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Creating a Safe Game For Every Player

We offer some suggestions to Narrators on the best ways to communicate early on.

Sure, it’s highly likely you’ve seen The Dragon Prince on Netflix before you buy Tales of Xadia Game Handbook. More to the point, watching the three seasons there provides a tonal context for games. But what if you want to be even more inclusive, for good friends or new friends alike? I’ll see if I can offer some suggestions to Narrators on the best ways to communicate early on.

Taking the Temperature

We’ve all got a preferred contact method, but I find this works best over email, where longer bits of text can thrive and be responded to in detail. So whoever is in your group, find out their emails and let them know you will be sending them a safety list.

As either an attachment or in the body of the email, think about what sort of darker themes might be in your narrative toolbox. Lead with a paragraph like:

“I’m plotting out the story in advance, but will also be improvising. I’d like to know if there’s any themes you’d like to avoid entering the story, which I can then communicate to the group as off-limits, but anonymous in source.”

You’ll be surprised, Narrator, at how easy this is to manage and how reassuring it will be to hear it all from each person. You’ll develop trust that is precious, though, so at least for the first few sessions keep said list handy on a tab or private note.

It’s good to at least have mild, broader “PG” themes brought to their minds here, in advance so they can be tracked by you. Make a list of themes you already know might exist, and ask players to respond to each item as comfortable, comfortable in moderation, generally uncomfortable, and off limits.

A list might look like this:

  • Hatred:
  • Violence:
  • Cursing:
  • Children in Peril:
  • Animals in Peril:

Don’t get too gruesome here, try to write the list from the perspective of someone who knows these topics may be hard to even think about in a broad sense for some people. Cursing, not so much. But possibly everything else. It’s a delicate process that will ruin someone else’s good time if too much humor or callousness is applied to it. Save your snarky phrasings for a snarky NC. Note I say “peril” and not something graphic or terror-inducing. Some folks have had a more traumatic life experience than you might think.

Then, encourage everyone to get more specific if they’d like. What would they like off limits? Often no-one will list anything at all, but they’ll respect that you asked. But whatever they share, keep it private and respond respectfully.

When you tell the group it’s a theme they should avoid in roleplay as part of the safety agreement don’t mention any names. It’s something for the back of everyone’s minds, not group analysis.

Context is Everything

While never an excuse to go into an off-limits topic, context is important. If you know there are a lot of sensitive topics that have been taken off the table, it might be good to come up with a written list of guidelines you can email, or even print and hand to your players. Here’s a suggested list of guidelines:

  1. No hate speech
  2. Tales of Xadia takes place in a fantasy world where monsters appear and battles occur, so keep in mind that none of this is meant to feel overtly real. Try not to use this as a way to disrespect someone else in real life.
  3. I as Narrator will do my best, but I might forget some game mechanics. Feel free to call a “point of order” and explain, but please be forgiving as I am only human and will be improvising some story and it will take me out of that thought process.
  4. No hate speech. None.

I hope this helps your game feel free and loose, that is the goal after all. This is all the mere groundwork of the game, not some kind of homework. The more you get to know your players, the more you will also learn their boundaries.

Inspiration for Your Table

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