Script Change in Action
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.
Often it’s good to discuss with your group a “rating” for your game content. You can refer to the 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? Everything is acceptable as long as everyone at the table agrees to it.
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 Script Change tools are called Rewind, Fast Forward, and Pause, and are detailed in the following text.
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.
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 a Script Change card.
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. However, 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.
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, there is no discussion, 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?
How do I know people will take it seriously?
Every player at the table and the GMshould 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.
With an Instant Replay, right after a scene happens, you can 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. Some things 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 always great, including in regards to plot choices, feelings of imbalance in character focus, or even mechanics disagreements. In general, 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.
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