Is a social contract right for your D&D group?

During a recent conversation with Stupid Ranger (who, despite the moniker, is a highly intelligent person), the topic of social contracts for gaming groups emerged. Such contracts set clear expectations about how players should behave at the gaming table, and by signing them, players agree to abide by those expectations. While these contracts are not a new concept – a definitive post on the topic appeared on Treasure Tables three years ago, and the earliest online reference to the term I found was dated 2001 – I noted that no version of the Dungeon Master’s Guide had ever identified such an agreement as a dungeon master’s tool, and inexperienced DMs may consider drafting one for the purposes of improving the play experience for everyone.

Group composition is a key element in determining if a formal social contract is necessary. Many groups are composed of family members and close friends; relationships of that sort are well-established, and tend to have higher levels of personal acceptance, easier communication, and higher tolerance between players. For such groups, these close relationships can naturally address most play aspects a social contract would cover on an as-needed basis, so specifically writing out how people should behave during the game may not be necessary. Continue reading