A Redeemed Rule Zero?

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A suggestion for a 4E Rule Zero:

"When a Dungeon Master decides to run a D&D game, he or she enters a social contract with the players at the table."

Travis
Sounds reasonable to me, though we need to have more details as to what the social contract entails.
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Sounds reasonable to me, though we need to have more details as to what the social contract entails.

Agreed
Sounds reasonable to me, though we need to have more details as to what the social contract entails.

It'd help if I'd posted the correct link to to the details as to what the D&D social contract entails. I went back and fixed it in the original post, and here's the link again.

Travis
A most laudable ideal, and sadly, I think it will remain just that for most players - just an ideal which they strive to work towards, but are just unable to attain for whatever reason.

I don't believe that players never thought of this in the past 20 years of dnd. It didn't happen back then, and it sure isn't going to just take place overnight.

I would rather wotc work on properly balancing out the 4e material, if anything else. Just because a DM can theoretically use rule 0 to balance out any perceived flaw in the game does not mean that he should have to. This thing should be readily playable right out of the box from the start, and not have to use rule zero as an excuse to rationalize poor design.
I agree Rule Zero should be prominently brought back into the game. But playing a game shouldn't require a legal contract. "Social Contracts" are the anti-thesis of fun IMHO.
I agree Rule Zero should be prominently brought back into the game. But playing a game shouldn't require a legal contract. "Social Contracts" are the anti-thesis of fun IMHO.

A social contract isn't a legal contract. Please read up on what a social contract entails.
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It looks like a request for the players to understand that the DM probably can't create the pen & paper equivalent of Oblivion, and not to expect this of him/her.
On a tangentially related note, I think the degree to which a D&D game is dependent on the DM is a fundamental flaw of its design. The DM has to do SO much work, 95% of which he cannot delegate--you simply cannot have your players designing the plot or the monsters they'll be facing.

It's probably why the game is still a nerd's game in a niche market.
It looks like a request for the players to understand that the DM probably can't create the pen & paper equivalent of Oblivion, and not to expect this of him/her.

It's a little more than that.

It's an agreement, often tacit, of the particular appropriate behaviors in a given circumstance. Thus, not peeing in the potted plants, not grabbing the host's wife's ***, and not backstabbing the rest of the party are all parts of a social contract. There are different social contracts for different social groups. Some behaviors only apply to some groups (It's O.K. to pee in the plants while camping, grab someone else's wife's *** during a swingers party, and backstab PCs in the right type of campaign). Social contracts are rarely outright discussed, but rather inferred from behavior and reaction. This is the source of many social errors either from entering a social group with conventions different from your own, or from disparities in agreement between what a social contract covers.

This was taken from http://www.treasuretables.org/wiki/index.php?title=Social_Contract. More details can be found on that page.

Basically, in every game, you have a social contract with the other gamers. In fact, in every social interaction, you are abiding (or not abiding) by some social contract. Of the most ancient forms of social contract is non-aggression: live and let live. At the gaming table, we usually assume a set of conditions that form each table's social contract, but sometimes the conditions are different in each gamer's mind. To clear up any misunderstandings, it's useful to verbalize the social contract so that everyone is clear on it.

For instance, saying "we are playing a fantasy RPG set in a quasi-medieval setting" is a fairly basic condition. If you're looking for a steampunk RPG set in the wild west, speak now or forever hold your peace. A more specific term might be "All treasure gained by player characters is going to be split evenly." This condition is present in some, but not all games. In some games, the pecking order for treasure is established through roleplay, and is not necessarily even.

The original poster is basically saying that this would be a more appropriate rule 0 than "The DM can alter any rule to suit the game he or she is playing." Although I think that rule is still important, I agree that having a concrete social contract is even more helpful and much less obvious.