Dice–they’re almost as important as manners at a gaming table

Well, it finally happened. It took a couple of weeks or longer, but you’re finally getting comfortable with your fellow adventurers in the tabletop game you’re playing! You might even think you’re starting to become a group of friends. However, you start noticing some things: curses and profanities start slipping out easier when you’re sitting with them when you’ve rarely used such language before, maybe a few party members say some things that make you uncomfortable but you’re not quite sure how or if you want to confront them about it, maybe few of you are actively taking notes during a bit of exposition or writing down what you’ve found during an Investigation check, but the rest of the table are on their phones or zoned out a bit. It’s all well and good that you’re getting comfortable with your new friends and having a good time, but don’t let your manners fall to the wayside because you’re all having fun. However, if you found yourself in a situation like this, then this article will give you an idea of what to do or at least it’ll help start a dialog.

Crass Language During The Game:
 It’s all well and good that you’re getting comfortable with your new friends and having a good time, but don’t let your manners fall to the wayside because you’re all having fun.

  • One of the trickiest things to deal with during a game is language. Sometimes a Player Character or an NPC’s personality leans itself on the rougher side, so crass language may happen while they speak. Other times a curse may slip out depending on which way the dice may roll. No matter what happens, you have to be mindful of your words and surroundings especially if you’re playing in a public place—because let’s be real, you don’t want to be indirectly responsible for a little kid learning about curse words, do you? So be mindful and modify your language depending on where you’re playing, and just give your fellow party members a little nudge when they slip up too. We’re only human.

Showboating Party Members:

  • You’ve met those kinds of people before: they talk a little loud, try too hard to lead the party, and get more than bit too huffy when they don’t get their way or they aren’t the center of attention. They’re the types to seem to forget that Tabletop RPGs are a cooperative storytelling medium—especially if it’s their first time playing and they’re not sure what to do. In any case, try pulling them aside and talk to them once the game’s over. Say something along the lines of “Hey, I saw you were really taking charge the past few sessions, but you were ignoring any input the rest of us were adding. Maybe you could take a step back next time, let the rest of have a shot?” If the behavior still persists, then try talking to your GM to see if they can’t smooth things over.

Disengaged During the Story:

  • If you start noticing glazed over looks around the table as the story’s going, don’t panic. There are simple ways to fix the issue of your players zoning out during your game. On the player’s side, try to avoid lingering on your phone or tablet during the game. If your GM is cool with the table using online tools or you’re queuing up the ambient music for the scenario, then that’s fine; just make sure you’re still paying attention and actively listening to what’s going on. On the GM side, talk to your players before and after the game to gauge how they’re feeling. If they’re feeling bored with the increase in exposition and RP, maybe add more encounters next time. If they feel like they’re wading through too much combat, try adding in puzzles to solve or ask if they want to RP some downtime at the table. The goal is to tell a story, but communication is key if you want your table to have fun while doing it.

Discomfort During the Game:

  • Everyone has different gut reactions when dealing with uncomfortable subject matters during a game—for me, it’s a cold shiver running up my arms and cold, sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. There are many ways to deal with discomforting and triggering content during game time, but I’ll give the best advice now—if you know you can’t deal with it, politely remove yourself from the table. It’s just a game, don’t have your mental health suffer for it.
  • This piece of advice is for the GMs, however: talk to your players so you know what their fears and discomforts are so this doesn’t come out of the blue for them. I highly suggest asking what kinds of things your players find uncomfortable during a Session Zero-type scenario—it’ll make things easier in the long run, and if you have to redo or throw out an entire encounter or plot-hook, then so be it. Your players will thank you for considering their needs and will want to stay because they have a GM who’s compassionate and listens.

You Are A Guest, Act Like One:

  • I know, I know, this is self-explanatory but it still needs to be said. If you’re playing your game in a public space, a gaming store, someone else’s house, or any public place then please clean up after yourselves. Don’t leave your garbage lying around, clean up any spills you see, etc. Maybe I’ve gotten a tiny bit jaded from college or going to conventions, but seeing people not clean up after themselves always bothered me. You are a guest in the space you’re playing in, so don’t treat it like your home, okay?

Communication is Key:

  • This is the biggest piece of advice I have: communicate! GMs, talk to your players. Players, talk to your GMs and your fellow adventurers. You’re all building this story and this world you’re wandering in together, so talk and discussion is the most powerful tool you have. The more you talk, the more you’ll get to know what everyone around the table is thinking, and that will lead to better ideas, clearer plans, and people who will catch and pull you back if you start straying. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with these people, the best thing you can do is start talking to them.

Honestly I could go on at length about this for days, but I just wanted to give you guys a launching point to start the conversation. Whatever you do at your table is yours and yours alone. Just remember your manners, be good to the people who are at the table, have fun, and if you have to leave the table then there’s no shame in leaving. But what about you guys? What’s your experience with manners at your tables? If you have any great or not-so-great stories about your table’s etiquette, then leave them in the comments below—though hopefully it’s more good experiences than bad.