Friday 14 June 2019

Unseemly Conduct and Evil in Games

Recently had a player interested in joining my group but asked if there was any horror or anything unpleasant in my game. I said it was slightly nasty and they didnt come. As i use historic vice and villainy frequently it was probably for the best and might have affected other peoples enjoyment. Ive been in position of dispute between players tastes for and against sex and it killed the group and friendships. Judging between conflicts of mental health is hard. I had some players who worked in customer service or teaching who wanted as catharsis to be opposite in game.  A new player joined a three year game and asked everyone to stop certain conversation topics. People had right to say no to a new player. One smart very ethical player liked to play barbarians who picked fights. Id rather start a separate game for people who are not like this or wanted a family friendly or kids game. Its fine to say no, better to say need to start a new group to accommodate their taste. Sometimes a variety of players is a good thing but they need to be able to work together and be friends.

Had some young players shocked my game had slavery. DnD5 increased the hobby participation and doubled some clubs and culture had to adjust a bit. Personally I'm all for women, various cultures and gender tastes in all my nerd hobbies.

So I guess one question from this is:

If bad guys don't do bad things how do you justify murdering them?

Ive met dnd groups all playing cute furies and adorable critters who murder creatures that dont seem to do anything to deserve it. possibly worse than murder hobos. Some of these games tend to be on the kitch end of fantasy and would make a terrible book. Without evil good can kinda be pointless.

I had party sell monsters as slaves rather than kill them. One built a work house for poor and monsters they reformed then built a village of orcs and humans but they also like to bathe orphans which creeped out everybody. Some stuff like this is pretty memorable.

Some topics are universal horrible:

I know one club where women put a ban on alien impregnation stories. If you've had a traumatic abortion incest rape you probably don't want this in a game. Its possible trauma could be played to be cathartic but one DM claimed this knowing a couple of players had a tragedy and whole group complained as he persisted and turned whole group against him which turned into a emergency club meeting. He never got point. He ignored or mocked xcards. He believed he could manage this in game and failed badly. He was surprised his players were united in criticising him.

Ive had many fights over HPL and lost a friend over it. We both agree on most issues, both left wing, both agree on HPL being more racist than most of his time yet we split over exactly what content is ok and he defriended me. I have lots of friends who disagree with me. I have conservative religious friends who probably are challenged by me but we still are friends even if we tune out from each others feed occasionally. Two friends of mine agree on 99% of issues as me but think Israel is always right (they are not Jewish, most of my Jewish friends don't agree with this). Different countries have different takes on race, sexism and slavery. If someone reasonably explains why something they think is abhorrent its probably better to resolve or part ways than dig in or double down or assume you can handle this.

You don't have to agree on everything always. Having persistence to be friends, talk reasonably and be a decent person over years is better than rage quitting. Ive had several friends quit being nazis, racists and MRA's by persisting in being nice over a long time. I also learned about their fears which is helpful too. Splitting when you agree on most matters helps the worst people or even Russia. 

Stuff with children is touchy too. You don't need to be explicit. Villains harming children or orphans needing saving are fine plot hooks but you don't need to take this stuff very far and plenty of people have had bad upbringings. I worked as doorman at a S&M club and several ppl in a pretty open club would object to child themed performances and ones featuring baby playpens. Even pretty open minded people have limits.

I quit a game because DM said he loved women, just not communist feminazi witches like our prime minister at the time. Wanting equal pay is kinda capitalism. She was regarded as one of best economic leaders in world by international bodies just not Murdoch press who demonised her and got her sacked. Alsp game boring. My main reason for quitting most games really. 

There are more games featuring children as characters. I've thought up one recently. When player protagonists are children not npc victims you need to be more considerate. I dislike games for children in modern era and wont do it again in a hurry. I had to tell my students don't discus the trangressive elements of your game around adults or teachers if you don't want your games banned. Kids discussing demon worship, black magic, drunken tavern antics and player vs player coercive charm magic in game might get your games banned. I told them of my encounters with satanic panic growing up and the comic code authority. Ive reported kids and written reports over what they learned in online game forums like how to spot gays by finger digits, why trans people are all pyromaniacs and why tomboys are a problem that must be corrected by everybody (WTF?). Five year olds obsessed with killing cops and prostitutes from playing vice city is a bit sad. I found Moshie Monsters had a racoon in a trenchcoat gambling with kids for credit which was creepy and adults in site trying to talk to kids (we banned it).

The artist responsible for Piss Christ said an artist needs can get close to the line enough to get attention from shock but not so far as to get a lynch mob after you (my rewording). 

This a good read on torture
Article on torture in dnd
I quit battlestar galactica series over torture. I Can't handle most cop shows with corruption torture, child and women victims constantly. Ive had my fill of real criome for life. Asthmatic monsters stalking people ok, humans in real world too real for me. I don't think information is point of torture really. Also real torture is not knowing what will happen or when it will end. I've been tortured, it made me contrary.

Q: Why dont you warn players?

I've written long blurbs stating influences like heavy metal magazine, real history, films and books and players didn't know and didn't check and still came because they wanted to be in my games. So I tried to amp up descriptions to be explicit sex drugs adult content which worked turn them off but con crew began complaining. I think voluntary film ratings a good idea. Some ppl love me more than i love them despite me being as horrible as i can.


Considered a checklist like some S&M scenes is preferable to xcards which I've seen abused and create new problems dividing communities - will work on this.

I find blanket family friendly cons not so great - you would think late sessions would be ok. Used to be a adult only horror con game with lots of games playing with trauma. One locked up smokers without cigarettes for 6 hours.

People are not more sensitive or weak now. They are braver for not putting up with shit in private or being driven away. You don't need to understand someones preferences to reach an agreement or support them. They don't need to relive their trauma to you for you to get it. It's ok to quit a game or say accommodating one interest will change a existing game. If all your players agree they can accommodate people that's great. If they can't that's ok too.

Open drop in games and games in public places and events need to be more considerate with strangers and more transparent with warnings. Knowing your audience and discussing taste in books and TV is good. Ability to watch GOT is a yardstick that is handy for example.

Anyway feedback on this welcome but I will delete abuse.
Your welcome to drop reading me.


  1. I agree that birds of a feather should flock together. There's no reason a particular set of limits should be written into the rules, or written out of them, because RPGs more than any other hobby can be whatever we want them to be. All the sneering and squabbling over such things is just people insisting that their own limits are or should be the correct and universal ones.

  2. On villains, I've found rumor, and intimation in a scene is always more powerful than actually witnessing a terrible act. Finding a bunch of children's clothes in a bad guy's bedroom is enough to set many players mind afire. Though it could be still too far for some. Having a town where all the women refuse to go up to the keep alone, or warn other women not to do so is enough, the details don't matter, the horror is in the feeling of what may have happened. If something like that is too much, there's always just straight up killen. People are oddly fine with murder or a monster that eats people compared to other crimes. I suppose this is because most people don't experience that trauma up close. (Though I had a person in a game whose sister had been murdered and it was a distressing experience for everyone when feelings were triggered for them.) Automatons are good for enemies of the squeamish, nobody cares about killing a robot (except when they do, but then you're hooped.) As for what the robots are doing? Turning people into energy or stealing their joy or some crap like that. It's kind of horrible, but its the kind that people don't get so squicked out by. My sister came up with a plot where people throughout the land are being mind controlled, but its not telling them to do anything, so they just stand around as if sleep walking. Kind of scary, a threat to the status quo, but unlikely to trigger trauma in anyone.

    Despite what the current community byline says, these games, are not actually for everyone. People need to know what they are signing up for or they might have a terrible time. There are games where killing monsters, and morally suspect adventure is not the spine upon which the experience is built. Everybody's got to put on their grown up pants, and communicate what they want, and then figure out how much they're willing to compromise. Unless you're running a game for kids, in which case its on the Dm to keep that shit on the rails. Good god can kids get out of hand when they grok that they can do anything, even the nice quiet ones who cry at movies and are scared of the dark suddenly turn into tiny tot Mengele.

    The murder thing is interesting. I've found this as well. Seemingly cuddly "heroes" just annihilating folks who cross them while skipping along, heedless of the horror they are wreaking. I mean do they think a sword just bruises a victim? One thing that kind of works with one of my groups is I have a young sidekick character who's not as hardened, and she often gets upset in the moment by the acts of the PC's. I have her ask why this person had to die, or why they couldn't have talked their way out of this fight. It has shaken a player more than once, but only because they have come to care about that NPC.

    Sometimes I think DM's have to be more transparent with the kind of game they want to run. The buy-in for the players, the kind of things they are likely to experience, challenges they might face, but also the style of design and story that DM is interested in running. Too often people just list genre, but I mean there is Horror as in "Oh no bump in the night a g-g-g-ghost!" and then there is a city of undead children who repeat their dying words and weep as they try to eat you. Or hell even just the average sex slave ring is a bloody horror show when you just look at it and acknowledge it. Horror, or action, or dungeon crawl is just too broad. DM's might have a game they want to run, or a story they want to tell, but for god's sake make sure your players are an audience that wants that kind of entertainment! It just saves everyone's time and the headache.

    1. I think most ppl would react more to the childrens clothes thing more than bodies in gibbets or nooses

    2. Yeah, you're probably right. Which makes it a powerful tool. So like most powerful tools, it should only be applied in the right scenario.

      It can be used in a way that's less dark than its implication too. The bad guy might pose as children to infiltrate areas, and thus needs clothes to disguise themselves. (This can be fodder for an interesting dilemma. How do you investigate a bunch of kids without being a jerk to a bunch of kids?) Or maybe they had a kid who died, and they can't let go. Or they straight up eat kids (Still pretty grisly.) That's probably not what the players will first think of though. (Which says something.)

      What's important is it makes chills run down your spine, but it isn't full on bleach your mind stuff that people have to suffer through. It's enough to tell people something must be done, but not make them uncomfortable for an entire experience of play.

      In the example of the forced impreg DM, (dude should have just let it go when he got push back) he might have been able to have it included if it was implied rather than explicit.

      People are often more okay with coming to the edge of their comfort zone, than being shoved over it. Even so it's a risk.

      Death, or evidence of suffering and then death, (gibbets and such) are an odd blind spot for most. They can wave it away, much like when they kill someone in game. It's over, so they move on. Can be shocking to me to watch that rationalization.


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