Lines and Veils

16 Dec

I recently came across someone outlining the rules of a game and doing something rather odd. He asked his group “what actions are off-limits?” At first, I dismissed this as overly touchy and sensitive, but the more he talked, the more he made sense.

The game is Vampire: The Masquerade (5th Edition), which I last played in college under the first edition, so I didn’t even know that they made four more since then. This was also called a “session zero,” which again, is another term I never heard before. That’s a way to explain the game to a group of people who have never played it, which I have participated in before, but never heard the term.

I was watching Dice Friends, which is a recording of folks playing an RPG up in Victoria, British Columbia. Their group–Loading Ready Run–is a brilliant group of internet comedians that I’ve followed for years. So to have them play an RPG is great to watch. However, they are UBER-liberal, so to hear them talking about lines and veils immediately struck me with the same disdain I have for “what are your pronouns” (which are on their Twitter feeds) and putting “x” at the words to make them gender-neutral.

However, I gave it a listen, and the more they talked, the more the concept made sense. I play Dungeons and Dragons regularly, so this issue doesn’t come up very much. You know what you’re getting into with DnD–you’re going to weapon-up and kill monsters. This is the way. If you have a problem with that, this is not the game for you. On the other hand, when my son (13) runs a game, he likes to be overly descriptive when it comes to finishing off a creature, and his sister (10) really doesn’t like that. That’s her “line,” and given enough “Asher! Stop!” he eventually listens.

When you’re dealing with a horror game, what you’re in for is… not exactly clear. If you’re used to DnD, you’d be surprised just how different another RPG is. Vampire does have combat, but it also has negotiation, mind control, sex… and that gets into some oogie areas. What if you’re a vampire who only feeds on dogs? The most blood thirsty barbarian player in DnD may be iffy about gory details about killing dogs.

So lines made sense, but some things are part of the game, like drinking blood. You’re a vampire. You can’t get around the fact that you suck blood from someone. So if you have trouble with this, you create “veils:” this where you just say, “Okay, you do that.” No description, just move on.

The more I heard about this, the more I liked it. Just tell your players, “If at any point, you don’t like what I’m talking about, just say, ‘Stop. That’s a line for me,’ and I stop.” I don’t have to go into as much explanation as this particular GM did, but then again, I’m not playing an RPG that people haven’t played in before. This may or may not work in everyday conversations, depending how comfortable you are with that person, but it’s good in this context.

How does making your lines in conversation/gaming work for you? Is this a new concept for you? Is this a bunch of touchy/feely clap trap? Let me know in the comments below!

3 Responses to “Lines and Veils”

  1. M Harold Page December 16, 2020 at 10:11 am #

    Makes perfect sense. Some stuff belongs in narrative summary, not just for squick reasons, but because it’s not necessarily very interesting – description that’s just fluff and has no playable conflict in it is mostly a waste of airtime.

  2. Silk Cords December 28, 2020 at 5:08 am #

    Great post. I kind of had the same initial reaction that you mentioned. Kept within balanced reason though (ie you don’t have a player offended or triggered by every little aspect of the game), this seems like a reasonable way to accommodate everyone’s sensibilities.

  3. DM Tiefling March 3, 2021 at 10:02 am #

    Interesting topic. It’s a sensitive topic, but necessary to help the concepts of the game be understood the way the creators intended, and for others to add to the concepts.

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