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Two of our players' characters have had (since the beginning) a very 'pig-tail pulling' relationship from day one. One is a high lady, the other a rougher sea-man. Little fireballs aimed at armpits, lots of insults and little poison quills stabs...you get the picture. Both players seem good with and check in with each occasionally to make sure everything is still copacetic. Til last session. Lady decides (for long winded reasons) to sleep in Man's hammock which is up on deck. Man tips her out of said hammock and says no. Lady says fine, neither of us will and tears one of the supports. It is now too unstable for Man to sleep in but Lady still can. Man says fine, sleep in it.

Man waits until Lady is asleep, then binds her up tightly in hammock. She wakes while this is happening and Man headbutts her to unconsciousness. Man hangs hammock over board of ship, feet first and above water. Which lady is terrified of.

Lady awakes, screams bloody murder, Man comes back. Man tries to say he did this to make peace (with her). Lady tries to bite/claw but can't. So Lady starts insulting Man and in so doing calls his mother a cow (Man in Minotaur.)

So Man punches unarmed and bound up Lady in face til she quiets then lets her partially loose and walks away.

Lady character is obviously furious and is now doing silent treatment. Man character never apologizes but repeated states he was 'only trying to make peace.'

The player of the Lady character shut down a bit, but didn't outright express a problem with the interaction. (In my prior post I stated that none of the other players seemed concerned. It should have stated none of the other Characters seemed upset). If any of the other players were upset by it, I couldn't tell.

Some of them even made jokes after the session was over about going back to 1940s and wearing wife beater. and "Wife has black eye cause I explained something to her...why does she has two black eyes..well cause I had to explain it twice." Hardy har har and all that. One other player was quiet after the incident in game but laughed at the jokes.

I feel very uncomfortable with both the casual, rather over the line player-on-player unarmed violence AND the after session talk. If anyone else was upset by it, I couldn't tell. To be fair, I did not project my discomfort at that time either--mostly to avoid some of the statements that have come up.

I don't want people to feel like they can't play their characters in certain ways and in-game culture is different, and players can sometimes make OOC decisions etc etc.

But I also don't want to play with people who act like that in game AND also make talk/jokes like they did after. It seems like the choice they made in game (and lack of a reaction to it) was a testing of the waters and allowed them to act as they did after the game.

Main concern is play how you want to play but I need to be able to trust that you are playing a role and that you are not secretly acting out your true self.

Again, I realize that in the game, we murder people, we steal, we maime, I GET IT. Just tying up and punching a defenseless friend (GENDER ASIDE) just because you feel like felt very out of place with how we have played this game for over a year now.

I am not that close to the DM (just friends) and only known the other players for just over a year. There is one female, one non-binary and four males. Three of the players work together(two for some time), one player has played with two of them before but there is no real relationship out of game. All players (save the non-binary) are playing characters that match their gender. Age range is from 30-55. Lady and Man players have played together (briefly) before and do not work together.

Sadly, and as evidenced in some of the chats and comments (even on this site), bringing up that such joking makes me uncomfortable has a likelihood of being seen as whining or being a 'sensitive snowflake.'

How can I approach my DM and players to get a resolution to these uncomfortable actions without getting that kind of response from the other players/DM?


Update Edit: I followed a script similar to one below when asking talking about the issue with my group. I did it with the whole group at once since I would probably only work up the courage once. It seems to have gone over fine. The Man player said he would not make any more domestic abuse jokes. Haven’t played another session yet so I don’t know if/how I’ve affected the group’s vibe. The Man player seemed truly upset he had caused me discomfort and the Lady player said that she knew (from past games with Man) that sometimes when he gets excited/into the role play, he can get a bit offensive so she was less taken aback but what happened. So issue is addressed for now. I’ll have to see what happens in the future since Man seemed sorry and though what Lady said sounds like a bit of a pattern, Man has gotten pretty excited before and nothing like this had happened, so I think I have hope it won’t happen again.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe I have done all of that--and also I cannot with certainty (I did not ask) but, as stated in question, The player of the Lady character shut down a bit, but didn't outright express a problem with the interaction. One other player was quiet after the incident in game but laughed at the jokes. \$\endgroup\$ – MacLeodScot Sep 18 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ BTW MacLeodScot thank you for providing this information. We're just trying to make sure that we understand your situation completely so that we can provide you the advice that is most helpful. I know it is a lot though, it is sometimes complicated social interaction can take a lot of context for us to get an idea of what the best resolution is. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 18 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would agree--if anyone else was upset by it, I couldn't tell. To be fair, I did not project my discomfort at that time either--mostly to avoid some of the statements that have come up. And I get all the clarification too, I don't mean to come off as edgy, it's my first question so there was bound to be some problems. I basically just need some advice on how to approach the DM/players to find out if the joking (however inappropriate) were the others way of handling their own discomfort or if it was a sign of a deeper prejudices and will be allowed to continue. \$\endgroup\$ – MacLeodScot Sep 18 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ No worries at all! This is NOT an easy situation. But adding what you just put into the comment above as part of your question would be awesome. It's really good information. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mostly care about outside of the game. Sadly, and as evidenced in some of the chats and comments, bringing up that such joking makes me uncomfortable has a likelihood of being seen as whining or being a 'sensitive snowflake.' That is the response I am trying to avoid--hence asking for help. I don't want to be confrontation or assume motives. In the game, actions like that are bound to happen from time to time and might make me uncomfortable, but if its not the norm, I can deal. \$\endgroup\$ – MacLeodScot Sep 18 at 14:18
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Misogyny disguised as humour is still misogyny

And, more generally, any form of bigotry disguised as humour is still bigotry. As a white, middle-aged, middle-class male my experience of bigotry is far more likely to be as a perpetrator than as a victim. Because that's not the person I want to be, I take my cues on what is and is not acceptable from the people who are more likely to be victims.

Raise your concerns. Politely.

Bigot and misogynist are insults - with few exceptions, nobody likes to think of themselves by those labels.

A far more productive approach is to recognize that no one can be a bigot in the way that someone can be, say, an American. A 'bigot' is not a thing you are but at certain times we all say bigoted things or carry out bigoted actions. Dealing with it requires an understanding that good people sometimes do bad things and if they want to do bad things less often they have to be able to recognize the bad things without thinking of themselves as bad people.

Something like:

Hey, I want to talk about what's going on between Lady and Man. Last session it got pretty violent and we all had a laugh about some old sexist stereotypes. However, on reflection, I'm not comfortable with where it went and where it seems it might go in the future - it's not the type of situation that I'd want to see my sister/mother/girlfriend in, and while I know it's all make-believe, this is not an area I want to explore through role-play. Can we tone it down?

And then listen.

Don't expect behaviour to change in one go

If they agree to "tone it down" you may find that this doesn't stick. This isn't a snub to you. Behavior change is hard. You will need to be prepared for backsliding and to gently remind them that you all agreed you weren't going to do this anymore.

Be prepared to walk

If this doesn't change and it makes you so uncomfortable that you aren't enjoying yourself - stop.

It's a big wide world out there full of role playing games.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Sep 17 at 13:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Assuming the humor can only be misogyny (instead of an attempt to personally vent their own discomfort of the situation they are experiencing) is certainly dismissive of what the spectators had to go through and potentially makes this whole post misandry. In some ways I wonder if you have assumed the gender of the players and those spectating. \$\endgroup\$ – Keeta Sep 17 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Keeta I refer you to the third last paragraph - the quoted “joke” is objectively misogynistic irrespective of the gender of the speaker or the listener. As I said, I don’t believe misogonistic (or misanderistic), I believe people can do and say misogynistic/misandristic things. \$\endgroup\$ – Dale M Sep 17 at 21:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you experienced or seen this issue directly (or indirectly?) Overall, this you make a lot of good points, but supporting the recommendation you make with your own experience would vastly improve this. These are hard conversations and bringing in how it's worked or not worked would be awesome. I only had one example to bring up in my answer, so more data points is better :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 18 at 14:57
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There are actually two separate issues here. The first issue is the in-character conflict and escalation. I've experienced similar uncomfortable situations as both a player and as a DM, where something unpleasant happened between two characters and players made off-color remarks about the situation afterwards. Typically, it's the DM's responsibility to address this kind of behavior, but you still have a few options as a player:

  1. Discuss your concerns with the DM privately. It will help if you can articulate your specific concerns about this behavior - maybe even write them down beforehand for clarity. For example, are you upset about the violence/insults themselves? Or are you more bothered by the characters acting out of character? Etc. Ask the DM if these behaviors are out of line for the table agreement or session zero (if you have neither of those, now is a good time to suggest making one).

  2. Discuss your concerns with one or both of the players involved. Do this privately as well, to avoid anyone feeling ganged up on. Ask if the player is happy with what happened, or if they'd prefer things not to escalate that far in the future.

If the DM does not share your concerns and/or says the behaviors are acceptable under the table agreement, and/or if both players are happy with the events as they played out, then you must choose whether to continue playing with this group or look for a group which more closely matches your playstyle.

If the DM agrees with your concerns, ask about their thoughts for how to avoid such behavior in the future. Your DM may already know how to handle out-of-line players; if not, point them to the problem-players tag here or offer suggestions of your own, if you have any.

If one or both of the players isn't happy with the outcome, offer to help by stepping in, both in-character and out. For example, find an excuse for your character to overhear the screaming and approach the characters to intervene. Or agree that the next time things start to get out of hand, you'll interject out of character to say "hey, we're getting off track. Can we get back to (whatever else is going on)?"

The second issue is the post-session off-color chatter. This is trickier to deal with and depends heavily on how comfortable you feel standing up to the other players. If you do feel comfortable calling out the misogynistic remarks (or want to get better at doing so), I recommend checking out Captain Awkward or similar advice columnists for scripts to use in the moment. (Advice columnist scripts are great in general; I don't just use them at the game table but in many situations at work and in my personal life.)

If you don't feel comfortable calling out this behavior (which is totally okay!), you must again decide whether to continue playing with this group. It's completely reasonable to stop hanging out with people who make you uncomfortable. You do not have to explain that such off-color chatter is why you're dropping out, if you don't want to; you can always make up another reason or just use the bland, "I don't think my playstyle is a match for your group". Remember, you are not obligated to play in a game you do not enjoy, and you are not obligated to spend time with people who make you uncomfortable.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 17 at 9:34
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Voice your concerns, but be prepared for the worst

I've played at a table where language and other discussions were pretty rough. We had a player who was clearly uncomfortable with it and voiced their concerns. Unfortunately, the rest of the table was okay with everything and that player opted to depart the game.

However, part of the problem was how they approached the table with their issue. They came in very hard and judgemental and demanded that certain other actions be performed (including the development and signing of an agreement.) While that contributed to the negative response to change from the table, I am not sure if any approach would have worked.

I'm not saying this will happen to you, but you need to be prepared to walk away if you are not comfortable with the general table attitude.

Do what's right for you

From what you've described, the DM and the other players either turn a blind eye or openly accept this 'banter'. It's still possible that others were hiding their true feelings as you've also noted. But we don't know what's going on in their heads and really can only make decisions based on the actions at the table.

Having said that, I'm not going to judge them and I'm not going to judge you - but if that is the table, then that is the table.

It doesn't mean they won't change, and you should give them an opportunity to do so. But if they like how they play and don't want to change, then you'll need to make a decision as to whether this is a group you want to play with.

Talking to them

This is the hardest part, and the player in question in my group didn't do it tactfully. They came in demanding change and being very judgmental (not necessarily without reason, but still judgmental.)

When you decide to talk, I'd suggest starting with a talk with the DM directly. It's their table and they have the most control over what happens in-game. If things go well, they can help bridge the gap to the players. If it doesn't you know you've hit a wall.

But ultimately, you have to be realistic here. If the other players (including DM) are generally okay with the sort of talk/action, then it's unlikely you're going to initiate change with them and you may be better served by playing at a table that is more in line with your very reasonable world-view. If you do find support from the DM and then can suss out whether other players were uncomfortable like you were and hiding it to 'fit in', then it's even more likely you'll be able work on their attitudes.

This isn't to say in an ideal world you can't effect change like this, but I'm looking at this through the lens of my experience with a similar situation (although that's a single data point) and the likely reality of your table situation.

PvP at the table

This is an area that I think has been overlooked both in your question and the answers.

First, is everyone on-board with Player vs Player actions? Was that discussed early on and agreed on? If so, that's fine, but it's important to note that it doesn't mean you ignore basic combat/encounter rules if you allow it.

In your example, initiative should have been rolled once a player declared a PvP action. Surprise may or may not occur, but after that, then just let the players do their actions through turn-based initiative. Odds are, what happened wouldn't have. Talk to your DM about making sure that actions like this should be adjudicated while in initiative so that all parties involved can participate within the ruleset.

Just because the creatures involved in an encounter are controlled entirely by players doesn't mean that it isn't just a standard encounter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ DM seemed to allow it to start because he didn't know where it was going. Personally I wish he would def. stopped it once it became clear that the Lady was going to be left dangling overnight, if not sooner. But he's not omniscient. I also have no problem with coarseness or dirty humor, but abuse, rape, etc? That's beyond 'coarse' or 'rough'. \$\endgroup\$ – MacLeodScot Sep 17 at 1:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MacLeodScot That may very well be the case, which would help in your initial conversation with them and maybe even help them in the larger table discussion. But right now we're also speculating on that and only talking to the DM first to express your concern of how things are going at the table will tell you what they think. It would also still be really helpful if you can answer some of the questions posed in the comments to your question. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 17 at 13:14

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