For most of us, TTRPGs are a group endeavor where we engage with friends and enjoy ourselves. But because this is a situation where we're among friends and enjoying a shared game, this is also where we lower our defenses (understandably), and there are times when lines get crossed that should not have been.
And yes, in case you're wondering, this is based on something I saw discussed on Facebook, where a GM crossed MULTIPLE red lines. It's one of the more egregious episodes I've ever seen and led to me writing this.
So here we're going to dive into this.
The Value of Personal Boundaries.
Set your boundaries. There are things that we all considered absolute red lines in the sand. What these might vary from person to person, but to give an example, I absolutely set the hard line at harming children in a game, while "on scene". This means that while a villain can do harm to children (we ARE talking about villains after all), this will not happen in front of the heroes or where it can be read/seen. The same goes for sexual assault.
Know your boundaries and communicate them — if possible, during Session 0.
Recognize Red Flags
Red flags are a signal of potential danger. If your TTRPG group consistently exhibits behavior that makes you uncomfortable, disrespects your opinions, or engages in offensive conduct, it's time to assess the situation. Take your cues from your surroundings, and recognize when the group dynamics are negatively affecting your enjoyment.
Address The Issues
Now that you know what's going on, it's time to communicate the issues to your group (some issues might be bad enough that you simply leave, and that is OK too). Explain (calmly) what your issues are, and that you're not OK with how they're being addressed. Remember to be respectful too, just like you'd hope for them to be. If they dismiss your concern, disrespect you, or (worst of all) continue the offending behavior, then it is time to leave. Most should be able to understand and adjust. They might not understand exactly WHY you feel uncomfortable with something, but they should respect that you DO feel uncomfortable with it. (If you feel uncomfortable discussing it too, then it is also OK to state that it's not something you wish to discuss at the moment, but you have personal reasons for it).
Time to Leave
So, if you've addressed all of the above, and they've not stopped, then it is time to leave. Remember that you're there to have a good time, and sometimes leaving a group behind is an act of self-care. If the group's behavior has crossed lines that compromise your enjoyment, emotional safety, or personal values, you have every right to distance yourself from the situation.
Just remember that all of these apply in reverse too. If you're the one causing discomfort to the rest of the group, due to your behavior, then they're in their good right to ask you to leave as well.
See you back next week.