supercharging with trust
GM Advice

How a See-Saw Can Supercharge Your RPG. Trust Me.

How to Build Trust at the Table

If you’re just not feeling it with your gaming group, or you’re finding pick up games just aren’t as awesome as you want, it’s probably not the game. The game is just the engine. It needs premium fuel to kick ass. If you want it supercharged pour in some trust.

Trust Supercharger

That’s a really bad car metaphor, isn’t it? Don’t look at me like that, cars really aren’t my thing.

Trust building is a process and not one that can be cut short. There isn’t a single surefire process for doing it, and all parties have to be involved. It requires paying attention to others and being willing to take little risks yourself.

Building trust is not an inevitability of spending time with a group. Each choice you make is either building or destroying confidence and sense of safety. Relationships with a great deal of trust are resilient and can hold up under explorations of intense themes, and through individuals having cranky days. A new relationship can be broken by a single judgemental raised eyebrow.

The See-saw: Mythic and Deadly

Dangerous old see-saw

Slivers and broken tailbones… ah childhood.

Imagine a see-saw,  a teeter-totter. They aren’t allowed on playgrounds anymore because too many children have gotten injured on them.

They are a good metaphor for building trust in roleplaying games. First, the only reason to use them is to have fun. If you’re getting on a see-saw for some other reason you’re missing the point. Second, they are social: they require more than one person. A child alone on a see-saw is a sad picture. Third, they have an element of risk. Just as you give your whole table a chance to judge you when you introduce your new character, you are always giving the other person on the seesaw the chance to jump off and leave you with a broken tailbone.

Before you get on the see-saw with a new person you ask yourself “Do I want to risk playing with this person? Will they be careful? Wild? Considerate? Will they hurt me?” You don’t have answers to those questions yet, at least not that you’re confident in.

First Leaps

To start playing someone has to make the first jump, the first offer. You bend your knees, introduce your character and leap up into the air.


Roleplayer with Vulnerable Tabletop Culture
GM Advice

Tabletop Culture – How to Get Back To Joyful Roleplay

Is the joy elusive at your gaming table? If you’ve had campaigns that feel heavy, difficult to keep up, or full of inter-player tension, or if you’ve had great campaigns in the past, but the chemistry just isn’t right anymore, you might have a culture problem.

If rules are a superstructure, and play and imagination and story are all the finishes to create a beautiful RPG tower, session zero and the decisions made about rules set, boundaries, and snack arrangements are the foundation upon which you build. But foundations are still built on something. Before session zero you have the culture of your gaming group. If you’re not considering what that culture is, bedrock or swamp, you may find yourself doing a lot of extra work to keep the building standing. Even still, the tower might topple.

If you want to build your campaign on bedrock start thinking about vulnerability. Get this right and gaming joyfully gets a lot easier. It’s the secret ingredient you had when you were a kid, and roleplay was as easy as breathing.

Childhood Roleplay and Easy Fun

Vulnerability is being able to get hurt. Shame and Vulnerability Researcher Brené Brown describes it as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” Children are remarkably vulnerable. They are physically weak, trusting, and dependent. They are also comfortable with being vulnerable.

Consequently, children don’t need rules to feel like they’re “playing right.” They just have fun. They buy-in imaginatively with no thought to judgement and create fantastic worlds to play in with nary a prop or codex.

Their imaginations flow out of them. All the games of cops and robbers and house are all imaginative roleplay. Young kids haven’t been shamed into thinking there is something naive or stupid about their play.

A little of that immature wonder would do our roleplaying tables some good.