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Day 12: Top 5 Table Rules

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Yesterday we covered house rules to modify the game, but there are also table rules the players and GM should follow in order to keep a session running smoothly. These are the ones I’ve come up with over the years of being on both sides of the screen:

#1. Set Expectations Up-Front

Whether you’re running a slap-stick game or an investigative horror mystery, make sure everyone understands the desired mood of the table. Sometimes all it takes is telling everyone, “hey, I’d like this game to be more on the serious side so we can really get immersed in our characters,” and you can avoid the frustrations of trying to tell a player to stop breaking character and making jokes that interrupt the game.

#2. Get Everyone Involved

I’ve heard of some GMs who ban tablets and cell phone from their table, and I can understand the sentiment, but the issue is really a symptom of another issue: a lack of involvement. Even without technology a player can zone out, start doodling, or have a side conversation with another player. The reason is usually that their character isn’t involved in the scene and has no stake in it, so they don’t care how it resolves. As a GM you should make sure to reach out to the quiet players and get their characters involved in the scene or call out the obnoxious ones if they’re hogging all the limelight.

#3. Determine a Snack Scheme

Nothing is a bigger pet peeve to me than the person who always asks for some of the snacks you brought for yourself, but never brings anything to share himself. The best policy is to have one: either everyone understands to bring your own, or everyone pitches in for shared snacking.

#4. Moderate Yourself

Nobody’s saying you can’t have a beer at the table, or even two, but unless you’re playing Drinking Quest you should probably use moderation. I’be heard horror stories, and it’s not a conversation you want to be having with any of the players or worse–the GM.

#5. Respect the Game Time

If you can’t make it on time, have to leave early, or have to cancel entirely, the courteous thing is to let the group know as soon as you do. This works both ways, whether it’s the players cancelling or the GM. If you’re going to be constantly missing sessions, you should let the GM know and make your character NPC-able when needed. If you’re the GM and can’t commit to regular game times, stick to an episodic or one-shot format.

What are your table rules? Link your answers in the comments below! You can find the rest of the 30 Days of Gamemastering Challenge prompts here. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on encounter balancing. Thanks again for reading!

The featured image is The Little RPG-Group by Merinid-De on devianrtART.com.

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