These rules are open to input and change through discussion with the players and game masters participating in this project. I expect them to grow and change over the course of the series.
1) Use respectful and inclusive language
Naturally this means referring to people how they want to be referred to and using their desired pronouns. Keep in mind that people are welcome to use whatever identity terms they want to for themselves, even if those words are slurs.
Being respectful also means avoiding harmful language, including words and phrases that promote harmful stereotypes and ideas. The English language has many of these words and phrases in it that are harmful and learning to avoid them is an ongoing process for many people. What this means is that there will be mistakes.
When mistakes occur, my goal is to kindly inform the person who made the mistake that the word they just used is harmful and suggest a possible alternative. If (or when) I make this kind of mistake, I request that others do the same for me.
Below is a list of some words and phases to avoid that are less commonly known to be harmful. Because the thing that has helped me the most in my own process of learning to avoid these words and phrases is finding good substitutions, I have also listed some possible replacements.
- Pioneer/pioneering when used to mean being the first to do something (this is a problem as many of the historical pioneers engaged in genocide): trailblazer
- Being low on the totem pole (this is based on a misunderstanding and trivialization of the deep cultural meaning of totem poles): bottom of the heap, low in rank
- Crusader (this references a violent history that involves cultural and religious intolerance): champion, reformer
- Lame: frustrating, silly, ridiculous
- Dumb: frustrating, silly, ridiculous
- Crazy/nuts/insane: wild, extreme
- Stupid/fool/idiot/daft/moron (these words refer to people with intellectual disabilities): silly, ridiculous, nonsense, illogical
- Being deaf or blind as a metaphor for being unable or unwilling to perceive something: intentionally ignorant, irrational
2) Avoid stereotypical characters
Part of the goal of this project is to create positive representations for the audience. In addition, ironic depictions of oppression frequently just reinforce the existing stereotypes. For these reasons, I’d like to avoid stereotypical characters in this game.
That said, if someone has a great idea for really digging into oppression by playing with a stereotype that they are personally affected by, then they are encouraged to bring that idea to the group. If the other group members are comfortable with the idea then we will work together to make sure that the oppression is highlighted and commented on so that the social commentary is clear to listeners.
In addition, players are reminded that the farther outside their personal experience they go with their character’s marginalized identities, the more research they will need to do in order to give a truthful representation of that experience. Players are encouraged, but not required, to play characters with disabilities and marginalized identities that they have a personal connection to.
3) For games with sexual content, characters will be eighteen or older
All player characters and non-player characters that might engage in sexual activity should be 18 or older. For games with really freeform and open sexual rules like Monsterhearts, that is the majority of the allosexual (not asexual) characters.
The reason for this is the way USA obscenity laws work, the complex legal space that under 18 sexuality exists in, and the deep discomfort that USA culture has with teenage sexuality.
4) Focus on positive representation
Players are encouraged to create complicated, real-feeling characters. Part of that complexity can be flaws, questionable goals, or underhanded methods. Because one of the goals of this project is to create representation that listeners can feel good about, I would like to avoid having player characters that are deeply morally compromised (for example, being cruel for fun, or a complete lack of compassion toward others).
Game masters may create disabled or chronically ill villains, but because there is a history of disability being associated with villains (and even being treated as a trait by which villains are identified, for example, Darth Vader), there should be some discussion with the players about what kinds of portrayals everyone is comfortable with.