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© 1998-2001 Dru
All rights reserved.
great deal of the responsibility for running a good roleplaying game lies
on the gamemaster. However, ultimately it's the players who can make or
break a gaming session.
Toward the GM
owe the GM a certain amount of respect. After all, the GM has invested
time, money, and effort into creating an adventure specifically to entertain
his or her players. As far as I know, no GM has found a way to get paid
for this effort (although occasionally my friends promise me that when
they get rich they'll hire me as their full-time gamemasterneedless
to say, I'm not holding my breath). Instead, the GM's "pay"
comes from player appreciation.
Players should, at the
most fundamental level, remember to thank their GM for running the game
after the session is over. A chorus of "thank-you!"s at the
end of a session leaves the exhausted GM with a feeling that all that
work was appreciated.
Players should also
make an effort to learn the rules of the game, so that they don't need
to keep pestering the GM with questions. At least invest in borrowing
and reading the main rulebook.
Similarly, working with
rather than against the GM during the game is always appreciated; that
is, don't interrupt, don't make bad jokes when the GM is trying to build
a mood, and don't engage in non-gaming activities when the game is in
Providing an updated,
hardcopy version of a character's sheet whenever it changes is often appreciated
by GMs, who sometimes like to look over the characters' power levels and
skills when planning a new adventure.
Players can also show
their appreciation in other ways. For example, a gaming group rule like
"the GM never pays for snacks or drinks" might be a nice one
to establish. If every player brings a six-pack of the group's favorite
beverage or a snack of some sort, the GM can be fed with little extra
cost to any one person.
In one of our games,
a player has volunteered to be "special effects guy" and brings
and plays appropriate background music for every scene. The effort shows
appreciation for our GM's hard work by enhancing the different moods the
GM must build while running.
Other ways to thank
a GM might be to purchase the GM the occasional module (unopened, of course!)
or sourcebook for the campaign; paint miniatures for the GM's regular
NPCs; give the GM a break by running a game in which s/he can play once
in a while; or set up a website for the GM's campaign. Anything that indicates
that the players appreciate what the GM is doing will be very welcome.
Player Etiquette Toward Other Players
also need to be polite to each other, of course. At the most fundamental
level, this means making sure everybody has a chance to participate equally
in the game (see also Equal Table Time).
That includes, of course, basic turn-taking and non-interruption rules
the rules of the game is as equally polite to other players as it is to
the GM. Nobody wants to hold up the game to explain the mechanics (that's
already a common enough problem in most RPGs when some obscure rule needs
to be found). If a player is strapped for cash, s/he can borrow the rulebook
from somebody else and read it through. If the player can afford to, s/he
should buy a personal copy. Along the same lines, players should buy a
personal set of dice (or cards, or whatever tools the RPG system requires),
so that it isn't necessary to borrow.
Players should also
make sure they are shouldering their share of the gaming group responsibility.
That is, buying snacks and drinks in equal proportions to everyone else,
or pitching in a fair share of cash for the gaming pizza, etc. Players
with tight finances might volunteer to cook a meal or dessert, which is
often more cost-efficient than buying junk food.
Toward The Game Host
RPG groups play at somebody's apartment or house, but even those games
that are run in the back of a gaming store or in an empty classroom can
benefit from a bit of etiquette.
First, if players rotate
playing game host, then they should make sure everyone takes an equal
turn. If one or two people usually host the game, players should extend
some effort to thank the hosts for letting the gamers use their place.
This is particularly true if the group is using a member's parents' homeremember
to thank the parentsor if there's a nongaming spouse or significant
other involvedthank that person for being patient enough to tolerate
Second, polite players
will make sure the host's house (or store, or classroom) is clean when
they leave. That means that they should pick up any trash they've contributed
to the mess and make sure it's properly deposited in trash cans or the
sink or dishwasher, instead of left around the gaming table or room. Spills
and stains should be cleaned up, too.
Third, players should
help the host put the gaming area back into orderpick up miniatures,
wipe down the battlemat, help lug books back to the shelves, and so forth.
Players might occasionally volunteer to take out overflowing trash bags
or wash the dishes piling up in the sink if the mess is particularly awful.
Other players might consider dealing with the trash and dishes to be the
host's responsibility in return for the privilege of not having to commute
to the game. It's a negotiable point.
When the game takes
place in a gamer's parent's home, putting the house back into order is
essential. No non-gaming mother or father wants to step out the next morning
to be greeted by the usual post-RPG detritus strewn across the kitchen
or living room.
If the host is a gaming
shop, library, or other public area, gamers should be sure to leave it
spotless. After all, such gamers are representing RPGers everywhere.
(or "mundanes," as some of us rather irreverently call them)
often don't quite understand roleplaying. Yet rare is the gaming group
that doesn't need to deal with them in some way or another as they playfor
example, as patient spouses, exasperated children, tolerant parents, irritable
neighbors, or curious onlookers. A few special rules of etiquette apply
First, remember that
any RPGers the mundane encounters will, by default, represent RPGers everywhere.
Presumably gamers enjoy RPGs and would like them to remain socially acceptable.
Given that, gamers must be sure to treat mundanes especially politely
If gaming in public
(such as in a gaming store), take the time to pause and answer questions
that an onlooker might ask. After all, the gamers might be recruiting
a new gamer or reassuring a prospective gamer's uncertain parent. Try
not to shout too loudly, and curb the impulse to use profanity. Yes, some
characters have dirtier mouths than others, but there's no point in sending
some kid's conservative parent into a seizure because s/he hears lots
of trash during a public RPG session. That's how kids get forbidden to
play RPGs. (See also Cussing in Character.)
This holds true for gaming at a parent's house, too; players should try
not to make the parent regret letting the gamers come over to play.
Otherwise, act like
a considerate neighbor or guestdon't shout or play music so loudly
that it ticks off the folks next-door (or, in an apartment, over, under,
or around the game). That's hard to do sometimes, but try (my group starts
shutting doors and windows once night falls, so that our voices don't
carry quite so far). If playing a live-action RPG, respect mundanes' privacy,
don't shock any mundanes who might unwittingly stumble across the game,
and, of course, obey any local laws or ordinances in the area that might
prohibit bearing arms in public, wearing masks, or so forth.
is about playing somebody elsesometimes somebody a lot more rude,
crude, and socially unacceptable than we'd ever dare to be in real life.
But that doesn't mean that RPGers should completely ignore etiquette.
Exhibiting some basic good manners before, during, and after the game
can do a lot to enhance RPGs' reputations ... not to mention your own.
originally written March 9, 2001
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