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Hot Button: What is your Taboo?

Posted By Walt Ciechanowski On March 17, 2009 @ 12:01 am In GMing Advice | 34 Comments

I was playing in a D&D campaign a few years ago when, during combat, one of the PCs killed an NPC and proceeded to have sex with the corpse. I was mortified (pun intended) and quit the campaign. The reasons for the act didn’t matter; a line had been crossed and I didn’t want to be part of a campaign or a group of people that would allow that.

Not long ago, I was reading through a horror adventure for my group when a scene called for the death of children. While death is a part of horror, as the father of a small child (soon to be two), I simply couldn’t do it. I rewrote that portion of the adventure.

The above are violent examples, but I’ve also had a player quit one of my games for too much roleplaying. He just wasn’t good at improv conversation, and if I wouldn’t let him dice through social scenes then he wouldn’t play anymore.

So today’s hot button topic is this: What lines bother you enough that you won’t cross them? Does it matter if you are a player or a GM? Have you ever been bothered enough by a particular taboo that you make it clear before the start of a campaign?

Walt Ciechanowski

About  Walt Ciechanowski

Walt’s been a game master ever since he accidentally picked up the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set in 1982. He became a freelance RPG writer in 2005 and is currently the Victoriana Line Developer for Cubicle 7. Walt lives in Springfield, PA with his wife Helena and their three children, Leianna, Stephen, and Zoe.




34 Comments (Open | Close)

34 Comments To "Hot Button: What is your Taboo?"

#1 Comment By Dire Emu On March 17, 2009 @ 12:44 am

I personally have few taboos. I do however run into the taboos of my players all the time. This differs by player and sometimes can lead to some quickstepping over certain plot elements for me.

For many of my players it’s romance (not sex) in the game. I like to include this element as a lot of the best stories have it, but I think that a lot of my players can’t handle their 200+ pound male GM playing the role of the smitten merchant’s daughter etc.. This means that a lot of this develops between the actual play.

One character developed a sort of crush then puppy love relationship with an innkeepers daughter. This was handled by making it part of the narrative between adventures and having casual encounters in play that hinted to the greater romance.

Homosexuality also seems to be a huge trigger for folks (big surprise there), so much so that the one openly gay player in my group pretty much avoided the issue of his character’s sexuality.

Honestly, I haven’t run into too many others.

-Eli

#2 Comment By iliadawry On March 17, 2009 @ 4:04 am

Any sort of sexual assault is a no for me, as a player or as a GM. (As a GM I tend to look askance at it in backstories.) It rubs me the wrong way, and statistically any woman at the gaming table may also be afflicted by related unpleasant memories, and I don’t want that for anyone.

#3 Comment By jr37 On March 17, 2009 @ 5:42 am

in our groups we focus more on ‘thinking and acting-in-game in character’, rather than ‘speaking in character’ (yes, tons of frustration for those who like to seriously roleplay… they don’t tend to stick around), which i think puts an additional degree of distance between the players and anything in the game, so some taboo issues that might otherwise have come up are a little more abstract and therefore tolerable. as a rule, we avoid sexual assault.
as an additional note, if you’re going to run an evil-based campaign, like say, a VtM ‘Sabbat’ campaign, as a GM you’d best toss your taboos out the window… and as a player, you’d best be comfortable with all the nastiness that hides in your darker side. otherwise it’s like a ‘G’ rated porno film… what’s the point?

#4 Comment By Bravemaximus On March 17, 2009 @ 5:55 am

Our games are mostly PG rated unless you consider violence. We tend to stay away from sex and relationships as a whole (because my players just think that roleplaying a relationship is boring) and we don’t deal with mutilating corpses or the slaughter of innocents. If the PC’s can’t immediately stop it, all the nasty stuff tends to have happened already. I”ve been gaming with the same group of people since before high school, and so we have a way of looking at the game that hasn’t changed much since then. That tends to keep the taboos from ever cropping up.

#5 Comment By brcarl On March 17, 2009 @ 6:44 am

The groups I game in keep things at a PG-13 level for the most part. We do have a lecherous bard in one group, and he sleeps around a lot, but the “details” are not discussed – he just “goes up to his room.” Sometimes when we’re doing on-line roleplay (between sessions), we’ll get a bit more descriptive, but never past first base. ;-)

With respect to violence, we have had NPC bad guys doing horrible things (rape, mass murder, torture, etc.) but NEVER the PCs. And like with the sex, the details are never detailed in-game, but rather the PCs discover the aftermath or hear about it from survivors/witnesses.

Some topics, like the necrophilia mentioned in the article, are right out. They don’t enter the game story at all ever.

Luckily for me, the groups I’m in are made up of similarly-minded folks so there was no need to discuss taboos outright — they’re just understood. We’re all middle-class 30~40-somethings with jobs and families, so our morals are fairly level.

#6 Comment By Rafe On March 17, 2009 @ 7:06 am

Wow, good question, Walt, and a hard one to answer. In one campaign, we players faced quite a few things. Actually, it was just one of the players who faced most of what might be seen as contentious issues. Her character was a ranger/demon hunter.

The one that really stands out for me was us being in a kind of illusion created by a demon. We were in an inn, having a meal… and we found out that we were actually eating people in a derelict inn in a town whose people had been killed by demons or their minions. The illusion covered the whole town, or most of it. It didn’t push any buttons with this player (a woman, if that matters at all). In fact, it prompted a lot of good-natured “I hate you so much, *name of DM*”. We still talk about that campaign and the things the DM had us face.

Otherwise, I stand by what a lot of others have said: no sexual assault unless it’s implied or if the characters can stop it, definitely no necrophilia (I mean honestly… what the hell?!)… hmm… can’t think of anything else, really.

I guess our rule is not to have anything in the game that’s over the line unless it has a purpose, such as to illustrate the dire situations of a populous, steel them into action (or make them even more determined), etc. Certainly the characters themselves do not perpetuate any taboos or take actions that cross any lines.

#7 Comment By valadil On March 17, 2009 @ 7:30 am

My rule of thumb is that I avoid anyone playing the Stupid Evil alignment. Someone who burns an orphanage because its there is not someone I’d like to game with. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy evil characters, just not ones who are overly destructive about it. Those players should stick with GTA.

#8 Comment By Hawkesong On March 17, 2009 @ 7:40 am

I tend to agree with a good deal of what you said there, Walt. And with a lot of the other comments I have seen.
For me, to quote an old novel I read once, “If it involves former food or former people, I don’t do it.” I have been a player in a game where the GM and other players were perfectly fine with torture, brutal interrogation, and killing a large number of human infants – all in the name of “getting the job done.” However by the time I entered that game, these folks had lost sight completely of any mission at all and were just pushing to see how far their GM would let them go. Answer: total permissiveness. I walked out after getting slapped down for my character declaring the baby-killing PC to be insane and attacking him.
The PC-related taboos that my own group – playing together about seven or eight years now, most of us – boil down to a short list:
No torture.
No rape (there are three women at the table, one of whom (me!) is the GM. And I’m one of those women for whom the very word is a trigger.
Deviant sexuality (by which I do NOT mean homosexuality) is simply left out of the game. If a player thinks his character is really twisted that way, I speak quietly with the player out of game, and it either goes away or the PC simply keeps such activities completely secret, and the player agrees to drop the PC if the behavior comes to light. It’s only happened twice – and both times the PC was essentially insane.
Senseless violence or purposeless crime are also turn-offs: we had a new player, chose to play a rogue, and for no reason at all, this PC decided to rob the tower of the city’s mage: a mage known to work for the ruler of the city, for whom the PCs were also working (and friendly with). He left the game after I enforced law and magical traps on him, in fury – and the rest of the group decided there and then that we never wanted to deal with that kind of thing again!

It is strange that so many want to leave out relationships or romance, to us: our current game has one character with multiple “significant others” to deal with, and we’ve had some nice dramatic role-play already because of her entanglements. But again, that might be because of the group makeup we have: all married, half the group is female, and we’re all interested in making that kind of role-play fun. I will note that there is a slight taboo that basically says: No romantic interest role-play with anyone actually AT the table. Somehow it tends to make things a lot easier if only NPCs are being romanced.

#9 Comment By smalvarado On March 17, 2009 @ 7:52 am

Rape, incest, slaughter of helpless innocents (esp. children). Nearly all of that should be implied by other means. If a band of evil barbarians pillage a town, well, everyone knows the name of Pillaging’s brother. Yeah, it probably happened. Same with killing children. “The barbarians slaughtered the village.” Nuff said.

If someone makes a point to push for more description, I would think a smiple, “What you find is to grisly and disturbing to describe. The images of what you have seen will be with you forever, ” should suffice.

If any player feels the need to commit such acts, I would bring it up with the DM first and see if it resolves anything. I don’t need to play with people who have deep seated sexual and violent tendencies that they feel they can freely express through a D&D character.

I also have problems with players violating social taboos at the table. Hygiene, flatulence, and non-stop talking are particular irritants. In fact, these are more likely to cause me to leave a group without much notice.

#10 Comment By KBKarma On March 17, 2009 @ 8:22 am

None of my parties have any kind of taboos. We just have moments of squick. Seriously, anything other than out-and-out sex between PCs and PCs, or PCs and NPCs, and we’ve seen it. And worse.

In real life, I’ve only ever seen one player drop out of a game due to something happening in-game. It occured when the party was riven apart because
1) my new character and my partner had, in fact, been hired to capture the entire party
2) one of the party members had been hired by another member of the party to assassinate two members of the party
3) we were being attacked by duergar. Yes, this all occured in the middle of an encounter.
The player that left was one of the two who had been threatened. That day, he left saying “I don’t think I’ll be back”. And he wasn’t.

Online, I’ve seen people drop out because of the game requiring too much thinking (a PbP Planescape game requiring thinking? My word!), leaving two players (including me), and because the game was too slow (PbP being slow? My God!).

#11 Comment By lyle.spade On March 17, 2009 @ 8:42 am

As a general rule, ‘sexual content’ is off limits — that is, details and description related to it. Gratuitous violence is also off the table. Violence and/or depravity that lacks reason is a no-no…so no ‘burn down the orphanage because it’s there’ garbage. Players who wanted to get detailed about sex and gory violence were always a little creepy to me…still are. If you need to roll dice to ‘interface’ with another person, uh, you need to get out more…no place for it at my table.

That said, I typically run PG-13 decsription of the bad stuff, with sometimes R-rateed themes…in order to keep the story from becoming campy. For example, I ran a short Hunter: The Vigil story arc a few months ago in which children had gone missing over a period of time and the PCs were sent in to investigate. I have two children, and so even the idea of the story was a little unsettling to me. My players all had kids, too. There were no descriptions — just missing kids and investigation into what happened. Fast-forward to the traveling carnival and the truth behind clowns and you have your answer…but still without description of kids…just the spectre of missing kids and inhuman clowns.

In this respect, the heavy theme — which contributed to a very creepy series of game nights — was there, but we never reveled in the dark details. Maybe that’s analogous to the difference between a picture of an attractive woman in a suggestive, and tasteful scene, and a stripper with pleather go-go boots spinning around a pole: implication versus wallowing in the details.

#12 Comment By chabuhi On March 17, 2009 @ 8:43 am

For me I guess it comes down to how much of it is roleplaying and how much of it is a reflection of the personality of the player(s) seeking those roleplay elements. And, I realize this can probably be impossible to distinguish.

The necrophilia thing is not my cup of tea, but if that’s the character the player is rolling with, then I can tolerate it from the perspective of the story. If, however (and again this is extremely subjective) I get the sense that this is true to the PLAYER (in a sense, some sort of fantasy of theirs) then I’m going to shy away from the campaign. And probably that group – at least until such players have left.

It’s kind of like how the dark elves in a couple of popular MMOs just HAD to be leather-fetish nymphomaniacs. Again, not my thing, but I could tolerate it to a point … which was the point at which the fanfic came in with violent rapes and vampiric orgies.

I guess this is my very long-winded way of saying that there’s a definite line that is crossed, and that line is usually made pretty clear by the “canon” (of either the game universe or the GM’s campaign). The players’ creative license can only go so far, imo.

#13 Comment By DarthKrzysztof On March 17, 2009 @ 9:10 am

PvP dickiness is about the only thing that’ll make me walk away from a table. If that’s “what your character would do,” make another character. I’ve got better things to do.

#14 Comment By noisms On March 17, 2009 @ 9:40 am

Romance and sex scenes annoy and bore me. Fat bearded 40 year old guys pretending to be elves is one thing; fat bearded 40 year old guys pretending to have sex is quite another. Sexual violence is even worse.

Broadly speaking, I have a very strong bullshit detector when it comes to people doing ultra-violent or sadistic things in-character, just to get a rise or to prove how ‘mature’ they are. Mature people don’t deliberately make other people uncomfortable.

#15 Comment By Rafe On March 17, 2009 @ 10:24 am

@DarthKrzysztof – PvP dickiness… I absolutely agree! I actually haven’t been in a group that had any player killing or players dicking each other around (stealing stuff, etc.). Those sorts of things would make me walk away from the table for sure.

#16 Comment By Salcheech On March 17, 2009 @ 11:40 am

Random dickiness, child killing, rape, and those players who feel it is their duty to roadblock any type of genuine story from happening are all on my lists of reasons to leave…

#17 Comment By Lee Hanna On March 17, 2009 @ 11:43 am

Abuse of (even endangering, really) children has always been a “not going there” topic for me, even before I started gaming. As I’m now a dad, it hasn’t changed. I have gotten more pacifistic in other ways, though.

Romance and implied sex has won a place at the table, but not around certain players. That is, in certain permutations of my usual group, it’s there, not in others. Some people seem to view it as a distraction from the adventure, and just don’t want to get into it. Jokes about it, maybe, but not beyond that.

Rape hasn’t really been an issue, I think we subconsciously avoid that. At least once, I’ve metagamed a way for a PC to get out of that potential situation before too late.

#18 Comment By Scott Martin On March 17, 2009 @ 3:19 pm

I have different tolerances, depending on the theme of the game, and on what’s actively shown (versus passively assumed or alluded to). NPCs can do a lot of evil– particularly if it’s related without detail– their despicable acts contrast well with our heroism.

Players describing terrible acts is something I’m warier of; in evil/sabbat campaigns, vices are good characterization– just don’t linger. It can be tricky though– part of what keeps a game like Vampire from being “superheroes with fangs” is supposed to be the quiet horror. When you minimize the nightly crimes that let you live (as I often do), it can be easier to lose track of the wrongness that should be at the game’s heart.

Covered in a sentence or two, off screen and without details, necrophillia and child abuse are creepy– appropriate for a horror game. Onscreen, I’d avoid both, as well as rape and and detail in torture. [Though some of my group has a greater tolerance for torture; probably due to 24 and Punisher.]

#19 Comment By blackcoat On March 17, 2009 @ 4:13 pm

A game that I was in for a while, I stepped on a bunch of the other players taboos.

They were a party that I joined late, full of people who played their races as humans with funny ears. I played a goblin druid. I threw the bones to a baron after eating at his feast. Would never sleep inside. Happily insulted gods, to their faces. And, after a vampire killed his animal companion, he hunted that thing down and killed it. And then ate it. That one squicked everybody the most.

#20 Comment By Toldain On March 17, 2009 @ 5:07 pm

I don’t like a lot of conflict with other players. In particular, this means I don’t like mind control on players, where you lose control of your character and are supposed to start dealing dirt to the other players. Not in the context of tabletop play, anyway. I’ve done some LARPs that worked that way, insofar as we were messing with each other.

#21 Comment By Alan De Smet On March 17, 2009 @ 5:24 pm

It’s not a taboo, I won’t quit a game over it, but I really don’t like being directly involved in romance plots as a player or a GM.

I also have a “taboo” against doing “adult” things for childish reasons.

For example, I have a very low tolerance for doing shocking things for the sake of doing shocking things. If it’s really adding to the game in some way, be it story or characterization, I wouldn’t have a problem with sex with a corpse. But really, how often is it adding to the game, and how often is it the player being a jackass? I’m not telling you to stop because I’m offended, I’m telling you to stop because it’s stupid and childish. (The Book of Erotic Fantasy has some moments of brilliance, but is 90% “Look at how shocking we are!” “Yes, yes, you’re shocking. My worldview has been shaken. Would you mind helping me carry the groceries in?“)

This also comes up in depictions of violence against helpless people. It can be an important part of a game or story, but too many authors and GMs use it a lazy technique to grab at the heartstrings or a shorthand to show that a villain is really bad. One relatively strong LARP I played (and have since read) featured a child molester. Unfortunately it wasn’t well integrated with the rest of the game, and as a result it ended up feeling like a hamfisted insertion to 1. shock me and 2. as a lazy shorthand to mark the character as a villain.

This also goes for people who think that mental illness means “wacky.” No. If you’re going to play a mentally ill character as an excuse to play chaotic zany (but oddly, never in a way that is self destructive), or chaotic stupid you no longer get to play such a character in a game I play. If your character’s “mental illness” never hurts your character, is it really a mental illness, or just an eccentricity? If your character’s “mental illness” never leaves other characters uncomfortable, is it really a mental illness, or are you just a comedian? It’s this problem tainted the old World of Darkness Malkavians, one of my favorite clans.

#22 Comment By John G. On March 17, 2009 @ 8:11 pm

I tend to allow all kinds of semi-random violence in-game, as long as it serves a point. Torture, sexual lewdness, and violence to innocent civilians really gets under my skin.

My players and I can get pretty weird sometimes *if* (and this is critical) the game rules and the GM let the players do it. If the GM cracks down and shifts their alignment, or strips away some of their Sanity, they tend to rein it in.

One of my friends once GM’ed a session where a PC had to harm a child NPC in order to become a Blackguard. The other people hated it (as PCs and as players!), but it redoubled our resolve to punish the demons responsible. So it can work, sometimes, albeit in a limited context.

Just recently, I was pondering a plot line with a disturbing adult subtext, but I realized that I wouldn’t feel wholly comfy GMing it and it could certainly vex a few players. So I won’t be using that one.

#23 Comment By sonipitts On March 17, 2009 @ 9:35 pm

“I put on my robe and wizard hat…”

Yeah, the whole in-game sex thing really puts me off, especially since it always seems to be more about the player’s sex life than the character’s.

I’m not a prude by any means. But the few times I’ve run into it, it was basically some juvenile (or juvenile-minded) sleezebag abusing the game to get their wank on and force other players to facilitate their elf-fetish sexual fantasies by laying it all on “I’m saying it happens in the game, so you have to play along.”

Many who are this type don’t even try for subtlety or the thin cover of in-game story requirements. For example: Recently, I was looking at hooking up (no pun intended) with a local gaming group that was starting a new campaign. The GM sounded great and the campaign he’d created sounded really awesome.

But about a week into the yahoo group open call for players, before the game has even had it’s first player audition game, some guy just comes right out and asks if the GM is going to allow sexual role play in his game because he felt it necessary to be able to role play sexual encounters for game-world verisimilitude and he felt that it was wrong to suppress such things because sex is a part of life that really happens, and thus should be publicly and openly represented in the game.

Uh, well, yeah it is a part of life. But so are going to the bathroom and getting stitches after combat, and nobody seems to be screaming for more realistic potty play or live-action wound cleansing demos in their dungeon crawls. (Said gamer also continually whined about being unfairly kicked out of several other campaigns because other people falsely accused him of being antisocial and basically just mentally farked. Go figure.)

That email totally deflated my interest in the game. Suddenly, I went from “I can’t wait to play!” to “Uh, thanks but no thanks…and ewwww, no, I really *don’t* want to borrow your dice.” I never did attend any of the games and have since unsubscribed from the list altogether because I kept getting tense and squicky every time I saw one in my inbox.

I can understand off-stage, intimated sex and romance as part of character background and game development (I’ll be in my bunk). But for the most part, in-game sexual role playing just feels to me like bordering on sexual assault of the other players, who are coerced into playing along with someone else’s sexual fantasy in the name of RPGing or risk having their gaming groups break up because of the arguments that saying no creates.

#24 Comment By Kurt “Telas” Schneider On March 17, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

I hope some of the “contributors of squick” read the replies here…

@Alan De Smet – Please don’t use the phrase “hamfisted insertion” ever again in a discussion of taboos. ;)

Shock is a powerful tool, but it quickly grows dull with overuse. “How does this contribute to the game?” is the question I ask myself when it gets close to the edge. And sometimes, it needs to get a bit graphic: I recently watched “Tears of the Sun” (no, it’s not a very good movie), and the atrocities in the village made me want to gear up and go tango-hunting.

I ran a session revolving around a violent rape/murder of a young woman (17-18 or so). I treated the subject very seriously, almost clinically. When the perp was caught, and died in the fight, I could tell that the group really felt a sense of relief and success at doing something good. Would I do this with every group? No, but it definitely worked with this one.

Personally, I don’t deal well with sex at the table; romance is fine, so long as there’s an NPC involved. As a father, I’m not keen on young children getting hurt or killed; I try to follow the “don’t kill kids on screen” rule that Hollywood seems to have forgotten. Other than that, I can pretty much deal with it so long as it contributes to the game.

#25 Comment By BryanB On March 19, 2009 @ 10:04 am

I like my games to be within the realms of PG-13, so anything other than combat that takes the game into R territory just gets assumed off-screen. Fade to black is a very good film technique that can come into good use in role playing games. Everyone at the table will have some idea of what happened, but there is no need to describe every little detail.

If someone starts describing something like rape or torture in vivid details, I’m very likely to end up walking out on the game. If the players in the group have their PCs start to do all kinds of raping and murdering, then I will walk for sure. I like my PCs to crush NPCs that are doing that kind of stuff, not be a party to it.

#26 Comment By Taellosse On March 20, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

Actually, it’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought before, but that one, with the corpse-screwing? That’s a line for me, definitely. Yeesh.

#27 Comment By demongrinder On March 22, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

Hi all,

Just came across this site recently and want to start by saying I am really enjoying it. Thanks!

After reading this article I developed a juvenile need to register and relate a role-playing story of my youth.

It was just myself and two friends in a small, side, pick-up campaign in which I was a female anti-paladin (80′s Dragon Magazine version), my one friend an evil cleric of some sort and the other DMed. We were having a good time and both into our characters which inevitably meant that our characters were getting upset with each other as we went from room to room in an old abandon keep. Needling and picking on each other and having a blast doin’ it. “When this is over I’m gonna separate your head from you body!” “Oh yeah? Well, not before I burn your insignificant little temple and make your god beg for mercy!” That kind of stuff. We were 16.

I’m being very cautous as we loot the place, careful to not be overly disruptive of clothing items that we were coming across as I was just sure one of them was gonna be covered in some mold or fungus that would mess me up. Unfortunately, as room after room became territory was taken from the goblins and such that we were finding there and I was cautiously inspecting all the loot and booty I found my character becoming more and more desirous of ridding herself of her companion and began to secretly look for opportunities to fullfil my desires.

Then it happened, we had just cleared a room of monsters had gotten into an arguement about some matter that was unimportant. What was important, however, is that I had decided at that moment my character could stand no more and resolved to get the loot from the room and then set about attacking my partner as he was somewhat weakened after the fight, whereas I was in pretty good shape. Truely evil. Wonderful.

But, I was an idiot and in a perfect storm of distraction due to our arguement, excitement that I was about to get into some player on player combat, frustration with my companion’s not seeing the obvious truth of my character’s superior command of the situation ;), and youthful indesretion I say, “FIne! The hell with it! I walk over to the closet and take out the cloak and shake the dust off it!”

I mean, I don’t think I got from the “i” to the “t” in “it” before I went through the whole “I may have made a mistake here.” to “Awww CRAP! What was I thinking!” inner dialog thing.

Sure enough the DM smiled and said, “Roll save.” Fail. Instant death.

I deserved it and it was a great death for that character. But death isn’t always the end and before I could even recover from my stunned realization that I had just put my head in the noose and jumped off the deck, my battered, still living, and evil partner said, “I get her while she’s still warm.”
Hi all,

Just came across this site recently and want to start by saying I am really enjoying it. Thanks!

After reading this article I developed a juvenile need to register and relate a role-playing story of my youth.

It was just myself and two friends in a small, side, pick-up campaign in which I was a female anti-paladin (80′s Dragon Magazine version), my one friend an evil cleric of some sort and the other DMed. We were having a good time and both into our characters which inevitably meant that our characters were getting upset with each other as we went from room to room in an old abandon keep. Needling and picking on each other and having a blast doin’ it. “When this is over I’m gonna separate your head from you body!” “Oh yeah? Well, not before I burn your insignificant little temple and make your god beg for mercy!” That kind of stuff. We were 16.

I’m being very cautous as we loot the place, careful to not be overly disruptive of clothing items that we were coming across as I was just sure one of them was gonna be covered in some mold or fungus that would mess me up. Unfortunately, as room after room became territory was taken from the goblins and such that we were finding there and I was cautiously inspecting all the loot and booty I found my character becoming more and more desirous of ridding herself of her companion and began to secretly look for opportunities to fullfil my desires.

Then it happened, we had just cleared a room of monsters had gotten into an arguement about some matter that was unimportant. What was important, however, is that I had decided at that moment my character could stand no more and resolved to get the loot from the room and then set about attacking my partner as he was somewhat weakened after the fight, whereas I was in pretty good shape. Truely evil. Wonderful.

But, I was an idiot and in a perfect storm of distraction due to our arguement, excitement that I was about to get into some player on player combat, frustration with my companion’s not seeing the obvious truth of my character’s superior command of the situation ;), and youthful indesretion I say, “FIne! The hell with it! I walk over to the closet and take out the cloak and shake the dust off it!”

I mean, I don’t think I got from the “i” to the “t” in “it” before I went through the whole “I may have made a mistake here.” to “Awww CRAP! What was I thinking!” inner dialog thing.

Sure enough the DM smiled and said, “Roll save.” Fail. Instant death.

I deserved it and it was a great death for that character. But death isn’t always the end and before I could even recover from my stunned realization that I had just put my head in the noose and jumped off the deck, my battered, still living, and evil partner said, “I get her while she’s still warm.”

We’ve been giggling in childish glee for over 20 years since.

#28 Comment By demongrinder On March 22, 2009 @ 12:09 pm

Wow, sorry about that last post. For the double and the poor spelling.

If a moderator would like to fix the doubling that would be fine. I’ll take my lumps on the spelling.

Later.

#29 Comment By Naberius On March 23, 2009 @ 10:09 am

As DM, I’m okay with uncensored PC behavior so long as:

1. The behavior is consistent with the PC’s alignment.

2. The PC understands the range of potential consequences for such behavior.

3. The behavior doesn’t require other PCs to sacrifice play time.

4. The behavior is described in no greater detail than any of the PC’s other behaviors.

#30 Comment By GribbletheMunchkin On April 24, 2009 @ 9:16 am

Depends entirely on context. As GM i’d never overtly describe a rape encounter, but i might have the PCs encounter a rape victim so that they are suitably motivated to seek justice on her behalf.

I’ve had players commit genocide in one of my campaigns, but again context is all. This player wiped out a medieval town with weather magic in an Ars Magica game because he didn’t want to stand up to the powerful archmage that asked him to. He later on got to see first hand the misery he had caused in the city and this made him eager to atone for his crimes. He turned against the archmage and eventually saved the day.

I don’t like the idea of PG-13 games in general, when my paladin lays waste to a bandit camp he should be aware that he is slaughtering sentient beings who may have complex reasons for falling into a life of banditry. He might still kill them but he should be aware its not always a case of black and white.

I’m lucky enough to have reasonably mature players (usually :) who can handle these kinds of issues. To my mind they make games more believable, they provoke emotion which can be a great aid to roleplaying and they make the players think about their actions.

Quick example. In one DnD game i had the players go under cover as slaves in a fire dwarf (azeri) camp. They needed to scout the fortress the dwarves were building and gather some intelligence about the dwarves plans. They ended up working under a slave driver dwarf who has become their most hated NPC ever. This dwarf distinguished himself by wielding a severed and sewn up giants penis as a club/cosh (i freely admit to stealing this idea from a Neal Stephenson book). During the course of pretending to be slaves, these characters (who were all high level) all got a few whacks from the giant penis to encourage them to work harder. They did not like this, not one bit. Once the mission was complete they all swore revenge on the dwarf. Sadly in the war that followed they didn’t find the dwarf and he escaped retribution. To this day my players talk about that dwarf. Their characters hated him, but my players loved to hate him. Not at all PG 13 but it made for a memorable character.

That said, a player whos character indulged in wanton cruelty, rapine, murder, etc would definately get a few funny looks if they wanted to go into it in detail.

I’ve played evil characters before, in fact in DnD i usually play evil guys. Ranging from arsehole to evil genius. My evil genius has happily tortured people but always in a “hand wavy” fashion. e.g.

Me : “I go torture the captured paladin, just for kicks”
GM: “Ok, you do that for a few hours”
Me: “Then i get ready for the govenrors ball”
GM: “Ok, going for the hooded, sinister look again?”
Me: “Yeah”

Actually exploring what my character was doing during those few hours of torture is something that interests neither I nor the GM, hence we skip it. Just like one does for most travel in game.

#31 Comment By Bercilac On May 3, 2009 @ 6:55 am

I agree with Alan on this. If it fits the story, no taboos. But if it’s just for the sake of it, it gets juvenile and a bit irritating. I DM’d a game with some younger players and, after they slew the ogre-boss, made a point of castrating him. Fair enough, that’s symbolic and possibly in-character. Then one of them started poking other people with it, and the game collapsed in giggles. Oh dear.

I actually had an experience where I thought a taboo was inappropriate. I’m a man playing a female character, and in one adventure our whole party was captured. We were taken to a torture chamber and tortured by demons. Then the demons possessed our minds and threw us in the dungeon. Throughout the whole affair, my character was the most rebellious, and ended up getting some special treatment: she was poisoned (still haven’t cured it! -4 str and con!) and had one of her eyes torn out. Pretty brutal, yes.

We were under the care of various humanoid guards (bugbears and the likes). Before we were released to go perform the duties of our demonic captors, my character mouthed off again at the guards. They beat the living daylights out of her.

But they didn’t rape her.

Now, why would I want this to happen? I certainly didn’t like bad things happening to my character. It was quite abhorrent to me. But looking back on that scene, and thinking of how it would have played out with real PoW’s, I thought “They would have raped her.” Am I being a stickler for realism? Yes, but more than that, I think I’m being a feminist. When we make a game about war, we try to depict that war is horrible. When we make a game about the slave trade, we try to depict that the slave trade is brutal and dehumanises its victims. And when a woman character is captured and beaten, surely we should acknowledge the suffering that women undergo in those circumstances.

Now, I can understand the DM holding back on this note. Perhaps it didn’t occur to him, perhaps he did it for some of the reasons listed above. But we had just been tortured, in a pretty extended and gruesome scene. I wouldn’t have needed such blow-by-blow for a rape scene, but to acknowledge that it would have happened? Sure.

My biggest worry about this would be whether I could play a rape victim without the kind of juvenile behaviour displayed above. But we’re now all playing victims of torture and demonic possession, without having experienced those either. One of the things I like about roleplaying is the challenge of getting into another’s mindset, and I can assure you all that I would have taken that quite seriously, although perhaps not seriously enough. Could a rape victim go on and have an adventure 24 hours later? Maybe not, but then could a torture victim? We assume they can. The world can be ugly, and gaming can be a way of talking about that.

#32 Comment By GiacomoArt On May 14, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

@Bercilac – I have to say that I disagree. There’s nothing feminist about pushing for rape to be included in a role-playing story, just as there’s nothing humanist about role-playing a gory torture scene. The world can indeed be ugly, but games are definitionally a form of play, and play is definitionally what we do to get away from obligations and unpleasantness, so insisting that your fellow players confront an uncomfortable topic head-on at the game table is just a good way to find yourself dis-invited. You might want to save the socially responsible drama for your big screenplay.

#33 Comment By Tacoma On July 21, 2009 @ 5:56 pm

I’d say you’d need a few rounds to drop weapon, take off gauntlets, get your armor undone, and whip it out. Getting the pants off the corpse would be a problem. And then the inevitable performance anxiety.

Seriously though, I gloss over sex (She takes you upstairs, you have some fun, and pay your money. You’re busy for the night. What’s everyone else doing?), torture, rape, and bodily functions. I describe poverty in a cursory manner using simple examples without delving into the horrific misery of it.

It’s a game. Should be fun. Lighthearted. We’re not wearing mascara and fangs here.

#34 Comment By alisonrobin On March 23, 2010 @ 12:39 am

I’m a female GM.
My players and I have an unspoken agreement to avoid any sexual things in the games. It makes us feel a bit awkward talking about imaginary sex in a room full of my friends, and I would feel awkward if one of them talked about it and I had to listen. I’d actually be more comfortable listening to a stranger talk about it than my friends.
@sonipitts makes a great point on that topic.
Rape is simply not discussed in our games. If I were playing in a group of people I didn’t know, I would be a bit more accepting of a plotline that involved rape (as long as it was well-written and fit into the story).
I feel that @Bercilac made one of the most intelligent comments in this thread–I had not considered his point before, but as a feminist I find myself completely agreeing with his points. Thank you, Bercilac, for respecting women as you do. :)
As far as torture is concerned, I don’t really care. If I gave my players an opportunity to torture, they probably wouldn’t take it, although I can see them kicking or punching a captive and demanding information.


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