Consent in Gaming - Free Guidebook

Status
Not open for further replies.

jgsugden

Adventurer

Sean Reynolds and Shanna Germain have a free book on Monte Cook's site that is worth a look. It is a worthwhile read, whether you're in the camp that thinks it is going overboard or the camp that thinks that tools like this are desperately needed.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
You have to give your contact info including e-mail to set up an account to download this, so I expect I'll be clicking on unsubscribe links in the footer of a mass e-mail from Monte Cook Games in the near future, but I do appreciate that they are making this available to the gaming community for free.

The 13 page booklet is about what I expected, general rules to raise awareness and encourage an etiquette of sensitivity at the gaming table. I feel it is much more appropriate for public games at conventions and game stores where most of the participants are strangers to one another. Even then, I find some of the exhortations will be difficult for many DM to implement and perhaps hard to accept by some players.

For example, "The default answer is 'no'." In this section the authors state that consent should start with opting in to things you want to try in the game. Yet, it immediately goes on to contradict itself by stating that "its inevitable that sometimes it also involves opting out of things you want to avoid."

To me this is the crux of the problem. TTRPGs are very open ended and it is very difficult to scope out everything that may come up in the game. Saying that the default is "no" is rather pointless. Better to simply state that the before the gaming starts that it is a good idea to clearly explain the tone of the game and kinds of things that may be encountered and what is and is not acceptable for the session. But if something comes up that was not anticipated, which a player was not expecting and is upsetting, there should be ways to address this. I would have appreciated seeing more tips on how this can best be addressed.

Unfortunately, the answer to how to address this is that each player has a veto. "It doesn't matter why consent wasn't given". "There may not be a reason why they're not consenting." "It's not up for debate." "They can always change their mind about what they are or aren't consenting to."

While in most cases an empathetic DM and other players can and will try to be accommodating, strict adherence to rules like seem vulnerable to abuse. The only rule that I can't get 100% on board with is:

"Anyone is allowed to leave an uncomfortable situation at any time."

Obviously nobody should be pressured to keep playing in an uncomfortable situation, but if a group is enjoying a game and are within the agreed-upon scope of content, maybe the one person who is not comfortable needs to step away from that scene or maybe it just isn't the game for them.

I do like the checklist at the end of the booklet which would be helpful for a new group to indicate any plot or story elements they may not be comfortable with. But unlike the suggestions in the rest of the booklet, this tool seems best used with a group of players at the start of a new campaign who will be playing together regularly. I can't see how this would be used with most convention games where the content is already preset.

I appreciate awareness and sensitivity training. But these black and white rules seem impractical. If I had to accept the rules posited in this book, I'm not sure how I would ever run a public game again.
 
Someone also came up with the great idea of using this list in interest posts! Include this list with your game, checking off what it will or will not include, and that'll let potential players know if your game is for them.
 

DWChancellor

Kobold Enthusiast
I've been in odd uncomfortable situations at the table enough times to know I want to see someone else's perspective. Looking forward to reading this.

Dunno how useful it will be but a good DM is always panning for gold! I could swear there was an essay on this in one of Kobold Press' guide books too.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
I'm in my 40s, and I've played a lot of stuff that could be deemed "mature" content. Now granted, that was mostly when I was a teenaged edge-lord, but I didn't give a lot of thought about comfort level.
I have a transgender player at my table. I don't think about her as a different player. But while we were playing a dungeon that had that classic curse trap of gender swapping, I took pause. I didn't want to make it a joke. I came up with a different cosmetic change trap.
But I never thought there would be something that would offend me. I'm pretty lax and have a bawdy sense of humor.
Then I played a con game revolving around investigating a cult that kidnapped pregnant women for the sole purpose of killing them and letting their fetuses die in womb. I was sitting next to my best friend, whose wife just had a miscarriage. It was awkward, insensitive (especially for the GM to continue after we asked him to stop), and it cast a dark tone over the rest of the con.
So yeah, a year ago I might've laughed over the idea of this kind of book. Now, I can see its purpose.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Seems weird such a book gets written and then you hear the horror stories.

Common sense rarest element in the universe.

I've basically run a closed game for 25 years this year is the first I've started gaming with relative strangers so never really experienced the nasty gamers.
 
Last edited:

S'mon

Legend

Sean Reynolds and Shanna Germain have a free book on Monte Cook's site that is worth a look. It is a worthwhile read, whether you're in the camp that thinks it is going overboard or the camp that thinks that tools like this are desperately needed.
I thought it had some good advice, some over-stated. First 4 pages good. But the quotes from 'Your Best Game Ever' not so much. Few RPG sessions are analogous to a BDSM session. And it ignored the nature of RPGs as a group activity - this is not a Dom/sub relationship. Each person has an obligation to the group to behave decently. This may mean not introducing unpleasant material. It may mean gracefully recusing yourself from a game the rest of the group are enjoying, if it's not for you. Social situations always require some degree of tact, sensitivity, and an attempt at mutual understanding.

Hopefully that won't get me red-texted as an 'Alt-Right Edgelord'.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I used to be a Caver, NSS subscription and bat decal on the back of my car and all. One of the rules in a cave that is a very good rule is that if anyone in the party feels the need to leave the cave, then everyone leaves the cave. It's a good rule because caves are super dangerous places and someone is feeling uncomfortable, it's just better to leave the cave than to risk the lives of everyone in the party. And honestly, caves are serious business and this will happen to you at some point. Everyone will get claustrophobia in a cave at some point. Everyone will get in a situation where it's not good at some point, and you've got an injury, or an equipment failure, or your fighting hypothermia, or you are too fatigued to think straight, and now is the time to be done and everyone goes out together 'cause you don't split the party. (Just like in the Dungeon.)

But I'm not sure that this is a useful perspective on a game. If a game is as dangerous as a cave, perhaps the game shouldn't be that dangerous. Or if you are acting like the game is as dangerous as a cave, why are you in it? Or if you are assessing a game to be as dangerous as a cave, is that even remotely rational?

Like I get people can get out of line. I get that there are jerks, and that what constitutes being a jerk and how much jerkiness one can tolerate can be very subjective. But I also get that there isn't a victim card that you get to play all the time and whoever plays it first or the hardest has the moral authority. Could be that is in itself a jerk move.

I mean sure, everyone that caves knows what it feels to be fatigued and suddenly the dark which you've dealt with for 200 hours, and the fact that you are three miles back in water up to your chin is something you aren't comfortable with any more. Been there, totally have my empathy with that and many similar situations. But if that happened to you on every trip, especially after you were told what you were getting into, probably we'd just stop asking you on the trip, and we wouldn't feel like jerks for doing it.

And heck, cavers are an elitist bunch. Far more elitist than gamers have any right to be because cavers unlike gamers have really good reasons for their elitism and insularity. If in fact these games are comparable to caves and caving rules apply, maybe we ought to accept that there needs to be gatekeepers. I don't accept that there needs to be, precisely because I don't think of a game as being much like a cave.

It's hard for me to look at absolute guidelines about complex human social interaction and think that they are in any way workable. Surely anyone that has ran an RPG is aware how hard it is to write rules that cover all the situations that can come up? So why would anyone decide that the even more complex thing that is life is amendable to absolute rules?

And honestly, I think I'd go from a lot of sympathy to not giving any in a hurry if someone pulled out a book like this and said, "But these are the rules. It's not up for debate."

That said, I do think that conventions need to do a better job of setting guidelines for how tables are ran, how tables are advertised, and how violations of those guidelines are handled. And I would think it a mature thing for there to be some sort of standards that conventions could agree to and adopt. Unfortunately, from what I can tell of reviews of this product, no useful and practical advice is provided on how to do that.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
In the example with your friend. If the entire adventure revolved around this cult, should the DM have changed it on the fly? I don't know the adventure in question or how that particular gruesome practice of the cultists may have played in the story. Perhaps the DM could have just changed it to they are capturing women. Perhaps your friend would have been fine with just that they were capturing pregnant women but not with having the rituals described in gory detail. I think that an adventure like this should come with some warnings in the registration text.

I truly believe that DMs and other players should be sensitive, empathetic, and accommodating. But can you draw a line? At some point, can the group simply say, sorry, but this is what we all game to enjoy. Sorry it bothers you, but nobody is forcing you to play. The issue I have with books like this is that it makes black and white rules that entirely support the person with the objection.

I'm in my 40s, and I've played a lot of stuff that could be deemed "mature" content. Now granted, that was mostly when I was a teenaged edge-lord, but I didn't give a lot of thought about comfort level.
I have a transgender player at my table. I don't think about her as a different player. But while we were playing a dungeon that had that classic curse trap of gender swapping, I took pause. I didn't want to make it a joke. I came up with a different cosmetic change trap.
But I never thought there would be something that would offend me. I'm pretty lax and have a bawdy sense of humor.
Then I played a con game revolving around investigating a cult that kidnapped pregnant women for the sole purpose of killing them and letting their fetuses die in womb. I was sitting next to my best friend, whose wife just had a miscarriage. It was awkward, insensitive (especially for the GM to continue after we asked him to stop), and it cast a dark tone over the rest of the con.
So yeah, a year ago I might've laughed over the idea of this kind of book. Now, I can see its purpose.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
From time to time, when I don’t enjoy the type of activity I’m doing or the content I’m consuming, I stop doing that activity or consuming that content.

I change the channel. I put the book down. I leave the movie theatre. I excuse myself from the party or the conversation or whatever.

Consent and voluntaryism are vital. Therefore, as a person who is responsible for himself, I have agency and exercise it. When I am no longer willing to volunteer or to consent, then my involvement is over and it’s time for me to go.

I sincerely hope some document like this (or, preferably, some conversation between consenting parties) serves to establish a working agreement that empowers the participants. And where that agreement is violated, by whomever and for whatever reason, I sincerely hope participants remember their agency, and excuse themselves.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
In the example with your friend. If the entire adventure revolved around this cult, should the DM have changed it on the fly? I don't know the adventure in question or how that particular gruesome practice of the cultists may have played in the story. Perhaps the DM could have just changed it to they are capturing women. Perhaps your friend would have been fine with just that they were capturing pregnant women but not with having the rituals described in gory detail. I think that an adventure like this should come with some warnings in the registration text.

I truly believe that DMs and other players should be sensitive, empathetic, and accommodating. But can you draw a line? At some point, can the group simply say, sorry, but this is what we all game to enjoy. Sorry it bothers you, but nobody is forcing you to play. The issue I have with books like this is that it makes black and white rules that entirely support the person with the objection.
The key, I think, with this book perhaps but others is YES a group can choose to use a given content and a player could choose to not be involved but those decisions should be made well before play into that content.

These choices cannot be made pre-conflict without communication and that us what these tools provide - a guideline for working out these things before they occur and to deal smoothly with them if we reach one unexpected in play.

As a GM, when I run games at FLGS I restrict my content to whatever would be ok for young teens to overhear. So, no, no fetus-womb cults or really any sexual content, likely no drug use either.

As a GM, running in my own home with players I know, different standards. Sometimes "what this game will feature" does mean I dont invite some people.

But that is not restricted to sensitive content. I once told a player I would not include him in the next campaign (Srargate SG-1) because that setting featured "captured PC" content and he hated those. He joined us the next time we shifted.

The group list for when I ran VtM and DnD were different.

I think n my experience any group with long legs has to get to know that different subsets playing fdifferent things is normal and manageable so that it's not " pressure to play" or "excluding" but more like a buffet - you pick what tog content you want to consume.
 

Retreater

Adventurer
In the example with your friend. If the entire adventure revolved around this cult, should the DM have changed it on the fly? I don't know the adventure in question or how that particular gruesome practice of the cultists may have played in the story. Perhaps the DM could have just changed it to they are capturing women. Perhaps your friend would have been fine with just that they were capturing pregnant women but not with having the rituals described in gory detail. I think that an adventure like this should come with some warnings in the registration text.

I truly believe that DMs and other players should be sensitive, empathetic, and accommodating. But can you draw a line? At some point, can the group simply say, sorry, but this is what we all game to enjoy. Sorry it bothers you, but nobody is forcing you to play. The issue I have with books like this is that it makes black and white rules that entirely support the person with the objection.
Yes. There was no warning of the content, and the event was listed as appropriate for 13+ and with a system and setting not known for this kind of stuff (Star Wars). I mean, we could've just left the game and probably should have.
 

Bawylie

A very OK person
Which has an R rating and the baby survives.
Yeah, my point was there’s a way to do it that doesn’t have to catch side-eye.

Ps - I’m not saying that anyone can or should look for ways to get around agreements or limits. I am saying that execution can and does matter.
 

Nagol

Unimportant
I don't think I've ever run a pregnant women baby sacrifice cult.

I would look at a DM wanting to run that a little bit sideways.
I did something like it once. It was an Aftermath game loosely based on the comic adaptation of the War of the Worlds. The players were sold the campaign idea of PCs working toward the overthrow of the aliens.

An early session had the PCs working for an alien overlord and being sent on a collection/retrieval mission to collect culinary delicacies. I fully expected the PCs to see the targets and rebel. I didn't expect them to dutifully complete the mission. I casually asked what they were thinking in an after session debrief and found the players were afraid of the alien master, hesitant to start something without a plan, and hadn't found a good base for further operations yet.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Advertisement

Top