The list of rules that follow applies to games commonly played by NPL members in chat rooms (chat) and during conventions (con). The list includes classics as well as newer inventions, but is primarily intended for non-published games that require minimal preparation and equipment.
Any game that enjoys success at NPL gatherings and shows promise for enduring charm can be a part of this list. Amendments, variations, and attribution information for games already on the list are welcome.
The next few paragraphs address some general issues of game procedure, terminology and etiquette.
How Do We Play? By the Rules. Newcomers to NPL chat room sessions and conventions are always welcome to participate in the games. The veterans are happy to explain the game rules to first-time players. For online games, players can refer to the web site's Game Rules (this page) or to watch a few rounds of play in order to get the basics down quickly.
Competition vs. Exhibition. A competition is a game in which players are scored (or evaluated in some other objective way) in order to determine winners and losers. An exhibition is a game designed to showcase the players’ creativity and cleverness with no regard for scoring. Some games are competitive (e.g. Mafia) or exhibitive (e.g. Telephone Pictionary) by design. Other games may be approached as either competitions or exhibitions depending on the tastes of the players. A brief discussion at the game's onset regarding the players’ expectations for competition and exhibition is often helpful.
Who Goes First? Some players are content dividing a group into teams or deciding who goes first arbitrarily. Others others prefer an objective method for determining teams and first player. When members of the latter group are present their desires are respected. All players should be helpful in finding fair ways to start the game: coin flips, picking numbers, "guess the time," etc.
Who Goes Next? The playing order in many games is mandated by design or tradition. In some games the winning player of the previous round becomes the moderator in the next round. A "free-for-all" system may be used for spontaneous clueing games with quick turnover. In a free-for-all game anyone may present the next puzzle at any time, although it is a good idea to keep the total number of unguessed puzzles to a manageable number. A common system is one in which every interested player has a turn. At a live gathering this type of playing order is established by positioning the players in some semblance of a circle. Chat sessions often use the alphabetical order of the players’ screen names (AIM preferences may be set so the chat room roster lists the participants alphabetically). Any kind of predetermined ordering system tends to be more efficient than one based on comments along the lines of "I'll go next if no one else wants to."
Giving Clues. A row of three asterisks (***) is a convention in chat room games to distinguish clues from unrelated dialogue. The asterisks precede clues in Pyramid, topics in Sheep, cues for film styles in Krewe’s Line Is It Anyway?, etc. Some games use a similar prompting system for answers, either with asterisks or another keyboard symbol.
Crowd Control. Convention games have a tendency to become crowds and the enjoyability begins to diminish after the population reaches a certain point. It’s fun to be a guesser in Charades but more fun to be the performer, and having thirty other players in line ahead of you can be a frustrating prospect. When you sense that a game is becoming too crowded, don't be afraid to suggest that the group split into two smaller groups to pursue the same game or perhaps new games.