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The Social Contract of PnP RPG's


Gamer Talk


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I've seen a number of threads lately discussing various aspects of character development and player behavior. I'd like to add my thoughts on this, as well as hear your own. This is intended to address issues of interparty conflict (in and out of character), ethics and alignment, house rules, and player expectation. In short, the areas where I see most real-world player conflict develop.

RADU'S GUIDES TO HAPPY ROLEPLAYING

1) You are here to have fun.

This is really a no-brainer. Pathfinder and other RPG's are made to be entertaining games. If you're not being entertained, something is wrong... BUT REMEMBER:

2) You are here to help EVERYONE ELSE have fun, too.

This is really a corollary to rule 1, but it bears saying- this is not a solo experience. If something you're doing is contributing to someone else's unhappiness or giving them a negative experience, you need to figure out what it is and make adjustments accordingly. This is a game, but it is a group activity, not "The Me Show." Directly tied in with this is the concept of playing a character who has a reason to adventure and a reason the other characters adventure with them. Don't bring the Norgorber holy assassin character to the Party of Light trying to cleanse the Worldwound. Don't bring the Judge Dredd Inquisitor to the party of pirates, cuthroats and scoundrels. Don't bring the Lastwall crusader to the party of Apsis Consortium slavers. Be a team player, both in and out of character.

3) Stay engaged and interested, even when your character isn't present.

Cheer at natural 20's and high damage rolls. Groan in sympathy when someone fails a save. Look up rules for players when it's not your turn. In other words: be an active contributor to the game, even when your character isn't. This applies to all situations, combat and non. Stay interested and involved. Take notes, even if your character wouldn't. Why? Because while I may enjoy the 20 int bard, I don't have a perfect memory, and I surely appreciate it when someone can remind me of details my character wouldn't have forgotten but I as a player have.

4) No texting, web surfing, or angry birds.

Really this should go without saying. RPG sessions are for playing RPG's, not for fiddling with tablets, smartphones, and laptops. Don't check your email or facebook during the GM's narration. Don't text when your spellcaster's turn isn't up. PLAY THE GAME you came to play, and save all the toys and distractions for later.

5) Mistakes happen. Accept them and move on.

This is a biggie. Players and GM alike *WILL* make mistakes. We all try to avoid them, but they happen. Don't be resentful or irritable about it. Persistently making the same mistake might be cause for concern, but most of the time it is better to have a short (SHORT!) discussion about things, find a resolution, and agree to address the issue out of game for the next session. Even if you KNOW something is being handled incorrectly it is better to address it in a way that doesn't torpedo the rest of the game night in a rules debate.

6) Spellcaster, Know Thy Spells!

This could be re-phrased as "PC, Know Thyself!" Know your character's capabilities. Class features, feats, skills, magic items- there's a lot to keep track of. Perhaps making some note-cards or putting sticky notes in your rulebooks would help. It is up to you to know and remember what your character can do or be willing and able to look up those rules. Nothing in my experience slows down a game more than someone constantly having to look up what Beast Shape 3 does or forgetting what a feat does... but keep in mind rule 5 as well. Human fallibility happens, and so you should brush off the occasional memory glitches and focus on the chronic amnesiacs in the group.

7) Accept the die roll and resist the temptation to "adjust"

It helps to have a clear understanding of how to handle dice. Some games have a "cock die" rule about dice that land oddly or are strangely balanced on objects on the game table. Some have rules about dice that fall off the table. Figure that out, and then accept whatever roll comes up. Yes, a natural 1 can be terrible sometimes... but it happens. It's going to happen about 5% of the time, in fact. Don't forget that natural 20's happen about 5% of the time, too.

8) No Summoner Geeks at the table!

Or Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or... you get the idea. Different groups have different tolerances for this sort of thing, but generally keeping table talk about extraneous topics, even ones as amusing as Monty Python, to a minim is usually best. In my experience games take a long enough time to get underway that you don't want to derail that process with idle banter. YMMV, and so long as your group agrees with, enjoys, and embraces that style of play I say, "lay on, MacDuff!"

In general, these have done me well. If you object to, disagree with, or have an alternative opinion I'd love to discuss them further. What are your guidelines?


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I agree with most of what you've said, despite often being a breaker of 4. I'd also like to add:

9) The Dungeon Master is playing the game, too.

This is not a game about the players vs. the dungeon master. It's cooperative storytelling in which the DM provides a setting and you develop your characters. A game is doomed to fail the moment the DM tries to "win" the game, or the players blame the DM for storytelling elements and "biases." It's just as important that the DM enjoy the game as it is the players do.

10) Be open and honest as a player.

Your character can be a crafty bastard intent on killing the rest of the party, but you as a player need to be open to your fellow gamers. Don't cheat (ooc), don't steal (ooc), and don't try to trick the DM with clever interpretations of specific rules. Breaking this rule can destroy friendships and gaming groups alike.


11) Decidewhat the campaign is about. This is really the long-term corollary to rule 2. Not the setting, but the style. Is it gritty and realistic heroes in a morally grey world? Is it great big heroes? Is magic everywhere, where people ride on dragon back to the floating city, or should we keep the cursed dire blade because hey magic weapon.

This is a GROUP decision. The greatest character in the world still needs a campaign. Likewise, your brilliant campaign has to attract players.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Great posts! Think I might print some of these off and hang them up. :)


dotting.

12)Be honest with the GM about what you want to play, and how much "help" you want from the GM. Don't say you want the game run on a difficulty scale of 9/10 and then get mad when he does not fudge in your favor. If you want more RP then say so. That way combat will be adjusted. A closed mouth does not get fed.


Paizo Charter Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:

dotting.

12)Be honest with the GM about what you want to play, and how much "help" you want from the GM. Don't say you want the game run on a difficulty scale of 9/10 and then get mad when he does not fudge in your favor. If you want more RP then say so. That way combat will be adjusted. A closed mouth does not get fed.

Oh no!

(runs away)

Sczarni

Dotting.


I'm going to shamelessly steal these, and post them on the front page of one of my younger (both in relative age and RPG experience) group's Obsidian Portal main wiki pages.

Andoran

Great list. I would also like to add one as well.

12.) Please don't be afraid to ask for help.

This is kind of a corollary with item 6, but if you don't know how something works or are not sure of how it relates, then ask the DM and/or your fellow players. Not sure if a spell works the way you think it does? Ask. Everyone else at the table knows what a kobold is, but you don't? Ask!

I mainly find this with newer players who don't want to be embarrassed, but even experienced players will do it on occasion.

Even if you don't disrupt the other players you disrupt your own fun by not being able to immerse yourself in the game.

I do my best to make sure none of my players feel bad about asking questions (unless they don’t learn from the questions, then we go back to rule 6), but I’ve had some people join my group that were reticent to ask when they didn’t understand something.

Shadow Lodge

14) Be open to input, and work on responding with 'yes, and...'

This goes for players and GMs alike. If someone comes up with a creative solution to a problem, allow it. If your GM says your character probably wouldn't act that way, try adapt your behavior accordingly. Either simply change it or come up with a solid RP reason why you're different - both work well. It usually makes the game more fun when the cogs within it have complexities you didn't expect, and those most often come from the others at the table.

Andoran

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As a guy with a nervous wife and two young kids, I have to disagree with #4. If I wasn't at least available by text while I play, playing would not be an option at all. Angry Birds, Facebook, I totally agree with you on those fronts, but remember that different groups embrace technology to differing degrees. For many, it furthers their enjoyment of the game.


As I said, these are my rules and guidelines. They've done me well in the past, but they should absolutely NOT be confused with inflexible mandates.

As Captain Barbosa in the Pirates of the Caribbean says, "they're more.... guidelines."

Some groups have more of a beer-n-pretzels approach to gaming, others a deep roleplay total immersion style. Most typically fall in between.

If there are any specific points you take objection to, I would say that's not cause for an argument but a point to bring up to make sure everyone's on the same page. As long as the first three rules are solid, you can pretty much do whatever you'd like, because the whole fun of the game sometimes is getting together with your mates and sharing a beer, some pizza, rolling some dice (or not) and having a laugh. If the whole game becomes a series of Conan and Star Trek quotes, but smiles were had and no hard feelings generated, then regardless of what happened with the game I'd still consider that night well spent.

Originally this post was in the Pathfinder General forum, and was a direct result of reading a thread on anti-social rogue characters. (I believe if you look for "skimming from the party" or something similar you'll find it.)

It got me thinking about what I consider the most important axioms of good interpersonal relations at the game table are and why I think they're important. It took me a while to come up with those 8 guidelines and find the right way to phrase them. Originally I was going to post something far more nebulous, but I reconsidered. I think it's easier to respond to numbered points, because you can take issue with a rule and call out specifically what aspect you disagree with, like you did with number 4.

I can respect that not all groups have the same needs. You've got kids and that has to come first without a doubt. What I had in mind while writing these out was more along the lines of someone who's constantly fiddling with their phone or ipad during play. If we were in a game I would never presume to tell you what to do, but if it became a frequent issue that was actually disruptive to the game we might have to figure out better arrangements. Maybe I should add a "0" to the list above and say that all of these points are STARTING POINTS for a discussion, not absolutes.

As the only member of my game crew WITHOUT kids, I'd be in a bad way if I tried to seriously hold anyone's feet to the fire over being reachable by phone at the game table!


Great post and resource, dotting and porting for my own players! Thanks so much!


dotting and stealing to print out, fame, and hang on the wall of my gaming room!

Andoran

Love this post. I was forced to implement rule number 4 at my table for awhile. I had players playing games and such on their phones or tablets. I also had one looking up rules so he could correct my rule calls in mid game or mid combat.

That rule is not in place now that it is done to texts or calls that players have to take.

Due to how I sometimes have to babysit on game night for my sister due to her work schedule I have to add.

15) Keep it clean
No language you would object to your children taking home and repeating to others.


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16) Share the spotlight. Sure your Sorcerer may have a Diplomacy skill just as high as the bard, but it's the Bard's "thing". Let the Bard have his thing.


Jeremiziah wrote:
As a guy with a nervous wife and two young kids, I have to disagree with #4. If I wasn't at least available by text while I play, playing would not be an option at all. Angry Birds, Facebook, I totally agree with you on those fronts, but remember that different groups embrace technology to differing degrees. For many, it furthers their enjoyment of the game.

I am in the same situation myself. My wife is almost 8 months pregnant, so it's pretty mandatory that I be available via text at the very least when I'm out gaming.

My groups trust that I'm not sitting there having conversations via text, and if I am texting my wife, at the very least I am cognizant of when my turn comes up in play and my head is still in the game.

But yeah; no facebook/emails, no web surfing, no app games. Period.


I'll have to add:

17) Everybody is here to play the same game. Don't act as if it's a competition between players, and don't create your characters to facilitate it.

Cheliax

18) be on time - nothing worse than having to wait for a late gamer
19) if you can't make it say asap - communication is key, again its bad to wait or have to cancel a session since their hard to organise and time is invested by everyone
20) learn where the lines are - always double check with everyone in your group they are ok with PvP, gritty/mature scenes, romance or what ever that the game throws at you and if they are not comfortable with it, not go there, simple


ulgulanoth wrote:

18) be on time - nothing worse than having to wait for a late gamer

19) if you can't make it say asap - communication is key, again its bad to wait or have to cancel a session since their hard to organise and time is invested by everyone

Why is it so hard for people to understand that they need to call if they're going to be late? Has common courtesy gone out with the onset of texting?


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21) learn how to recognize when it is time to quit


Terquem wrote:
21) learn how to recognize when it is time to quit

Had to do this just last night. I've been running an adventure module I really was not into, and with a baby on it's way here, I needed to cut down on some of my social activities for a while. The players were great, but I was just really not into the adventure, and felt it was time to just bow out.

If a game just isn't fun, or if you find yourself practically looking for reasons to call-off, maybe it's time to call it a day. Fix if possible, but don't drag things out. If it ain't fun, don't play.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules Subscriber

22) You have your own character to play, or many if you're the GM. You shouldn't play someone else's.

This goes for GMs assigning actions, motives, thoughts, and feelings to PCs, players treating NPCs like props that are there for their whims, and players hijacking other players' PC characterizations similarly to the GM example.

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