Consent in Gaming: Roleplaying Safety Tools

I’ve seen a lot of arguments and discussion on the Discords I belong to, my Twitter feed, and of course Reddit about Consent in Gaming. I’ve even heard the words “special snowflake”, and boy didn’t that bring back memories. So, first I’m going to take away the special snowflake comment. Yes, I am a special snowflake, here’s what else: So are you, so is everyone. Quite frankly every human being on Earth is a special snowflake. We are all unique, beautiful and ourselves. We dance in the eddies of time, and sometimes get lost in a crowd of similar people. No matter what we do, or how alike we are, every human has their own thoughts, dreams, desires and they are all beautiful, represented in the crystalline pattern of a snowflake.

Now, to focus on the main topic: Consent in Gaming. It’s meant to cover mature or controversial elements. In essence, it’s a way for people to communicate easily what they want to see, don’t want to see, and what makes a game feel unsafe for them. Let’s go back to the 80’s, before Dungeons & Dragons became mainstream. Back to when roleplaying games were… “Satan’s Game”, when nerds and geeks were bullied and sometimes even harmed for their desire to play this game. One of the major things offered then by FLGS’ (Friendly Local Gaming Stores) was a safe place for people to play. All that Consent in Gaming is supposed to offer is that same sense of safety and home. It’s no more about “repressing creativity” than the ratings on a video game. It’s about making sure everyone at the table is and feels safe and having fun. 

So, what are Roleplaying Safety Tools? Well, they come in a variety of forms, or even just agreed upon rules discussed during Session Zero or even before then. You have Monte Cook’s Consent In Gaming there are Con Use tools that can be found and you can simply google Roleplaying Safety and get a whole host of others. What they do is offer either a form, cards, or suggestions on how to use them and keywords. Before you say anything, keywords have been around for safety for YEARS, usually used in bars to help people get out of risky or unsafe situations. For instance, asking for an “Angel Shot” will help a woman get extracted from a horrible date that feels unsafe. Yes, there are words for men. “Is Angela working tonight” is code for “get me out of here”. Women can be just as crazy, creepy, or scary as men (Cardi B drugging and robbing men anyone?).

I use roleplaying safety tools, and I freely admit that one of the future setting books for Hope’s Horizon is going to require Consent in Gaming. Now, most of the time I use them or insist on them being used when I’m going to be playing with strangers, new people to the gaming community that might not be comfortable interrupting something that makes them uncomfortable. After time and playing with people I tend to not worry as much, unless we’re entering a new genre of game. Going from Dungeons and Dragons to Call of Cthulhu is a whole new kettle of fish. Another game that makes big use of the Consent in Gaming is Honey and Hot Wax. Yes, the title is exactly what it sounds like, it’s an Anthology of Erotic Art Games. It’s a good read, I’ll get around to reviewing it… eventually.

Now, I’ve talked a lot about safety, so I’m going to explain the second major benefit to using Consent in Gaming and roleplaying safety tools: Finding people who game like you do. The benefit to using these standardized forms and pre-discussion is that it lets you find people who are on the same level, take pleasure, or enjoy the same things. For example, I have one friend who enjoys body horror, (think Hellraiser) while I’ve another who gets completely squicked out by it. I myself roam the middle and am ambivalent. It’s also useful from a mental health awareness standpoint. Some people use roleplaying as a form of escapism, that for this period of time they feel like this wonderful, competent person who can do the thing. (They already are, just sometimes have a hard time seeing it in themselves). Others use roleplaying as a way to work out their feelings, thoughts and emotions in a safe space. (I shoot zombies for my rage, personally). In both cases they are right, however, you don’t want the two to try and game together, because that would make for unhappy gamers. One trying to escape from the sadness, and one trying to deal with it. The Roleplaying Safety Tools, help you identify both types. One of the great supplements recently done is Cypher System’s We’re All Mad Here. It covers a lot thoughts on mental health and gaming and Shanna Germain did an excellent job treating the subject.

Being honest with the consent and the roleplaying safety tools is incredibly important, not just in what you like, but what you dislike. I, for one, am not interested in some dark gritty murder hobo game of death and destructions… unless it’s in a specific genre and game. (Here’s looking at you Blades in the Dark, Vampire, Kult, and Paranoia). Also, it’s important for the GM and players to keep an open door policy, checking in with each other on how they felt, what they thought, and if they’re comfortable. For example, one of the things with a game I’m playing is using safe words to ensure we stay on the same even keel, because we are playing a dark, gritty dystopia game. ‘Banana Hammock’ are our words of choice at the moment.

To reiterate, Consent in Gaming and Roleplaying Safety Tools are just that tools, they help make the game what everyone at the table wants to make it. It’s about making the game safe, fun and interesting for everyone at the table. I advocate its use for new players and new groups. However, if you don’t want to use it, that’s your choice, just as it’s my choice to ask for it. Everyone deserves to have fun and feel safe. Happy gaming!

  • Joann Walles

Now on DriveThruRPG, from Angel’s Citadel… A brand new, original setting for the Cypher System! The Hope’s Horizon Starter Kit requires the Revised Cypher System Rulebook from Monte Cook Games.

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