Lines & Veils

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Lines & Veils

Postby Evilgaz » 1:39pm on 14 Nov 12

Does anyone still have Lines & Veils discussions? They seemed to become very popular all of a sudden and I tried it once or twice, but you know what? It just felt weird. The things that came up that people didn’t want, weren’t things I’d have in a game anyway, so that all felt a bit awkward. I tend to just go for it when I game, and judge when to draw a veil over a scene or subject as we go along – or happily take my cue from players who say something when they’re getting to tipping point.

In one of my games at IndieCon, I was going down one avenue with consequences of what had happened to a character, and my deliberately vague description led the player down another one. I went with theirs. In fact it an effective method to use woolly description or hint at things and let people have their imaginations fill in the blanks.

I don’t think I’ve encountered any problems with my approach*, although it could be I’ve upset some people or gone to a dark place and they’ve been too awkward or embarrassed to bring it up. I hope not.

Do you use Lines and Veils discussions? Do you really need to? Do they work?

Gaz


* Although as a player rather than GM, I seem to get Scott saying "Thanks for reminding me to have a Lines & Veils discussion" more often than you'd think necessary.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Baz King » 1:50pm on 14 Nov 12

What are they Gaz? I don't think I've encountered that phrase before.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Kaiserjez » 1:55pm on 14 Nov 12

I remember the discussions we had about this around here a couple of monts ago, (I think). To be honest I can't even recall what my stance was on the matter but I think I'm with you on this one Gaz. There wasn't a single Lines and Veils talk in any of the games I played in over Indiecon and there were probably a few games where things had the potential to go into dark territory very easily.

So yeah, I guess they aren't really all that important to me.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby 3Jane » 2:06pm on 14 Nov 12

Evilgaz wrote:Does anyone still have Lines & Veils discussions? They seemed to become very popular all of a sudden and I tried it once or twice, but you know what? It just felt weird. The things that came up that people didn’t want, weren’t things I’d have in a game anyway, so that all felt a bit awkward.


On Indiecon, one game I played had Lines & Veils, and it felt weird. Another game had something LIKE Lines & Veils, and that was awesome. I'm talking about Microscope, where you create a Palette with "yes" and "no" options.

When asked for stuff that I definitely don't want to see in the game, well, what comes to my mind is all the horrible stuff that happens IRL. Mentioning it out loud is awkward. I think I'm afraid. "Well what KIND of person would introduce THIS horrible thing into gameplay, and what are they going to THINK about me if I tell them what came to my mind?!" For example, I don't want to participate in games that contain rape, but I experienced that other people do, so I mention that during lines and veils, although I'll still be worried I'll get weird looks.

I found that Microscope setup worked better. We talked about what mood we'd keep the game in (by mood I mean stuff like gonzo, serious, light, breaking the 4th wall), and what genre (horror, romance, sf, fantasy, etc), and then created a palette of "boring" and "interesting" elements. When you know what mood/genre to expect, you know what is likely to appear and so you can add it to the appropriate section (boring vs interesting). If you don't want to go gonzo, say so at the beginning. If you want serious, you can specify which serious matters to avoid (which would probably effectively work as lines and veils) and which you find interesting. This gives signals to other players as to where to steer they play.

I don't know. In the end, it still comes down to the fact that social activities sometimes require negotiation, and that negotiation has to happen at some point and perhaps it's easier to say "please don't do X, Y and Z" at the beginning rather than "no, stop this" when X comes up during play and everyone ELSE seems to be having fun so WHY would you rock the boat instead of quietly shutting up? And also people have to make an effort ot respect each other's preferences and ensure that everyone has fun. That's not something that can be codified in rules.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Silhouette » 2:16pm on 14 Nov 12

I think I've been bringing them up a fair deal lately because I forgot to have one before one of my games at Indiecon, and then chickened out of using a specific plothook because I wasn't entirely sure if the people in my game would take offense.

It's a difficult one, because on one hand it feels... oddly patronizing, I guess? What I mostly hear from people when I mention something like 'oh crap, I forgot to have a lines and veils thingy before my game' is that the players at the table are all (relatively) mature and should be able to separate fiction from reality. On the other hand, I have also had useful lines and veils talks during games that have helped me avoid awkward situations during a game.

Mostly I stick with something like: 'this game concerns such and such subject. Is everyone ok with that?'
That seems to work well enough.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Evilgaz » 2:17pm on 14 Nov 12

Baz King wrote:What are they Gaz? I don't think I've encountered that phrase before.

There's things you are (or are not) going to have in a game. So you have a discussion before hand about what elements are off limits, or that shouldn't be discussed in detail.

One person might not want any reference to torture in their games, that's a line. Someone else might be happy that in a game, but it should always be off camera, perahps only hinted at and never graphically expressed. If someone's going to get worked over for info, we draw a veil over the details and just roll to see if they crack or not, then move on without the specifics.

Or at least, that's what I think in my head any time someone mentions it.

My latest DG scenario has a point were someone was going to try to force someone else to do something. We didn't have a Lines and Veils discussion, but it seemed clear where things were going and by tacit agreement no details were gone into. The two characters went upstairs and some dice were rolled. We established the instigator didn't get what he wanted. Say no more.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby jonnygray » 2:21pm on 14 Nov 12

I wouldn't ever bring up a lines and veils request before a game, because it just sounds negative. Rather I'd rely on peoples common sense.

There are some areas that I won't go near, but that can change depending on what game it is and what's expected of me as a player.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby dr_mitch » 2:31pm on 14 Nov 12

I've never had a lines and veils discussion, though I can see the use of them in theory. Actually, I have another question for people. I'd say my personal lines and veils in *games* (I've a different tolerances in other forms of fiction) are:

Veil: torture, cruelty to children and animals.
Lines: sexual violence.

My question is how likely these are to come up if (say) I sign up for a dark horror game without any lines and veils discussion? I've never particularly felt it to be an issue.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby wraithben » 2:34pm on 14 Nov 12

I don't think I'd necessarily have a line & veils conversation, but if I'd written a plot that contained something others might take offense to I'd probably want to say upfront - 'This is likely to contain 'x' is everyone ok with that?'.

I do think it is important however to be very open when pitching a game/putting up a sign up sheet at a con that it's clear if certain uncomfortable themes are covered - or at least could be covered, then at least everyone has some warning going into the game.

I think the Microscope example above works very well for that particular game, and I suppose could be ported across to other games that involve some form of qorld burning/building. I don't think their as useful for games where the whole plot is GM driven.

I may be wrong in this but if I recall correctly Hot War does somethign similar if you set it up as more than a con game as per the rule book (I really must get around to running this one day).
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Pete » 2:37pm on 14 Nov 12

There are 3 pages of discussion about Lines & Veils here on UKRP.

That discussion was near enough a year ago, so have a gander at that thread and maybe post back if your thoughts have changed. Mine haven't... I still table a L&V discussion at the start of games that might go to difficult places, such as Dogs or Poison'd or Last Train Out of Warsaw; most games I play don't require 'em so I don't have a L&V discussion.

So long as peeps feel comfortable enough knowing that they can veto, without argument, anything that they ain't kosher with, that's good enough for me. The gaming table is a safe space, word.

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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Pete » 3:08pm on 14 Nov 12

Oh yes, another thought over lunch (nom nom nom): I sometimes feel that in these discussions we overstate the case.

In the ~5 years that I've been "back" gaming, I haven't played with a "cock" even once. By "cock" I mean someone who is essentially meta-gaming squickiness, trying to provoke a reaction from other peeps by bringing in lavishly described scenes of rape and torture.

I can think of only one time when I have skirted close to being a cock. We were playing a gritty game of contemporary police, and since one of the characters was a British Pakistani, I thought to introduce a grain of institutionalised racism within the force. Yeah, it went down like a lead balloon, 'cos the player just happened to be playing a police officer who was of Pakistani extraction, and the race absolutely was not a flag saying "I want shitty institutionalised racism to feature in this game." (I recall the Met having been in the news at the time, and such racism within the British Police was a hot button news topic.) We sorted it out pronto, but there was an uncomfortable moment where I realised that folk were ascribing the racial slurs the NPC I was playing to me personally. Er, no.

(The whole thing about the tentacles and the cheerleader sacrifice was a mishearing. Besides, we don't talk about that anymore.) :oops: :D

But yeah, I haven't encountered "cock-osity" at all on the UK con scene; this is perhaps a function of the slightly older demographic of the majority of folk playing RPGs on the con scene.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby w00hoo » 3:54pm on 14 Nov 12

I probably said in the last discussion 'I try and warn on the sign up sheet if mature themes are likely to be explored in the game and re-iterate that before the game. My Lines & Veils talk is largely "I'm not going to have a Lines & Veils talk as they never work, if something comes up during the game that needs attention, mention it and we'll work it out then."' My views haven't changed since then.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby w00hoo » 4:14pm on 14 Nov 12

dr_mitch wrote:I've never had a lines and veils discussion, though I can see the use of them in theory. Actually, I have another question for people. I'd say my personal lines and veils in *games* (I've a different tolerances in other forms of fiction) are:
Veil: torture, cruelty to children and animals.
Lines: sexual violence.
My question is how likely these are to come up if (say) I sign up for a dark horror game without any lines and veils discussion? I've never particularly felt it to be an issue.


I'm not sure they'll come up specifically in 'dark horror' but there are some players out there who like being edgey and will throw in this sort of thing, most often rape, as some sort of short hand to 'I'm being edgey here'. Or at least a year or three ago I'd come across it. It's why the Lines & Veils conversation I had before one game of Ribbon Drive went largely "no rape, it's tacky." Thankfully we all sagely nodded because we were on the same wave length.

It's very much a type of game thing. It's rarer for them to come up in a GM led game and if they do then they are normally telegraphed. I have an Unknown Armies game that includes a set piece that would hit your veils. It's there very specifically to tell normal people that they aren't in what they consider a normal world any more. The people around them are playing by different rules. It tends to have the desired effect which is important to the game. Because I know it's going to come up I believe I give ample warning on the sign up sheet/pre-amble that it's going to be a game with 'that sort of stuff in'.

However in a GMless game, particularly something like Fiasco, although far from limited to that, the topics that are explored in the game are often at the mercy of the players and sometimes they'll just go there, other times it'll become an obvious progression. With the latter if you can see where things are going then you can head them off if need be (I've seen a game of Penny where abortion was obviously an option just over the horizon and a player called a Line there and then saying 'I don't want things to go in that direction' so it was sidestepped) with the former you tend to be dumped in the middle of them and can either roll with it, or call a foul and change things. I believe too many of us roll with it when the story would be better served to call a foul, but there you go.

The best thing you can do there is look at the group you're playing with and assess whether they are likely to go beyond your Lines & Veils or not and if they are pre-empt it by either bringing up the whole discussion, or just stating 'I don't want any of this to happen, if that's OK'. As Pete has mentioned, the UK scene is pretty Cock free and I'm yet to come across anyone who'd look on a request to avoid 'X' as a bad thing. Of course, it goes both ways, you're probably best not to sign up for a game of Torture Satan Puppy Death Rape Night and start things off by requesting it stay PG...
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby GB Steve » 4:38pm on 14 Nov 12

Lines & Veils tends to be used less in the UK than in the US. I'm not I've ever used it. We do occasionally have things turn up in a game and someone asks for it to be either excluded (a line) or only offstage (veil) and the other players are happy to comply.

I ran Witch at Gen Con and had three teenagers in the group, and the dad of two of them. I discussed content beforehand and he said they could handle most things. In play I asked a player to tone down something which was verging to the sexually explicit and he was happy to do so.

One of the issues with discussing these things before play is that they set a parameter for the play and potentially distort the game. So if you say "no underage sex", this might encourage players to game the boundary ("we are in Spain and the age of consent is 13"). If you don't mention it, it's not an issue.
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Re: Lines & Veils

Postby Totally Guy » 5:04pm on 14 Nov 12

I go by the rule of thumb that the game should not go further than the inspirational source material for that game. Or at least the public perception of that source material if I don't know it.

Strange how it's more popular US side seeing as they have free speech. I don't know if I'd end up arrested if I ran a game with a burning poppy scene.
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