Conspire is a game designed with comedy in mind. We want our players to laugh and have fun. The game includes a section of content safety, the safeguards against stuff that makes people uncomfortable. We want to educate hosts on what works best with Conspire instead of hoping they find their own mechanisms.
Because these guidelines exist to help community, we want to share our current draft with our CPG friends. Below is the text from Conspire's Content Safety section. If there's anything missing, poorly worded, or straight-up wrong, we need to know.
Conspire has no defined setting or narrative arc. Players combine their creativity and life experiences at the table to create a one-of-a-kind story. There is an intrinsic beauty to having no idea what will happen. The group manifests something greater than anything an individual could have. Of course, there are dangers in having no preexisting plot.
Some players have concerns with particular topics, themes, or tones. Conspire is a game requiring everyone enjoy their time together. Players need to avoid repeated interactions with problematic content. Conspire suggests strategies to address this issue. These tactics are drawn from the story gaming community and are compatible with other content safety mechanisms. Use whatever works for you and your group to ensure a positive experience.
If there is a particular topic a player wants to avoid, they should mention that before the game begins. Players are not expected to recite a laundry list of problematic content, but rather contemporary issues or topics other players would not naturally avoid. The group promises to ignore these topics and moves on without demanding justification. They are also encouraged to state any themes they want to avoid out of over-saturation or disinterest, though that can be discussed further with the group.
It is a week after the presidential election. The nature of the candidates and bitter outcome has left the country extremely polarized. Before a game of Conspire, some friends are discussing politics. Some want to use the game to explore their complex feelings. Some want to avoid political discussions and play a game about plant monsters or something. Everyone respects their request and plays an apolitical game of Conspire. Those who wanted to can talk about the election at the bar afterwards.
Most problematic content is unlikely to crop up in a regular game of Conspire. However, given the fast-paced nature of the storytelling and world-building, a game often veers in an unexpected direction with little notice. If this shift touches upon something troublesome, the affected player needs to pause the game and say something.
We encourage the “X” to stop the game and highlight problematic content. The player crosses their fingers and states what they are “X-ing out.” The other players acknowledge and accept the X, without asking for justification. The subject is then removed from the game without fanfare.
The roles for a scene are being discussed. One player offers up a Pregnant Woman as their role contribution. It is a fitting role for the scene. Most players get excited by the potential alliances and exploits their characters could have with that role. However, one player is uncomfortable with pregnancy. They “X out” the Pregnant Woman, stating they do not want that in the game. Everyone agrees, immediately forgetting about that role.
John Stavropoulos pioneered the formal “X Card”. There are many online resources for content safety. We encourage you seek out this information, especially if you intend to run Conspire at public events.
Conspire’s hidden goals are a little more difficult to discreetly edit. If someone is dealt with a goal they are not comfortable with, they can announce to the group there is a problem and quickly change the goal to something more appropriate. If someone has a goal with content that gets removed from the game during play, they can ignore that goal and still get a point during Revelation (they should be tactful when scoring and not overtly mentioned the problematic content).
One final safety mechanism exists that is always acceptable. Players are never bound to the game; they can leave at any time. They have free will. No one can force them to play a game to which they are opposed. People playing of their own desire have a vastly better experience.
Content safety mechanisms rely on mutual respect. Players promise to use them when appropriate and abide by them when necessary. Forcing justification for the request for safety invalidates this respect. Do not subject players’ personal beliefs to excessive critique. Storytelling games are already a potentially intimidating experience. Make the game fun for everyone so the challenge is getting your Cyber-Pope elected or thwarting the Dino-Assassins.
Players who do not respect the needs of you or your group should be removed. Troublesome players at conventions or public spaces do not need to be coddled. They are ruining your experience and should be dealt with by venue staff, law enforcement, or you, as appropriate.
This respect extends to the mechanic itself. Content safety, particularly the X, is for subjects likely to cause mental duress. It is not for topics the player merely dislikes. You do not “X out” a role because it is uninteresting. Worse still, is using safety mechanics to gain an in-game advantage. Exploiting the personal concerns of others to win a story (whatever that means) is deplorable behavior. Again, manipulate people and their emotions in game and in character, not in reality.
Finally, to counter the strawman argument about censorship, content safety mechanisms are not restrictions. They give players the opportunity to explore the scene and each other, knowing something is in place for their protection. No one has to start a scene timid about which subjects are taboo because they already know what is off the table. No one has to worry if other players are uncomfortable because these players have a clear way to express their concerns. Players can focus on being characters in the game because their personal safety needs are easily met.