Time is a very precious resource when playing a tabletop RPG. There are some things that can help us conserve this and make the game much more streamlined. Some of this is basic obligations you will need to fulfill when you take on the social contract that is agreeing to playing a game. Some of them are tricks you learn over time.
Here are some things we can all do to make the game go a little smoother.
• BE ON TIME
If the game is scheduled at a certain time, be there and ready to play at that time. If you need to make arrangements to come later, that’s fine, but do so before you’re already late. Waiting around for people is the definition of wasting time.
• FILL OUT YOUR CHARACTER SHEET
If you don’t know how, I will help you. That’s part of my job as DM.
If your sheet is so damaged and erased and rewritten on that you can’t use it effectively, get a new one and fill that out.
Keep it up to date with all the information organized so you don’t have to shuffle through eighteen different pages to find out if you have an item or not because that is wasting time.
• KNOW THE RULES OF YOUR CHARACTER
I don’t expect or even want you to memorize the three core books of the game, that’s ridiculous.
I ABSOLUTELY expect you to know the very, very few rules that govern how your character works.
I have index cards. USE THEM. Write down the rules for powers you use, both frequently and infrequently, on the cards and keep them organized with your filled in character sheets. If you need to look up how your power works every time you use it you are wasting time.
• KNOW WHERE TO FIND THE RULES YOU DON’T KNOW
I have provided access to multiple sources of the rules. Understand how to use these and become proficient in looking things up. Hard copy books have indexes. PDFs can be searched by text. If you are taking more than thirty seconds to find a rule you are wasting time.
• UNDERSTAND YOUR DICE AND HOW TO USE THEM
This goes along with knowing the rules of your character, but there are subtle differences. Keep your dice nearby and at hand so you don’t have to search around for the one you need whenever your turn comes around. Keep the ones you actually use with your character powers close by. Understand the basic structure of the core mechanic so that you understand the sequence of dice to roll.
Better yet, understand when you can group different die rolls together and when you can’ to reduce confusion.
Single attack? Roll your to hit and damage at the same time.
Two attacks? Roll one attack with damage dice at one time, then roll the second attack with damage dice separately so as not to be confusing because being confusing wastes time.
• KNOW WHEN TO FOCUS
Joking and out of game chatter is acceptable and even desired. This is, after all, a social game. We are here to make and be friends. But realize that we are also here to play a game. THIS GAME that’s in front of you, on the table. Understand that we need to focus back in on the game so that we are not wasting time.
• ORGANIZE THE PARTY ACTIONS / TAKE SOME BURDEN OFF THE DM
Understand that a table full of people, all with different actions, shouting die roll results and questions at the DM does not make for a streamlined game. Talk to each other, as a party. Figure out what you want to do and in what order, then let the DM know what you are doing in an organized way. You don’t have to have a “leader” per se, but it may help to have a “caller” that lets the DM know this sequence of actions after its figured out amongst yourselves. This way, the information pipe from party to DM and back is clear of gunk and the information can flow freely so that extraneous noise in the system doesn’t waste time.
• REALIZE YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE AT THE TABLE
You are playing a game with other people. Understand that constantly saying that your character is doing stuff because it’s funny to the point where the DM has to constantly ask “is this a thing that your character is actually doing” becomes basic, interrupting rudeness and being inconsiderate of other people that are trying to play the game. Also, having your character actually do stuff because you think it would be funny, with the excuse that it’s “in character” because you want to play a “chaotic” person is really you just being a jerk if it ruins other players’ fun. Along with this comes basic social contract stuff; don’t make other people uncomfortable. At my table, I have a hard line when it comes to this stuff as detailed here:
The basic theme of the game is one of cooperation. When you guys get a party together to go adventuring, it is assumed that you are all cooperating to tell a good story. There is no “winning” in this game and the relationship between the Dungeon Master (DM, which is me) is not an adversarial one. I am not trying to “beat” you or hinder you, I simply aim to present interesting situations for you to attempt to deal with by using your characters’ unique talents to form a synergistic team. We are here to tell a good story together. We play to see what happens.
Conflict within a party, between player characters, is not discouraged. It may come about via disputes about world view of the characters or how to deal with various situations. Mature role playing in this way is encouraged, so long as it remains mature and helps to tell an interesting story. Characters that are played in an excessively disruptive manner, even if they are “in character” will be punished in the fiction, simply because those types of characters are, by definition, incapable of interacting well with other people in the world. If it remains a problem, I will speak to the player privately about the behavior.
Conflict simply for the sake of conflict, in character behavior that consistently interferes with other players’ enjoyment of the game, or out of character behavior that consistently interferes with the actual running and enjoyment of the game in the real world will not be tolerated.
As well, I aim to run an “open table” both in terms of scheduling but also in acceptance and comfort. To that end, there are some things that are unequivocally off the table: overtly sexist, misogynist, homophobic, and racist language, jokes about rape or other abusive trauma, personal attacks that aren’t covered here but are targeted at another player in a hurtful way. When dealing with an improvisational fiction there will be grey areas surrounding these subjects. Please use common sense and empathy for those you are playing with.
If you feel that the tone of the game is one you do not enjoy, or if the tone you are attempting to play at does not jibe with the tone of the table, we can discuss it outside of a session. My goal is to have everyone having fun.
None of this is to say this is a “serious game”.
There will be plenty of dick and fart jokes and the general feeling at the table should be one of camaraderie and lighthearted fun.
This is all a way to say, play together and play nice.