Consent in Gaming is a new and free downloadable PDF by Sean K. Reynolds and Shanna Germain that discusses how to deal with potentially uncomfortable situations within a group’s Roleplaying Game (RPG). When friends get together to take on a campaign in an RPG, they are able to explore and experience things that range from odd to the utterly fantastic, sometimes getting into situations one can only dream of, or may want to firmly avoid at all costs.
RPGs are meant to be a shared experience where the players work together to accomplish a goal. The Dungeon Master (DM) creates the world for them to explore, and an important piece of that is ensuring that all participants have has consented to the premise and expectations of the campaign and game genre.
The guide offers several useful tips for how to create a safe environment for players, as well as how to deal with situations as they arise. The most important piece of advice that is repeated in the guide is determining what is safe for you as a player:
“It is always your choice, and nobody ever gets to make that choice for you. Even if the GM is really excited about a particular idea for a game, that doesn’t mean you have to accept it. Even if the other players are really enthusiastic about an idea, that doesn’t mean you have to accept it.”
The guide goes on to explain how there can be a spectrum of detail that can allow for a broad range of topics to be covered. For example, Reynolds and Germain describe how one may be fine with having goldfish in their campaign, which sounds simple enough, but may not want to hear vivid descriptions of their eyes, the texture of their scales, and the smell once out of the water.
The same holds true for violence. Describing that a thief flings a stone and hits a character on the head may be perfectly fine, but intense and graphic descriptions of violence may simply be to much, and could make a player uncomfortable.
While this all sounds as though one could navigate delicate situations using common sense, the truth is that everyone has unique thresholds for comfort, and one person cannot be used to gauge the potential reaction of another.
To solve this issue, a simple solution exists in the consent checklist, available on page 13 of the guide. When planning a game, a DM can first ask their players to fill it out to see if there are clear red flags to steer clear of. The checklist contains a broad list of items related to horror, relationships, social and cultural issues, mental and physical health, and additional space for players to fill in. They can check off a box that is green for totally acceptable, yellow if the topic is veiled or offstage, or red, which is a hard pass and should be excluded altogether.
This guide is certainly not meant to be the final word on how to treat consent within gaming, but it is an excellent launching point from which a discussion can begin and develop. Be sure to check out the link above for your free download of the guide!