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What are Your Table Rules?

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
The DMG has a section on Tables Rules, which it defines as rules for how the game is played at your particular table. When I run a game, I provide a list of these rules appropriate to the campaign in the campaign forum and make sure that all players have read and agreed to them prior to play. If they have objections, we can discuss them, but really they are quite straightforward. Some are just restatements of what is already in the rules of the games, but that I think is worth calling out specifically, especially given that some people I may play with are coming to the table with different experiences and expectations.

I find that this is frequently one of the things most of the people I play with take with them to their own games and I periodically review and refine them. This is what I have right now.

1. Remember the goals of play as stated in the rules: Everyone has a good time together and helps to create an exciting, memorable story. All choices you make at the table should be in service of these goals and no others.​
2. Avoid lengthy debates by making use of the improvisational technique known as "Yes, and..." When hearing a serious idea or proposal from another player, accept the idea ("Yes...") then add to it ("...and..."). Try to find the good in it and think of ways it can work rather than ways it can't. Add to someone else's idea to make it better rather than deny it.​
3. Describe what you want to do by stating a clear approach to a goal - what you do and what you hope to achieve by doing that. A question is not a statement of goal and approach, nor is asking to make an ability check or the like. Do not roll an ability check before you're asked to do so or an attack roll outside of initiative, unless prompted by the DM.​
4. When the spotlight is on you, act immediately. Your turn is for acting, not for thinking about what to do.​
5. You decide how your character thinks, acts, and talks. If you wish to inform your character's actions with your experience as a player, that is perfectly acceptable. You are reminded that "metagame thinking" can sometimes lead you to the wrong conclusions. Verifying your assumptions through action is smart play.​
6. If, for some reason, you choose to attack or otherwise hinder another player character, the target of the attack or hindrance will get to decide whether it hits, misses, or dice are involved.​
7. Be as charitable as possible when interpreting the words and actions of the DM and other players. At the same time, be mindful and courteous of others when choosing your words and actions. Please do not seek to offend or to be offended.​
8. If we're playing online, use good microphone etiquette: Mute yourself if you have a lot of continuous background noise. Pay attention and respond promptly. Be understanding of interruptions due to lag or other issues. Try to avoid creating dead air.​
Do you use a list of Table Rules like this? What are the sorts of standing rules at your table, either expressed or implied? (And here we're not really talking about house rules such as tweaks to mechanics or the like, but rather the sort of rules that represent what some people may call the "social contract.") Do any of your Table Rules change from game to game or group to group?
 

Doug McCrae

Adventurer
2. Avoid lengthy debates by making use of the improvisational technique known as "Yes, and..." When hearing a serious idea or proposal from another player, accept the idea ("Yes...") then add to it ("...and..."). Try to find the good in it and think of ways it can work rather than ways it can't. Add to someone else's idea to make it better rather than deny it.
This is really good. I've seen this as advice for GMs before, but never as advice for players.
 

Bitbrain

Explorer
Bitbrain’s Zeroth House Rule
Any modification or elimination of class/sub-class features, spells, and/or racial traits on my part MUST BE clearly detailed and explained DURING session 0.
An individual player can also request that a certain class be banned during session 0 (such as the Warlock), provided that everyone else at the table agrees to it.

Bitbrain’s First House Rule
This is a COOPERATIVE game, not a COMPETITIVE game.
NO PVP, and the DM is NOT the enemy of the PCs, or vice versa.
The only exception to this rule is during those rare occasions when we play Paranoia.

Bitbrain’s Second House Ruale
If the DM picks up the 5e Player’s Handbook and reads the disclaimer out loud, it means that whatever action you want to perform is literally the WORST POSSIBLE (but also most hilarious) action you can think of.

The Players’ First House Rule:
Absolutely DO NOT play any form of music while Bitbrain is DMing.
The poor guy literally won’t be able to focus on anything else, and will just sit there staring off into space, counting the notes with his fingers until someone takes pity on him and turns the music off.
 
The only 2 i have is dont be an ass, we are all here to have fun, dont ruin others fun. Work together.

The second is when i run. Everything beyond core is optional and subject to approval. Walk me through the item, why where its going or what it does.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I have a few.
  1. Don't be, or play, a jerk.
  2. No evil characters, and no chaotic neutral characters that are really evil.
  3. Play a character that wants to be part of a team. You don't have to get along with everyone all the time, but don't play a loner that everyone hates.
  4. No PVP.
  5. Try to keep meta-game knowledge to a minimum. Don't crack open the MM during a session, yes you know you need fire to kill a troll and silver to hurt a lycanthrope. But that monster with tentacles growing out of their face? They've never been seen in this world before.
  6. If I'm wrong, let me know but we aren't going to argue about it during the game. I'll make a decision and we can discuss afterwards.
  7. If we're having a social interaction at the table and you say something snarky, your character said it. There's no "I didn't really say that" take backs.
  8. I'm pretty flexible when it comes to things like skill checks. It's okay if you just say "I use skill X", if it's not clear we'll clarify. However, if it's a social skill (persuasion, intimidate, etc) you need to tell me what you're saying and doing. Preferably we do it in character.
  9. To keep the game moving, feel free to roll multiple dice and do attack and damage at the same time. If you need more dice I have plenty. Use average damage if it's easier for you.
 

PabloM

Explorer
Bitbrain’s Second House Ruale
If the DM picks up the 5e Player’s Handbook and reads the disclaimer out loud, it means that whatever action you want to perform is literally the WORST POSSIBLE (but also most hilarious) action you can think of.
Ha! You made me go to my bookshelf to look for the PHB and see what it said. I had forgotten, it is gloriously funny.
 

pogre

Adventurer
I'm a lot more lenient about #3:
3. Describe what you want to do by stating a clear approach to a goal - what you do and what you hope to achieve by doing that. A question is not a statement of goal and approach, nor is asking to make an ability check or the like. Do not roll an ability check before you're asked to do so or an attack roll outside of initiative, unless prompted by the DM.
#8 is a non-factor because I only run face-to-face games.

The rest is right in line with our house "rules."

The key for me over the years is being picky about who plays at my table. I will have to think about putting the rules like these in black and white the next time I bring in some new people.
 

Hussar

Legend
With the exception of no evils, @Oofta's list looks pretty much like mine. Granted, we haven't had a new player at the table in a long time, so, it hasn't really been an issue. Our Session 0 is far less about table and play style stuff but rather more about the specific campaign.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
During our BIG group days (High School), where we had a dozen regular players, 1/2 dozen occassional players, of which we had 6-8 trained DMs and 2-3 on-going campaigns, we needed someone to oversee all the character sheets.

This was because between two sessions, after one player got one of the parts of the rod of seven parts, after players would buy/sell, we had three players all claiming they now owned that one part.

And trying to read someone's penciled sheets, trying to see what they owned and now much coins/etc, something had to be done.

So we had a house rule where one person, known as the High Overseer, would oversee all player character sheets. They were computerized into a spreadsheet. They were printed out before they start of the next module.

All players had to write what they were selling, for how much, and to whom. The other player had to write what they our purchasing, for how much, and from whom. If the two did not match, the transaction was not approved.

And before the sheets were printed out, the player also had to state what items they would be taking with them into the game (on-hand), and what items were 100% safe in their home base.

So if ever a player, during a game, disputes what they have on-hand, the High Overseer has final say on this (and not the DM). Everyone from the players to the DM, accepts this ruling.

This also gives the DM more time to work on the story/module between sessions not having to worry about PC sheets.

The High Overseer also deals with all PC creation, so the same rules are applied each and every time a new PC is created. (ie. PC race, starting money, purchasing equipment, ability rolling, etc.)


Otherwise, one house rule I use I only use during big combat, and the players know this. It is fast and represents the chaos of such huge fighting sequences. After we had rolled init, and we determined order, I as DM I will state whose turn to proclaim their action for that round. I will put up one hand and do a five finger countdown. If a player does not reply within that time frame, it is considered their PC froze/does not do a new action that round.

Another is that any note passing must go thru the DM. Yes we do note passing. Usually it is when a player/DM does not want anyone else know what action they are doing. That can be pick pocketing an NPC in a group with a Paladin in it, or the DM wanting to tell a PC they spot something the other PCs do not, to pulling out a decanter that has a sleep potion in it to give to another PC/NPC. Or... wanting to ask another player if they can borrow 5 bucks to pay for some chips/pop at the next break, or if they want to split the cost of a pizza.
 

coolAlias

Explorer
@Oofta's is pretty spot-on for my table, though we don't exclude any alignments - as long as the character can function within the group and doesn't give the other characters a reason to leave them behind, their alignment is their business.

Then again, most of the people I play with tend to roll up Good characters, so maybe we just haven't had a reason to implement this rule yet. :p
 

Shiroiken

Explorer
I normally don't need a bunch of table rules. The only two that I needed back in the days of IRL games related to dice. To reduce arguments & cheating.

1) A die that rolls off of the table is automatically rerolled, but any die that remains on the table (even if off of your "rolling surface") counts unless it is clearly cocked between 2 numbers.

2) If you roll a "success," and pick up/move the die within 1 second (i.e. before anyone can see it), the result is automatically the worst possible result.


My Roll20 game recently added a table rule due to some player conflict in my prior campaign.

1) At anytime, if someone is about to take an action that any player feels would be detrimental to the group, they can call for a time-out. The group will then discuss the action and how it might be detrimental to the group as a whole, allowing the group to veto the action. This prevents a "Batman" character from going off on their own and getting everyone in trouble (such as assassinating an annoying NPC).
 

Campbell

Relaxed Intensity
1. Be a fan of all the player characters. This means you should take in active interest in the characters everyone at the table plays, enjoy their triumphs, feel bad when they falter, and want to know where their choices might lead them. This is especially true when there is conflict between player characters. Do not let character conflicts become player conflicts.
2. Be a curious explorer of the fiction. Approach play with a spirit of curiosity. Be open to both success and failure. Do not be to locked in to your conception of who your character is, but instead play to find out who they are when tested.
3. We play to find out what happens - the GM included. Embrace this. Sometimes things will not turn out the way you want them to. This is part of play. Roll with consequences and embrace that no one is in control of what happens.
4. We are all responsible for the quality of the game. Try to play interesting characters that everyone at the game can enjoy. When possible try to involve the other player characters.
 

clearstream

Explorer
1. Remember the goals of play as stated in the rules: Everyone has a good time together and helps to create an exciting, memorable story. All choices you make at the table should be in service of these goals and no others.​
I often find myself reaching for words like satisfying, challenging, surprising, alarming and dismaying when thinking about what I hope for in play.​
2. Avoid lengthy debates by making use of the improvisational technique known as "Yes, and..." When hearing a serious idea or proposal from another player, accept the idea ("Yes...") then add to it ("...and..."). Try to find the good in it and think of ways it can work rather than ways it can't. Add to someone else's idea to make it better rather than deny it.
I am sadly (or happily) far from servant DM, and "no" retains its virtue at my table.​
4. When the spotlight is on you, act immediately. Your turn is for acting, not for thinking about what to do.
I like this rule and have used it in the past. In my most recent campaign I did not use it, and come out of that feeling that I want to return to it. An exception would be for questions that clarify the situation.​
5. You decide how your character thinks, acts, and talks. If you wish to inform your character's actions with your experience as a player, that is perfectly acceptable.
We had interesting conversation on this some months back, where a few seemed to feel that "you decide" ruled out the possibility of deception, persuasion or mind control. You take a tangent here by speaking more to what might a player might include in informing their actions. I don't know the best way to play that as it is hard for a person to really set aside what they know, and yet ideally their character might not have the same knowledge.​
6. If, for some reason, you choose to attack or otherwise hinder another player character, the target of the attack or hindrance will get to decide whether it hits, misses, or dice are involved.
I find this reasonable and yet would not use it.​
Do you use a list of Table Rules like this? represent what some people may call the "social contract.") Do any of your Table Rules change from game to game or group to group?
I do and yet have never written them down. It seems worth doing. They would vary by group, for instance I am kinder with new players and children.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
I have a few when I run.

) Don't be an **. If you are? There's the door.
1) Be on time. If you're going to be late/absent? Let us know.
2) Get off you're phone/tablet.
3) Participate!
4) You're character doesn't have any particular immunity to anything by simple dint of being a PC. This means that anything you can do to a monster/NPC can be done you. By a monster/NPC/or another PC. Social skills, spells, attacks, etc. This is not me endorsing PVP. This is me not making some ridiculous rule that makes zero sense story &/or mechanics wise. If you cause problems though? Refer to the * at the top of the list.
5) You WILL, in good faith, play the results of any dice rolling.
6) The group is responsible for dividing up treasure, not me. My job is to include it in the adventure.
7) Stat generation (PF1/5e): Each player gets to choose their own method. Standard array, Standard PB, or the 4d6 method. You do not get to complain about someone elses choice. Or the results of their rolls. If you choose to roll: You will do this in front of the group, & you will play the resulting character in good faith.
8) I encourage you not to play things like Drow & most "monster" races. Because I don't enjoy writing adventures or DMing for them. You don't want an unhappy DM do you? So just save this stuff for someone elses campaign, ok? We'll all be happier.
9) This isn't the AL. Or whatever the PF version is called. I pay no attention to the company provided errata.
10) whatever the edition, psionics do not exist when I'm DMing.
11) (for D&D) I will DM: 1e, PF1(includes 3.x as options), 5e, & soon PF2.
12) I don't play the secret note game. If you hand me such? I will read it out loud to the group. This is because while your characters might not know something, the players are essentially the audience of the story.
13) as the DM I'm not your foe. But I have no qualms concerning TPKs. I roll my bright yellow dice in the open & apply the results.
 

Imaculata

Explorer
1. Bring me snacks
2. Bring me more snacks.
3. We will not use the word Game Master, Keeper, or Game Moderator. There's the Dungeon Master, and that's it.
4. Don't ask the DM if you may make a roll. State a goal and approach, I'll decide if a roll is needed.
5. Don't hog the spotlight. Let other players have their turn too.
6. Sometimes its better to flee. The DM will not save you from your own stupidity.
7. Any character once introduced can be killed. None shall be shielded by the DM, not even beloved npc's.
8. Roll your dice out in the open, not in secret. Also no fudging of the dice.
9. All sex scenes will quickly fade to black. No need to make everyone at the table uncomfortable.
10. Have fun, and try to help everyone else have fun too.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
@Oofta's is pretty spot-on for my table, though we don't exclude any alignments - as long as the character can function within the group and doesn't give the other characters a reason to leave them behind, their alignment is their business.



Then again, most of the people I play with tend to roll up Good characters, so maybe we just haven't had a reason to implement this rule yet. :p
I think evil characters is a whole separate topic, but in my experience people who play evil characters usually play PG-13 evil. Maniacal laugh here and there and alluding to doing bad things now and then. Maybe a gratuitous murder here and there.

But get someone that really gets into it and want to RP torture scenes or worse? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and some really uncomfortable moments at the table. No. Just no.
 

Hussar

Legend
I think evil characters is a whole separate topic, but in my experience people who play evil characters usually play PG-13 evil. Maniacal laugh here and there and alluding to doing bad things now and then. Maybe a gratuitous murder here and there.

But get someone that really gets into it and want to RP torture scenes or worse? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt and some really uncomfortable moments at the table. No. Just no.
Oh, totally. I'm comfortable with my group and it hasn't been a huge issue with my current bunch. But, if I was back to building a group again? Totally would take evil off the table.

Funnily enough, I've found that all evil groups cooperate better since in a good group, you can screw over the guy next to you and they won't really punish you for it. An evil character is expected to kill you if you screw him over. Tends to make everyone REALLY polite to each other. Almost movie style mafioso.
 

5ekyu

Adventurer
Beyond the dont be jerks outs usually try to focus on the type of game to expect and do are less rules than previews.

One that I focus on each game is the solo vs gtoup play aspect. I a 5 player team game running 3 hr sessions, I emphasize that face-to-fsce solo scenes will be brief and may be driven to summary and resolution instead of roleplaying. More time for detail on those may be available by e-mail between sessions.

Now that would change for say a three player world of darkness gsme with three hour sessions.

But I try to help them see where we will tend to draw the line between scenes we " resolve" mechanically and those we resolve roleplaying.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
1. Sometimes the MONSTERS WIN. Deal with it.
2. Unless there are dead pcs on the ground, deal with the rule call and move on. Rule calls can be discussed at length after the dice go into the box.
 

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