The new hype this year seems to be consent forms for RPG Sessions, especially in the contexts of horror games. There are many kinds of consent forms, but their function is in letting people provide a list of trigger subjects (like murder, rape, violence, etc) which they want to either exclude or include in the game so as to ensure the game is "safe" for everyone on the table. They usually do this with a checklist and/or a freeform list.

I'm all in on having a safe game, and keeping an eye open for players feeling bad during a game. Therefore, even my Kult sessions are tame because I don't think that exploitation is a valid way to generate tension. But other people might have different experiences.

In my layman's view, I'm concerned the consent forms aren't effective and may be damaging. I'm worried that some players will leave difficult topics unmentioned on their consent form that will in fact be difficult for them during a game (whether out of discomfort checking the box, being unaware it's going to be a triggering topic for them, or outright peer pressure prompting them to leave the box blank). In this situation, a session might end up running into that topic, and then the GM might assume that the tension they see at the table is due to the setting and not something that is triggering a player. (In contrast, any topic the players are comfortable with should be sufficiently covered in a pre-game chat.) However after trying to research whether this seriously manifests as a problem I could not confirm or rebuke it.

Do consent forms actually assist in creating a safe gaming environment in a meaningful way, or otherwise provide benefits for gameplay?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've given the question a heavy revision to resolve the tone issues others have observed. I'd noticed the same. I trust you're genuinely interested in also being shown that consent forms are effective. The moderation team will keep an eye on this question to ensure it evolves in good faith on all counts, including that you get good-faith answers taking the topic seriously. Thanks for working with me to clarify the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am glad you asked this question, as I am pondering (next year) getting involved with the local AL, such as it is. A tool of this kind, or at least understanding what people have found out along these lines, will be good to have in my pocket so I hope you get multiple answers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


Consent forms have issues because they can never be specific enough, but may still be useful for some people.

It is worth having a discussion, especially in horror, about what players may be comfortable or uncomfortable with. I know some people that think consent forms and related tools can help with that discussion. I personally do not use them as a GM, because they are simply never specific enough.

For instance, people that may be perfectly comfortable with a game that includes murder and violence in graphic detail may become incredibly uncomfortable with the same thing involving a child in any form. I have dealt with more than one player like that.

Also, things change. People normally comfortable with horror and murder in games may not be comfortable with it for a time after a close family member dies. I've seen this happen too.

Similarly, you might find someone that thinks a mention of sexual assault as part of backstory is perfectly acceptable (and its a common starting point for a revenge rampage in horror), but would find details about it uncomfortable. For that matter, you may have disagreements over what constitutes "detailed".

Personally, I find a general discussion supported by X-Card's far more useful. They provide a simple way for a player to communicate with minimal effort that the current topic is unpleasant.

Also, this question is highly related and may be useful.

As a side note, while this topic most clearly comes up in horror it is not limited to that. I once played a strongly lawful good character in AD&D until an NPC magically reversed my character's alignment. The DM described it as my character being inclined to do the opposite of his normal actions in all moral matters. The game was lighthearted and combat focused until then, but the DM quickly became uncomfortable, had a discussion, and invented a reason to remove the change on the spot.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I fully agree with you. Yet I wont mark the question as answered, because I'm honestly looking (and hoping) for a professional or academic point on the subject. Otherwise people would just view this as a matter of opinion and annedectal evidence. Your answer is helpful in providing your point of view nonetheless. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just read about the Lines and Veils, and even though I never heard of them before, I have used something very similar in my games. I think that I more partial to Lines and Veils than the X-Card, but this is a reflection of my style of play and my group. I wouldn't have a problem using an X-Card as a complimentary tool, just never had the need for it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LuizBorges I would love to see academic evidence myself, but I doubt it exists. Academic research takes time and resources and this is a very niche question. Hopefully I'm wrong and someone else will come forward with it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I meant not in academic research as that is probably null regarding that, but in academic knowledge. If we can get someone with background in psychology or psychiatric care and study, they might provide us with insights that us, layman, have no idea about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimothyAWiseman Academic research specifically addressing this topic may not exist, but existing research could very well inform an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Destruktor
    Commented Oct 15, 2019 at 21:34

Depending on what you mean by "form", they can help or hinder.

In all the games I run, I ask the players for a list of things they want, would like, would not like, and do not want in the game. The understanding is that anything not specifically in the "do not want" list might be included. In a horror game, that can include anything whatsoever however horrible directly aimed at scaring the player and their character. However, there is a "safe gesture" (a time out) that immediately stops the game in case anyone feels they need a break. I have run many successful horror games in that format without triggering PTSD from the players which included rape survivors, arachnophobes, and domestic abuse survivors.

For example:

  • I want a car chase → There will be one or more car chases.
  • I would like a house fire → Meh, if it fits I will include one.
  • I would not like horses dying → If it ever happens, it will be off camera.
  • I do not want spiders → Spiders are utterly irrelevant to whatever is happening and will never be either on or off screen.

Clearly, if a player is not comfortable with sharing those with the other players, they can just let me know privately. However, they need to understand that other players may err without knowing about it. Since I know as a GM, I can do the "safe gesture" and keep whatever and whomever a secret. After all, not everyone is happy their friends knowing they were raped.

Finally, keep a eye on what is happening around the table: if a player mention their cat just died, the NPC cannibalistic cult probably should not have kitten soup… Apply Wheaton's rule.

If you consider my approach a form, then yes, it is helpful.

On the other hand, an up front list of things will never be exhaustive enough and does not provide a safety net in case something impromptu happens in the session. In that case, a form is not only useless but actively dangerous since it gives you a false sense of security.

Note that someone might be fine with topic X one day, and utterly freaked out by the same topic the next day. Thus the need for a immediate "… and we're back in the real world" escape mechanism.


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