Rules of Engagement

Published 12/6/20

Be the Best You Can be

It shouldn't be a surprise that when you go to the gaming table regardless if you are a player, DM or an observer, you want to bring your best self to the game. Everyone who sits around the table contributes to the creation of the story. Working together using the tools and brains of everyone is one of the key components of making sure that the story you are working on together is fun, everyone is engaged and everyone WANTS to be there. This following article is some of the the things I expect as a GM/DM/Keeper to make sure that everyone is having the best time they can have.

DM Wolfsfox's Basic Guide to Players Etiquette

As a DM, there are a thousand and one things that I am in charge of and need to keep track of when it comes to my games and my players.

Listed below are some of the expectations that I have for my players at my table (both online and in person).

  1. I expect my players to be at least 10 minutes prior to our starting time. Prior to Covid, the house would be open an hour before our scheduled gaming time and when it comes to my Roll 20 table I am on 15 minutes in advance.

Why? With online gaming now I want us to fix any tech issues before game so we don't loose gaming time due to one or more individuals not being able to use tech. When we were seeing people in person, and still now online we want to make sure that everyone, including me, has time to catch up with each other and share any news. As much as I love gaming, I also love my friends and want to hear about them as well before their character personas take over.

  1. I ask that my online players wear headphones for the general comfort and sanity of all who are playing.

Why? Feedback, background noises, pets, and just other people co existing in spaces can lead to lots of un-needed distractions. One configuration of my Call of Cthulhu group is currently on hold due to this rule. There is nothing more frustrating than players using tech that makes you hear everyone 4 times with feedback, or people not using headphones and doing other things while not fully paying attention to the game. All the noise with no headphones ended up making a player sick and within 15 minutes we had to call it quits.

  1. I ask that players (online) refrain from eating snacks or having side conversations on mic.

Why? IN PERSON gaming snacks are fine, but when you have a microphone and not push to talk... everyone can hear the munch crunching of doom . Nothing like having an epic speech ruined by Doritos. The time to eat is when you are muted or push-to-talk

  1. I ask that players follow initiative order, taking turns in the spotlight and not talking over others.

  2. Turns should be kept to a reasonable amount of time. If a player does not know what they are doing they should hold their action to keep the game going in a reasonable fashion.

My rule with this is: If it comes to a players turn and I have said their name twice, and there is no response in 15 seconds I skip them. If a player, who has acknowledged that they know it's their initiative, does not come up with a plan within 30 seconds their turn is skipped.

Why? I have a visual posting of the initiative order in both my digital and in-person games sessions. It is everyone's understanding that if you are a caster you should know what spells you have and what they do, everyone knows what gear/items and abilities they have to use in combat and puzzle based situations. If there is an initiative order you know who is in front of you and have everyone else's terns to figure out what you would like to do. Now I understand that sometimes players move or do crazy things that can mess up other players plans and I am more than happy in those situations to give more time for proper planning to be made, but if you are just doing basic weapon attacks or a spell from your spell book I expect you to know what to do.

Too many times have I had spell casters NOT know what their spells do (such as a druid trying to cast a spell that takes and hour to cast do have it happen in one round) or try to pick spells that they don't know/have prepared. Phones are the devil of a distraction and if your memes are more important than knowing where you are in imitative I feel less upset if you miss your turn due to your own actions.

  1. Discuss actions in character and do not metagame. Discuss and plan as your characters would using their knowledge/skills/abilities.

Why? I have my players refer to each other as their character personas. This makes it easier to understand that it's their characters having these discussions/personalities/traits rather than the people sitting in the chairs. If there is a big battle to have happen, then your characters are the ones making the important decisions. If your group is not being stealthy and talking about how to rob a store they are currently standing in, the shop keep is going to react. This also leads into my rule of once something has been said at the table, that action or speech happens in game because that is what the character said or did.

  1. Dice should be rolled and then not moved/adjusted until after the math has been done and the turn is over.

Why? This way if people need to reference the numbers used and a player forgets they can simply look at the die and see the number again. Also, when players slide their dice, its easy to change the numbers. When I was working with my younger students and teaching them how to play D&D this was a very important concept. Even if the dice rolls to the other side of the table, it stays until your turn is over and all damage or skill checks have been accounted for.

Guidelines for Good Gaming

This next bit has a little story behind it. When one of my gaming groups was having issues with a few people at my table I tried to find a suitable guideline to share with my players to help them understand what actions I was expecting at my table. Every single group I run I have my basic guide to players etiquette and my house rules posted and I ask that my group initial that they read it and agree to follow those things. Unfortunately I found that there were things leaking into the game room that was souring the experience for me and for other people at my table. Scrolling through Pinterest I found a beautifully grainy and blurry picture of something called the "Guidelines for Good Gaming" pinned by user Robert Morris. Clicking on this picture or doing a google search brings up this only image, but there is no name on it to who to give credit to. I decided that this thing that Mr. Morris posted is the thing that I hoped would make some of my players understand why we come to the table better and I created my own version of it, which I am posting here. The main difference between my Guidelines and the original image is my third column is a bit different from the original that focuses on the dice.

Guidelines for Good Gaming - Making the Game Fun for Everyone-

GM Expectations

The GM’s “job” is to make the game fun and engaging for all of the players at the table.

With this in mind:

  • It is their job to show no favoritism between players in adjusting rules

  • When the rules get in the way of the fun, the rules may be changed and/or ignored at that moment

  • Because they are responsible for both presenting and revealing various secrets, mysteries and plot twist the GM does not need to justify or explain their decisions, in-game events, or NPC behavior

  • They may roll dice openly or in private, as seen fit

  • They are responsible for pacing of the story, and may slow down, skip over, or speed up events as needed

  • It is the GM’s job to run the modules, monsters and know the stats. Please have faith that they can run it and not look up things that could ruin the game for you or other people via spoilers.

The GM may be playing the villains but they are rooting for the players…

Player Expectations

The players “job” is to help tell a story that is entertaining- for themselves AND their fellow players.

With this in mind:

  • Conflict between characters is part of the story but the conflict between players should be resolved elsewhere in a civil manner

  • The players are all here to relax and have a good time with friends. Activities, behaviors and conversations that make players uncomfortable at the game table should be avoided.

  • Players should always keep player knowledge separate from character knowledge

  • Everyone at the table is part of the story, make sure everyone is in the spotlight and that you are engaging all your fellow players.

  • You are in charge of your character. Make sure that you are engaged as your character and are keeping the flow of play going knowing what your character abilities are and your spells for the day

  • You are your character at the table, discuss actions and your “quotes” as much as you can in character.

  • As your character it is important to know your character weapons, damages, actions/spells/attacks etc. If you are not familiar with them make sure you are looking at them during down time, not during the middle of your turn or holding up the story.

  • You as a player are valuable. Play to group strengths, remember this is a group effort, don't use things that disables their effectiveness

The players may be playing individual characters but they are rooting for the team...

Table Expectations

The job of the dice is to introduce a fun, fair and calculated element of chance to the story. The table is our playing field as we create a fun and crazy story together.

With this in mind:

  • We are here to play the game, please refrain from using electronic devices or doing other activities that are not related to the game that could distract or take you out of the immersion.

  • Bring your best self forward, this is a game where everyone can have fun. Bring a good attitude and enjoy yourself.

  • Follow initiative order, make sure where you are in the order, have your plan in place, if you are going to hold an action make sure you are paying attention to the field

  • Keep your turn to a reasonable amount of time, do not disrupt the flow of play. Taking an extremely long time to take your turn is inconsiderate, other people want to play

  • Imposing house rule of 15 seconds to decide what your character is going to do during initiative or you will be skipped

  • if you are not paying attention and can't be called to attention you will be skipped

  • You are aware of initiative order after the first round, be vigilant of who is in front of your initiative and plan during other people’s turns.

  • Play to what your character knows (no metagaming, no retconning if your character learns something and doesn’t like it)

  • This includes looking things up, unless you have my permission. I should NEVER see you looking up the stats to my monsters during games, neither should I see you looking up things about our modules. It not only ruins the game for you, but others at the table as well.

  • There is a lot of math in the game. Please give calculated damages via type (by type meaning total piercing, electrical etc. which can be super helpful if the creature(s) has resistances to certain damages). The GM has lots of math of their own to take care of please help by doing your math as well.

  • Bad rolls happen to everyone, but please bring your best self forward.

  • No poor attitudes. We are all adults. Shit happens but it's you who can decide if you make a poor roll positive or not. Take bad rolls in stride.

  • bad rolls can be turned into amusing moments. Not every 1 has to be nothing, or misses

  • If you have poor attitudes and have been given reminders you will be removed from the group and excluded from future groups

We are all in this together to have fun.