So here’s where I currently stand… with the understanding that there’s a lot
of work left to be done before we have good safety tools, and, uh, I ain’t a licensed therapist or whatever.
Now… standard caveat. You start wanting to discuss safety tools to improve them and people are like “Wtf, are you against safety?!” and I’m like no, but… if they don’t work… There’s this cargo cult approach to safety tools where people never ever question them and we end up with a large katamari of safety tools that “are all, of course, in use at our table, because we Care About Safety™”
Well, I care about safety, too. Hence thread.
Four big strikes against the X-card(and a bonus super minor gripe with it)
(The minor gripe is that conflating aesthetic content moderation tools with safety tools is elegant in some rulesets, inelegant and clunky in others, and straight-out incompatible with yet others. I would rather have safety tools work on a completely different level; like how a horror movie has the volume knob & offswitch on your TV on a separate layer from the aesthetic choices made by the writer, director and editor. I have this sorted as a minor gripe because a coherent ruleset is not nearly as important as our safety.)
- It’s not enough—people sometimes ignore you X-carding and just trample over ya
- It’s not enough—sometimes you don’t dare to X-card something because you don’t want to reveal that your brother’s in prison or whatever
- It’s a false sense of security—people go wild on the grimdark because they conflate a safety net with a trampoline
- It’s not enough—we don’t have a time machine so there’s no real “unsaying” or “erasing” something; pretending it never happened is only going to invalidate those who’ve been harmed, not magically heal them up
Lines & Veils
In a one shot or con game, lines are risky because you run in to the “don’t think about strawberries” effect where some people just start thinking more
Lines are good in a long campaign because over time people can internalize where the line goes. In our home game running since 2014 we do use them. Also we have a DM (yours truly) that can try to enforce them.
Someone proposed a work around is to make a very
general line; like “this game is PG-13” or whatever, but
that requires a specific understanding of the ratings system that many people might not have. Or “this is suitable for polite company” or whatever but again that’s gonna be flawed. But it’s better than nothing…?Update:
I wasn't clear that lines can override prep, if they contradict.
The natural tendency of people to elide detail can be good sometimes (and bad sometimes); I don’t see a reason to fight human nature on that point.Actively
veiling, like “let’s draw a veil on that” or “let’s fade to black on that” has a couple of minor cons.
- It can remove agency&consent if it’s not clear what a character in the veil actually consented to or actually did.
- It can have a variant of the invalidating, patronizing “don’t you worry about that honey” effect (point 4 under X-card above) on someone who is being hurt by the content
- It can make things shameful that aren’t meant to be shameful [uh, what that is, I’m unclear about since I’m so out of the loop with the mores of general society]
- It can sometimes not do a lot. Like the offscreen act of violence in the movie Reservoir Dogs is still gruesome because of the power of imagination. Which is what we’ve already geared into superdrive by sitting at a table.
If you’re careful about navigating these four cons, you might think active veiling is worth it. I tend to not use active veiling. If we don’t want a particular piece of content in the game, we don’t want it at all. I’d rather use a line. But that’s my taste.
Break / Go a.k.a. Yellow / Green a.k.a. O-card
I can understand in theory how this can be good. It’s kinda incompatible with some rulesets (“whaddaya mean you’re putting a break on this saving throw…?”) but again, safety needs go first.
Buuut…. I was a player in this robot larp and we did workshopping for a super complicated safety tool system with multiple colors and dimensions and my partner [in the larp] and I had a hard time getting it so I asked for us to keep trying the workshop exercises until we had internalized it fully which we eventually did [temporarily—I had forgotten it the next day]. And then near the end the facilitators said that if something happened beyond that, we were also free to break the game & come talk to them.
And you know what? We ran into a completely game breaking issue right away
, my partner and I. It was something that the multi-variant color-coded complicated system couldn’t solve (because it was something specific that he did
need to happen in order to feel safe rather that something he didn’t
need) but breaking the game, talking to the facilitator, sorting it out, and getting back into it with the specific
advice in mind turned that session into an awesome & memorable game.
Talking to each other with real language → much better.[continued, this is a double length post]