Roleplaying can be dangerous. Ok, maybe not “Juggling venomous snakes blindfolded” dangerous, but still, you can encounter some pretty awful situations and you can hurt yourself.
Imagine you’re playing a game and you encounter a situation that reminds you of your recent heartbreak, or a theme comes up that makes you slightly uncomfortable.
The X-Card is a good emergency button, but it’s a nuke. Sometimes you need softer options, for example if you DO want to tackle this theme or situation, but you want to have fun, instead of anxiety.
Here’s a collection of techniques that can help you tune the distance between you and the game, in order to find the spot that lets you feel more in control, more safe.
They’re like gloves, that allows you to touch itchy and stinging things without hurting yourself.
Most games have a character creation phase, where you build the characters you will roleplay. When you act out a role your brain doesn’t know you are just playing, and it will respond to external stimuli in pretty much the same way. This means that you can easily feel the emotions of your character.
Setting. If the time and place of the game is closer to your experience, the gloves are thinner, because your direct memories get involved. Robert Bohl, the author of Misspent Youth once said that the sci-fi setting in his game is like a pair of shoes you use to walk on nails.
Gender and sexuality. Playing someone with a gender identity or sexual orientation different from your own can make your gloves thicker. If you’re a man, consider playing a woman. If you’re genderfluid, consider playing someone with a fixed gender. If you’re gay, consider playing an asexual. If you’re heterosexual, consider playing a bisexual, and so on.
Race and culture. Playing someone who grew up in a different culture or experienced different things because of their skin color can make your gloves thicker, as well as making you understand them a bit more. This also works with wealth. If you’re middle-class, consider playing a poor person. If you’re white, consider playing an hispanic. If you’re black, consider playing an asian, and so on. Be respectful, though.
This is where the gloves can be tuned moment-to-moment. It takes a while to train yourself to change them but it’s worth it.
The way you make your character act is a good way to tune the thickness of the gloves. If your character acts in a way similar to how you would in the same situation, the gloves thin themselves. Conversely, if they act in a different way, the gloves thicken.
Example: I’m a game master, I’m currently playing an npc who just saw a giant-ass crocodile roaming the sewers. I would personally be scared as shit, babbling and saying incoherent stuff.
Talking in third person helps you thicken the gloves. Talking in first person thin them. It’s as simple as that.
Example: I’m playing Monsterhearts as a cute little werewolf who just killed a person in her darkest self. I’m about to say I’m sorry.
Touching other players can thin the gloves for both you and them, so be careful. Some people don’t like to be touched, so maybe ask them beforehand.
Example: I’m playing a vampire game, and I’m about to feed on someone.
By knowing and using these techniques you help making your game safer for you and the people you play with. Sometimes it’s enough to know that they exist, even if you don’t use them.