Saturday, September 8, 2018

Diversity - How to Be a Great Narrator (Game Master), #2

I’d like to carry on with the theme that I started in my last HTBAGN (now pronounced “hit-boggan”) post. In that post, I talked about having an “open chair” policy for anyone that wants to come over and game. Our gaming group has seemed to become a magnet for people with disabilitities. 

I want to start off on this topic by telling you about one of our group members. I won’t use his name. One day, as we were gaming our usual friday night game, there was a knock on the door. I answered it, and saw a nervous, but pleasant-looking chap standing there. After I said hello, he said something like, “Hello. Is this where the game is going on?”

I was a little taken back, so I hesitated. It turns out that one of our group members had invited him to come play with us. But that member wasn’t there that night, and hadn’t mentioned to me that he’d be inviting anyone. 

I wasn’t sure what to do. But it only took me a moment of internal debate to swing the door open and let him in. He’s been coming pretty much every week since then.

We’ve gotten to know him. He’s told us that he’s on the Autism spectrum, and we can kinda tell that in some of his behaviors. He hesitates to make eye contact, and his characters are, well, unique, to say the least.

Nonetheless, he’s become a welcome member of our group, and we’ve come to enjoy his creativity.

Sometimes, though, I’ve thought back on that first night, and considered how difficult it must have been for him to reach out and find us, just on the recommendation of a friend. A friend, who, wasn’t even there at the time! The social struggles that many on the Autism spectrum can have must have made that a particularly difficult challenge. I sometimes think that it must have been quite a risk for him. I’m quite pleased that he took that risk. Our lives are richer for it.

Some practical thoughts, and some questions:

We’ve had several gamers at our table who are “on the spectrum” and have been diagnosed with some level of ASD. How does one integrate them into an adventure, and into a gaming group. Here are some thoughts (from someone who is definitely NOT an expert):

  • Integrate them. Engage them in the game like any other player. Help them set up characters if they’ve never played RPGs or never played your system, and just get them into the game, just like any other person at your table.
  • Give them plenty of space. That’s a tricky one, because I don’t mean to isolate or avoid them. I mean, when they do something that “doesn’t quite fit in”, either in game or in the room, let them. Have the game respond to them as they choose, kinda like the game is normally supposed to. There is always a lot of banter around the table about what should be done, and there is always a time when any player says, “I’m doing this or that thing.” As a GM, you respond to that. So, allow that same freedom of choice for all players. 
  • Overall, I’m saying to just engage them as you would any other player, and it will all work out.

Now, if any of you reading this have personal or professional experience in this area, I would love to have a conversation (phone or social media) about additional ideas about gaming and ASD. Any thoughts?


Here I'm just talking about my ideas for being a Narrator (a GM), in the world of The Hero's Tale, Family Friendly RPGs. Here's more info on The Hero's Tale, and family friendly RPGing.

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