Day 14 - Safety.
Given the word of the day, I thought that today I would talk about the concept of the concept of Safety at the gaming table. Specifically emotional safety.
Why is emotional safety important? Emotional safety at the gaming table means making sure that everyone at the game table can have a good time without worrying about emotional issues, personal demons, and the like. Roleplaying games are a great hobby, tending to be quite immersive, but depending on the person and the context, can cause discomfort and unease. Emotional safety at the game table is about putting the well-being and mental health of the gamers first. A lot of stuff has been written about this subject and has sparked endless debates on social media, in my opinion for two reasons.
First off, there's the misunderstanding of what are called Safety tools. These are just that - tools. GMs and players are free to use them or not. Very often, players and GMs don't know how they work exactly or (mistakenly) they feel that they are going to be forced to use them. Secondly, there's the difficulty of prioritizing the well-being and mental security of players at the gaming table. Those gamers who like roleplaying games tend to put the game on a bit of a pedestal - they want lovely, beautiful roleplaying, a terrific plot, and drama that is intense. What this means is that putting the mental and emotional well-being of the players first can degrade the quality of the game. While this isn't wrong, personally I prefer to put the mental health and happiness of everyone at the table first, rather than having the "gaming experience of my dreams."
I'm not going to talk about or promote the Safety tools of roleplaying games here. You can find all about them on various places on the internet, and to be honest, I use them very little in my games, although if the players want me to do so, then I will. At gaming conventions, I do use the X card for the purpose of emotional player safety, simply because at a convention game, I as GM don't know most of the players in my games personally and so don't know where their insecurities, phobias, and uncomfortable events come from and what triggers might affect them.
So, what are some of my personal Safety tastes in gaming? Well, let's see...
There are certain lines that one doesn't cross. Things that I don't want to see in my games at all, and don't want mentioned. I don't want the torture of children ever in my games.
Then there's what I call the veil, something we want to see, but we don't want to have detailed. In my case, I don't mind sex in roleplaying games, but I don't want to do it through roleplay and I don't want it described all that much.
The use of the X Card is a terrific Safety tool in gaming. Basically, the card is placed (usually) in the centre of the game table and if it is touched or handled by a player or the GM, the problematic element of the game in question is magically eliminated from the game. No explanation is necessary, though in my experience both players and GMs can discuss momentarily what the trigger is. To be honest, I like the use of the X Card a lot, but it can cause a game story and plot to collapse if it's not handled well. When the X Card is used at my table, I tend to handle things (with feedback from the players) in one of several ways:
1) Instant Replay: One replays the game scene differently, either because one really likes the scene and wants to include it or because one wants to clarify a point.
2) Rewind: One goes back and handles the scene again, removing the element that caused the trigger in the first place. Sometimes not easy to do.
3) Fast Forward: One goes into "fast forward" mode and skips over the element that caused the trigger or just to move the action forward from the moment that caused the problem.
4) Go Live: One returns to the normal (whatever that may be) mode of gaming at this point, simply without making any changes to the plot and whatever caused the trigger. Not always the best solution due to some of the hidden consequences.
5) Break: Take a break from the game for a few moments during the intense scene or so that folks can calm down and the player who was triggered can regain their composure. Could be just taking a moment to breathe, a snack break, or a toilet break.
The key to remember with the Safety issues in a game, in my opinion, is that there is nothing that can't be fixed with attentive listening, dialogue between all concerned, and empathy. And coming to know your players. While gaming is meant to be fun and is all fine and dandy, the people at the gaming table and their well-being is more important than the gaming itself.
Once more, given that I'm still concussed, I hope these words have made some sense and that they offer a bit of perspective on the gaming experience from the GM's point of view. :)
And there you have it, my thoughts on this fourteenth day of #RPGaDay for August, 2021.
Comments, thoughts, questions, etc. are all welcome, of course. :)