Friday, June 26, 2020

Discussion: How Do You Keep Your Game Safe?

There have been a lot of allegations and witnessed fuckups when it comes to violating consent, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in the table top rpg, comic, videogame, and writing communities that surround this fun hobby of ours. It's brought up a lot of the same topics we've gone over before. Believe women. Believe people when they come forward about issues like this. They're important.

It also brings up the question of how do you keep the players in your game safe? I don't mean the PCs, but the players. How do you make sure they feel welcome? How do you make sure they're comfortable? How do you make sure they feel safe so that they can enjoy the game and are not worried about being emotionally wounded or hit by some averse comment or the content of your game?

It's important. So how do you do it?

In the newer of my two D&D games, I used Monte Cook's Consent in Gaming form. In it every player fills out a list giving a green light (enthusiastic consent, or no problem with), yellow light (touchy, but good with forewarning/discussion), and/or red light (absolutely not, do NOT want) for a large list of common topics to come up in gaming. There is also space for more things to be added. I had every player fill out a form and submit it to me anonymously. I filled out a copy myself. Then I shared a 'master' copy with every line filled out with the harshest light it had received from anyone.

Yes, if one person marked anything as a red light, that thing is not allowed to happen in the game.

Also, I did not show the players my own form. I just included the results in the master form. Why? Because this way if anyone had a question about "why is X a red light? It's not that bad!" I could simply say "I marked it that way, as it's not something I'm interested in having in the game right now at all." Simple.

Beyond the Monte Cook form, I use a 'Session 0' for all my campaigns. In the Session 0 we talk about the themes we want in the game, but I also talk about things people do not want in the game. I generally bring this up bluntly, asking people if there are any topics or things they do not want in the game at all, or only with forewarning. I then go on to add that common things I add to these lists are on screen torture of PCs, on screen rape of NPCs, and any sexual assault/rape of PCs.

Finally, I do regular check ups and check ins with my players. I make sure they're having fun. I give opportunities to share if they have problems. And if anyone is acting off or quieter than normal, I make sure they're ok, and ok with the content of the game.

One thing to note here though is that the groups I'm running for have been playing together in some form or another for years. We all have a fairly good rapport. There is built up trust. Even still, I do all this because I value that trust and don't want to lose it. Trust, once broken, is very hard to mend.

How about you? Do you do anything special?


  1. I've been looking for something a little more comprehensive than the "X-Card" method, being that I don't want to put prep work into material that I have to pivot away from with extreme prejudice with no warning. "X-Cards" do have their place at the table, but not as the primary source of prevention in these circumstances. The consent sheet here is pretty fabulous, and after looking at it, I'll probably include it in my future games, and might even do follow ups every so often. Police brutality might not have been as touchy a subject in some circles a few months ago, for example.

    1. I couldn't agree more. My issue with the X card is it can be just as hard to hold up or touch the card as it is to speak out. Which makes it a crap tool for prevention on its own. However, compared with things like the consent form and conversations about things, it can work really well.

      With the consent form you know where people are already edgy. So if someone yellow lighted 'Police Brutality' and you knew that was going to come up in the next session you could tell them "Hey, there are going to be themes of police brutality coming up. I just want to make sure everyone is still ok with that, and to be prepared for it coming in."

      Then, with the players prepped and knowing, they come in ready for it. And people are already prepped that it is potentially uncomfortable, so the X card can then be used to set a boundary between "this is ok" and "this is too far."

      Even then I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way for an isolated gamer (i.e. someone with no close connections at the table) to be able to signal discomfort to the GM without drawing attention to themselves as the one saying they're uncomfortable. And barring everyone having a blue tooth chime they can hide under the table or something, I've been coming up blank.