Fear Itself
June 9, 2014

Fear Itself

Everyone has things they are afraid of. Try to tie me down in some way or put me in a room with large canines if you want proof of that. Everyone also has different levels of fear and, in gaming, it is the job of the Gamemaster to know what sorts of things might trigger those fears and be careful not to go over the line, making players uncomfortable.

One of my most active players has a severe phobia of spiders, for example and in respect of that, I will do my best not to include spiders or spider-like creatures in my games whenever possible. Note, that I do not exclude them entirely. I simply make them a much more rare occurrence than you might otherwise expect. Considering how giant, monstrous spiders are something of a trope in fantasy games (thanks to J.R.R. Tolkien and his Shelob monster from The Lord of the Rings) this has actually been something of a challenge, as doing so limits what monsters I am able to throw at my players. Even so, for the sake of my players comfort level it is a worthwhile loss. I mention this because I know of some Gamemasters who might try to take it upon themselves to try and “help” their player confront this fear through the medium of gaming. Let’s see, how can I put this delicately…


Do not do that!

First, it is not your place to try and “help” someone else deal with their fear unless asked to do so. Secondly, doing so violates that player’s comfort level and will detract from their enjoyment of the game, which will likely spiral into other players not being able to enjoy the game as they will see how uncomfortable you are making the first player. If one person is not having fun, often no one will be. Third, are you really so arrogant to think you have the answers to a psychological phobia? Are you a psychiatrist? Likely, the answer is no because if you were, you would know what a terrible idea this would be.

Gamemasters should respect their players enough to be mindful of what they are comfortable with and what they are not. Just like in dealing with matters like drug use, sex, and extreme violence, you need to handle matters relating to a phobia in a mature way. Know your players and know what things they are able to handle. Like, in my case, I am fine with my characters getting bound or held, or being attacked by dog-like creatures. It’s fine. It’s not me that it is happening too – though let me tell you how much my characters often do not like dogs for how often it’s happened to me – but for others, that might not be the case. Spider-monsters make my player uncomfortable, so I hold back on using them.

Once again, this is a matter that if it comes up in game needs to be discussed outside of the game as soon as possible. Talk to your players. Players, talk to your Gamemaster. Having a level of open dialogue will go a long way to making your game all the more fun for everyone.

As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good and stress free gaming.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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