a peek past the masquerade

tfw a new persona just charges out of nowhere, wears you like a skin suit, and has you delivering their manifesto in the shower.

roleplaying has always had the smell of ritual about it for me, occupying the place that religious observance and enthusiasm should do (not for nothing do we recall that ‘enthusiasm’ originated as a term for a kind of madness, brought on by profound love of God). it’s always been a kind of magic.

at this time of year, seven years ago, i wrote about how running a particular kind of game has always felt like inviting people to inhabit my soul for a while. i lost that feeling, for a good long while. i let myself be swept up by other schools of play and thought, by ironic distance and delusions of literary adequacy, by troubles of agency and mechanic. and it was all just a game.

but this shit is what it’s all about, mates, when something steps into you and speaks through you and scares the bollocks off you because you’re sure it didn’t come from you.

once or twice, i’ve drained myself while roleplaying, left myself empty and scared because that Victorian knife killer or traumatised WWI vet or feverish street preacher was so real and so full-on. once or twice, people have felt obliged to apologise for me. i still recall the time Ben said “you realise Jon was roleplaying there, right?” after one scene, and the relieved nods, and how i wanted to shake them all by the collars and say “no, you fucking idiots, that was what happen when i stop“.

i didn’t. i nodded and smiled, and when Dave said “i couldn’t do that” i didn’t say “yes you can mate, anyone can, you just… let go. you let your mind wander and you don’t stop what it brings back.”

maybe not everyone can.

anyway, there’s something magical about all this. i turn up my sneer even now at the thought of speaking the pre-game prayer out loud, but that’s how this works, how i think, even if i keep it secret for the sake of not being outed as a total woo-woo merchant (or worse, a total fruitbat).

i do a lot of roleplaying with myself, playing through half-conversations with real people or with their characters, because i get bored easily and because rehearsing conversations always helps me actually know what to say.

so in retrospect, it shouldn’t surprise me when a new character concept surfaces in a manner not a million miles away from possession.

one deranged Lasombra street preacher, full of ego-darwinist fury and disappointment at the lies we tell ourselves, tearing down false humanity and institutions of privilege coming to a WoD game near me.

and to think all this started because i randomly thought about how pooling blood to share Disciplines is an innately Sabbat concept, part of their ritual praxis and political ideology, whereas the Camarilla uses blood oaths as part of its hierarchy and disciplinary proceedings, so you wouldn’t expect to see people sipping on each other so freely. and that got me on to the sort of communal resource-mongering of the Sabbat and its balance between absolute freedom of individual expression and absolute sect loyalty, which got me on to egoist communism… and… the rants just write themselves.

he talks like Top Dollar as played by Dennis Hopper, or rather by a pissed up Englishman doing a rubbish Dennis Hopper impression.

anyway, this has been a glimpse into where my mind goes when i’m all ‘unique people don’t use capitals’. cringe if you will, but there it is.

happy new year, motherfuckers.

i’m off to play Near And Far until my eyes fall out.

back to what passes for normal around here in 2018.

Author: Jon

Sententious, mercurial, and British as a bilious lord. Recovering Goth, lifelong spod. Former teacher and amateur machine politician, now freelance writer and early-career researcher.

6 thoughts on “a peek past the masquerade”

  1. I’m not sure if this is a funny thing to say or a dangerous one – I guess it depends on how unhinged you are right now:
    Ever thought of charging people for seances? I hear they were all the rage in England in the 19th century. Maybe something in your heredity got switched on? Because I can do some wierd things, but I don’t think I can do that. And I don’t like the idea of trying to either.

    1. If I felt this was an authentically ‘other’ experience I might. I don’t know if this is something I’m scraping up from inside my own soul, or what. Can’t see people coming to a seance just to talk to… well, me. Aren’t attendees generally attending for their own reasons, with their own ideas about who they want to engage with?

  2. Well I mean maybe with practice you could have an authentic ‘other’ experience. If that was something you’d be interested in. Who knows in what sense such a thing would be authentic anyway. I certainly don’t feel confident saying whether mediums actually contact spirits (whatever they might be) or if they are “just” people with the ability you described whose culture and experience have led them to think of it in those terms. And your culture and experience has led you to think of it as extreme roleplaying!

    I don’t know, the way you described it reminded me of a voodoo priest being ridden by a loa.

    1. That’s how it felt. Maybe it DID come from somewhere outside.

      I dunno man. To sell a product I’d have to have confidence in it. I can sell ‘extreme roleplaying with an occultic drive’ more confidently than I can sell ‘contact with legit other worlds’, and I think the latter’s what people want from a seance, isn’t it?

      1. Yeah fair enough. I suppose you’d have to practice this ability until you felt as though you were actually contacting real entities, and could try and do so in good faith on behalf of others. I don’t know about you but that sounds psychically risky to me.

        Or else you’d just be knowingly ripping people off, which is awful and something you wouldn’t do.

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