Between-Session Anxiety

Psychologists reckon that about 7% of human communication comes from the actual words we say. The remainder is supposed to be mostly body language and tone of voice. I am sure this is a radical over-simplification but it perhaps helps explain why I get so anxious dealing with players between-sessions.

Anxiety is, at the heart of it, a response to uncertainty. I am the type of human being who is highly sensitive to uncertainty. I can detect uncertain moments almost subconsciously. It’s like having a radar for stuff that’s not very clear, anything ambiguous, and everything vague. Including this post.

Because roleplaying games involve other people, they are inherently filled with uncertainty. How will the other people behave? What characters will they create? How will they respond to the situations you present? What will the dice results generate during play? And so on.

On one level, it’s a nightmare and I should avoid RPGs like the plague. But, of course, RPGs are highly enjoyable because they involve my friends. I like friends and hanging out playing these games is loads of fun.

Being in charge is even worse because it triggers my social anxiety. That is, my imagined self-image is problematic because I often get worried about the uncertainties around how other people view me.

How are they judging me in this situation? What do they think? As much as I might like to believe I can mind-read and predict my friend’s thoughts and feelings, the truth is that I can’t. Thus, uncertainty. Therefore, anxiety.

I have noticed that in the post-pandemic world of roleplaying, where we game almost-exclusively online, this is worse. My theory is that anxiety between-sessions is worse because most of it is conducted via email, Discord, and text using only words. The same words that are only 7% of human communication.

Words without tone or body language are limited. That’s probably why the emoji got invented, a poor substitute for body language but what we currently have. Limited to just interpreting the words, my highly sensitive uncertainty radar goes haywire. I read all sorts of tones and meanings into the words I read. This triggers anxiety which, in turn, tempts me to go hide.

The best solution I have found has been the Zoom call with cameras on. This gives me some of the body language (the face, at least), the tone of voice, and the words. It’s not like being in the room but it is better. Well, as long as I turn off my camera’s self-view and avoid triggering my social anxiety about how I look.

Between-session anxiety is a thing I struggle with. The best counter is to have a chat with the players, either one-to-one or in small groups. Even better is when we use cameras. I don’t know if that’s helpful to anyone else, but you are still going to judge this post either way.

Game on!


  1. no judgement here: everyone is different, and how they react to things is going to be different. All I can say is remember to breath, and if your friends are like mine, there is no judgement on you – we’re all here to have fun and play games in a shared fantasy world.

    We’ve been playing on-line without cameras, and I also find that harder as well. Not in the anxious part exactly, but it is hard to tell exactly how people are reacting with just voice and occasional text messaging in the channel. While I’d prefer video when not screensharing, the others don’t want to do that.

    Anyway – breath and believe in yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Craig – I am basically fine and the healthy thing is that I have been able to identify the difficulty, which means I can address it steadily too. Part of addressing this anxiety is to express it and that’s how the blog helps me. Good the hear I am not alone.

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. It’s deeply appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing. While I wouldn’t wish anxiety upon anyone, I find it both interesting and comforting to read about the experiences of others.

    I can see how online play without cameras would be trying. Despite the pandemic, I still haven’t dabbled with online play. I actually find in-person games, where I’m the GM, to be the time when I feel about as anxiety free as ever. While I’m glad folks are able to enjoy online play, I haven’t been drawn to it.

    I share your challenge with between session anxiety. I currently have two groups stalled because I’ve convinced myself that my players “just aren’t enjoying things enough” and are probably “just too polite” to stop coming. The logical part of me knows that this is nonsense but I’ll be damned if it’s not difficult to reach out and get things jump started again.

    At any rate, thank you again for sharing and giving us all a regular stream of interesting content. I know the anxiety can be a drag but please know that you are appreciated. Good gaming.


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