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How to Tell if Your Fun is Wrong

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Don't tell people what kinds of roleplaying are okay for them. If they're having fun, it is presumptively okay, UNLESS it's exploitative, coercive, or insulting to the participants themselves. Is that good enough? Have I cleared your hurdles yet?

So, if someone posted that they recently had a game in which they played KKK members, and in the fiction they... did things the KKK was known for, or maybe they had a game in which they all tortured puppies and kittens, and everyone at the table was okay with it and they had an outstanding good time...

I think folks would be justified in telling them that was badwrongfun. We would get several requests to discipline them, or ban them from the boards. We have, in fact, banned accounts for less.

Now, you might give an argument that it was not the play itself that was bad, but speaking about it in public may cause harm to people who hear about it. But, really, if you can't talk about it in public without hurting someone... maybe it was a bad idea in the first place.
 

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TheSword

Legend
It also wasn't critically acclaimed in nearly the same way as Gone With The Wind. Or, at all, really. Way of the WIcked was generally panned as a film when it came out, much less today.

Oh, you mean as a game product? Never even heard of it... so not nearly as acclaimed as Gone With the Wind, which is at least a household name :p
Lol. As much as I like Christian Slater, I’ve not seen it. 😂

It was released for Pathfinder so maybe not so well known on the D&D side. I only pointed it out as it was fairly well known among evil campaigns as being quality.
 


Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I am the final arbiter of taste and decency. I didn't want the job, but mine was the name picked out of the hat and someone needs to fill the role. So, if your fun isn't the same as my fun, or if I disapprove of your fun in anyway, then your fun is badwrongfun. Complaints can be submitted to management in triplicate and will be subject to the standard 6 month review process.
 

MGibster

Legend
So, if someone posted that they recently had a game in which they played KKK members, and in the fiction they... did things the KKK was known for, or maybe they had a game in which they all tortured puppies and kittens, and everyone at the table was okay with it and they had an outstanding good time...
There's a problem when using hypothetical situations in that we can come up with egregious examples most reasonable people would condemn, middle of the road situations where the answer isn't quite clear, and still other examples most reasonable people would say was fine. But the upside is that your case study shows us the flaw in our "if everyone is comfortable with the subject and is having fun it's okay" argument.

Social dynamics are complicated and I find it best to have general guidelines and judge each situation on its own merits. There's no blanket answer that will cover every situation. Generally speaking, if everyone's comfortable and having a good time then it's probably okay. But you've got to open up that Tupperware and give it a good sniff to know whether it's good or bad.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
There's a problem when using hypothetical situations in that we can come up with egregious examples most reasonable people would condemn, middle of the road situations where the answer isn't quite clear...

The point isn't that there is always clarity. The point is that flat statements to the effect of, "nothing among consenting players can be considered at all wrong," are suspect, and that we are really quibbling over where the line ought to be.
 

MGibster

Legend
The point isn't that there is always clarity. The point is that flat statements to the effect of, "nothing among consenting players can be considered at all wrong," are suspect, and that we are really quibbling over where the line ought to be.
Well, yeah. And I pointed out that your case study pointed out that particular flaw. I was in agreement with you.
 


Voadam

Legend
or maybe they had a game in which they all tortured puppies and kittens, and everyone at the table was okay with it and they had an outstanding good time...

I think folks would be justified in telling them that was badwrongfun. We would get several requests to discipline them, or ban them from the boards. We have, in fact, banned accounts for less.
FYI Kill Puppies for Satan is an actual RPG by the guy who created Apocalypse World. :)
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think harm falls into 3 categories.

Physical
Psychological
Social

The later 2 are much easier to view as “imagined” even if they are very real.

I also think that just like no man is an island that no group of gamers is an island. We are constantly importing and exporting things to society at large. As such the concept of harm can become a bit more nebulous as something may be totally inert to our small local group while potentially harming society by contributing to it being a worse place.

This philosophy gives rise to the concept of laws to dictate morality. The problem is that this is a double edged sword because no where do we find internal to this philosophy what kind of society should be desired.

Which means that any group can claim things which don’t result in a society to its liking are harmful and many of the worst atrocities in human history have been similarly justified.

Its almost always the do-gooders wanting to enforce social norms that make the world hell for anyone else.

I would say this same concept applies to the gaming world as well.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Its almost always the do-gooders wanting to enforce social norms that make the world hell for anyone else.

As a practical matter - we live in a world where we have to manage to get by along with millions and millions, of other humans. Getting anything done requires we all more or less get along, and that requires some norms. If you want the benefits, you have to accept some of the inherent difficulties of the situation.
 


Emerikol

Adventurer
In case this wasn't clear before - the annoyance with the "inclusive changes" was never with how anyone wanted to play D&D. It was about the insistence that a set of non-racist rules and rules descriptions that were liked by many were somehow racist.

That said, I don't think this is a debate we should actually have here. Enworld has already decided which side they are on and that needs to be respected. So it's not something I am going to hash out. I only bring it up to share the other side's story so that it isn't misconstrued.
I agree. I don't care that much about the things they are changing as I can easily change them and have changed them many times. I've played with "monster" races that are not all out evil in some of my campaigns. I like gray characters in general.

I do take offense, well some offense anyway, that WoTC has decided that all the old school stuff in the 70's and 80's was racist. I suppose I take offense for the sake of those creators. Now if something really was racist I'm with pointing that out and not glossing over it. I don't see that old school D&D was ate up with racism though.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
The past is a foreign country where they have odd customs and they do things differently. Aside from the problematic aspects of Gone with the Wind, most modern audiences would grow bored with the pacing of the plot in the 221 minute long movie, the production values, and may find the style of acting in the 1930s to be rather melodramatic. And many games are the same way. Ignoring all the problematic elements of AD&D 1st edition, the rules are going to seem archaic to a lot of people. I have happy memories of playing AD&D but wild ogres couldn't drag me to a table to play it ever again.
I wouldn't prefer it because of the mechanical clunkiness but I'd play it before I'd play 4e or 5e. I think though OSR game companies have solved a lot of 1e's problems. ACKs and Castles and Crusades are both great.

I do think that your outlook on the past is dead on for sure. We also should judge people by the culture they lived in and not by our own modern standards.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
I'll push back a little bit on the idea that there is no way to play badwrongfun RPG games if no one is directly being harmed . . . .

In my first high school game, I was invited to join a group that had been playing together for a while, all dudes. We encounter a group of priestesses on the road, who had knowledge we needed to find the macguffin, and they refused to give us the info. So . . . . the party proceeded to rape, torture, and kill the priestesses to gain the information. I was blown away and disgusted, never went back. Since I was a nerdy, introvert, with low self-esteem and low self-confidence, I also didn't say anything. Made lame excuses later when asked if I was returning for the next game.

This group had no idea I found the idea of raping and torturing horrifying . . . but I strongly feel that even if I had never gamed with them that one afternoon, their playstyle was pretty messed up and most definitely badwrongfun. Even if every one of those guys truly had no problems with that style of play. Their playstyle, in effect before I joined, didn't directly harm me . . . it certainly bothered me and made me pretty uncomfortable . . . and (to my knowledge) didn't directly harm anyone else. But these were some pretty sick and twisted fantasies being played out, and horribly sexist attitudes being perpetuated.

I'm hoping that all of these young men treated the women in their lives much better than they treated the women in their fantasy games, and it's possible, even likely, that they all might be more than a bit embarrassed (maybe even ashamed) now as adults looking back at their teenager behavior . . . but, IMO, that still makes that particular gaming style badwrongfun. So much bad, so much wrong.

If a group of players, of any demographics, is actively promoting racism, sexism, or other ideologies harmful to society at large . . . in their home games, with everybody at the table totally on board . . . badwrongfun. Not that I expect perfection from folks, we're all guilty of falling back into passive racism, sexism, etc, from time-to-time. But when it's an active part of the fantasy . . .

Hopefully what I encountered was rare back in the 80s and even more rare today!
I would say that this would depend largely on how much their characters perspective coincided with the players. I mean if the group had decided to play an evil group and that was what as players they thought evil characters would do then I'm not sure it's not okay. Not my cup of tea for sure. I generally avoid evil groups like the plague. I guess the level of graphicness might be over the top and maybe on that I'd agree. Maybe I have a 1950's idea of morality but some things are abstracted and if a group ever felt the need to torture it would not be done with excruciating details. As DM, I'd say "okay after several hours of grim torture the prisoner finally talks" or whatever.

I guess from a live and let live perspective I definitely wouldn't outlaw it.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
As a practical matter - we live in a world where we have to manage to get by along with millions and millions, of other humans. Getting anything done requires we all more or less get along, and that requires some norms. If you want the benefits, you have to accept some of the inherent difficulties of the situation.
I agree. I think there’s some give and take there. We don’t want the porridge to be to hot or too cold but just right.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I do think that your outlook on the past is dead on for sure. We also should judge people by the culture they lived in and not by our own modern standards.

So, noting that people are products of their eras is an explanation. It is not, however, a vindication. Lovecraft wrote a bunch of really racist stuff. It doesn't suddenly become okay just because we can note that, in his day, lots of people were racist.

The past had a lot of ugliness. We must recognize that, and call it what it was, because otherwise we do not understand and cannot improve our present, which still has related ugliness.
 

Emerikol

Adventurer
So, noting that people are products of their eras is an explanation. It is not, however, a vindication. Lovecraft wrote a bunch of really racist stuff. It doesn't suddenly become okay just because we can note that, in his day, lots of people were racist.

The past had a lot of ugliness. We must recognize that, and call it what it was, because otherwise we do not understand and cannot improve our present, which still has related ugliness.
I was merely talking about judging people NOT their actions. Obviously all actions are measured on an absolute standard. I'd call the ultimate standard God's but whatever I think without getting religious that there is some standard of good and evil that is absolute. So when I caution against judging people in other times too harshly, I'm talking about people as a whole. If they exceeded the norms of their society in a positive direction then we might view them more positively than if they held those same views today.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
So, noting that people are products of their eras is an explanation. It is not, however, a vindication. Lovecraft wrote a bunch of really racist stuff. It doesn't suddenly become okay just because we can note that, in his day, lots of people were racist.

The past had a lot of ugliness. We must recognize that, and call it what it was, because otherwise we do not understand and cannot improve our present, which still has related ugliness.
There’s little doubt the future will view us all as abhorrent for things we view perfectly reasonable today. Some a little more abhorrent and some a little less so.

So IMHO, to be a little less abhorrent than others in your time is the only thing that matters as it’s those more virtuous than their peers that continuously push humankind closer to perfection - even if perfection is never truly obtainable.

That doesn’t absolve anyone from any time for any transgression, but it does help to keep things in perspective. Consider that if being more virtuous than all those that lived before simply means being born into a modern time then our conception of virtue doesn’t sound much like virtue. IMO.
 
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Doug McCrae

Legend
Men of Their Time, Standards of Ours

In practice, however, better thinking about complex past figures is rarely the point. If it were, wielders of the injunction not to judge would not apply their counsel so selectively. They would, for example, be as concerned with positive as with negative judgments, as wary of celebration as they are of condemnation... The practical purpose of the injunction not to judge is not to refine public engagements with history; it is to reinforce established interpretations against the corrosive effects of criticism.​
 

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