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The 4 rules that apply to ALL tabletop roleplaying games

by Imaginary Daemo on January 11, 2017

Every pen and paper game comes jam packed with its own specific rules - the core of the game themselves. You'll never remember them all, and eventually they'll somehow merge inside your head into a strange conglomerate of different versions and house rules.

But, over the years I've come to understand there are a few basic rules that encompass all tabletop RPG's no matter what system. These rules have been learned the hard way, and when used go a long way to making your roleplaying experience a lot better. They are the very first things I pass on to new gamers.

As I write out my adventures in this blog, I'll reference these rules - which I call the Rules of Roleplaying - fairly often.

I thought it best to list them out first so nobody (including me) gets confused.

Don't worry - there's only 4 of them.

Rule 1 - It's supposed to be fun

It's a Role Playing GAME. Games are meant to be fun. This is the master rule - all of the others fall back on this one.

If you're not enjoying yourself - stop playing. It's not a job. You don't NEED to be there.

Too many times have I seen people come along to the fortnightly game and sit there miserable... and that's a misery that quickly spreads to the rest of the group.

Rule 2 - It's not a competition

Throughout your roleplaying life, everyone will come across the gamer who NEEDS to be better than everyone else. Deal more damage. Get more loot. Win.

There is no individual winning in a collaborate game - you're all supposed to win. This goes for DM vs Player battles as well. DMs and players are supposed to be on the same side in telling a great story.

All of this competition can very quickly break Rule 1

Oh, and PvP? Rule it out immediately. I've seen it happen numerous times, and it never has a positive effect on the group. Just don't do it.

Rule 3 - The rules are there to support the game, not the other way around

If the rules are getting in the way of Rule 1 - make a consensus with your group to change them. Nothing anywhere says you HAVE to run the rules as written in the books.

It's your game - make it work for you.

Rule 0 - DM has final say

This one pretty much everyone knows already, but note that I didn't write 'The DM is always right' as you would normally see online.

It is a great part of roleplaying to have a good discussion about what your character can achieve that may not be covered by the rules. It expands the game and makes it your own. Have an open discussion and put forward your points, but respect your DM's final ruling without argument.

It is NOT a great part of roleplaying for a DM to arbitrarily change rules 'because they don't like them'. A DM is also supposed to listen - it's their job to make the game as fun for the players as possible. Yes the DM runs the game, but the game belongs to ALL of the players.

If you have a DM that abuses their power and breaks Rule 1 repeatedly and doesn't respond to feedback (remember, you're supposed to be having fun) - leave the group. It's that simple. Don't tough it out and hope they'll come around... chances are they won't.