Safety tools

edited June 14 in Story Games
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)
  1. It’s not enough—people sometimes ignore you X-carding and just trample over ya
  2. 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
  3. It’s a false sense of security—people go wild on the grimdark because they conflate a safety net with a trampoline
  4. 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
(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.)

Lines & Veils

Lines

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 about strawberries.

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.

Veils

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.
  1. It can remove agency&consent if it’s not clear what a character in the veil actually consented to or actually did.
  2. 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
  3. 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]
  4. 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]
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Comments

  • Luxton technique

    This is from a post by P. H. Lee. It’s a combination of safety techniques where I disagree with some and agree with some.
    • criticism of x-card (strong agree, see above)
    • what does the person need (kinda agree, with caveats, see below)

    Everyone listing traumas & triggers before game

    I disagree with this. We’d be here all night if I’d get started and we’d also risk triggering each other even before thegame has actually started. Also see “don’t think of strawberries effect”. If you have a special need you are allowed to discuss it (carefully, so you don’t mess up other people) but not mandated to do so.

    The life-changing magic of healing through gameplay

    I disagree with this.

    I went to therapy and we did a lot of these healing roleplay scenarios where we went deep into the most traumatic experiences of all time and just sat with them and started tryna heal them and work on them and that was freaking awesome but you know what?

    That was in the second year.

    First year, it was all about calming ourselves down, escaping the problems, reading books, having strong perfume, using ice cubes or whatever to distract our minds until our bodies calmed down (or I guess, vice versa, to a much larger extent). We learned pages after pages of mnemonics on various and different techniques to use to get away from the problem, to not have to face it. And then in the second year, we gradually started using those techniques less and less, as we spend more and more time just sitting with the problem & being with it & working on accepting & improving our relationship with it.

    Most people, if they are sensitive (like I was; yes, I get that not everyone is), are in the “zeroeth year”, metaphorically speaking. Tossing them into the deep end of second year stuff is like asking someone with a freshly broken leg to start running right away because some misguided notion of “excercise is healing”. Yes, physical therapy is going to be part of recovery for you and you leg but uh, you can also fuck things up if you’re not ready for it.

    Yes,
    1. sometimes you luck in to a role playing game session being very healing. And that is fantastic! Just don’t rely on it.
    2. I do agree with Lee about all the ways the current (X-card, veils and the like) approach is “anti-healing” / dangerous / invalidating

    “I will not abandon you”

    This is something, from an Meguey Baker post that I thought was (thankfully) dead and buried but then Ron brought it up again at LinCon.

    It’s the idea that trying to avoid hurting each other is the equivalent of “abandoning” each other.

    It pressures people into not being aware of their own boundaries.

    This is horrible.

    I try to take a Postel’s Law take on it though, now that I’ve become a little bit stronger after therapy. That means that if I can handle a topic or reaction, I will follow you were you want to go as long as it doesn’t hurt the other people at the table, but I will not expect or demand the same from you in return. It’s gonna be up to you, moment to moment, how far you want to take it.

    Other people

    That brings me to something that I find a lot of these examples and techniques, from O-card to IWNAY to Luxton, can sometimes be a bit oblivous about.
    IWNAY said:

    Jill has a hard line at kids-in-danger. Robin says “The victim is a child.”

    Jill says “Please don’t make the victim a child. I really don’t want the victim to be a child.” Robin says “I know you don’t like it, but the victim is a child.”

    Jill says “You suck, Robin. And I’m still not going to abandon you.” Robin says “I know you think I suck. I know this is sucky of me to do. And I’m still not going to bail on you and your reaction to me being a sucky person right now.”

    So in this situation, how about Alice at the same table being absolutely clobbered by the topic?

    Like, step one… care about the people at your table!

    And, this goes for all the tools. Do not go “I need this scene to end with our characters hooking up or else I’m gonna be traumatized”, that’s a bullshit & evil way to try override what the other player needs to feel safe. You can’t just boss people around using the Sacred Language of Safety Tools or whatever if it hurts them. Sometimes you have conflicting needs that you have to talk out amongst each other (or even break up the group over it). These protocol’s can’t override common sense and actually caring about each other.

    Stopping the game

    This needs to exist.

    A horror movie isn’t better because you can’t turn off the TV. I mean, it’d better in some ways (it’d ensure you’d get to the happy end or meaningful end or whatever) but not overall better.

    Pausing the game, talking about things, getting on the same page… or just leaving (open door policy).

    I can totally get onboard with seeing it as a last resort that we’d rather not go to. We (my old 00s group) used to start every session with “see you on the other side” and then speak completely in character throughout the entire session. Promising to see each other through. And, leaving a table can be very upsetting to those left sitting there. But it needs to be an option. You don’t want to use the safety net but you still put one out.

    So, my current recommendations, then

    This is work-in-progress af. Playing games is inherently unsafe (as is crossing the street) and we can only try to do our best.
    1. Stopping the game is allowed, leaving the game is allowed, pausing the game is allowed.
    2. Lines can be good for campaign play. Respect lines when prepping. Change modules if needed. (e.g. if you have a line against sexual violence, as I do, you might change some deets around the stripped & bound guy in U1)
    3. Check in with each other [if someone seems to clam up & shut down] but not in a way that puts the person on the spot or exposes them
    4. Respect that some peeps want their no-go stuff to be secret (maybe they’ve just shaken that heroin addiction or whatever)
    5. Use natural language to come up with custom safety tools for your specific situation. What do you need to happen or not happen right now? At the table, in the room, in the group as much as in the game or diegesis.
    6. Be open to talking privately amongst just a subset of the group (maybe the player and a DM) if that’s what someone needs
  • Thank you for the detailed overview and your measured reaction in the parent thread and here -- I appreciate it. I have never given much thought to the issue and your post is a useful resource. I have much to learn. Definitely bookmarked.

    I'd also like to apologize for my demon example in the other thread. I should not have brought up something potentially triggering at all, much less to make a point. I object to both the terminology and the conceptualization of 'gamestate' and 'canon' as used in the Klockwerk threads, but this was not an acceptable way to voice my criticism.

    I hope none of this reflects badly on Jay or his ideas; I agreed with him right after my post, but of course this does not constitute any kind of endorsement from him at all.
  • edited June 14
    Really interesting thoughts! I like your recommendations so far. Have you checked out script change? It seems to have some pretty sensible guidelines that is more in line with what you've got here. It also uses the fairly natural metaphor of a remote control, though I do like your point of using natural language to come up with custom safety tools as that will likely be the easiest thing for people to remember when things get intense.
    https://briebeau.itch.io/script-change
  • This is a great post and a great discussion. I don't have a great deal of personal experience with these things, because I haven't ever encountered anything really, truly upsetting to me in an RPG (but I also am quite discriminating about what I play and with whom), and I'm usually very willing to talk about it, adjust, and so forth. As a result, I'm not sure I've ever seen a "line crossed" in a significant way with a group, which makes me not much of an authority or an expert, as far as I'm concerned. (There was one close call in my recent play history, but the group in question handled it really well by making sure everyone was on the same page, and we got through it quite admirably, just by being self-aware, polite human beings. I am very well aware that this was a rare "positive" case, and things could have been far worse, of course.)

    I love reading about these issues and learning more about them, so we can all learn to do better. As a result, I want to thank Sandra for starting this thread and for all the careful thought and analysis she is giving the topic.

    My personal experience has been that Lines & Veils (as a preventative measure) have never seemed to be very useful, but having the concept available to the group is a nice thing - at least we can share the idea that this is something we can do for each other, which is already a good starting point.

    My favourite tools so far have been discrete, positive signals at the table. I used the Support Flower (https://dtwelves.com/gaming/safety-calibration-cards/) at a convention, and it really added to the game. I'm not sure I find it very practical (it's a lot to look at and hard to read when someone puts their hand on it!), but with a group that was into using it together, it was wonderful.

    My own idea was to recreate just a handful of the prompts on the Flower with hand signals that are easy to remember, but I haven't tried that technique just yet.

    Here is a list of some support ideas and tools I found while looking for the Support Flower:

    https://dtwelves.com/gaming/safety-calibration-cards/

    I want to venture a guess that "safety tools" and "support tools" become more and more important the less a group uses "out of game" communication at the table. People who are into hardcore immersive play, "anything you say, your character says," heavy GM direction, LARPing, and similar might need such tools the most. In a gaming style where everyone is constantly making commentary and asking each other questions, I wonder if the tools might be much less needed, because that constant flow of communication lessens the danger of the game going awry.
  • edited June 14
    @Johann: Oh, don’t worry that personally I was triggered by you mentioning the demon as an examle; I was just saying that it would’ve been just as unsafe in either model; I mean that the “No. That is not happening” is equally effective or un-effective in either model.

    Support Flower I was familiar with, that and a ton of similar system. It falls under Break / Go above, and under X. Also runs into the similar problem as the Jill/Robin example under “other people”. The fact that it’s in the center of the table and shared by all is a really great tweak on the concept, the other people’s position is much more in your own face which is good. But that also strictly restricts how you can sit. Not great for us who like to do the Danish Semi-Larp thing where the whole room is the game space. But again, that’s a minor nitpick because safety first.

    Script Change I was unfamiliar with. I don’t like the camera metaphor and it’s applied somewhat unintuitively here, these tools would do better without the metaphor because it’s just confusing.

    It has these six tools:
    Instant Replay
    It’s confusing that “share enthusiasm” [which, I’d rather talk about the game AFTER the game idk] and “clarify details”, which is great [standard “other people” caveat] are the same button
    Rewind
    See under X-card above
    Fast-forward
    See under Veils above
    Resume
    It’s good that only the caller can resume
    Pause
    This is great!!
    Frame-by-frame
    This one is new. I need to think about it some more, seem’s really good! I’d really drop the camera metaphor (and change the name on it) since we want to to use it be careful, not reveling in the gore or whatever. When you frame-by-frame a horror movie it becomes more gross usually, right?
    I have some experience with pause/play specifically:

    Untold: Adventures Await come with pause/play buttons in the box. To me that’s a great tool, doesn’t have the same problems as X-card etc. We sort out snags (could be content snag, rules snag) in the pause. We can only keep playing when everyone has their cards flipped to play. Our experience with these cards have been to remember to actually use them since we’re more likely to just say pause and go and then we need to keep the cards synched up with what we’ve already said; i.e. the cards break SPOT by being redundant.

    So to bring it back to script change.

    I obv don’t like Rewind (for same reasons I don’t like X-card) & I have some minor caveats w/ Fast-forward but removing them leads us with no way to actually edit content in a way that the “pauser” needs.

    Instead of the script change I’d want there to be a tool for going “ok, careful now, here is what I need to happen… everyone ok with that?”

    We use the “hand over head” sign to do OOC things.

  • edited June 14
    The remote control covers anything but *. It's confusing and I like that. You don't have to explain your problem in detail. There's no line drawn or stigma due to using it. It's a common act of play.

    Then there's a need for *the Patronus card meaning : I want to be accompanied in my imaginary trip by a protector spirit (and fellow players). The player can ask for anything, and it comes true, and the thickest players might feel their fun is broken, but they just have to behave courteously throughout. The possibility of abuse is similar to that of fake injuries in soccer : not enough to justify "anything goes, medics are for dummies".
  • By mentioning some of the ways these can be abused I didn't mean to imply that we shouldn't have safety tools. We just had a real jerk once, the /pol/ type, who came in and deliberately tried to use the safety tools to hurt everyone one else.
    DeReel said:

    The remote control vovers anything but *. It's confusing and I like that.

    It's not good if it's misleading.
    DeReel said:

    You don't have to explain your problem in detail.

    That's a goal of safety tools that I do agree with.
  • edited June 14
    @2097, the main feature that we used when I played with the Support Flower was the “share enthusiasm” type function (I don’t remember how it’s actually worded on the flower). I’m not even sure if we used any others!

    It was REALLY helpful. I can try to explain why.

    The game we were playing was intense and personal - tragedy, horror, characters at each others’ throats, issues of (fantasy) racism and horrible atrocities, etc. We were basically strangers, so it was slightly nerve-wracking.

    When people would put a finger on the “show enthusiasm/appreciation” part of the flower, it gave us all confidence in moving forward. We could revel in the horror or the drama or whatever while a simple physical sign would still communicate “yes, I’m into this!”

    (Without getting too graphic, there’s a parallel here to clear and ongoing consent in sexual relationships.)

    When that dynamic wasn’t happening (maybe a scene is in progress and no one is “showing enthusiasm”), it meant that we knew to tread carefully and check in with each other, because there was the potential for a problem.

    It just felt REALLY good.

    tl;dr - safety tools that allow us to Break or Veil or stop things are great and important. But techniques which allow us to show appreciation, enthusiasm, and enjoyment are also really powerful. Because no one has to “remember” to use them when they’re scared or frozen or concerned - they, instead, signal a potential problem by their absence, which is, in a way, pretty “foolproof” (it doesn’t require people to remember any techniques or training or special tools - it happens automatically when play breaks down in any way).

    As an aside:

    I agree that the physical limitations of the flower are a big problem. We were only four and we still needed two on the table just so we could reach. And reading the tiny text across the table was even more challenging (especially if someone is covering it with their hand!). That’s why I would ultimately consider hand signals or something similar, instead. That you can do in almost any situation (except if you’re not looking at each other. I suppose!).
  • Yeah, gestures, that's what we have; hand held over head means "OOC talk". could be rules questions could be safety questions. not every OOC statement is accompanied by hand-over-head but it's great when you want to make it REALLY clear.
  • edited June 14
    I have had one strong and unwanted experience in a game. I doubt any safety measure except involved pre-game talk would have helped. Since it was a spontaneous con scenario with mostly strangers and none of us had read the scenario, the circumstances were not conductive to intense pre-con conversations.

    I asked about X-card elsewhere, and the conclusions were:
    1. It does not help against an intentionally malicious person.
    2. It does work as a prop for talking about limits and boundaries.
    3. It does not help against unknown unwanted content - typically the damage is done, no matter if the card is thereafter used or not.
    4. People had found it useful when they wanted to explore something, knew that there were borders, but did not know where the borders were.
  • You're reading IWNAY in completely the wrong way. It's about a group that explicitly wants to play for the emotionally challenging content (like mine, for instance) challenging eachother and being there to take care of each other through it. So like. Exactly the opposite of what you described.
    IWNAY would be completely wrong for a group of strangers or acquaintances, of course, but it's designed for established, close-knit groups.
  • The example is a direct quote though.
  • Emma's take is my understanding of IWNAY, as well, but I'm no expert on the topic. FWIW.
  • This is certainly an area where there's no single ideal solution. For example, I probably couldn't do most / many hand signals. *shrug*

    While I don't disagree with the critiques of, for example, the X-Card or Script Change or whatever, it's also important to see the forest for the trees here. Simply giving any thought to these things at all is a huge step forward. (I'm not arguing against continued improvement, of course.) My hands' situation aside, the thing that's most often been problematic for me in games is simply abusive GM authority. Sure, players can be abusive dicks, too, but the usual GM setup makes it much more likely to come from the GM.

    So anything that reduces GMs' unbridled authority, and says that there is something else more important, is good.

    Now, for someone who (understandably) doesn't like the X-Card, hearing that cons are starting to require them on every table might be really off-putting, and understandably so. While we should work with con organizers so that they can offer a wider menu of safety options, consider that the way things worked before was that GMs were literally not given any actual reasons to consider the safety of the participants in their games.

    And when GMs start thinking about safety, sometimes—not always—they also start thinking of themselves as being bound by rules in other ways, too. Which is really the thing I most want and need for my personal gaming experience to get better.

    But, yes: GMs need to find ways to use safety tools that are in line with each game they're running. I use X-Card sometimes, but have done other things at other times. When I ran Ron Edwards's Circle of Hands, for instance, we just had a brief pre-game talk about what the game was like, what sorts of content we did / didn't want to see, and I specifically talked about why the X-Card was not an appropriate tool for that game.

  • Matt, you're right that propping up gestures as a universal solution was ableist & shortsighted. Will do better!

    For me many of the safety tools have been A. not helping, B. making it worse for many years now. For me the change from "no thought to safety" to "crappy&rickety safety tools" was not recent. It's time to start to do better, especially as they're getting more widespread.

    My experience, I know that this is such a cliché, but it's been that "we have x-card so we can go wild on the grimdark". There was this thread over at the gauntlet that asked the same question but got crickets, I think they asked the question as a sort of rhetorical trick? It's also a question that is very self-selecting because the window between people who are into going wild on the grimdark and the people who are too sensitive to even speak up about the problems is like sooooo narrow. It's P.H. Lee & me pretty much.
  • This is one area where I do genuinely think there is a pretty big cultural gap between USicans and Scandinavians, which makes this tough. From what I understand, the needs between and across the two scenes may be almost opposing, at least in some instances. (The fact that you're on the same page as Lee, who is American, may undermine my thesis here somewhat, I will admit.)
  • edited June 16
    I am not onboard with that theory. From where I stand, the perspective and general consensus seem pretty similar, with a lot of people into X-card, support flower & similar, while people like me and Lee are in kind of a minority position. [Note that I do disagree with Lee as well, about some important things.]
  • (I’m sorry, but who is Lee?)
  • edited June 16
    (Much thanks! That’s a powerful and heart-baring essay.)
  • How much completely un-self-aware D&D is there in the nordic tabletop scene? What is the ratio of that to Jeepform and similar?

    The reason I ask is because, from my perspective, there are two totally separate strands at work in the stateside scene. On the one hand, you have indie gamers, who are heavily influenced by the Scandinavians, Jeepform, Knutepunkt, etc. and are, as you say, mostly on the same page: you have a lot of players who really want to "go wild" with the extremely dark content, but at the same time do genuinely at least try to make safety a thing, if often clumsily as you point out, Sandra. They're the folks who I think stand to gain the most from your commentary.

    On the other hand, while I'm open to arguments the other way, completely un-self-aware D&D GMs (and entire D&D groups, to be fair) have been and continue to be the source of so much shitty and abusive behavior that it just seems like it has to be better to try to do something about them, rather than nothing. And since that's, like, 99% of the American tabletop scene...

    OTOH, if 99% of the Nordic tabletop scene is also completely un-self-aware D&D (or local equivalent), then forget I said anything. :smile:
  • You're right that there's a heavy indie/jeep scene here and that I def have them in mind. Also because when you have a whole group of people improvising it gets darker than Raggi on a bad day.

    But I'm still thinking that the un-aware-D&D-scene would do better to not tread in the footsteps of X-card etc but instead heed my advice. Such as it is… I feel like I'm maybe 20% of the way to good safety, if that. It's patronizing to see them as "us, but five years ago" or w/e and I don't think it's accurate either. The cargo cult approach to safety that dominates e.g. the Gauntlet, we're starting to see some of that in D&D space too. For example, I saw silent0siris talking about some of these CC tools on his YouTube.
  • I have put together a collection of safety techniques.
    The text is in German but almost all links (see below) are in English:
    https://t1p.de/sicherspiel
  • Personally, I am using Lines & Veils in the beginning and just a card with a Pause button that can be pressed or flipped to "Slow down" on the back (see link above).
  • That red blue one where they have the exact luminence is… smh

    image
  • 2097 said:

    That red blue one where they have the exact luminence is…smh

    Well, that was my design. Yes, the exact luminence was carefully chosen intentionally. The intention being to perfectly balance the X and pause field.

    Is that causing a major design flaw? For color blindness?
  • It's not color blindness, it's the low contrast. As in no contrast.

    I checked it under deuteranopia, protanopia, and tritanopia filters, and for all of them it looked almost easier to see than the real thing for me. I have good color vision but impaired general vision.

    Also see under X above for my thoughts on X cards in general
  • Well, it was an intensive design process over several months - with feedback from quite a few people, including some publishers who regularly work on design projects.
    Should there be a re-design, I'll keep the aspect of contrast in mind.

    As for the X-card, I've mentioned that I personally prefer just a pause button. It was not entirely my personal preference to end up with the combined X design...
  • But that's what I mean by katamari of cargo culted safety tools that are just glommed on to each other in a sort of bikeshed painting exercise by committee similar to how this sentences uses many metaphors and the kitchen sink.
  • I don't know what "katamari of cargo culted" means. I believe, the crucial point is to mention any safety tools at all. This signals to all players that it is important and encouraged to take care of themselves and each other. It empowers them to speak up when something is not OK.
    The rest are just details.

    Btw, your no. 2 comment on the X card doesn't fit. According to the official explanation, you shouldn't need to say or justify anything when using the X card (no need to talk about your brother in prison).
    X card is in my experience (and opinion) a very specific tool for a very specific purpose. As a general multi-purpose tool, I find i.e. a pause buttton more versatile.
  • BeePeeGee said:

    I don't know what "katamari of cargo culted" means. I believe, the crucial point is to mention any safety tools at all. This signals to all players that it is important and encouraged to take care of themselves and each other. It empowers them to speak up when something is not OK.
    The rest are just details.

    A katamari is a whole mass or cluster.
    Cargo culted means that people are just aping things without thinking them through. (It's, uh, kind of colonialist in origin, we need to find a better word for that.)

    Like that robot larp I played in where they had like six different colors & or whatever because they had picked up so many safety tools along the way that they were collapsing under their own weight and became useless.
    BeePeeGee said:

    Btw, your no. 2 comment on the X card doesn't fit. According to the official explanation, you shouldn't need to say or justify anything when using the X card (no need to talk about your brother in prison).

    Like if there's guy going to prison and you don't dare to X-card it because you think "oh shit they'll know that my bro's in jail rn!" Or there's a spider and you don't dare to X-card it because you think "oh shit they'll know about my arachnophobia"
  • edited June 17
    2097 said:

    BeePeeGee said:

    Btw, your no. 2 comment on the X card doesn't fit. According to the official explanation, you shouldn't need to say or justify anything when using the X card (no need to talk about your brother in prison).

    Like if there's guy going to prison and you don't dare to X-card it because you think "oh shit they'll know that my bro's in jail rn!" Or there's a spider and you don't dare to X-card it because you think "oh shit they'll know about my arachnophobia"
    Well, that's the beauty of the X card - you don't have to say anything about it. The examples you've discussed are exactly where the X card works best. If there is a prison scene and you use the X card, players may guess you have some problem with prisons. Could have been also a prison movie that you've just watched - who knows? Nothing needs to be discussed.
    (if discussing/opening up may be healthier for you is another matter...)

  • I understand what Sandra's saying. Not have to talk or explain sure helps (and that's what that rule is there for), but the problem still exists. Is it possible to do better? (I don't know. I hope so!)
  • edited June 18
    Well, the way I see it you have two basic options:

    Option 1: You avoid any kind of bleed. You play settings that are as far from your own reality as possible.
    Play gonzo space hunters, play pulp pirates, chase monsters in a dungeon.

    Option 2: You are looking for depth in character development, relations and emotions.
    You accept a certain level of bleed and vulnerability.
    You make the game as real as you feel comfortable with.

    In the first option, you can probably avoid situations that would require the X card.

    If you play with the second assumption, you make sure that:
    - you play with people you trust (enough)
    - set expectations & boundaries in the beginning (using e.g. CATS, Microscope palette, Lines & Veils...)
    - establish & use safety tools during game play
    - take care of yourself and be emphatic with other players
    - check from time to time if everyone is OK (incl. wrap-up/feedback at end)

    I don't see it necessarily as a "problem" if people see you are human, you have boundaries and are vulnerable.
    You just need to be able to take care of yourself and feel safe with the people you play with.
  • I ran Good Society (the Jane Austen game) recently for some newbies (extensive D&D experience, first time storygaming). Their eyes absolutely lit up when I introduced the X-card. They never actually used it with me, but both said they would definitely bring it back to the D&D games that they ran, where they'd been having some bad experiences.
  • edited June 20
    The X-Card has the mixed benefit of being one of the first explicitly game-agnostic safety tools; something you could use in any game. As a result, many aggressively championed it, because the alternative was "no safety tool" and the prevalence of hurtful gaming seemed to show that an approach with no safety tools wasn't, empirically, working. It should also be noted that the use of safety tools in American convention RPG play remains minimal. Usually it isn't discussed. Thus, to the overwhelming majority of American RPG players, the concept of a safety tool remains a mindblowing innovation, something people have never HEARD of before, JD! Wow! The X-Card's one of the easier ones to explain, which makes it very attractive for convention play.

    I don't typically use the X-Card in my play because I have enough experience and can grab onto enough authority at the table to steer things down the middle of the road. This isn't a brag and I'm not perfect but the X-Card wouldn't add to my toolbox significantly in most games. However, there is one game where I use the X-Card every time, which is Tall Pines, a game which always begins the same way: with the nonaccidental death of a beloved teenager. Because the game can get into extremely heavy, traumatic zones almost instantly, I don't have enough time to get a read for the table and know when things are going awry. (Even in Tall Pines, you could throw away the X-Card after Act I and it would be fine.)

    The X-Card, and all safety tools, should be deployed to supplement the abilities of the humans at the table; not every human at every table in every circumstance will benefit from the same set of tools, so it should not shock us when someone says "The X-Card is no good, it doesn't do anything for me." and someone else says "Without the X-Card I would have been in so many more disastrous situations; with it, I was able to steer my way out of them."
  • Kinda seems like folx not reading the OP?
  • Me said:

    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

    Dorx: "everyone always dare to X-card"
    Me said:

    X-card–pretending it never happened is only going to invalidate those who’ve been harmed, not magically heal them up

    Dorx: "x-card is such a great way to unsay things, it's a miracle"
  • Sometimes I really wonder if these kinds of tools are even beneficial or good for people in the longterm. To me it looks like since this has emerged as a thing people at gaming tables have been having a harder time dealing with stuff like this. My gut tells me this may make us more susceptible to issues, rather than strengthen people.
  • edited June 26
    .

    Sometimes I really wonder if these kinds of tools are even beneficial or good for people in the longterm. To me it looks like since this has emerged as a thing people at gaming tables have been having a harder time dealing with stuff like this. My gut tells me this may make us more susceptible to issues, rather than strengthen people.

    I agree. Sometimes an overemphasis can be a bad thing and stunt the development of emotional resilience and the ability to navigate the social world in a healthy way.

    Some psychologists have pointed out that the excessive focus on emotional safety and the measures being implemented to prevent emotional discomfort are essentially the opposite of techniques and behaviors that build emotional resilience and emotional well-being, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy and the like.

    Of course, a lot of this depends on the details of how these tools are implemented, but there does seem an unhealthy obsession with emotional safety—which, although well intentioned—is likely counterproductive.
  • If you keep a puppy from ever being fed hard food, it will not experience the distress of transitioning to hard food. Also there's some evidence its teeth will never become as strong as they could have, and it will have dental problems later in life.

    If you keep a puppy from ever being kicked, that's simply good. Puppies do not need to be kicked to develop anything they need or want later in life. Even if the kicker thinks it's an appropriate training method. The kicker is malicious or wrong.

    If a puppy comes up to you and asks "Please when we interact would you avoid feeding me hard food and kicking me?" the first response should be "Certainly." and only after you've stopped kicking the puppy should you work to find a way to still let the puppy eat hard food.

    It is likely that an obsession with safety will harm a puppy in a well-adjusted situation. It is also likely that an obsession with safety will hugely help a puppy who is about to be kicked-with-good-intentions. And that puppy, when hearing that you are wondering if all this safety-obsession is good for the well-adjusted puppies, may understandably and legitimately become quite cross.

    My thesis on puppies is completed.
  • The problem with that analogy is it is about food and physical violence. We are talking about content of interactive entertainment. I think a lot the arguments in favor of safety tools have relied on describing words and ideas as violent or harmful, and that has made people reluctant to voice disagreement with them. But just looking at the result, my inclination is to say it has been more harmful than good to develop a culture centered around safety tools and obsessed with safety.
  • Wouldn't safety tools be better received -and understood- as limiting (symbolic) offenses instead of protecting fragile psyches ?
  • edited June 26
    I’ve sometimes argued in the past that calling these things “safety tools” might be misleading. They don’t protect anyone or guarantee anyone’s safety.

    I like to look at them as additional forms of communication. They don’t do anything to resolve problems, but help us identify when something is wrong and then draw our attention to resolving it. Don’t expect the tool to fix things for you! That’s your job (as a human being playing a game with our human beings - we have to take care of each other).

    Trying to define whether any particular tool is Good or Bad seems like a losing proposition to me. Create some different ways of communicating, and then let people decide what works for them.

    If you want to chew on hard food at your game table, go for it! Just don’t do it with people who don’t feel the same way about this activity.

    Discussing safety tools helps us figure that out, I think, and that’s a good start.
  • edited June 26
    Paul_T said:

    I’ve sometimes argued in the past that calling these things “safety tools” might be misleading. They don’t protect anyone or guarantee anyone’s safety.

    I like to look at them as additional forms of communication. They don’t do anything to resolve problems, but help us identify when something is wrong and then draw our attention to resolving it. Don’t expect the tool to fix things for you! That’s your job (as a human being playing a game with our human beings - we have to take care of each other).

    Trying to define whether any particular tool is Good or Bad seems like a losing proposition to me. Create some different ways of communicating, and then let people decide what works for them.

    If you want to chew on hard food at your game table, go for it! Just don’t do it with people who don’t feel the same way about this activity.

    Discussing safety tools helps us figure that out, I think, and that’s a good start.

    I guess what I am saying is it seems to me like our focus on safety tools and safety (not in the physical sense but in the sense of everyone at the table being comfortable) has led to more people not being able to handle hard food. Obviously it is a tool and people can use it if they want. I am just noticing a tendency that seems to be arising, where people have had a harder time dealing with this kind of thing as these tools have gained traction in the community (I think maybe because we are priming people to be on alert for stuff). I just don't know that I feel it is particularly healthy. The gaming community doesn't seem to be a very good place lately.
  • edited June 26
    Bedrockbrendan,

    Just out of curiosity, how do you square that with the reports by people (like the OP) who are complaining that the use of safety tools in their circles is encouraging people to go in less and less safe and more and more shocking directions?
  • Paul_T said:

    Bedrockbrendan,

    Just out of curiosity, how do you square that with the reports by people (like the OP) who are complaining that the use of safety tools in their circles is encouraging people to go in less and less safe and more and more shocking directions?

    I don't know. I could see it doing both actually: on the one hand making people more sensitive to content, on the other giving people a sense that the presence of the cards means they don't have to be as mindful because the card will put the breaks on anything bad. But what I do think is tools like this, while well intentioned, are probably not that healthy for us. It just appears people are getting less resilient.
  • edited June 27

    I guess what I am saying is it seems to me like our focus on safety tools and safety (not in the physical sense but in the sense of everyone at the table being comfortable) has led to more people not being able to handle hard food. Obviously it is a tool and people can use it if they want. I am just noticing a tendency that seems to be arising, where people have had a harder time dealing with this kind of thing as these tools have gained traction in the community (I think maybe because we are priming people to be on alert for stuff). I just don't know that I feel it is particularly healthy. The gaming community doesn't seem to be a very good place lately.


    I think that you should try and look at some hard data and then even if there is a correlation between safety tools traction and people having a harder time dealing with these things, find a way to show that there is causation. Maybe your initial instinct is right, I don't know I haven't looked at data either, but when I read this comment it seems like you are just reaching a conclusion you prefer with no real backing.

    There are many possibilities:
    1. Safety tools are gaining traction because more people are comfortable/vocal talking about things they already had a hard time with (leading to a perception that people in general are having a harder time dealing with things)
    2. People are more comfortable/vocal talking about things they have a hard time with because safety tools are gaining traction
    3. Safety tools are gaining traction because more people are having a harder time dealing with things (due to some third factor or set of factors)
    4. People aren't having a harder time dealing with things, and also aren't more comfortable talking about things they have a hard time with. Due to safety tools gaining traction, you more often notice the people who were already there having a hard time with things
    5. People are having a harder time dealing with things because safety tools are gaining traction

    etc. etc. etc.

    We clearly can't just pick 5 out of the bunch. Maybe you have more concrete experience with this than your comment implies though?

    In any case, GM/RPG horror stories are, and have been for a long time, a genre in and of themselves. I think it's good to think of ways and analyse the effectiveness of ways we can try to establish a culture, or at least provide tools for the more high risk scenarios (eg. convention and game store play) to lessen the negative impact of these moments. I'm not particularly persuaded by "safety tools aren't a good idea" because that would mean that the best we can do (i.e. the way things used to be) is... not great. I also agree that current safety tools can be improved.

    Maybe one way of combining your thought about focusing on safety tools and safety could be negative with trying to make things better is to implement a kind of "stealth" safety tool. Something that works as a safety tool, but people don't realise that's what it's doing and its not explicitly mentioned as such. I don't have the experience to know whether this would be worth attempting.



  • In any case, GM/RPG horror stories are, and have been for a long time, a genre in and of themselves. I think it's good to think of ways and analyse the effectiveness of ways we can try to establish a culture, or at least provide tools for the more high risk scenarios (eg. convention and game store play) to lessen the negative impact of these moments. I'm not particularly persuaded by "safety tools aren't a good idea" because that would mean that the best we can do (i.e. the way things used to be) is... not great. I also agree that current safety tools can be improved.

    But if the tools are actually counter productive and make people less resilient, is it good to explore them? Again, I am just going by what I am seeing, what I've experienced in my own life, what I have read from psychologists on how to deal with this stuff (and how I've seen it play out in my own life and among people around me). But I just am increasingly convinced these tools, and building this sort of culture, is making people more prone to issues, not helping them.


    Maybe one way of combining your thought about focusing on safety tools and safety could be negative with trying to make things better is to implement a kind of "stealth" safety tool. Something that works as a safety tool, but people don't realise that's what it's doing and its not explicitly mentioned as such. I don't have the experience to know whether this would be worth attempting.

    I am saying I am not particularly interested in safety tools. I think they are harmful and misguided, and I think we are creating a worse gaming culture in the name of safety. The last thing I would want is a stealth tool. I think safety tools as a concept need re-evaluation. I think our pre-occupation with safety (and again not physical safety but safety in the sense of being protected from discomfort) needs to be re-evaluated.
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