Day 23: Tell your most scandalous story about getting X-carded.
I have a good one!
I first read about the X-Card when John Stavropoulos started really talking it up. I want to say 2010ish? I’m not going to bother fact-checking that; it was, I think, at some point after he’d gotten the main idea of it down and it was starting to take off, particularly in indieland.
Me: super skeptical. Super. It felt like it violated a lot of social contract stuff and creative agency at the table, but I mostly kept that to myself. Snarked about it in gchat with friends, mostly.
BurningCon 2012, the one where luke crane expanded the event to a larger circle of Notables: John Harper, Jason Morningstar, Vincent Baker. And with what felt like the monolithic presence of Jason and Vincent’s fans, the X-Card came along as well. Well alrighty then, let’s give this thing a shot, see how it actually feels at the table.
The first time I sat at a table with an actual X-Card was a game of Fiasco, facilitated by Kristin Firth.Uh let’s see… James Stuart and Anthony Hersey and one more person whose name escapes me was at the table; Kristin was fighting a stomach thing so she was there to facilitate. I had never played Fiasco and didn’t really understand how it worked or what its best practices were. I was there to learn! I think it was shortly after Fiasco had shown up on Tabletop and it was yuuuuge.
The playset is some summer slasher setup. We go through all the character stuff; I end up with this obnoxious dudebro half of a pair of twins. I’m already thinking ahead that twins weirdness and slasher stories surely must fit together! I kind of am gunning to be the slasher. Again, I don’t really understand Fiasco yet so I have no idea if that’s cool or not.
So we play a while, spooling out scenes. I really have my hooks into the dudebro, really fun. No idea how the tilt works or the dice economy either, which is distracting and I can’t get a straight answer out of the folks who actually know the game. Which kind of sets up what I think felt like a waaaay-more confrontational vibe than I was intending.
At some point, in a scene with my character’s hapless, innocent twin, I decide to really ratchet up my character’s abusiveness. So, in character, I say something like “Oh come on you reeetard.”
Kristin jumped on that instantly, despite obvious physical discomfort. She’s all “NOPE, nuh-uh, we’re not going there.” Taps the card.
Oh I was steamed.
I remained steamed for months. How dare she censor my creative input!
I debriefed with John about my X-Card experience a few weeks after the convention. The dude is endlessly patient with me, god bless him. I lay out my case, he listens a lot, and indicates that I’ve said nothing new and that the X-Card is an extremely practical tool in his and others’ experience.
A year goes by. It’s still on my mind.
At BigBadCon 2013, Jason Morningstar invites me to a private table of Night Witches. After talking through setup and playbooks and the super-high-gloss overview, he puts an X-Card in the middle of the table. Inside I’m instantly oh here we go again.
I gotta say: it’s Jason’s speech that moved me. I became a 100% convert the moment he concluded his explanation, which included a bit of editorializing around the actual recommended text as presented at http://tinyurl.com/x-card-rpg .
We never actually used the card, but now I finally had a firm grasp of how it worked. Like a lot of other folks have said, the talk is probably more important than the card.
Armed with his explanation and context, I explained it to my local crew. It shows up at their request when I ran an Urban Shadows game as a couples’ date night thing.
The last time I saw it used was at my Sagas of the Icelanders table at Dreamation this year. Someone suggested something another player didn’t like, we tapped out, rewound a bit, it was all good. It was low-key, blameless, smooth.
The big shift for me was realizing that my creative input does not matter. It’s not special or unique. It literally doesn’t matter what reasons there may be behind someone X-Carding. That’s why you don’t talk about it. I may not like when it’s used to redirect an idea I had. And yet I’m 100% okay when Try Another Way gets used in Archipelago. It’s not like I have a limited reservoir of ideas. And thinking that any given idea is so valuable and precious as to deflect disagreement?
I think gaming could stand a lot more humility.
I’m a fan of the X-Card.