Creating Online Safe Spaces for Roleplaying

The X-Card was originally developed by John Stavropoulos and the original document can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/x-card-rpg

As more games and conventions move to online platforms, the newer mediums can lead to problems implementing systems that have been developed over time to assist tabletop roleplaying games in creating safe spaces for their players. This page will try to collect tips and tricks from around the internet and compile strategies for deploying them per platform. As new platforms and safety tools are developed, I will try to add them to this page.

Just like a physical game, consent and understanding between players and the GM are crucial. Online platforms are tricky because it can be harder to judge when a player is uncomfortable.

The first step to creating a safe space in a gaming environment is to set the proper tone. I usually do this through the medium where I make contact with the player. I prefer email so that I can organize it better, but whatever method you use to reach out to your players that works for you is the best way. In this introductory email, I gauge the player’s experience with the setting, inform them of any particulars about how the game will be conducted, give them an expectation of the content level of the game (I find that PG – PG13 work well for most games), and then I ask them if they have any particular phobias that they may encounter in a dungeon or adventure.

For example, if I have a player who is extremely afraid of snakes and I have a demon serpent, I may reskin it to being a demon scorpion. There is no reason for the player to be confronted with their fears, as this can make the game unpleasant for all. Even horror games should respect this idea, the idea is to scare the characters, not the players.

I also like to include a section that my games require respect and tolerance of race, religion, gender, sexuality, national origin, age, or disabilities.

I primarily use the X-card in my games, because it is simple and many players are familiar with it but there are many more quality tools out there. Check out the TTRPG Safety Toolkit for a great selection of various safety tools and good ways to implement them in your online games. They won the 2020 ENnie Award for Best Free Game/Product. Rather than detail each tool on my own, I am just going to stick to how to implement the X-card on each digital platform that I may run a game on.

Zoom – https://zoom.us

Zoom is a popular platform that has come to the forefront as a premium video conferencing suite. At the time of writing there are limited features for free use, but for a monthly subscription the ability for longer and larger meetings open up. Only the host has to have the premium subscription for the users to connect. Many players are used to working with Zoom from either work or school. It is nice because it has the ability to be used on most internet accessible devices, including mobile phones. It has a chat option, but the chat is not intuitive for everyone and it is easy to send messages to everyone instead of just the GM, so relying on just the chat for players to express their discomfort may not work for all groups.

  • X-Card – In physical games, the X-Card is a great tool, in Zoom, I would use the raise hand feature to reflect the X-Card. When you see a hand raised, as the GM, you should stop the description and restructure it, no questions asked. If another player is X-Carded, I would temporarily mute them and explain that not everyone is comfortable with the way the game is going so let’s take it in a different way. When unmuted, if they player refuses to comply with the request, I would mute them one more time with a warning and expectation that they will be removed from the game if they do not respect the other players at the table. If they continue to be a problem, they get removed from my game, you can do this from the participants tab.

Roll20 – https://www.roll20.net/

Roll20 is an easy to use free virtual tabletop. There are multiple tiers, but the free tier does allow play for both players and GM’s. The system requires a PC to run currently but there is development in progress for a mobile version. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but the tutorials on the site do a great job in teaching the systems.

  • X-Card – The easiest way to implement the X-Card in Roll20 I have found is just to simply type X in the chat. That simple. If you are looking for a more visual representation, Technoskald’s Forge has a slightly more complex way to implement the X-Card that can be found here.

Discord – https://discord.com/

Discord is a commonly used free video/voice/chat application that is often used with other platforms. It is great for coordinating games and servers can be upgraded to higher quality with a premium service called Nitro.

  • X-Card – similar to Roll20, I would just have a player type an X in the game chat. If you are using the system where you are using multiple platforms with Discord, inform the players ahead of time which platform is best for them to use their X-card in for optimal visibility.

Fantasy Grounds and Fantasy Grounds Unity https://www.fantasygrounds.com/home/home.php

Fantasy Grounds is a robust virtual table top system and I don’t currently have enough experience with the program to accurately give strategies for it at this time. I am working to learn its complex system and will share what I learn.

Foundry https://foundryvtt.com/

I don’t currently have experience with this platform so I can’t accurately give strategies for it at the moment but as I learn more about it I plan to include tools that are useful.

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