How to avoid RPG dumpster fires like the Far Verona controversy

Celebrim

Legend
The OP uses a rape scene in a game as a case study and you'll note that I already agreed it's not something I'd ever include in my game. But there's a difference in philosphy as I wouldn't use it because I find it crass and distasteful not because I'm afraid of triggering someone.

I don't deny that it might be possible to "trigger" someone at some point. But then again, I don't disagree that the real and more serious problem is that it was crass and distasteful. And so far as I can tell, no one was actually "triggered" by this incident - they found it crass and distasteful.

But you got to understand, that a community that has argued for decades that nothing is crass, or distasteful, or immoral, and that all morality is subjective, has to come about rediscovering taste and morality as objective absolutes the long way around. They can't come at the issue head on, because that would mean admitting that the had it wrong in the first place. So, they reinvent "right" and the notion of a way people ought to behave, without appealing to old-fashioned obsolete "patriarchal values" like morality, decency or taste. And, so far as that goes, my response is, well it's about time. So don't be too hard on them. Baby steps and all. "Triggering" represents at least some notion of concrete right and wrong and why. They are starting to fundamentally understand the notion of harm. Maybe one of these days they'll eventually realize even consent is a really really low bar.

Now, are they likely now to implement something like a "comic book code" to protect public morality in the name of what used to be called decency and now gets developed from this low bar idea of protecting people from being "triggered"? Maybe. Beyond the irony, so what? God love 'em, they are moving in the right direction whether they know it or not. So let it go. It's not worth fighting over.
 

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Guest 6801328

Guest
*Pretty much all women in the US live with at least the specter of sexual assault hanging over them, and a great many of them with the reality. So that's why that one should definitely be on the "heavy" list, by default.

A big part of the problem is that there is a significant population of guys who read the above and roll their eyes.
 

G

Guest 6801328

Guest
I don't deny that it might be possible to "trigger" someone at some point. But then again, I don't disagree that the real and more serious problem is that it was crass and distasteful. And so far as I can tell, no one was actually "triggered" by this incident - they found it crass and distasteful.

But you got to understand, that a community that has argued for decades that nothing is crass, or distasteful, or immoral, and that all morality is subjective, has to come about rediscovering taste and morality as objective absolutes the long way around. They can't come at the issue head on, because that would mean admitting that the had it wrong in the first place. So, they reinvent "right" and the notion of a way people ought to behave, without appealing to old-fashioned obsolete "patriarchal values" like morality, decency or taste. And, so far as that goes, my response is, well it's about time. So don't be too hard on them. Baby steps and all. "Triggering" represents at least some notion of concrete right and wrong and why. They are starting to fundamentally understand the notion of harm. Maybe one of these days they'll eventually realize even consent is a really really low bar.

Now, are they likely now to implement something like a "comic book code" to protect public morality in the name of what used to be called decency and now gets developed from this low bar idea of protecting people from being "triggered"? Maybe. Beyond the irony, so what? God love 'em, they are moving in the right direction whether they know it or not. So let it go. It's not worth fighting over.

If you dislike the work "triggered" so much, is there another way you would like to describe what happens when somebody who has suffered trauma (and maybe kept it bottled up inside for years because society doesn't seem to care, or believe them) encounters something that causes them to relive that experience?
 

Celebrim

Legend
If you dislike the work "triggered" so much, is there another way you would like to describe what happens when somebody who has suffered trauma (and maybe kept it bottled up inside for years because society doesn't seem to care, or believe them) encounters something that causes them to relive that experience?

I really have no desire to fight, but I think the whole "triggered" argument is mostly a strawman. Mostly, because sure, it does actually happen that some one has some sort of PTSD and can in fact be triggered in the clinical sense, but that mostly that word is appropriated to describe a wide range of much milder emotions with varying levels of discomfort and which even when great don't involve something that involves a clinical or medical condition. As such, use of the term is a sort of appropriation that ultimately detracts from the understanding of the real suffering of a very small percentage of people, while at the same time serving as a way to claim moral high ground on the issue in a lovely, "Shut up! How dare you!" sort of way.

And, as evidence of that, I'd like to point out that so far as I can tell no real triggering was involved in this controversy and it's dominance of the conversation while complete ignoring what actually happened here is well par for the course. And heck, "triggered" has become such a part of the vernacular now that it is used to refer to all sorts of things.

The players at the table found the whole situation awkward, distasteful, and unpleasant to the extent that GM lost, rightly I think, all the trust he had from his players. What he did was in a word, "creepy". That in itself is sufficient grounds to suggest it was wrong. There are lots of other ways in which I find it wrong, that I won't go into here. But what I didn't notice going on was anyone being "triggered".

If feel "triggered" has become the sort of thing that shows up for the same reason Godwin's Law has such predictive power. If it's the only thing in your toolbox for describing harm, then that's what you reach for. It doesn't actually reflect what is really going on 99.99% of the time. And for all those cases where harm happened but it wasn't a "triggering" event, it rather misses the point.

Deliberately sometimes.
 

Hussar

Legend
The OP uses a rape scene in a game as a case study and you'll note that I already agreed it's not something I'd ever include in my game. But there's a difference in philosphy as I wouldn't use it because I find it crass and distasteful not because I'm afraid of triggering someone. If you read the entire OP, and you'll have to expand the text scroll down to do so, you'll see the post is about more than just that one game scene as we are advised against the inclusion of any "heavy" subject without player consent. Heavy subjects including common phobias, any sexual content, any ism, and extreme violence.

Let's say I include a Wizard in my campaign who is more goth than Siouxsie Sioux in the Paris catcaoms at midnight on All Hallow's Eve and his magic missile are actually bolts of blood. Hemophobia, the fear of blood, is a common phobia which is a heavy subject according to the OP. If the DM makes a unilateral decision to use such a villain in his game he's abusing his power according to the OP. The OP's point about consent in gaming is predicated on the idea that it is an inherently dangerous activity one which I vehemently disagree with.



The example used was backyard American football. I don't know where you're from, but in the United States this is typically going to involve neighborhood kids and there is unlikely to be any pads, helmets, or even a referee. It's like a pickup game of basketball or baseball. The NFL's long history of covering up and minimizing brain damage has nothing to do with backyard football.

If you ever find that your imaginary elf is more important to you than the feelings of anyone at your table, then, well, you're someone I don't want in my hobby. Full stop.

Never minding @Celebrim's petty passive aggressive semantic wank over a single word as if using that single word invalidates the entire argument. Sorry, but, your pretend elf is NEVER more important than a real live person. It's this attitude, like we're seeing here with "it's not inherently dangerous" that has meant that our hobby has crippled itself with decades of bigotry, racism, and colonialism hard wired right into the very fabric of the hobby, to the point where so many people don't even see it for what it is.

"Oh, but, what about those poor DM's who are having their free speech rolled over?" goes the cry.

Too bad should be the answer. Your imaginary friends are NOT more important than real people. Ever.
 

MGibster

Legend
If you ever find that your imaginary elf is more important to you than the feelings of anyone at your table, then, well, you're someone I don't want in my hobby. Full stop.

I've never had a game that was more important than the people participating in it. It's why I ask my players what they want to play and to let me know if there's any subject or actions they don't want to be part of the campaign. The fact that I disagree with some aspects of the OP doesn't mean I don't care about other people.

It's this attitude, like we're seeing here with "it's not inherently dangerous" that has meant that our hobby has crippled itself with decades of bigotry, racism, and colonialism hard wired right into the very fabric of the hobby, to the point where so many people don't even see it for what it is.

Our hobby isn't crippled.

"Oh, but, what about those poor DM's who are having their free speech rolled over?" goes the cry.

Did someone bring up a free speech argument before you? Because I know I didn't.

Too bad should be the answer. Your imaginary friends are NOT more important than real people. Ever.

I agree and I do my best to be considerate of the feelings of others.
 

Longspeak

Explorer
...I think the whole "triggered" argument is mostly a strawman. Mostly, because sure, it does actually happen that some one has some sort of PTSD and can in fact be triggered in the clinical sense, but that mostly that word is appropriated to describe a wide range of much milder emotions with varying levels of discomfort and which even when great don't involve something that involves a clinical or medical condition.

Arguing over what counts as a trigger is the true strawman here. Saying the behavior didn't count as triggering distracts from the behavior itself. Further, you or I don't get to decide whether anyone in that game was triggered, or to what extent. There's not always visible signs. So any potential trigger needs to be treated with due caution.

Now, I agree with you that many times the word "trigger" or "triggering" is used when it would have been more accurate to say "potential trigger" or "possibly triggering." And I agree that many people use the word to mean "offended" or "annoyed." But that level of splitting hairs is its own stawman.

The issue was and is, the GM should have known better (and IMO DID know better and did it anyway), and when it was clear he'd erred, should have taken steps to correct it. Unless there is new information, he didn't. The thing I saw sounded more like he was sorry I'm too cutting edge for all you people to get what I was trying to do.

Finally, even if no-one is triggered by certain behavior, any potential trigger should be treated with care. A responsible person takes reasonable steps to avoid ("reasonable" possibly sliding with the commonality of the possible trigger; sexual violence is a lot more likely to trigger someone than, say, bees) triggering people, and will take appropriate action when they do inadvertently trigger someone.

The GM in that game did not do these things. In the immortal words of Jane Austen: "Badly done, Adam. Badly done."
 


I just consider myself lucky. In over 40 years of gaming I've never had such an occurrence. I've never seen or participated or presented a sexual assault scene. I know it happens, I've just never played with anyone ignorant? / stupid? / twisted? / deranged? enough to think such would be acceptable without fully informed prior consent. And I'm friends with some pretty twisted folks.
 

I just consider myself lucky. In over 40 years of gaming I've never had such an occurrence. I've never seen or participated or presented a sexual assault scene. I know it happens, I've just never played with anyone ignorant? / stupid? / twisted? / deranged? enough to think such would be acceptable without fully informed prior consent. And I'm friends with some pretty twisted folks.

I used to think most RPG horror stories were fake, because there's no way people would behave that way in front of people, right? Some would have to be true-ish, but they can't be that bad. But then it happened to me when I was playing a female character, a year into a campaign, and even though I said outside of the game, "Hey dawg, I'm not down with anything that's going on here," the DM just kind of laughed me off. And it's strange. The most strange. It's completely disarming to be ignored in a situation like that, and it felt like the social tools I had at hand weren't enough, and I couldn't think of any solution except escalating the situation into an argument — which I didn't do.

Unrelated, but.. A few months later I brought a female character to a one-shot, and I was last in the order of people describing and introducing their characters. When the first guy described his character as womanizer who would sleep with anyone, I changed the gender of my character last-minute. And then I realised that heaps of women in real life don't have that option and are forced to navigate social mindfields layed by entitled creeps. It was a real valuable experience.
 
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Hussar

Legend
While he may have phrased it more nicely than I would, mostly because I've watched @Celebrim turn, or try to turn, every single one of these discussions into nonsensical semantic hair splitting, @Matthew Perkins has the exact right of it.

Treat everyone with respect and all these problems go away. Frankly, @MGibster , you have said that you take your player's views into consideration. Fantastic. Then there's no problem. Why then go on and talk about how it's not "inherently dangerous" or whatever?
 
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Good video, sensative subject.

I run a campaign with my players that includes some adult content. During our session 0, I made absolutely sure that the bounderies were clear to my players, and that they were comfortable with those bounderies. It is very important to me to never break the trust that they have in me.

I defined the bounderies of the campaign content as such:

-Yes, there is sex. No, we don't play it out. We fade to black.
-Yes, there is violence. But no, we don't go into gross details.
-Yes, there is torture and slavery. But again, we don't go into details, and I don't subject the pc's to any of this.
-And finally, no sexual assault of any kind.

So when one of my players (who is trying to become a saint) decided to have his character have sex with a nun, I described in a humorous way how that night the nun yelled out the names of many saints, including his. And then we move on to the next morning. We all have a big laugh. We can all fill in the blanks. But no need to get into uncomfortable details. Keeping things light-hearted, and humorous, is most important I feel for keeping our D&D sessions a fun hobby. Nothing ever happens without player consent, and we never go over those bounderies that I mentioned earlier.
 

Darth Solo

Explorer
Do not accuse folks of making stuff up without evidence.
Eh.

Fine publicity-stunt, mostly.

A (co) game-designer (Koebel), Europe's most popular D&D streaming GM (hulmes), director of creative commons@twitch (djwheat), a Geek & Sundry & Twitch partner (vana), and a voice actress (elspeth).

Sure.

Get everyone talking about the episode. Hype-train jumps to MACH 2. All the RPG forum talking heads are clutching their pearls and shaking fists at the monitor.

Adam's not any thing close to an idiot who burns money. This was planned and probably coordinated by the group.

Clever.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Eh.

Fine publicity-stunt, mostly.

A (co) game-designer (Koebel), Europe's most popular D&D streaming GM (hulmes), director of creative commons@twitch (djwheat), a Geek & Sundry & Twitch partner (vana), and a voice actress (elspeth).

Sure.

Get everyone talking about the episode. Hype-train jumps to MACH 2. All the RPG forum talking heads are clutching their pearls and shaking fists at the monitor.

Adam's not any thing close to an idiot who burns money. This was planned and probably coordinated by the group.

Clever.

All of the players quit and the stream is cancelled.

Koebel has now stated he is stepping away from the hobby (and his MANY streams) to seek counseling. I'm sure this will severely negatively impact his income stream.

Further, if you think a sexual assault is a great PR stunt - well there's really nowhere to go from that statement!
 

Hussar

Legend
Wow. Someone is actually videotaped being an ass hat as a DM, the entire group publicly quits the project in the middle of the season, and it's brushed off as a "publicity stunt"? Good grief.

See, this is why I start off so half cocked whenever these conversations come up. Inevitably, it's always the same. Folks will excuse ANYTHING. Any behavior. It doesn't matter how bad it is, you will always get the people standing up and claiming that it's fake, or not true, or never really happens, or "clutching at pearls" or reinventing the comic book code, on and on and on.

It just grinds my gears so much.
 


Mort

Legend
Supporter
I don't mean to be dismissive of the topic, but I do not believe that anyone in the year 2020-- any internet celebrity-- does not understand that what he did was wrong, or does not understand why. Nobody needs help navigating the calm blue ocean to avoid this "mistake", because it isn't a mistake and framing it as one prevents us from understanding the nature of the problem.

The problem is that he made a conscious decision, sustained over a period of time against the objections of everyone whose objections should have mattered, and then "apologized" for being just too goddamned cool for everyone who had a problem with it.

The problem is not that gamers don't know not to do this, the problem is that gamers don't know what to do with people who do it anyway.

Yeah, The DM very clearly set up the scene to force the encounter.

Sadly, it also seems the DM was just playing the whole thing as a throw-away joke.

The fact that it went over so badly is actually encouraging - people need to see that this behaviour is just not ok.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
Now he just needs to keep getting the same reaction until he issues an apology that actually includes admitting that he was wrong. Sadly, people keep giving non-apologies, because they keep working.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Now he just needs to keep getting the same reaction until he issues an apology that actually includes admitting that he was wrong. Sadly, people keep giving non-apologies, because they keep working.

Koebel actually did that, the full apology appears a bit after the boxed text shown here:

 


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