RPG Gaming Etiquette

So, in the interest of trying to make everyone’s experience at the gaming table better and better, it came to mind that there is one thing that should be addressed, because there are a LOT of people out there that are especially guilty of doing the things I am going to cover in this article.  AS you know by the title I am talking about Gaming Etiquette (duh, title).  But I am also going to look at the difference between manners and etiquette.  Each point where I am able to provide guidance I have, but please if you have any extra options, please register and comment below.

Manners Vs Etiquette

So instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, here are the relevant definitions of these words from dictionary.com.

Manners:

  • ways of behaving with reference to polite standards; social comportment.
  • a person’s outward bearing; way of speaking to and treating others.

So basically this is the point where you meet a new person (or group), and how you respond to and with them.  Being polite, courteous and respectful are probably the main takeaways from Manners.  This is HOW you talk to people, how you relate to them, and what things you do that do or do not help you show the same to other people.

Etiquette:

  • conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
  • the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other.

So for the context of table top RPGs, Manner and Etiquette are those expectations everyone has for how the other people at the gaming table with you will behave and act at the gaming table.  So using these as the starting point for a frame work, what are some of the NOPE things players should avoid.

This article is a general over note on the topic, so that it’s scope also includes the online VTT and IRL TTG methods.

Don’t Be A Dick

This SHOULD be a no-brainer, and yet all too often I see people that do this.  Some of the really simple ways that people are dicks include but are in NO way limited to the following:

  • Questioning and commenting on every rule variation in a game.
  • Commenting things like:
    • “Oh, I have never done it that way before.”
    • “I wouldn’t ever do that.”
    • “That’s not how I GM.”
  • Not showing up without letting the GM and the players know you are not coming.
  • Showing up late.
  • Not letting anyone know your first name, and insist that everyone calls you by their character’s name.
  • Not being prepared to play. (Character not ready etc. or left somewhere else).
  • Chatting about stuff not relevant to the game while others are trying to play.
  • More…. (a LOT more)

Let’s look at it this way, if you turn up to a game and do ANY of the above things, you’re a dick.  This is about showing respect to the other players, and the GM.  The GM maybe even more so, as they have usually prepared something for you to adventure in, be it pre-made or something of their own creation.  You showing up not prepared, or when you do you interrupt the game, or question every decision by the GM, you are showing a MASSIVE amount of disrespect, and  you’re being a dick.  This is DOUBLY so if you are new to joining a group, be it for a once off, or to join a campaign.

GMs spend a LOT of time getting ready to run a game, the other players too to a lesser extent.  But the GM sets the world, and since every GM has a different play style, even if it’s only a small change, we are ALL different, and our game expectations vary similarly.  If you are coming into a group, that is already running, and the rules are in play, don’t comment.  Just play the game, and your character, and go with it.  If all you do is sit there and comment on every rule:

  1. You’re being a dick;
  2. You’re disrupting the flow of the game and the story;
  3. You are showing a complete lack of respect for:
    1. the GM who has made everything possible;
    2. and the other players who have agreed to have you join them.

Also, this is something I think EVERYONE should know:

So as a player, your obligation is to sit down, get the PC ready if not already done, and have fun.  Don’t bitch and moan about everything.  Instead, how about you just try and enjoy it, rather than being a dick.

Show Respect & Be Grateful

There are a lot of ways to show respect.  Firstly there is the obvious ones of actually saying thanks to the GM, and the other players. 

But there are even more ways of showing Disrespect.  All of the Don’t Be A Dick points above are a good start, then you can add to that things like:

  • Talking about non game pertinent topics.
  • Talking about other game stuff, not the game you are in though.
  • Using your phone when at the table, and not for the game.
  • Talking over people that are trying to do something.
  • Interrupting when others are doing stuff for any reason.
  • More…

There are a lot of ways to show a LACK of respect, but there are only a couple that need to be known to show respect to everyone else at the table.

  1. Wait your turn.
  2. Put your <insert distracting item> away.
  3. Pay attention to what’s going on.
  4. Bring everything with you you will need to play.
  5. If you are late, or if you are sick, let the GM know as soon as you can.  Or if something comes up. 

There are also a lot of ways to show gratitude for a gaming session.  Firstly, the easiest way, just say “Thanks!”.  One single syllable.  But there are other ways of doing it too.  This is MOSTLY for table top game sessions IRL.  Online games literally the easiest thing is the best, thank the GM and the other players, because without them, there would BE no game.

Some games also have other things they do, not game wise, but IRL playing style wise.  One of my old groups, due to the day, and time(s) we played, had a thing where we would all bring one plate of food to share, and we’d mix it up.  It was our lunch for the day, and not only did it make sure we had a healthier lunch than pizzas, and more variety, it also made the group more together, because we stopped playing while we ate, and just talked.  I am still friends with those at that table that are still alive.  Be respectful of this, and if you don’t bring something, don’t take anything.  If you want to join in, do it fully.  Another game I went to, a couple of the players took turns at baking for everyone, trying to out do each other….we ALL got a little softer after a few sessions in that group…

There are other ways to show appreciation.  A lot of GMs hold to the buying a gift for the GM.  Some, lkike me, think that’s a little too self serving.  As a GM I have a lot of fun in trying to get a good story told with the players, so mostly that is my reward.  But if you DID want to thank the GM, my suggestion is to have everyone chip in, and buy the GM a module for the game you are playing, or if the group wants to expand out a bit, get a rule book for another system so you can play.  This is more of a gift to the GROUP, because they all get to enjoy it (hopefully).

Another way for the players to show appreciation, is to take the GMs chair for a session or two, and let the GM have a break, and a change of pace.  Maybe play a different game system, or just a different campaign.  In my current group, two of the pther players, also regularly GM.  We have a rotating roster so we can all play together, AND we have a couple of different settings and systems, we have two D&D (one is a HomeBrew, the other a pre-made module from Wizards) and we play a Cyberpunk game as well, set in Chicago.  By having that chance to play as well as GM, I don’t feel burned out, and I feel appreciated. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, I will go as simple as I can.  Here is a video by Matt Mercer from Geek & Sundry and Critical Roll.  He covers a few other points fairly succinctly, and with it I will leave you to watch with a few final word….

GMs: YOU have to show respect to your players as much as they show it to you.  If it’s not reciprocated, then soon the game will get stale.  Also, this is one group of examples, there are many more.  I would suggest that if you don’t think you would like it if someone did it to you, then you don’t do it to other people.

Also, if you find game after game after game has issues, the most likely cause for the problems is YOU, not the others.  If after three or four games you should have found one that suits, if NOT, then the fault is not with the groups it’s is with you.  When you continually find issues with every GM and every game, you’re the issue, and most likely….you’re being a dick.

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