Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Mmm. SO...I've been even busier than usual. Yes, the school year has started for my kids. Yes, we are in the thick of the soccer season (four teams, one of which I'm coaching). Yes, we're also trying to have a last few family outings with friends and such as the summer winds to a close.

But in addition, I'm sill dealing with the barrage of death issues from the last few months. My brother and I have been working daily to clean out my mom's house. It's a fair-sized house with 45 years of accumulated "stuff:" both treasure and trash (we took 2300# of junk to the dump over the course of last week, and that was just the garage). This week my family will be on the road from Wednesday (tomorrow) till Sunday, going to Montana for my grandmother's funeral and graveside service. Just a lot to do. 

*sigh*  Oh, yeah. And my dog's not doing great.

So, what could cause me to sit down and post to Ye Old Gaming blog, when I have so many other things occupying my mind? Like how to get my homeless, alcoholic brother to fix his shit and get to Montana for the funeral of our clan matriarch? Like filing an appeal for my mother's termination of medical insurance March 31st when she died April 22nd? What could get me so riled up that I must blog?

Well, actually, I did have some interesting (to me, anyway) observations about spatial distance and maps in D&D that I kind of wanted to jot down before I forgot about them. But even those have gone out the window...for the nonce.

No...over on a particular D&D discord I frequent, someone posted an excerpt from the latest WotC adventure offering for 5E: a reboot of Lost Mine of Phandelver with a few modifications and several added levels of content. The excerpt is with regard to (I presume) some of the additional material which has a magical curse-life effect transforming the PCs into monsters, should the bad guys succeed at their nefarious plans. The text then adds the following instructional (boxed) sidebar:


Before you use the character transformation rules presented in this section, check with each player to determine if they are open to their character experiencing physically transformative effects. A player will not miss game benefits if they choose not to use these rules for their character.

What. The. Hell. Are you F'ing kidding me?

Now, before I get worked up into a lather, allow me to add the disclaimer that this blurb came from an internet source, and so perhaps (hopefully) it is completely manufactured. Maybe I've been hoodwinked here, in other words, by a person who just likes to stir up hornets' nests. It was not posted for my sole benefit, but the folks on that particular discord tend to be a caustic and reactionary bunch that like poking bears. So maybe I'm a dupe. The book isn't even available for order as of yet...although it is possible to get "early access" to the digital version.

BUT...assuming this IS accurate:

Just what the F are we playing here?

Consent?! "Consent" for the DM to inflict a curse on the player characters? "Consent" for the DM to apply a fail state in the case of failure? To an imaginary character? A fucking piece of paper?! Are you shitting me?!

Do you need to obtain "consent" in 5E to KILL a player character?! To poison it? To apply level drain? To give the monsters a surprise round?!  "That's not fair!"  NO...FUCK YOU. 

We are still playing DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, right? Right?! There's still a Dungeon Master, right? You players understand what you're signing up for when you sit down to play the game, right? Have you not played games before? 

No, you do not get to "give consent." Not at my table. That's not how D&D works. The Dungeon Master is the Dungeon Master; the Dungeon Master does not need to ask for consent before applying a deserved failure state to your character. Your character is not you. I am not forcing YOU, player, to transform into ANYthing. I am not shooting YOU full of arrows or dropping YOU in a spiked pit or a vat of acid. It is not YOU getting your limb chewed off by a displacer beast. 

Grow the fuck up. Or don't play the game.

I understand that there is a lot of f'd up crap floating around the internet these days, with regard to EVERYthing, not just D&D. I read this article the other day that had issue with the "fantasy racism" of the original Phandelver, stating:
Lost Mines, unfortunately, falls into a trap that D&D has only just begun to deal with, which is the deep-seated issues of fantasy racism present in the genre. Tribes of evil, scheming savages surviving by raiding and banditry like the Cragmaw goblins and the Many-Arrows orc tribe as presented echo malicious stereotypes of all kinds throughout history.
Which is incredibly stupid on so many levels...but it's just an internet opinion. Everyone's got opinions...the blog post you're reading right now is another. And I don't have a problem with people having opinions, or stating their perspective, regardless of how wrong-headed or obtuse or...whatever...it might be. Opinions can (usually) be safely disregarded unless they're coming from someone with whom we have a practical relationship (for example: a player at my gaming table).

But this...THIS...is not an opinion. This blurb comes from instructional text found in an official product of the flagship company responsible for the manufacture and distribution of this thing called "Dungeons & Dragons."  And it's not presented as some optional rule, but as a procedural element of play: "PLAYER CONSENT IS REQUIRED." Explicit, emphasized text. 

And that's not Dungeons & Dragons. That is...something else.

There are lots of RPGs on the market that aren't D&D. LOTS. Many provide players with a greater degree of authority and control over the narrative structure that makes up (the bulk of) game play from what one finds in the game of D&D. They make for a different play experience, fun in its own way for those who choose to play those games. 

D&D doesn't work like this...not even 5E. I've read the 5E DMG; no where in the book does it tell the DM to obtain the consent of the players before applying some sort of effect or "status" to their characters. The DM is still in charge of running the game, not the players. Traditionally, the standard way for players to express their disapproval of the way a game is run is to WALK AWAY. For the most part, it's a pretty efficient method of ensuring you don't get stuck with a DM you dislike; I've walked away from several DMs over the years. 

[EDIT: for the record, the word "consent" appears exactly zero times in the 5E DMG]

So, anyway... This is really bad. Unlike some of my fellow geezers, it doesn't bother me that people want to debate the morality of killing orcs or that officially elves are, well, even weirder then they were. Heck, it doesn't even annoy me that people prefer different editions of D&D than myself...that's fine, you play yours, I'll play mine, and we'll both houserule the thing as it befits our table. 

But this kind of precedent is bad. Undermining the authority of the DM is bad. Prioritizing a CHARACTER over play or system or rules is bad. It is setting foot on a path that leads eventually to dissolution of the rules...to dissolution of the game as a game.  

This was not well-thought out by the designers. 

And while I'm sure a lot of my readers will say, Oh JB, you're so silly! Who cares? What impact will it even have? Consider that this is found (if my source is correct) in the new reboot of Phandelver.  Not a sequel to Phandelver, but a rewrite of the original...the original adventure included with the D&D Starter Set. That is: the box set being used to teach NEW people how to play D&D.  

This new attitude...this new PARADIGM of how D&D is to be played...is what will inform the next generation of D&D players. And the generation that follows. And the generation that follows. And the company has done an incredible job of NOT "walking back" the various design mistakes they've made over the years, simply streamlining them and modifying them in a fashion that retains the "flavor" of all that's gone before while making it work with whatever new cobbled system is being presented to the public.  So consider that if they (WotC) take this tack, then this is the way we can expect the game to develop, going forward.

Required consent? Really? To transform your character into a monster? What about to transform your character into a corpse? Or a pile of hot ash? 

What was my job again? Dungeon Master? Or dancing monkey?

No. When you sit at my table, YOU are GIVING CONSENT to abide by MY authority as the Dungeon Master. Period. You don't want to give consent to me? Fine...take a hike. I have other people who want to play. 

No...I will not go quietly into the night. I can imagine the Powers That Be happening across my blog post on some random web surfing and saying "Bah. Who cares what this imbecile has to say? We don't want his old way of thinking anyway...he'll either come around or he'll die out like all those other geezers are dying...Gygax, Arneson, etc." Yep, they're right...I will die, eventually. The last eight months has shown me just how quickly the life-spark can go out in people's eyes. I am very well acquainted with mortality these days.

But I'm 49 (50 next month). Living right, I can probably get another 35ish years out of this old body...years that will still find me playing the same brand of D&D that I love. You think I'm going to roll over and play 5E or 6E or "One D&D" or any of that nonsense? No. I've got back-ups of my core books, new prints that should be good through the end of my life...hell, I'm still using books that were printed in the 1970s and they've held up just fine. These new ones should hold up for my kids even after I'm gone.

Does WotC think their brand of D&D is going to outlive me? Heck, by my reckoning 5E hasn't even outshined AD&D's original run of 12 years. We'll compare where they are 20 years from now...hopefully, I'll be passing on my passion to my grandchildren. Regardless, I will continue to play in the way the game was originally intended to be played. 

"Consent is Required?" Not at my table, pal. Kiss off.

[apologies for the cursing in this post...got a little worked up there]


  1. I think this started with 5e's revamp of the Ravenloft setting ("Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft"). There's a whole chapter on running horror adventures, which dwells a lot on session zero, content warnings, being sensitive about the boundaries set by the players, X-cards, etc. Similar to the Phandelver statement about body horror requiring consent there's an "Ask Permission" section that says, "Players put considerable thought and investment into their characters. Don't impose rules on charac­ters that might make players not want to play them anymore."

    I am mostly interested in Dungeon Crawl Classics these days, where character creation takes 5 minutes or can be done by an online generator, which totally removes the notion that you are completely in control of what happens to your character. And of course, a DCC wizard is pretty guaranteed to end up with gills or donkey ears after rolling enough natural 1s on spell checks. It is refreshingly not a game for someone who gets overly precious about their character.

    I'm fine with content warnings, etc., because I agree that "No, that's not the game for me" is the best approach and you need information in order to make that determination. But seeing 5e slide towards a weird place where players must consent to anything bad happening to their character is just bordering on the absurd. But that does seem to be where they are trending.

    1. I don't mind content warnings, though I personally think they're silly...my friends and I have been laughing at content warnings since they first started showing up in Palladium books (circa '87 when we were teens). "What? People don't understand these are games and not real life?"

      But content warnings were a product of their time (like warning labels on record albums)...they were not there to give players a "heads up" about being "triggered;" they were an attempt to placate possible reactionary parents who bought into the "RPGs-will-drive-you-insane" nonsense.

    2. I agree that content warnings for your character turning to stone or into a werewolf are pretty silly, but when you start to deal with more "real world" issues, I can see some value. You don't necessarily know what kind of past trauma your players might be dealing with, and a heads-up seems reasonable before running a scenario that has rape or suicide as a theme, for example. Especially if it's something that isn't obviously baked into the standard D&D genre, like overall violence and standard "action movie" types of peril.

    3. I have a hard time envisioning a D&D scenario in which suicide or rape is a "theme," though I can see where fantasy genocide and atrocity might be triggering to an individual (say, a refugee from some war-torn country now residing in our comfy first world RPG-land).

      The thing is, I see D&D is a pretty empowering tool for one's imagination...a D&D character can take all sorts of actions to DO SOMETHING ABOUT rape or suicide or genocide. You can hack down bad guys with swords or blast them with spells or raise an army of your own or bring folks back to life...LOTS of options available to fantasy PCs that aren't available in "real life." I'd think addressing such things in a D&D game might even be a bit cathartic to some people.

      But maybe it's just a "bridge too far" for others. And for those people, therapy will probably be a lot more helpful than an escapist game of D&D.

    4. I was thinking about a scenario in my B/X megadungeon campaign a few years back where goblins were essentially luring (and sometimes outright abducting) runaway children in order to feed them goblin food which would turn them into goblins. Obviously, in real life no one gets turned into a goblin, but the theme of runaway children effectively committing suicide by eating the goblin food and losing their humanity could hit a little too close to home for someone who either lost a child to suicide or came close to making a bad decision themselves (I have several friends with those semicolon tattoos).

      But like you said, in my game the players did DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT; they put the Goblin King to the sword and gave a whole barrel of gold from his treasury to the dungeon urchins!

      You're probably right about therapy being more helpful than insisting that DMs remove any potentially upsetting material from their games. But I have noticed in the past that many people seem to wear their raw trauma like a badge of honor rather than doing the work necessary to heal from it. (Though I'm not unsympathetic to how difficult that work can be.)

    5. Mm. I am not a tattoo guy, so I was unaware of the semicolon thing...thanks for educating me (always happy to learn something new).

      I understand what you're saying. I still don't think you write adventures based on the hypothetic possibility that someone will be triggered by drawing an analogy between a fantastical situation and their own past trauma...

      Heck, just writing that out, it looks absurd to me. That's not how you live life: you don't stay in your house out of fear that a car will jump up on the curb and nail you, even if that DID happen to your Uncle Phil (or whatever).

      Maybe that's showing a lack of compassion on my part. I'm not saying everyone needs to pull themselves up by their bootstraps or something...some folks need a helping hand. BUT:

      You just can't anticipate everything, or every potential heartbreak you might cause.

      Regardless of how a person chooses to work through (or not work through) past trauma, with regard to ADULT humans playing D&D I feel it's THEIR responsibility to make a determination of what they can and can't handle and remove themselves if necessary. It's not the game's responsibility to bend to them.

    6. sure, you can kill the rapist goblin king, no problem. but can you kill the rapist human king, when he's generally a competent ruler and his sole heir is an unstable genocidal maniac? would you let the whole kingdom go to shit to avenge what the "good king" did to your daughter?

      monsters, especially the human kind, are often protected by circumstance and/or institution. and that's, in my opinion, possibly an interesting thing to explore in a game. but that's not the kind of moral dilemma I'd spring on players without ample warning, for hopefully obvious reasons.

    7. A DM has the capability of filling their game world with all manner of terrible individuals and heinous crimes. Each DM has a responsibility to "read the room" with regard to their table's level of squeamishness.

      However, it's easy enough to say: "this (king, goblin, bandit, etc.) is a foul creature that has committed terrible crimes" without going into gory detail. It is easy enough to say "this village (town, family, community) has been brutalized and treated badly by [insert antagonist]" without providing an itemized list of atrocities.

      Nothing has to be "sprung" on players. But players should understand going into the game that the D&D world is a harsh one...hence the need for player characters to go armed and commit violent deeds.

  2. When I start my games I give a disclaimer in an email to everyone explaining that I run my game with lots of death, actions have consequence, NPC react realistically, monsters will slit throats, orcs eat kids, ect.

    I don't want anyone joining then complaining when the NPC cast hold person and murders half the party or a charachter murder hobos a
    The inn keeper then get hung by the Duke.

    Basically make sure everyone knows I run things my way. You don't get a choice. Either you play or don't play. But no surprises on what the game will be like.

    1. I don't do disclaimers; I simply explain the premise of the game.

      During actual play, I can tone down the narrative if it's grossing folks out...that's called "reading the room." It's not that tough to do...it's like refraining from cursing around children.

  3. You have to remember that to a lot of 5e players nowadays, death is off the table for their PC. Creating a special, unique character with a 'plot arc' is kind of the point. And anything that will mess with that - for example, being polymorphed - is therefore to be handled with the softest of kid gloves.

    It's sad but this is how the world is now.

    1. I believe this playstyle was already widespread in the 1990s. In theory, the game rules still offered several ways for a character to die, but in practice, heavy GM fudging and softball story railroads removed most of these threats. After all, Drizzt do'Urden was the blueprint for a lot of special snowflake characters, and if you were there in the 1990s, they were *everywhere*. 3e briefly returned to a riskier, more action-oriented approach, and old-school gaming went off in its own direction, but the "plot arc" philosophy slowly came back to dominate the communities around the game, and eventually the design itself.

      It is just a large segment of the buying public (could even be the largest), and has been for a very long time; they have just found new language to codify their preferences, and a design environment which is now probably entirely staffed by people into "storytime D&D".

    2. I did not play D&D in the 1990s (nor have I read any of the D&D novels of that era), but your point certainly holds true for other games, such as the World of Darkness line (which I *did* play...extensively).

      For me, I can distinguish between one type of RPG and another...I did not carry D&Disms into my VTM games, and I've never 'ported "story" or plot arcs into my D&D campaigns. Always felt like the designers were fairly clear in their text about how different RPGs were *supposed* to run.

      But I know that a lot of people aren't into reading instruction manuals. I also know that there's a lot of folks who get tasked with writing material ("adventures") due to their reputation as designers in one type of field who are SHIT at writing for another. That's a problem with this hobby-turned-industry...the lack of true vetting based on design chops, quality control, or comprehensive understanding of the different nuances in RPGs.

      It is what it is. I think the original OSR was once a "Renaissance," but at this point what's truly needed is "Revolution."

  4. Yeah I mean, not terribly surprising. Like Noisms said - death isn't really on the table in most 5e games, partly due to play culture, but also due to the game mechanics.

    Rolling up a low level 5e character typically takes an hour or more. Rolling up a higher level character can take quite a bit more time (picking feats and subclasses and optimal races and spells and writing a background etc etc etc). If you've got characters dying left and right you'll spend a big chunk of time making new characters, which nobody wants, as it'll take the whole session. Further exacerbating the issue - 99% of DMs run official published modules, which are generally very linear. These types of modules don't facilitate new characters coming in at low level, as there's very little player ability to choose the right level of danger. Also, most 5e DMs use "milestone leveling" so the old XP system of lower level characters catching up to higher ones isn't really in play. All that is to say, new 5e characters are typically rolled up at the same level as the remaining characters, which means character replacement can easily take the whole session. Having a player "out" making a new character the whole session can pretty quickly cause problems if the session content was going to be a bunch of balanced fights tuned to the strength of a full party. So most 5e DMs learn that death causes a real problem at the table that should be avoided. Other permanent fail states (petrification, loss of limbs, ability scores reduction, being turned into a monster) that might invalidate the "work" a player put into making a character are similarly avoided.

    1. This is another good point; death causing problems for the GM and the flow of the game is particularly salient, since it is a strong incentive not to stop your session in its tracks or disappoint your friends. In the long term, the ultimate cost may be your carefully cultivated campaign falling apart as people stop coming to the sessions. There has always been an amount of low-key bullying about this in gamer circles; and in the majority of cases, it works. And again, it predates the wokification of gaming by many, many years.

      Old-school gaming is kind of an antidote (and antithesis) to all this, although as it grew more popular, the message faded and people with more story-centric preferences started entering the scene and reshaping it to their liking.

    2. This just shows how failing to understand the game (or even to play the game the way it was designed) leads to "corrections" that lead to more failure which leads to more "corrections" until you have a cascade of catastrophe.

      I asked my son if it takes a long time to create 5E characters (since he and my daughter are playing in a weekly game with some neighborhood kids). He said not at all "but that's because our DM doesn't make us write up backstories."

    3. 5e characters absolutely *can* be created quickly using the more straightforward character creation methods. In my experience most groups get into the optimization game of digging through character option books and fiddling with stat point assignments enough that character creation gets pushed to be a "session 0" activity and players become used to significant customization time. Probably this is more common playing online or with digital tools that facilitate this sort of thing though.

  5. I saw this on twthe other day and it did appear to be a screen grab from an official publication. If it's not then someone has went to a long length to drum up a stooshie.

    While my first reaction was an eye roll and an exclamation of "FFS!" I do think that it's the serious way it is expressed and the humourlessness that accompanies the delivery that really rankle. But then I remember that there's 8yo and 10yo kids playing the game and they need a bit more care than a 15yo or 16yo kid.

    Rather than call things 'safety tools' or X-cards WOTC would have been better adapting or modifying the PEGI rating system into a simple set of guidelines over one or two pages. That way DM would know where their scenarios sat on the scale, players would understand what kind of campaign they were joining and WOTC could badge their product appropriately.

    My favourite comment on twitter about this was from.someone who asked wryly whether anyone who objected to their PC being transformed into the host for a mind bending squid larvae had in fact watched Futurama.

    1. Having played many sessions of D&D with kids ages 8 and 10, I can definitely confirm they have zero idea what an X-card, "consent," or blah-blah-blah means or does. This stuff is created by adults, for adults, due to having suffered some sort of trauma.

      The folks who need this probably shouldn't be playing D&D.

      And I don't say that lightly or because I am trying to be "exclusionary." Look: I'm not really into horror films, so I don't watch them. I dislike pornography for a host of reasons so I don't buy or download or watch porn either. See how that works?

      Not every person in the world must play D&D (and, again, I will point out that there are a LOT of RPGs on the market, more than enough to suit different tastes). If it bugs you to have your imaginary character polymorphed into a critter...or killed in general...then it's probably not the right form of entertainment for you. Because risking peril is kind of the whole premise of the game.

      This isn't rocket science.

    2. if you don't like 5e, and 5e's understanding of consent at the table, then don't play 5e. there's a lot of rpgs on the market, go play Lamentations or whatever. personally, I care less about whatever WotC's doing with 5e than I do about Central Asian fiscal policies, like it definitely impacts somebody somewhere but it absolutely doesn't impact me lol

    3. I don't play 5E. I explained my reasons in the post why the flagship publisher's official stance bugs me. Has nothing to do with wanting to play 5E.

  6. Well, I wouldn't want to DM (or play) that way. But if the next generation wants to play the game that way, I don't see any reason to wring my hands over it. They can enjoy the game however they like, just like my own generation did (I'm 52, fwiw), and still do.

    Every generation is annoyed by the ones that come after it. And every generation is annoyed by the ones that went before it. The further apart they become, the fewer points of reference and fewer things they have in common. It's always been that way. It always will be that way.

    Okay, I could be wrong (theoretically speaking), but you'll have a hard time convincing me otherwise.

    1. This is not the same thing as bitching about the way the young 'uns dress or talk or the kind of music they play. This is taking an existing game (like, say, baseball) and saying that the referee can no longer make calls without the player's consent ("no, I didn't strike out...I'm heading to first base").

      You want to play that way in your home game? Fine...do you. Make everyone wear a cape or a horned helmet to your party, too. Or whatever.

      You are fundamentally changing the game of D&D when you officially undermine the authority of the DM.

  7. It's not enough. D&D needs to be safe, sane AND consensual.

  8. I think 5ed is just a game created with new players in mind. And the new generation is much more concerned with consent, feminism, gender that we were.

    I'm also in my late 40's. My children (in their teens) play Urban Shadows with me and they joyfully play non-binary or queer people and stablish veils and other safety tools. Some of them are non-binary and queer people in real life. They won't even blink if they read about a consent warning in a game.

    I also play with my friends (42-47 years old). They had been playing since the 80's and they play differently. You just have to modulate the tone.

    It's not that new generations are soft or overly sensitive. They are different. They have their own codes and their own fights to fight. And they're going to ignore us old geezers, as we did to our own old parents.

    1. I grew up VERY concerned with feminism and gender equality. In the Seattle of the 1990s, queer rights were also a big concern for myself and my peers. And, yes, "consent" as pertains to RAPE (especially "date rape" or being raped by a friend rather than a sterotypical cloaked stranger) was a point of our education and in our sphere of attention as well.

      And those concerns haven't gone away! Women are still undervalued in our society! Queer kids still face bullying! People still get raped! I am PLENTY concerned about this stuff.

      We get to put that shit aside when we sit down at the gaming table. D&D is escapism. I can play all sorts of characters that bear little-to-no resemblance to myself. I can engage in all sorts of activity and mayhem that I can't do in real life. So can my players.

      I agree that the younger generation is different. I wouldn't say "soft" but they are more fearful (and that fear manifests in all sorts of negative ways). And I'm not sure WHY exactly that is. Yes, post-9/11 America is a paranoid place...but so was Reagan's cold war America of the 1980s. COVID has had a serious impact on the stress and psyche...but then so did HIV/AIDS back when it was poorly understood. Climate change? Yeah, I suppose that's a new stressor. But we had concerns of pollution and cancer in our youth, too.

      For me, the main difference between the youth of today and the youth of 30-40 years ago comes down to two things:

      1) the prominence of technology, especially informational technology, and
      2) the devaluing of organized religion

      The first allows fear and fearful concerns to promulgate at an exponential rate, the second removes a possible solace from the lives of people (as a fearful child myself, I spent a lot of nights praying that we wouldn't all be blown up in a nuclear conflagration).

      I limit my children's access to technology and I've raised them with my own religion. So far, they seem to be doing okay.

      That being said, there's a generation of "kids" (in their 20s - 30s), who aren't doing so "okay." Lots of reasons for that, particularly economic. Again, I lived through the Reagan years, but this seems to just be getting worse. Unfortunately.

      All the more reason to retain the escapism of D&D.

    2. I see your point about D&D as escapism, and as a place to be free to be another person and even to engage in activities and mayhem you wouldn't do in real life. I even wrote some years ago about RPG games as «a safe place to make bad decisions». That's ok and I agree.

      But what are we escaping for nowadays?

      Perhaps we, as adults, want to escape from a 9-to-6 job and our boss and play the power trip of being a 15th level barbarian who obeys no one. Our kids could be escaping from other concerns. A content warning about «physically transformative effects» sounds to me like a message aimed to trans people who could be escaping from real-life problems very present in their lives.

      I have no concern about «physically transformative effects», but my daughter has a pair of non-binary people in her school that could. She has even protected some of them from bullying last year. She and her friends are much more concerned about gender issues, climate change and mental health than I (or my entire generation) was when I was her age.

      That's why I think those content warnings are aimed to a generation more concerned about mental health and consent than ours was.

      Also, content warnings are just warnings. Players can simply said «it's okay, let's go».

    3. @ Carlos:

      I hear what you're saying.

      We (well, North American societies) are in a bit of a mess...one of our own construction. In a perfect world, people would grow up feeling free to be themselves, not being pressured or bullied, and when they sat down at a gaming table there'd be no more negative emotions being brought up for being turned into a squid-person than any other fail-state in D&D (i.e. elicit an "oh darn" moment and then move on).

      But we don't live in a perfect world.

      I see your point, Carlos. And yet, while I understand protecting youths for a number of reasons (not the least of which are their lack of experience, foundational ego/confidence, and general powerlessness in society), I am far less inclined to protect "fragile" adults. Adults who possess all the power they need to have frank discussions with their gaming group or, more simply, the power to walk away from groups that act inappropriately or engage in play not to their liking.

      I suppose that if this IS an adventure specifically aimed at young players, potentially *vulnerable* young players, the appropriate design choice would have been to NOT include ANY transformational element as a fail state. Shit...we're talking mind flayers here; isn't mass consumption of humanoid brains bad enough?

      I will stand by my statement that undermining the DM's authority in this way is a BAD/WRONG precedent, and a poorly thought out position by the writers of the adventure. They could have made a different, better choice than this.

      As for content warnings: I don't have any issue with content warnings, silly or not. We label all sorts of things with warnings...food, medicine, etc...and people can decide whether or not to follow them.

      That's different from cutting off the DM's authority at the knees.

    4. Ok, I see your point. Is like putting a content warning if adventurers are attacked by spiders. And I bet there are more people suffering from arachnophobia than from «physically transformative effects».

      I understand also the problem with undermining DM's authority. To me it's not such a great deal, as I usually had a much more collaborative approach in my games concerning shared authority. But I understand it's not such a common approach in the OSR. I play OSR games but also trad games like RQ or Traveller, indie games like PBTA or anything in-between.

    5. Sure...MANY RPGs are more collaborative. There's a lot of negotiated authority in Indie games, sure, but also bigger fish like FATE or various Atlas offerings (Over The Edge and Ars Magica).

      D&D is not "OSR." D&D is D&D. The OSR (these days) is a brand that, at best, might be considered "D&D compatible." Before it was a brand it was a "movement" or philosophy or push-back against the gaming trends of the time. But D&D is D&D. A lot of OSR games are as collaborative as loosey-goosey with rules as any indie offering.

      [sorry...you poked a pet peeve of mine]

      Good one re: spiders. This is a nice summation.

    6. To quote your earlier words JB : "They could have made a different, better choice than this". This makes an excellent point - the module designers made an error when developing their design. The in-game consent warning is a patch over a flaw in the module. The place for this warning was the cover or re-writing the scenario to remove it.

  9. Well, DO I think they have more to be fearful of than we did. As you pointed out, there's climate change and Covid. But there's also the rise of authoritarianism, a shaky global economy/inflation, stagnant wages, the burden of school debt, and on top of it all, the cold war we weathered back in the 20th century seems to be rearing its ugly head again. And yes, all of this is magnified because 21st century culture is tied so closely to cell phones, social media, and 24/7 news cycles. So, I kind of get why they're like that.

    Now, certainly, belonging to a church or other support network has been found to ease depression and anxiety. I think the problem with modern religion is that it has failed to address the problems of our times in an effective and graceful way. Many people are leaving their churches and fewer young people are identifying as religious. If our churches were doing their "job", as it were, this would not be the case.

    Granted, I am agnostic (leaning heavily towards atheist), so my view is necessarily biased here, but you have a real problem when (as a recent poll found) people are more inclined to believe a political figure like Donald Trump than their own church (and even their own family members).

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that, given all of these problems, younger generations changing the structure of a hobby game is just not something that is a priority for me to worry about. And for their part, they have bigger worries than an old grognard like myself wringing his hands over how they enjoy their leisure time.

    1. Very much agree that other "real world" worries have priority over gaming...for both youngsters AND geezers. It could well be that these "structural changes" to D&D are simply a means of exerting control over something in order to feel somewhat empowered in a world full of uncertainty and anxiety.

      Much the same, I suppose, as a person ranting on a blog is finding his own way of exerting control, mitigating fear in a world of uncertainty and anxiety.
      ; )

      That being said, this *particular* kind of BS (undermining the DM's authority regarding something found to be personally distasteful), in the end, is a method of avoiding or NOT confronting "issues," which, yeah, shows a bit of spinelessness. But perhaps it is a welcome respite from the cares of the world to traipse around the fantasy land, free of suffering (while still being able to INFLICT suffering, consequence free, on imaginary bogeymen).

      That seems like a tremendous waste of time to me. But then, so are most video games played on one's smartphone. Par for the course these days.

  10. I'm not against asking for player consent. There are lots of ways to implement a fail states. I am playing with people who are my friends, and I value their comfort over my ability to say a particular sentence about their pretend person.

    But this isn't actually about consent. This is about appeasing players in an Organized Play environment. WoTC wants people to only be playing D&D with their books, on their platforms, or in stores that they advertise in. They want those players to be able to pass from DM to DM without any change in the quality of the game. Hell, it's pretty well known that they are looking to replace DMs with AI.

    Because the truth that even Gygax knew was that DMs are the game, and the books are optional.

    1. Allow me to build on Matt's comment.

      This "appeasement" is driven by the company's drive to ensure that EVERY player has a positive experience. The way the game's been built and expanded, half the blowback that comes from an angry player quitting a game reflects on the industry through social media and other formats. Each time this happens, it sends some faction of the company running around in panic, fearful that at some point the boom's going to be lowered by some political menace, official or not, that either invents some legislation or marches in front of the offices of the whatever game company, screaming abuse of children or some such.

      While I'm fully on your side, JB, I'm not at all surprised to see an action of this kind being touted. There are millions of dollars at stake; Hasbro's existence is at stake; and it just takes one string of whacko parents to make "D&D" the next republican cause, banning the game from libraries, public spaces and what not, and especially from anyone wanting to sell the product. It doesn't need to be satanist (though that will be trotted out again). It just needs to be seen as a cause that money can be grifted with.

      So yes, my comment before was sarcasm. But it's also meant to portray that this is going to get far, far worse, and it's NEVER going to get better. In the end, the RPG industry will crash and fail, because it won't stand up and embrace what the game's really about ... instead, they'll placate and grovel and show their weak bellies until they're kicked out of existence.

      It takes a spine to stand up to social media these days and say "F You." It takes faith and belief and passion to weather the storm until the next generation embraces the F You and makes it theirs. None of the present game companies have that kind of vision or spine.

      It's has to be up to us to keep D&D going.

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  12. alright, having read through this entire comment chain: you keep going on about this "undermining the DM's authority." but doesn't it undermine the DM's authority even more when someone has to walk away from the table and won't come back? and the entire playgroup becomes that much less invested in the campaign when they see that the DM is more interested in power-tripping than accommodating their needs?

    asking your playgroup, "hey, this spell is about to transform everyone into monsters, is this cool with everyone here?" is about maintaining your players' ACTUAL loyalty towards you, rather than just holding them hostage. it's a fairly clumsy tactic, but it ultimately reinforces the DM/player divide rather than breaking it down.

    1. The short answers to your questions are "no" and "non-applicable."

      It doesn't undermine a DM's authority for a player to not want to play. Quite the contrary: the culling of individuals who would buck the authority of the DM allows the DM more freedom to craft a better game and experience for those who are willing to play the game, as there is less time spent debating issues of authority. It is the proverbial "addition by subtraction."

      Being a DM is neither about "power tripping" nor about "accommodating the needs of players;" at least, not in the way you seem to be implying. The DM acts in service to the players by running the game. The DM must have authority in order to run the game. Without that authority, the game ceases to be. Then everyone loses.

      Being a DM is not about making friends or gaining "loyalty" (though these are often byproducts of play). I do not require friendship or loyalty to run a D&D game...I've run many sessions for people completely unknown to me before they sat at my table. Players will play, and stay engaged, with a game that is run well by a DM that they trust. Trust is gained by running the game in a firm but fair manner. And a DM cannot run a game that is "firm and fair" when their authority can be undermined by the players at the table.

      I hope that makes sense.

  13. > WOTC would have been better adapting or modifying the PEGI rating system into a simple set of guidelines over one or two pages.

    PEGI / MPAA - style ratings don't capture a fraction of what people seem to be worried about, and these tastes / preferences drift significantly over time. An example from my table:

    * Baldur's Gate canonically had a racially-stratified economy/government: rule by human nobles (+ one clan of dwarves grandfathered in), half-orcs working as day labourers, and a general gradation in between. Foreigners from the south living in a walled ghetto.

    * 10 years ago WotC published Murder in Baldur's Gate, as a season of their organised play program. Without PC involvement, the sequence of events would have revolved around bad guys provoking class conflict in the city.

    Where a decade ago we might have accepted that setting just fine - it presumably passed all the corporate vetting - when I dropped it into a Forgotten Realms campaign as a possible side-quest in mid-2022, I lost a player who didn't want to be dealing with racist classist government (and had built a somewhat snowflake character).

    1. THAT was the reason the player left the table? Really?


      "You can't please ALL the people ALL the time." Someone might consider posting that in the design room over at WotC/Hasbro.

      I suppose they *are* taking that message to heart, and would prefer to cater to individuals who will (otherwise) QUITE PLAYING the mere possibility of "sensitive content" (arbitrarily and subjectively determined) raises its (potential) head.

      Different business stratagem from I would take...but I'm not very biz-savvy.