Difficulty initiating or continuing a conversation or dialogue

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If a player exhibits difficulty in initiating or continuing a conversation within the game, one of the first measures to take is to determine how active communication is preferred.

When gaming with minors or players with caregivers and/or counselors and the desire is to increase and continually engage in dialogue there are multiple methods.

The first step is determining the reason for the communication difficulty. If this has not been pre-established in an out of group meeting, then simplified prompts that gradually lead to more complex responses, can be used to gauge comfort levels and determine the level of communication that is available to the individual.


Often times these reasons will fall under one or more of the following pre-existing conditions.


There is a sense of comfort in not communicating

There is a sense of discomfort in communicating

There is a physical limitation in communicating

There is a sense of isolation from the group dynamic

There is a difficulty relating to cognition or understanding

There is a lack of interest in engaging

When there is a sense of comfort in not communicating

There are absolutely no requirements or demands with a preference toward quiet reflection or non-communication. In a game setting, this may mean a couple different things. Mechanical gameplay may require communication, but that can (if preferred) be kept to the minimum that necessitates required involvement within the game. Engage in communication where necessary, and if desired, front load questions with courses of action that can be denied or approved. Additionally, if it is preferred to use alternative methods of communication, such as through written form, or technological aide then account for the added time and resources necessary within your game plans.

There is a sense of discomfort in communicating

While seemingly identical to the above, whereas one concept focuses on positive mental health achieved from pursuing personal preferences, concerns over discomfort in communicating addresses the external aspects. That is not to say that other players are setting out to create discomfort, but that it exists for the person needing accommodations. Wherever possible accommodate their needs by fleshing out the game narrative with their approval, and focus more on smaller form questions and responses that don't require heavy saturated dialogue. Consider environmental and group situations that contribute to a sense of discomfort. If communicating within a larger group creates a sense of anxiety, then consider running smaller group member sessions, or wherever possible, differentiating your gaming table so that pockets of involvement can be formed within a larger group (IE rather than a single person communicating to a group of 6, have a person communicating within a group of 3 groups of 2 characters.

Environmental conditions that affect discomfort also can include sources outside of the game table. Consider the location of play. Are you in a more private setting, or is your table situated close to others? When designing convention environments or gaming environments within a large enough venue, consider wherever possible creating an optional table that is situated further away or in private rooms.

There is a physical limitation in communicating

Please refer to Communicative/Receptive Accommodations

There is a sense of isolation from the group dynamic

This feeling can happen regardless of Behavioral conditions that compel it. One of the most important aspects a GM must consider when working with players that have disabilities is situational awareness. Be cognizant of the players' limitations and provide additional support where it's warranted. So if you find that a player may be feeling isolated from the group dynamic, as the GM you can facilitate communication between players through leading questions about character actions, and emotional responses to in game situations. GMs often try to split attention evenly among players without consideration of the needs of the players prior to getting to the gaming table. While this treatment is in a sense an attempt to provide an equal gameplay setting for players, it only promotes existing levels of need. Some players will require more support. Some players will require less. Not considering the starting point, does not ensure that everyone is carrying forward through gameplay evenly. A player that feels isolated from the group dynamic may be experiencing a need that others are not starting off with, and should be accommodated, even if that includes more and "uneven" investment of more time and energy. This is commonly referred to as differentiation.

There is a difficulty relating to cognition or understanding

Depending on the severity of the impairment, accommodations can range anywhere from providing extended time within game sessions, to providing enough resources to achieve success. If for instance, a player is having difficulty communicating game mechanics, those mechanics can be supplemented with the use of technology or physical manipulatives such as power/spell cards, tactile and/or color-coded indicators and markers, or printed simplified codices. If this difficulty occurs in memory or relation to story elements, consider recaps, printed recaps, or printed milestone cards that include preprinted names and descriptors of characters/locations the meet or visit as they come across them.

Display patience if situations need to be repeated, explained slower, or explained in simplified, colloquial, or idiomatic communication. Never assume an understanding, or shrug off a preconceived understanding of "the way things work".

There is a lack of interest in engaging

This can and often does occur. A person with a disability that impacts their ability or desire to engage in or continue in communication MAY ALSO just not be interested in the gameplay. It shouldn't necessarily be assumed that a person who doesn't engage in dialogue is doing so because they are uninterested, but if a person doesn't engage in dialogue they very well may be. That is why it is important to discuss with players their experiences before and after gameplay to determine their overall enjoyment of the game.

Are there things that they would have preferred to have been different? Would they have preferred a different setting or mechanic? Do they prefer this style of gameplay?

Coming to a table with an understanding that your enjoyment of thing does not necessarily correlate to others is a necessary reality to swallow.

Where it is feasible to accommodate preferred gameplay, then accommodate it. Where a condition is occurring that may be impeding enjoyment, look to resolve it, but where there is a desire to not play, simply do not pressure gameplay.