Friday, January 10, 2014

Need a "Safe Word" for your RPG Group? How About "F*ch Off!"

+Tim Shorts has an excellent post over on Gothridge Manor about the idea of "safe words" at the gaming table, and he says what I say above, but in much nicer prose.

Really, if you need a "safe word" at my gaming table, Fuck Off!

My players torture and burn adversaries, sometimes as the SAME FREAKING TIME! I thought it was just the weekly group, but my once a month group BEHEADS their dead adversaries!

The players dont need a fucking "safe word", this DM does.

All I ask is that my players wear pants during our G+ Hangout, or we may need a different type of safe word...

As a side rant, no one has "a right" to be part of a gaming group. No one has "the right" to try to change group dynamics to fit their own, then bitch and whine when it fails to happen.

I've heard folks write into podcasts, complaining about the horrible gaming groups they are a part of, but suffering because there are no other groups to play in locally. If the group doesn't fit you, go on the internet, use G+ Hangouts, or Fantasy Grounds, or Skype, or whatever, and find a group that does. Or fucking adjust. If the group is having fun and you are not, maybe you are the problem.

Gaming is a social contract of sorts, and it's running on all fours when the social aspect takes precedence over the gaming aspect. It's worth finding a group that is running on all fours along with you as opposed to complaining that they are running off without you.

Alright, enough Grumpy thoughts. Game on!


  1. Once! Once we threatened to set an orc on fire so he'd give us information, then set him on fire and pushed him down the hallway in a mine cart so his screaming would get the attention of all his friends. ONCE!

    (Actually, it was kind of a little bit awesome: http://www.kjd-imc.org/blog/ack-or-die-session-8-not-exactly-planned/)

    Okay, okay, so Greg's got a habit of carrying military oil in case we run into someone flammable. I think that mostly got used up on undead, they don't count. How is this any worse than whipping out the fireball we're never high enough level to cast?

    And pants? Have you ever noticed how many of us mute the camera when we have to leave the computer?

    Pants. Fuck pants.

  2. The climate fits the group. If I am playing a game with adults I don't care about language or acts for the most part. If someone is constantly offending me in game play, they won't be invited to the game next time. If I am invited to a group and I find something offensive, then it is I who have to move on. That rule applies to life. I watch my language around children and those easily offended. Mind you I am not Fr. Cuss-a-lot, but being aware of your environment and audience is part of maturity and mutual respect. Also, I don't go about looking to be offended. Get a thick skin and get over yourself.
    The old guys I see every morning at the local Smokehaus for coffee used to say GD all the time, I asked them to leave the Boss out of the conversation, I'm not a dick-head about it, and if they would have told me to f-off I would just opt out of the group. As it is, they enjoy my company and adapted. Maybe I will ramble on about this over at my blog, It's a good point of discussion, thanks Erik!

  3. But you can never know everything about your playing group. What if your friend since eighth grade had been physically abused by a parent or a relative and no one present knew. You guys are playing a game, why should it come up? And some a-hole at the table/in the chat just starts goofing off and begins to beat the shit out of his or her character's child. Or a referee tries to go for a horror angle and introduces child abuse as gruesome element in his or her game, in all seriousness, wanting to make a profound scenario. That could be really uncomfortable for someone with that kind of background. Safe words are not used to protect people with delicate tastes, like you said, don't play games with players who like hack'n'slash violence if you yourself don't like violence, safe words are for unforeseen issues that can hurt or make someone in the group really uncomfortable. You are supposed to be, at some level, having fun, not making people feel bad. White Wolf and makers of other horror games raise this issue all the time. It's a no-brainer.

    Erik, you haven't thought this through, have you?

    1. Most DMs have their own filter. I'm not going to run a game with graphic child abuse, rape or the like. If it happens, it happens off screen.

      If you are playing a BTB James Raggi adventure with dead babies hanging from their entrails and graphic rape details, you should have an idea going in that's it's going to be potentially upsetting. Let them opt out before buying in.

      I don't have safe words in my every day dealings with friends, family and co workers and shouldnt need it in a game. YMMV

      (admittedly, I've seen more fucked up shit in my career than most folks would see in 100 lifetimes, so my skin is thicker than most)

    2. YMMV? Is that that mileage things about experiences being different? Just checking out the meaning, not sure.

    3. My experiences, my social groups, no need for such.

      My wife is a social worker. Create an RPG group consisting of a half dozen of her clients, you'll need more than a "safe word" to keep things safe ;)

    4. the thing is, if you know your group, you know the dynamics.

      any DM that includes "Raggi Styled Extremism" without vetting it with his group is an ass...

    5. Well, of course, safe words are for when sensitive issues arise during game play. If you're playing Marvel Super Heroes I doubt that too much uncomfortable stuff comes up. That's hardly a reason to write "fuck off" to safe words.

      As you've said in your own comments, it's about being able to say "don't go there" and having that wish be respected and accepted by the group. If someone present had a tough situation lately (doesn't have to be super traumatic, just regular life stuff) it can be great to know that they can ask for things to be skipped during play without it being a huge discussion at the table. 1) It could be a further bummer to bring up at game session aimed at fun and entertainment and 2) maybe it's none of the other players' damn business.

      Things happen unexpectedly to people you know, or issues grow and intensify over time. It can happen to any roleplaying group. "Safe words" is the ability to say "please stop" at a gaming table. I see no reason to get affronted or to write a frankly ill-conceived blog post.

    6. Well, see, that's the privilege one has when one has a blog, to post their thoughts.

      Your not agreeing with me does not make my post ill-conceived - it just makes you wrong ;)

      In any case, if playing a game needs safe words, then maybe certain folks shouldn't be playing that game WITH that group.

      Because "safe words" could be extended to any social situation, and by their very definition, if you accept the concept as necessary, they should be. If we bring "safe words" to the pub, it will be the end of civilization as we know it - unless the safe word is "another round!"

    7. Excuse me Erik, but I must use my X-Card on MalcolmLittle. I don't have to explain why - it is part of the X-Card joy. So can you ban MalcolmLittle and delete his or her posts? It is the only way to be fair under the X-Card system. Just don't ask me why.

  4. RPGing lets me get that dark and angry side out so that the rest of humanity does not suffer Edmaggedon! I refer to playing violent video games, such as GTA V as passing my Voight-Kampff.

  5. I was going to put up some serious invective, but in the interests of not being ignored and written off as another shrill feminist (even if I am), I'm instead just going to say that it seems to me that having *some* kind of mechanism to head off any unanticipated trauma is just simple good manners.

    1. I'm married to a social worker that shares your name, so it would be dangerous to ignore anyone named Rachel ;)

      The mechanism is simply : "lets no go there, or here, or whatever". If there is a problem, be an adult and say so. Common sense and communication skills override any need for a "safe word"

    2. In other words, your group uses the safe words, "Let's not go there." :)

    3. I think it's reaching to attach the safe word issue with feminism.

    4. Matt, I think the idea is knowing your group. What I would run with my regular group that has been meeting for 2 years and what I would run with a pick up group is not necessarily the same thing.

      What I would run for adults and what I would run for kids is different too.

      Know your audience and there is little if any need for "safe words"

    5. Charles, it's less that and more that discussion of trauma and triggering gets lumped in with it all too often.

  6. Is "Ewwww! Ick! Cut that shit out!" too long to be a safe word?

  7. The article I read was how to put together a group for a long term campaign. When your dealing with kids or folks with mental issues then there will be differences in what is allowable. I wrote it from my POV, from my group view and most of what I see with other gamers. I've got no interest with getting involved with a campaign that features Carcosa type rituals. But I am also not going to impose my views onto a group that enjoys that type of game.

    It was the writer's concept of finding an acceptable behavior by all, using weak psychological tools to achieve this gaming harmony. If someone is uncomfortable with what the group does then its probably not the group for that person. Nothing wrong with checking out other games. Might be the best thing that could happen. But its not up to others to make sure you are comfortable. That is your responsibility.

  8. I ran a LotFP adventure a while back as part of a larger campaign, and I introduced the more graphic elements s-l-o-w-l-y, expecting a reaction. It meant tweaking the module a little, but I soon found out how far I can go with my current group. Entrails was about the limit... and this is all adults. They just aren't into "that" style of play. If you think about it, graphically describing a typical melee could get pretty bad. The elements are there, whether or not to use them is for the DM and players to choose. Some players don't seem to care about visuals at all, seeming to treat combat like the opponents had life meters above their heads and only want to know when the meter reads zero...

    1. Forgot to add... we didn't need any "safe words." I just needed to pay attention and notice when things were getting uncomfortable.

  9. The players dont need a fucking "safe word", this DM does.... take a laugh point if you collect them. that shit is hilarious because it's true.

  10. Maybe if you are a sensitive little pussy, then games about hacking the fuck out of a village worth of orcs and goblins (with their attendant families and civilians) is not what you should do with your free time.

    Try Carcasonne instead.

  11. Some hideously sick things happen now and again in my games they usually get the behind closed doors or off camera treatment but if a player is disturbed i want to know so i don't go down that road again if I can help it.
    You don't need a safe word you simply need to communicate with each other. There's no reason simple communication shouldn't do the job.
    An rpg session is a place where open communication is supposed to be effective, safe words are for environments where communication could be difficult, communication should never be difficult at a game table.


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