I’ve seen the idea of a “gamer’s charter” or a “social contract” addressed on a couple of blogs and gaming sites, and have found the subject curious. Perhaps I’ve been lucky and most of the gamers I’ve played with, with a number I could count on a single hand being the exception, have been adult, conscientious, and drama-free. Perhaps it’s that early on, I started being careful with the people that I’ve played with. After an encounter with one especially tragic example of the socially inept that — in this case, a 300 pound “ninja” who could do all manner of extraordinary things with his ninja perception and dexterity (yet couldn’t discern two of us slipping past him one day in our apartment annex, locked doors and all) who was creepily attached to us and was bereft of all manner of social skills — I started screening folks before inviting them to the games. I like to meet them in a neutral setting so that we can get an idea if the personalities will mesh, and that our view of the hobby is similar enough that there should be a minimum of friction.

We’ve never laid down rules. I let folks know I have a pet peeve when I’m running or hosting — give me as much notice as you can if you won’t be there, and that I dislike tardiness. It’s just an artifact of growing up in  another time and on the East Coast, where if you weren’t early, you were late. I don’t berate them if they’re a few minutes late — we just start without them, if we’ve finished eating. If there’s any real “rule” laid down, it’s that I supply dinner and except people to throw in if they eat. A few bucks, a fiver, any more and we count each five as a week paid up front. But it’s never been a contract; it’s just a gentlemen’s agreement that naturally evolved ad hoc.

In play, as GM, I try to make sure people get as equal time as I can. I don’t really stomp on scene chewers and time hogs, but shift the focus as unobtrusively as I can. Telling a gamer that they’re sucking up all the air (and I have one right now that would, if I didn’t keep close watch of the group dynamics) is just as rude as letting them do so. As GM, you can find a way to bring the other players into the mix. (I may do a post on this skill later this week…)

I suppose you could count what we do as a social contract in the Jeffersonian mold — an unspoken, but generally understood set of social norms — but most of these are “rules” of generally good behavior. If you pick adult or polite folks to game with, they should bring these generalized rules of behavior with them.

No contracts needed.