X & O For More Fun

The main purpose of RPGs is to have fun but ensuring that everyone enjoys themselves is tricky. First you have to agree on a game, then a play style. A dozen or more things after that can make or ruin a game. John Stavropoulos created an elegant solution to a common fun killer by creating the X-Card.

The main purpose of RPGs is to have fun but ensuring that everyone enjoys themselves is tricky. First you have to agree on a game, then a play style. A dozen or more things after that can make or ruin a game. John Stavropoulos created an elegant solution to a common fun killer by creating the X-Card.


Whether a GM is running a store-bought adventure or their own campaign, no GM is a mind reader. It's also impossible for other players to guess what will turn an exciting time into a major turn-off for their group. Instead of forcing a GM (or the other players) to guess what may or may not work as fun, a simple card with a big X on it is placed in the center of the game table. If something goes too far for someone's comfort threshold, they simply tap the card and the game moves on from that thing. If you're not clear what caused the X-Card to be tapped, a short break is called while the GM confers with the player. Because the player doesn't have to defend or justify the card being invoked, it avoids hurt feelings and increases fun and safety.

While people assume using the X-Card stifles creativity, the opposite is true. A GM running a Delta Green or World of Darkness adventure is liberated to plan whatever scenario or evocative description they like, knowing that their players easily maintain their enjoyment. No mind reading is needed.

While the X-Card is often associated with story games or indie RPGs, I've had them invoked the most in D&D games. While running Tales of the Yawning Portal last year a player of mine tapped the X-Card when the players hit a bug-infested area. Later he explained that while fixing some wiring earlier that day (he's an electrician) he had to go into a crawlspace that was infested with bugs, and it had skeeved him out. This was a guy I've GM'd for years. He had never indicated an issue with bugs before so I couldn't have guessed that on that particular day he'd be bothered. A month later, it wasn't an issue.

The X-Card also makes convention games better. It's impossible for a GM or players to guess what strangers will like.

During a game a few years ago, two players were arguing in character. One guy said, “That plan is suicide. You might want to die, but I don't.” Sounds like a typical argument, right? What none of us knew was that the other guy had had a family member commit suicide recently. By tapping the card and saying “no suicide comments” (so we'd understand the issue) the game and in-character argument continued with a pause of only a few seconds. He didn't have to feel embarrassed or awkward or explain more, though after the game I overheard him mentioning it to a casual friend in the same game.

On the flip side, Kira Scott created its counterpart, the O-Card. It works the same way as the X-Card except it signals “more of this, please.”

As a GM, have you ever wondered if players were enjoying a specific sequence or aspect of a game? By using the O-Card, you don't have to guess. If it's invoked, you know the banquet scene that is all role-playing doesn't have to be rushed or next time, add more word puzzles for the players to solve.

Safety tools provide an easy way to ensure everyone enjoys the game, and the GM doesn't to guess about what is and isn't working.

This article was contributed by Beth Rimmels (brimmels) as part of ENWorld's User-Generated Content (UGC) program. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

jasper

Rotten DM
Instead a glossy 3.5 card with a black x which covers 90% of the card and has contrast ratio of 80% using over head lighting which are at a min of 75 watts of lighting. And a 1 page print out on 50% free range cotton rag paper explaining the "X CARD".
HOW ABOUT A PERSON JUST YELLING, "NO COOL DM! TONE IT DOWN!". Simple. Verbal. Gets the point across. Does not waste paper.
 

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ShinHakkaider

Adventurer
D&D is essentially an extended social interaction and shouldn't require any extra props when standard social skills suffice.

It's my experience that a hell of a lot of gamers LACK standard social skills. And also apparently EMPATHY. Also? Basic social queues fly over their heads like a home run over the head of an outfielder.

Which is why when I try to put together a group to game with i'm looking for good PEOPLE as opposed to gamers. Good people can learn to be good gamers. Sociopathic gamers cant learn to be good people or Empathy.

While the X-card is something that I wouldnt neccesarily use at my table while running a game, if someone wanted to run a game where I was a player and wanted to use the X-Card I'd be fine with it.
 


ajchafe

First Post
It's really for public games or games with rotating cast for sure.

A home game can much more easily figure things out ahead of time.

It also helps when a new person to the table starts talking about a topic someone is not comfortable with (because they honestly didn't know or whatever) and vice versa.
 

neobolts

Explorer
While no one should be uncomfortable or off-put by their leisure activity, I do think that open and mutually respectful conversation about concerns is the best approach for the long term cohesion of a group. The X-card would remain a secondary option for groups where that isn't possible for some reason.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
takes 29 pages to explain the x card.
From page 10...
"The X-Card talk is a good way to communicate... this is not a solo activity. The people here matter more than the game we are playing. Help us make this fun for everyone...."

Doh,! How about this?
"Talking is a good way to tell us something is bothering you. Speak up!"
70 Characters.
 


epithet

Explorer
Starting on the bottom right of page 5 of the playtest and wasting an entire column of page 6 that could be better spent on just about anything else.

Hah! Yeah, I had skipped over that bit to get to the actual game. I've certainly observed the general trend in the industry to include that sort of virtue signaling in the introductory pages of game manuals, but I think that's the first one I've seen that goes so far as to call it a "social contract." I like how the follow it up on the same page with "there's no wrong way to play Pathfinder."

My presumption is that all these publishers know that their game is going to be mostly played by groups of friends, and therefore no one is looking for them for guidance on who to play the game with. I think these sorts of statements are simply an effort to diffuse what has become an almost inevitable scrutiny of the product looking for any and everything about which someone could manufacture outrage over the "representation" of some subset of real-world people in a fictional, fantasy world setting. They're trying to head that off before it begins. You might roll your eyes and mutter "Whatever, dude" as you move on to the important parts of the game book, but the people who that column is probably designed to diffuse are venomous--they'll launch a torrent of social media vitriol and call for boycotts and so forth, things which Paizo would feel obligated to address respectfully and "take seriously" regardless of how ridiculous the underlying claims might be. Best to try to avoid that if possible, so my guess is that the whole "social contract" bloviation is Paizo's effort at "an ounce of prevention."
 
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jimmifett

Banned
Banned
Hah! Yeah, I had skipped over that bit to get to the actual game. I've certainly observed the general trend in the industry to include that sort of virtue signaling in the introductory pages of game manuals, but I think that's the first one I've seen that goes so far as to call it a "social contract." I like how the follow it up on the same page with "there's no wrong way to play Pathfinder."

My presumption is that all these publishers know that their game is going to be mostly played by groups of friends, and therefore no one is looking for them for guidance on who to play the game with. I think these sorts of statements are simply an effort to diffuse what has become an almost inevitable scrutiny of the product looking for any and everything about which someone could manufacture outrage over the "representation" of some subset of real-world people in a fictional, fantasy world setting. They're trying to head that off before it begins. You might roll your eyes and mutter "Whatever, dude" as you move on to the important parts of the game book, but the people who that column is probably designed to diffuse are venomous--they'll launch a torrent of social media vitriol and call for boycotts and so forth, things which Paizo would feel obligated to address respectfully and "take seriously" regardless of how ridiculous the underlying claims might be. Best to try to avoid that if possible, so my guess is that the whole "social contract" bloviation is Paizo's effort at "an ounce of prevention."

Agreed mostly, and I would be fine if that non-sense were in the path/star-finder society rules docs. Thats the kind of place that language belongs for sanctioned public play to cover their corporate keisters from the professionally offended crowd, instead of wasting space in a core book. That could be 3 or 4 more feats that could be added onto the hundreds plus in the playtest! But we all know paizo is a committed member of that crowd and this is just pushing agenda driven propaganda. BC of it, my wife is extremely against buying any more paizo products, and I'm half inclined to agree.
 

epithet

Explorer
It's my experience that a hell of a lot of gamers LACK standard social skills. And also apparently EMPATHY. Also? Basic social queues fly over their heads like a home run over the head of an outfielder.

Which is why when I try to put together a group to game with i'm looking for good PEOPLE as opposed to gamers. Good people can learn to be good gamers. Sociopathic gamers cant learn to be good people or Empathy.

While the X-card is something that I wouldnt neccesarily use at my table while running a game, if someone wanted to run a game where I was a player and wanted to use the X-Card I'd be fine with it.

I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that the way people put together a group for a TTRPG is to consider who among their friends would be interested in playing (and who could be talked into being the DM, if the organizer isn't keen to do that himself.) If you're friends with sociopaths (I admit I've known a few) then you probably know that about them, and you tend not to included them in group activities in general, right? I've played a lot of D&D over the decades, and I can only think of one group I played in that wasn't made entirely of friends or friends-of-friends. While I'm sure "games with strangers" aren't necessarily rare, I would be more than a little bit surprised to learn they were anything other than a small percentage of the hobby.
 

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