Gaming: The Social Contract

Gaming is a social endeavor, we all know that, but sometimes we lose sight of what it means to respect one another.    It may help to hash out a “social contract” between members of the group, be it something that’s written down or something that’s just understood by everyone in the group.  This can serve to ease some conflict and make sure everyone is on the same page.

For example, in my group, we have an understood social contract similar to the one below:

For Gamemasters

  • You are responsible for providing a framework for the adventure. You are also responsible for working with your players to come up with a framework that would be enjoyable.
  • You are responsible for your players’ enjoyment.
  • You are responsible for fairness. However, fudge the dice if it violates the previous responsibility.
  • You are responsible for knowing the rules, or at least responsible for knowing how to find the rules in the rulebooks
  • You are responsible for giving everyone their moment in the spotlight.
  • More likely than not, you have a larger financial responsibility and financial and time investment in the game than your players do. Very few players spend the amount of time and money that a GM does, from preparing the session to buying sourcebooks to creating NPCs to running said NPCs and monsters. The players usually only need worry about a couple of books and a single character at a time.
  • You are responsible for adjudicating the rules and helping to settle disputes
  • You are responsible for most of the administrative bits and bobs that come along with running the game.
  • You are responsible for respecting your players.

For Players

  • You are responsible for helping out the Gamemaster in his storytelling duties. This could be as simple as a couple of sentences of backstory for your character.
  • You are responsible for creating a character that fits within the framework of the GM’s campaign.
  • You are responsible for creating and playing a character that works with the other PCs. The “lone wolf sociopath” might be great in a movie or book, but it’s lousy in a group oriented activity.
  • You are responsible for at least knowing the basics of the rules.
  • You are responsible for not stealing others’ moments in the spotlight.
  • You are responsible for paying attention during the game. That means, while the game is going on, don’t surf the internet, watch a movie or TV show, play a video game, interrup excessively with out of character comment…doing so is extremely rude and disrespectful, not only to your GM but to your fellow players as well. If you must, say, take a phone call, excuse yourself (this is especially important online where people can’t see you and don’t know what you are doing).
  • You are responsible for working with your fellow players and GM to provide an entertaining, fun time.
  • You are responsible for not being offensive to other players. Not only does this mean “take a shower” but also means to follow Wheaton’s Law (look it up if you have to).
  • You are responsible for showing up to the game. If you cannot show up to the game you are responsible for letting the group know you can’t show up that week. If you cannot show up for most sessions, you should probably reconsider participating in the game. That said, occasionally stuff happens and someone can’t show for a session and cannot contact are responsible for understanding this plight.
  • You are responsible for accepting the GM’s authority, as GM of the game, when it comes to rulings and trivia about the world. That doesn’t mean you can’t question your GM, but if he/she doesn’t agree with you, don’t get all pouty.
  • You are responsible for not overly metagaming. A certain amount of metagaming is acceptable and even helpful, but if you’re looking up the stats for the monsters you’re facing or thumbing through the adventure in your off time, you’re going overboard.
  • You are responsible for respecting your other players and your GM.

Most of this boils down to “respect other people at the table.”  Most of the time, you’re going to be gaming with friends, you should try to treat them as such.

[tags]gaming,gming,role playing games,rpg,rpgs[/tags]

3 thoughts on “Gaming: The Social Contract

Add yours

  1. Good stuff, I think these are rules everyone can follow. My group has an understanding, rather than a written contract. I think when something is violated, I simply call it out as, “hey, that’s not cool” and because I play with friends, the situation resolves itself.


  2. Yeah, that’s the way we are. We don’t have it written down (well, we might have them in email), but it’s pretty much understood by everyone that those are the expected behaviors.


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