This is where I talk about tools other than the quick description of the pre-game talk and “Boundaries and Limits.” We’ll see how many posts it takes to cover these.
I’m going to start with the X-card, created by John Stavropoulos, first. The X-card is a literal or metaphorical card that any player, including the GM, can use to stop the action if they are triggered. Now, the X-card is a fantastic first step, and it does relieve the GM from all of the onus of being the one to call for check-ins. It does not, however, remove the necessity and responsibility for the GM to pay attention and check in occasionally.
Also, the X-card is only as good as the players feel able to use it without repercussion.
What I mean by a good “first step,” is that ideally after someone tosses the X-card, or says “X-card,” the GM will call a break, and see what the player wants to do, as in my last post.
However, in too many places that kind of agency for the triggered is not part of the process. In some places, venue rules state that the X-card is an automatic retcon. Many gaming groups do not know what to do outside of stopping play and retcon-ing. And in some, the X-card is given lip service but not actually followed up in any meaningful way.
The biggest part of all of what I am telling you regarding dealing with triggers and emotional landmines is that you need to work with the person triggered in order for any of these methods to have any meaning. You, the GM, cannot assume you know what is best for the triggered player.
I and many people were gaslit as part of the abuse we suffered, and pretending something “didn’t happen” is as big a trigger as anything that might have originally triggered us.
In response to this, and to the use of the X-card and Veil in general, Ben Lehman (Polaris, Bliss Stage) wrote a post outlining the use of what he calls the Luxton Method, after the friend who used it in a game with him for the first time. At the core of the Luxton Method is centering the needs of the person being triggered. This is not a one size fits all band-aid solution, but rather a guide to how to achieve the best solution for the person who was triggered, a set of techniques that GMs and other players can use to engage with the triggered player, and help them however they need. The focus is on the player, not the game.
The Luxton Method is a much more coherent and complete guide of things that the Geek Husband What Rules and I have done for awhile now when we play those games where I give him permission to run roughshod over my triggers. But it’s much more than that.
It is a sort of formalization of centering the needs of the triggered person in game that can keep them engaged, and may even be helpful to them in dealing with their trauma.
And in his essay about it, Ben articulated many of the issues I had been having with the concept of the X-card, but had never been able to articulate. I mean, consciously I knew I should feel it was a good thing, but it never sat fully comfortably with me and I didn’t encounter it enough to be able to put a finger on why.
Another tool, which is a formalized version of the things I mentioned in the last post, about asking the triggered person what they want, is Brie Sheldon’s Script Change. It also provides templates for cards marked Pause, Fast Forward and Rewind. Please check it out for use in your games.
And because this cannot be restated enough: everyone processes trauma and triggers differently. I have talked to folks who all they want is to pretend the triggering incident never happened, and others like me who want to work through it to a resolution that leaves us feeling like we’ve reached a satisfactory resolution.
There is no wrong way to be triggered or to deal with the aftermath.
If you like the things you read here, please check out my Patreon for videos and Patron-exclusive content.