If you aren't up to date on the sociological terms of the rpg blogosphere, "Don't Be a Dick" has become a bit of a chant in recent times. The claim is that if everyone follows this simple rule, then playing games will be a lot more fun. It's sort of like alignment in D&D, which at the basest level is represented by the chart below. As clearly indicated on this chart, being a prick/dick is considered "Evil" by most tabletop RPGers.
|Shamelessly stolen from "Anonymous"|
I refer to "Don't Be a Dick" as Rule 00, to eliminate confusion with Rule 0 ("A DM has final say on everything").
On ars ludi, Ben argues that Rule 00 is not useful. He says that either malice or misunderstanding creates the dick, and hypothesizes that calling out dickish behavior fixes neither.
He has good points, but nevertheless I do believe in Rule 00, not just for gaming but for all of life. It is a personal code of behavior, like Chivalry or the Rules of War. In general, the success of such personal codes depends in part on sharing your life with those that share your approach to life. In other words, be friends with people that also don't want to be a dick. Share a common understanding of dickness, and avoid it together.
My definition of dickness includes acting mean, superior, or preachy.
I believe acting mean, superior, or preachy should always be called out when done with malice. This gets to the topic of Justice, which I believe counters the ars ludi theory of malice. Allowing someone to be a malicious dick without addressing it violates everyone else's sense of justice. GMs are in a position of leadership here and are responsible for handling this. If the GM is a dick then the players need to have an intervention.
The focus of such actions should be correctional and not punitive. Each group will have their own dynamic for this. Mine is to beat the offender over the head with a large stick until they stop being a dick. Corrected.
Misunderstanding is the least dickish reason to be a dick. In my experience as a business manager, I have also seen it to be the most common reason. People don't usually act out of malice, so I agree with ars ludi on that. However, as a business manager, I also have a responsibility to make sure my employees don't act like dicks for any reason, especially misunderstanding. The job of the leader - the GM in this situation - is to address misunderstandings through education and information. The counter to misunderstanding is Understanding. And not just by the offender - the root cause of their behavior must be understood by others.
Let me share a business management secret: The #1 reason people act out is because they feel insecure about something. If you are a GM, or even just a good friend, and someone is acting out, think about why the offender might feel insecure. Maybe they just broke up with their girlfriend, or had a bad day at work, or are tired of doing 3 points of damage every 8th attack when the other players do twice that. Maybe they need a beer instead of a game session. Whatever it is, if you can figure it out, you can stop the dickishness while also helping a friend feel better.
Or use the stick again. Whatever works for your group.
"Don't be a dick" is a rallying cry for gamers because it represents a utopia - an ideal world where everyone stops being mean, superior, and preachy. Like any good rule, it sometimes needs a little enforcement.