Safety in games, tools for same, and on the cutting of scenes

Since we've been discussing all these things here lately, I'd like to bring to your attention a nice (and short) article by Jason Morningstar:

Are you crying for real, or just pretending?


  • Back in the day we didn't really bother with any sort of game-safety. I suppose that it was assumed that the GM and other players would control the game. What it meant in practice was that an individual who didn't feel comfortable complaining was forced into situations they didn't enjoy. I played, and indeed still play, a lot of female characters and it wasn't uncommon to have the GM or other players acting highly inappropriately towards the character.

    Some sort of sanction to allow the rest of the group to realise that you aren't happy or that you need a quiet OOC word is a great thing, so long as the rest of the group accept and understand why it is there. Sadly, a dysfunctional individual or group is likely to remain dysfunctional even when sanctions are in place. That comes down to choosing your group and players - you game because you want to and not because you have to.

    In LARP (which I dabbled in many moons ago), we used 'Timeout' to break the action. This could be called by umpires to halt action for scenario reasons, but could also be used by a player who needed a halt - injuries, costume damage or exhaustion were the most common reasons.

    As with most things, it is about your group. Some people might use sanctioning other players as a power-trip, claiming they aren't comfortable with a situation simply to shoot-down another player's spotlight moment. Others might be afraid to be seen as interfering with someone else's fun, despite squirming uncomfortably inside.

    The best will use sanctions if required, but these are probably the ones who don't need it. If someone looks uncomfortable as you describe a scene then the empathic thing is to ask if they are okay. IC/OOC be damned, we are still people and I would far rather destroy someone's game immersion than see a fellow player distressed.
    edited March 2018
    I'm still very confused by the comments I got in my Anno Daemonum thread. I created some structures for the x-card in my game. Each character has their own card (so it's easily accessible). Each card has an x-side and an o-side.

    You can use it in 3 ways:
    1) you put it in the middle of the table - that means "cut" as used in larps. You stop what's happening and you erase the scene that was. This is the most important function.
    2) you show the x-side and say "try a different way" (or "please don't" or whatever). This is a soft move to show that you don't like the way things are headed. It could be arachnophobia when someone says "spiders come pouring out of the walls", or it could be that someone comes up with a silly idea at a tense moment and that would really ruin it for you. So this is not cutting the scene - you haven't crossed that border yet... It's simply a way to very clearly show disapproval, giving the group a possibility to change the events. If this isn't honored to your satisfaction you can always use function #1.
    3) you show the o-side and say "stay with it" or "keep going" or something similar. This means you want to see the current action continue a bit further in the direction it's headed. It could be someone chickening out of a love scene or a tense moment where there are still narrative gold to be mined. It's not supposed to encourage peer pressure, it's just a way to show approval and encouragement, so that the players in the scene knows what the others think as well.

    So, I've tried this a few times and I have come to use both function #1 & #2 (edit: I actually mean function 2 & 3 - I somehow got them mixed up as I wrote this). I don't see a problem with this concept.

    However, the critique this method has been given is that one shouldn't mix psychological well-being with approval/disapproval. To me those are in the same ballpark, and I am yet to be convinced of why they shouldn't be.

    Anyone has thoughts on this? Maybe someone who can guide me to an article where this issue is addressed? (the article mentioned in the OP was good by the way)


    P.S. I hope it's okay to use this thread for this question!
  • edited March 2018
    I've played a lot of convention games with an X card on the table.

    It was only ever used a few times in all that time. An average of less than once per two games, I'd say. (Full disclosure: I don't play a ton of "push the comfort zone" games.)

    However, when the event facilitator (often the GM) introduced it, that introduction tangibly changed the expectations around the table. For some it was a reminder, for others, an eye-opener.

    The relevant expectation that was communicated was, "We care about safety here. And, should it be an issue, we have a way to address it."

    In my opinion, that can make a big difference.

    As for encoding safety in design... "If you play this with strangers, consider introducing the X-card," usually seems sufficient to me, unless it's a game that's specifically about pushing comfort boundaries. So it depends on the game, and it depends on how much you want to assist facilitators at conventions, meet-ups, etc.

    @APM, I don't know what's best for your game on that score. If you do decide that you want to prioritize safety, though, I think you risk diluting that all-important facilitator into on the topic by blending it with other concerns.

    I'm going to take a "safety matters" spiel a lot less seriously if it overlaps with a "here's how we edit out dinosaurs with laserguns" intro.

    For what it's worth, I've played Archipelago and similar games with "try another way" or similar procedural options for rewriting parts of the fiction that felt implausible or off-tone or something. I've used those options fairly frequently, and I've seen others do so as well. Invoking them seems to come from an entirely different headspace than safety-based X-carding, as far as I can tell.
  • Completely tangential to the thrust of the discussion, in the UK and Europe we are familiar with 'red card' and 'yellow card' for sporting and gaming infringements, mainly coming from football (soccer) but also seen in rugby. I don't know if the USA and elsewhere have a similar system in their popular sports.

    It occurs to me that a red and yellow card could work very well in the manner described by APM - a yellow card for the 'warning, we're getting into uncomfortable territory', and a red card for 'stop right now and retcon'. I have no idea what sort of symbol could be used for 'carry on, this is great', possibly a graphic of applause or even a different coloured card. A green card for 'carry on' would also fit our UK traffic light system.

    Obviously an understanding of the symbols and how they are used are important in what they are trying to achieve, so the best way to approach it is to use whichever method will be more intuitive to your audience.
  • edited March 2018
    I think this is a great thread for further discussion, so thank you for bringing up some questions.

    The issue with mixing "let's tune up our game to our expectations" and a safety tool like the X-card is that they are fundamentally very different things.

    "Do it a different a way" and the "O-card" are ways of steering the game in a desired direction. It's a communication tool, and it's expected to start a conversation. You're enjoying the game, and you just want to encourage people to drive faster. It's fundamentally negotiable.

    The most important use of the X-card, though, is to signal that the game is breaking down on some way. It means you want to get off the ride, period.

    To me, its value lies in the expectation that it is non-negotiable: a hard break.

    Those are different things, and, I think, both can suffer if the line between them is blurred.
  • The O card is pointing to the map and saying "Let's go there" or "Let's not go there."

    The X card is jumping on the brakes before you go over the cliff.
  • 1 card, 3 functions, of 2 different natures.
    I call it frugal and I love that.

    Using the same item is assuming that when someone finds something in play repulsive, there is little chance that some other one will be enjoying their head off. Or if this happens, it will show the problem immediately.

    Critiquing Anno Daemonum for its use of the X card is silly in my opinion. There is no mixing the functions at all. Maybe the problem is using a name that can make people think of something that it's not but, what you gonna do. Call it the X/O card if you like.

    In addition to forearm X, and auctioning "what you want most", I use soccer cards for sanctions in my game Chronicles. And it goes : gentle warning, yellow (action cancelled), red (player exclusion). The scale makes sanction not negotiable in case of light but repeated offence, because those can get to you more than plain grossness. Insert ABS analogy here.
  • I’m still pretty new to this, but maybe the difference is one of trauma vs dislike? The X Card is for things which might be traumatizing or deeply unsettling. It shouldn’t be used when a player simply dislikes the way a game is headed, or else it loses its protective power for those who truly need it.

    Consider the fate of the trigger warning – a genuine tool to protect people with psychological trauma from being blindsided by traumatic memories, now easily dismissed & derided because too many people invoked it simply to avoid content they disliked.

    As a designer, then, you want to create rules that actually discourage the use of the X Card, so that it maintains its power as a tool of last resort. The more people use it – and connecting it to other mechanics naturally encourages greater use – the more it feels trivial to use.

    I would actually entirely disconnect the O Card and Soft X Card from the X card – have a 1-sided X Card, used traditionally, and then have a flip card where one side indicates approval and the other disapproval. @Sadurian’s suggestion of a stoplight system is also worth exploring, with the Red Light being a rarely-used, very serious Hard Stop.
  • I'm 100% in camp, "X-Card the shit out of things that are too silly." I X-Carded my Night Witches GM at Dreamation when he had four people getting in a fighter, because it completely violated my sense of credulity.

    X-Card is *not* intended to be a tool of last resort. Its use should be normalized.
  • Do you want to have a safe word when you're playing a scene or not? If so, have one. If not, don't. But don't say "here's our safe word, use it casually and often". Normalize its use, yes, but if it does actually get used often, something's just plain wrong. There are other things which should be used casually and often; safe words not so much.
  • 2) you show the x-side and say "try a different way" (or "please don't" or whatever). This is a soft move to show that you don't like the way things are headed.
    I like this. It's a way of detraumatizing the X-card (read: normalizing it). I'm mostly playing with unknowns at conventions – I always had the X-card present but no one has ever used it. Could be because I'm careful with how I set up the game; to make everyone comfortable. Could be because I mostly play fun and creative games ... but phobias could still trigger.

    I never used "try another way", or seen it been used, because the environment we set up during a session is about building on each others ideas. "Describe more" have, on the other side, been used before.

    The only downside with using the X-card would be that someone is blocking other people. This should be avoided by a agreement at the beginning of the session, or doing exercises and explanations that forms the participants state of mind. I do that at all the sessions I in charge of (as explainer of the rules or as a game master).
  • edited March 2018
    If someone abuses the X card, it will be obvious. By my rules, exclusion ensues. The session grinds to a halt, and, spite and all, that's clearly for the best.

    I am more preoccupied with the experience in which someone at the table feels uneasy : "Others might be afraid to be seen as interfering with someone else's fun, despite squirming uncomfortably inside". In this case a scaling code for signaling "aesthetic dissonance", like the 3 lights system, is more useful. I am no psychologist, but I believe this person will go to orange light easily, and refrain from using red light.

    That's when the cumulating scale is useful : if the signal is repeated by another player (typically a supporting friend who understands what's going on), the signal goes up one level. It's still trading security for fluency, but it cuts the "unexplainable irrational one-person-only" knot. No gluten phobia policy.
  • So, here's the thing. Someone else in the game doing something that doesn't make any sense or that is wildly off-tone is clearly not on the level of, say, lurid depictions of sexual violence. There's no question of that. However...

    -If a game's tone drifts in a silly direction, that can mean not taking something seriously which should be serious

    -If a game's fictional causes and effects become too divorced (my Night Witches example), that effectively robs players of agency, and loss of agency is often associated, for many people, with the kind of thing the X-Card is designed to prevent

    I have no problem with the idea of using a color-code system or some other safety mechanism besides the X-Card. I played in an excellent LARP once with a green / yellow / red system and it was great. But if there is an X-Card, using it to control tone is not trivializing it.
  • I dunno! Again, I readily acknowledge that I don’t have the most knowledge or experience here. But isn’t the value of an X-Card as a safety tool that it’s a total, irrevocable stop to what’s going on in the fiction? I just don’t think irrevocable stops should be used for aesthetic decisions like tone drift or fiction logic breaks.

    It seems to me that those are things that need to be discussed amongst players – both before the game (in the same way that we all agree to use the same rules at the outset) and during the game when issues arise. If roleplaying games are games of collaborative storytelling, the aesthetic needs to be arrived at through consensus and buy-in.

    I guess my other issue is, where’s the line, then? If you’re allowed to X-Card something for being too silly for the game’s fiction, why can’t you X-Card another player for saying something you disagree with, or for describing their character in a way you dislike? It does seem to me that devolving the tool to those kinds of disagreements robs it of its power as a safety mechanism.

    I have to say, the stoplight seems much more useful as a model if we’re going to bring aesthetic considerations into a “please stop this” system.
  • Perhaps just call it something other than X-card? The X-card was invented in a specific emotional, cultural and artistic context, so it wouldn't surprise me if somebody else might see its actual purpose (being a safeword device) as a minor part of a greater continuum.

    But even if you think that the X-card is sort of wacky for being something so rarely needed (in your own mind and experience), or that it's incomplete because it only addresses this one thing when it could be so much more, you might still want to do something similar. But if you do, why call it the X-card?

    I would expect that if you just called a stop-light card (which seems to me like an useful expressive tool, particularly the positive feedback part) the "reaction card" or whatever, instead of calling it the X-card, then nobody would mind. Anybody could use the reaction card the way it's described, and if they felt that they need the relatively harsher and more absolute X-card on the side, it's easy to have both.
    edited March 2018
    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts on this! I'm glad to see some different view points and opinions.

    I don't know if I'm really the one to say so (since I've never experienced a situation where I have felt the need to have a time out in the original x-card sense), but it seems to me that larpers have a pretty sober view on safety mechanics. I watched a video from the Swedish LARP-convention "Prolog" with Johanna Koljonen.

    Sadly it's in Swedish so many of you won't be able to watch it - however, it struck me that they have a very harsh attitude towards emotional reactions during play. She says that crying is one of the most common reactions and that's sort of what larping is about - getting strong emotional reactions. And she also says that we shouldn't protect people from those experiences.

    I thought this was kind of a nice contrast to some other opinions where the safety mechanics in tabletop rpgs are compared to kill switches that are used in case of physical injury. I mean there is no risk of physical injury during tabletop rpgs and emotionally I don't think we're even close to the experiences that can occur in larps (but I don't really have any experiences of larps - I'm just comparing to my experience of military service, where you're kind of living in an imaginary world 24-7) so as I see it, we don't need any more elaborate safety mechanics than larps do.

    My belief is that all we need in tabletop games is a communication tool that cannot be misinterpreted. And I don't think there's a risk of people abusing the x-card - because people who do that will get kicked out of game groups. It's self preservation not to abuse it. Instead I think having the x-card enforces trust within the group. I mean there needs to be trust for the x-card to work, and what people might not see is that trust is needed for all roleplaying anyway. Thus, giving people tools to totally shoot down each other's ideas, creates trust in a similar way to trust-exercises where one person falls and another catches them. If you want to you can let the person fall (read: shoot down their ideas) but then the two of you won't be able to cooperate in a constructive way (as you lack trust for one another).
  • The more I think on the traffic-light system, the more I see it bringing real value to a game. The only way to test these things 'in the wild' is to use them with a group, of course.

    Emotionally brutal LARPing, or indeed tabletop gaming, seems to be a valid approach so long as the game is all about that from the start and people know what they are heading for. Some people are eager to have that emotional immersion and others not so much, I prefer my in-game emotional breakdowns to stay with the character but I know that the line is much narrower in LARPing.

    Trusting people not to be dicks in games is something I don't think anyone has yet solved. Yes, you can kick them out pretty quickly but it seems a little harsh for a single infringement and a tough subjective decision if the level of dickery is borderline. I think we all have seen that 'one player' who makes us grimace but is not actually yelling bigotry or bullying people. Do you kick someone out for having a different gaming style?

    I think that we need to accept that any warning card system will initially be open to abuse by 'that player'. If the system is 'no questions asked' then it makes it harder to identify actual dickery. Maybe the player has psychological trauma that the rest of the group don't suspect and is using the veto for genuine reasons that nobody else understands.

    I would hope that a quiet word after the game could resolve things, but that does rather encroach on the 'no questions asked' aspect of card systems. I guess the point is that no hard and fast rule will work. Like most things in life, you tailor the answer to the audience.
  • edited March 2018
    Do you kick someone out for having a different gaming style?
    If that playstyle is incompatible with mine and/or is making the game less fun for other people, not playing another game with that person seems like a good idea.

    EDIT: I mean, doesn't mean I'd immediately kick every player who rubs me the wrong way, but "borderline dickery" would be a valid reason not to invite somebody back or even uninvite somebody if it goes on too long.
  • Trusting people not to be dicks in games is something I don't think anyone has yet solved. Yes, you can kick them out pretty quickly but it seems a little harsh for a single infringement and a tough subjective decision if the level of dickery is borderline. I think we all have seen that 'one player' who makes us grimace but is not actually yelling bigotry or bullying people. Do you kick someone out for having a different gaming style?
    I meant that in the long run. Of course it's not the first option to kick someone out - but if they repeatedly abuse the trust that has been given them, nobody will want to play with them. The same goes for people with different gaming styles. If there is too much friction the game group will dissolve in one way or the other.
  • Yeah, I'm long past the time where I feel bad for suggesting I don't play with someone else due to a difference in gaming styles. Getting back into gaming recently after moving city has left me with a totally new group of people to game with. While it all seems like we are on the same wavelength we'll be playing a whole bunch of one-shot and few-shot games before we head into something that will be potentially longer running. This is so that we can get a feel for one another and see if we can make good stories together.

    This fits into a greater consideration of learning what topics we would like to cover and which we will avoid. One mechanic I've used in the past (at home, in regular larp play and at conventions) to help with this was an agreement to 'fade to black' at anyone's request (my own included). This fade could also include a short break during which we could agree any facts that are required to carry on, then rejoin the story at a later point.
  • I think "fade to black" is a FANTASTIC technique (and so easy to understand!).
  • I think "fade to black" is a FANTASTIC technique (and so easy to understand!).
    Aye, I'm not sure where I picked it up from, but it was certainly useful when running Sabbat V:tM games back in the day. I'd note that sometimes it can make a scene stand out more than if played through in every detail due to the tasteful nature of how it is handled along with the ability of the mind to fill in blanks to a high level of quality.
  • Excellent point; like in media, sometimes that which happens offscreen is only more powerful or memorable!
  • I found various visual aids for communicating emotions at the table.
    The Geneva wheel is my favourite. Of course, in a game your emotions are all over the place, but it can still work. Like, you express Aprehension with your character, but you point at a level 2 Interest as a player IRL. It is clear enough and I don't have to create something or translate it, etc.
    See for yourself
  • "Fade to black" is great. It respects player safety & boundaries without betraying a game's storytelling or immersion.
  • I do like "fade to black" myself, but it does have its own drawbacks (as does literally every safety framework we could choose to use, or course).

    Ben Lehman's G+ post on PTSD/accessibility says it better than I ever could, not having the same depth of experience, but the short version is that passing over or ignoring traumatic events rather than engaging with them can actually reinforce the trauma rather than avoiding it. He's talking more about hard-line uses of the X-card, but I think the critique extends to "fade to black" or "Veils" as well.
  • By experience. I remember that time when I had only a glimpse of a horror movie I was not allowed to watch. The nightmares.
    I have seen it a few years later. It was laughable.
  • I must ask how fade to black is related to the topic. Is it a way to avoid descriptions that might cause discomfort? And in that case, isn't there a risk that that might cause equal levels of discomfort (as people make up the images in their heads anyway)?
  • I must ask how fade to black is related to the topic. Is it a way to avoid descriptions that might cause discomfort? And in that case, isn't there a risk that that might cause equal levels of discomfort (as people make up the images in their heads anyway)?
    Yeah, that's an accurate description of both the intent and the risk of "fade to black" practices. Something similar is also true of the X-card in particular, which is explicitly a tool to erase events that someone has already described doing/happening - it reaches backwards, and asks us to pretend that what's bothering us just didn't happen at all.

    This only really applies to "fade to black"/"Veils" when they're used as safety practices rather than just as a way to deemphasize something that's uninteresting, though.
  • We've always used 'fade to black' when the course of the ensuing action is obvious to all concerned but nobody really wants to have it explicitly spelt out. This generally happens in sex scenes but might also apply to occasions where extreme gratuitous violence or torture is about to happen.

    It isn't so much that it would upset anyone at the table (although it might), more that we would prefer the details to remain in our imaginations. It is not that the action is upsetting, but that nobody is interested in a more detailed description.

    I see a 'safety' mechanism more as a way for a player to avoid something that they are specifically uncomfortable with. I see it as way for a player to let the others know that the game is heading for an area that will upset them, not that they want the action to move elsewhere because they are bored or don't feel that it is interesting enough to continue with.
  • Do you see any reason why "fade to black" couldn't be used to avoid uncomfortable material, though?

    I see it as an easy way to declare a Veil in real time, at the table: "I'm OK with this, but let's please not dwell on it."

    You say: "Ok, I have the suspect tied to the chair, and I bring up the torque-screw torture device. I grab his hand and stick it into it..."

    I realize that I will be really grossed out by descriptions of torture (perhaps I am a person who gets queasy and doesn't like such content), so I speak up and say, "Fade to black!"

  • I am sure nobody disagrees that veils, lines, etc. are safety procedures and that they fit certain situations. A reason not to rely exclusively on scene cutting for managing unsettling material has been stated various times. The fact that "fade to black" sometimes works does not invalidate this reason.
    @Paul_T What do you mean by "couldn't be used" ? Do you mean like when someone couldn't communicate with the other players ? Do you mean a case where it would be prohibited ? I really can't interpret the sentence.
  • edited March 2018
    I am sure nobody disagrees that veils, lines, etc. are safety procedures and that they fit certain situations.
    Actually, I would (if I am reading you correctly). In my experience and in my games, 'fade to black' is not generally a safety mechanism, it is a 'we don't need that spelled out' mechanism. Not because the ensuing description would make someone uncomfortable but because it doesn't need to be described and such a description is simply not required.

    Now obviously the groups we play in dictate what experiences we have had with 'fade to black' and some may well use it as a safety card, but this has not been my experience. I consider myself a robust and broad-minded individual and would not be grossed out by descriptions of extreme violence or unorthodox sex. If I knew that the two (or more?) characters in question were sharing bodily fluids, however, I see no constructive reason why the procedure needs to be described in any detail. Perhaps it does need such treatment to add to the story, but this would definitely be uncommon.

    Safety is a different matter in my mind and is not covered by 'fade to black'. Fade to black is a narrative device used to 'draw a veil' over actions or scenes that can be assumed without devoting time describing them. It helps narrative pacing and avoids getting bogged down in unnecessary detail.
  • If I remember correctly, wasn't the original context of the "Veils" term sexual content that players were uncomfortable with?
    edited March 2018
    Do you see any reason why "fade to black" couldn't be used to avoid uncomfortable material, though?

    One reason could be that a veil requires everyone at the table to understand what is about to happen (for it to work like a veil and not just a cut scene). This means that the nasty things you might feel uncomfortable about have to be established none the less.

    If I'm uncomfortable about child abuse would it help me that we fade to black when the drunk parent picks up a belt? I'm not sure. I mean there's a great risk that I still would feel uncomfortable about the fallout from the event. I think most people don't want the uncomfortable stuff in their story at all - it's not only about avoiding the descriptions.
  • Ah:

    A "Veil" is a pretty specific thing. It was coined by Ron Edwards, I believe.

    It means:

    "I don't mind having this content in our game, but I don't want to hear it described in detail; I'm ok if it happens 'off-screen', however."

    I think the phrase "fade to black" communicates that extremely succinctly.

    You still need an X-card or whatever other tool or discussion for truly objectionable content, of course - this is a separate kind of tool, with a more specific use.
  • I suppose the whole concept of 'comfortable/uncomfortable' muddies the water somewhat in this discussion. There is 'uncomfortable' when I would rather not hear about a particular scene in that situation, and then there is 'uncomfortable' where I really don't want to have this in my game.

    The first is akin to a teenager watching a film with their parents and suddenly there is a lot of graphic sex. It is not that the watcher doesn't want to see sex, but that the situation is uncomfortable. If I, as a straight male player, am playing a female character (and I often do), I do not particularly want a bearded overweight male GM begin graphically describing how an NPC is seducing her and what they get up in bed together. It is not that I am uncomfortable with the concept, just that I don't really want to hear it there and then.

    Then there is the second issue, that of being uncomfortable with the concept being on the table. I would raise objections if a player wanted to play a child molester, for example (no matter how great the rest of the character concept), would object if the GM sprang a scenario closely paralleling real-life tragedies, or similar gaming situations where I just do not want it to be part of the game at all.

    The first situation I would be happy to 'fade to black/draw a veil'. Yes, I know it is still happening but I don't have to listen to the description. The second situation I would use whatever the group had available as a red card/X-card. I don't even want it going on 'behind the narrative veil' and would urge the parties involved to find a different approach.
  • I mean, the phrase is "Lines and Veils" for a reason. You need both.
  • Ok, now I see I got the two ideas mixed up. Thanks for clarifying! I now also see how the veil's related to the topic. Very enlightening.
  • Thing is I have used fading to black, at a friend's request, to avoid topics they would find very uncomfortable and upsetting. This allowed them to participate more fully in the story because we didn't just fade and move on, but we took a break, broke from the table, started chat on another subject, etc. That said, we also discussed some things that we would flag as "this session may contain" to allow decision making over participation. I'd also accept that it is very possible that what we did wasn't the best option for how to handle things, but just what we plumbed for (esp given I'm not aware what an X card is, tho it sounds like a retcon mechanic which, if so, wouldn't have been appropriate for us).
  • X-Card by John Stavropoulous

    It's not really retconnish in actual practice, though I can understand how it could sound that way from the descriptions here.
  • ... I'm not aware what an X card is, tho it sounds like a retcon mechanic which, if so, wouldn't have been appropriate for us).
    I've never used one, having been lucky in my groups and never having needed one before. I think that the more comfortable you are in an established group, the less such mechanisms are required. That said, we have certainly vetoed certain situations before they happened (one GM firmly stating 'there will be no rape in my game' when an evil character had a young female NPC at his mercy), so in one way we have used the same ideas but differently presented.

    However, I intend to implement a system of cards based on traffic lights: red, yellow/amber and green. Nowadays, I am more aware of the need to allow players to actively censor RPG scenes that they find objectionable without the need to actually break into the game and explain why they don't like it (not an easy thing for someone with low self-confidence). This all ties in with my love of storytelling within the game, of allowing the narrative to flow as much as possible. Obviously this only applies to my own view, others use the mechanism differently (or not at all).

    The green card denotes that a player is enjoying the scene and wishes for the action to continue, no matter what his/her roleplaying of the character might suggest. I would see this as subtly encouraging another player to elaborate on their description and to give them encouragement that they are being entertaining, without the need to break into the flow of the game to explicitly state this.

    The amber or yellow card is a warning, 'be wary of where you are headed with this.' It allows a GM or player to steer the action before hitting the rocks of unacceptability. I imagine that it will be obvious in most cases what they warning refers to, but it might need further elaboration at the time. Essentially it means, 'as a player, I don't like where this is heading, I hope you aren't going where I think you are.'

    The red card, or X-card, is a straight-up, 'stop, I don't like this'. Every person has different 'red lines' beyond which they find unacceptable. This might be because they are unusually sensitive to given topic (possibly due to personal experience) or just that they have a lower threshold for tolerance in a given area. I have played with someone who took their religion seriously, for example, and we were careful not to casually mock or belittle organised religion while he was playing. That might have been a red card moment if the group had needed a reminder during the game.

    The 'fade to black', by contrast, I use as a narrative device in the same way as old films used to depict scenes of romance. The violins would increase in volume, the hero would passionately kiss the heroine, and the camera would either pan away or fade to black. We knew what was going on by implication and didn't need the gory details. Of course, in that case it was as much to avoid offending the audience and censors as to maintain the romance, but times have moved on yet the 'fade to black' remains a useful 'moving on' mechanism.
  • @Deliverator - Thanks! That is different to how it came across. Sounds like a really easy to integrate mechanic. In fact I like the sound of it with the O-card, but would probs use +/- cards for the symbols to make it less dramatic looking (X looks like it being a bit like a big deal, whereas the description makes it sound more easy going).
  • edited April 2018
    (Epidiah Ravachol invented very good refining/retcon processes: in Vast & Starlit / Swords Withot Master.)
  • I’ll make three separate points in one post:

    First, just as a curiosity: the boxed story game Untold uses a “play/pause” card for O resp X, which I thought was interesting. As posters here know, I’ve been kinda anti the X card [not because I didn’t want safety but because the X card wasn’t enough for me, pre-therapy. I can handle more unsafe play now], but seeing it expressed in those terms, and in such a mainstream game, made me want to reevaluate it.

    Second, I disagree with this:

    1 card, 3 functions, of 2 different natures. I call it frugal and I love that.

    The Design of Everyday Things teaches that every function needs its own interface. Things should be as simple as possible but not simpler. Having two different functions on the X side (lifting it vs putting it on the table) is hard to remember and confusing. Having two different symbols with nonobvious meaning (the X side vs the O side) is hard to remember and confusing. Having a non-complete option matrix (1A holding up X side, 2A putting X side on table, 1B holding up O side, 2B ????) is also confusing.

    Third I’m glad I read Jasons article because it was good. Hopefully these techniques will make it so that people don’t actually have to ask each other the eponymous question.

  • Thank you ! It's very clear.
    The matrix is therefore : 1 likes 2 dislikes A strongly B mildly.
    Changing the O for a green "checked" sign seems clearer.

    I encourage the use of a Geneva emotion wheel for a less binary tool.
  • Untold uses ▶️ for O, and ⏸️ for X, maybe that can work?

    OTOH I'm OK with O as the opposite of X, Japanese style
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