How to avoid RPG dumpster fires like the Far Verona controversy

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.
I've never doubted the stories. Guess its not in me to not take people at face value.

I can only speculate what goes through someone's mind when they are confronted about there behavior and they fail to change it in the moment.

And you are right about women and the minefields they have to navigate. I can understand or sympathize with it intellectually. But, again "I'm lucky" and have not had to experience such social ... crap and therefore I can't really emotionally empathize. Entitled? Fortunate? Both I guess.
 

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Aldarc

Legend
No, that's the exact opposite of what I did. What I actually argued is that things could in fact be a very big deal, even if no one was actually triggered in a clinical sense.

Your characterization of what I wrote is libelous.
Except that is not libelous in a legal sense. ;)
 


Adam has always struck me as a great DM who puts A LOT of thought into his craft, he's actually spoken, quite extensively, about how to avoid the very thing that happened!

To summarize:

A (female) player's Male PC android is injured and goes to a mechanic he knows/trusts to fix him up. The mechanic instead isolates him from the rest of the group and sexually assaults him through essentially plugging him into a machine and simulating a sex act(sorry I'm being a bit vague - not 100% sure of the rules for this on this forum).

The incident seemed very premeditated and planned out by Adam - he was giggling and laughing throughout, like he thought it was a big joke. The players (especially the one this was happening to) appeared shocked and uncomfortable, like they were clearly NOT expecting this scenario.

Thanks for summarizing for me. The limited clip I saw didn't really contextualize all of that.

I suppose that he thought the fact that it was an android and wasn't what we'd consider a traditional or standard act that maybe it was different? I'm not familiar with the setting, so I suppose I don't grasp all the specifics of what it means to be an android.

Or maybe that the PC was a male? There can be a bit of a double standard in views on this topic in that regard.

Either way, it seems like a pretty obvious mistake that I'm surprised he made it. And that he did so while thinking it was funny or edgy.

It is just shocking to me that a DM of Adam's experience and (apparent) awareness would pull something like this. It's pretty simple, if such a controversial scenario hasn't been discussed and expressly ok'd - JUST DON"T DO IT.

Yeah, for sure.....I'm really surprised. Definitely a big mistake to make, and by someone I'd not expect to make it.
 


billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I suppose that he thought the fact that it was an android and wasn't what we'd consider a traditional or standard act that maybe it was different? I'm not familiar with the setting, so I suppose I don't grasp all the specifics of what it means to be an android.

Or maybe that the PC was a male? There can be a bit of a double standard in views on this topic in that regard.

Yeah, that's a good question and I haven't sought out DM's response to see if he tried to explain why he thought it might be acceptable. My speculation might include the fact that, as an android upgrade, it was triggered as a primarily mental effect rather than based on a physical, non-consensual interaction. Neither would be acceptable without approval - but the former is a step less obvious than the latter.
 


Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
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.

This is the salient point that I think got lost in the "how common is this?"questions and the intentionally disruptive pedantic hairsplitting that have dragged this thread along so far.

I also think that the less important question is "how do we react as a community after the fact with the people who do it anyway"; Adam's response, after his initial non-apology, is pretty textbook "this is exactly what you should do" and more folks should be encouraged/funneled into that path.

I think the most important question, from a practical advice standpoint, is "what do we do with the people who do it anyway right in front of us?" I humbly submit that everyone should familiarize themselves with Bystander Invention. Not everyone is going to be comfortable intervening in every situation, but it usually doesn't take to much to step in on behalf of somebody being targeted.

Here's a pretty decent resource; it's not perfect but it's a pretty good resources on basic tips and tools on how to intervene, and I think it all applies just as well to "my DM is sexually assaulting my friend's character" as any other instance of harassment.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
This is the salient point that I think got lost in the "how common is this?"questions and the intentionally disruptive pedantic hairsplitting that have dragged this thread along so far.

I also think that the less important question is "how do we react as a community after the fact with the people who do it anyway"; Adam's response, after his initial non-apology, is pretty textbook "this is exactly what you should do" and more folks should be encouraged/funneled into that path.

I think the most important question, from a practical advice standpoint, is "what do we do with the people who do it anyway right in front of us?" I humbly submit that everyone should familiarize themselves with Bystander Invention. Not everyone is going to be comfortable intervening in every situation, but it usually doesn't take to much to step in on behalf of somebody being targeted.

Here's a pretty decent resource; it's not perfect but it's a pretty good resources on basic tips and tools on how to intervene, and I think it all applies just as well to "my DM is sexually assaulting my friend's character" as any other instance of harassment.

Thanks for the link, It's one of those things one hopes to never need but definitely should read/familiarize oneself with anyway!

As for "right in front of us..." that's why this was so shocking. Apparently this group has logged more than 90 hours already -and the group chemistry/dynamic was pretty good. I've seen many of Adam's DM livestreams (I really need to find a better can't sleep mechanism!) and even with full warning - this was just a massive surprise. The players were clearly floored too - you can see the shock/discomfort but also see that none of them had any idea what to do.

They clearly trusted Adam as the GM and that worked against them here!
 


MGibster

Legend
You are talking about what is "likely". As if you have a handle on what happens at hundreds of thousands of tables around the world? Care to tell us how you got this handle?

By your question, am I to assume that you have a handle on what happens at hundreds of thousands of tables around the world? Strike that, it doesn't matter. We could type at one another until our fingers bleed and we'll probably just cover the same ground over and over. I understand that you're coming at this from a position of wanting to make things safer and more inclusive for all players and I respect that. However, I maintain that role playing is not an inherently dangerous activity in that the chances of participants being harmed is extremely unlikely. And with that, I surrender the field to you.
 

cmad1977

Hero
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.

This is why, despite its limited mechanical impact, one should NEVER make intelligence your dump stat.
 

Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
Re: The completely inane and off-point conversation about the "inherent danger" of roleplaying:

The biggest issue that we have here is that a large segment of the population believes/has been raised to believe that emotional/psychology harm is not real harm. This is, of course, not true, but it's a common enough belief in the popular culture (e.g., "sticks and stones") that it has to be addressed up front. So here it is: emotional/psychology harm/danger is real and oftentimes as consequential as physical harm. You can disagree with this but then, you'd be wrong. There's literally no point in continuing the conversation if we're not on the same page about this very basic fact.

Provided we're on the same page now, we now must discuss the inherent vulnerability found in role-playing. Role-playing is, at its very core, a social experience involving improvisation, usually mutual teamwork, and placing oneself in another persons' shoes. All of these contribute to making oneself vulnerable, at least in a social-emotional context. Now, how much vulnerability that requires will vary greatly depending on the table and the game; you've got your intense psychosexual World of Darkness dramas on one end of the spectrum and your beer-and-pretzels dungeon-crawlers on the other. But I think at either end there's at least some vulnerability involved, if not actual danger.
 

As a D&D player, I've been in a similar situation to this Far Verona scene and it's just the worst gaming experience I've ever had.
Same, I had something similar happen in one of the first campaigns I was ever playing in.

It was the summer of 1998, playing an AD&D 2e Planescape game. It was only my 2nd time PCing in a campaign.

The DM was my new roommate, someone I'd met in college and we'd agreed to get an apartment near campus together. He was a relatively experienced player (as in he'd been playing and running D&D for about 6 years, compared to about 6 weeks for me), we were both circa 19 years old and in college.

On one of our early adventures, our party ended up stuck somewhere on the outer planes (I don't recall which one) and the only portal back to Sigil was kept by the Sensates, and they'd only let our party through if at least one member of the party was a member. . .but every other player had already chosen a faction. My character hadn't formally declared membership in a faction yet, but was leaning towards joining the Guvner's. Since my character was the ONLY one that was eligible to join, the plot pressure to join the Sensates was high.

Well, it was out of character for my PC to join that faction in the first place, then he puts me on the spot saying that to join you have to have some kind of memorable or unique experience to share with the Faction via their little magical memory crystal devices. Everything from my character's backstory or adventures I could come up with wasn't good enough. . .but then the DM had the Sensates tell my character that they'd arrange for suitable experiences to qualify for membership, just sign this pledge to join. . .

. . .so, feeling the heavy railroad of plot, my character signed the pledge.

The DM then tells me that was a magically binding contract that my character can't reneg on, and it was broadly worded to let them do anything to my character that wouldn't cause permanent harm (and they'd heal any non-permanent harm) as long as it would create experiences sufficient to allow membership in the faction, as long as I join the faction afterwards.

. . .and of course, the "experiences" the DM had in mind were sexual. Cue the DM going into deeply uncomfortable details with the sexual encounters my character was now compelled by that magical contract to participate in. When I didn't volunteer details of what my character was doing, the DM narrated instead what my character was magically compelled to do.

. . .and at the end, the DM just briefly closed up by saying when it as done, they opened the portal and we all went through back to Sigil.

The scenes were a mix of same-sex and opposite-sex encounters, couple and group sex, bestiality (using shapeshifting where one partner would turn into an animal) and magically-augmented BDSM, as the DM essentially narrated his D&D fetish fiction for about 10 minutes.

I was disturbed and nauseated by the whole experience, as the DM played it off as a normal part of D&D.

I found out later he'd set it up intentionally, making me play out that sexual scene in front of our friends as some attempt to "loosen me up", he saw me as too uptight and straitlaced, that he thought roleplaying out some kinky sex scenes in front of our friends in a D&D game would actually be a good thing and would help me grow as a person and become more mature.

It was wrong on so many levels.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Same, I had something similar happen in one of the first campaigns I was ever playing in.

It was the summer of 1998, playing an AD&D 2e Planescape game. It was only my 2nd time PCing in a campaign.

The DM was my new roommate, someone I'd met in college and we'd agreed to get an apartment near campus together. He was a relatively experienced player (as in he'd been playing and running D&D for about 6 years, compared to about 6 weeks for me), we were both circa 19 years old and in college.

On one of our early adventures, our party ended up stuck somewhere on the outer planes (I don't recall which one) and the only portal back to Sigil was kept by the Sensates, and they'd only let our party through if at least one member of the party was a member. . .but every other player had already chosen a faction. My character hadn't formally declared membership in a faction yet, but was leaning towards joining the Guvner's. Since my character was the ONLY one that was eligible to join, the plot pressure to join the Sensates was high.

Well, it was out of character for my PC to join that faction in the first place, then he puts me on the spot saying that to join you have to have some kind of memorable or unique experience to share with the Faction via their little magical memory crystal devices. Everything from my character's backstory or adventures I could come up with wasn't good enough. . .but then the DM had the Sensates tell my character that they'd arrange for suitable experiences to qualify for membership, just sign this pledge to join. . .

. . .so, feeling the heavy railroad of plot, my character signed the pledge.

The DM then tells me that was a magically binding contract that my character can't reneg on, and it was broadly worded to let them do anything to my character that wouldn't cause permanent harm (and they'd heal any non-permanent harm) as long as it would create experiences sufficient to allow membership in the faction, as long as I join the faction afterwards.

. . .and of course, the "experiences" the DM had in mind were sexual. Cue the DM going into deeply uncomfortable details with the sexual encounters my character was now compelled by that magical contract to participate in. When I didn't volunteer details of what my character was doing, the DM narrated instead what my character was magically compelled to do.

. . .and at the end, the DM just briefly closed up by saying when it as done, they opened the portal and we all went through back to Sigil.

The scenes were a mix of same-sex and opposite-sex encounters, couple and group sex, bestiality (using shapeshifting where one partner would turn into an animal) and magically-augmented BDSM, as the DM essentially narrated his D&D fetish fiction for about 10 minutes.

I was disturbed and nauseated by the whole experience, as the DM played it off as a normal part of D&D.

I found out later he'd set it up intentionally, making me play out that sexual scene in front of our friends as some attempt to "loosen me up", he saw me as too uptight and straitlaced, that he thought roleplaying out some kinky sex scenes in front of our friends in a D&D game would actually be a good thing and would help me grow as a person and become more mature.

It was wrong on so many levels.

Wow, after an early experience like that - it's amazing you maintained the hobby!
 

Wow, after an early experience like that - it's amazing you maintained the hobby!
I was also at the time in a MUCH better D&D game run by a better DM, had played in a lot of one-shot games, and I'd been running and playing the d6 Star Wars RPG for about a year at that point, so while I was still fairly new to D&D, I DID have enough of a frame of reference to know that wasn't typical of a game session.
 

Hussar

Legend
I'll freely admit that this sort of thing hasn't come up at my table. And, I certainly hope I never made any player feel uncomfortable. But, I have met more than a few DM's over the years whose self centered myopia regarding the game could easily lead to (and indeed did lead to) some pretty brutal friction with the players.

Granted, yeah, nothing of a sexual nature has happened in my presence, but, unfortunately I have no problems believing that it can and does happen.
 

the Jester

Legend
Does this type of situation occur often at the tables of others? I have never incorporated sexual violence into a single campaign, and neither have my DMs/GMs. Is this a normal thing?

I'll speak up as a DM who is perfectly happy to dabble in subjects that would, for most groups, cross the line, including cannibalism, rape, violence against children, drugs, etc.

First off, by "dabble in", I mean that those things are out there in the world, and that pcs can and do brush up against them. "They killed my baby" is a great motivator- but it works best when it's an npc whose baby was killed asking good-guy pcs for help. I don't employ any of those things against the pcs as a matter of course, but they could be the victim of any of those things in theory.

In practice- well, I ran a sexual assault scene exactly once, when I was around 13 or 14. There was a lot of glossing over the details followed by serious revenge involving a 1e staff of withering being employed in a very fitting way. The player was fine with it; but it was a male player, and we were, you know, kids, too young to have fully developed things like good taste, common sense, and empathy. And I knew the people in the group- I knew them well enough to know that nobody was going to freak out about it (we didn't have the term 'triggered' back then, hair splitting aside).

Since then, I haven't seen any situation where it was appropriate to the game. And even if I did, being as I am now an adult with a much greater understanding of things like trauma, empathy, and the creepiness of the scene, I would be very leery to employ it. Even knowing the members of my group largely for decades, and knowing that none of them would be horribly offended, or seriously disturbed, or triggered, or whatever- it's just a creepy scene to run. So, even though it's a possibility in theory, I think it's very unlikely to ever come up.

So, no, I would say it's not a normal thing, even at a table where sexual assault is theoretically 'allowed' by the social contract.
 

DammitVictor

Druid of the Invisible Hand
What's appropriate at the gaming table is decided at the gaming table.

There's nothing wrong with depicting any degree of graphic sexual violence, or any other uncomfortable subject matter, at the gaming table... as long as every participant has given their informed consent beforehand, and the game stops when any participant's enjoyment of the game stops.

That's not what happened here, and it's the biggest point that edgelords tend to overlook.
 
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Mort

Legend
Supporter
What's appropriate at the gaming table is decided at the gaming table.

There's nothing wrong with depicting any degree of graphic sexual violence in-game, or any other uncomfortable subject matter, at the gaming table... as long as every participant has given their informed consent beforehand, and the game stops when any participant's enjoyment of the game stops.

That's not what happened here, and it's the biggest point that edgelords tend to overlook.

Right - this situation violated 2 of the biggest rules of GM Player interaction:

1. Full communication is key - It is the GMs job to ensure that the players are in a safe, fully informed environment. It doesn't even have to be something this deep (sexual assault). For example, if the players are expecting fantasy and everyone has agreed that's whats going to be run and the GM instead runs SCI-FI - that could be a problem. This situation was just an extreme example of that;

2. Don't be a jerk - this simple rule needs to govern, and it wasn't in place here. The GM ran right over the horrified players for his own amusement.
 

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