Consent in Gaming

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Talanall's picture
Consent in Gaming

I stumbled onto this through Bell of Lost Souls. Monte Cook's publishing imprint is still around, and Sean K. Reynolds has dropped a new gaming supplement (working with someone I've never heard of, Shanna Germain; evidently she's a writer and also has been active as the editor for the Numenera setting, about which I know very little except that it's the basis for a "spiritual successor" to Planescape: Torment and that it uses its own rule system).

Anyway. The supplement is Consent in Gaming, 13 pages long, of which one page is a checklist for players to fill out. Free download if you create an account. It reads like a manual on consent as practiced in the kink community. This is good, in the sense that it's clear, easy to understand, and the verbiage includes some basic discussion of the ethical concerns that give rise to the practices being suggested. It's bad in the sense that it's a little dogmatic because it's an attempt to address a really broad audience that could run from a longtime gaming group where everyone knows everyone, to a relatively anonymous pickup game. So it's extremely generic in a way that may prevent it from satisfactorily addressing any one group's needs. At the end of the day, I guess its value derives more from the conversations it may start than from any real utility to be gained from the book itself. Its value is relatively less for long-established groups where the members all know one another pretty well, I suspect. Not to say that it's without value. But if I spin out the comparison to self-help books on kink, I think it's fair to say that there's relatively little information floating around to support monogamous couples versus people who're practicing some kind of non-monogamous lifestyle, and that this is appropriate because the risk profile for running into a consent problem in the latter lifestyle is much greater. Whether we're talking about an established couple or an established gaming group, it's still worthwhile to know about and be able to use good consent-gathering practices if you try something new.

The gist of the book is as follows.

1) There are particular topics that some players (including GMs) may want to avoid because those topics make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable.
2) This desire is legitimate and should be honored without question or debate.
3) The default position on consent is "no," requiring opt-in rather than opt-out.
4) Consent lies on a spectrum that goes from "never, ever, under any circumstances is this okay" to "enthusiastic consent."
5) The appropriate way to address the preceding four points is to generate a go/no go checklist for a variety of the most commonly objected-to topics, and then adhere to it.

I'm not unsympathetic to the position that the above indicates an over-elaborate response to the possibility of offending someone. There's some legitimacy to this point of view, because there's a tension between the desire to help people feel comfortable and safe, and the goals of a typical roleplaying game (you're pretending to be a character who is on an adventure, doing all kinds of dangerous, frightening stuff, in order to enjoy a vicarious thrill). The less safe your characters (and by transitive property, your players) feel about what's happening in-game, the more thrills. But I think it's very easy for this mode of thinking to get out of hand, leaving you with a gaming group that feels uncomfortable in a bad way. It's definitely a balancing act; there's a golden mean between the extremes of being bored because you're too comfortable and being so uncomfortable that you don't want to continue play.

There are plenty of gaming groups that have been able to negotiate this tension, though, often for extremely long periods of time, without needing to fill out paperwork over the matter. I think that our little enclave of gamers is an excellent illustration of this point; some of us have been gaming together for more than a decade at this point. And I don't fancy that any of us would have stuck around for so long if we were unhappy with how things were going. On the other hand, the destruction of Morville in the Ancestral Burdens campaign was pretty rough emotional territory, and I don't know if I would have been confident bringing something like that to the table for a group that I didn't know well. This supplement may very well have had value to me if I were pursuing that kind of gaming experience with a less tight-knit, familiar group of players.

The checklist appended to the end of the supplement lays out four broad categories of topics that require consent: horror, relationships, social and cultural issues, and mental and physical health. I consider myself fairly thick-skinned; there are no items on the list that are absolute "no go" issues for me, although I certainly prefer that consensual sexual relations be handled on a "fade to black" basis, and in general I don't care at all for the idea of having a sexual assault roleplayed out (I'd be comfortable handling the topic in an off-stage fashion, provided that I was comfortable with all players involved in the game). In general, I probably would also treat most kinds of torture in the same fashion.

But even though I'm not particularly bothered by the other stuff on the list, I can certainly understand that someone else might not be. One of the entries in the horror section is "harm to children," for example. That's a pretty common "hard no" for people, I think, but I absolutely would have children come to harm on-screen in a campaign that I was running as GM (unless I knew for sure that doing so would cause emotional distress for someone at the table). And frankly, I wouldn't have thought to ask.

For another example, there's a line for "real-life religion" in the social and cultural issues section, and given how many people have bad experiences at church, and how often it happens that people get into vehement disagreements over religion, I can see that someone may simply opt to refuse to talk about it at all.

In a similar vein, I think it's worthwhile to keep in mind that roleplaying gamers are undergoing a demographic shift. In a bygone era, it was basically safe to assume that roleplaying games were the province of middle-class white males (and presumptively heterosexual males, at that). There were deviations from this rule, I'm sure, but they were rare enough that it was exceptional to encounter a female gamer, or a non-white gamer, or an openly non-heterosexual gamer. The possibility that your behavior might make such a person uncomfortable wasn't a matter for consideration because it presupposes that such a person existed to offend, and for most gamers that was pretty much theoretical. That isn't how things are, anymore. I guess it still would be exceptional to encounter a non-white, queer gamer who isn't a cisgender male, but at this moment in time I think that any exceptionality would derive from having all of these categories embodied in a single individual. Certainly, we've had female and non-heterosexual players here on the Archive (and if you don't know, I'm not going to tell you who, because outing people isn't okay). Point is, it's increasingly plausible that gamers may share a table with someone who has been pregnant, miscarried, or had an abortion, or who's had strangers take an unhealthy interest in which bathroom he or she uses, or who has been the target of racism or homophobia. Even if you don't belong to any of those categories yourself, it shouldn't be exceptionable for someone to propose that you ought to try to be pleasant to people who do.

Aside from the basic tenets on consent, this supplement also discusses how to recover when someone doesn't adhere to whatever conventions have been established regarding consent topics, or when the course of play unveils a topic that makes someone so uncomfortable that he or she would like to opt out, effective immediately. There's also a section dealing with "aftercare," which mostly has to do with separating the gaming session from ordinary time, and giving players a chance to calm down, register any problems having to do with consent, emotional bleed between themselves and their characters, etc., and talk through it as a group.

Overall, the supplement wasn't a lot of use to me personally, but I'm situated way over on the extreme end of a spectrum that has me playing with people I've known for a long time and am comfortable with. That clearly isn't going to be true of everybody in this hobby. And for the reasons I discussed previously, I think that it's the start of a valuable conversation that could be healthy even for groups that have played together for many years.

Aladdar's picture

A friend of mine, who used to post on here as Kismet, I believe, has been talking about this a bit on facebook, and specifically, the idiot trolls in the community who are angry that anyone might actually want to consider consent within gaming.

Aladdar's picture

And for what it's worth, just like dating relationships, I think checklists like this are useful for new people who don't know each other well. I'd have no qualms about throwing anything at Fixxxer because I know him, but some other people who I don't, I'm less open about what makes me laugh, what makes me cringe, because I've learned how harmful things like that could be.

For example, having a campaign where a bunch of homophobic NPCs go around killing gay characters might be interesting for some groups and where the PCs have an option to do so, but if there's a gay member of the group (Or someone who isn't open about it), then that could be very uncomfortable for them. The same if you decided to run a racist campaign with people of color.

Quite often, gaming groups are primarily run by white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, men (Although that's changing). And it's hard to offend us about anything (Except calling us racist apparently). So we don't think about how things affect others on the other end of power dynamics, and as people who were often nerds and picked on in our youth, we kind of enjoy being able to be dicks about it in roleplay.

So going back to a campaign where there are lynching's or dragging of gay characters behind horses, as a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual male; I would actually enjoy a campaign like that because I'd love to take out those evil people and smite down justice on them, but if there's someone in my group who has experienced those kinds of things; it might just hit a little too close to home and be painful in a way I don't consider.

The same could go for any other kind of abuse. I could argue that there's a place for rape, child abuse, domestic abuse, etc... in the game; but I should probably just check to make certain those themes are ok with my players and respect anyone who says no without question.

Fixxxer's picture

If I remember correctly, this supplement was written in response to a situation that occured at a European gaming convention where people signed up to play a tabletop game and were horrified when the DM opened the game with a very graphic scene where some of the PCs were in the middle of being gang raped. That seems like a very bad way to start a game with people you don't know, and I think the banning of that DM from the con (and all other EU cons, by association) was appropriate.

I don't see myself ever getting any real use out of this, though I can see why others might. People play RPGs for various different reasons, and I can see why sometimes those reasons wouldn't work well in a grimdark setting, for example. I also believe that people DM RPGs for various reasons and in my case, it's because I enjoy making the players feel a range of emotions, horror and revulsion included. But I also understand that one should know his or her players a bit before trying to push emotional buttons, and that there's no need to go from zero to sixty right out of the gate.

Aladdar's picture

Yes, but before we ever played our first game together years back, you were very clear with me the type of game you ran, the type of conversations that took place at your table, and wanted to make certain I was ok with that. I think that's fair. Run the game you want. Just make certain your players are aware of that, are ok with it (And have the ability to opt out instead), and don't surprise them with some crazy game they had no expectation of (Especially at a public con for God's sake).

I think it's perfectly fair to run a very dark game, and I enjoy those. It's also fair to let players know that's the kind of game you run before hand. Consent goes both ways. I don't get to be all mad and pitch a fit when you run a game you warned me about, and I shouldn't get blindsided by something I never expected without being aware at least that it could happen.

Talanall's picture

You remember correctly about the event that prompted the writing of this supplement. It happened at the UK Games Expo, sometime in late May 2019. I agree that it was handled appropriately by the convention organizers. The GM in question was wholly out of line, springing something like that on a bunch of strangers. For that matter, I'd be furious if someone in this community surprised me with a scenario like that, and all the more so if it were basically for shock value.

Even with advance warning, I think I'd probably be a lot more comfortable handling themes like sexual assault in a fade-to-black or off screen fashion. I say that from the perspective of someone whose games sometimes take on dark overtones—for example, the brief scenario at the ball in Ancestral Burdens when Alannah intervened to get a young woman away from a creep who wasn't happy to take no for an answer. I didn't feel any need to hit you guys over the head with specifics on that, and I think you picked up admirably on what I was trying to convey.

Even when it involves NPCs rather than the PCs, and it's just implied in this fashion, I really am not sure that I'd cover this kind of material if I weren't extremely comfortable with all of the people who were playing at the time. The composition of that group has changed slightly to include a player I don't know nearly as well. And soon there may be another player joining us.

Around the same time IRL (I think), the PCs in Argent Cyma were mutilating a guy who was heavily implied to have beaten and assaulted a prostitute. I think I'd been sufficiently transparent about what it meant that you were going to play a villainous campaign for it to have caught nobody off guard, and the nature of the game led me to be a little harder-edged about the kinds of stuff that happened on screen. But even in that instance, I didn't really think anyone was down for a lingering examination of what it might be like to emasculate someone after beating him insensible.

And in still another example, there were the slitherwebs from the now-defunct Cataclysm game. They were deliberately awful; I won't make any pretense to the contrary. I was aiming for something as horrible as the eponymous creatures from Aliens, and if I gave myself nightmares in the process then that was just how things had to be. Again, something that I don't really feel any remorse over, because everyone at the table knew what I'm like and made an informed decision to play anyway.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking's picture

I definitely think it's worth conversations - I've been on theRPGsite a fair bit lately in part because I was shocked at the type of conservative misogynistic racist echochamber it had become. The consensus view there is this type of 'getting woke' is destroying the hobby. In any case, I've been branded as SJW as if that is supposed to be a bad thing, but my point is that these conversations ARE important, and it's worthwhile to bring them up, even if some people want to get to the point of 'let's not talk about any of this stuff and kill orcs'.

As far as the type of game you run, I think that it's important for the GM to be up front about the themes that they expect to address and the general nature of the game as far as maturity rating (PG-13 is my default - lots of violence but sexuality is fade to black), but there's nothing wrong with trying to tailor the game to the tastes of the players; it's just if the tastes are too divergent (player A wants to murder/rape possibly in that order every NPC while player B wants to be a Paladin) it's important to set clear expectations and drop the player that doesn't mesh if they can't handle it.

Aladdar's picture

exactly, without getting into politics too much, I just don't understand the hysteria so many have about actually caring as to whether you're harming others around you and at least checking with them to make certain it's ok. Granted, the hobby used to be just a bunch of us nerdy white guys who used it as an escape from being tortured in real life, so we enjoyed torturing others and being in control of it in the game.

And that's fine. If you want to do that, find a group of friends who enjoy that and go to town. But just be aware that as the hobby expands, that it's going to start pulling in others who have experienced life different than you and who may have had real harm in life. If you have women in your group, it's important to recognize just how many women have experienced sexual assault, and how hurtful it is to have to relive it. Maybe just check to find out if there's anything that might be harmful to them in the game to their mental health and try to fade to black those moments out of respect for your fellow gamers.

And again, if you don't want to be limited, that's fine. Explain before hand that your games are very X-Rated at times with both violence and sexual encounters, and if the players are squeamish to that, this might not be the best game for them. The point is to not surprise them.

Just like in sex. I'm married now, I don't have to ask my wife for permission before I touch her, but she's also learned to trust me and if she's not interested she just says no and I back off respectfully.

If I were in the dating pool again, when I first met someone, I'd just ask if things were ok as they advanced sexually during those initial experiences, make it clear that it's ok if she wants to back out and that she has that option at any time. That doesn't destroy the experience, but it makes certain that it's healthy for both of us. Eventually you get to a point where you don't need the verbal cues any more. The same is true for gaming.

I really don't understand how this makes someone a "SJW". It's just called respect. Why is that a bad thing now?

Talanall's picture

I think that there's certainly a valuable discussion to be had about the whys and wherefores the changing face of gaming/sci-fi/fantasy/comics as an overall community. I don't know if it's something we really want to bring up here, on this forum. It's inherently a pretty political topic because it deals with an ongoing culture war, and we have a pretty solid record over the last 15 years of this site's existence of keeping this place apolitical.

Although I'm confident that everyone here can and will be cordial even if they disagree, I'm also abundantly aware that this is a sensitive topic in its own right.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Board Rider
Board Rider's picture

I haven't read the supplement but so I suppose I should ask if there is guidance on what to do if there are wildly conflicting viewpoints within a gaming group on the presented items/topics. Additionally, my thoughts may be addressed in the document.

I suppose that the checklist is a useful tool when used in large gaming sites or circles where the players are generally strangers and the DM wants to get a feel for who the audience, so to speak, is. But is it needed? It is a hard no for me.

I have been gaming since 1992. In that time I have ran and played in games at various cons, houses, comic book stores, parking lots, military barracks, a Denny's (other restaurants too) and even at an apartment pool area among a plethora of other places. Males, females, adults, children, and races of all sorts have played along side me and on the other side of my screen as I ran them through adventures. Never have I experienced the need to get a group buy in before rolling dice.

Have I gamed in uncomfortable situations? Certainly. Worked behind the screen while describing, in graphic detail, the horrors make believe druids and paladins are seeing? Absolutely. If I ever get the privilege of meeting any of you I would love to share my, and hear your, stories. In all of those situations one thing occurred: people spoke up when they were uncomfortable. NEVER, and maybe I am lucky, never has there been push back in ANY group, strangers included, when someone stated that something was uncomfortable. Hell, I even gamed with a married couple in Kansas who played out their characters character. There was no fade to black there but I said something and they stopped.

I don't think a checklist is wrong. I think not expecting people to stand up and vocalize their expectations of a group is. There shouldn't be an expectation that graphic detail of something uncomfortable needs to be verbalized but a DM shouldn't have to hand out paperwork to read the room either. People need to feel comfortable to be able to vocalize their concerns IF they arise in game. DMs need to be considerate of that concern and address it IF it comes up. If either party can't then it is my opinion there is a larger issue at hand that a checklist isn't going to solve.

Aladdar's picture

For what it's worth, I think the "paperwork" may be a bit overkill, but it obviously would be a useful idea for public cons; at least as a way to give the cons a bit of control and legal protection over what might or might not happen during games.

I don't know that you need paperwork for your private game, although it might not be a terrible idea to at least have a conversation about it a bit as to what people are and are not comfortable with as you gather your group and prepare your game, just so it doesn't throw you off track completely as your game progresses.

Like I said, @Fixxxer was very clear to me about the type of game he likes to run before I ever joined any of his games when I met him years ago. I appreciated it, and it gave me a chance to voice any complaints or opt out. It turns out, I'm hard to offend, so I'm up for whatever, but others might not be.

I do remember later on that we had a player join us who was obviously very, very gay. He knew that I was a Christian however and apparently didn't feel comfortable letting that be public knowledge while I was there. He came out to the group while I was away on my honeymoon so they could fill me in when I got back. I'm sad that he felt he had to hide it, as although I'm a Christian, I'm a completely affirming one when it comes to that and he had nothing to fear. It strikes me that if we had a conversation with new people simply affirming that everyone is welcome regardless of color, gender, sexuality, religion; and that all are accepted for who they are as part of our "rules of play" that he might have felt far more comfortable being himself around us and not having to fear that I might flip out if I found out.

I know that's not really the same thing, but just part of the idea that communication about these things ahead of time and a sense of openness and acceptance for other people's lives and lived experiences/trauma is simply healthy in general. And good communication cuts down on the need for paperwork in general outside of "legal" protection.

Talanall's picture

It's a terrible idea to assume that people will always speak up when they're uncomfortable, even when they're uncomfortable about things that they should be uncomfortable about. Should people speak up? Sure, absolutely. Do they? Sure, if they're reasonably confident, and they have some evidence to suggest that they won't meet retaliation of some kind for expressing how they feel.

But people also frequently do not speak up, even when they really ought to. I'm sure none of us have ever heard an acquaintance or family member utter a racial slur, been uncomfortable, but ultimately not said anything because we didn't want to cause a scene. Aunt Karen's really belligerent when she's had a couple of drinks, right?

I had a player drop out of a game once after his character died in a mugging. When I asked him what was the matter, he told me that he was dropping out because he'd had a flashback to an actual mugging IRL, and he couldn't handle it.

Was it my fault? Eh, no. And we were both really civil about the whole thing. I apologized; he apologized. I made it clear that he was still welcome to come back and play again once he felt better, he thanked me, and then I never really spoke to him again. A mutual friend said he was alright, though, just busy.

Would this "paperwork" have prevented the issue? Debatable. There's no blank already on the form included with the supplement, covering trauma from being robbed at gunpoint (although there is one associated with police/police aggression), and the impression I walked away with is that this player may not have been aware that he was going to have an issue with the memories I'd stirred up until I actually stirred them up.

Still, today, I probably would use a form along these lines if I were about to play in a group where I didn't know everyone pretty well. It won't catch everything, but it's going to catch a lot of the really common stuff. I wouldn't have done that when I was starting out in the hobby, but frankly I was only about 20 at the time, and I was pretty clueless about the fact that (for example) most women are pretty much always, 100% of the time, on guard against the possibility of sexual assault from any dude they don't know and trust implicitly. But it's a lot harder to be clueless about that kind of thing today than it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Is it overkill? In the group I play with right now, probably. HVB is the only new-to-me player I have in any of my campaigns as of this writing. If I were about to start a game where more than about one out of six players were unfamiliar to me, though, I might very offer something more formal than the discussions you guys have seen from me with regard to the expected tone of a given campaign. And especially if I were doing it in a real-time format (whether that's chat-based, or on Roll20, or in person around a table), I probably would ask EVERYONE to do the paperwork.

I don't really need it from Fixxxer, because he and I sometimes have discussions about the best way to cook and devour the homeless. Which is to say that we grok one another in a fundamental way. But I'd make him fill out the form because I don't want the newbie to feel singled out.

The town where I live currently has a Friendly Local Gaming Store. Or at least, I assume it's friendly because there often are people inside when I drive past. I don't actually know they're friendly. Anyway, if I were using the FLGS as a recruitment point (assuming they have a bulletin board or something for that purpose), then yeah, I'd use the form as a matter of course.

I'll take one more example from the supplement's form, just to drive home why this is. The form includes a line for "cancer." Just within the scope of the people participating in this discussion, I know that we have at least one who has survived cancer, at least one who is in the process of losing an immediate family member to it, and a third whose immediate family includes a cancer survivor (that would be me; my father had colon cancer several years before I met any of you guys, survived it, and then passed away somewhat more than a decade later from causes related to a general decline in health that was caused by dementia).

There are at least two WotC supplements for 3.X D&D that involve magically-induced cancer. There's a "cancer mage" in the Book of Vile Darkness, and in Libris Mortis there's a feat and a group of spells unlocked by it, all of which have to do with harnessing the magical powers of cancer to smite your foes.

I personally would be fine with either or both of those things appearing at the gaming table, whether I'm the DM or a player. But I haven't had cancer, and I'm not a direct relation of anyone who has died of cancer, and I think it'd be totally reasonable for someone to feel uncomfortable about it if I brought this stuff to the table. I don't think there's anything relating to dementia in any edition of D&D, but I probably would be okay even if there were. I'm not hanging onto any trauma over it. And the only time I can recall dementia having come up in a D&D game was when Bartleby_GoC ran a campaign that featured an elderly wizard who was in the early stages of what probably was meant to be Alzheimer's Disease. But that was before my father's diagnosis. It was tastefully done, looking back. Interestingly and sensitively portrayed.

Still. The point is, even if I'm not bothered, I think it's entirely reasonable to think someone else might be bothered. And "hey, if the BBEG tries to give people supernatural cancer, am I going to be grinding my thumb on an emotional wound" isn't necessarily a question that I'm going to think to ask. I happen to know that it's at least a potential issue, in this case, because we do have a pretty close-knit community here. But when you think about it . . . I mean, yeah, lots of people get cancer, or lose someone they love to cancer. Like, a LOT of people.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Aladdar's picture

That's a good point. And it also shows that it's hard to pinpoint what is going to trigger people. I think at the very least it shows respect and that a tone is there to say, "Hey, that bothered me, I don't really know why, but I'd prefer not to do that again" and maybe the player would stick around.

For instance, I hadn't thought about the cancer even though my Mom is dying of it. Right now I'd be ok with it, but in the immediate months after she passes, it might be really hard if there was a Mother who passes away from cancer in the game because that would be too soon. Would I always be sensitive to it? Likely not, but for the next several months to years? Maybe.

I think the form is a great way to let players know that they'll be safe, and to also weed out those players who might make them feel unsafe. If someone is going to get pissed and refuse to play in my game because I asked them to fill out the form, then they're likely to also not care whether something is harming someone. It also would make me feel far more comfortable with speaking up, even if privately, if something is pushing too hard.

KismetRose's picture

Hi Kevin! I don't know that I've posted here, but a few folks here used to post on my old boards way back in the day. I've been talking about consent in one way or another for many years on my D&D site, so I was definitely interested in this new entry. A while back, I redid a page in my romance section to be a bit more explicit about it without actually bringing in the terminology tied to consent. I figured that the terminology might spook some readers, and I think that may be a factor in the negative reactions to the PDF that was recently released. A fully spelled out lesson seems to make some people feel like they're being taken to school and shown what they are doing wrong in detail, rather than the intention, which was to educate in a more extended fashion for possible future use.

I also remained focused on sex-related gaming matters on my site, rather than expanding the conversation to running a game in its entirety. Still, not long ago I worked on a campaign character sheet as a starting point for DM and player expectations and comfort thresholds, and overall concerns about consent are implied in its construction. (I don't think it's on my site yet; I may have gotten too busy and forgotten to add it.) It seems that the very breadth of the PDF's implications made some folks feel like they would have to walk in eggshells about every potentially sensitive topic, which can feel like an awful, unending burden.

The ugly vehemence of the response has been interesting and disappointing but not surprising to me. The invitation to work on better and ongoing communication has been taken by some as intrusive and unnecessary, just one more example of social justice nonsense. It has been deemed childish, overly sensitive feminized policing of the hobby, which has traditionally resisted anything resembling prototypical feminine influence. That groups are insular by their very nature complicates this issue, since gamers who have not experienced consent problems personally are more likely to write it off as entirely superfluous. DMs and players who believe they are always on the same page based on years of interaction may scoff at the idea that someone in their number will have a problem and/or be afraid to speak up.

If more people heard the stories I have for many years - from people who have experienced truly ugly scenarios and behavior at the table - they might slow down and allow that consent has its place. But when you're dedicated to and stuck within your own view and feel that you are being attacked in some way, that situation, too many folks attack first and do not think it over later.

deadDMwalking's picture

KismetRose wrote:

If more people heard the stories I have for many years - from people who have experienced truly ugly scenarios and behavior at the table - they might slow down and allow that consent has its place.

I know that if they're not your stories, it might not be appropriate to share, but I hope you might include them on your blog. There's a certain type of gamer that will automatically dismiss anything without 'proof' and assume anything with 'proof' still wasn't quite AS BAD as described, and certainly not REPRESENTATIVE of gaming culture, but I think that stories do have a powerful way of opening us up to the possibility. In a sense, gamers are predisposed to consider what they would do in a situation that they are not, actually, in. Being aware that certain behaviors can make people uncomfortable is the first step to choosing to be more considerate.


I have done 2 d&d sessions so far with two of my husband's female coworkers who I'd never met but both are interested in learning to play for whatever reason. I haven't read the checklist, but I am wondering if showing it to a group who has no experience with roleplaying whatsoever would in itself cause discomfort. They think they're just coming over to roll some "weird dice" to fight monsters and now they are presented with all of these things that are going to potentially happen unless they check "no go" or whatever...I'm trying to put myself in their shoes and I think it would seem a little odd.

But I do think a list like that is a good idea, especially in a group with more experienced players in a less PG setting...

I would never assume that someone would voice their discomfort. I can recall a situation where a DM included some content (extremely specific fetish type thing) which made me uncomfortable. I did tell him that the content and story arc made me uncomfortable and I wanted to drop it. I have also been in groups where the players were the ones doing things which made me feel uncomfortable and I did not say anything. Maybe they would've been perfectly fine to tone it down, but in these instances I was the only female in a room full of guys, most of whom I barely knew, I just wrote the experiences off as a one shots that I'd never have to play again and just tried to phase out whatever was going on. Not sure if a checklist would've helped in most of these situations, but it couldn't have hurt.

I have also run a sandbox style game where the PCs were starting up some guild in the slums of a big city. My initial players and I were all on the same page that there would be everything and everyone that goes on in places like that; foul language, sex, drug use, pimps, children murdered, etc. I also made this clear to any new player but always with the caveat that no PC or NPC could force the PCs into a sexual or similar encounter without it being their choice, and sex would be fade to black. Also they were told to let me know if anything made them uncomfortable at any point.

I guess what I take away from this thread is that I'd like to think that there's no one out there RPing going around killing gay people and black people and getting gang raped...but apparently there are, so yes, being upfront about the content of your game and knowing as best you can what topics to avoid for players' comfort and making sure that everyone involved respects those boundaries is a good idea that doesn't hurt anyone and shows that you're open to keeping the game comfortable for all involved.

Aladdar's picture

That's a good point as well. However, hopefully in an introductory game like that you wouldn't be trying to throw a bunch of craziness at them, but simply keep it fairly tame through that first play through. If they enjoy it enough to come back again, then a discussion that the game can get a bit more extreme as time goes on, and a discussion on what issues you might pull into the game and what they would or would not feel comfortable with would be warranted.

When I first started playing with @Fixxxer about 15 years ago, my then fiancé was very turned off by the idea of me playing. She grew up catholic and still had all the evils and demonology the church had beat into her head stuck there. So I created a simple version of the game for her to play through. The characters that we played with were pulled from her favorite tv show at the time, Friends. She got to be Rachel, I was Ross, and we had to go rescue Ross's monkey that had been kidnapped by goblins. lol

It was silly and stupid, but it was a nice simple introduction to her to how rpg's work, how the dice rolling plays out, how we can tell stories. She had fun, she laughed, and she stopped being so freaked out by me playing. She certainly had no interest in doing it herself, but it made things much easier. I certainly wasn't about to get into how some groups have extreme sexuality, violence, etc... in their games.

And I think we all tend to agree that the document in it's current form is meant for extremely public games, like what happens at cons, to help match players and what they like and dislike with others; and to also make certain everyone feels safe in those games. What we should take from it for home games is that, especially with new players, we just need to have those conversations; and maybe discuss the types of things that come up in your games, to ask players to give you information on how they feel about various issues, if there's any themes they feel uncomfortable with (And you can use their list as examples) and then just get everyone to agree that "rape", or "child abuse" might be something we avoid in this game out of respect for others.

Consent doesn't have to be this mind numbing set of detailed rules and regulations which is why I think so many get angry and push away. It really can just be about respect for others, for their experiences, trauma, and triggers; and making certain everyone agrees to act in accordance with that level of respect for one another.