During the years I have been active in the RPG scene (offline and online) the topic of “social contracts” has come up from time to time. In the light of recent events I’ve been thinking about this particular subject a lot.
A social contract is a set of rules, an agreement among the members of a group that defines and limits the rights and duties of each member. In the RPG hobby its understood at the mostly unwritten rules at the game table which are not actual game rules. It covers things like “Is eating allowed at the game table?”, “Does the GM fudge rolls?”, “How is out-of-character speech handled?” and similar questions.
Over the years I’ve played in many different gaming groups and in most cases the terms of the social contract were pretty much the same and in no case they were actually written down. But I just had a case where I wished I had thought more about a social contract in the first place. There’s a player in my group who is actually a very nice guy, but sometimes mutates into “That Guy”. He likes to play extreme characters who tend not to fit well into the party, is extremely enthusiastic in a very tiring way, tends not to bring any dice or writing utensils to the game sessions and is generally unorganized.
Perhaps I’m getting old and grumpy, but his behaviour is driving me nuts at the moment. Recently I wrote him a pretty long email in which I told him what I was annoyed of and that I’d like him to change certain things. He hasn’t replied yet, but I actually don’t expect him to do so anytime soon, since he tends not to read his emails. Sigh
Some of you might think why I am even bothering. I guess it’s because I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose and I think that everyone earns a second choice. Some of you might think I am overreacting. Perhaps I am.
Let’s get back to “social contracts”. Currently I wish I had written down a social contract before. In that case I could just point to the rules we all agreed to, which could have included simple rules like “everyone brings their own dice and writing utensils”. The problem with unwritten rules is that some members of the group might just not be aware of all the rules. This never has been a problem before because I usually played with people that I knew for years. But in recent years I started playing regularly with people who I actually don’t know that much outside of gaming. Perhaps it’s time to write down a couple of rules – just in case.
What are your thoughts on social contracts? Do we need them. Do you have one at your game table? Do you actually write down the rules and what do you do if someone at the game table chooses to ignore them? Please share your thoughts below!
There are only a few games I enjoyed more than Robin D. Laws’ Feng Shui. I only played it once and with a group of people I never played with before, but we all had a total blast. The rules have its quirks but were easy enough, the setting is totally over the top, but works very well, and the chemistry between the players and their characters was just great. You can read more about my thoughts on this game here.
Atlas Games, the publisher of Feng Shui, is currently running a Kickstarter project for Feng Shui 2. It’s no surprise that the goal of $8000 has already been surpassed and several of the stretch goals including new character archetypes and full color interior have already been unlocked. For just $10 you can get the PDF copy of the game when it’s done and instant access to the playtest rules, so you can start playing at once.
If you are either a fan of Robin D. Laws’ work and/or Hong Kong action movies, you definitely should check the Feng Shui 2 Kickstarter out. It’s worth it!
Back in 1998 I stumbled upon Fuzion, an universal roleplaying game which was available for free on the internet. This was – at least for me – something new and unexpected. Back in the day, roleplaying games were mostly available in print and not in digital formats. And giving away games for free wasn’t that common back in the day. In a way, Fuzion was ahead of its time in more than one aspect.
Fuzion was created in collaboration between R. Talsorian Games and Hero Games. It combined elements of the Interlock System and the Hero system, but many people claim that it combined the worst elements of both. I have to admit, I am no expert in either system and I liked a lot what Fuzion had to offer.
Fuzion had support for various genres and power levels. Like in games like GURPS the number of character points used to build character’s stats determined the power level of the campaign. The system was also build in a modular way, so you could easily add rules for vehicles, magic etc. using plugins. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s a lot of people all over the internet wrote plugins or variant rules for Fuzion and shared them freely. I actually expected Fuzion to become the next big thing, but that never happened.
I am not sure if the OGL for D&D in 2000 was to blame, or if it was because of the rather lackluster support of the game system. R. Talsorian Games released a couple of games using the system (mainly licensed anime RPGs), but aside from that the support was pretty limited. But I also think that Fuzion was ahead of its time. The core rules were mainly distributed online in a time when most people haven’t even heard of the internet. In addition to that universal systems always have a hard time.
By the way, if you are interested in checking out what Fuzion has to offer, there’s an illustrated version available for $3 at DriveThruRPG. Free material can be found on Christian Conkle’s Tranzfuzion site.
What are your thoughts on the Fuzion system? Was it ahead of its time? Or did it deserve to die a quick death? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.