During the Mature Topics in Gaming panel at Dragon Con, I made the suggestion that GMs who had mature topics in their games give their players a questionnaire to fill out before their game or campaign (similar to the way the BDSM/kink/sex community recommends filling out a sex-themed questionnaire before you engage in kinky activities with someone — if you haven’t already seen these, here is a very detailed printable BDSM checklist and here is a list of other checklists and resources.). I also suggested incorporating aftercare–taking a few minutes for everyone to talk about the experience and make sure everyone’s okay before you leave the table.
Some people have emailed me since that panel to ask if I have a questionnaire like the one I suggested, and since I don’t (and couldn’t find an existing one), I thought it would be a good idea to create one.
The questionnaire would cover a wide variety of mature topics at the table, including sexual and romantic experiences and relationships, violence, coercion, gender and sexual orientation, and more.
The goal: to provide GMs with a good sense of what mature topics their players are comfortable with and interested in, and to what extent (e.g. “Sex is okay, but only if it fades to black” vs. “I am okay with explicit sexuality at the table.” Or “Violence and death are fine, but please no gore” vs. “Give me all the grisly details!”). It also allows players to unequivocally state what topics or themes they want no part of. Being able to answer in writing — as opposed to talking about it — sometimes allows people to be less self-conscious and thus give more honest answers. Overall, the hope is to provide a better, more inclusive, non-judgmental, non-triggery experience for everyone around the table.
Once it’s done, I’ll make it available for free to anyone who wants it (and might also include it as part of the download for the Numenera supplement, “Love and Sex in the Ninth World“).
For now, I’m looking for some people to be my sounding board — those with experience or interest in mature gaming topics who would like to offer suggestions for questions or topics, see if it’s missing anything, check my language for accidental toe-stepping, etc.
Here’s how to get involved: send an email to email@example.com with the subject line MATURE TOPICS IN GAMING. Once I’ve got a draft of the questionnaire finished, I will send it along to everyone who emails me for their feedback.
Please pass the word along to anyone you think might be interested. The more voices, the better!
Please send a copy?
As a fairly new GM, who already saw the need to issue a mature themes warning (which ended up more for implied rape, cannibalism, and slavery, than for the seduction scene I had *planned* for my players) I endorse this idea wholeheartedly. I can think of 3 scenarios around this:
1) A detailed questionnaire handed out and returned to the GM before the first RP session.
2) A not so detailed questionnaire with detailed follow-ons handled as an in-session-0 springboard for discussion.
3) A combination of 1 and 2 where a general question is sent out and follow-up w/ detail is conducted one-on-one.
Every question you ask before the situation happens serves the dual purpose of helping enhance the discussion and helping suspend disbelief. Both of which are only good things to do.
A friend actually just directed me to this page as we did something similar for an ongoing vanilla, low sexuality game. Some of our players had a experiences of gaming with people who unexpectedly brought up topics that weren’t expected or were triggering–sudden torture, hate crimes, or a character’s rape in game. We just asked for some quick ideas, in writing or verbally, about hard limits for the game, and reiterated that we could revisit those boundaries as a group or individually with the GM at any time if something was occurring that we weren’t comfortable with.
I agree with Whylnia that there can be great differences between players and characters, and we only focused on players. I assumed that we all believed that our characters would speak up in game if they weren’t comfortable (for example, a priestess with a vow of chastity will generally say so when approached by a suitor) though perhaps it would have been a better game if we discussed it.
I do have some reservations about relying on a questionnaire, simply because a questionnaire is always incomplete. Players might be triggered by something small, or want to roleplay some activity, not included in the survey. I’d definitely be interested in seeing the questionnaire, though! It could be a great tool to incorporate and use to foster an initial discussion amongst players–but I don’t think any questionnaire could replace consideration for other players and speaking up if something is wrong.
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My thoughts, first off, is there should be seperate sections. First as a player and second as the character in question.
I as a player am generally open-minded. A few things will always be hard limits for me, no matter who I play, though.
As a character, it can become far more complicated. Just because they carry some of me doesn’t mean the character’s likes/dislikes don’t differ, sometimes greatly, from myself.
The first question of a questionnaire is to oneself: what is its purpose? That you want to explore game practices or the potential for a new game or supplement will produce a different questionnaire.
I think the questionnaire should be very different from the BDSM one you provided a link to (quite hardcore). Maybe a first part of the questionnaire must concern the link/proximity between them and their character, how close they consider others players from their characters. How they’ll feel about being the love interest of another PC, of a NPC. Do they think their boyfriend/girlfriend would feel uneasy about it, would they feel uneasy if their BF/GF was/had some love interest with another PC, would it be different if it’s just a session, a full scenario or campaign…
So, maybe the first part of the questionnaire should be about the distance with character, a second part could be about intimate relationships between PC-PC/NPC, a third part could be about which kind of practices they wouldn’t like to have their character involved into with another PC-NPC. A fourth part could explore desires, asking if they’d have the same limitations in a different gaming group.
For sure you’ll need to know the sex, age (not age group), nationality (maybe state), religion (if any), relationship status, social group, gaming experience, gaming frequency, etc… This will allow you to exploit more precisely the results.
If I can help you someway in your project, just ask, I was developing several questionnaires about RPG for my research in psychology and sociology.
This is a topic of interest to me. Great idea. I find the problem more to be GMs side-stepping content that could be interesting and add to the story line because they are mindful of ruining the game and/or upsetting players. Knowing ahead of time be great!
Personally speaking, I prefer to keep sexual activity and dice rolling entirely separate activities!
I’d feel very uncomfortable being surrounded by fellow geeks as they roleplay what might very well be a private sexual fantasy!
No sex roleplay please; I’m British!
It strikes me that our fellow Seattlite Satyros Phil Brucato (Mage, Deliria) might be a good person to have involved in this too!