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The Dungeon Master's Toolset: Lines, Veils and Safety Tools

The Dungeon Master's Toolset: Lines, Veils and Safety Tools

Hello, fellow Dungeon Masters and Players!

I recently chatted with some friends about Safety Tools in the TTRPG space. For some reason, this topic seems to be riddled with controversy, and it baffles me. I use the metaphor of safety tools in TTRPG Play to that of the rating system in Filmmaking. I was chatting with the absolute-angels-of-human-beings Patrick Keeffe (@thatgreygentlem) and Ollo Clark (@olloclark), and we were delving into the realm of 'lines and veils' within the context of our Dungeons & Dragons games. In case you aren't familiar, in the world of roleplaying, 'lines' signify boundaries we vow never to cross, and 'veils' represent scenarios we may flirt with but ultimately leave veiled in mystery. 'Veils" tend to end in the fade-to-black motif. 

I mentioned that I also like to use the concept of an X card. I often employ this by allowing anyone to pull this card at any point, and the table understands that we will move on, no questions asked. Sometimes, our lines are evident at the beginning of a campaign, but as we progress, there may be some lines you hadn't even imagined in the first place. The X card is designed to signify discomfort and make it apparent refusal to proceed down a particular path. It's the responsibility of the Dungeon Master to ensure everyone's comfort in the story, so adopting these tools expands the DM's capability of creating a fun and positive experience.

Patrick mentioned the "Traffic Light" system, an alternative to an active safety system. The system uses three colored cards. A green index card indicates the approval of a particular path. In contrast, a yellow index card shows a cue to tread lightly. The red index card is an explicit command to stop, similar to the X card. I found this method appealing because despite my inclination for visuals (why else would I be so enamored with miniatures?) I found it flexible to use. It also got me thinking about other ways to incorporate static safety rules like "Lines & Veils" and active safety rules like the "Traffic Light." 

As DM, implementing 'lines & veils' is more than just enforcing rules; it's about nurturing trust. Here are a few ways to integrate other safety rules seamlessly into your campaigns:

Session Zero Discussions (static): Conduct a Session Zero' before embarking on a new adventure. Here, players can openly discuss their 'lines' and 'veils,' establishing common ground. You could even incorporate small background sessions to give players a taste of how you will run the table.

The Check-In Tool (active): Check in with your players directly during a game in a natural lull in the story. Ask them how they feel and what they've liked so far. Between sessions, make sure to reach out and similarly check in. A little time will add a lot of clarity to a player's needs.

Theme Discussion (static): Be explicit about the themes you plan on exploring within the game and be willing to adjust to help players feel more comfortable.

Drawing on my experience, I've discovered that employing these tools helps build a robust and respectful gaming environment. These techniques have proven their worth, from avoiding potential pitfalls to embracing the satisfaction of a well-received game.

What systems and paradigms do you employ to foster a healthy social environment in your TTRPG games? Let us know on our latest Instagram post!

Exploring boundaries and engaging in respectful play doesn't end with these techniques. Our team is constantly discussing and implementing new tools into our creations. Are you curious about bringing more creativity and collaboration into your game? Want free 5e adventures and content?

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