As quarantine continues, many games have continued to move online, but with no end to COVID-19 in sight, the mental strain of social distancing is impacting more people than ever. Once Summer ends and shorter days and frequent bad weather become the norm, people are going to start struggling even more with isolation and boredom. TTRPGs will likely flourish as this happens, as they provide a wonderful social activity that provides helpful escapism in hard times.
And then, at some point, a vaccine will become widely available, and people will be able to go out into the community safely again. In person games will start happening again, at conventions, FLGSs, and homes, and people will be able to sit around a table with their friends tossing dice and making jokes without risking spreading COVID-19. However, the lasting anxieties and trauma of quarantine will still persist during this time, and it will likely bring some difficulties to the table as people adjust to being around others in a social situation again.
As such, I have compiled a list of safety guidelines for quarantine and post quarantine games. These guidelines are not around physical distancing or the virus, as I am not qualified as a medical expert to speak to those, but around mental health and being sensitive to existing trauma. That being said, please follow all safety precautions laid out by officials, and if social distancing is in effect, please follow it to the letter. It is better to be safe than know that you were responsible for making one of your friends ill.
During quarantine, it is important to be able to provide a safe table where people can engage in healthy escapism, take a break from the stess, and spend quality time with each other. Consider these guidelines for running game during quarantine.
-During session 0, have a clear discussion around topics you do not want in the game. This time has been traumatic for many people, so keep an ear out for things that people may not want in their game. It could be as simple as not wanting any market scenes because going to the supermarket is terrifying to a player.
-Don't use plagues, quarantines, or viruses, unless your players specifically want it. Especially don't make a game around COVID survival, again, unless your players specifically request it. Most people are sick and tired of dealing with the pandemic, and don't want it to invade their fantasy game time.
-Be aware of player exhaustion and burn out. Quarantine takes a toll on people, and allow space for some venting about this, but do not make your table a group therapy session unless that is the focus on the group.
-Realize that Zoom and online calling can be exhausting. Determine player energy levels and spell slots/spoons, and base the length of the session on that.
-Create hope through your game. We're living through a very dark time, so positive, uplifting stories that allow heroes to succeed are helpful as a way to deal.
-Listen to your players constantly when they discuss their own frustrations and concerns, and use as many safety tools as you feel necessary with your game.
Once quarantine ends, and in-person games begin again, it is very likely that there will be some sense of disjointedness, anxiety, and confusion. People will need to acclimate to normal life, and there will likely be many remaining traumas that people will need time to work through. As such, it is important to weave awareness of that into your game. Some tips around this include:
-Run shorter games if need be. People may still be uncomfortable being in each other's presence for long periods of time. If possible, run games outside to create more of a familiar sense of social distancing.
-Along with using safety tools, create a safety plan as needed around player anxiety, whether that be making it clear that game can end early if needed if players are struggling with being in person, or creating breaks for players to go take a short walk.
-Be aware of touch at the table. Some people may be very interested in hugging and getting a lot of physical contact in- we're all pretty touch starved. However, many will be very wary of that, and still have kneejerk reactions to having people near them. Set clear boundaries around that.
-Allow masks and sanitizer at the table. This may help people feel a bit more comfortable, even if there is no risk.
-Consider running some games online even after quarantine is lifted, to help people have time to slowly acclimate to being around others safely.
-Be understanding that everyone will recover psychologically from quarantine at their own pace. Some may want to self isolate for longer, others may immediately surround themselves by others. Don't make demands on others to hurry up and be social. Healing takes time.
Hope these guidelines help you run games safely during and after quarantine. If you have any additional tips, please let me know on twitter @rollforkindness!