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.