Reading the Life and Times of a Phillipine Gamer (which is something all of you should be doing), I noticed that he was looking for a change in tone in the game he is running. Specifically, Pointyman is looking to run a lighter toned game. Something closer to the animated DC shows that have been ever so awesome since Batman: The Animated Series. The post got me to thinking about the games I've run, and the tone they've carried. As well as about the kind of tone gamers in my group wanted. This of course brought me around full circle to the kinds of tone that the readers of this blog also like. So, lets discuss it, shall we?
Tone, or Rating for an easier way of explaining it, is basically the defining line between what is ok to happen on screen and what isn't. For example, in those DC Animated Universe shows I mentioned above. Fighting is ok, but it is never particularly brutal. Relationships are ok, but you'll never see much more than a hug, cuddle, or quick kiss on the lips to show it. Swearing is almost non existant, and while there may be serious tones, they also have a lighter edge to them. Finally, the good guys tend to win, and win often.
Compare this to a movie, or video game, with an M rating. Suddenly nudity and open inferrences of sex are ok to have happen on screen. And by inferring sex I don't mean "The girl leaves the man's apartment in the morning" I mean we get a shot of the pair, naked, wrapped up in tangled sheets with limbs intertwined. If not more. Violence can become very brutal, people get shot and die. People scream in agony. They wet themselves in fear, and not in the "oh that's funny" sort of way. Then of course, there are the big two. Namely, torture and rape.
Most groups I've seen aren't ok with those at all. Some are fine with both, and some are fine with one but not the other (in my experience, torture is usually more ok than rape). These are very personal things to people though, so knowing your group, and knowing when that is just not ok, is a damn good thing to have at the ready as the gm. But, that isn't what I want to talk about today.
So, what kind of rating do you prefer in your game? How do you bring it up with your group? Do you ask at the beginning of the game what rating people want? Do you tell them ahead of time? "This game is going for a PG-13 rating, just so you know" What things do you not want to handle in your game? What things are you ok with?
Personally, I'm generally ok with almost anything my players want with a few exceptions. For instance, while I'm ok with very mature themes, I'm not ok with pornographic gaming. By that I mean, anything that is there for gratuity's sake, be it violence, sex, or cake eating, I'm generally not ok with at my game. I can deal with the fact that someone is a psychotic that way, it just won't be getting the screen time aside from when it is important.
At the same time, I'm also ok with going the opposite direction and being silly with things. I'm not sure how capable I am beyond say, PG-13 or those Animated DC shows, but I am fine with it if it is the point of the game. Some of the most fun as a GM I've had was running a Toon game.
So, what about you?