My Secret Shame, or why I'm petrified to play with other people

I have a dark secret to share. It’s one that I feel rather guilty about as someone who sometimes designs games, likes to think about them, and owns more than a few.

I’ve only played about 20 times outside of my close group of friends. The same playing group I’ve been playing with since I was 13 (I’m 33 now). The group consists of my brother, some close friends, and myself. We’re all from the same neighborhood. We all play in a band together. It’s comfortable, warm, friendly, and feels like home. We know each other too well to get mad at each other. We know each other’s play styles. We love each other so damn much.

This makes me absolutely terrified to play with other groups.

I have played with strangers. I’ve had a really good time doing it (I’ve also had a few really bad times). But I get so anxious that I’ll embarrass myself. I know that this anxiety is overblown, but I’ve never found a group that feels as healthy, supportive, and loving as the one I’ve had.

So long story short, I am terrified to play with people. I also get imposter syndrome because I’ve played with so few people.

There it is. My terrible secret. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear other’s thoughts about this phenomenon.

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Hey! I read your message with sympathy and my immediate response is that it’s okay, you’ve done nothing wrong, and there’s no shame in having close friends and a sibling that you enjoy playing with more than even the thought of games with others. There is no cosmic tally of who is the more cosmopolitan gamer, or count of how many people you’ve played role-playing games with. If anything, I wish I had the group you have. When I moved away from my old buddies, the ones I’d played with for years–the groups where we all knew each other inside and out because of the intensity of the connections through role-playing–I stopped playing for a quarter century, partly because those connections were irreplaceable.

You and I both know there are players out there who are outgoing, who rope lucky strangers into playing fantasy adventure games with them. That’s a great talent they have, to make those connections. I myself am more like you.

It sounds as if you are bothered by the anxious feelings over playing with strangers. Nobody can blame you for that social anxiety. I do think that the only way through it is to go out and make new connections until the fear subsides, if it ever will. But if you don’t, you’ve still done nothing wrong and there’s nothing wrong with you. I’m willing to bet that most players who play with strangers only wish they had closer friends who liked these games, as you do. Maybe others have the reverse situation, envying yours.

These are social games, and the patterns of relationships will vary as much as human relationships can (which is a lot). No pattern is correct.

I applaud your openness. Peace!

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I’ll also share a secret. Me too! I had one group from 93 to about 2010 or such. Then I moved away and they did not want to play online. Had a hiatus. Then I tried I think 4-5 games with strangers until I played with a group I immediately hit it off with. And have been playing with them round about since 2015 online. Sprinkle maybe 5-6 convention games in that time. I have social anxiety, new social situations terrify me. I got more comfortable since playing with the new group, so I can play with complete strangers. And once the dice hit the table I am usually good to go. But any “small talk” or socializing before or during the game with strangers makes me want to sink into the earth and just disappear.

All that is to say your experience is totally valid and not at all unusual. Its not terrible and not something you need to hide. We all need our own comfort zones and nothing beats playing with people you trust and love. It’s courageous talk about what we fear openly. Cheers for that!

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I’ll pick my regular group over all other players, and always have. Roleplaying is an intensely social pastime and there’s nothing better than sitting down at a table with people you know and like.

I rarely play with strangers and I too have an admission… I’m not too anxious that I can’t sit down with strangers to play, but I actively choose not to. My time is precious to me and I’m selfish about how I spend it… :expressionless:

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Sounds to me like you’ve found yourself a hell of a group of kind people to play with, that’s really cool

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I’m honestly a little confused. Is there some merit to playing with strangers? Or some rule that we have to?

The majority of my gaming has been with different configurations of close friends. For ttrpgs, that usually includes my older brother. Apart from one or two convention one-shots, I never played with strangers until the pandemic.

I found some games that worked and some that didn’t. But if I had to choose between the online games with strangers and games with friends (not that that choice has to be made), I’d choose games with friends.

As for social anxiety, I view that as a separate topic. Mine plays out a bit differently from yours. I don’t have anxiety or fear that keeps me from engaging with other folks, but I usually feel like the odd duck, stuck in the corner, not having much in common with others. There are resources available out there to help with this. But if you don’t have a need to get into social situation that bring up your anxieties, why are you doing it?

So the way I view it is as a want. You don’t need to do any of this, but you seem to want it. If that’s a big enough want, I’d approach it like any new thing. Go in realizing you’re going to be bad at it and keep practicing until you get better.

I wish I had a group of gaming friends like you have.

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I think what I want is 30 copies of each of my best friends. That would be ideal.

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It’s a great group! I feel so lucky to have them, and wouldn’t trade them for any group in the world. I just sometimes feel like I don’t have a great idea of the breadth of playstyles out there. Not that it is a necessity that I do in order to enjoy myself! I %100 feel you on this.

I’m more thinking about writing adventures and such. I know how my group will play them, and how I or my brother would run them (and how our table might respond), but not really how other folks would. So in practice, even if I wanted to write for everyone, everything I write is for me and my friends. Does this make more sense?

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Yep, but in the end I think that’s the only way to write anyway. Sure, look what’s out there to get ideas for structure and layout and information presentation. But write for you and your game. It’s much easier then trying to write for strangers. And usually works well enough I think.

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I think you have a great group and, as long as that is around, you really have no reason to feel “less” just because you don’t enjoy taking chances with random strangers.
You play to have a good time.

Sure, having more and more diversified experiences (can) help up grow as people. And RPGs can be an amazing vehicle for this.
But it’s your free time.
You don’t have to “work” on yourself on your free time too :slight_smile:

Unless you feel the need to go there. Then it might be useful to analyse why, and if it’s worth the effort. But even then, organising some limited ventures into the outside world should be enough. A brief dip from time to time. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing :wink:

About the adventure writing…
First of all, if it’s material only meant for private consumption, or for personal expression… seriously, fuck everyone else! You do you, express yourself. You need nothing else :smiley:
If instead you want to produce something commercial (even just at an amateur level) then the situation might change and other considerations might be in order. But that’s a different post entirely, I think.

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On the topic of needing to experience more styles of play in order to write adventures, I’m sure it can’t hurt, but it absolutely isn’t essential. Someone I know writes some of the consistently highly rated adventures in the OSRosphere, and they don’t run any games - even the ones they’re publishing (AFAIK haven’t for several years, and have no plans to again) and for the last couple of years has played in just one weekly game.

What you do probably need is to find some folks who can playtest your adventures for you - it may well be anyway that playing them without the adventure’s writer present will create an environment that’s more similar to what will happen when complete strangers pick up and run the adventure. Of course you won’t get the richness of feedback that you would if you were there (although, I dunno, perhaps you could get folks to record their playtest sessions, which I imagine would give much richer information for you than just, say, a written feedback form).

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