There are a lot of rules governing what a character can and can’t do. But what about players? Are there any rules that should apply to us?

I have been particularly fortunate where it comes to finding good gaming groups. All of the people in those groups have been considerate and a joy to game with. But I have read a lot of posts, on various forums, from people describing less than ideal experiences.

Hereafter is a list of some of the behavior people have reported to be disruptive to their games:

  • Cell Phones – Constant ringing, lengthy or frequent conversations.
  • Facebook – Posting a status update, checking friends’ status updates, playing Farmville.
  • Twitter – Sending Tweets or checking your feed.
  • Surfing the Web – Doing something other than focusing on the game.
  • On-Line Games – Too busy fighting monsters in WoW to fight monsters at the table.
  • On-Line Information – Making everyone wait while you check a rule on some site.
  • OOC Chatter – Talking about work/school/etc is boring to those not involved and can be done easily on the phone some other time.
  • Music – Some groups love music at the table. Some don’t.
  • Television – Always a distraction.
  • Children – A friend’s daughter was at our games from the time she was born till she was old enough to join in and was never a problem. But I’ve heard stories of screaming children running rampant while the game was in session.
  • People Present But Not Playing – This can be very inhibiting, let alone distracting.
  • Homework – If you need to do homework, go home.
  • Housework – Doing dishes, laundry, picking up toys, running around the house doing errands.
  • Food/Beer Runs – There’s never enough time to game. Don’t waste it running errands that should have been done in advance.
  • Rules-Lawyering – Making everyone wait while you look up a rule (If you want a ruling, ask the DM. If you don’t agree, talk to her about it after the session).
  • Showing Up Late – Wasting everyone’s time.
  • Leaving Early – Wasting everyone’s time.
  • Not Being Prepared – Be sure to bring what you need to the game.
  • Not Knowing Your Character – Making everyone wait while you look up what your character can do.
  • Not Paying Attention – If you don’t know what’s going on, how can you react accordingly?
  • Bickering/Flirting – Never appropriate at the table (not that I haven’t been guilty of both).
  • Pets – If everyone enjoys having a cat jump in their lap, or having a dog’s nose in their crotch, then no worries. If anyone feels otherwise, then either the pets, or those that object to them, should probably be elsewhere.
  • Focusing On Treasure – Treasure is a large part of the game, but worrying about who gets what when you should be swinging your sword can cause problems.

I agree with some of those more than others, but they all have merit. What’s important is that each group work out what is acceptable for them. I’ve written up a brief list of suggestions.

Social Contract

  • Turn off all cell phones
  • No electronic devices of any kind (except for the DM, who requires access to a greater amount of game-related information).
  • Commit to the scheduled times (show up on time, don’t leave early)
  • Stay focused on the game (no homework, magazine reading, etc)
  • Put large dogs in another area. If anyone objects to smaller dogs, put them in another area as well. If anyone objects to your cats, ask them to leave (honestly, do you want to be friends with someone who doesn’t like cats?).
  • The DM has the final word during the session. Discuss ruling disputes outside of the session.
  • No young children without group consent. No non-participants
  • Be prepared. Bring whatever gaming supplies, food, and drinks you will need to get through the session.
  • Know your character’s abilities. Know, in advance, what your character will do when it becomes your turn.
  • Wear pants at the gaming table.

I’m sure that’s not an all-inclusive list. Nor is it appropriate to all groups. Most groups I’ve been in are very casual and talk OOC constantly throughout the game. Others (from what I hear) are very strict about being in-character 100% of the time. Find what works for your group.