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!
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Arilyn

Hero
The X card is there for people to tap if things get extremely uncomfortable. These things can't always be predicted. Talking things over ahead of time is not necessarily going to cover specific triggers either, but only broad areas such as amount of more mature content. If something does come up, who would want to interrupt the game and let other players know why this particular scenario is distressing?

There seems to be a lot of criticism around the idea of one player dictating a game's direction, as if players are going to be continually tapping that card to just get what they want, or to what? Deliberately disrupt the game? This is not placing extra work on the GM, or ruining other players fun, or catering to a select few "entitled cry babies". This is a useful tool, especially for groups who don't know each other. I have never heard of any incidents where the X card was disruptive, or used in a selfish manner. It's a good tool, and it is disheartening seeing so much contempt for it on this thread.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
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".

Yes. It is. That's exactly the point.

I also feel you are entitled to a game in which you are not physically harmed or assaulted. And, if someone hits you at the table, intentionally or otherwise, you should be able to say, "Be more careful!" or "Stop that!" and have people listen to you.

The X-card is the psychological equivalent. The only real difference is that you can see when someone is getting punched in the face. You can't see when someone is getting struck emotionally.

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.

Maybe you don't really understand the use of the card. Allow me to give a real-world example that I personally witnessed.

The GM is a larger, bearded man. The party is involved in tense negotiations with a villain, who is trying to be intimidating. The GM stands up, leans over one of the players, and makes a demand in a loud, deep voice...

Player freaks out, and slaps the X-card. GM steps back, says, "I'm sorry" calls a 5 minute pause in play, and re-frames the scene. Play then continues.

What the GM does not know is that the player is a rape survivor, and their rapist was a large, bearded man with a deep voice. The player may normally be perfectly okay with the GM every other time, but for some reason, this time, they got freaked out. The player could not have told the GM or other players beforehand that this event would freak them out, as it has never come up before. This is sometimes how post-traumatic stress works - things can jump out at you when you don't expect them.

I say the player does have the right to have a game that doesn't freak them out, nor do they owe any explanation of their rape to anyone at the table. I say that the group's right to a looming GM does not trump the one player's issue.

Do you disagree? It is better that the player relive this horrifying experience so you can have your content? Really?

Is that the side of the argument you want to be on?
 

Sadras

Legend
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.

Then shouldn't your argument be that we should use this for X card for everyday life? i.e. let us put this X card in schools, at homes, at daycare centres, at work, at the bus stop, at the suburban grocery stores....etc. Or is this mechanism only meant for gamers because the gaming community is dis-proportionally more socially awkward than any other communities and are unable to use their social skills to get their point across?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
Then shouldn't your argument be that we should use this for X card for everyday life?

No. At the game table, we have a small group of people gathered for a common purpose - this setting is entirely appropriate for "table rules" (aka a social contract) to govern behavior at the table. Out in the wide world, we do not have common purpose, and very little context or ability to establish a detailed social contract.
 

Sadras

Legend
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".

And tapping an X card will improve on standard social skills? :erm:
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Dualazi

First Post
Yes. It is. That's exactly the point.

I also feel you are entitled to a game in which you are not physically harmed or assaulted. And, if someone hits you at the table, intentionally or otherwise, you should be able to say, "Be more careful!" or "Stop that!" and have people listen to you.

The X-card is the psychological equivalent. The only real difference is that you can see when someone is getting punched in the face. You can't see when someone is getting struck emotionally.

The two aren't even remotely equivalent. Being assaulted requires conscious, physical aggression from another party. Being able to shut down any number of unknown variables is not the same as not worrying about being attacked by another person.



Maybe you don't really understand the use of the card. Allow me to give a real-world example that I personally witnessed.

The GM is a larger, bearded man. The party is involved in tense negotiations with a villain, who is trying to be intimidating. The GM stands up, leans over one of the players, and makes a demand in a loud, deep voice...

Player freaks out, and slaps the X-card. GM steps back, says, "I'm sorry" calls a 5 minute pause in play, and re-frames the scene. Play then continues.

What the GM does not know is that the player is a rape survivor, and their rapist was a large, bearded man with a deep voice. The player may normally be perfectly okay with the GM every other time, but for some reason, this time, they got freaked out. The player could not have told the GM or other players beforehand that this event would freak them out, as it has never come up before. This is sometimes how post-traumatic stress works - things can jump out at you when you don't expect them.

I say the player does have the right to have a game that doesn't freak them out, nor do they owe any explanation of their rape to anyone at the table. I say that the group's right to a looming GM does not trump the one player's issue.

Do you disagree? It is better that the player relive this horrifying experience so you can have your content? Really?

Is that the side of the argument you want to be on?

Since it's the side of the argument I've been on all this time, yeah, I'm comfortable staying that way. Your example doesn't really sway me, either. While I've never seen a DM invade another player's personal space, that sort of thing definitely should have been brought up prior. I'm not saying they have to give their whole life story, but saying "hey, I don't do well with people in my space, please give me room" doesn't seem like its a terribly undue burden. If this is the first time this individual has ever had a flashback or episode in their life then maybe this is a fringe case where use of the card is going to be somewhat valid. I say 'somewhat' because obviously the GM/players are going to want to know what the problem was, if only to avoid it in the future, and virtually every advocate for the card's use thinks you don't have to explain yourself. I do have people in my life who deal with PTSD, and most of them are well aware of what sets them off and take steps to avoid it. I don't find that to be an unreasonable standard to hold others to.

I also find it interesting that you completely side-stepped my earlier points about the X-card player's responsibilities. Is the GM supposed to never be intimidating again? Are they supposed to sideline that villain? Should they abandon attempts at tension? Tell me then, at what point is it that the X-card player is imposing to the extent that they should simply find a new group? Because if the answer is "never" then I suspect that this is the fundamental root of our disagreement.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
And tapping an X card will improve on standard social skills? :erm:
Actually, yes - if the people causing others to use the X card take notice to what they are saying at that moment, and if it’s necessary to say for everyone’s enjoyment.
 

cmad1977

Hero
My favorite part of the X card is how angry some people* are about it’s mere existence.

* you do not seem to remember that certain loaded words & phrases are not allowed here. A referesher, then:

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.
http://www.enworld.org/forum/
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Richards

Legend
Whereas I'm somewhat amused that both sides of this issue see the other side as being composed of "pathetic snowflakes." The poster above thinks those who don't want to use X-cards are "pathetic snowflakes," while others seem to think anyone who wants to tap an X-card during a game is a "pathetic snowflake."

With all these alleged "snowflakes" involved, I'm thinking about getting my winter coat out of the closet.

Johnathan
 

Sadras

Legend
Actually, yes - if the people causing others to use the X card take notice to what they are saying at that moment, and if it’s necessary to say for everyone’s enjoyment.

If people aren't taking notice of what people are saying at the table then you have bigger problems than the tapping of X cards.
 

Related Articles

Remove ads

Remove ads

AD6_gamerati_skyscraper

Remove ads

Upcoming Releases

Top