Table Manners

Table Manners

My policy is that I don’t talk real world politics on my gaming blog and related social media. The companion YouTube video is here.

That being said, to all who don’t get it, manners and basic human decency are NOT politics.

“Famous” people on the news, such as celebrities and politicians and their heinous behavior, if they don’t have a connection to TTRPGs are out of the scope of my blog.

However, when there are people at game conventions or involved in other aspects of the TTRPG world acting in ways that shed a bad light on the game, that is within the purview of my blog. I want more players. Women want to play the game, not fend off creeps. 51% of the population should not be discouraged from playing. The more players, the easier it is to play, and the longer campaigns and game groups will last.

NOTE: I am not “vaguebooking.” I am intentionally leaving out specific names and situations to address this in a way that will endure. This is a first step. I have not yet decided how to approach the topic of specific individuals whose names and actions have been called out on various social media. I will say that I am greatly disappointed and saddened to learn of these things. I am not afraid to speak truth to power. I want my words to be clear and direct and on point. I have spent hours on this post. All after writing a rant to get it out of my system so that I can get to the point of TABLE MANNERS at the game table. This has been on my mind for some time, and I worked very hard to stay on point and not address places where I am sure someone will take issue with what I said or the way I said it.

As my mother often said, “Common sense ain’t so common.” This is true of too many men when it comes to interacting with women, other men, and people who self-identify in ways that “real men” think they are compelled to try to be the alpha male.

Unfortunately, we need some ground rules for general decent behavior.

Table top RPGs exist as a means of entertainment, and social gathering. That is, they are meant to be FUN for ALL participants.

If you are a GM, don’t let your players be jerks to each other. If you have not yet mentioned this at your table, and it comes up, then you give the offender one chance (depending on how blatant and heinous it is), and clarify your table rules. The next time, must be the last. To avoid stumbling into this issue, bring it up *before* it happens in your current group(s). Make it a basic rule mentioned up front when you have a new group. Use it at conventions, if you run convention games, or at the FLGS is you run games in a store.

If you are a player, say something. Defend your fellow player from the harasser. If the GM is the harasser, the entire table should call it out. If it happens after that, get out. Before it happens, mention to your GM that you’d like a blanket rule for the table. If the GM resists, then it isn’t the table for you.

If you are the player who is being harassed, if it is the GM, call them on it. If no other player supports you, get out. If it is another player, ask the GM and other players what they’re going to do about it. If they do nothing, or sadly, side with the offender, get out. If the GM and players come to your aid, and they can work it out so that you feel safe and comfortable to stay, then you have the option to stay. I suggest going to your GM before you join in, to ask for a clear no-nonsense table rule about harassment of others.

If you are the GM and are being harassed, if no players rise to your aid, and the offender is “oblivious” when you call them on it, then you should end the game. If other players call them out, try to work it out so this is the last time. BEFORE this happens, make this a table rule.

In all of the above cases, if it happens again, the offender should be the one to leave.

In summation, here are specific suggested TABLE MANNERS you can use at your table:

  1. We are here to have fun.
  2. Everyone is to respect everyone else at the table.
  3. Harassment of any kind is not tolerated. Comments about appearance or personal traits are not allowed.
  4. Player vs. Player/PC vs. PC actions are not allowed. The group of player characters is a party that is working together. NOTE: There may be valid reasons of game mechanics where a character goes against the party, such as being charmed by an NPC wizard. There may be a reasonable way that a character does something harmful to the party. If it is something that the whole group finds reasonable and acceptable, that is OK. Other than a character being under magical or other influence, I don’t have a good example. However, things come up in game play that no one can foresee. [If anyone has other good examples, let me know.]
  5. If you feel you have been treated unjustly by the GM or another player, please let us know. That is not OK. NOTE: This is NOT about rule interpretations or game mechanics. This is only about common respect and decency. Any rule interpretation/game mechanic that goes against common respect and human decency should not even have an opportunity to be an issue. The tricky part is when this happens after the game, or between sessions.
  6. Add in your own rule for the line in the use of language that suits your intended pool of players: G, PG, PG-13, R, etc.

If you want a game that have player vs. player or “adult” themes, these rules still apply. Number 4 will need revision to suit that style of game. All the players and GM should be on the same page about what form of role play is too far. Other than a general rubric to ensure that all are INFORMED and CONSENTING adults with mutually agreed behavior rules, I don’t know what to add. That is not a style of play that I would find interesting, so I can only mention it generally. I leave the details of this aspect to those who want to play that type of game.

My Table Is Open

I don’t care who you are, what you look like, your opinions on politics, religion, or any other category you can think of. If you want to play a game that I am running, are there to actually play the game, and will treat everyone there with respect, you are welcome at my table. I have played with people who I know have vastly different opinions on some things than I do, and we have had fun.

These rules should also inform our public, private, and online behavior. For example, when messaging a woman, who plays in an online game on Twitch, comments about her appearance have nothing to do with the game, unless she dressed up for the part. Comments should be on point, and related to the presentation of the costume and the game. Trolling and other behavior that proves one to be a sphincter is contrary to being a good ambassador of the game. 

It is such behavior both in and out of the world of gaming that has led to all women groups with women GMs. Understandably they want to feel safe to play a game they love, or to discover a game they are curious about. Ideally, every table should be open to everyone that wants to play game X in genre Y. Since we do not live in an ideal world, those who don’t like the idea of a table limited to women need to get over it. That is a sign that there is something wrong.

It may not be you or your group that does this, but some sphincter somewhere did something that lead to this. Instead of complaining about all women games, complain about the idiots that ushered so many women into wanting that type of play environment. If you want every table everywhere to be open to everyone, then call out bad behavior.

Whether you use my suggested table manners, or your own variation, it should be clear that there is no room for violations once the rules are shared and agreed to. This should be true at conventions, game stores, private homes, or online.

The goal is for all at the table to have fun, and be waiting in anticipation of more fun at the next session.

I welcome CONSTRUCTIVE criticism of my suggested Table Manners.

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4 thoughts on “Table Manners”

  1. Thank you for this. I am sick of G+ neckbeards and certain gaming blogs acting like treating women (or other races, etc) with the same respect we treat other men is somehow a communist conspiracy.

  2. I’m glad you appreciate it. How can we engage the silence/backlash without more unfruitful backlash or perpetuating the silence? That is what I want to know. Without the right turn of phrase that can cut through the excrement, it won’t invite change.

    I dislike the use of ad hominems, like “neckbeard.” That is an insult that mocks one’s appearance, which is counter to rule 3 of my Table Manners.

    The focus needs to be on behavior. Silence in the face of churlish behavior is an action. I can understand the desire for silence on specific named individuals. I am struggling with that issue myself. However, blanket statements about what is and isn’t acceptable at the game table and within the gaming community is a first step. Draw the line now and put all “bad actors” on notice that they need to stop wrong action. If they choose to continue with the abhorrent behavior, that is on them. We should feel no remorse over excluding them from the table.

    Growth and change is hard. You can’t fight the behavior you dislike by using similar behavior. I have been blind to my own shortcomings in this regard in the past. It is always easier to see the splinter in another’s eye than the log in your own.

  3. I am particularly sensitive about table manners when I have kids at my table. A few yeas ago at a convention I actually asked a player to leave my table because of his language in the presence of a child (He decided to ignore my request to adjust his vocabulary twice). Kids will copy any type of behavior they come across and will deem it acceptable because they are still developing their moral filter. As adults we need to be role models. How we treat each other at a table (or anywhere else) is how the next generation will treat each other.

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