While at GenCon I played in my share of D&D adventures. For the most part it was a lot of fun and I had a great time playing. But one thing that really stood out for me a lot more this year than any other was the egregiousness with witch other players violated the social contract you agree to uphold when playing D&D or any RPG.
I’ve put together a list of all the social faux pas and violations of the social contract that actually happened at my gaming table during GenCon. I encourage you to use the comments section below to add violations you witnessed at your gaming tables to this list. Maybe if we put them in print enough gamers will read them and hopefully stop doing them or at least realize that these actions aren’t acceptable.
I’ll admit that I’m actually guilty of a committing a couple of these myself, but when I do I am aware that it’s a problem and I apologize to the table. Regrettably when these happened at my table during GenCon none of the offenders excused their behaviour because they likely didn’t even realize that they what they were doing was extremely uncool.
Answering the phone
Everyone has a cell phone. It’s instinctual to answer it when it rings. I understand that it could be an important call so I’m fine with someone excusing themselves from the table and answering it. But if you’re in the middle of your turn don’t stop to answer the phone. But if you do, be quick and take a message. Don’t start into a full on conversation. “Oh, hi. I’m just playing D&D. Yeah, that sounds great. I’d love to go there afterwards for drinks. I’ll have to get changed first. Why don’t you call Steve and see if he wants to come with us…” Unless you’re a doctor and you’re on call, let it go to voice mail until after the encounter’s over.
Eating at the table
I’m not suggesting that we impose a no food at the table rule. Snacking is practically mandatory at the gaming table. But if you’re going to eat, be neat. Don’t let crumbs scatter all over the table and the battle mat. If you’re eating something with your fingers please wipe them after you’re finished and don’t touch anything, like the rest of the party’s minis, until your hands are clean.
Hogging table space
There’s plenty of room around the table for everyone to have adequate space for all of their stuff. I usually have two hardcovers side-by-side, my character sheet on top of one and my power cards, dice, pencil, eraser, fortune cards, and note paper on top of the other. If everyone confined themselves to this amount of real estate we’d be fine and have room to spare, but some people have a need to unpack everything they own on the table. I’ve had to politely ask more than one player if he could move some of his stuff over so that I could have more space.
Shut the hell up!
I’ve found that many gamers are very social; at least when they’re around other games. But this doesn’t mean that you need to yammer on throughout the entire game. When it’s your turn, hog the spotlight, ham it up, be the centre of attention, but when it’s someone else’s turn be quite. Don’t have a side conversation with the other players. More than once I couldn’t hear the DM because other players were talking over him. If something is so important that you have to talk about it now, get up and leave the table for a few minutes.
Taking without asking
Just because something’s on the table doesn’t mean that you can use it without permissions. I’m a gamer with many dice superstitions, one being that no one but me can ever touch my dice. If you need to borrow dice, I’m happy to lend you a spare set. But the dice on the table are mine so hands off. If you need to roll 3d6 and you only have two, reroll one of them. I’m not as strict with other things as I am with my dice. If you want to use my pencil or eraser that’s fine, but please ask first. If you want to look at my bag of minis that’s also fine, but please ask first. I was appalled by the sense of entitlement I witnessed at my table. And it wasn’t just in the younger players.
All of the players I gamed with at GenCon were veterans of LFR. Everyone had played before and in most cases had used their character over many levels. The lowest level PC at any of my games was level 6. So you know that these characters were used through many adventures. Why then does it take people so long to figure out what to do on their turn? Maybe you haven’t played this character in a while, but by the second encounter it should start coming back to you. The powers haven’t changed since the pervious encounter. Know your character. And if you’ve got a power that uses d8s for damage then have a few d8s ready. It shouldn’t surprise you that you’re going to need them.
Not paying attention
Some characters are not suited to excel in every situation. If you’re a battle-heavy Dwarven Fighter with no social skills then the encounter where the PCs have to talk to the Duke and gain information is going to bore you to tears. I get that. But have the courtesy to pay attention anyway. I saw people tune out and play games on their iPad or iPhone when their character wasn’t center stage. I even saw one player pull out crossword puzzles. He didn’t even try to hide the fact that he wasn’t paying attention. In my opinion, tuning out to this extent is disrespectful to the other players and the DM.
I’m sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. What did you witness at the gaming table during GenCon or at any game played in public that you feel should be added to this list?