Statement of Intent
Before the game starts, the facilitator makes it clear to the players that their safety is important—more important than the game—and that we're all here to have fun, and the best way to do that is to treat each other with love and respect. They ask the players to verbally agree.
It is easier to remember others' feelings when you are reminded of them like this, and players are more committed to safety when they consciously agree to prioritize it.Open Door
Magic tournaments could absolutely do this and I earnestly believe it would ease players' stress levels, improve their interactions, and make the event more fun for all.
While I can definitely see this helping Magic players handle tilt, stepping away during a tournament match is obviously problematic. I don't see how to allow players to leave without explanation, because we don't know whether to pause the game, give them a game loss and wait for them to return for game 2/3, or to drop them from the event because they're not coming back.The X Card
But we may be able to adopt this technique with the intervention of judges. We could give players the option of calling a judge and telling the judge privately that they need to step away and if they know whether they intend to return shortly, after a while, or at all. Even then, the judge may have [find someone] to accompany them to ensure they're not using the time to cheat.
Before the game starts, the facilitator puts a card with a big 'X' on it in the middle of the table (or several, so all players can comfortably reach one). Players are encouraged to touch the X card at any time they feel uncomfortable about the game's content or players' behavior. Doing so is not a judgment, and will not be judged. The table will simply stop whatever they were doing, back up, and find another path forward. The player who touched the X card is welcome to explain what they were uncomfortable with, or how, but there is absolutely no expectation for them to do so, and they are welcome to say nothing.
The X card normalizes discomfort, making it clear to players that they're not wrong to feel uncomfortable in response to whatever causes that feeling, and that easing their discomfort is more important than the game. Having a physical card keeps this reminder apparent throughout the game, and means that a player doesn't need to speak up or draw attention to themselves in order to make their discomfort known. It also means we don't have to place blame on the player(s) who caused the discomfort, probably unintentionally and unwittingly. That preserves the safety of both sides.
Because Magic is neither a storytelling nor roleplaying game, I don't expect the X card will be as impactful, but having a visible reminder that your safety and the safety of other players is important could still have a very positive impact. I imagine placing one between each match, so that players can x card something they hear from adjacent games as well.
Cut works just like the X card but it isn't a physical object. Instead, a player can call cut at any time (often accompanied by a hand single, like crossing your arms to form an 'X'). The group stops what they were doing, backs up, and finds another way. The cut caller may explain or not as they prefer.
I prefer the X card for tabletop games and would only recommend Cut when such cards aren't available (but it's super easy to just draw an 'X' on a card and make one).Brake
Brake (aka Largo) is similar to cut in that you call it out during a game, but instead of stopping play and rewinding, it is merely a call to reduce the intensity of the situation. Speak less loudly, act less hostile, roleplay less hard, calm down, back off, etc.
Brake is less disruptive to a game's flow than cut. Again, it has more uses in a roleplaying scenario, but it's not hard to imagine a Magic player braking in response to a heated match or aggressive opponent. This is the kind of thing players can self-enforce voluntarily, with social pressure from adjacent players when they don't.Check In
Judges would not be needed for the first X card, cut or brake in a match, but would do well to give more attention to those games, as repeated calls would indicate a problem they might be needed to properly address.
Throw the A-OK hand symbol (touch your pointer finger to your thumb and leave your other fingers extended) to them and wait for a response. They respond either with thumbs-up, indicating they feel safe and are happy with how things are going; so-so-hands, indicating they're unsure how safe they feel or how happy they are, or that they feel somewhere between fully safe/happy and fully unsafe/unhapy; or thumbs-down, indicating they feel unsafe or unhappy with how things are going.
If they throw thumbs-down, we break character long enough to figure out what their concerns are and address them. If they throw so-so-hands, we treat it just like a thumbs-down, because we want to be sure they're okay and because players (especially American players) hate to complain and will often express so-so-ness even when they're feeling bad.Arm Up, Hush Up
This is an active, external safety technique, so it's up to you to check-in when you're concerned about your opponent, or to check-in with adjacent players who might not be having the best time.
When a facilitator or anyone needs the room to be quiet (either because they need the room's attention, or simply to reset that decibel level), they raise one arm straight up. When you see someone's arm up, you stop speaking and raise your arm. When everyone does this, you can all lower your arms and the initiator speaks.
This is an amazingly effective technique. It works much faster than you'd expect because wherever you're looking, you'll see someone who's raising their hand. It's also surprisingly intuitive. If maybe a quarter of the room knows about and does it, other players will see it and instinctively follow suit.Not all of these techniques are used by any single RPG or LARP, and not all of them should be used in tabletop games. Even if we do use multiple techniques, we don't have to introduce them all at once. My recommendation is to start with the Statement of Intent at large tournaments, and see if we can't get that to filter down to small store events as a quick ritual that explicitly tells players new and old alike that they are welcome here, and should value one another's safety. I would also love to try out the X-card between duel pairings to see how that works out. And I will absolutely use Arm Up, Hush Up at any event I'm running just so I don't have to shout into the crowd to tell them when pizza's ready.
This isn't a safety technique, but it's useful in any crowd, and directly applicable to Magic tournaments.