Safety

It's becoming standard for RPGs to include a section discussing how to play games such as this one mindfully, taking into consideration that people may have mental health difficulties and/or trauma which may affect their experience. The Rainworld authors are glad to join this growing trend.

Safety is important — and it’s really, really hard. The freedom to do anything in the game can take things in directions that do real-world harm to some participants, because people have a host of real-world difficulties — PTSD being just one example. It’s hard to say you need support. Sometimes just saying so can put you in harm’s way. Sometimes you don’t know something is a problem until it’s happened. RPG safety tools are an attempt at risk management and harm reduction; many different people have done work on them.

There is no substitute for communication, for wanting to take care of each other, for doing your best to do so — and whenever that falls short, doing whatever you can to make it right, learn from it, understand the people involved better and do better by them next time.

Four things to be aware of, up front:
  • there is nothing you can do that will guarantee everyone around your table will be okay.
  • there is no universal tool; different people, even the same person in different moments, can need entirely different things.
  • people can have competing access needs — something one person needs can actively harm someone else.
  • most things you can do are, unfortunately, reactive — supporting people after they’ve been harmed, not preventing it.

We advise a “Session Zero" — before the first session of the game proper, get everyone together to hang out, discuss what everybody wants and expects from the game, and resolve any conflicting wants or needs you uncover. Establish that you do care about each others’ safety, and agree which safety tools you’ll have in place. In no particular order, here’s a non-exhaustive sampling of safety resources that people have worked on:

Brie Beau Sheldon’s SCRIPT CHANGE — a toolkit of verbal and optional visual aids, including “Pause", “Fast Forward", “Resume", and others.

John Stavropoulos’ X-CARD — a single, Creative Commons-licensed tool which enables any player to pause the game and have elements edited out.

Tayler Stokes’ SUPPORT FLOWER, based on earlier work by Jay Sylvano — a free visual aid providing a traffic-light style system.

Ron Edwards’ LINES AND VEILS — a Session Zero tool to designate content that will not appear in the game (Lines), or that may be alluded to, for example in a “fade to black, scene change" way, but will not be played through (Veils). (First developed by Edwards in Sex and Sorcery, a supplement to his RPG Sorcerer.)

CUT AND BRAKE, developed in the Nordic LARP community — similarly to the X-Card, calling “Cut" pauses the game to adjust things to avoid harming a player; “Brake" indicates that they are not yet at a point where they need to Cut, but need everyone to play considerately, in order to de-escalate their difficulties.

OPEN DOOR, developed by Eirik Fatland and the Nordic LARP community — a Session Zero agreement that any player can leave the game, at any time, for any reason, no questions asked, no judgement. (If possible, a player who is stepping out and is sure they won’t be back should try to communicate that, to avoid any misplaced concern for their whereabouts and safety.)

It’s worth saying that there are also accounts by vulnerable people who have personally found safety tools — particular ones, or in general — unhelpful, even actively counterproductive. The difficult but valuable truth is that all tools have limits, and all people are different.

(If you take away nothing else from this section, we’d like it if you absorb these three points: firstly, THERE IS NO SUBSTITUTE FOR COMMUNICATION. Secondly, we don’t know you, your group, or your specific circumstances — it’s in your hands. Thirdly: peoples’ needs are diverse and not always predictable.)