Saturday, September 14, 2013

Table Rules

Rule 3 obviously doesn't apply.
Every week your group sits down at the table together to play a game, and whether that’s Vampire the Masquerade or Dungeons and Dragons, the goal is to have fun.  However, we are in close proximity to each other and eventually people will start to grate on each other.  Table rules are the usually unspoken rules that everyone at the table agrees on during a game.  These have nothing to do with the game’s rules, what dice you’re going to roll, or the how much HP your character has left.  They exist to make the game run more smoothly, and they help us all get along.  Table rules are the social contract of the gaming table. 
            Below I’ve listed the house rules that over the years I’ve developed so that my games run more smoothly.  These work at my table, but they may not be the best for you.  For example, a group of all smokers certainly won’t use my first rule.  What I do recommend is that as a group, the players and the Storyteller, should determine the table rules that work for them and write them down.  Everyone should get a say in creating the table rules.  They shouldn’t be the unspoken rules that you discover along the way.  By addressing the issue at the start of a game, you have a chance to stop problems before they start. 
Your list of rules shouldn't be bigger than a law textbook. 

1.  No Tobacco or tobacco products. 

I hate the smell of cigarette smoke, and the only thing more disgusting than smoking is seeing someone spit black tarry nastiness into a cup.  We have to sit around a table for upwards of 4 hours, I don’t want to spend that time coughing.  If you need to smoke, you can step outside and take a smoke broke. 

2.  No Alcohol.

Some adult gamers like to have a beer while they are playing a game, but I’ve always been uncomfortable around people who are drinking.  It’s part of my background.  I ask players not to drink alcoholic beverages during because people tend to start acting silly when they get a little buzzed. 

3.  If you’re going to be late, call.

I’m not a college student anymore with tons of free time.  I have other responsibilities and so do the other players.  I understand if you are going to be late for a game because something came up at the last minute.  I understand if you can’t make a session because there is an emergency, but you should call and let the group know. 

4.  Put away your smartphones and handheld games.

There is nothing more annoying than looking up from my notes and seeing the entire table staring at their phones while we’re trying to game.  I’ve been guilty of this myself as a player, too, but I now realize that it’s rude to the GM/Storyteller and to others at the table.  We only have so many hours a week to play an RPG so please put away your phones and DSes and so forth.  Yes I understand that you might need to take a call, do that.  But Twitter and Facebook can wait until there’s a break in the action.

5.  Have good personal hygiene.

The smelly gamer is a sad, unfortunate stereotype that continues to persist, but we can stamp out this cliché.  I really shouldn’t have to say this, and I hate to be rude.  However, please, shower before you come to the game.  Put on some deodorant.  At the gaming table, we sit in close proximity to each other.  If you don’t shower or take care of your personal hygiene, everyone else at the table is going to smell it.   No one wants to smell your horrible, disgusting, sickening body odor.  So, bathe, please.  The gaming community thanks you. 

6.  Contribute snacks and sodas.

Gaming is hard work, and gamers need the right diet to perform at their best.  However, it’s not fair when only one or two people consistently provide snacks and sodas that everyone eats.  Don’t be the guy mooching off his friends kindness.  Be mindful of the things that rest of the group likes.  If someone prefers diet sodas, buy at least one diet drink.  If someone is diabetic and can’t eat sugary snacks, don’t tempt them by bringing only pixie sticks and Smarties to the table.  Some groups like to rotate who is responsible for bringing sodas and snacks.  In my group, everyone brought one or two snacks or a 2-Liter each week. 

7.  Be Respectful to Others.

Don’t be a jerk.  Don’t be a racist, sexist, jerk.  Think about what you say, what your character says, what your character does.  Being in character isn’t an excuse to do whatever you want or say whatever you want.  Think about the feelings of others around the table.  And most importantly think about what effect your words and actions are going to have on people around the table.  That rape joke you read on 4chan before the game might have been funny, but it’s not appropriate to repeat at the table.  

8.  Keep table talk to a minimum. 

We’re gamers, and we like to talk about games, our favorite episode of Game of Thrones, the newest Pokemon game, and on and on and on.  But like I said before, we have a finite amount of time for role playing.  Talking about the latest episode of Dr. Who for 20 minutes is going to eat into the time that the group has set aside for role playing.  And you might not believe it, but not everyone around the table likes Dr. Who.  I’m not saying that players can’t joke or laugh.  The purpose of a game is to have fun; nevertheless, save the argument about your favorite time lord for after the game.  I plan for 30 minutes of time prior to a session for players to chat and catch up.  After that, I want to focus on the game, not Matt Smith. 
Who is this guy?  And why does he have a Flock of Seagulls haircut? 
            Table Rules aren’t written in stone.  Over time, you and your group should add, remove, or change these rules to reflect how your table has changed.  Find the rules that work at your table and for you and your players.  And if you’ve already come up with your own table rules, please share them in the comments below.  Whether they are silly or serious, I'd love to hear them!


  1. I follow similar rules, despite being a smoker myself. Players just need to be aware that if you want to scheme and plot behind the other players back, you need to step outside with me while I have a cigarette during the meeting.

    Depending on the group I'm playing with, I'm a bit more liberal with rule 2. Having a beer or two isn't a deal breaker for me, and we've been known to have a group celebratory shot after a particularly nasty battle. My only rule with drinking is: do NOT pre-game. It's one thing to have a few drinks at the table, and by the end be a little tipsy. It's another to show up tipsy and end the session full out drunk!

    1. I'm not against drinking at the table, but I like having that rule. I've always found it better to have a rule and liberally enforce it than not have the rule. I just had a Southern Baptist upbringing. No one drank in the house were I grew up. So I've never been comfortable around alcohol. I've never had a drink myself. I don't care that other people do drink, but I'd rather not have "Full out drunk" people at my table.

  2. Yes, please shower and put on some deodorant! There is nothing worse than 6 sweaty guys sitting around a table for 5 hours stinking it up.

    1. The sweaty, stink gamer stereotype needs to die! I should just go around conventions and Febreeze people who stink.

  3. Cause Flock of Seagulls is an awesome band!!!!