Dungeons & Dragons Online

Triggers, DM vision, and Communication

I had an experience today with a player of mine that got me thinking. My players are great, I have no complaints. There are a few mental challenges within the group: OCD, autism, depression, anxiety. Everyone is also at different stages of their personal character when dealing and interacting with their own challenges. But we all manage to work with each other and treat each other with at least respect if understanding isn't possible.

Recently, a young woman joined up in the campaign. We did classic session 0 things. Talked about expectations, and her characters, and my DM style and, topics and boundaries we won't cross. I specifically mentioned horror elements and what her stance was on them. She said she was generally fine as long as there was no incredible gore, violence against children, or sexually explicit content. Great! That how we have been playing and that falls in line with what everyone is comfortable with. I told her that I do use horror elements, as I love the idea of great evil being destroyed by heroes and general goodness. She said she was fine with that.

This last weekend, she read some haphazard scrolls and piles of paper that was being used by a centaur mummy cleric they had just slain to do, something, they don't know yet. (I don't know yet either but whatever) When she read the scrolls, she rolled a wisdom save and failed. I told her what happened a few minutes later and I described this small and plump pair of lips had grown on the back of her shoulder and was constantly grinning and licking whatever touched it's dark lips with a long and sensual purple tongue.

I got the reaction I wanted. It was gross and invasive and no one wanted to read the books and it ties well with monsters and conversations the players had earlier. I thought it was perfect. As it hit all the right story and emotional beats.

Well, the player who received such a wonderful token of a disgusting god and my brilliance in storytelling and plot and worldbuilding, she struggles with OCD. And I triggered her.

She didn't talk about it with me for a week and just today brought it to my attention. She explained how it made her feel and how she had looked up trypophobia images, (don't do that) and it actually gave her nightmares.

My initial reaction was to be defensive. I am brilliant and not a terrible person kind of stuff. Setting my creative pride aside, we talked about what we could do to alter it to still represent a mark from a dark god, but didn't feel as invasive. We settled on a dark and smudgy tattoo of a mouth, think Rolling Stones logo meets Nightmare Before Christmas and it twinged like a bruise whenever she leaned on it or someone touched it. A compromise that we both could be satisfied with.

We then talked about where the current plot was going and if she would be okay with fighting disgusting abberations with features like that mouth she was cursed with. She said she should be okay as it's bad guys and not her, or her friends. I reminded her that if something like this happens again to let me know and I'll try to steer away from that type of horror for her.

I want this post to encourage balance within a player groups and the campaign. The social dynamism of a DnD group is too complex to give one line answers that can fix every problem. Each situation requires a different solution that requires listening and a desire to see others happy. DMs, communicate with your players. Players, communicate with your DM's.

If you struggle with conversation, please check out "10 ways to have a better conversation" by Celeste Headlee on YouTube. It's a great place to start learning how to have a conversation.

And I'm proud of her for coming to me with her concerns. There is bravery and courage in a willingness and desire to compromise.

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