Table (top) Etiquette

Dragon is Awake news article with Level Up Dice

We here at Level Up Dice live and breathe roleplaying games. It’s literally our livelihood and our passion. Therefore it’s no surprise that one thing that comes up a lot for us is table etiquette – the dos and don’ts of running and playing a game. Whether you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or any other roleplaying game, one of the most crucial aspects of that game is ensuring everybody enjoys their time at the table. To that effect, we’ve come up with a short list of ‘rules’ to help keep a game on track, whether you’re a new player only just learning to play or a seasoned roleplaying veteran who may have just forgotten some of these principles, and to make for the most positive and enjoyable game possible.

 Dungeons and Dragons character sheet with Level Up Dice and Tentacle holder

First; The key tenets of any successful campaign. I believe these are an absolute necessity to keep a game friendly and civil.

  • Don’t talk over anyone else. A large part of any roleplaying game is discussion. Everybody should be given the respect to say what they want to say without another player overriding them. Especially if it is the Dungeon Master (DM) speaking. It can be incredibly jarring for a DM to be describing a scene for the players and somebody feels the need to start interjecting or cracking jokes mid-description. Unless it’s an appropriate moment in-game (like, cutting off an NPC that the player’s character doesn’t want to talk to) save the chatter for after the DM has finished talking, and make sure everybody is given the opportunity to speak without interruption during discussion.
  • Keep arguments away from the table. Be they arguments about the game or external, everybody is here to enjoy the game, not to have to sit through the other players arguing amongst themselves. If there are any issues that come up during a game, they can always be put aside until the game is over. Related to this; Don’t bring outside problems into a game. If you have issue with another player settle it before or after the game, don’t use the game as a way to take it out on them – it’ll only make the game uncomfortable for everybody else as well.
  • Don’t put down another player for their actions in game, no matter what you think of their choices. Everybody has their own style of play, and everybody makes mistakes. Just because a player does something you wouldn’t have done doesn’t make their choices any less valid. If somebody makes a decision that’s funny or silly in the moment it’s obviously fine to joke about it, but don’t turn that into an attack against that player. At the end of the game we’re all just playing a game and here to have fun.
  • Give everyone the spotlight. Almost all roleplaying games are collaborative by nature. This means that everybody should be given the chance to contribute to the overall narrative of the game in their own way. Everybody should have the chance to have ‘their moment’ during a game. No one player should be making all the decisions and taking all the glory for the entire session. Share the experience, discuss the game with other players – either out of game or in-character, let everyone have their opportunity to use their character to their best potential.
  • And finally, The Dungeon Master has the final say. Perhaps the most important principle of any game campaign at all, even if a table chooses to forego all the other recommendations here, this will make or break a campaign. Nobody wants to have their game bogged down by a lengthy argument over how to interpret a rule, or how a certain action can be performed. When there’s any confusion here it’s the DM’s role to decide in the moment, and if the player isn’t satisfied with the ruling they can discuss it with their DM later.

 Legend of the Five Rings map with Level Up Dice

Those guidelines should in theory keep any arguments and hard feelings during a game to an absolute minimum. Now, for some extra suggestions from that may not necessarily be rules, but definitely keep things fun and easy to manage for everyone;

  • Don’t expect the host to provide food unless they’ve already agreed they will. They’re already going out of their way to provide a place to play. Show your appreciation by bringing snacks and drinks of your own for the group. (And clean up after yourselves!)
  • Being timely. This includes getting to a session and being ready to start at the agreed time, as well as being aware of the time you’re taking up in-game. Nobody likes to have to wait on another player when everybody else is ready to go. If you can’t make a session on time, let the others know. If you’re in a time critical aspect of a game, like combat, have an idea of what you’re going to do before it gets to your turn, so you can quickly act without holding up a game.
  • Pay attention to the game, even when your character isn’t involved. There are going to be moments in a campaign where the party is separated, or a character dies or is incapacitated and the player has to wait to be included again. That doesn’t mean you should just ignore the rest of what happens at the table. Show the other players the courtesy of being interested in THEIR story, just as much as you’re invested in yours. This also means you’ll be ready if somebody else calls on you to get involved, and you won’t need to be caught up on where the party is up to when you come back into the game.
  • Mobile phones should be used sparingly. This ties in directly with the previous point, and is a contentious issue that every table decides how to deal with in their own way. Generally speaking, I believe unless the phone is absolutely necessary, they’re a distraction at best and incredibly inconsiderate at worst. If you need to send a quick message, wait until a moment you know you’re not going to be involved for a little while. If you need to take a call, excuse yourself from the table. Otherwise, phones should stay in pockets and on silent, don’t make the players or DM feel like you’ve lost interest in what they’re doing by sitting there texting. (Or Bahamut forbid, playing mobile games!) 

 Black Vampire the Masquerade Level Up Dice

The biggest thing to remember whenever there are any issues in a group is to discuss it and listen. If the players don’t seem to be enjoying themselves, ask the group why. If the DM is getting frustrated with the group, listen to their reasoning. If a particular player is having issues, see what the group as a whole can do to support them. Roleplaying games are about bringing people together and having fun. The best advice anyone can take away from any of this is “Listen and make sure everyone is still having that fun.”

There’s plenty more suggestions we could mention but we’re running out of room in this post, maybe we’ll do a follow up post next time with some more table rules. What do you all think these suggestions, and are there any more you use at your own tables that work well?


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