We are a group of 5 plus a game master. We play around a table, that is roughly capable of fitting our inventory: character sheets, game world map, area map by the game master, dice.

The first problem is that we all drink something — most of us beer, and with 6 mugs…

  • the table becomes crowded
  • the atmosphere is not so game-oriented
  • one has to be careful not to spill something.

The second and more severe problem is that, because we play after work, and because some people come late, and because people like snacks while drinking, there is a constant presence of plates, sausages, salads, bread, spices on the table. Results — same as above, but more severe.

We are playing at home, on a sofa and some chairs around a low table (0.5m × 1.5m coffee table). The room is next to a kitchen (no door between) with an elevated bar and kitchen counter. The room gets rather crowded.

In what direction should I be thinking, in order to resolve at least the plates issue?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is your session long enough that you can take some pregame time to snack? \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 14:43
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Are you playing in a home, or a public space? How much (if any) control do you have over the environment? \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 15:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AceCalhoon, at home, on a sofa and some chairs around a low table (0.5m x 1.5m coffee table). The room is next to a kitchen (no door between) with an elevated bar plot and kitchen counter. The room gets rather crowded. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vorac
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 16:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Vorac that's a pretty small table for gaming tbh. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 16:27
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Don't answer in comments. Please edit comment clarifications into the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 16:44

6 Answers 6


Times when table space has been at a premium in my groups, I've found that the most mobile part is actually the character sheets. Unless players or characters are new/unfamiliar, they don't need to be referenced all that much for most games, and it's often easier to slap them on a clipboard or tuck them into a hardback book. The size of an 8.5 x 11" sheet is enough to fit a snack and a drink.

If you have extra chairs or side tables, they can also be a blessing, though I'd guess if they were an option, this question wouldn't be here.

As for spilling, that's just something you have to put on everyone to share the responsibility for. Organize your stuff so you don't have to reach over food and drink much. If you're using a map with minis, have an open space where players can stand while placing their figures so they aren't reaching over their own drinks all the time. And keep a roll of paper towels around in case of accidents.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Another idea, we usually use the game's books to hold our sheets while we eat. That way there's no more equipment than necessary, and once we're done eating we put the sheets back in place. \$\endgroup\$
    – IEatBagels
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 15:24

To start off with: Your space just isn't very good for the task you're using it for (RPGs). There are some things you can do to help out, but ultimately change is something you'll want to strongly consider.

Making Do

You're going to want to specialize your table for what it's good at. Which is providing a stable space which most players can see.

This means that your maps go on the table (at least the ones currently in use), and food rests on the table while it's not in use.

People should plan on actually eating with their food on their laps. The bowls / glasses / etc. just rest on the table when hands are needed for other things.

Empty plates/glasses/etc. should move to the floor, and/or be disposed of.

Food "reservoirs" (drink pitchers, casserole dishes, pizza boxes, etc.) go in the kitchen. If you want more food/drink, you walk out and get it.

Books should be stored on the floor, or in backpacks when not in use. An exception can be made for very frequently referenced books (back in my small table days the core book for Star Wars D6 lived on the table, because it was referenced whenever someone took damage).

Character sheets should generally be kept with the player on the player's lap or the floor near them. Use clip boards or hard cover books for support while writing.

For die rolls, make sure everyone has a box top to roll dice into within arm's reach. This way they can roll without chasing dice across the (crowded) table.

You will still tend to have a certain amount of cross-talk with this setup. Cross-talk is always something that the group itself controls, but having people at different levels and different planes within the room does encourage it.

I'm also not really sure how to herd a group into doing any of this. Back in my days of playing on small tables, the group tended to gravitate to doing this sort of thing pretty naturally.


Buy yourself a folding table. It's cheap, and it uses very little storage space. Pull it out when you game.

Hopefully you have chairs around the house that can be moved to the table for game night. If not, folding chairs are an option... Although they use an awkward amount of storage space.

This will give you a bit more space, and make that space easier to use. It's also much easier to supplement this space with end tables and TV trays (which are often a bit high for use with a coffee table).

You'll still want to keep things like pitchers, pizza boxes, and other food reserves in the kitchen. And books should probably still live off the table when not actively being used.

Finally, sitting everyone down at a single table helps discourage cross-talk. It doesn't eliminate it... It's not magic. But having everyone at a single table, focused on the game, and sitting forward in their chairs does help quite a lot.

The Best

Ideally, you would want to have an actual table and chairs for play. Either as part of a dining room, or a dedicated gaming space. It's more stable, you can make sure the lighting is better, permanent tables tend to be larger than folding ones, and it's just nicer to have tools built for the job at hand.

The big downside here is that furniture is expensive, and eats a lot of space. Depending on your living conditions, this may simply not be practical for you.

Other Thoughts

  • No matter what you do, keep a roll of paper towels handy. Spills happen, regardless of what precautions you take.

  • Designated food breaks can work for some groups, but I find they often don't. It isn't unusual for there to be one or two people who arrive at the game directly from something else, and need to either delay the game or eat at the table.

  • NO FOOD AT THE TABLE rules tend to break down for the above reason. Also, sometimes there are cookies.


We hold character sheets in our laps, usually having some kind of folder beneath. World map and area map rotate, there is only one at the table at any moment.

If there still isn't enough space we put nightstand’s (or smaller tables or wooden chairs that are flat) that can support two drinks and an ashtray between players. GM has his own where he puts his notes etc.

We agreed that snacks that can be put in a bowl are acceptable, but anything that needs a plates to be eaten isn't.

But my personal favourite is playing on the floor.


Our group always seperated tables. Ie the "Gaming table" had game stuff, NO DRINKS, NO FOOD. Period.

If you needed someplace to set your drink, you find another corner table, or TV Tray table, or something .. to set it.

This also helped with the spillage problem (couple players were accident prone .. spilling all the time .. sigh) .. so keeping the drinks/food far away from the books and such meant a spill was just a spill, no books and such ruined.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The main table in my music studio had a piece of masking tape reading NO DRINKS. Spill anywhere you want, just not on the expensive equipment. Or in this case, not all over my 1st edition Monster Manual... \$\endgroup\$
    – Mazura
    Commented Mar 14, 2015 at 0:21

Eat and drink then clear up! No dirty plates around, no empty bags of crisps, no empty pitchers, no rubbish at the table. This takes just a little time and once you cleared things up, you have more room. How about giving XPs (or equivalent) to whoever clears up as a motivation?

You could limit the drinks/food to a certain time (say 21:00) but that has problems of its own and in practice there are too many exceptions so that the rule gets broken all the time.

Alternatively, get take out before the game: You all order what you want to eat for dinner, eat it, and then play. If take out is too fatty/expensive, then how about one player making dinner and getting some extra XPs?


Our group uses 1,5L bottles doubling as drink containers and to raise our playing grid and thus create two levels of space. When someone wants a drink someone else supports the grid.


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