Artwork by Rich Longmore

Bros and Sisses/ Depth and Empathy in Role-Playing Games


Last week I spoke on Murder Hobos and Nurse Paladins. I also talked about having fun with responsible characters. About caring for your actions in a game.


Now I want to address the age old question. “Why should I care?”


Because others are counting on you. Your family cares. Your people need you.


And so you drudgingly do it, but it should be something joyous!


When we play Role-Playing Games (for those of you who do not play), the Game Master gets a whole lot of friends together with soda/beer, food, some dice, and minis. Around a table they create a story, player and game master. It is a collaborative story effort, and everyone is invested.


Or not.


I have personally witnessed, and I am sure several of you have seen, games go sideways. Players will start trying to kill each other. Friends won’t cooperate with their other friends. It turns into a horrible night of gaming. Usually it ends early enough to avoid ending friendships. But sometimes it can get so heated, some people will leave with bruised feelings and tattered relationships.


What happened?


A player or several players did not care about their action and ruined the fun for others. Often a player’s personal problems will surface within the game and wreak havoc on everyone else’s good time. It is the thinking of, “Because I suffered at home/work, my friends need to feel my pain/suffer too”. Often it is too late to avoid a wasted night of gaming.


An excellent way to mitigate the risk of such a situation happening is to bring empathy to the table.




  1. Creating a family of characters. Brothers and Sisters should be your travelling companions. Not everyone can be related. But having a half elf with the same father as a human paladin will create empathy in the party. It also brings some harmony to the table. Some very inspiring games have come about when creating a whole group of players related to each other.
  2. Belonging to the same organization Sometimes a holy order or nefarious cult can bring about the brotherhood people long for. It is natural to want to “belong” to something or someone. Getting the dwarf and elf to put aside their differences so they can summon the dark lord together is truly the product of belonging to the same cult. It is amazing how tribal people still are to this day.
  3. Hailing from the same town/tribe Having a similar background is a good way to build up empathy between characters. If you and the warlock both know how corrupt the local officials are in the same town you grew up in, it would give you a reason to bond.
  4. Having the same faith Sometimes it takes religion to bring people who normally would not dine with each other to the same location. It is amazing what similar beliefs can do for the adventuring party. It is a social glue.
  5. Enduring a similar fate/ punishment People who went to prison share an empathy, wary, yet resolved with each other. Knowing the person next to you served in the military gives you a reason to speak with her. It is often when we endure the harshness of life together that we create a social bond stronger than family.


Creating a family atmosphere, even in game, creates a social glue, enabling players who would not have sympathy to “get along”. Yes you can play a game where adventurers are hired at the local tavern to fight the necromancer. But it helps when you lay down a layer of depth and empathy for the players to use. It can mean the difference between a good night of gaming and a horrible way to end a friendship.


Next up I will talk about enjoying responsibility in gaming.


Until next time,



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