After long thought, I have decided to make a small change to level 2A: The Asylum. The main reason is that I do not want to perpetuate the potentially harmful stereotypes that pervade popular media about mental illness.
The thought first crossed my mind when I watched Shut Up & Sit Down’s video review of T.I.M.E. Stories. I, honestly, had never really thought about the stereotype before as being harmful to those that suffer from any sort of emotional or mental illness. In the interim, various people and things in my own life have lead me to researching this media trope.
The conclusions I’ve come to are:
1 – It’s harmful and stigmatizing to those that suffer.
2 – Being harmful, it paints the media depicting it in a bad light, to the point that it appears, on the good end, ignorant and insensitive, and on the bad end, deliberately cruel and dickish.
3 – As pointed out in the video review above, it’s fucking lazy and boring.
Now, sure, a lot of fantasy tropes used in Stonehell are just that and could be considered lazy and possibly boring. But at least they aren’t alienating and stigmatizing.
Do I consider Michael Curtis (author of the wonderful Stonehell Dungeon) to be an insensitive dick who doesn’t care about people suffering from mental illness? Absolutely not! I’m assuming that, like me and thousands of other people, he simply had never really thought about it before. This opinion will stand unless he outwardly states that he doesn’t give a damn.
I am, therefore, changing the inhabitants of this section of the dungeon in order to achieve the same creepy feeling that the original was trying to evoke. It’s a simple change that doesn’t really require much work at all.
Gone are the mental patients and in comes REDACTED. Some “crazy” items left around can stay the same, as they are REDACTED. Some should probably come out. I will be ret-conning the message scrawled above the skeleton, for example, from “my mother never loved me” to “I am my own person!!!!” Which, for the party (who has already seen it) still seems cryptic and weird, but totally REDACTED. REDACTED and such can stay, as can the history of the level having once been an asylum. But the idea that the current residents are still “crazy” and all the creepy factor comes from this is straight out.
I would urge those that are thinking of running Stonehell to consider this position. You certainly don’t have to go the route I did in reskinning the level, and that’s part of the point. This is a fantasy world where anything is possible. Why fall back on lazy, stigmatizing asylum tropes?
Thanks for listening, and hopefully I have given some of you the impetus to look into this a bit more.
Here are some good places to start: