D&D General Ravenloft, horror, & safety tools...

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
I recently started a session zero with new players who I didn’t know before. I went through some safety tool / veils questions first.

To be honest it was an excruciating 15 minutes that made the people being asked the questions uncomfortable... as if they should be bothered by the topics I was asking about... and uncomfortable for me for asking if these things are acceptable or not.

Asking a mixed group of players that have watched and enjoyed game of thrones whether they object to the presence of sex workers in a medieval fantasy world was quite surreal.

I should have just said, email me if there’s anything I need to know. Then used my common sense from then on.
Well, yeah. You don’t read them to the group and have them answer verbally to the whole group. You email the list to each individually and have them privately get back to you. It’s a bit of trust. The point is not to share their lines and veils with the table publicly.
 

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Safety tools aren’t designed to replace a therapist or to turn the DM and other players into mental health professionals. They’re designed specifically to avoid blundering into someone’s fears, phobias, and traumas...specifically to avoid the players having mental health episodes at the table. They’re designed so that a table can be a welcoming place for any and all. It sounds like you want to exclude anyone with any mental health problems from gaming. Hint: there’s a lot more mental health issues in any given population than are openly spoken about.

I have a doubt. Maybe this is a good idea in theory but, aside from the fact that in my opinion is really useful only if you play with perfect strangers, it seems to me odd to figure out a situation in which a player come at the table knowing he plays an horror game "but without things that can discomfort me, please" attitude. I find it odd to happen since people look at horror to be actually discomforted.
Maybe to look for horror and then ask to be protected is not mental illness itself but is very similar to a big confusion in mind.
Perhaps I talk this way because I'm an adult. Maybe children or young teen have to be protected a little more and in this case this tools could be good. Anyway these are all situation handled by common sense in the past.
 


Some people decry safety tools because they ‘know their players’ and therefore ‘don’t need them’ or similar reasons.

But even people who don’t use safety tools often do without realising it. Knowing your friends and informally developing a relationship and expectations over a period of years is a safety tool, one which the whole of society uses every day. It’s just not a formally written one. You still have boundaries, which you have developed over time, and probably don’t speak about specifically, but they’re there. Nobody interacts with others with no boundaries at all.

I think being critical of safety tools isn't the same as saying there should be no boundaries or saying that people are free to be jerks to one another. Obviously there are always social boundaries. And those are normally negotiated over time, something people achieve an understanding of with one another (you have some friends you may be comfortable slapping on the back for example and others you would not). I think with safety tools though, these go way beyond formalizing normal social boundaries and are claiming to be effective tools for mental health at the gaming table. Like I said before if someone in the group is having an issue, this isn't an argument to dismiss that person, to be cruel to them, or not try to get them the help they need. This is more of an argument that safety tools actually kind of minimize mental health issues. I think if you look at how they are changing the gaming culture, in my view at least, it is for the worst, and it is not beneficial to the people the tools are claiming to help, not is it beneficial to the other people at the table. It seems like they are actually making people worse, and making the people around them more neurotic in the process. When you have a serious issue like panic attacks and trauma, you can seriously negatively impact the people around you too. And tools to me seem like a recipe for giving someone who really needs help, tools that force other people to adjust their behavior, even walk around on eggshells around that person (I have been on both sides of this in my own life). I don't want to do a deep dive into it here (I did so in another discussion about safety tools). But I think when you have people checking off boxes like 'spiders' and 'bad weather' that really misses what is going on when someone has a real mental health episode at the table. It just encourages people to wear these things like badges (my trigger is is almost a statement of identity on a lot of these lifestreams and twitter discussions I have seen). I suspect in many cases, people are announcing mental health issues, where there aren't any. And I suspect many people who really need to be getting help for their mental health problems, are being made worse by these tools (because they really are no protection against something like a panic attack IMO).
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
I think being critical of safety tools isn't the same as saying there should be no boundaries or saying that people are free to be jerks to one another. Obviously there are always social boundaries. And those are normally negotiated over time, something people achieve an understanding of with one another (you have some friends you may be comfortable slapping on the back for example and others you would not). I think with safety tools though, these go way beyond formalizing normal social boundaries and are claiming to be effective tools for mental health at the gaming table. Like I said before if someone in the group is having an issue, this isn't an argument to dismiss that person, to be cruel to them, or not try to get them the help they need. This is more of an argument that safety tools actually kind of minimize mental health issues. I think if you look at how they are changing the gaming culture, in my view at least, it is for the worst, and it is not beneficial to the people the tools are claiming to help, not is it beneficial to the other people at the table. It seems like they are actually making people worse, and making the people around them more neurotic in the process. When you have a serious issue like panic attacks and trauma, you can seriously negatively impact the people around you too. And tools to me seem like a recipe for giving someone who really needs help, tools that force other people to adjust their behavior, even walk around on eggshells around that person (I have been on both sides of this in my own life). I don't want to do a deep dive into it here (I did so in another discussion about safety tools). But I think when you have people checking off boxes like 'spiders' and 'bad weather' that really misses what is going on when someone has a real mental health episode at the table. It just encourages people to wear these things like badges (my trigger is is almost a statement of identity on a lot of these lifestreams and twitter discussions I have seen). I suspect in many cases, people are announcing mental health issues, where there aren't any. And I suspect many people who really need to be getting help for their mental health problems, are being made worse by these tools (because they really are no protection against something like a panic attack IMO).
Yikes, paragraphs! My eyes went all fuzzy!
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
I have a doubt. Maybe this is a good idea in theory but, aside from the fact that in my opinion is really useful only if you play with perfect strangers, it seems to me odd to figure out a situation in which a player come at the table knowing he plays an horror game "but without things that can discomfort me, please" attitude. I find it odd to happen since people look at horror to be actually discomforted.
Maybe to look for horror and then ask to be protected is not mental illness itself but is very similar to a big confusion in mind.
Perhaps I talk this way because I'm an adult. Maybe children or young teen have to be protected a little more and in this case this tools could be good. Anyway these are all situation handled by common sense in the past.
That's a very demeaning way of handling things.

Here's some of my "Lines and Veils" as people have referred to boundaries in this thread:

Sexual Assault: Not interested in having it happen to my characters, not interested in being in a game where it happens to NPCs, either.
Graphic Depictions of Gore: I'm cool with loosely describing a bloody scene, but once you start counting out organs and describing where they are you've gone too far.
Transphobic Commentary: I get it, trans people are often the butt of nasty jokes. I still don't wanna sit at a table where the punchline is "And she had a dick!"

Of those three only one is liable to really have any effect on a specifically Ravenloft game. And only if the game is one that fixates on Gory Horror rather than Dread, Fear, and the like.

But a DM trying to elicit pity for an NPC might describe a situation of sexual assault to get the players to intervene. Or have a sailor tell a dirty joke in a tavern setting. Both of these things would make me incredibly uncomfortable at the table, possibly to the point of leaving depending on how the fallout of those moments were handled.

It being "Ravenloft" doesn't somehow make these things automatically acceptable. Nor does it make me "Childish" for not enjoying derogatory humor.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
I have a doubt. Maybe this is a good idea in theory but, aside from the fact that in my opinion is really useful only if you play with perfect strangers, it seems to me odd to figure out a situation in which a player come at the table knowing he plays an horror game "but without things that can discomfort me, please" attitude. I find it odd to happen since people look at horror to be actually discomforted.

Maybe to look for horror and then ask to be protected is not mental illness itself but is very similar to a big confusion in mind.

Perhaps I talk this way because I'm an adult. Maybe children or young teen have to be protected a little more and in this case this tools could be good. Anyway these are all situation handled by common sense in the past.
No, what you have is a misunderstanding. Safety tools don't exist to avoid discomfort, they exist to prevent DMs and players from blundering into someone's fears, phobias, and traumas. To understand why they exist you just need to recognize that there are levels of discomfort. Baseline discomfort all the way up to proper fear on up to diagnosed phobia. Safety tools are there to call out things on the higher end, the phobias, etc, so that the DM doesn't put a room with a thousand spiders in a game with an arachnophobe player. Someone who's uncomfortable with spiders is not the same as someone who has arachnophobia. Horror gaming is about playing around in thrills and discomfort, not poking someone in their fears, phobias, or traumas. Safety tools help. A lot.
 

TheSword

Legend
That's a very demeaning way of handling things.

Here's some of my "Lines and Veils" as people have referred to boundaries in this thread:

Sexual Assault: Not interested in having it happen to my characters, not interested in being in a game where it happens to NPCs, either.
Graphic Depictions of Gore: I'm cool with loosely describing a bloody scene, but once you start counting out organs and describing where they are you've gone too far.
Transphobic Commentary: I get it, trans people are often the butt of nasty jokes. I still don't wanna sit at a table where the punchline is "And she had a dick!"

Of those three only one is liable to really have any effect on a specifically Ravenloft game. And only if the game is one that fixates on Gory Horror rather than Dread, Fear, and the like.

But a DM trying to elicit pity for an NPC might describe a situation of sexual assault to get the players to intervene. Or have a sailor tell a dirty joke in a tavern setting. Both of these things would make me incredibly uncomfortable at the table, possibly to the point of leaving depending on how the fallout of those moments were handled.

It being "Ravenloft" doesn't somehow make these things automatically acceptable. Nor does it make me "Childish" for not enjoying derogatory humor.
So not wanting transphobic language, sexual assault or lurid descriptions of gore are just normal behaviors.

I can’t think of any circumstance why I would include these things in a game for friends, let alone strangers.

I reckon use common sense and ‘if in doubt, play it safe’, are probably more sensible than a checklist.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I think with safety tools though, these go way beyond formalizing normal social boundaries and are claiming to be effective tools for mental health at the gaming table.
Well, they're not claiming to be effective tools for mental health at the gaming table. They explicitly recognize that the DM and players are not mental health experts and so provide them to most basic of rudimentary tools precisely to avoid having a mental health episode at the gaming table...because neither the DM or the players are likely to be trained mental health professionals.
Like I said before if someone in the group is having an issue, this isn't an argument to dismiss that person, to be cruel to them, or not try to get them the help they need. This is more of an argument that safety tools actually kind of minimize mental health issues. I think if you look at how they are changing the gaming culture, in my view at least, it is for the worst, and it is not beneficial to the people the tools are claiming to help, not is it beneficial to the other people at the table.
Other than vague feelings that safety tools are bad, can you point to how safety tools are actually bad or causing gaming culture harm? For me, I don't think talking about safety tools or mental health is bad. I don't think safety tools in use are bad.
It seems like they are actually making people worse, and making the people around them more neurotic in the process.
If you mean it's bringing out overt cruelty in people who were previously subtly cruel previously, I'd agree. It's one more angle cruel people use to be cruel. That doesn't mean the tools themselves are bad.
When you have a serious issue like panic attacks and trauma, you can seriously negatively impact the people around you too.
Exactly. Safety tools exist to help minimize things like having a panic attack at the table.
And tools to me seem like a recipe for giving someone who really needs help, tools that force other people to adjust their behavior, even walk around on eggshells around that person (I have been on both sides of this in my own life). I don't want to do a deep dive into it here (I did so in another discussion about safety tools). But I think when you have people checking off boxes like 'spiders' and 'bad weather' that really misses what is going on when someone has a real mental health episode at the table.
Again, safety tools are meant to help prevent mental health episodes at the table. That's the point of them. If your group knows that confined spaces will trigger a mental health episode, they damned well better avoid putting your character in a confined space. That's the point. If your group knows you have trouble with confined spaces and the DM puts your character in a confined space anyway...they're naughty words. You should game with better people.
It just encourages people to wear these things like badges (my trigger is is almost a statement of identity on a lot of these lifestreams and twitter discussions I have seen). I suspect in many cases, people are announcing mental health issues, where there aren't any. And I suspect many people who really need to be getting help for their mental health problems, are being made worse by these tools (because they really are no protection against something like a panic attack IMO).
You keep saying that safety tools and open discussion make things worse. I would like you to point to something outside your feelings on the issue that would suggest you're correct. I don't think open discussion is bad for mental health. I don't think safety tools are bad for mental health.
 

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