Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Tabletop Gamer's Guide to Etiquette

In this "living" blog post, I will be placing all my collected bits of advice on how to not be a dick at a tabletop gaming event right here. As with my glossary of tabletop lingo, these social mores are heavily influenced by my own personal bias, does not represent a comprehensive list (yet), and are often widely open to interpretation. If you think of any pointers you think I should include, or amendments to points already made, please let me know!

If you find yourself committing some of these party fouls, you're not a bad person. Heck; you might even be one of my good friends. Some of these are nothing more than pet peeves that can be ignored in the right context or relationship. Others, however, are far more egregious. I leave it to you, Dear Reader, to determine the difference.

Etiquette for Outside the Game:

1. Try not to be late to a tabletop event. I've posted about this before, but basically tabletop events aren't like a more casual show-up-and-bullshit hangout. These are games that cannot typically begin without you; or, in the case of a public gathering, it's a group of people looking for more to begin a game. Be on time, or, as your jerk supervisor at work may "advise" you, be ten minutes early. If you are going to be late, try and communicate as clearly and accurately as possible to someone at the event (preferably the event's host or organizer) that you're running late.

2. Scout the route. If you're going to go to a venue you've never been to before, try and learn the route before you go. That way you minimize the chances of getting lost the day of the event and, as a result, show up late (which as we see from point 1, is a party foul in itself). If you have time, actually go to the venue the day before the event, so you physically travel the route and maybe can develop a sense of how to get there. As with point 1, above, if you do get lost, communicate that right away to someone at the event. Most of the time, they'd rather send out a search party for you then let you figure it out yourself and end up late!

2. Bring something for the group. An economy size bag of generic potato chips is cheap and can do the trick just fine. You could also, of course, always cook something. If everyone does this, you'd have a veritable banquet that allows everyone to chow and game at the same time, without having to stop and order food or take a break for lunch or whatever. Bonus points if you bring actual food! Oh, and unless the host specifically requests you to, bringing the game(s) is not "bringing something." Nice try, though.

3. If the venue is somewhere commercial, like a shop or a restuarant, buy something. It doesn't have to be anything big. Just show the proprietor that you appreciate his or her allowing your group to game there. Whether it's a drink at a restuarant or a couple of dice from a hobby shop, something is better than nothing, and, as with "2" above, if everyone does it, it'll be a pretty good night for the owner!

4. Wear nametags (and if you're a host, provide them for the group). Try and learn other people's names, and try to throw yours out there as much as possible. I myself am terrible with names, but I'm working on it.

5. Ask people questions. Even if you don't care about the other people there, fake it (though if you really don't care about the other people there, you should probably just invest in an iPad.) Ask them what they do for a living. Ask them if they've been to this meetup before. Ask them what game they're hoping to play today/tonight. Who knows: you might end up caring! My little metagame is I try and learn at least one interesting thing about every single person I play a game with, without actually asking them "what's interesting about you?" Besides, learning details makes it easier to remember their name and if you find yourself talking to someone the next day about the game, you'll remember your opponents better!

Etiquette for Inside the Game:


1. Help with Setup and Takedown. This one's pretty obvious, but if one person is cracking open a box and setting it up to play, jump into that pile of bits and start helping! If you don't know what to do, just ask. If the person setting up doesn't know what you can do (either because setup is simple or they're figuring it out as they go), start organizing stuff into piles of stuff that look like each other. That's always useful. Same during takedown; do whatever you can to help minimize time spent organizing stuff. I consider it a Dick Move to work the room while the game you're going to play is being set up by others, and a Double Dick Move if you just shove off from the table after it's over and continue to schmooze while others put it away. There is one exception, though: if you're at a public event, your game ends, and you want to jump into a spot on a game that's just opening. If you communicate that as the reason you're bailing from take-down, personally I'm okay with it.

2. Save your criticisms for after the game. If you think a mechanic is broken or a theme is not well-established or the production quality of the bits isn't up to snuff, keep your mouth shut till the end of the game. Nobody likes hearing that the game they're spending time on right now is sub-par. All your criticism will do is bum out people who are actually having fun. Mind you, I'm talking about your own, personal opinion of the game. Rules and basic strategy questions should be asked as soon as they come to you.

3. If you're not having fun, quit. This is a very controversial piece of advice, but hear me out, here. A bad mood is contagious; if someone at the table isn't having a good time, it risks contaminating everyone else's good time, too. If you are genuinely not enjoying yourself while part of a game, you should bow out of the game, for your own sake as well as everyone else's sake. That being said, try and pay close attention to the game as it begins and try and determine if you're going to like it before you get in too deep. Though I would rather someone leave in the middle if they're not having fun, leaving in the middle can upset a game's balance of play, so don't do it unless you're definitely not having fun. How do you know? If you're thinking about leaving, ask yourself one simple question: would I be having fun if I were winning? If the answer is yes, you need to suck it up, roll those dice, and go for the win! If the answer is no (or you already are winning and still not having fun) then you should probably just go.

4. Learn the difference between "good-natured trash talk" and "just being a dick." There are no hard and fast guidelines here; you just have to try your best at reading your opponents and see if you're bugging them. If you are, then stop. If you don't know, stop anyway. Everyone will have a good time regardless of your trash talking; so why risk ruining someone's good time because you think you're being funny, or witty, or whatever? For this point, "trash talking" means basically any kind of adversarial attitude towards another gamer, whether it's taunting, mocking, or even "playfully" calling them a douchebag.

5. Share the awesome. This is mostly an RPG etiquette item, but it can apply to some boardgames, as well. If you appear to be doing more talking than anyone else at the table, take a little vow of silence break and let some other people say/do something. If everyone else at the table is shy, look for an opportunity to help them out of their shell. Since they've come to a social gathering, they definitely want to be sociable, so it's okay to ask them plenty of questions and listen to their answers.  

1 comment:

  1. For sure buy something. They let you use the space free of charge. You are a gamer and probably buy games, so buy from the store you game at.

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