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Tabletop Tuesday – Inclusion Tools in RPGs Are Necessary

I’ve already talked about how the RPG industry is moving away from the usual homogeneous stereotypes, especially the edgelords and bigots. Even in our current socio-political climate, tabletop gaming is making an effort to become more inclusive, diverse, and representative of its players.

To highlight the changes in industry and RPG culture, I can point to two new tools that help with inclusion.

The Fate Accessibility Toolkit is a fantastic eBook that covers accessibility and disability representation in tabletop RPGs. It’s written by members of the disabled community and covers everything we talked about at our 2019 AwesomeCon Panel and more. Although it was created with the Fate system in mind, all of the concepts found within can be applied to any game.

Recently, Monte Cook released Consent in Gaming, a free-to-download PDF that discusses concepts like Session 0, the X-Card, and anything else to ensure everyone is on the same page. The point is to make your group an inclusive, considerate space for gaming where everybody is having fun, not just those who do so at the expense of others.

I’m not here to review these toolkits, however, as you’ll find plenty of those already out there. Instead, I want to address the unreasonable backlash against these tools, products you’re not even required to purchase or download.

I’ve seen every ridiculous argument by this point, from claims that they’re unnecessary to the work of “SJWs.” That’s not even getting into comments verging on bigotry.

All the naysayers have done is prove these tools are a necessity, and people like that are the reason why.

“None of this is necessary. It’s anything a mature adult would know.”

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That you think every gamer out there is a “mature adult” is optimistic (at best) and in reality downright delusional. The fact that people are posting long-winded diatribes or ranting about “sensitive snowflakes” just because these toolkits exist suggests the opposite.

Let’s face it – a not-insignificant portion of the geek community has the emotional and social maturity of my kids. To expect these individuals, particularly the edgelords, to behave like “mature adults” is like asking a bunch of school children to be quiet when “Old Town Road” comes on.

Given the significant portion of gamers who are narcissistic, egocentric, and immature (including those who take offense to the mere presence of a toolkit), there is obviously a need. It’s almost as if some behaviors or events warrant these products.

“I’ve never seen it happen at my table. These are just rare, bad occurrences.”

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The old argument from ignorance fallacy is a favorite for far too many living in a bubble.

We have case after case after case where someone didn’t know how to behave. Anecdotes abound of convention or FLGS games, where strangers are subject to unexpected, offensive materials or toxic behaviors both in- and out-of-game.

The reasons we have books highlighting things like accessibility and consent is because people have violated the basic tenets of decency and civility. While mostly for games where strangers are playing together, you may even find horror stories about games among friends.

The point is, just because you haven’t seen it, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. The world is full of questionable, offensive, or even heinous acts that you’ve never directly witnessed – why aren’t you arguing about their existence?

“If you’re so sensitive to these things, or have PTSD, you shouldn’t be playing RPGs.”

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These comments are the point we start to realize it’s not about the product but the critic’s mentality. 

Claiming that people who dislike certain behavior shouldn’t play is bad enough, but dismissing those who have a mental disorder is ableism at its finest. Worse, it’s incredibly ignorant because RPGs can be excellent for those who’ve suffered trauma.

Anyone who excludes others because they might have an issue with certain topics or themes, or have a trauma related to them, is probably a bigoted jackass. You don’t need spiders if a player has arachnophobia, and purposefully including traumatic scenes around victims makes you an asshole.

The gaming community doesn’t revolve around what you think is acceptable, and the sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be. That’s what these tools are about – teaching people how to make their games more open and inclusive, and less edgelord bullshit.

“This is the work of SJWs, liberals, feminazis, etc. They’re just trying to ruin our crazy fun-time with their snowflake mindset.”

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OK, stop right there.

The moment you start dropping snarl words and charged language like “SJWs,” “feminazis,” and “snowflake,” we know all we need to know about you.

You’re precisely the kind of person that the conventions and FLGS are beginning to ban. Head back into the depths of the basement from whence your Cheeto-stained fingers and Mountain Dew breath came.

We’re done.

“But I have legitimate criticism of some procedures found in this tool kit…”

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Great! No toolkit is perfect, and there may be things on which we disagree. I’m disabled, and while I loved 99% of the Fate Accessibility Toolkit, there were a few points where I had a different perspective.

Honest and constructive criticism should always be appreciated, especially from those who are informed or experienced on the topic. We’re not always going to agree on the best approach, so long as we’re working toward the same end.

Not to mention, these are tool kits, meaning you can use whatever you need and ignore the rest. I own several literal toolkits with screwdrivers, wrenches, and other attachments I’ve never needed, but I still appreciate the pieces I use.

Just because you have an honest critique, however, please understand your audience before deciding to go on a long-winded rant or “splaining session.” As seen above, far too many people also believe they have “reasonable points” that are anything but legitimate.

Especially if you fit the demographic criteria of a specific majority that always has “an opinion.”

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The point is if you don’t want to use a toolkit, then don’t. Stop crapping on everyone else’s choices, or the products’ very existence, just because you personally don’t feel the need for them.

By doing that, you’re just proving these things are necessary, as well as what kind of gamer (and person) you are.

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About Brook H. (211 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... Brook has degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology and has majored in everything from computers to business. He's worked a variety of jobs, including theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is HoH and a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate, a lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

3 Comments on Tabletop Tuesday – Inclusion Tools in RPGs Are Necessary

  1. Just my take here, but it seems that to step beyond the divisive nature of this topic one would do well to stop using divisive language. In the same article where you said, “The moment you start dropping snarl words and charged language like ‘SJWs,’ ‘feminazis,’ and ‘snowflake,’ we know all we need to know about you,” you also referred to those who use those terms with snarl words of your own: “edgelords”, “ignorant” and “jackass”, to name a few.

    In effect, you’re only preaching to the choir.

    Pardon the cliche, but “Be the change you want to see” is a great piece of advice if your goal is to step beyond divisive language that merely identifies the problem and instead communicate with the intent of solving the problem. You won’t reach the extremists that way, but those who simply lack understanding are more likely to hear what you have to say if they’re not feeling defensive, minimized and insulted.

    To be clear: I am really happy to see these issues addressed; I just think it could be done in a more productive, less divisive manner.

    Or, that’s how I see it anyway.

    Like

  2. The problem I have with these tools is that they assume they everyone who fits the stereotype demographic they are “written for” needs this. People are perfectly capable of discussing relevant issues themselves.

    Asking everyone who sits down at my table to abide by a strangers guidelines because somone else somwhere

    Like

    • I don’t see an assumption here but a ‘tool’ for raising awareness regarding this issue — because clearly there is an issue. Just because someone brings it up doesn’t mean they assume all gamers are insensitive or that no gamers can establish their own rules of conduct. Similarly just because you are sensitive and capable of establishing your own rules of conduct doesn’t mean that every gamer can or does.

      If it bothers you that sensitive people want to be given some basic consideration, you might want to consider not opening your table to strangers.

      Like

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