TW: discussion of make-believe self-harm.

Back in 2002, I made friends with someone who played the live-action role-playing game (LARP) Vampire: The Masquerade. I was familiar with it, having attempted to play back in the late 90’s, but I never got to do much with my character. This time I was determined to do better.

I quickly learned two things:

1. I cannot act to save my life.
2. I cannot understand when other people are acting.

During the game I was constantly confused as to what I should be doing, or else freaking out because I was supposed to be pretending feelings I wasn’t having. To this day I can’t comprehend how actors act. Like, pretending to be another person is completely alien to me. Might be an autism thing.

But before all that, I had to establish a character. I had a bunch of ideas. I wanted to play a Malkavian, a type of vampire who was mentally ill in some way. (In retrospect, it was tasteless of the game creators, but hey. Different time.) I had recently read Cutting: Understanding and Overcoming Self-Mutilation by Steven Levenkron. (I read a lot of books on psychology. Still do, despite having gotten a couple degrees in it. The brain is fascinating.)

Anyway, so I asked the Storyteller (basically a dungeon/game master for V:tM) if I could have my character sit with a fake knife during idle moments, pretending to cut my arms and then watch them heal. The Storyteller blinked and said, “well, you’d take one point of damage for each cut.” I thought that was excessive so decided against it, and continued on cheerfully developing my character.

Years later, a mutual friend told me that the Storyteller had been a soldier in Desert Storm, and still found me — and that conversation — the scariest thing he’d ever encountered.

It’s funny as hell, but I also feel kinda bad for him…


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