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.


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

aramis erak

Legend
Really? I didn't know that. As far as I can recall Paizo has stayed above that fray.

Paizo has been very verbal about being pro-LGBT, and pro-racial-inclusivity. At least since 2013. I have no idea if the link is still good, but the podcast where a paizo staffer notes their inclusivity approach is, according to BGG, http://www.35privatesanctuary.com/podcasts/KD058-homosexualityingolarion.mp3

In the US, a large portion (approaching 40% by some estimates) are neither pro-LGBT, nor pro-ethnic/racial inclusiveness. Many of whom are coming out of hiding due current US politics.
 

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Nagol

Unimportant
When I've had that kind of issue, the usual solution was to punt the offended player. Why? because it's always been one player repeatedly complaining about 2-3 others, no one else sharing the complaint, but all having issues with the complaining player's other odious play habits.

It's fine for one-offs, but the tyranny of the minority has always set wrong with me for campaign play.

I'd rather not play in groups where this kind of stuff is useful.

Sure like I wrote: "If one is being used at all frequently, that's the time to reevaluate what the situation is and if the participants are a good fit."

If a non-negotiable veto is being used repeatedly, there is something wrong. Expectations between participants are unmatched. Changing the participant mix is a decent solution and probably the only viable one if a simple discussion doesn't fix the issue immediately.

I don't use the tool for RPGs. I would be tempted to tell prospective players I do though just to weed out those who wouldn't consider playing with it. When being correctly used, it has no impact on play.

There is a recent situation at my table where it would have made me (the GM) somewhat more comfortable. One of my players had a parent with dementia die immediately after the parent was moved from the player's home to a nursing facility. The adventure I was in the middle of running featured both dementia and unexpected death. If the campaign didn't have strong continuity and the situation already started, I would have arranged a different adventure for a few sessions. I soft-pedaled the situation as best I could (and possibly more than was necessary). Having a safety valve and not having it used would have helped my confidence.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Do I typically use this mechanic? No. Would I have any objections to using it in a game, or playing in a game that did? Not at all. I am, however, far more likely to use it in games with people I’m not extremely good friends with, or that we don’t already have this explicitly understood in our group’s unwritten social contract.
 

pemerton

Legend
Paizo has been very verbal about being pro-LGBT, and pro-racial-inclusivity. At least since 2013. I have no idea if the link is still good, but the podcast where a paizo staffer notes their inclusivity approach is, according to BGG, http://www.35privatesanctuary.com/podcasts/KD058-homosexualityingolarion.mp3

In the US, a large portion (approaching 40% by some estimates) are neither pro-LGBT, nor pro-ethnic/racial inclusiveness. Many of whom are coming out of hiding due current US politics.
Out of curiosity, is the opposite of "racial inclusivity" segregation?
 

pemerton

Legend
SThere is a recent situation at my table where it would have made me (the GM) somewhat more comfortable. One of my players had a parent with dementia die immediately after the parent was moved from the player's home to a nursing facility. The adventure I was in the middle of running featured both dementia and unexpected death. If the campaign didn't have strong continuity and the situation already started, I would have arranged a different adventure for a few sessions. I soft-pedaled the situation as best I could (and possibly more than was necessary). Having a safety valve and not having it used would have helped my confidence.
I normally run pretty tame games. One time I introduced a PCs' mother into the game, and goblins were first imprisoning her and then (when the PCs dithered) killing her. I took a bit of a chance - I didn't know everything there was to know about the player's family situation - and that is a situation where an "X-card" or similar would have made sense.
 

dragoner

KosmicRPG.com
Out of curiosity, is the opposite of "racial inclusivity" segregation?

They are called racists.

There is nothing wrong with X cards, Safe Spaces; things like that. I run my real life game often in pubs, so it is governed by the rules of civil society, and acceptable public behavior. Sometimes humor can get a bit ribald, though obviously there are no children to worry about, and if say a 25 year old woman, wanted to join, I'm fine with that in theory, the wife may take a dimmer view however ...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Thank you. I think you said it perfectly.

He may have said it perfectly, but he didn't think it through to the end. Because that logic cuts both ways: Failing to respond to the X-card request is itself a selfish act of a person who thinks their feelings are more important.

Frankly, for a lot of you, I find your lack of compassion and empathy to be highly unfortunate. Several of you seem to want to play your game, as you want, and to heck with how anyone else at the table is doing! They're having a bad time with some of the content? Too frelling bad! I don't wanna change for anyone else! Me! Me me ME!!! The amount of entitlement seen in this thread is quite astounding.

It seems that if you don't want to take real-world people into consideration, a cooperative game where you actually have to work with real-world people to have a good time may not be the best choice for you. The others at the table are not AIs providing you content. They are people. They matter. A tabletop RPG is a social gathering, and like any other social gathering, to reap the benefits of the company of your fellow humans, you must hold up some certain social responsibilities - like don't be a thoughtless jerk when someone has a problem.

I mean, this is a pretty low bar here. If you were playing touch football, and someone noted things were getting a little rough, and asked for people to dial it back a notch, would this cause an uproar? Or if you were in a conversation at a dinner party, and someone asked to avoid a topic while you were eating, would that seem so horrible a request to allow? This isn't any different, really.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Paizo has been very verbal about being pro-LGBT, and pro-racial-inclusivity. At least since 2013. I have no idea if the link is still good, but the podcast where a paizo staffer notes their inclusivity approach is, according to BGG, http://www.35privatesanctuary.com/podcasts/KD058-homosexualityingolarion.mp3

In the US, a large portion (approaching 40% by some estimates) are neither pro-LGBT, nor pro-ethnic/racial inclusiveness. Many of whom are coming out of hiding due current US politics.


And that, I think, makes this a time for me to note something in this conversation. From The Rules of EN World:

"Keep it inclusive: EN World is an inclusive community, and we encourage and welcome all people here. To that end, we strive to make it a welcoming place where nobody feels alienated because of who they are. You MAY NOT use the terms "agenda", "ideology", "politics", or "propaganda" in relation to the inclusion of people slightly different to you in gaming products or other media, use pejorative terms such as "social justice warrior" or "virtue signalling" to dismiss the opinions of those you disagree with, or post any message which is discriminatory towards those who differ to you in terms of skin colour, gender, gender identification, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, age, religion, or any other personal attribute. We do not subscribe to the argument that tolerance means that we need to tolerate intolerance or that inclusivity means that we need to include non-inclusiveness."

To the moderating staff, this is not an issue of politics. It is an issue of being good to your fellow human beings. If you aren't up for being good to people - well, sorry, but we require you be good to folks while you are here.

Someone has already fired a, "virtue signalling" volley. Please understand that we won't have patience for more such stuff.
 

Umbran

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

Right. Except, of course, that pretty often, "standard social skills" don't suffice. Harassment at cons *should* be covered by standard social skills, but we most definitely have an issue there. We need moderators in EN World in large part because people are more than willing to throw out standard social skills when they feel they aren't winning an argument!

So much for "standard social skills".
 

Dualazi

First Post
He may have said it perfectly, but he didn't think it through to the end. Because that logic cuts both ways: Failing to respond to the X-card request is itself a selfish act of a person who thinks their feelings are more important.

Frankly, for a lot of you, I find your lack of compassion and empathy to be highly unfortunate. Several of you seem to want to play your game, as you want, and to heck with how anyone else at the table is doing! They're having a bad time with some of the content? Too frelling bad! I don't wanna change for anyone else! Me! Me me ME!!! The amount of entitlement seen in this thread is quite astounding.

Or, people recognize that the average group is usually 5-6 people strong, and one person having the ability to shut down content that's enjoyable to everyone else is the real "entitlement". Tapping the X-card is one player being 'entitled' to dictate the content consumption of the entire group, which is certainly less preferably than the alternative.

It seems that if you don't want to take real-world people into consideration, a cooperative game where you actually have to work with real-world people to have a good time may not be the best choice for you. The others at the table are not AIs providing you content. They are people. They matter. A tabletop RPG is a social gathering, and like any other social gathering, to reap the benefits of the company of your fellow humans, you must hold up some certain social responsibilities - like don't be a thoughtless jerk when someone has a problem.

"They are people, they matter" are pointless appeals to emotion that are unneeded, as they were never in question, and irrelevant, since them being people is immaterial to discussions of how they should behave. That point aside, you once again seem to be missing the point that the X-card people are the ones who aren't cooperating. If I'm an alcoholic and my friends are throwing a party, I just excuse myself and don't go, I don't mandate that everyone else not drink as well. Likewise, a player can easily sit out a session if they're uncomfortable. If the campaign is going to be going into territory they're averse to for long periods of time, that's something that should have been addressed when they were doing session 0 or when the GM was explaining the campaign theme. In that case, the player in question should really just bow out unless everyone else is cool with re-starting. Basically, you're right that there are social responsibilities to be observed, but its people who would use the X-card that are avoiding them to the group's detriment.

I mean, this is a pretty low bar here. If you were playing touch football, and someone noted things were getting a little rough, and asked for people to dial it back a notch, would this cause an uproar? Or if you were in a conversation at a dinner party, and someone asked to avoid a topic while you were eating, would that seem so horrible a request to allow? This isn't any different, really.

Neither of those analogies really apply. "Dialing it back a notch" doesn't change core game elements, alter the score, or reset team positions. At a dinner party, I still enjoy the food and the company, the core experience remains the same. A more apt analogy would be inviting people for dinner, and then one of the guests demanding everyone obey their vegan diet. That's a far more accurate picture of what's happening, the fundamental nature of the meal is being altered.

As a side point, I can't remember if it has been mentioned or not, but this also places undue strain on the GM which is already the most demanding role o the group. If the DM knows ahead of time to avoid certain topics, then they can plan as usual with that in mind. The X-card can easily derail an entire run, either ending the session early or forcing the DM to scramble with improvisation. Improv is a skill every GM should practice of course, but doesn't mean they want to do it for an extended amount of time on someone else's say-so.
 

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