Creating a Code of Conduct

So, you're organizing an event, starting a club, hosting a drop-in game, creating an online D&D group, or similar engagement. And you want to codify the expected social contract, address and prevent problem behaviors, establish a standard for play, and make sure everyone knows what to expect if someone chooses to violate those standards. Maybe you're creating a public event (online or in-person) and are wondering what the D&D Adventurers League admins look for when they approve a code of conduct, so you’re eligible for event support.

No singular code of conduct (C.o.C.) works for every event, location, staff, and attendee, so a dedicated template doesn’t exist. However, below are some questions you can ask yourself while you craft your code of conduct.

1. Who's missing from your C.o.C. team?
You're supporting a community, so it's best to work with members of the community when creating your code of conduct. You’ll want others' help developing, proofreading, doing the layout—some events even have access to professional legal guidance. But equally important as their skills, each person can add a unique perspective and lived experience. Whatever the size of the team, be sure to actively include and respect the voices of those within marginalized cultural groups (identifying as a person of color, fat person, woman, member of the LGBTQIA+ community, disabled person, senior, Muslim, Sikh, and more). Be thoughtful and honest with yourself when considering who is missing. Act intentionally and be persistent as you create your team; if one person is unavailable, don’t give up inviting others.

Benefits of working with marginalized team members can include increased accessibility, The following is an excerpt from Bubonicon’s Code of Conduct:

Seats at the front of the room are available for visually-impaired and hearing impaired attendees. Seats on either side of “center” in that section are available for lip-readers so that panelists’ faces are more easily visible.

2. Who has to follow the C.o.C.?
You've probably answered this question with “Everyone should follow the C.o.C., of course!” Make sure to put that in writing. It should be abundantly clear that attendees, players, Dungeon Masters, organizers, staff, security, you, and anyone at the event must follow the code of conduct. Those who experience a violation and witnesses thereof need to know how to report. You want those who receive reports to know what to do, and you want anyone who chooses to break the C.o.C. to know what consequences to expect.

3. What behaviors do you encourage?
Before discussing barred behaviors, foster the best atmosphere for your event. List behaviors that make your gathering the most fun, respectful, and run as smoothly as possible. For example, promote respect for people's property and the use of each person’s stated pronouns. Establish table etiquette, remind DMs and players to practice good self-care throughout the event, get consent before touching and taking pictures, or whatever your particular group needs. Use positives, listing ideal behaviors. For clarity, consider keeping this list separate from the one regarding prohibited actions.

A few examples from the Community Standards and Goals at Crit Hit’s Arizona gaming community.
1. We will demonstrate inclusiveness in all of our interactions with one another.
          1. We will respect any person’s pronouns and gender; if unsure please ask their pronouns in a polite manner.
          2. If a new player is interested in joining, we will take the time to either integrate them into an ongoing game or kindly direct them to a game that is accepting new players.

4. What behaviors do you prohibit?
One thing D&D Adventurers League admins look for on a code of conduct, before approving the event for support, is an anti-Harassment policy. Every country's and state's legal definition is different. Everyone's understanding of harassment is different. And venues have different needs; for example, some behaviors prohibited at an in-person event aren’t possible at or need to be addressed differently for an online engagement. Your C.o.C. needs to give everyone who reads it an unambiguous and shared understanding of how your event understands harassment and other unwanted behaviors. To
accomplish that, write out definitions.

It's up to you if you want your C.o.C. to use your area's legal jargon. Many use plain language for definitions of behaviors like harassment, hate speech, sexual assault, stalking, online harassment, and unwanted conducts that aren't illegal. Some lump all these behaviors under one general definition of what they consider harassment. In whatever way you define it, be sure your definition is broad enough to cover your full meaning but specific enough to be understood and interpreted correctly.

Under each of your definitions, include examples of those behaviors. You don't need a list so long it overwhelms readers; include enough examples to give everyone a better understanding of the definitions. You can show examples as varied as your definition is broad, like one example of verbal harassment and another physical. You may want examples to highlight repeat problems you've managed in the past. Your examples can show a spectrum of severity, like one that would receive a warning and another warranting immediate expulsion.

Harassment is any unwanted behaviour which humiliates, intimidates or offends a person and that is directed to the person because of his or her* sex, race, disability, age or any other ground covered in anti-discrimination legislation. Intention is not relevant in determining whether the conduct amounts to harassment. It is not necessary for the harassed person to have told the harasser that his or her behaviour was unwelcome or offensive. Silence on the part of a person being harassed should not be taken as acceptance of the conduct. While harassment is usually a series of events and can take many forms, one act can be deemed as an unlawful harassment. - Singapore Comic Con

Harassment encompasses many things. The following are examples but is not an exhaustive list. Generally, harassment includes offensive behavior or comments that involve gender, age, sexual orientation, appearance, race, disability, religion, ethnicity or other forms of identity. It also covers intimidation, aggressive behavior, stalking, disruptive play at tables, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome attention (sexual or otherwise) -Mondo GameCon, San Mateo, California

Harassment will also be defined as deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention. This further includes unsolicited or unwanted photography or recording. -Monkey Mind Tabletop, Dallas, Texas

*Please note, not all languages have the ability, but if possible, use gender-neutral pronouns. In English, “they” is less cumbersome and more inclusive of non-binary attendees and workers.

5. How are violations reported?
Depending on the size and type of gathering (online or in-person), some methods for finding the appropriate person to report to may be easier than others. A store, library, or single DM may need to write the names of the people to speak with or their positions. However, for events at convention centers or other large locales, it's easier if they wear identifying items like special badges or shirts. Be sure to list the specific location where people can find them. For online or other events, direct people to a list of links, emails, phone numbers, or direct messaging. Provide clear details.

Protect the identities of those who reported and experienced a violation to minimize the risk of retaliation and harassment. Add information to your C.o.C. about the confidentiality of reporting and create an intake system that does not require the reporter to leave their name. Even if the person identifies themself, only share that information on a need-to-know basis. Of course, decision-makers on your team need specific details to perform their tasks. Some team members only need the names of violators who should be refused entry. Some need to know what the violation was and what changes they need to make to the C.o.C. or procedures. Others may also require further details like when, where, who did the violation, and the consequences. Only disclose the identities of reporters or those who experienced violations to those who absolutely need that information; the person who violated the C.o.C. and the general public are not among those who need to know. Any deviation from this must have the informed consent of the person.

Anyone can report harassment. If someone’s behavior has made you uncomfortable, or if you witness the same happening to someone else, you should immediately contact SJGF Volunteer/Staff (black shirt with a big ole’ Question mark). If  necessary, we will contact local law enforcement, provide escort, offer a safe place or otherwise assist those experiencing harassment to make sure they feel safe for the rest of SJGF. - South Jersey Geek Fest’s Code of Conduct

6. What are the possible consequences for violating the C.o.C.?
Tell people what to expect if someone breaks the code of conduct; give those who are considering reporting the confidence they’ll be taken seriously, and that disclosing is worthwhile, appreciated, and confidential. Give those who receive the reports the guidelines needed to enact the appropriate consequences, as well as a defined chain of escalation. List how many warnings violators might receive, including if they may receive none. Describe the possible minimum and maximum actions. Provide them with the contact information for whomever they can escalate to if they require assistance.

For egregious, intentional or repeated violations, individuals will be asked to leave and/or barred from attending future events. While we will typically give warnings before taking such steps, we reserve the right to escalate to removal if, in Team Teal’s sole discretion, warranted. -Third Eye Adventurers League Community Code of Conduct

7. How respectful is your C.o.C.?
It is common for codes of conduct to prohibit ableism, classism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, cisgenderism, sizeism, and so on. As you know, we all act in one of these ways from time to time without realizing it. As you look over your work, be sure it doesn’t unintentionally cause harm. For example, some cosplay dress codes are more lenient on masculine bodies than feminine. And certain hygiene requirements set impossible standards for some disabled people, ignoring limitations. It is essential to have someone review your work to ensure it is professional and respectful of all attendees, staff, and volunteers.

8. How easy is it to read?
During your layout stage, create a document or poster that is easy to read at a glance. That frequently means being as brief and direct as possible. Cut out extraneous words. Break large sections of information into smaller chunks. Limit the number of bullet points. If you believe it helps, make it eye-catching and colorful. It should be friendly and nonthreatening, but avoid using humor. Humor is indirect and, at times, passive-aggressive; it can make the message unclear, easily misunderstood, and less likely to be taken seriously.

At online or in-person gatherings, post the C.o.C. in places where it is most likely to be read and referenced repeatedly. For events at physical locations, organizers are asked by D&D Adventurers League to ensure codes of conduct are accessible at several places around the venue, as well as online. 

D&D Tumba de la Aniquilación Paraná, in Entre Ríos, Argentina, limited their C.o.C. to have no more than six bullet points per topic:
Aggressive Behavior
• Threatening to hit other participants
• Tearing up another player’s character sheet
• Pulling out another participant’s chair, causing the player to fall
• Intentionally turning over a table

9. Maintaining a Code of Conduct
Creating a code of conduct is a continuing process between events and for ongoing groups. Over time you may find you need to revise, add to, or otherwise tailor it for your gathering’s growing needs. This revision process helps you and your C.o.C. manage a respectful community and keep the fun rolling.

​Written for D&D Adventurers League by Ma’at Crook, Amy Lynn Dzura, LaTia Jacquise, and Chris Lindsay