyone else not to allow Vargas to take the deal and his sense of honour would prevent him from doing something to mess things up, when he could fulfil his promise to Bell so easily.
***While this doesn't seem appealing to Vargas, if he should find himself in a position where the PCs credibly threaten his life and have the upper hand, Vargas might, of course, surrender to the oh-so-honourable foes, agree to any terms proposed and immediately start planning his inevitable betrayal.
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 03-08-2018 at 04:08 AM.
Icelander is offline   Reply With Quote

covert ops, jade serenity, special ops, supers, supersoldiers, tactical shooting

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