We all gather to have fun and play a game. This is an interactive setting, and sometimes things can take an odd twist and go down unexpected pathways, both in and out of character. People can get upset, but sometimes all that is really needed is a brief pause to let things settle. This is known as a cool down period.
A cool down is a brief “time out,” to allow for a quick calm down, so role play can continue and discussion of the cause can commence. Cool downs may be needed from both in game and out of game stimuli. In game it is typically due to the intensity of setting. Out of game reasons can stem from player stresses.
The World of Darkness can be grim, harsh, and is often savage. Not only are there disturbing supernatural creatures doing disturbing acts, but dark acts may be committed by the most ‘normal’ of people. Violence is a common theme that can range from a common fist fight to sadistic acts of cruelty. Characters might use language that is specifically intended to hurt and offend. Players come from a variety of backgrounds and certain themes may cause duress.
A cool down from in-game stimuli is allowed to let the player leave scene for a few minutes. The scene continues, with an “empty seat” for the player to return to, if he or she wishes it. There needs to be time for them to calm, but there also needs to be an allowance for the passion of a scene to continue. If the player is unable or unwilling to re-enter scene, keep in the mind their character sheet can be handed to the Storyteller to represent the character’s presence in scene. The ST can then convey what occurred in less intense language so the player might continue on later in the game.
Out of Game
People disagree and tensions can fray. Stopping and letting things settle may help one understand they were getting upset over a minor or perceived slight. If things continue and further action is needed, conflict resolution is further discussed in Coord 342: Conflict Resolution.
This can also occur in an online setting. Some can get caught up in the online persona and lash out at others, not considering or caring there is a person behind the keyboard. Some may post deliberately provocative messages intentending on causing disruption and argument. Cool downs can be necessary for list activity as well. More information about list moderation and calling for a cool down period on lists can be found in Coord 239: Moderating a Sanctioned Email List.
Addressing a Cool Down
Talk with your player and make sure you touch base with them. Can the player identify what caused the upset? If it is an easy subject to avoid, please inform the Storyteller. If it stemmed from out of game, it can still potentially be smoothed over, so seek the input. Keeping known flares from occurring is worth the time invested as it smooths the game and helps maintain enjoyment for all.
If discussion between you and the player does not resolve the problem satisfactorily, it may be useful to begin a mediation process. This will allow you to bring in another set of eyes and, hopefully, work out a common ground. For more information about mediation, see Coord 342: Conflict Resolution.
When someone needs to cool down, it can cause a disruption to game play. It is a simple fact that needs to be accepted. Any mocking or disrespect is an immediate breach of conduct. MES has a zero harassment tolerance. It is best to be respectful of the person and the incident. This will help minimize the time needed to cool down and help maintain the flow of the game.
It is detrimental to continue a conversation of a sensitive subject if not everyone has been able to calm yet. The reaction from one still upset may cause a further outbreak of tensions. A longer cooldown allows for the fact that different people can take a wide array of time to calm down. This provides opportunity for everyone to calm before any discussion on the cause occurs. Longer cooldowns should only be used for a very intense situation involving multiple people
Not every incident can be resolved the same night. Keep in contact with the players. It need not be that night, but within the next few days to touch base with them. If the cool down was called for by a presiding officer, coordinate with them
Possible Detriments to Cool Down Periods
When tempers are high, taking a step back does not always help. Some individuals will use this period to cool down and see the situation from another’s point of view. Others may use that time to formulate stronger opinions and determine how they can voice them in a manner that will push the topic, rather than understanding they are only “beating a dead horse.” Alternatively, this time may be used to seek vengeance of some form. Regretfully, cool down periods and some personalities do not mix.
During game there is a potential for a player to attempt to use a cool down for an in game advantage. Be aware if the player is unwilling to either continue in the scene or hand their character sheet over. It may be an indicator there is an attempt to gain an edge. A player may also request multiple cool downs in an attempt to avoid consequences of their prior actions. The coordinator and ST have a joint responsibility to ensure cool downs are not abused. Be alert and communicate with the appropriate officer.
Cooldown periods should never be used to seek advantage or as a weapon.