Script Change RPG Toolbox

Updated 9/20/2018

The formatted, printable Script Change file can be downloaded here.

Script Change RPG Toolbox

A content, consent, and safety toolbox for successful collaborative play

By Brie Sheldon


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Tabletop games are exciting and fun, and can explore adventures we otherwise might not have. However, they can approach topics that some people aren’t comfortable with. Some people might want to play a grittier game that digs deep into the grindhouse style of action, or one that has sex and romance that’s detailed and intimate, while others might want to have the gore and guts or sexual content happen off-screen.

Choose a “rating” for your game content with your group. You can refer to standard film ratings for these, or create your own! Generally, however, you should know what audience you’re playing for – is it going to be G-rated good fun for all ages, or is this more of an adults-only show? Will there be sex? Gore?

Discuss specific content people might want to avoid categorically, or what they want to keep to a minimum, like depicting alcoholism or memory loss. No one is required to contribute, but everyone should be welcome to note subjects they have issues with. Be considerate, because people often are just trying to make sure everyone has fun – and sometimes customizing content is what makes that happen!

You should also take time to note content people do want to see in game – things that are fun, exciting, or just interesting. Be willing to negotiate, be respectful, and make sure to consider both the don’t-wants and the do-wants in this discussion and during game. Always be willing to discuss content in game as time goes on. Script Change tools are meta-tools, and becoming comfortable with them will let them flow more easily with game play.

One caveat: Sometimes people don’t know their boundaries yet. Maybe they do, and they just aren’t expecting to kick down the door and find something that really makes them scared, or uncomfortable. This is where Script Change comes in. The core Script Change tools are called Rewind, Fast Forward, and Pause.

At any point during the game, if a player or game master (GM) finds that they are uncomfortable with the subject matter or actions happening in the game, they can call for a Script Change. To make things easier, the GM should write “Rewind,” “Fast Forward,” and “Pause” on individual index cards or print out the sample Script Change cards in the back. There are also some additional tools related to Script Change, the Highlight Reel, Instant Replay, and Wrap Meeting, discussed later in this document. There’s also an in-scene mechanic, Frame-by-Frame.

Always introduce Script Change before character creation and worldbuilding. Script Change can be
used to address player backstories where the details might get too gritty or goofy, setting elements like aliens or zombies, and themes like betrayal or grief.

What’s the point of Script Change?

If you’re playing games with people, you should always discuss consent first. What everyone is okay with, what is not, and ask before you do anything that may make people uncomfortable – any visceral violence, sexual contact not previously agreed upon, etc. Even so, when you’re in a game, sometimes elements change. Script Change helps address those moments.

How do I call for a Script Change?

Say “rewind,” “fast forward,” or “pause,” or raise or tap a Script Change card. Make sure it is noticeable. In digital or written communication, you can use the following symbols to indicate which tool you'd like to use. You can also use a shared dice roller like, which has integrated Script Change. Shorthand Symbols << Rewind >> Fast Forward II Pause I> Frame-by-frame > Resume
!!< Instant Replay For using Highlight Reels and Wrap Meetings, as discussed in the end of the document, talk these over with your group and make a normal policy to have them at the end of a session.
What happens when I call for a Script Change?

You can ask the current actor to either rewind or fast forward. If you just want to skip over unpleasant content – maybe you want the sex scene to fade to black, or you want to skip the gory details of someone being disemboweled – you ask for a fast forward.

If something has already been said or done that you take issue with, ask for them to rewind to a specific point, and they can start again. Try to be clear about what content is the issue, and be willing to work together to see where the story should go from there.

You may also call for a pause. Pauses are used when things are too intense, but you still want to continue playing the scene. With a pause, discussing the content isn't required, but it can be useful. After a pause, you can choose to rewind or fast forward, as well. However, you can use it as just a break in the action while we all catch our breath, and then play resumes with no changes or omissions.

Do I have to explain anything?

It is always a good thing to explain to other players and the GM what is bothering you during the session or with a specific piece of content. This prevents it from happening again and makes things clear. If you are truly uncomfortable detailing the issue, say as much, but identify the specific item that is an issue so it doesn’t come up again.

How do I know people will take it seriously?

Every player at the table and the GM should read about Script Changes and agree to the terms before playing. If someone won’t follow the rules, just explain that they’re violating the contract, and feel free to step away from the table or ask the GM to handle it.

If the GM is the problem, speak to the other players for support. A show just isn’t a show without a full cast, and the GM is just as responsible for the content of the game as the players.

Never feel pressured to do something that you feel violates the contract, and know that the rules here support your right to feel safe and comfortable when playing your game.

Is Script Change just for content?

No way! You can use script change to help manage tone and roleplay, too. If the tone has gone too comedic or too dramatic for you, call for a rewind. You can also use rewind if someone is pulling punches and not making the game as action-filled, or as drama-filled, as you want it to be! If you feel like someone is going on-and-on and is making the game boring, you can call for a fast forward. Best of all, you can always use pause when you need a break.

What other things can you do to enhance the game with Script Change?

You can do a lot of fun things, but two particular options are a Highlight Reel and an Instant Replay. Wrap Meetings, as noted below, are a great option for finalizing a session. Frame-by-Frame allows players to slow down a scene for new or sensitive content.

With an Instant Replay, right after a scene happens, you call a pause just to go over what happened out of character. It is a metagaming tool, but can be useful to make sure everyone is on the same page. This is particularly great when you’re doing intense social scenes or complicated action, or if you have a longer scene that might leave people lost.

A Highlight Reel is at the end of the session. This is a strictly positive thing, and the intention of the tool is to allow players to point out things they liked about the session. Each player should have the opportunity to mention a specific scene or interaction they liked in the session, and the GM gets the chance to do the same. Since it’s inevitable that players might have negative or constructive feedback for the game, it’s suggested that all sessions have a Wrap Meeting as an optional tool – for emotionally intense games they’re heavily recommended.

Wrap Meetings are an opportunity for the group to go over anything that happened in the game that people might need to discuss, from constructive to negative. It’s good to develop a habit of talking these things through. People might want to talk about are if a certain action in game went over their boundaries and they didn’t feel comfortable calling pause or rewind, or if something had an impact on them emotionally that they need to talk out. This should be a supportive environment, and no one should tell someone their feelings are “wrong.” Constructive criticism is great, including in regards to plot choices, feeling imbalanced in character focus, or mechanics disagreements. Use wrap meetings to talk about the game and what could be improved and how it’s impacted the players, or the GM. Everyone is an equal in this conversation.

Frame-by-Frame is a mechanic that lets players express that they want to take it slow moving through the next scene. When a player calls “frame-by-frame,” they are indicating that the upcoming scene may be new, sensitive, or even just a topic they’re unsure about, and they want to let the group know that they want to move carefully through the scene. The player who originated it should say “play” when they want to indicate that regular play can be resumed.

This can be used when players are purposefully encountering content that they’re sensitive about, or when they experience new topics or content in game. The group should be considerate of the player’s needs. Continue introducing the topics or content that was originally planned, but pause occasionally to check in with the player who called frame-by-frame and ensure they are still okay with continuing. This allows the opportunity for that player to feel safe using other Script Change tools without feeling like they’re interrupting the game.

Frame-by-frame may also be announced at the start of a game or session so that when these subjects are encountered, the group can take it slow. Consider making notes of these topics on index cards for the GM.




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