Script Change RPG Toolbox

Updated 12/11/2018

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

link: briecs.itch.io/script-change

(If you would like to duplicate this content in your own material, please contact contactbriecs@gmail.com for details.) 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. Sometimes, we aren’t ready when this happens. Sometimes people don’t know all of 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, pause, and frame-by-frame. There are also some additional tools related to Script Change, the highlight reel, instant replay, and wrap meeting, discussed later in this document. 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. 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. Script Change should become a part of your dialogue, and a part of what you do in play. This goes the whole way from using pause for breaks or to discuss things, to the wrap meetings at the end, where you address issues from the session. It's important to remember that you aren't each other therapists, but that doesn't mean you can't respect each other's boundaries and listen whenever there are concerns. To get started, choose a “rating” for your game content. You can refer to standard film ratings for these, or create your own! Generally, 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. It can be useful to have some record of this information, but keep from recording names of players with the subjects they address. 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. When players use Script Change, if a new topic comes up as an issue, it should be added to the “don’t-wants” list. To make things easier, the GM should write “Rewind,” “Fast Forward,” “Pause,” and “Frame-by-Frame” on individual index cards or print out the sample Script Change cards. To return to regular game after using any tool, say Resume.

What’s the point of Script Change?

If you’re playing games with people, you should always discuss consent first. Ask what everyone is okay with, what is not, and ask before you do anything that may make people uncomfortable. You also need to establish your expectations of the game - tone, content, story elements. When you’re in a game, sometimes elements change. Script Change helps address when troublesome elements come up in game, or when issues no one expected arise.

How do I call for a Script Change?

Just say “rewind,” “fast forward,” “pause,” “frame-by-frame,” or raise or tap a Script Change card. It’s often best tointegrate these phrases into a sentence, like “Could we rewind that statement? My character probably wouldn’t actually say that!” or “I have to pause, this is a little intense.” or even “This feels like the right place for the scene to end, could we fast forward?” Make sure it is noticeable. In digital or written communication, you can use the shorthand symbols to indicate which tool you’d like to use. You can also use a shared dice roller like rollforyour.party, which has integrated Script Change. After calling any tool for use, once things are resolved, just say “resume,” tap the card, or use the symbol. Shorthand Symbols
<<      Rewind
>>      Fast Forward
II        Pause
I>     Frame-by-frame
>        Resume
!!<      Instant Replay
To use 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 are ways to use the different tools in 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, want to skip the gory details of someone being disemboweled, or even just want to skip to the next point in the story to keep pacing interesting – you ask for a fast forward. If something has already been said or done that you take issue with, ask to rewind to a specific point, and play 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. Generally this should be used for smaller adjustments, addressing specific issues that can be fixed through a brief discussion and making different decisions in the scene. 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 you all catch your breath, and then play resumes with no changes or omissions. Pause can also be used to call for bio breaks - restroom, hydration, and so on - or to discuss a topic that came up and try to address any related needs. 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.

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, that’s okay, just identify the specific item that is an issue so it doesn’t come up again. If you need to talk about it, you can ask for a pause to explain what’s going on, and the other players should listen. It is also good to discuss topics that come up at a Wrap Meeting. Remember to respect each other in how much you ask of each other, and keep in mind that their capacity is just as other players or possibly friends. You should all be generous to each other, and understanding of each others’ limitations. During this discussion, if you plan to share anything potentially triggering of others’ traumas, make sure to warn people so they can be safe for themselves. If they need to excuse themselves so you can address the topic, be understanding.

What does it mean to the story when we erase things and pretend they didn’t happen?

When you rewind as the default tool is used, it is accurate to say that what originally happened is not canon to the story and that you’re creating new content. However, you can frame this differently in game, making it like this was a dream or maybe a movie-like prediction of a possible outcome. Sometimes players even just ask for a perspective change for the original scene, or for something to be framed in a way that is safer for them. Discuss with each other how you feel about handling it, and what you want a rewind to mean in the narrative. However, final rulings do reside with the person who called for the tool to be used - in some cases, people may want to just say it didn’t happen and there’s no narrative representation. If this is what is safest for them, we must respect that - just like we should respect people in different scenarios asking to have it be represented as a part of the fiction, if they are the one who called the tool. It’s important to note that the experiences happened in real life - whether it was triggering content or just simply off tone, it wasn’t disappeared into nothingness for us in real life. Do not erase people’s experiences. Script Change is a meta-toolbox, and we must acknowledge reality regardless of the fiction.

How do I know people will take it seriously?

Every player at the table and the GM should read about or listen to the details about Script Change 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. It’s also okay to ask someone who repeatedly brings up content that’s been flagged to leave the table - even permanently. 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. If you encounter an issue where you are afraid or uncomfortable using Script Change tools with your group, it's possible that Script Change is not the right toolbox for you. it's also possible that the group is not right for you, and you should consider finding an alternative option. If you want to press forward with both of them, the best option is to speak plainly about your concerns. If you trust these people enough to be willing to game with them, you will hopefully find the day they respond with care to you saying “hey, I don't feel comfortable.” If they don't, then you have a bigger problem that needs to be approached with a longer dialogue - or by ending the dialogue.

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. Script Change can also be used for mechanical results if the group agrees to it. There are times when one bad roll, or one potential consequence, would be enough to make a game unpleasant or even upsetting for us. So long as the group agrees to use it in this context, it’s okay to rewind a roll or fast-forward an unnecessarily long combat. It’s important to remember that when you rewind a roll, you will typically rewind to before you took the action that prompted the roll, and have to take a reasonably different action going forward. This helps to ensure fairness in play!

What if I’m not uncomfortable, but I think someone else is?

You can use Script Change tools on behalf of other players! If you notice your friend is acting uncomfortable and something is happening in game that might be causing it, it’s okay to use a tool to either check in with them (like a pause) or to directly address the content (like rewind or fast forward). It’s okay for you to do that and say that you feel like it might be making people uncomfortable, and not put any direct light on the person in question, or to just say you personally don’t want to see that content. Sometimes, we step up for other people, and it makes the game a better experience!

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, following, are a great option for finalizing a session. 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. During wrap meetings, it's important to address anything that came up during the session that needs more discussion, even if it might be a hard topic. No one should be pressed to reveal their personal trauma or any intimate details about why they're uncomfortable with a given subject or action, but they should be able to address issues about continuing problems or anything that comes up. Script Change tools are to be used in the moment and after the fact, so you can use rewind whenever something comes up in the session and then use the wrap meeting to discuss that content further if everyone is comfortable. If someone is uncomfortable addressing the issue from game during the wrap meeting out loud and at that time, they should be an option to send an email, write a note, or have a later later discussion to follow up to make sure that everyone is comfortable and knows what's happening. This lets people address topics more safely and reduces repeat errors. As mentioned earlier, if you plan to share anything potentially triggering of others’ traumas, make sure to warn people so they can be safe for themselves. Respect it if they need to excuse themselves so you can address troubling content, as they can best serve you when they’re well.

Some questions to ask during wrap meetings:

What is a way you would improve an experience you had during game today?
What emotions are you feeling, and how do they connect to the session?
How can other players support you in addressing anything in game, including Script Change calls?
What lessons learned do you have to carry forth from the session today?
Share a positive thought from today’s session and share an area of improvement for future sessions.




REWIND

FAST FORWARD

PAUSE




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