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Why "Don't be a d$#&!" is bad advice.


Gamer Talk


Just catching up on my ars ludi reading, and really enjoyed his article Walk a Mile in Their Dice. It speaks pretty plainly about why telling someone not to be a d!ck is, logically, probably some terrible advice.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

"Don't be a dick," isn't 'advice' you give at-the-table after problems have started. It's meant as a preemptive statement meant to foster the proper cooperative mindset needed for group harmony.

The article mentions DBAD as 'Social Rule 0', which I'd say is accurate. However the author's argument almost seems off-track as they instead frame their argument as if DBAD was 'Diplomacy Step 0' — it's not.

To use a gaming analogy, DBAD is sort of like a modifier that helps determine the initial attitude of a Diplomacy encounter. If the 'encounter' (i.e. problem player) has been heeding DBAD, then their starting attitude may be indifferent or better. If not, it is likely unfriendly or worse. Only after that initial attitude has been determined, can the actual advice come into play as an attempt to adjust attitudes and diplomatically resolve the situation.

Therefore, while the author is absolutely right that DBAD is terrible advice in terms of resolving conflict, it's a flawed argument because DBAD is not intended to be a statement to resolve conflict at all. "Talk to your players" is 'Diplomacy Rule 0' for resolving a player conflict, DBAD is just general advice for the attitude with which everyone should approach the table.


It's also a statement about game design. Any moderately complex game has to assume the DBaD rule is in effect. Otherwise every possible exploit or gray area in the rules must be covered to prevent the dicks from abusing it.


Laithoron wrote:
"Don't be a dick," isn't 'advice' you give at-the-table after problems have started. It's meant as a preemptive statement meant to foster the proper cooperative mindset needed for group harmony.

Yeah, it sounds like the guy is taking the statement too literally; telling someone "don't be a jerk" is not intended as a piece of constructive criticism.

I also disagree that the case where a guy has some sort of persecution complex is "far, far, far more common". I'd say the most common case is "abrasive personality" or "obnoxiousness", not "malice" or "misunderstanding".


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Hogarth: Agreed. I will give him that trying to understand others IS important (if not vital) for achieving a harmonious table. However, that's where the old 3.5 synergy bonuses come into play (Sense Motive => Diplomacy). :)

BTW, one of the commentors posted a thoughtful response on their own blog: Rule 00 - Don't Be a Dick. I felt it resonated more closely with my feelings on the matter.

Star Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Word to Laithoron and hogarth.

I don't think anyone actually SAYS "don't be a dick" if someone has broken the "rule"--once it's been broken you have to have a more complex conversation to resolve the issue -- or if it cannot be resolved, kick the offender out for breaking the "DBAD" rule which was presumably established before the game started.


Actually, I remember one of my old GMs looking across the table at a disruptive player and saying, "B--, don't be a dick."

At the time it got laughs from the rest of us, and in the context of this thread it's even funnier.

And it is good advice. If you want the rest of the gamers at the table to work with you and not against you... don't be a dick. It's just good sense.


I'd just like to say, great conversation here. It's the whole reason I posted the links, to get some varying ideas, and my community did not disappoint. Good points all the way around.

I think it begs the question though, how often, when we're starting up a new campaign with players, do we actually say "we're going to be playing with the presumption that people will not be jerks." Or, do we just start and assume people aren't going to be jerks, and play on until one person presents themselves as such. If that's the case, making a preemptive statement that people not be jerks seems like great hindsight. Of course, that also brings with it the downfall of having a negative connotation amongst people. Someone might think, "if he has to actually tell me not to be a jerk ahead of time, he must think I'm a jerk." In which case that person might be looking for ways and means to prove that, in fact, you (the person who told everyone not to be jerks) are a jerk. In that sense it feels almost like a catch-22 where you're damned if you do, and damned it you don't.


I usually don't give my players a talk when I start a new campaign, but on occasion I've had to caution people not to create certain sorts of characters; the lone-wolf sort that doesn't work with a party is an example. And that has more to do with the mood of certain players when the game begins than with a need to say "don't be a jerk".

Generally we're a pretty cooperative bunch. We're in it for fun, and we don't have to be told to help make sure everybody is enjoying themselves. Maybe I'm just lucky.


Jerry Wright 307 wrote:

I usually don't give my players a talk when I start a new campaign, but on occasion I've had to caution people not to create certain sorts of characters; the lone-wolf sort that doesn't work with a party is an example. And that has more to do with the mood of certain players when the game begins than with a need to say "don't be a jerk".

Generally we're a pretty cooperative bunch. We're in it for fun, and we don't have to be told to help make sure everybody is enjoying themselves. Maybe I'm just lucky.

Yeah, I'm sure it's much more of a thing when it's a new group of players and or a new GM. In that situation it really does become that catch-22, though. Does a new GM address a bunch of new players right off the bat and say "don't be a jerk."?


As you have already indicated, saying that might well create issues. But it doesn't have to be said that way.

You can say "This is a cooperative game. I would like to see a party of characters who work well together, and who are mutually supportive. We want to keep the campaign going, and disruptions can be a problem. So please, if you have issues in the future, talk with me about them."

Sure, you're talking about the characters, but there is a subtle implication that players are a part of that. Diplomacy is difficult to teach (you have to learn it by doing, and the situation varies with every new person involved), but this might be a good start.

Star Voter 2013

hogarth wrote:
I also disagree that the case where a guy has some sort of persecution complex is "far, far, far more common". I'd say the most common case is "abrasive personality" or "obnoxiousness", not "malice" or "misunderstanding".

+1

I also disagree with Ben Robbins in his case #1. Sure, the malicious guy can ignore "don't be a jerk", but it's a known rule for a reason, you can get kicked from tables because of it.

For case #2, if you seriously feel the need to be a dick, and the GM doesn't understand, either the problem is with YOU, or you should find another table (of non-jerks). If it's a misunderstanding, ask questions to find out if it is a misunderstanding, in a non-jerk way. If you can't do that in a non-jerk way, you're definitely part of the problem.

I find people have a history of jerk behavior or they have lots of "misunderstandings", these things are not one-shot problems. And some people are just suited to gaming with certain people rather than others.


Why play with people who are likely to be jerks?
Screen your players in advance, I say!

Paizo Employee Sales Imp

I recognize what the linked article is trying to say, but I disagree. I still think they are very good words to live by.

I've always looked upon this particular aphorism, Wheaton's Law, as a modern day rephrasing of the Golden Rule. While there are plenty of issues that stem from basing an entire ethos on it, the idea of treating people how you would like to be treated and not treating people as you would not like to be treated is a good place to start.

The key here is that it places the responsibility for proper social behavior upon each person themselves. It's not a case of "HEY, YOU! Don't be a jerk!". It's a case of: "I will refrain from acting in a way that others may perceive as being jerkish. I will not respond in a jerkish way if I see others acting in a way I perceive as jerkish. I will try to be cognizant of others' reactions to my behavior and change it if they think I'm being a jerk."

We must all be responsible for our own behavior, and conduct ourselves in a civil manner. We can try to communicate to others when they are being jerks, but it's our responsibility to communicate this in a way that is not jerkish itself.

Therefore, perhaps I do agree with the article. The "Don't be a jerk" aphorism is not good advice. It is, rather, a good guideline. Perhaps even good enough to put a reminder at the bottom of every page on our messageboards for everyone to read before they post. :)

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What if my PC is named Richard, or Dick?

Scarab Sages Dedicated Voter 2013, Dedicated Voter 2014

Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
CapeCodRPGer wrote:
What if my PC is named Richard, or Dick?

Then it is probably meant as warning that you start to display symptoms of blurring the lines between fantasy and reality ;-)


I don't think it's bad advice, but it is often overused and misunderstood by the people proffering it.


Clearly many here have never had to deal with difficult people as a career, or go to various workshops with titles like How to Deal with Difficult People.

It should be common sense that you don't start conversations or fix problems by telling people not to be d1cks, but here's a little friendly advice from somebody who had to deal with Angry Clueless Genius Professors at a major university on a daily basis.

Don't use terms like "calm down." This is usually interpreted by the receiving party as you believing they cannot control themselves and that you think you can condescend to them. Instead, say things like "we need to all settle down and act maturely about this."

Note the "we" in that sentence? This brings up another good tactic, which is not to sound accusatory. Don't say YOU all the time. Say WE. Take ownership of the situation. It takes two to tango, so own up to it, and say WE need to work on this/WE need to be mature/WE need to settle this problem before we go on.

Don't call names. OBVIOUSLY. Use the person's real name when addressing them. Remind them you are on their side, and this is just a minor thing. There are no good guys or bad guys here. WE are just having a disagreement, but I KNOW WE BOTH are here for the SAME REASON, and WE BOTH want to FIX THIS.


Bruunwald wrote:

Clearly many here have never had to deal with difficult people as a career, or go to various workshops with titles like How to Deal with Difficult People.

It should be common sense that you don't start conversations or fix problems by telling people not to be d1cks, but here's a little friendly advice from somebody who had to deal with Angry Clueless Genius Professors at a major university on a daily basis.

Don't use terms like "calm down." This is usually interpreted by the receiving party as you believing they cannot control themselves and that you think you can condescend to them. Instead, say things like "we need to all settle down and act maturely about this."

Note the "we" in that sentence? This brings up another good tactic, which is not to sound accusatory. Don't say YOU all the time. Say WE. Take ownership of the situation. It takes two to tango, so own up to it, and say WE need to work on this/WE need to be mature/WE need to settle this problem before we go on.

Don't call names. OBVIOUSLY. Use the person's real name when addressing them. Remind them you are on their side, and this is just a minor thing. There are no good guys or bad guys here. WE are just having a disagreement, but I KNOW WE BOTH are here for the SAME REASON, and WE BOTH want to FIX THIS.

Thank you Bruunwald. I will use this advice at work.


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I say, good sirs and ladies, this thread is most offensive and insulting to me!


It really is just a mindset to get everyone into. DBAD is a particularly crude way of putting it, but another way of putting it is, "We work together not against each other". Outside of cooperative rpgs, there are games where it is not only perfectly acceptable to be a dick, but also expected to excel. There are actually games where throughout the game you have to screw around with each other. In D&D and Pathfinder, that usually just gets the whole group killed and frustrated. That's why it's important to establish how you're going to play.

Sure there's the chance that the person you're telling to quit their douchery behavior will react with a so what attitude; you shouldn't play with them ever and just kick them out. However, sometimes the player just didn't realize they were pissing people off and just needed a wake up call; sometimes the player just thought it was part of the game.

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