View Full Version : DM Help Controversial games and handling things correctly

2016-05-13, 09:30 AM
Hi everyone,
I've been thinking about this for quite a while and I would love to hear what you guys think about controversial game themes and mechanics. I have been working on a post apocalyptic horror survival system and the themes I usually tackle are not easy going, so I'm looking at other games to see how they are handling them. Well, it's a bit complicated to explain in a sentence, so...

Note: I have given these two games as contrasting examples. I am fully aware that they don't even come close in terms of how well made they are, how they were playtested, etc.

I think that most long time players and DMs have heard of the little rulebooks of horrors known as F.A.T.A.L... having given birth to some 'wonderful' memes as the '' *retracted for safety* circumference chart'' , it is generally known as the most vile, childish and unprofessional system ever published. It includes, but is not limited to, racially abusive stereotypical gear (again, I won't actually give examples, if you're curious just 1d4Chan it, bring bleach), rules for accidentally sexually assaulting other characters (with additional rules for non humanoid and... ugh, I'll just say other, entities), bloody rituals and sacrifices and the like.

I think we can all agree that being crude for edginess sake is bad and this is the perfect example for it.

This is the kind of game where if you suggest playing it at your local gaming circle you won't be takes seriously (or they will play it as a prank) and if you insist on playing it seriously you will probably immediately lose your friends.

Then on the other hand we have a game like KULT. That game is possibly just a cruel and vile (if not more!), with psychology charts and will saves linked to all kinds of, umm, 'physical contact'. It's full of overly realistic and cruel cults, with satanic rituals and the likes included. Its spells are among the most messed up I have ever seen, including ones for mixing species, sacrifices and other gruesome effects.

Yet at the same time if you suggest this game to a group of adults you will not be immediately shunned - heck, you may even end up playing it and not be excommunicated. I mean it will take a very specific playing group to give it a shot and the sessions will definitely be grim, but you can actually play it without vomiting all over your table.

So, what differentiates these games? They are both dealing with extremely difficult situation, dark magic and the like, yet even though I'd agree that KULT is much darker, it has received nowhere near as much negative press as FATAL. I guess that my question is, where do you draw the line? Why and how would you handle topics like drug abuse, depression, sexual and mental assault, political extremism etc? Why is one game successful and the other one is not? (I think it's self explanatory, but it would still be nice what you think)

If you're wondering why I would even bother dealing with these issues, I feel like the darker the darkness the brighter the light when you actually see something good. I feel like extreme situations in tabletops often translate to some amazing gaming stories and experiences.

2016-05-13, 10:15 AM
From what I know, FATAL is extremely sexist, misogynistic, and homophobic.

2016-05-13, 11:50 AM
I second that being edgy and over the top for the sake of it is stupid. I actually played FATAL once, as a joke. If you think the edgy crap is bad, try spending 3 hours rolling up a character...seriously the rules are god awful.

The thing is, match the system and setting to your table. My group uses pathfinder, but we homebrew most of our settings and situations. Some campaigns are a bit more lighthearted, some are really really dark. The youngest person in my group is 25, the oldest is 35, so we are mature enough to play darker themes. Like we both agree, don't add in dark elements just to have them. A dark setting should be justified as to why people would have blood orgies or make human animal chimeras or drugs/insanity dark things. Sometimes the setting does not have to be dark, but by adding splashes of dark elements you get to see who the bad guys are and really grow to hate them.

In my last session, the party(the good guys) were on a mission to liberate a bunch of hostages from a group of pirates working for the big bad evil empire. When we got there, they had clearly been less than kind to them, even children and elderly. At one point during the rescue, the pirates stop shooting at us and open fire on the hostages(running away) despite that we were engaged in melee combat. At one point, they executed a child in this way. Being the righteous do-gooders we are in that campaign, knowing that the evil empire would employ and have people that would do such makes our blood boil, and adds even more motivation for us to take them down and save the day. I second that the darkness is the contrast to just how good the light can be.

Honest Tiefling
2016-05-13, 12:27 PM
KULT might not be as well known, at least not to English speaking audiences. From what I know of it, however, it's pretty free-for-all in that the violence happens to pretty much everyone. FATAL on the other hand is pretty anti-semitic, and that might possibly be the LEAST of the bigotry presented.

I also get the feeling that KULT never presents the material like the writers were touching themselves to it. There's a difference between horror, and horror + yaaaaaay titties.

2016-05-13, 05:25 PM
Kult is pretty honest about the bad things being bad and not meant for cheap thrills. The game was made and sold because at some level lots of people want to explore unpleasant things (and some of the stuff there can get pretty damn unpleasant) in a safe setting, but it doesn't bill itself as being realistic and certainly doesn't give any indication that the bad stuff is right or funny.

2016-05-13, 05:47 PM
Back when I dared to investigate FATAL, I read a review of it. Said review actually did compare it to Kult, but one of the main points it made is that Kult acknowledges the terribleness of the things it provides rules for, and doesn't try to "justify" them with the old "historical accuracy" argument. It also has mechanics where doing bad things has negative effects on a character's mental health, like you would expect it would. FATAL... does not. In fact it almost seems to expect you to do horrible things because you can, or it handwaves it with, again, "historical accuracy."

I can find the review if people want me to, but that's the gist of the comparison.

The Glyphstone
2016-05-13, 09:51 PM
FATAL is more intensely misogynistic than any other -ist; the first edition had the infamous Armors of Racial Stereotypes, but those got removed in the one and only reprint, and now it's only full of stuff like blond hair giving you a +attractiveness and -intelligence modifier, low intelligence giving you a strength increase (literally called ****** Strength) or quoting Aristotle (about cuttlefish, no less) to justify how women are inherently deceitful, cowardly, and unfaithful.

2016-05-15, 09:05 AM
Some of these games are best run as a particular type of comedy.

2016-05-15, 10:25 AM
I know some guys and gals that made a digital FATAL calculator to roll characters and other complex checks in a matter of seconds so they could attempt play it without taking hours to calculate everything. In the first attempt to play it the party died. Most during a magically-compelled orgy where the only survivor was a zombie that was on fire. The exception was one guy who died beforehand being trampled by horses that randomly went crazy.

While I observed this train-wreck of a campaign(didn't really want to touch it myself, it was a Pbp so I could see the whole thing), I noticed that the main problem with it, not including the many morally questionable mechanics, is that it's stupidly complex to do even the simplest of tasks, and there's always a chance of something completely random happening, not all sexual in nature, like the above mentioned crazed horses stomping a player to death. For example casting a spell always has a small chance casting a spell named after the game, instead of the intended spell, that destroys all of existence.

2016-05-15, 10:30 AM
FATAL + Paranoia, anyone?

2016-05-18, 06:02 AM
I don't think FATAL is really worth to play....IMHO:smallwink: