Ever since listening to Episode 115 of the Saving the Game podcast, I have been been mulling over the concept of providing game master rules to my players. It was a side discussion on the podcast about putting into writing what players in our roleplaying adventures/campaigns can expect from us as their game master. It sets standards and a tone that everyone agrees to before play begins.
I think within the roleplaying hobby today, this is something very useful as we are all coming to the hobby from different places. Some GMs and players, like myself, have been roleplaying for decades and tend to make assumptions about our hobby. Actual play podcasts, video streams, and twitch streams (like Critical Role) are attracting more and more new players to the roleplaying hobby every day. Some people have had wonderful experiences in the roleplaying hobby, and others have had challenges or even traumatic experiences. The idea of game master rules helps players and game masters to agree on expectations.
This idea really resounded with me, even after decades of gaming without these rules written down. Whether someone has been gaming with me for decades or playing in a one-shot with me for the first time, I want them to know what to expect when they roleplay with me. I wrote up a draft I shared with my current players and have received positive feedback on it. And the more I consider the usefulness and importance of such a statement, the greater priority it takes on. This is more than just guidelines or rules, this is an agreement I am making with my players. The word that comes to mind is covenant.
Covenant – A written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.
T.R. Knight’s Game Master Covenant
- I will care about my players more than the game.
- I will provide a safe and fun environment for my players.
- I will prioritize the story over the game.
- I will run heroic focused stories.
- I will cater the story to my players’ interests.
- I will cater the story to player character agendas.
- I will give each player character moments in the spotlight.
- I will not kill a player character lightly.
- I will provide players informed choices with consequences.
- I will listen to player ideas, as they are often better than my ideas.
I am sharing my personal Game Master Covenant in hopes of sparking a conversation. What elements of my personal Game Master Covenant interest you or perhaps bother you? Are you a game master, dungeon master, storyteller, keeper, narrator, etc for roleplaying games? Do you have any agreement (written or unwritten) with your players? If you play in or run convention games, have you ever utilized a document like this at the table? I would love to hear about other similar rules/agreements/covenants in use at your game tables.