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Thread: Rules Lawyers

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
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    Default Rules Lawyers

    I'm not fond of game "Rules" and people who insist the the Rules in the book are Law, bug me. But thats not what I'm getting at.

    Recently I've had a few scuffles with a few gamers about bending and rewriting different rules in an RPG inorder for the majority of the group to enjoy the game more fully. What rules where changed is irrelevant, what my question is, are book rules really that important? I always prefer the Role playing aspect over Roll playing. But in some games it feels like we're spending more time swimming in the game mechanic and talking dice then playing the game. (A random encounter scene should not take an hour and a half)

    I'm I really in the wrong for changing the rules around to make the game fit my player's game style? Isn't this where the term "House Rules" came from?


    To clarify, I don't game with the Rules Lawyers in question, we just get in arguments every now and then whenever we talk, which is relatively unavoidable since we're in the came "Club".
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Are you informing your players in advance about the changes you make, or when the rule in question turns up at the session? Do you change them at the start of the campaign, or in the middle? Could you give examples of the rules you implement?

    How right/wrong are you depends heavily on the answers to these questions.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    I myself am something of a rules lawyer. A rather poor one, but I still am. And I have no problem with House Rules. House Rules are really needed in most games, since there is so much stuff that is broken per RAW.

    Bottom line is that no, you are not wrong. Don't forget Rule 0. The DM can change any rule they want.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    The problem is, players make decisions based on RAW (and basic houserules, like DIPLOMACY DOES NOT WORK THAT WAY), and unless you warn them that you are changing something, you are rendering their decisions superfluous. If they assume you can hit someone from any bordering square, and you houserule that if someone is surrounded, people on the corners have a miss chance, the players need to know before they decide where to move, otherwise you run into "I wouldn't have done that if I had known" situations, where the player has justification for being annoyed.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Well, given that you're playing D20, this is something that the game system encourages by having so many rules to begin with. There are basicaly two points of view:

    1) Why have so many explicit rules if you're just going to ignore them?

    2) The written rules are just suggestions to help you make your version.

    There are two ways of playing the game, 'by the book' (drown to heal, 'Timmy Cards' are a good idea, etc...) and 'House Ruled' ("Look, Orcs have BAB 2, I don't have to explain it, alright?"). Neither approach is necessarily better than the other, but some players definitely prefer one over the other.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    The problem isn't my players, but some of my peers in one of the RPG communities that I subscribe to. But to answer your question, all changes to the rules are detailed before the game starts, and remain as such until the next game. Some rules may be changed in-between games but not without the player's input. We also do our best to keep new members fully informed of the changes to the system before they hop in a game and find out initiative works a little differently.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Then basically, the people who are saying you are doing it wrong are self-righteous idiots who butt into other people's business with their "you're doing it wrong!!!1" whining. Feel free to tell them that a person on the intertubes couldn't think worse of them.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    House Rules, in themselves, aren't necessarily bad but the following criteria play a big role in determining how good or bad they are.

    1. Are the house rules laid out clearly before the players ever make characters, and are any questions the players have about rules interactions answered unambiguously at the same time?

    If you answer no to this question your house rules are already at a -10 on a scale of 1-10, unless the following criteria is met.

    2. Is the house rule created during the game to stop or alter something unforeseen or unintended, and if so; is the player(s) effected by the new rule allowed to redo their character if the new rules alters what they planned on doing?

    Again, if either of those is a no then your house rule goes even farther to the bad side of the spectrum. An example of this would be someone making use of Arcane Thesis and then you houseruling that it couldn't reduce individual meta to negative 1.

    3. Does the house rule streamline or clarify some part of the rules?

    If so then its generally a good house rule. Unlike rules that make the system more clunky.

    4. Do your players have any problems with the house rules?

    5. Are the house rules needed or necessary?

    -------
    Generally, if everyone likes the house rules then you have no problem at all. If the house rules fix a problem with the game then you are justified with implementing them (if they are implemented pregame). If the house rule is needed in game because of something unforeseen (the rules don't cover something) and the players are given a chance to fix anything that depending on a different rule that is superseded by the house rule then you are justified with implementing them.

    But if you just create random, arbitrary, house rules in game then your players are fully justified with whacking you with the DMG and not letting you DM anymore.

    The DM has the power to Rule 0, and the responsibility to use that power when it is needed. But having the power doesn't justify its use.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Roleplaying games are, first and foremost, games. If adapting to the player's game style is more fun, then it's good.

    However, make the house rules and physics internally consistent. I remember playing Necropolis where one electrical trap could not be short circuited with a crow bar but an electrical golem encounter was expected to killed with water. I can have fun with cleverness with real world physics. I can have fun where this not allowed and using straight spell and battle tactics instead. It is not fun devising clever tricks then being told it's not allowed. The DM must make up his mind which applies.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Noir-Neko View Post
    Recently I've had a few scuffles with a few gamers about bending and rewriting different rules in an RPG inorder for the majority of the group to enjoy the game more fully. What rules where changed is irrelevant, what my question is, are book rules really that important?
    Book rules aren't necessarily important. Consistent, known rules are very important. Without a consistent and known set of rules, players may expect / be playing a completely different game.

    I always prefer the Role playing aspect over Roll playing. But in some games it feels like we're spending more time swimming in the game mechanic and talking dice then playing the game. (A random encounter scene should not take an hour and a half)
    What system you play makes a big difference in encounter length, you may want to look at other systems if your current game is consistently slower than you'd like. As for the ratio between role & roll playing, make sure you're on the same page as your players. There are some who'd be happy with a dungeon crawl of nothing but combat and others who'd prefer a political game where no blow is ever struck. Find a middle ground the whole group can enjoy.

    I'm I really in the wrong for changing the rules around to make the game fit my player's game style? Isn't this where the term "House Rules" came from?
    Are you changing rules on the fly? Or changing rules to fit one player at another's expense? As long as you remember it's a group game and take the time to communicate with the group you should be fine.

    To clarify, I don't game with the Rules Lawyers in question, we just get in arguments every now and then whenever we talk, which is relatively unavoidable since we're in the came "Club".
    Try asking questions instead of arguing...see if you can understand the other gamer's point of view. Even when you don't agree with it.

    Most of all, remember it's a game. Have fun!
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    The rules are just a framework to have fun with. I don't see why anyone would have a problem with the idea of changing them. Maybe they're an idiot or an *******.

    Ask anyone who played RuneQuest seriously in the 90s. Most veteran RQ gamers used maybe 10% of the rules as written in the rulebook, and the rest was houseruled. If you put all the great houserules published in fanzines and online together and printed them, you'd have hundreds of pages of interesting rules that made the game much better. Heck, there were several entirely new game systems (PenDragon Pass) and minigames (YAHQS, etc.) written for the game/setting.

    Anyway, this isn't actually rules-lawyering. A rules-lawyer can use rewritten rules, too.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Noir-Neko View Post
    The problem isn't my players, but some of my peers in one of the RPG communities that I subscribe to. But to answer your question, all changes to the rules are detailed before the game starts, and remain as such until the next game. Some rules may be changed in-between games but not without the player's input. We also do our best to keep new members fully informed of the changes to the system before they hop in a game and find out initiative works a little differently.
    Then you're doing it reasonably enough.

    A couple of simple questions, basic yes/no; these are for your players, not you.

    1) Is the point of playing the game to have fun?
    2) Does strict RAW get in the way of fun?
    3) Do the house rules in use make the game more fun than strict RAW?

    If the answer to all three from all your players is "yes", then you're golden. It's your players your worried about for this aspect, not some random people on the internet, not the buddy you argue with.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Noir-Neko View Post
    I'm not fond of game "Rules."
    Then maybe you should just play Freeform games. Then you won't have any of those pesky rules, and you won't have to concern yourself with those evil "roll-players" who steal your fun.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Thanks for all of the feedback and suggestions. I've got my brain sorted and I should be able to resolve it next time.


    I shall equip my players with Cluebats and we shall smite our enemies! Except for Matt, he gets the Laser cannon we strapped to his chest.


    Seriously though, they just annoy me with their constant butting in to other people's games to harp on about the rules.


    Edit: Freeform games can be fun, but muchkins are far to prevalent.
    Last edited by Noir-Neko; 2008-05-09 at 07:40 PM.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Noir-Neko View Post
    Seriously though, they just annoy me with their constant butting in to other people's games to harp on about the rules.
    Oh, if that's all it is, learn a quick pair of sentences:

    It's part of the listed house rules. If you disagree, fine, but not at the table when I'm involved in a game - come talk to me after.

    Anyone who continues beyond that is unreasonable (as long as you permit follow through on the "come talk to me after" bit), and you're not going to get them to go away with words alone.
    Of course, by the time I finish this post, it will already be obsolete. C'est la vie.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Noir-Neko View Post
    Seriously though, they just annoy me with their constant butting in to other people's games to harp on about the rules.
    Technically, someone who insists on using the rules in games they play is a Rules Lawyer. Someone who comments on games that don't involve him is a jerk (who may or may not be a Rules Lawyer).

    However, keep in mind that your games may effect him. If you are part of a club, then as a member it effects him what direction the club takes, and if he is an officer, he may have responsibility for your actions as DM as well. Cut him some slack for things like that.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Have a little consistency. That consistency is allowed to be "I do what serves the plot best". If players know that you aren't following strict rules, it's all good. If they think you are following strict rules but really you aren't... then you get into trouble.

    Basically: don't pretend to be consistent if you aren't. If you are consistent or don't pretend to be, you're gold.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    I'm a rules lawyer. But rather then demanding what rules be played by and what not, I instead document any rules of note, including House Rules for quick reference and application. You don't have to be a rules Nazi, to be a rules lawyer.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    The thing is, game rules are the comfortable bedrock on which your chaotic and unpredictable mind builds the players' worlds. They are a form of control; a way to know what to expect, to know what their options are and what they need to guard against. The rules in the books are universal and objective, which is a very good thing. Unfortunately, when we make new rules or alter the other rules, they become subjective and can often affect the game in a way that someone thinks is unfair or useless or needlessly complicated.

    So unless you can get unanimous agreement on a rule, it's going to be contested every step of the way and is generally a big hassle. You're moving away from what's comfortable and familiar, which is always going to make players slightly (or greatly) uncomfortable. Only implement rules additions/editions with unanimous or very close to unanimous agreement from the players and enough clarity for no chance of misinterpretation, ever.
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    I'm a bit of a rules lawyer because I think, if you're going to play a game, play that game. If you don't like the rules of one game then there's probably another game you could be playing that you'd like more.
    -I don't have anything against house rules either, I just like the rules to be consistent for a game.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Noir-Neko View Post
    Recently I've had a few scuffles with a few gamers about bending and rewriting different rules in an RPG inorder for the majority of the group to enjoy the game more fully. What rules where changed is irrelevant, what my question is, are book rules really that important?
    To some people, they are. That is why RPGs exist that have a lot of book rules (D&D being one of them) and why for other people RPGs exist that have a lot fewer rules (OTE comes to mind).
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Matthew View Post
    There are two ways of playing the game, 'by the book' (drown to heal, 'Timmy Cards' are a good idea, etc...) and 'House Ruled' ("Look, Orcs have BAB 2, I don't have to explain it, alright?"). Neither approach is necessarily better than the other, but some players definitely prefer one over the other.
    Well, those are just 2 extremes, how about the area in between them? For example, one could say that my gaming group is consisted of rules lawyers, but nobody would even thought of drowning to heal himself, because that's just apsurd and just a mistake on Wizards' part. Basically, we play almost strictly by the rules (one or two minor house rule), but we're more concerned with RAI than RAW (since RAW is subject to massive abuse)
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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    The rules are important as far as everyone knows what they are before hand. It's unfair to create rules half way through the game because a player is doing something unintended.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    First off, I'm a fan of both aspects of D20. Both "Role-playing", and "Roll-playing", so I prefer not to see people disparaging either. That said...

    Rules have a value. They provide continuity. They provide balance. They mean a few things:

    1) It's not a First Grade game of cops and robbers.
    "Bang! You're dead!"
    "Nuh uh, you missed me!"
    "No way I hit you!"
    etc.

    2) The game doesn't become an outlet for the mediator to tell his story.
    Before the hate mail gets started, think about it. If the DM is telling a story that's all his, then the players aren't having any real impact, unless the DM lets them. It might as well be Story Time, where mom's reading a book to Billy and Mandy before bed. Why? Because if the DM is arbitrarily deciding succeed and fail, it's his/her story, and nobody else's. These situations are when DM's need to learn to let go, and be flexible.

    Rules mean that players can make choices, and know in advance what they're trying to do, and how they're going to do it. Those choices can affect the story being told. This means that players don't just feel that they're in a story about them. It means that players feel that they ARE the story, and they have a choice in how it ends. That goes beyond the players feeling that it's a good story, and makes the game truly memorable.


    I'm not gonna argue that one or the other is more important, nor am I going to share what I feel is more important. I do think that one is more important than the other. I'm not gonna claim Stormwind and say otherwise. But what I think is more important is irrelevant. Suffice it to say that both are important to some degree, and disregarding either leads to a diminished game.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    A game is a convent between players and DM, loosely based on a particular template (in this case, D&D 3.5). As long as all parties directly involved are happy, that's enough. Don't let anyone tell you different.

    Personally, I play fast and loose with the rules, and don't have the time to codify every possible thing I'd want to say into a house rule. If it adds to the game, it's something I'll do. If it derides from it, then I'll skip it. Almost all of my players are more than fine with my style -- the only person I've ran for that really had a problem was a person I had found over the internet, and therefore hadn't known me or my style well enough at the start.

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    I think the word you're looking for is "covenant".

    I'm not so sure I want to put nunneries between myself and my players.

    Otherwise, you're right. Rules can be bent at times, and broken at others. But you need to have a good reason to break the continuity of the game.

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    2. Is the house rule created during the game to stop or alter something unforeseen or unintended, and if so; is the player(s) effected by the new rule allowed to redo their character if the new rules alters what they planned on doing?

    Again, if either of those is a no then your house rule goes even farther to the bad side of the spectrum. An example of this would be someone making use of Arcane Thesis and then you houseruling that it couldn't reduce individual meta to negative 1.
    I wouldn't really rate this a negative, depending on the abuse. I mean, Arcane THesis? Metamagic Reducers further break mages. If you deliberately tried ot break my game, I'd feel almost no compunction about not letting you mend yourself after shooting yourself in the foot. Particularly if I think you're going to come in strong even if you're not up to your own optimization.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Rutee View Post
    I wouldn't really rate this a negative, depending on the abuse. I mean, Arcane THesis? Metamagic Reducers further break mages. If you deliberately tried ot break my game, I'd feel almost no compunction about not letting you mend yourself after shooting yourself in the foot. Particularly if I think you're going to come in strong even if you're not up to your own optimization.
    I disagree. If you approve the character, as a DM, and you allow it in, and then, due to your not seeing a potential imbalance, you have to correct it in mid game?

    Bear in mind, you, as a DM allowed it. If you change mid stream and say, "I know what I said, but I'm changing it. That's not allowed..."

    Well, at the very least, since YOU are the one reversing a ruling? Rebuild rules. Otherwise, you encourage the player to kill his character for mechanical reasons, rather than story ones.

    This isn't a game of "player broke my game! hmph! I'll show him! He can play gimped!"

    It's, "I didn't see that before, and the game is suffering because of it. Players are getting frustrated. Lemme change this. Player that made the change necessary can rebuild, because his/her fun is every bit as important as anyone else's."

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    Quote Originally Posted by Talic View Post
    It's, "I didn't see that before, and the game is suffering because of it. Players are getting frustrated. Lemme change this. Player that made the change necessary can rebuild, because his/her fun is every bit as important as anyone else's."
    This is sense (what is it doing here on the internet? ).

    People roleplay to have fun. If one player's fun ruins someone else's fun then there is an imbalance in your co-operative role-playing game that needs to be corrected for the benefit of all involved. Players who don't have fun don't come back. This is not an optimum result.

    Not that I dislike rule lawyers. Quite apart from their (usually substantial) game knowledge and role playing ability, their powers of rules knowledge can be harnessed by the forces of Good. Ideally a rules lawyer can be used as a resource to make the game go more quickly and smoothly for everyone. It's when they fall to the hair-splitting Dark Side of 'exploits' and 'game breaking' that things go wrong and the screaming starts.

    "Oh, that's on this page, but it doesn't work as intended. They fixed it in errata here. It's still not ideal, but at least it's usable now..."

    Good rules lawyer. Have a cookie.

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    Default Re: Rules Lawyers

    I am lucky not to ever had a rule argument on my table. Main reason is when we started this game we were all very clear in that the rules are guidelines and if we need to look up something in the middle of the game it has to be done in 30 seconds or less.

    There is not a "right" way to play D&D, and that's what I love so much about it. Best thing to do is to play the game with people that have the same style as you. I had the misfortune of playing in a group where the DM and another player thougth there was a "rigth" way to play the game. Me and two of the players quit the game and started our own group with me as DM.

    About all those people that think there is a right way to play, well just play with people that think the same way you do. AND LEAVE EVERYBODY ELSE ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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