Thursday, May 3, 2012

Touchie-Feelie LARPie

Tuesday WAS the 1st of May, but this is a topic I've brushed by a few times in my past posts on romance and significant others at LARP.  The Touchie-Feelie Rule.  WAR has it, but not all NERO chapters do I'm told - so what is good and bad about it?  Should it be at your game?

One of the biggest considerations I feel in having a "no touchie-feelie" rule is if you allow minors at your game. If you do, that's a big vote from me to have this in place.  No one wants to ever hear "but I thought she was 18" and deal with the legal ramifications of randy teenagers.

Having the rule in place puts a check on the hormones and sets the ground rule of what's acceptable and what's not.  I don't think it adds to anyone's game to see people making out in a corner of the tavern, or to accidentally walk in on it.  But more importantly, it is a safety net for players.  As we all know, there are some weird people in the world, and you probably don't want them touching you.  With touch casting and first aid, everyone's got an "oops, that was your..." story - but with physical contact being limited you can feel safer knowing that this kind of thing should always be an accident.  Not everyone is okay with physical role-play, either. This rule saves you.  And it saves the staff from dealing with the drama. 

And for the outside world, especially parents, a rule like this can set their minds at ease.

So, can a game without this rule be a good thing?  I'm not talking about a crazy free love compound or anything, but I mean just being able to hug your significant other without feeling like someone might report you.  And when it's cold, you can (*gasp*) sleep in the same bed.   Things like that. People can (and do) sneak off even with a rule in place, so it's not really that part of it - it's more the comfort and convenience of being able to be a couple and do things like share toiletries because you can use the same bathroom to brush your teeth. :)

And it is nice to have an "we're all adults here" feel.  However, all it takes is one bad apple, and it can ruin a lot.  It may be best to put a rule like this in place before the bad apple gets into the barrel.  In a smaller game, where it's 18 and over, it's easier to keep an eye on people and keep the drama to a minimum.  So it might work for those games, at least for a while.  I have to admit, though, it's nice to be able to relax just that bit extra those 7-10 weekends of my year!  :)

But what do you think?  Should a game always have a touchie-feelie rule, or are there situations where it's okay to go without?


  1. Mark Henry ~MariusMay 3, 2012 at 3:41 PM

    I think you nailed it, if you have minors you need the rule.

    I would argue that if the purpose of your event is a game you probably should have the rule. If you purpose is reenactment based maybe not so much.

  2. Can you define this rule? I can sort of guess based on context, but it's not entirely clear around the edges.

  3. I think you need the rule regardless of whether minors are at your game or not. I don't like being touched, and I don't want to see people groping each other at a game.

    But, how do you word the rule? Some suggestions?

  4. I hate the morality police in all its forms. There is no "touchy-feelie rule" in real life and yet minors aren't getting rampantly molested in the streets. The premise that if anyone ever touches anyone else then we can't tell if someone is getting raped is preposterous.

    I'm not saying that Nero/Larps should be a big swingers club, but you do it your way, I'll do it my way, and we'll both be fine. The same goes for language. I always bristle when someone tells me to watch my mouth. Hold yourself to *your own* standards but don't inflict them on other people. It's not like my cursing will infect you and cause you to curse, or a couple snuggling will magically turn you into a sex fiend.

    1. +12 to this. I'm really tired of enforced prudishness and attempts to babysit players (the schoolmarm types who insist on these rules can't be bothered to understand that they accept liability they wouldn't already have by trying to enforce this stuff).

    2. As an addendum, why not just limit participation in your game to those who've reached the age of consent? People below that age are probably not allowed to fight, and would excluding those under that age really have a large impact on the number of players your game draws in?

      That said, I totally agree with a "no touching without expressed consent" rule. Functional human beings shouldn't need such a rule, but unfortunately, there are people out there who simply don't understand that putting your hand on someone else without their consent could be considered assault.

    3. "That said, I totally agree with a "no touching without expressed consent" rule. Functional human beings shouldn't need such a rule, but unfortunately, there are people out there who simply don't understand that putting your hand on someone else without their consent could be considered assault."

      I agree. I have friends who have told stories, really horrendous stories, about being groped at a LARP. Even if most people wouldn't break the "no touching without expressed consent" rule, it might make people who have had negative LARP experiences feel safer in a situation with strangers.

  5. War's No contact rule.
    "Inappropriate Contact
    Players may not engage in any type of inappropriate contact with other players. This includes kissing, excessive hugging, or physical flirtation. This policy applies to all players, even those who may be involved with each other in a relationship and couples who are married. Players may NEVER sleep in the same bed together – staff people will perform regular random bed checks at all hours. If you feel threatened by someone’s touching, please do not wait – let a WAR Owner know the first time you are uncomfortable so it can be handled right away."

  6. @Mickey, I'm pretty sure that most places that use this rule define it as "No touching anyone ever, ever." I could be wrong about that.

  7. Sarah - Does WAR run at some of those camps that have a site rule against people sharing a bed, or is it entirely based on WAR's own policies?

    That's the one that leaps out at me. I can kind of understand it if the camp site itself imposes a restriction that the chapter is forced to contend with, but beyond that the idea of a random bed check to see if I'm sharing a bed with my wife is kind of offensive to me. Someone needs to explain to me what the harm is for a married couple sharing a bed.

    1. Thats in W.A.R.'s I am lead to think it is a chapter rule. However, they do run at a camp that restricts sleeping arangements.

    2. If your camp prohibits certain conduct or sleeping arrangements, apologize to your players and explain the case to them ("the camp is great, but...", etc). Don't internalize others' prudishness and sex-negativity.

    3. I agree-- being transparent about camp policies can go a long way. As 1/2 of a married couple who LARPs, the strict no touching rule would strike me as odd. With explanation it would help.

  8. It generally isn't a case of morality police. Nor does the rule solely or even primarily apply to intimate contact such as sleeping in the same bed, hugging or kissing between consenting the adults. One of the main reason stated for most of the “No contact” rules that I have encountered is that we want to maintain our everyday normal expectation of personal boundaries while in a fictional settings where those boundaries would either not exist or where we would reasonably be expected to allow them to be broken.

    As examples, perhaps at a game I am a known thief who is suspected of having stolen an item. I'm paralyzed by a mage. It would be reasonable in game in this circumstance to bodily search me. But as a player I should not be asked to submit to that form of physical contact. So we have the “I search you” rule.

    I am struck by a spell and I lay unconscious and dying in pool of ooze. The cavern is just about to collapse and my friends have only moments to save me. In that circumstance my characters would certainly consent to allowing anyone to bodily pick me up and toss me over they shoulder to carry me out. I would even not mind if a person just grabbed any old body part and drug me out. But as a player I should not expect that. So we have the “I carry you” rule.

    Those are fairly extreme examples meant to demonstrate the point. There are tons of situations both major and minor in most games where unwanted physical contact would occur if we played our characters precisely to the circumstances without regard to what the players involved might want. Many of these would be non-consensual. “No contact” rules serve the purpose of allowing those situations to exist in games without forcing players to either accept unwanted physical contact or need to go through some sort of OOG negotiation of permission every time they come up.

    1. And of course, I wrote all that like I was explaining it to people who didn't understand that. Which of course I suspect everyone in the discussion does. I guess the point I was meaning to make was that the “no touching” rules I'm familiar with exist for the reasons I stated. They also end up applying to more casual contact such as hugging, kissing, sharing beds, etc, which was probably not their original intended purpose. But it is probably easier to go with a simple rule like “no touching” than it is to qualify it with an infinite and subjective list of exceptions.

      And, honestly, it gives people who come into situations where someone is being a little too up close and personal an ironclad fallback position. So if someone comes up and tries to hug me I can just refuse and tell that person it is against the rules. Even if everyone else around me is hugging, it is still against the rules. That saves me from having to go through the hassle of justifying myself to the unwanted hugger. It is against the rules, period.

  9. Heck, unconsented physical contact is against the law, nevermind the rules. This WAR rule is about consensual contact. Though it's not that bad as it specifies "inappropriate". I simply get my hackles raised at the bed check thing.

    1. Just for your own reference, so that I am not misrepresenting the chapter... here is a link to their policies.

    2. The bed check thing creeps me out. I can only think that they had some really negative experiences in the past.

  10. I fully support the search and carrying rules, and uniformly deny requests for physical roleplay under any circumstances. There was an event once where they had a "permission sheet" for people who wanted to allow wrestling and such with each other and I immediately objected to it. But that's an already existing rule in the book so I don't think it needs an extra policy. Like Mickey, I just rebel at the concept of "bed checks" and "no cuddling with your spouse/girlfriend" policies. Bed checks smack of childrens' summer camp/prison.

    If it's a camp policy then by all means obey whatever rules they set. That's a total nonissue. Obviously I would never suggest that you break the camp's rules.

    1. Having that policy helps protect the childrenwe take legal and moral responsibly for by not because child molestation is more likely at a larp, but because if everyone insure knows that no two people should be sharing a sleeping space our cuddling you have 50_100 watching for that one time someone tries to hurt a child or force themselves on someone instead 1or 2 plot people.

      Out creates an atmosphere where the behavior is not the norm therefore more easily recognized and prevented. Of that keeps one child safe its worth the inconvenience.

      It is also imperative for public relations. I market NERO to all ages and families, as soon as a parent hears we not only allow men to share quarters with women and minors with adults AND we allow people to share bunks and cuddle we lose that confidence they put poor in us.

      I have fielded at least 5 calls from parents concerned because of the group sleeping arrangements and all were put at ease by the policy that makes it so instead of 1or 2 plot people our owners trying to do bed checks, 50 to 100 people are all watching and know any two people sharing a bed our being intimate should be reported.

      Finally our camps, while they so not require it of is all have a policy of segregation of adults and minors and some men and women. They only allow to not BECAUSE we have and enforce that policy.

      It is not 100% assurance, but out does increase the chance of preventing a child we take moral and legal responsibly for, from being abused.

      It will only take one news report of the lepers sharing bunks with minors and both sexes in the same quarters to put a real hiring in or game and my business.

    2. While I see your point, I respectfully disagree. I think it's perfectly reasonable to allow consensual touching, especially between married couples, and yet still rely upon a playership to protect each other's out of game interests.
      The concept of "if it keeps one child safe it's worth it" leads to many onerous policies that we are best offleaving to shared adult responsibility.
      Of course, I say this only to render my opinion, and respect your policy in place.

  11. Sorry typing on the phone, lots of typos in there

  12. The way it was told to me many moons ago was that the no touching rules were a requirement of the scout camp they used (not an unusual requirement in more traditional-minded areas), and enshrined in the game rules to put the camp's managers at ease.

    Because these are children's summer camps. They just let larpers use them on weekends.

    And if a game has unsupervised minors playing, it's perfectly reasonable to ask adults not to engage in behavior that would be unacceptable for the minors to imitate. Just easier all 'round. Not that I don't love my touchy-feely larping (I totally do) but games can set their limits in whatever ways work for them.

  13. Oh sure, games can. So to some degree we're mostly talking about our personal deal breakers and sense of best practices. I don't think any of these policies are immoral, for example, but except for a weird one off visit I wouldn't play regularly at a chapter that felt it necessary to come look at me while I slept. I would tend to be more forgiving if it's a camp site restriction vs. a chapter policy.

    I'm also a bit skewed in my views because kids at LARPs tend to drive me a little nuts.

    Being tasteful in PDAs seems an appropriate policy to me for a variety of reasons. I'm also not a big fan of excessive profanity at LARPs. And if a chapter needs to be super restrictive to keep a playerbase, clearly that's up to them and their playerbase and more power to them.

    So, to go back to the "should" question, the only real answer is "highly variable." I don't think either option is more or less moral, but will repel different segments of the potential playerbase. I favor an 18+ game where swearing is discouraged, obscene sexual acts forbidden, and couples can share a bed if they want to. I'm not NcN's target audience. And that's ok. Other people clearly are.

    I am somewhat curious though if the Ohio region had a previous problem with bed sharing child molestation or if it's a purely prophylactic measure?

  14. Mickey,

    Most of the boy/girl scout camps we use (at WAR) have a rule against ladies and gentleman sleeping in the same bed or having obsessive physical contact. We figured it would be easiest to have it straight across all our camps since most of the ones we use enforce it. We almost lost a camp once, because the ranger likes to roam around and there were some people in bed together. I've also fielded calls from parents that were concerned about the sleeping arrangements. I'm not big on acting as a morality anything, but we've also run in to a few situations where backrubs have led to accusations of things much more heinous and we've hoped to avoid those issues in the future.

    As for children, Noah, I agree. We don't let anyone under the age of 14 play. While many would consider teenagers at such a game problematic, we do allow them to play because for a number of reasons. For the purposes of this discussion, we allow it because we need them for our boy-scout roster. That's mainly why we have the "no foul language rule," too, at the request of the scouts.

    We've lately really had to crack down on it, at the request of the scouts. We'd hate to lose our camps.

    Hope that explains it :-D I'm fine with it and don't feel like it has affected our game negatively.

    I've been to a few chapters that do allow it and sometimes it does get a bit much at times. I've only seen it be an issue a few times.

    Thanks guys, great discussion....


  15. That is the crux of it for me as well althoughout isn't just for the boy scouts I allow kids, to me it is a necessity to grow the game.
    I love Exiles and one of the reasons I do is its an adult game, but NERO isn't, at least I never perceived it as such and built NCN to be kid friendly. No one is sadder than me that back rubs that were one innocent were taken to another level that was making adults uncomfortable and putting kids at risk.

    As long as minors and even young adults attend and sleep in shared quarters with adults I need to be able to tell a jury and my reflection in the mirror that I did everything I reasonably could to create a safe playing environment, even if it means for two days people are inconvenienced and need to sleep alone.

    The only morality I am concerned with is with regards to making people safe and comfortable.

  16. I do not generally engage in romance at LARPs (aside from over-the-top RP). I hate PDAs and I hate hate hate the creepy (often lecherous) sexual vibe that a lot of people excrete at games. I have thrown people out of games for inappropriate flirting.

    That being said, I guarantee that if I'm hanging out in my cabin and somebody barges in with a referee whistle to make sure boys and girls aren't sitting too close, that is the last time I will ever play that game.

    I think these are the sort of things that are best addressed on a case-by-case basis rather than treating all adults who hug as if they're corrupting the youth. You see much bawdier things at a renne faire and there are straight up children at those things.

  17. Well again that's why I prefer my method. There are no inspections, people just know that no one should be in the same need and no one should be cuddling.

  18. WTF, my comment vanished! what happened? bill, did it get spamfiltered for some reason? Okay, I promise to stop selling v1@gra in your blog comments. -Dan C.

  19. I don't think we have a rash of people doing bed checks so much. They're mostly there as a threat, and I think they're mostly done in the morning.

    I'd say this is the cost of playing with minors and using boyscout camps. I have no beef with an 18+ game or even a 21+ game where we can also add in the element of drinking (but obviously not fighting), but that is a whole different ballgame when it comes to insurance.

    @Dan - I restored your comment. You were apparently writing like a mad man.

  20. Oh I missed where there were need checks at war, sorry definitely not meant to be a shot, I thought people were saying we did bed checks which so far hadn't been necessary.
    Is say anything that helps keep folk feeling sage and comfortable is a good thing

  21. At NERO Indy, we have bed sharing rules, but allow a limited amount of physical roleplay (for in-game reasons, outside of combat). The intent is not to allow people to make out in a corner of the tavern, but rather, to allow players to express their characters actions in a convincing manner.

    Thus far, our policy has only been detailed at check-in... (We discussed it on our private boards but it never made it to our policies page. Oops.)
    "Physical Roleplay
    i. Cannot take place during combat
    ii. Cannot take place with anyone under the age of 18
    iii. Must be entirely in-game - In an in-game area, between in-game characters, etc.
    iv. Must be entirely consensual
    v. Must follow a set of guidelines for propriety: if you make anyone uncomfortable stop
    vi. Keep it appropriate to the time period
    vii. No bed sharing allowed period."

    I had a clause that it "must be for the purpose of enriched roleplay," but that was removed when it was added to our check-in speech.

    I personally dislike bed-sharing rules, but NERO Indiana prohibits it for various reasons. Our site allows it, but we couldn't come to an agreeable policy that made sense with minors on site. We don't do bed checks as staff, but our bed-sharing policy is publicized at check-in.

    We have a small number of minors (as young as 14) at our games. Minors that are 14 or 15 must have a "temporary guardian" (approved of by the parent) on site with them; minors that are 16 or 17 may have one, at the parent's discretion. The temporary guardian is responsible for ensuring that the minor is not exposed to situations that (s)he's too immature to witness. Minors are also not permitted to be touched in any fashion (except by an acting medic) - as described in our "Physical Roleplay" policy. We've discussed having minors wear a "Minor Armband" but haven't instituted such a rule yet.

  22. I guess the part of this discussion that I have trouble understanding is why people find these sort of rules either insulting or a burden. I understand why some games feel the need for these rules. And I also understand why other people feel there is no need for these rules. But what I don't understand is why the people who feel there is no need for these rules appear so insulted or inconvenienced by them.

    I go to events where there is all kind of arbitrary rules in place that the game feels is necessary, but which I don't understand or agree with. Only park you car here. No food in the cabins. Quiet times during these hours. Rules governing when and where you can smoke.

    Do all these rules make sense to me? No, not all of them. But they are the camp's rules or the game's rules, and they don't impose any huge burden or inconvenience on me. I don't get insulted. I don't get mad that the game is trying to tell a grown man where he can store and eat food, even if I think surely I'm adult and mature enough to do it without making a mess. It's just rules, so I follow them.

    Is the acts of hugging, kissing, being physically affectionate and sleeping in beds with other people so different than all these other things that it causes people to become insulted, upset and unwilling to play games they might otherwise enjoy if they are told they need to avoid them for the duration of a two day structured shared activity with other people?

    1. Well, for me (and my opinion alone), it isn't insulting. But it is exceptionally inconvenient. I have no desire to go 2 days without cuddling or kissing my wife, albeit tastefully. I mean, we're not out at LARPs making the beast with two backs, but if her neck hurts I'll rub it, and if I feel like saying "I love you" I prefer to do it with a kiss rather than pure and chaste, from afar. A rule that prevents me from so doing is not one I wish to interact with, and thus I will just avoid being in that situation.
      I understand the rule, I respect the people making the rule, but I disagree with it, and therefore would avoid games where it was the case. No insult taken, just a matter of preference. :)

  23. "Is the acts of hugging, kissing, being physically affectionate and sleeping in beds with other people so different than all these other things that it causes people to become insulted, upset and unwilling to play games they might otherwise enjoy if they are told they need to avoid them for the duration of a two day structured shared activity with other people?"

    I personally find it to be more relevant when
    * Cabins are cold (and having another person or two in the bed would make that less of a big deal)
    * When the plot at the game has thus far not immersed me
    * When the game has been less-than-fun for any of a number of reasons
    * When the local players / staff say that the "Touchie Feelie rule" is one of the "4 Core Rules of NERO." Then I assume they're just joshing me and don't have a clue.

    I've never played at a game that had mandatory quiet hours or that prohibited food in the cabins. I think I would be at least a little annoyed about them, though I don't think I would refuse to go to such a game. I could still eat (without leaving site) - either at my car or in the tavern. I could still be loud during the day. Those prohibitions don't prevent something, like the prohibitions on tactile interaction; they just regulate it.

    And I have heard people complaining about any number of Site or Game restrictions, e.g., "You mean every one of us has to walk ALL THE WAY UP those stairs? UGH."

  24. It's an interesting view.

    Now, I can remember playing at a ton of Scout camps, where that rule is essential as part of their morals. Fine by me, their camp, their rules.

    I can say that it isn't required for LARPing. Limit physical contact but allow for consensual contact. America being America, mandate no lewd behavior. But the idea of not being able to get on a couch and share a blanket when it's cold outside with two friends I've known for years so we don't freeze our assets off, or to kiss my girlfriend when I'm OOG to say hello? I'll play elsewhere.

    (And never mind the really big LARPs overseas. While there's limits on some kinds of contact, it's common sense stuff, in games even with kids (with parents or supervised) running around.)

  25. Lots of interesting comments!

    One thing to note - WAR is part of the Boy Scouts of America (Explorer Post), as they provide excellent prices and camps that can be used for LARPing. As a result, a lot of their rules of conduct are to comply with BSA. It would generally be frowned upon for a member of the BSA to criticize BSA policies publicly.

    NERO is a game that allows 14+ to play. Many WAR players have started the game as minors (myself included), and it doesn't necessarily make the best sense business-wise to force the game to be 18+ or 21+, as I believe the number of people who will not play on account of this policy is less than those who can play because of it.

    And while I have no problem with a game for 21+ that allows adult themes and intimacy, I don't think it's appropriate to belittle groups that don't. Game runners can run whatever game they want, and it's in just as bad taste to call people "Prudes" as it is to call people "Sluts."