So I've been playing with the same group of people for about a year and a half now, DMing for them most of the time, but sometimes being a player. I'm DMing for them right now and one of my players recently opened up about her anxiety at the table.
When we logged on for this session, she was telling me how she'd been worried all week about what was going to happen next, she'd even talked to her therapist about it (for context, her character had just gotten into a big argument with the rest of the party). She was laughing about it, but I got sort of worried because the game should, of course, be for fun first, and it's alright to get nervous or excited about things going on, but it shouldn't affect your personal life too much like that.
I texted her after the session to check in, and she said that she has a lot of difficulty removing herself from her character, and that when her character does something the rest of the characters don't like, she can't help but take it personally because it's the same thing she would do in that situation. She gets constantly worried that, when there's in-character fights, people are actually mad at her. And she recognizes that she's projecting but it gives her a lot of anxiety; and I totally get it! I used to do the same thing. She's tried to make characters that are different from her, but they all end up having the same priorities and moral compass, so she can get defensive of their decisions. I totally understand where she's coming from, as I have social anxiety and also make up scenarios in my head where people are mad at me.
She said that the anxiety has gotten so bad at times she's considered leaving the game, but she has so much fun when the anxiety isn't taking over, and it's one of the only times our friend group meets regularly. As her DM I'd hate to see her go, but as her friend I want her to take care of herself. She mentioned that this might be contributing to it, as well; when we played in person, we saw each other in person almost every day in other situations, but now that we're virtual, it's pretty much the only time we see each other regularly, so it's harder to separate people from their characters.
I gave her a few pieces of advice on how I dealt with it; making characters that aren't just different, but feel like putting on a costume, leaning into extremes/exaggerations to help with character decisions, and learning to impartially judge when your character is in the right/in the wrong (doesn't mean your character has to admit it/apologize/change their ways, but being able to recognize it, that way you don't take it personally when your character is called out by another character).
However, I'm looking for other ways to do this and how I, as a DM, can help relieve some of this for her. I know it's not totally my responsibility, but if there's anything I can do to cultivate a safer environment at the (virtual) table, I want to do it!
- Please don’t ghost your Dungeons and Dragons group
- How do I get my players to read the f*ing book and remember how to play their characters?
- A sort of success story
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Dealing With Anxiety at the Table" specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
- Thoughts on why players might not “just run away”
- Short Adventure: Harpy Murder – a 3rd level oneshot adventure featuring a missing expedition and bloodthirsty harpies.
- Beholders are way more hardcore than I’d expected
- I would like to know if I am in the wrong with telling off one of my party members
- Mimics as a PC
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