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D&D 5E Content Warning Labels? Yeah or Nay?

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
The current project I'm working on is a folklore book based on original folklore (creatures will be depicted as how they were in original mythology rather than in modern RPGs and media). There's a lot of great stuff from those stories, but because they are often very dark, and in time that was....not very progressive, many of the creatures have a lore that includes things like ableism, sexism, assault, violation of consent, abduction, torture, and child abuse.

For those creatures, I have a "CONTENT WARNING" label next to the creature name, and in the Introduction section, I have this part:

Author's Note: Because the purpose of this book is to capture the original stories and portrayals of the creatures of folklore, there may be issues that are considered problematic by modern standards. Most of these myths and fables were created in a time or culture where issues such as misogyny, ethnic stereotyping, and ableism were part of the story, whether directly or indirectly. This book does not endorse any of these beliefs, and it is encouraged that any aspect you may find problematic for your game be modified or ignored. There are a lot of potential great stories to be told using original myths, but we must also be willing to acknowledge problematic aspects of those stories. Take what you want from this book, and ignore the rest.
Many of the core themes about fairies resonate in nearly every culture and may be triggering. These themes focus heavily on abduction, violating consent, sexual assault, child abuse, and mild torture. I feel it is my responsibility to call out references to these themes and have them labeled. This will be in the creature entry as “CONTENT WARNING” next to the creature’s name. Whenever possible, we have tried to tone down the references to those themes. Make no mistake, because they exist in folklore (and thus in this book), they are not to be celebrated, but viewed with caution. The inclusion of the “CONTENT WARNING” is to alert you ahead of time, so you can skip past them if you choose.


So my question to the community is, is something like that worth it? Is it off-putting? Not needed? Do you appreciate it, or would it turn you away?
 

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Scribe

Hero
I would have no issue with it being at the start of the book in an intro. I wouldnt want it on every creature that may have issue.

I grew up on those old tales, and its almost bizarre to look at some of them now in hindsight, but having it on every stat block or whatever would just take me out of the book and make me pass on it.
 

the problem is (and every industry is wrestling with this) most won't care one way or another, a vocal minority will scream that if you put it there you are giving into a different vocal minority (to have it or not have it). So if I were you I would go with your own gut.

Do you think the warning is needed or not, because either way there WILL be blow back.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I would have no issue with it being at the start of the book in an intro. I wouldnt want it on every creature that may have issue.

I grew up on those old tales, and its almost bizarre to look at some of them now in hindsight, but having it on every stat block or whatever would just take me out of the book and make me pass on it.
Maybe have the paragraph in the beginning, but instead of "CONTENT WARNING" next to the name, there is a simple icon instead. That way it's less intrusive on every page, but still gets the point across.
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
I think the Author's Note is fine, and certainly in line with how countless other publications do it.
On the other hand, seeing a label on each creature would be very off-putting, and not really necessary given the introduction. Honestly, it feels pretty micro-manage-y to me, like "Yes, yes, you already told me, now let me make up my own mind about the specifics."
 


loverdrive

Makin' cool stuff (She/Her)
It's better to have'em than not, I think. Like whole "we don't endorse that" crap before every monster is pointless, but short TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault is a good idea.

Just author's note is kind of useless, no one's gonna read it, like they don't read EULAs.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
For example, here is what would appear for the Myling (ignore the formatting). It's...pretty grim and can be quite triggering for survivors of child abuse.

Myling CR 4 (CONTENT WARNING)
The lore behind the myling is exceptionally dark. These are ghosts and spirits of unwanted children killed by their parents and not having received proper burial. In certain regions throughout history, parents have committed infanticide for a number of reasons, not all of them necessarily rooted in evil. While many of them certainly were for evil reasons, oftentimes the parents were desperate with no other options before them, and had to make a choice to kill their own children, or to have the entire family starve. Or the mother was forced to kill the child by someone in a position of power. It sounds horrific today, and certainly is, but in some areas during certain parts of history, there were no alternatives or preventive measures available to mothers.

Mylings appear as ghostly images of children in great anguish, ranging in age from toddlers to preteens.



Lore & Rumors

10 A ghost of a child is a myling, a poor creature who was killed by their mother, wailing at night until it can be put to rest.

15 The myling will attempt to possess a person, driving them to find their bones and perform the burial.

20 if you refuse the plight of a myling, it will attack you in a rage.



Behavior

Because they are ghosts, the mylings do not have a complete recollection or memory of their past life. They only know one thing: betrayal and grief. They are desperate to have their bones buried appropriately, and will attempt to possess any creature that it comes across to accomplish this. Those creatures who are able to avoid the possession of a myling will be met with the furious wrath of the spirit.

During the night, mylings will wail loudly in despair near the area where it was killed. If a myling is put to rest, it will fade away in peace.



Quirks

Mylings can communicate, but in a childlike manner with limited grammar and appropriate vocabulary of the age of child they were when they died.



Habitat

Most mylings inhabit populated areas, usually places where the murder and disposal of a body of a child would largely go unnoticed, such as depressed slums, dark woods, or cemeteries.



Incorporation

  • The PCs encounter a myling or group of mylings in the slums of a city, attempting to possess them.
  • An NPC is possessed by a myling, and after the bones are buried, the PCs discover the myling’s murderer is a well off or influential personality who has been kidnapping children to replace the one she murdered that became the myling.
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Author's Note: Because the purpose of this book is to capture the original stories and portrayals of the creatures of folklore, there may be issues that are considered problematic by modern standards. Most of these myths and fables were created in a time or culture where issues such as misogyny, ethnic stereotyping, and ableism were part of the story, whether directly or indirectly. This book does not endorse any of these beliefs, and it is encouraged that any aspect you may find problematic for your game be modified or ignored. There are a lot of potential great stories to be told using original myths, but we must also be willing to acknowledge problematic aspects of those stories. Take what you want from this book, and ignore the rest.
Many of the core themes about fairies resonate in nearly every culture and may be triggering. These themes focus heavily on abduction, violating consent, sexual assault, child abuse, and mild torture. I feel it is my responsibility to call out references to these themes and have them labeled. This will be in the creature entry as “CONTENT WARNING” next to the creature’s name. Whenever possible, we have tried to tone down the references to those themes. Make no mistake, because they exist in folklore (and thus in this book), they are not to be celebrated, but viewed with caution. The inclusion of the “CONTENT WARNING” is to alert you ahead of time, so you can skip past them if you choose.


So my question to the community is, is something like that worth it? Is it off-putting? Not needed? Do you appreciate it, or would it turn you away?
Were it me I'd drop off the bolded part, replace it with a simple "Reader discretion is advised", and leave it at that. Flagging every occurrence within the work is overkill IMO.
 

payn

Legend
I think the Author's Note is fine, and certainly in line with how countless other publications do it.
On the other hand, seeing a label on each creature would be very off-putting, and not really necessary given the introduction. Honestly, it feels pretty micro-manage-y to me, like "Yes, yes, you already told me, now let me make up my own mind about the specifics."
Thats a good point. If you have say 30 entries and 3-5 of them need warnings its one thing. If you have 30 entries and 20+ pf them need warnings than the entire book should have a single warning in large print in the beginning.
 




J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Yeah, the icon seems a good compromise: get the warning across without distracting from the content itself.
The main issue might be making it easy to look up what that icon means. It would be in the Author's Note, I assume; but maybe if the Author's Note was instead titled "About the # Icon" and appeared prominently on the TOC, that would make it easy to find in the book.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
I second the idea to remove the last part of the warning and the individual labels later. I know OP wants to be thorough, but by going on a case by case, they are bound to not notice something or fail to label everything. (And then it can be misconstrued as a malicious omission "oh so you think THIS is fine?") Just a general warning applying to the work as a whole would be better.

And, well, you never know what is triggering for people. I got very triggered by "El dia de los dinosaurios muertos" and so was LuisCarlos17f by Ixalan. You'll never know how thorough you gotta get.
 


I think a content warning/author note at the beginning would be appreciated. Mostly because I can't always tell if someone who is presenting problematic material is actually endorsing it, so just being clear up front would be good. You could also discuss ways for readers to engage productively with problematic material at the table. The Uncaged series of adventures is an attempt to think about and invert some of the assumptions of fantasy/folklore material.
 


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