Role-playing and story games offer a unique opportunity for creativity and collaboration. However, the improvisational nature of these games exposes players to the risk of discomfort and emotional distress. Everyone has different boundaries and it’s impossible to know what will be upsetting to a fellow gamer. Best practices and safety tools are an important part of tabletop role-playing because they allow clear communication about what is, and what is not okay for everyone at the table.
Here is a collection of our favorite role-playing safety tools. We did not create these tools and have credited the creators when we could find them. There are many others available if you look through the online tabletop role-playing communities.
Many of these tools have printable versions for letter sized paper or for 3×5 inch cards. Thank you, Tomer Gurantz!
The x-card is the simplest safety tool and also the easiest to implement. A card with a large X is placed on the table where everyone can reach it. If anyone feels uncomfortable, they simply touch the x-card. The GM and other players will change the scene immediately by skipping it or changing what is happening. The person who activated the x-card is not expected to explain their reasons. You can read more about the x-card at http://tinyurl.com/x-card-rpg. John Stavropoulos developed the x-card.
Lines and veils are established boundaries for the story and are defined by each player individually. Generally they are shared with the GM, either as a group or in private, before the start of a game or campaign.
Lines are hard boundaries that exclude specified content from the game, no questions asked. This could include anything, but common lines are children being harmed, rape or sexual violence, or racial discrimination. Veils are softer limits where the player is ok with it being included in the game but it isn’t explicitly described. Things that are specified as veils will be hand-waved without going into detail or happen off-screen, like the fade-to-black sex scenes in a PG movie. You can learn more about them at: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/30906/what-do-the-terms-lines-and-veils-mean
If at any time a player is no longer comfortable participating in a scene that is happening, but they do not object to the scene’s content remaining in the game, they say, “I exit the scene.” Their character leaves the scene and the scene or story continues without interruption. Other characters do not get to object or impair the character’s exit. There is no roleplaying penalty or consequence for leaving. The character leaves because of a very good reason that may or may not be specified.
Exit the scene was created by Kimi Hughes.
The Consent Flower, also called the Support Flower, lets players communicate how they are feeling about a scene in a subtle, non-verbal way. There are three cards on the table, one of each color: green, yellow and red. Sometimes they can be the shape of petals or have flower pictures on them, but the three colors are what is most important. The person activating the card will make direct eye contact with the person they are trying to communicate with and tap one of the cards.
It is highly recommended that the Consent Flower be used in conjunction with another safety tool, such as the x-card and Lines & Veils.
Tayler Stokes created the Consent Flower and more information about it can be found at: http://www.gamestogather.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/SupportFlower-A5-PrintJ.pdf
Script Change is a more complex tool than some of the others, but it is highly effective at giving everyone at the table more direct control of a scene when they feel uncomfortable. Three cards are placed in the middle of the table labeled “rewind”, “pause’, and “fast forward” that anyone at the table can tap to activate.
Script Change was designed by Beau Jager Sheldon and more information about it can be found at http://tinyurl.com/nphed7m