D&D General [+] Ravenloft, horror, & safety tools...

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
On the subject of horror materials and safety, Masks of Nyarlathotep for Call of Cthulhu is a fantastic campaign. But BOY is it going to cross a lot of people's safety lines. Some of the elements that do so are among the elements that make it as powerful and immersive as it can be and while some of them can be veiled, they're very hard to completely expunge.
 

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overgeeked

B/X Known World
Because maybe some issues are things that should be under your responsibility to control, not mine to omit from the game.
How much control does a player have at a table? Basically zero.
Whose responsibility is it to keep you from having your night ruined by failing as save vs charm person or by Dr Mindbender forcing you to let him escape from the bank robbery before the police arrive? Mine or yours?
Well, I have zero control over what you do with your NPCs, so it’s yours.

If I tell you I have a line on being mind controlled, are you really going to insist on a doctor’s note before you respect that?
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think your looking at it the wrong way. I can't drive over certain bridges like the terrifying sunshine skway bridge, I'll just shut down & be going 2mph on the other end or stop & need to get towed off. I'm perfectly fine enjoying the view as a passenger over that bridge.

Broadly, I might say that's the difference between line (it is focused on you) and veil (it is a thing that's happening, but you are not the focus of it).

The movie arachnophobia is about spiders, ask any person with arachnophobia the best part of that movit & they will tell you about the fire... Likewise with fear of clowns & every movie with pennywise.

The two people I know who are arachnophobes, and the one I know who is coulrophobic cannot watch those movies, and have no opinion about the "best parts" of the films.

So, story about me, and the one person I know who is coulrophobic....

Years ago, I was playing in a live action RPG at a convention, the game was set at a circus, and I was cast... you guessed it... as one of the clowns. We're all in costume, waiting for game to start, and a GM told us it would be another 10 minutes. Since we were all jazzed about our costuming and makeup, we collectively decided that the circus could do a parade, and we all went jandering out in-character... you guessed it.... clowns leading the parade (because, if I must say myself, we clowns had pulled out the stops, and we looked pretty darned good). And, of course, I was the top clown, and was leading the way, walking funny in my big shoes, baggy pants and sad Emmet Kelly clown makeup...

... and we entered the con suite area, where people between games were hanging out with sodas and snacks...

... And I hear a woman's voice give a horrific screech, saw her fall to the ground, and fling herself under a banquet table. She would not come out until I had left. She was so freaked out, she had to go back to her room, and missed her next game. I felt horrible about it. I only actually met her years later, and thank goodness my makeup had been good enough that she didn't associate me with that event.

So, no, not "ask anyone". It is, in fact, that kind of assumption and generalization these tools are supposed to prevent.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
On the subject of horror materials and safety, Masks of Nyarlathotep for Call of Cthulhu is a fantastic campaign. But BOY is it going to cross a lot of people's safety lines. Some of the elements that do so are among the elements that make it as powerful and immersive as it can be and while some of them can be veiled, they're very hard to completely expunge.
Yep. And that’s a great reason to work up a MoN-specific checklist of horrors to show the players. If there are too many lines, it’s probably best not to run MoN with that group. In this way safety tools can also be used as a match-maker for DMs, players, and content. If there’s only one or two lines and veils on the expected content, you’re probably good to go. Too many, and obviously it’s not going to work. So either a different group or different content.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Because maybe some issues are things that should be under your responsibility to control, not mine to omit from the game. Whose responsibility is it ... mine or yours.

So, the point here are tools to help you cooperate with your players. If you aren't interested in that, or you are more worried about a GM's loss of control than aids for your players, maybe this is not the thread for you.
 

From what is described, it seems like Lines can be used as compatibility filters as much as safety tools. Which sounds super handy.

If you have your heart set on running a game with clowns, and you discover one of your potential participants has a fear of clowns that would make the game unfun for them, it benefits everyone to find that out before the game starts and allow them to exclude themselves gracefully.
 

Eltab

Lord of the Hidden Layer
Maybe somebody else has mentioned this already:

Heroes of Horror, in D&D 3e and Pathfinder versions.
Essays on setting the tone, plus some system-specific characters / rules showing how to implement the ideas.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Because maybe some issues are things that should be under your responsibility to control, not mine to omit from the game. Whose responsibility is it to keep you from having your night ruined by failing as save vs charm person or by Dr Mindbender forcing you to let him escape from the bank robbery before the police arrive? Mine or yours?
The thing is, not every issue is one that can be really controlled. There are some people who really do have uncontrollable reactions to certain stimuli. Some people are capable of just grinning and bearing it until a more fun event comes along, but other people can't.
 


Gradine

Final Form (they/them)
I understand your position but I thought this thread was about safety tools for things that actually traumatise people.
It certainly does feel like the OP is threadcrapping their own thread (which is ironic, given the meta thread created) when we are talking about issues which have nothing to do with safety. I mean we may as well add 1e level drain to that list if we are talking about things that could "make the game suck for them."

EDIT: Those issues brought up are certainly session 0 issues but don't belong in a discussion about safety, IMO.
Or maybe we could let the OP define what "safety" means to them and their table, and not gunk up the "+" thread with quibbles over semantics
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Broadly, I might say that's the difference between line (it is focused on you) and veil (it is a thing that's happening, but you are not the focus of it).
Oh no, from experience I'm still going to be white knuckling something, it's just not something that can drive us over the edge. The same largely applies to flyovers & drawbridges.
The two people I know who are arachnophobes, and the one I know who is coulrophobic cannot watch those movies, and have no opinion about the "best parts" of the films.
The only arachnophobia person I know who saw it tore the armrest off the seat when she took us to see it years back in the theater & was practically rooting for the fire like a sports fan during the fire. Like me & my vertigo & my friend's cackling glee over doing horrible things to clowns that relative is able to enjoy that catharsis of that fire. That's an important distinction for a horror checklist because many horror tropes deliberately attempt to induce similar states of on edge unsettled in people without even touching on phobias
So, story about me, and the one person I know who is coulrophobic....

Years ago, I was playing in a live action RPG at a convention, the game was set at a circus, and I was cast... you guessed it... as one of the clowns. We're all in costume, waiting for game to start, and a GM told us it would be another 10 minutes. Since we were all jazzed about our costuming and makeup, we collectively decided that the circus could do a parade, and we all went jandering out in-character... you guessed it.... clowns leading the parade (because, if I must say myself, we clowns had pulled out the stops, and we looked pretty darned good). And, of course, I was the top clown, and was leading the way, walking funny in my big shoes, baggy pants and sad Emmet Kelly clown makeup...

... and we entered the con suite area, where people between games were hanging out with sodas and snacks...

... And I hear a woman's voice give a horrific screech, saw her fall to the ground, and fling herself under a banquet table. She would not come out until I had left. She was so freaked out, she had to go back to her room, and missed her next game. I felt horrible about it. I only actually met her years later, and thank goodness my makeup had been good enough that she didn't associate me with that event.

So, no, not "ask anyone". It is, in fact, that kind of assumption and generalization these tools are supposed to prevent.
You are going very deep into comparing apples & screwdrivers by comparing the vicarious thrill of something like someone torturing clowns in left4dead despite phobia someone with arachnophobia watching spiders burning in a movie of the same name, or even someone playing a character that is experiencing horrific things while seated at a table with friends also playing characters experiencing similar to a LARP where someone had to face a clown that may or may not have deliberately done something unsettling face to face with a clown phobic person.

I also think the whole lines and veils things are poorly done & incomplete in ways that link back to the original "I don't care for that" vrs "emotionally harmful thing". They are poorly done because they are transparently drawn from the fetish community's soft limits hard limits & safe words while getting so much wrong. Like some of these safety tools, that community was using words like consent & aftercare with pretty serious well developed tones long before the recent babysteps spotlight., That's a topic for a second post as it's a bit involved & the phobias discussion is probably a bit of a dead end.
 

Azzy

KMF DM
Oh no, from experience I'm still going to be white knuckling something, it's just not something that can drive us over the edge. The same largely applies to flyovers & drawbridges.

The only arachnophobia person I know who saw it tore the armrest off the seat when she took us to see it years back in the theater & was practically rooting for the fire like a sports fan during the fire. Like me & my vertigo & my friend's cackling glee over doing horrible things to clowns that relative is able to enjoy that catharsis of that fire. That's an important distinction for a horror checklist because many horror tropes deliberately attempt to induce similar states of on edge unsettled in people without even touching on phobias

You are going very deep into comparing apples & screwdrivers by comparing the vicarious thrill of something like someone torturing clowns in left4dead despite phobia someone with arachnophobia watching spiders burning in a movie of the same name, or even someone playing a character that is experiencing horrific things while seated at a table with friends also playing characters experiencing similar to a LARP where someone had to face a clown that may or may not have deliberately done something unsettling face to face with a clown phobic person.

I also think the whole lines and veils things are poorly done & incomplete in ways that link back to the original "I don't care for that" vrs "emotionally harmful thing". They are poorly done because they are transparently drawn from the fetish community's soft limits hard limits & safe words while getting so much wrong. Like some of these safety tools, that community was using words like consent & aftercare with pretty serious well developed tones long before the recent babysteps spotlight., That's a topic for a second post as it's a bit involved & the phobias discussion is probably a bit of a dead end.
We get, it doesn't meet your approval.
4cp9ob.jpg
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
I’m looking through horror media, tropes, and themes for subgenres...and I think it might be easier and better to explicitly frame safety checklists as more open-ended and as conversation starting tools rather than try to write up exhaustive lists of every possible trope or theme. I think that way lies madness.

For example, instead of having a “monsters” category and listing literally every single monster that could potentially come up, it would be better to have a “monster” category with a few top examples and a lot of blanks to be filled in as necessary.

So too with different genres. Make the category and list the most obvious tropes and themes and leave lots of blanks for filling in.

Side note, in my stumblings I found an odd horror review channel on YouTube. The intro video essay is, I think, kinda relevant (in parts) to the discussion.

 

Retreater

Legend
Trying to not sound "thread-cappy" or dismissive, but if I have any inclination that my players aren't cool with horror or any other thing that might come up in a given game, I simply don't run it. I save that theme or adventure for another group. My current group isn't cool with some parts of Rime of the Frostmaiden, so I'm switching it around to meet their tastes. If there was something that I didn't know about (like if a player had a spider phobia), I'd make note to not use them in encounters again with that player.
For me, I'd rather just stay away from the lines once I know where they are placed. I don't want to ask a player "how much cruelty to animals are you okay with" - I just don't put that in their adventure.
This has resulted in me ending campaigns prematurely. Like when I was running an undead-centered campaign and a player's husband passed away IRL. After that, raiding crypts, stalking cemeteries, etc., just felt wrong. And that's okay. To me the game isn't some sacred, artistic expression. It's a leisure activity meant to be shared with friends.
Do others think this makes me a bad GM? (My wife suggests that what I'm cutting out of Rime of the Frostmaiden makes me a bad GM and it's borderline a character flaw.)
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
Do others think this makes me a bad GM? (My wife suggests that what I'm cutting out of Rime of the Frostmaiden makes me a bad GM and it's borderline a character flaw.)
Maybe assuming too much about what your players wouldn't tolerate rather than talking about it could be a flaw in that she thinks you're being too conservative?
But a bad DM - DMs edit things all the time for their own preferences, for the players preferences, for the current situation, for the current PC capabilities - none of that's a sign of being a bad DM.

But I do generally agree that a line being drawn is going to tend to make me veer farther away from it. It's one of the reasons I'm not too keen on drawing a difference between PC as target/PC as perpetrator for things like mind control. If it's a safety issue, it's gone, not just partly gone.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Oh no, from experience I'm still going to be white knuckling something, it's just not something that can drive us over the edge. The same largely applies to flyovers & drawbridges.

Okay, so, here's a language thing. Before, you said, "I'm perfectly fine enjoying the view as a passenger over that bridge," (emphasis mine). The white-knuckle-grip, to me, is an indication that you are most definitely not "perfectly fine," and are instead barely managing to hold on to your cool, and the view is really not the foremost thing on your mind.

Use of these tools requires clarity and honesty. Polite understatement of the situation - like, the driver looks at your white knuckles and clenched jaw, and asks if you are okay, and you say, "I'm fine." - is going to defeat the purpose.
 
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Retreater

Legend
Maybe assuming too much about what your players wouldn't tolerate rather than talking about it could be a flaw in that she thinks you're being too conservative?
This specific case is based on something that I discussed with my players that is largely considered positive in the gaming community and by the content creators, but makes the players feel uncomfortable. So in this case the players' X's were inclusion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. So for their comfort I presented the world in a heteronormative fashion.
My wife thinks I was wrong. I don't know - does the X card apply to these issues as well? I erred on the side of making the environment comfortable since they obviously had issues, after I discussed it with them.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
This specific case is based on something that I discussed with my players that is largely considered positive in the gaming community and by the content creators, but makes the players feel uncomfortable. So in this case the players' X's were inclusion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. So for their comfort I presented the world in a heteronormative fashion.
My wife thinks I was wrong. I don't know - does the X card apply to these issues as well? I erred on the side of making the environment comfortable since they obviously had issues, after I discussed it with them.
I know you're not supposed to question the use of the safety tools, but it looks to me like they're trying to subvert the tools. And that's one of the risks of anything used to try to accommodate people's concerns - that it will be used contrary to its intent in a deliberate backlash, that it will be appropriated for use as something that wasn't its intent.
I'd have tempted to tell the players to eff off, they can find another DM.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
This specific case is based on something that I discussed with my players that is largely considered positive in the gaming community and by the content creators, but makes the players feel uncomfortable. So in this case the players' X's were inclusion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. So for their comfort I presented the world in a heteronormative fashion.
My wife thinks I was wrong. I don't know - does the X card apply to these issues as well? I erred on the side of making the environment comfortable since they obviously had issues, after I discussed it with them.
Yeah I honestly don’t think “cater to my bigotry” is a valid use of safety tools. If someone is made uncomfortable by The Gays, then they can either get over it, or get out.

The issue with some tools is that their is a tendency to overgeneralize. For example, the problem with mind control magic isn't "you failed your save, attack your allies for me!" But more issues with consent and scenarios where things happen to the PC and due to the magic they cannot fight back against (Jessica Jones style).

I think in addition to tools like this, a general overview of tone and such helps. I tend to run my game PG-13, with lower levels of gore or sex. If a line gets crossed, it's non intentional and we will walk it back as needed. That sort of communication presented plainly can fix some of the more generic issues with these tools...
Yeah for me, I cannot abide mind control at all. Forcing me to attack my friends (my group never plays mercenary murderhobos, the other PCs are my PCs friends, family, etc) is akin to sexual assault, from the POV of the character. I cannot even take seriously the notion that someone who uses those powers can be a good guy, but I can ignore that if it’s a casual game.

So, it existing in the world as an evil thing is fine, I’m here to stab evil. Using it on my character is going to be traumatic for me and leave me severely agitated.

So my allies using lesser mind control like calm emotions, command, illusion spells that mimic mind control by making you see things as they are not, I’m okay with, though my PC may criticize them for it, but using dominate person on my PC is 100% off the table.
Because maybe some issues are things that should be under your responsibility to control, not mine to omit from the game. Whose responsibility is it to keep you from having your night ruined by failing as save vs charm person or by Dr Mindbender forcing you to let him escape from the bank robbery before the police arrive? Mine or yours?
Yours. You’re the DM. Your player is telling you they aren’t okay with their basic agency as a player being removed, so don’t do it. It’s that simple.
 

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