When I’m running a game, my goal is to ensure that the players have a good time. To do that, I have to take a step back from the game and think about safety in gaming. That includes both physical and social environments. I wouldn’t expect people to focus on and enjoy the game if there were lives wires dangling from the ceiling around the table. Similarly, I shouldn’t expect gaming to be comfortable for people when they don’t know the social rules of the table.
This means explicitly discussing rules with players. It can feel awkward, but it’s worthwhile. I make sure to have a safety discussion whenever I have a new player at the table. This doesn’t mean that I can ensure nothing will ever go wrong. Neither does wearing a seat belt. It does mean that I’ve made a good faith effort to prevent issues.
I think that sometimes people think that these discussions are about limiting the content of a game. I don’t see it that way. These discussions are about letting players agree on what the boundaries of the game are so that we can feel free to explore a dungeon, combat encounter or social situation fully, without worrying about things going off the rails.
Discussing Safety in Gaming
First I think it’s important to welcome players to the table and let them know I’m glad they’ve come. Second, we have a little small talk. Then I introduce the concept of safety in gaming and ask if people are familiar with X-Cards and Lines and Veils. These are two safety tools. John Stavropolous and Ron Edwards, respectively, created them. From my experience, using both has helped facilitate the safety discussion.
It’s just like the flight attendants reviewing the safety procedure before the plane takes off. You may have heard it a thousand times before, but if something go wrong, you’ll be glad you know what to do. I’ll be posting more articles on safety in gaming soon, so keep an eye out for them.