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Author Topic: Improving inclusivity as a TTRPG creator  (Read 406 times)

CM_Suzerain

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Improving inclusivity as a TTRPG creator
« on: August 10, 2020, 07:21:36 am »
Hi, I work for Savage Mojo and for us, inclusivity within our SWADE meta-setting of Suzerain and the games that take place in that universe is important. :)

By this, I mean not just how to make sure a TTRPG is accessible for all types of people, but also all types of player. By having multiple realms within the Suzerain universe we all for fantasy and sci-fi lovers to play together with the same characters but through adventures of different settings/styles/genres.

What are ways that you all try to help players feel included, confident and comfortable when playing?
« Last Edit: August 10, 2020, 07:22:56 am by CM_Suzerain »
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RollingBones

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Improving inclusivity as a TTRPG creator
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2020, 10:17:53 pm »
As a long time gamer, but unpublished, I can only talk about running games and homebrewed systems/scenarios, so my opinion is only worth exactly you've paid for it ;)

I do the bare minimum: I try not to step on anyone's toes by using or assuming anything about extant real world cultures; I try to avoid racial or cultural stereotypes in pregen characters or NPCs;  I try to ensure gender and sexuality is never a driving factor of any mechanic or characterisation; and above all, I don't include themes of rape. Anything else is fair game, though I try to be sensitive to the people at the table.

Most RPGs are not a safe space. The characters are generally roaming murder-hobos. To much of the world they occupy, the characters ARE the "wandering monsters". There aren't enough trigger warnings in the world to make most TTRPGs adequately 'woke', and that's OK.

The exception might be "Wanderhome", which as far as I can tell without getting hold of it, is made of warm fuzzies. I'm glad it's out there, but I don't think it's my gig.

Where RPGs are theatre, they're character embodiment, and can create great moral dilemmas. But those moral dilemmas by their very nature can raise existential questions and make people uncomfortable. Some players might like that, some might not. So as much as I love those kinds of problem scenarios, I'll avoid or minimise them with sensitive players.

Where RPGs are high adventure, there's going to be blood. That's the nature of the story. Even investigation games tend toward themes of eldritch horror, which might disturb some players.

For instance, if my wife is playing, and I need a meaningful monstrous encounter, I'll play on her phobias by introducing a roach themed monster with waving independent antennae. It's a guaranteed way to heighten the urgency and atmosphere. Good monsters work by playing on our real life fears, within limits.

So long as the genre is clear, then it's on the player whether they want to be involved. If the content isn't racist, sexist, queerphobic, or rapey, it's good to go.

It's also true that some players simply will not like some genres. Using my wife as an example again, she just doesn't 'get' sci-fi. We can generally work around it by taking the extra time to develop a character she can feel more involved with. Perhaps the concept of taking the same character between genre defined worlds might help, but I still think she'd be annoyed any time the characters landed in a science fiction setting.

Perhaps though, I can give an example of what not to do. How I, as DM, mistakenly took a game somewhere so dark the players abandoned the campaign.

Following a great game of 5e 'Lost Mine of Phandelver', the party restored the town of Thundertree, and within a few seasons of downtime it had become a bustling rural village. I was planning a long campaign that would follow the traditional hero's story of tragedy, journey through the underworld (Out of the Abyss), a long journey home (Silver Marches), and then eventually taking part in a war between gods. This sweeping campaign would have covered major background stories and growth for each character. But it was not to be.

As the instigating tragedy that would force them to leave Thundertree for the Underdark, I ran Nicholas Logue's brilliant 'Carnival of Tears'. While everyone thought the session had been excellent, I don't think enjoyable would be the right word. It effectively decimated the population of the town they had rebuilt, and we took the characters to such a place of despair, we've never been able to rekindle any momentum to resume the campaign.

The lesson: no matter how well tragedy might serve the plot of your grand story, the real reason we're at the table is to have fun. Always fun must come first. If there's art to be made, it arises naturally from the game. Starting with the goal of 'art', using the game as a tool to that end, is a mistake. Worse, it's selfish. The adventure is not your canvas, and the players aren't your paints. Don't use them as such.

As GM, you're there to make a fun time for your friends, not to change the world, or make grand statements. Like a Verhoeven movie, don't let your big theme get in the way of a good ride.

Spinachcat

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Improving inclusivity as a TTRPG creator
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2020, 12:40:15 am »
Quote from: CM_Suzerain;1144043
What are ways that you all try to help players feel included, confident and comfortable when playing?

These are only problems if you game with losers.

Kick the losers off the table and the problem is solved. The rest of the table will do great.

We really need to become an EXclusive hobby because trying to appeal to losers is a death spiral for the hobby. The more losers we bring in, the less normal people will join the hobby because who wants to join a toilet bowl of mental illness?

RollingBones

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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2020, 02:19:51 am »
Quote from: Spinachcat;1145770
These are only problems if you game with losers.

Kick the losers off the table and the problem is solved. The rest of the table will do great.

We really need to become an EXclusive hobby because trying to appeal to losers is a death spiral for the hobby. The more losers we bring in, the less normal people will join the hobby because who wants to join a toilet bowl of mental illness?


Dude, many of us were the losers: playing D&D in the library at lunchtime instead of sport, awkward around the opposite sex, too weird for school and unable to really fit in.

Lots of us still are those outcasts. Sure we're older, richer, we've mostly sorted out our relationships; many have thrived where their schoolmates failed, some even turned out more athletic than the sportier kids ever did. The old "freaks and geeks" line might not ring quite as true as it once did, but there's an element that'll always be real.

Should someone be excluded from the gaming table because they're outcast, shy, nervous, or are going through a tough time? Hell, No!
Should we purposefully push themes in a game that we know will upset our friends at the table? Why would you do that?
Should we kowtow to 'woke' apologists? Absolutely not. They don't get to come crashing into our games and demand we change to accommodate them.

Ironically, if a loud and pushy SJW is demanding the whole group change the game to accommodate a special need they want recognised, they are the one doing the damage. The same way a mouthy player complaining about the tone of an overly woke gaming table might be the problem. If that table isn't for you, keep looking, you'll find your place. Both sides accusing the other of having wrong-fun is unproductive.

The difficulty is how do you do that from a commercial perspective? You need to sell product. You need to run games. The outcasts are your customer base. Many of those outcasts have taken to the woke worldview with an almost religious fervour. You must accommodate. Of course, you can still run games that limit identity expression to some extent, to maintain the internal logic of the game world (ie. don't allow a Tabaxi character in a Conan game), but you need to include people somewhere if you want them to buy your stuff.

The best you can do is be honest about the content of the game, and help the player find the right group. If they're just being dominated by the rest of the group, perhaps (unpatronisingly) make sure they get their time in the spotlight, help them with the rules, buddy them with a more experienced player. But if they're a pushy creep that wants to be treated as a special case, they're out the door before they ruin it for everyone, regardless what side of politics they fall on.

RandyB

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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2020, 08:45:59 am »
Caveat emptor.

It's not the creator's responsibility. That is wokeness, which leads to brokeness. Brokeness leads to suffering. And that is the Dark Side.

trechriron

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Improving inclusivity as a TTRPG creator
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2020, 10:41:46 pm »
Inclusivity is not just about play-styles, or genres, it's also about how the game is presented, accessibility standards, and language.

Presentation:
  • Avoiding the use of hard-to-read fonts.
  • Avoid harsh colors that conflict or obfuscate the text.
  • Avoid busy background images or iconography obscuring the text.
  • Not including an index.
  • Not including a table of contents.
  • Avoid making text too small to read.
  • Not breaking large horizontal tables across multiple pages.
  • Avoid breaking large words across pages, columns, or paragraphs too frequently.


All this stuff can negatively impact people with different visual or learning disabilities.

Accessibility:
  • An electronic PDF could include meta-data to make screen reading by an app easier.
  • Images have meta-data so they can be parsed by a screen reader.
  • Accessibility options are enabled for those who use alternate layouts or zoom.
  • The order of tabs follows the logical progression of the fields vs. being random.
  • The PDF can be viewed on different screen sizes.
  • Perhaps offering an epup or mobi or both with the PDF.


This stuff helps those with visual disabilities or those who may want to access your work on alternative platforms.

Language:
  • In deference to those who desire alternative pronouns or those who are non-binary, publishers have been using the `they/them` approach vs. he/him approach.
  • Trying to avoid gross racial and cultural stereotypes, colloquial sayings, and offensive humor.
  • Not using common terms often used as insults AS insults (...not using a term in the pejorative).
  • Making gross exaggerations or hyperbole about a particular social, political, cultural, or ethnic group.
  • Inferring a religious or spiritual preference as a statement of fact or disparaging another religious or spiritual practice.
  • Using obtuse, complicated, or complex terms outside the scope of your target audience.


If you want to be inclusive of people, you have to be aware that we all have differences. If you respect those differences, and stay focused on what you are presenting, avoiding language that is meant to cause insult, or controversy for the sake of controversy, or disrespect someone for their values / beliefs... you are likely making your work more inclusive.

This concept is controversial. Some don't believe it's necessary. If you want to be inclusive you simply have to think ahead about the differences. How will someone read this? Does it support accessibility software? If someone besides me reads this --- will they be offended? An RPG that is attempting to teach a game and outline a setting hardly needs to be written like a political dissertation from the perspective of the one who wrote it. In my mind, being inclusive means giving a shit about how my work is going to be used, and trying to provide for the widest audience possible within reason. Within reason = stuff I can control vs. stuff out of my control.

Of course, YMMV.
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Spinachcat

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Improving inclusivity as a TTRPG creator
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2020, 05:07:09 am »
Quote from: RollingBones;1145782
Dude, many of us were the losers: playing D&D in the library at lunchtime instead of sport, awkward around the opposite sex, too weird for school and unable to really fit in.


The problem has never been the kids. Give me a room full of weirdo pre-teens and they'll be dungeoncrawling with the best of us in no time. They're not the losers. It's the fucknuts on social media who apparently need a therapist present so they can somehow make it through the game session.

Chris24601

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« Reply #7 on: August 29, 2020, 03:31:22 pm »
Quote from: CM_Suzerain;1144043
What are ways that you all try to help players feel included, confident and comfortable when playing?

Well, First you need a set of rules that doesn't suck. Preferably laid out in a fashion that doesn't require make the reader's eyes bleed or force them to flip back and forth through the book just to find things that go together.

Second, you need to lay out a clear vision of what the campaign* is going to be about so people can make characters that will have a place in that campaign (ex. unless you're facing Zentraedi, rolling up a pop singer for a war campaign will NOT make you feel included). There is your inclusion.

To make them feel confident, don't run a railroad where player choices don't matter and give them the benefit of the doubt when they make decisions. If they say their PC is going to do something that seems stupid, check that they actually have a clear picture of the situation because sometimes they just missed something in the description.

To make them comfortable, I recommend cushioned chairs and a healthy supply of snacks and beverages.

* Frankly, this is the biggest problem with the Suzerain setting. You can play anything you want as an overlay to a game system that already allows the GM to set up a world where players can be anything they want isn't actually a draw. It's just a needless extra layer complicating things.

By contrast, while Rifts technically allows material from all their other settings to be used in it, that isn't the primary conceit of the setting (at least not in the core book and first supplements). The primary vision of the setting is a post-apocalyptic struggle between hi-tech and supernatural powers (ex. The Coalition vs. Tolkeen/Federation of Magic, the NGR vs. the Gargoyle Empire, etc.).