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I'm preparing to run a game of Bluebeard's Bride with couple of players I don't know very well. This game can be quite heavy on disturbing content, so I certainly plan to have an X-card equivalent in the game. At the same time, I have put a clear indication of the theme and some of the possible triggers in the pre-game blurb (it will be run at a small convention dedicated purely to RPG games), so the assumption is that players will be willing to experience at least some of it and push their boundaries.

As it is a single-session game, in a predefined timeframe (5-6 hours total), there is a limit to how much pre-game 'session 0' research/questionnaires I can do. I also do not expect to have any contact with the players before the game itself.

I'm strongly considering having the equivalent of the O-card in addition to X-card. For people not familiar with the term, here is a definition from TTRPG Safety Toolkit:

The O card can be used at any point if a participant wants to continue with the content. When the O card is used by tapping the card or typing an “O” in the chat, the group is ok to continue with the content. They can also regularly be prompted by a “O?” asked out loud or in the chat to check-in if everyone is still ok.

(Let's ignore the online play part.)

How does it work in practice with multiple players? The X-card is simple - one players bails out, and the scene stops. But with the O-card, is it enough that the directly involved player taps a card to increase/follow the narration, and the rest can X-card it if they don't agree? Can some other players use the O-card, even if they are just listening at the moment? Or do we do a quick vote, which can be quite awkward with 5 players and put a kind of peer pressure on the last one not joining, which those techniques are meant to avoid?

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I myself am a heavy advocate of the TTRPG Safety Toolkit and it's been helpful for me across a multitude of campaigns as both a DM and a Player.

You mentioned that you have a very short time for any sort of "Session 0" or experience with the players, the best thing to do is give each player a small piece of card or paper and ask them to write down any "no-go" topics, in a method similar to the "Lines and Veils", which I'll quote here:

Lines are hard limits on content, things that the GM or the players don't want to engage in. Setting up a line means that content won't show up in the game at all.

Using the Lines on their own can be tricky, but if you don't have time to discuss party veils, you're right to fall back on the "O/X" Method of continual consent. My experience with the X card has been great in both real life and online live-play games, it usually goes along smoothly with a good party, someone just messages me privately a "X" or "Hey, I'm not comfortable with this topic" and I inform the party that we're taking a step back on this. I've had to use it myself when a particularly toxic trio of players tried to assault an NPC for no reason beyond out-of-character sadistic chuckles.

For use of the "O" card, I've only ever used it when approaching a Veil or a topic that I know could cause problems (Anything I've encountered as a Veil before, extreme violence, claustrophobia, body horror, etc.) to see if players are ok. What I'll usually do is put out an O Card on the table, or directly message each player an "O" and wait for them to either place an X or O Card down on the table in response or respond to my private message with an X or an O, the decision has to be unanimous for us to continue with the plot thread, if one person is uncomfortable, I will respect that and we will not continue. This does put pressure on a player in a public setting, but I'd say no more than the X Card does, which is why I usually take 10 minutes to explain the X/O Cards at the start of a game and clearly say "If you pressure a player for feeling uncomfortable with a scene, you're at risk of being barred from the table for inappropriate behaviour." as simple as that.

To conclude, my interpretation of the O Card is as less of a player-initiated method, but more of a GM-initiated one. I have posed the idea to my players that they can also trigger a vote if they think someone might feel uncomfortable with a topic, but for entire time I've used these rules, there's only been one player-triggered vote, which resulted in ending a plot thread as it turned out that player was friendly enough with another to know of a phobia that I had not been aware of, and they were a bit on the shy side and didn't want to interrupt a narrative themselves, so the other player triggered a vote on their behalf, which allowed them a safer space to vote with an X, knowing that someone had concerns.

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If you are worried about peer pressure it might be better to have O and X tokens, then you could put a mug on the table and when taking a vote have everyone (without looking into the mug) drop either an O or X token from their stacks into the mug, you can take a quick look and see if there are any X's. As with O cards, the vote can be regularly promoted.

Players can still explicitly say they aren't ok by tapping their X card, but if they aren't ok and don't feel confident to express that then a secret vote where they don't feel singled out would help them.

I do not know of an easy way for a player to signal a desire to hold a vote without covertly signalling you. This isn't ideal. Hopefully with regular votes you can avoid too much discomfort.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this (or do you know of someone else trying it) or is it speculation? Generally we want some experience to indicate how well a system like this will work. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Oct 16 at 2:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's fairly common where I'm from, it's called a "secret ballot". I have experienced it dozens of times for many things. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 16 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, we know what secret ballots are, but have you used it for this? The thing that immediately jumps out at me is that normal X Card usage doesn’t involve someone calling for a vote, so this is substantially different. Who calls the vote? When? How often? How does it help a player who wants to remain anonymous in a given moment, but they’re the only one calling a vote? Overall: how does this actually work, and what does it accomplish? It’s not obvious. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 16 at 3:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will edit the answer to reflect your concerns, thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 16 at 4:23

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