D&D General Character Description Discrepancy

Oofta

Legend
No!

No no no no no!

Do NOT do that, unless your goal is to create drama and completely alienate Edward from the group.

First, do we know we are dealing with children here? That is not stipulated by the OP, but if that is the case than a number of additional issues come into play.

But one thing we know for sure is that Edward drew a very clear boundary, and this person violated it. It is possible that she was acting kindly and made a mistake. Perhaps she has her own cognitive reasons why she did not pick up on his VERY CLEAR signals. Given the description of the original situation, I think there is a strong chance that she was making a point and her action was a form of bullying behaviour, intended to aggravate Edward. If that is the case, then she is the person who needs the intervention, but framed in constructive terms.

And if we are talking about children, telling them to "grow up" is not really very useful, is it?

The place to start is by getting as much information as you can. The OP admits knowing very little about the overall situation, so you never start taking action until you know what is going on.

At the end of the day, whether or not Edward's character needs to be depicted as wearing the glasses is trivial in itself. Slow down, find out exactly what is going on, and proceed with sensitivity and caution.
The player is 20 something. If the player thinks his elf looks stupid wearing glasses, then their character shouldn't wear them.

I have to wear glasses to correct my eyesight, I can't handle contacts. If he complained incessantly about someone using a cane or a wheelchair looking "stupid" I would have the same reaction.
 

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DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
That's not "reading between the lines", that's inventing an entirely fantastical and bizarre explanation that the OP doesn't even hint at.
I opened my post by saying how difficult it was to read the situation given only the one-sided information provided, but I disagree that there isn't a strong suggestion of bullying here. Why does this keep coming up, when it is so obviously triggering to one of the players? How hard is it to simply not refer to a single PC wearing glasses in the fiction? This is a well-marked path in a field full of land mines, and someone is choosing to step on mines.

This situation looks ridiculous and like it stems from neurodivergence because it's about glasses. Would it still be ridiculous if the glasses were replaced by a more common trigger?

To pick something lurid out of recent D&D headlines, if Edward had chosen to play a hadozee, because he liked the aesthetics and mechanics, and the dungeon master and other players kept leaning into the race's enslaved history in regards to Edward's character, despite his obvious discomfort, would it still be unreasonable to complain?

I know someone is going to complain about that analogy, so let me be clear that I'm not "making this about racism." It's simply a question of self-image, start to finish, and we consider some elements of self-image more sacred than others. Our characters are our characters, and it sucks to have their identities dictated to us. To me, and in the absence of more information, Occam's Razor suggests Edward is just a socially awkward guy at the end of his rope.

I mean, you're not "showing empathy"
With respect, it isn't your place to tell me how I feel, and I'll thank you to not do so.

And this person is being rude and disruptive, and is an adult.

Given that Edward is clearly quite open and rude about this, and stays upset whilst playing, he doesn't sound at all like someone who is the victim of "bullying" by anyone involved to me. He sounds like someone with a serious social issue - which may well be caused by neurodiversity, but is still something he needs to manage. Especially given he's in his 20s, not a child.

I've met people like this - who were got upset and stayed upset about odd things, and in most cases it was related to neurodiverse conditions, particularly ASD, and assuming that you could fix it simply by changing it to another item, in that case, is foolishness, because you don't know what triggers this. He may well be just as upset by a headband or whatever.
I absolutely do know what triggers this. People at his table are repeatedly enforcing a perception of his character that he does not enjoy! I'm in total agreement that his reaction is unacceptable and must be addressed, but it is a reaction, and I find the idea that he is acting in a vacuum bizarre, and as ignorant of the presented facts as you are suggesting I am.

The OP needs to talk to him and find out what the issue actually is.

And also, sometimes people are just really picky and they're not even neurodiverse. Like they've got an incredibly narrow conception of what's okay for their character, to the point where it may be a mismatch for the in-game fiction. I played with a guy (briefly) once, and he was not neurodiverse, but like, if his character got in any way dirty/bloody (even through his own actions) he'd just refuse to accept it, because he had this anime-character-esque vision of the PC. It didn't match at all well with the kinda-gritty Shadowrun campaign we were running.
Fully agreed, and I felt like I'd addressed this in my post. I further felt like @bloodtide had already dismissed the possibility of addressing it directly with the player, but that would certainly be part of any solution I would try.

As a glasses wearer I would leave this table and never come back. If someone is going to act like my physical condition is such a bad look I don't need to be around it

No, you don't. As a friend of mine said when I discussed this with them: There's some shades of ableism here from Edward, because glasses are a form of disability assistance device. Getting all hung up on "glasses make me look stupid" isn't a great look when 30%-40% of Americans (I don't have worldwide statistics) need corrective lenses of some kind to treat their nearsightedness, and a large number of older Americans use reading glasses to treat age-related farsightedness.
This is really a bridge too far. Edward isn't denigrating other folks at the table for wearing glasses, or suggesting the nearsighted or astigmatic should simply suffer without aid. These aren't even corrective lenses, they're a tool, like a welder's mask or a jeweler's loupe.

If you wear glasses, then I suspect you understand how they become a part of one's identity. After 35 years of wearing glasses, I can't correct my vision perfectly with them anymore, as I have developed a medical condition in addition to my astigmatism that requires contacts. So I wear glasses without corrective lenses in addition to my contacts, because I don't recognize myself without them. Why should the opposite not be true for some people with naturally perfect vision?

Empathy has its limits. Understanding can be reached, say if there was some bullying and this guy is scared by it, but empathy over such things? Nah.
People have limits. Empathy does not.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
I absolutely do know what triggers this. People at his table are repeatedly enforcing a perception of his character that he does not enjoy! I'm in total agreement that his reaction is unacceptable and must be addressed, but it is a reaction, and I find the idea that he is acting in a vacuum bizarre, and as ignorant of the presented facts as you are suggesting I am.
He could end the unenjoyable perception about his character wearing glasses by not having his character wear glasses.
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
He could end the unenjoyable perception about his character wearing glasses by not having his character wear glasses.
His character doesn't.

Edward is very careful to not adventure or get in combat with the glasses. It does come up in role play though. He will keep the glasses on his character, so he can use them, but then gets upset if another player or myself mentions the glasses in-character.
I guess you could interpret this in some other way than, "Edward only uses the spectacles when absolutely necessary," but I don't.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
So Edward is an early 20 something, and I don't know him at all. His group came to me and asked for me to DM for them. I don't know him outside of the game, and don't have much of a way to "talk" to him. We are generations apart, so we don't hang out. And he does not wear glasses.
Are the rest of the group friends? Maybe someone in the group can mediate.

Also, just a point for clarity: the character doesn't need to wear glasses and the player thinks glasses make their character look stupid, but when a pair of magical glasses appeared in the treasure hoard, the player chose to take them but has a "don't look at me! I'm hideous!" reaction?

Also, it seems quite rude to the artist.
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
His character doesn't.
He uses them when they're not in a dangerous situation. That means he still wears glasses, at least some of the time. It's not unreasonable for an artist to draw the character with glasses on in my view. But it is unreasonable to me to get bent out of shape for mentioning said glasses. Throw them in the bin if you don't want that to happen! What's easier and more effective? Taking control of the problem yourself by binning them or demanding that everyone around you never mention The Glasses again?
 

I opened my post by saying how difficult it was to read the situation given only the one-sided information provided, but I disagree that there isn't a strong suggestion of bullying here. Why does this keep coming up, when it is so obviously triggering to one of the players? How hard is it to simply not refer to a single PC wearing glasses in the fiction? This is a well-marked path in a field full of land mines, and someone is choosing to step on mines.
This is simply nothing to support the bolded bit.

You're inserting a ton of fiction "between the lines" which absolutely isn't there. The only bullying I'm seeing is the guy throwing a tantrum (IN HIS TWENTIES!) because of choice he himself has made! The dude is "mad for hours", that's ridiculous behaviour. That itself is aggressive and rude.

Nobody is making his character wear glasses except him. And if he's doing that, and he wants it to stop, he needs to hand the glasses off to another PC (or throw them down a well or whatever), not keep wearing them and acting like it's outrageous when it's pointed out.

There's no room for "bullying" towards him between those lines. None. He's choosing to fill his garden with rakes, and then getting mad with people when he steps on them. If I were him, I would simply not fill my garden with rakes.
This situation looks ridiculous and like it stems from neurodivergence because it's about glasses. Would it still be ridiculous if the glasses were replaced by a more common trigger?
That he was voluntarily creating himself and could stop at literally any second?

Yes.

Your Hadozee comparison is obviously a poor one. You even know it is. This is a pair of glasses, not a species you're born into. It's kind of sad that you tried to compare the two.

A more common trigger might be, say, spiders. Except, instead of the DM needlessly describing how there are spiders everywhere all the time (which is a valid thing to say "Umm less of that please" or to X-card), this would be like the arachnophobic player having a PC with tarantula familiar, which he constantly had sitting on his shoulder, just to get a game advantage, who then got mad because people pointed this out or accidentally mentioned it. And hadn't even suggested re-skinning it.
It's simply a question of self-image, start to finish, and we consider some elements of self-image more sacred than others. Our characters are our characters, and it sucks to have their identities dictated to us. To me, and in the absence of more information, Occam's Razor suggests Edward is just a socially awkward guy at the end of his rope.
No.

Occam's Razor suggests he's an entitled white male (quite likely upper-middle-class, or the equivalent for his area) who is used to absolutely always having things his way, and knows that if things aren't perfect, he can just throw a strop until they are. I went to school a thousand clones of this guy (I went to very posh schools in the UK). Entitled white men who think it's everyone else's fault that things aren't perfect for them, even when they are the ones directly doing the thing they're mad about. Those people are often also somewhat socially awkward, because they're not used to people not immediately doing what they want. I've played D&D with people like this - people who were not neuro-diverse, but merely entitled, petulant, rude people, who blamed others for their own decisions (some were both of course!). And did some keep doing it into their twenties? Yes. But that was because they were individuals with very little empathy themselves.

Again he is choosing this by choosing to wear the glasses.

Let's be real re: our characters - first off, you need little bit of distance from your character - unless you're knee-deep in intense RP, there's no excuse for behaving like described (even then it's questionable). Second off, we've all received magic items we didn't want, which didn't fit with our character's vibe - at that point, we have a choice. Either open our minds and widen/change the PC's vibe, or hand off the item to another PC. I guarantee every long-time RPG player has done one or both.

If this guy is absolutely new to RPGs, maybe he needs it explained to him that the glasses are not soulbound, and they can be handed off to a new PC, but I'm getting the feeling (reading between the lines lol) that he isn't that new. If the other players assigned him the item, then this would be a bit different, but it sounds like the opposite is the case.
With respect, it isn't your place to tell me how I feel, and I'll thank you to not do so.
You literally criticised everyone for "not showing empathy"... that's telling us how we should feel, which is even worse as a social sin! So that seems strange.

And this guy is showing absolutely zero empathy or decency himself.
Why should the opposite not be true for some people with naturally perfect vision?
As someone who had 20-20 vision until his early 40s and now only needs glasses for reading (and only if I want to hold the book pretty close), I can tell you that, never for a second was I remotely upset by the idea of a PC of mine wearing glasses, and I know a fair few other people without glasses (including my wife), and likewise for them. If anything, I kind of found the idea endearing, because a lot of people I loved and liked did wear glasses. In fact that vast majority of people I care about do (I guess because most humans do - 64%, I just looked it up)

Maybe with your vaunted empathy, you can think about that a bit. Maybe process how that might work for someone who does wear glasses to see another person throwing a tantrum about glasses? My brother has kids who are starting to have to wear glasses, and he asked us to be very positive about glasses in front of them - and it does make a difference. Obviously these are adults in involved here, but if you're saying "none of their feelings will possibly be hurt!", that's pure arrogant projection from you. I know adults who are absolutely sensitive about having to wear their glasses and acting like glasses are a horrible fashion crime it's worth being mad about for hours is not kind to them.

Seriously, think about that.

His character doesn't.
Really sounds like he does, and we'll need the OP to clear this up.
I guess you could interpret this in some other way than, "Edward only uses the spectacles when absolutely necessary," but I don't.
I mean, that's actually not implied either way. There's no reading of that sentence which implies he only uses them when necessary. That's more of your "between the lines" action. The OP can clear it up. What is clear is that his PC is making huge use of these glasses, then the player is getting angry and petulant with others for noticing.

That means he still wears glasses, at least some of the time. It's not unreasonable for an artist to draw the character with glasses on in my view.
In fact it's downright normal.

Because when you draw someone's PC, you usually make sure and include any/all Kewl Magic Itemz that they possess (even ones often in the backpack or w/e - though I bet these are just pushed up on his forehead normally), and this dude has magic glasses. It would be less usual not to.
 
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Xamnam

Loves Your Favorite Game
The goal here is to resolve the conflict, and so, I'm going to assume not just good faith, but best faith from everyone involved. Unless there's a history of malice or taking advantage of kindness (and to a degree, even if), that's the path I've found to be most reliable. This has happened enough for you to notice the pattern, so it's worth fixing.

So, on Edward's front:
  • He has a significant issue that he can't get past with his character not matching his particular conception of them in this regard.
  • He does enjoy/get use out of the particular power this magic item grants.
On the artist's front:
  • They were being kind, and creating a gift for their party members. (the sort I personally would be over the moon to receive)
  • They were trying to depict the character as described, and to Ruin Explorer's point, was probably just trying to show off the cool, unique item of this character.
And on the group's front
  • They're not trying to upset Edward, just being accurate in their description, or bringing it up as necessary.
I'll admit, I find the last one a bit harder to square than the first two. If this had been an issue before, to the point of "upset for hours, disrupting the game play" I know I would avoid mentioning it even remotely, both as a kindness to Edward, and to avoid negatively impacting the session. I'm curious if it's that people are specifically mentioning the glasses, or just asking Edward to detect magic. It doesn't seem like the latter would be an issue, given that "He likes to detect magic a lot."

Regardless, my first step would be to talk to him, privately, preferably in person. Maybe ask him to show up early to the next session. I would ask him, if he felt comfortable with it, to explain what frustrates him about the glasses, or being described/depicted with them. Assuming that it is the issue of glasses specifically, I would ask if replacing it with a different style of magical item that is mechanically identical (a magnifying glass, a spyglass, a rune on their hand, a compass, whatever) would resolve the issue. If so, I'd have no issue doing that, and retroactively declare that is what it always was.

My optimistic guess is that that is indeed how the conversation would go, and it would keep this from being an issue going forward. In that light, I would encourage Edward to apologize to the group, and especially the artist.

If the above approach didn't solve it, if Edward had an issue with ret-conning or the item conveniently changing at his whim, I would then ask him what he would desire going forward to avoid this happening again, and really wait until he's found a satisfying, non-arduous solution. My guess here is that he wants no one mention the character's glasses, which, ultimately, seems like a pretty small ask. If it is this important to him, I would sincerely hope the rest of the players would respect the request, and not actively bring attention to something they know bothers their tablemate. I would take lead on letting everyone else know that this is now the rule for this table. I would again encourage him in our personal conversation to offer a sincere apology after that, alongside of an acknowledgement that someone might slip up, and that he would try and not take it personally, given that everyone agrees this is how the table is moving forward with it.

Given that it has been a noticeable issue, I don't think it can get away without saying something about it, but I also don't think it needs to be a big production. Just a simple acknowledgement of what will change going forward, because everyone's goal here is to have fun, so a needless hurdle to that is being removed, and people taking ownership and responsibility for the impact that this has had.
 
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DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
You literally criticised everyone for "not showing empathy"... that's telling us how we should feel, which is even worse as a social sin! So that seems strange.
I rhetorically suggested one individual was not showing empathy. As for the idea that calling out unempathetic behavior is a social sin: strongest possible disagreement.

This is simply nothing to support the bolded bit.
The idea that I'm inserting more of my own bias than you are of yours into this information-free zone is simply laughable. I suggest we cease badgering each other about it, as I'm sure we both have better things to do with our time. We've made our cases, it's up to the OP to resolve without further help or clarify the situation.
 

As for the idea that calling out unempathetic behavior is a social sin: strongest possible disagreement.
Maybe in a better world it shouldn't be, but US, British, and every society I know well enough to comment on, it is, at least to some extent.

It's true that there are subcultures where it isn't, but unfortunately in many of those it just ends up as a convenient form of victim-blaming, where they have insufficient empathy for the person who is behaving poorly, even when their behaviour is pretty outrageous (and I'd say "mad for hours" is in that category.

I will say the most dangerous group of people is those who actively prize lacking empathy and suggest that it is a desirable trait or makes one "less biased" (no, it merely makes on more monstrous and amoral).
The idea that I'm inserting more of my own bias than you are of yours into this information-free zone is simply laughable.
I dunno man, seems like the situation is pretty Principal Skinner to me.
We've made our cases, it's up to the OP to resolve without further help or clarify the situation.
Yup. Need more info.
 
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