While preparing for a convention and defending safety tools at a different convention, I have come to learn that safety tools at all gaming tables no matter where they are, are vital to the inclusive and safe environment of the game itself. However, over the past several months I have received copious complaints about the existence of safety tools and why tables shouldn’t have them.
The biggest argument against safety tools is that they will interrupt gameplay and restrict the content. It’s been five months since every table I’ve been at has a safety tool in play. Five months and they haven’t hindered, given pause to, nor disrupted play in any way. To be perfectly honest, I haven’t seen any of them be used as of yet. This could be greater due to the fact the tables I play at are with very inclusive, mindful individuals. Even with high conflict content like as it exists in Curse of Strahd, both of my CoS tables are individuals who know how to navigate these subject matters. Even the ten-year old that plays with me.
However, we all have our triggers. We all have our bad days and our emotions can get the best of us, and you never know when content is going to become too much for somebody at the table and that’s why safety tools are so important. To ensure that everybody sitting there can comfortably play, even if you trust your table.
For the past several weeks I have been playing a bi-weekly game online with three other individuals on Off_theTable. We have been playing Fall of Magic (which I absolutely adore so far, it is so open-ended and the role-play is so heavy it is inspiring. I’ve never been apart of a game so vastly freeing before), a GMless game, and we all were creating in-depth characters on the fly but I felt so immediately attached to mine. The roleplay from Summer, Rye, and Ell was impressive, as always, and I felt connected to their characters as well. Between our first and second session, we had time to think to ourselves about our characters, what happened to them in their past, and what made them who they were.
From the very start of our second session, I could tell everybody was much more invested in the game and their characters. Play went a lot more smoothly and the roleplay was more extensive and heavy. From the start, however, everything was taking a dark, dark turn.
My character, a chipper, kind and friendly bipedal fox named Caspian made a sacrifice in order to spare his friends of their own sacrifice. He was scared, but he would do anything for his friends, even if that meant the end of who he was. Caspian gave up his voice and much of the magic that made him who he was- was taken from him. He struggled to stay on two feet as he walked now, he was frustrated with the loss of his voice, but he knew it was worth the sacrifice for his friends. In real life, I cried for Caspian, on the live stream. I could feel his frustration with having his magic taken, his sadness, his loss of identity, but I could also feel his protective nature of his friends being more important.
After the emotional scene of what was taken from my character, two other characters, Fawn and Kabu, had an emotional scene of their own. They had known one another growing up and Fawn poured a very heavy aspect of their past onto Kabu spontaneously. Ell amazingly roleplayed the situation out but the emotions were heavy, deep, and pulled at all of our heartstrings. As I watched this scene unfold, I could feel the tears well in my eyes one more time, threatening to fall live on stream again. Twice in ten minutes, I swear, this game was heavier than I ever expected it to be!
After Fawn and Kabu completed their scene, we all were silent for a moment. We took deep breaths and after sometime Ell asked us if everything was okay. Ze questioned if we were good to keep going. It took us a moment but Summer raised her hands to make two O’s. Rye and I soon followed. We were okay. We took a thirty-second breather and let everyone know that yes, this content was heavy but we were okay. It was alright, and we wanted to continue the game.
And that was it. That’s the O-Card, and the first time I’ve ever seen it in action at a table. And it was vital to our continuation of the game. We checked in, we made sure everybody was alright to continue. We knew emotions and tensions were high, but making sure everybody was okay with that allowed for an ease of reentry into play. But, if it was too much for somebody, all they would have had to do is shake their head, ask for a short break to recollect themselves after all the conflict, and without the O-Card in play, we wouldn’t know if that would have been necessary for anyone.
I really believe, truly, that safety tools at tables are only assets. Never hindrances at tables. If you still don’t feel comfortable with them being there, you should pause and reflect and ask yourself why.
For a clip of what our pause in the O-Card looked like, please check it out here.