Dungeons & Dragons Online

How to build trust as a DM and a player

Why does trust matter between a GM and the players?

Trust can help create a sense of security for players to feel like their ideas will be heard and generate a sense of predictability in game.

An RPG table is a place full of wonder, intrigue, fun, laughter and perhaps most importantly, vulnerability. The relationship between the GM and the players requires that each person give of themselves. Sometimes it's creativity in world building, sometimes it’s taking the risk of using a funny voice or accent. In each case showing a creative idea at an RPG table requires people to be vulnerable. Some ideas require more vulnerability than others, but no matter how much a player feels vulnerable a solid foundation of trust can help players to feel comfortable enough to express their ideas.

I made a video about this topic and you can watch it here if you're interested.

Building Trust with your RPG Group

In the video I talk about a few different things like:

Power dynamics

  • As a GM you are someone with authority. Try not to abuse it.
  • Players naturally know less about the world and therefore have less power than you.
  • Do not put players into situations where they are uncomfortable

Group Norms/Informed Consent

  • If you’re starting with a new group of players for the first time, talk with your group during session zero and establish some ground rules for the game.
  • This is not an essential step for all groups but some small time given to this in the beginning can help hold group members accountable.
  • This is especially helpful if you are running a game for people you don’t know.
  • Consent helps to resolve some disputes because it helps players and GMs to know when certain lines are crossed and helps to keep people accountable.
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Consistency of the rules

  • Nothing stings a player more when the GM changes the rules for one player and not another.
  • Some groups are only by the book and are less flexible regarding rules during the game.
  • You need to determine what kind of game you are planning on playing.
  • If you do change a rule record that change and try to be consistent with it.
  • If you are corrected by a player be open to the correction. Don’t just smack it down if it’s inconvenient.

Regularity of Sessions

  • Set a scheduled game and establish when it will occur. Stick to that schedule. If people back out or flake out that’s fine, but if you care about running a game this step will help potential players know how serious you are.
  • That does not mean that you cannot cancel sessions if you need to, but it does mean that as a GM you need to be conscious enough of your own schedule and level of energy to commit to running a game as regularly as you feel comfortable.

Mixing up facts

  • If your player needs to pray to their god in order to activate a divine ability. don’t punish them if they forget the name of their god, or mispronounce it. Nothing erodes trust faster than punishing a player for something small and inconsequential.
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Model the behavior you’re looking for.

  • “Play is often talked about as if it were relief from serious learning, but for children play is serious learning. At various times play is a way to cope with life and to prepare for adulthood. Play is a way to solve problems and express feelings.” – You are special, Fred Rogers.
  • Nothing speaks more loudly than the Game Master’s behavior, which influences player action and has the potential to drive their choices.
  • If you say teamwork is important, reinforce the point by rewarding teamwork with your players. Or show a group of NPCs using the behavior you hope your players to emulate.
  • Give credit when people do great work and you’ll set the stage for an appreciative culture.


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