Saturday, April 4, 2009

Rules Lawyers

If you are a player purchasing the DUNGEONS and DRAGONS rules in order to improve your situation in an existing campaign, you will find that there is a great advantage in knowing what is herein. If your referee has made changes in the rules and/or tables, simply note them in pencil (for who knows when some flux of the cosmos will make things shift once again!), and keep the rules nearby as you play. A quick check of some rule or table may bring hidden treasure or save your game "life".

Emphasis mine.

That's page four, in the introduction of Men and Magic, volume one of the original Dungeons and Dragons box set. I assume those are Gygax's words, but maybe not.

Players should not have the rules hidden from them, and should be able to use them as needed to their character's in-game benefit during play.

It's in print, right there at the beginning. Of everything.


  1. But only if the player cares about the game sufficiently to purchase their own copy?

  2. And believe that the rules are more effective at saving their skin then coming up with a darn cool idea.

    In every game I've run since 1978, intelligent, well-reasoned and innovative thinking trumps rules every time. We never had rules lawyers - ever. No one other then the GM cared about the rule specifics after character creation as long as things seemed fair and the game was fun.

    Barking Alien

  3. And you know what? Both approaches are OK.

    But my players have come up with some great ideas by looking up the exact details of one of their spells or magic items, using the rules for those things. And I plan strategies of wizards and clerics the same way.

    And I've also forbid a player from looking up the exact details of Fireball in the middle of combat when it wasn't in his spellbook, and not memorized... just on a scroll... I made a ruling that in a high pressure situation, he didn't have time to figure it out, and he'd just have to decide whether to risk getting the party caught in the area of effect.

    I'm just perceiving an attitude in some parts that says, "If you're actually using the rules, you're doing it wrong." Nuts to that. :)

  4. >>I'm just perceiving an attitude in some parts that says, "If you're actually using the rules, you're doing it wrong." Nuts to that. :)

    I don't think that's rules lawyering though. That's fair play. Rules lawyers in my experience find loopholes and exploit the crap out of them.

    That pressure ruling is a good idea. I do something similar I think by giving the players a loose time limit during there turns and if they can't decide what to do they delay there action until they do decide. In larger groups this keeps things moving and keeps players actively engaged(usually...).

  5. True, knowing the rules can save your character's life.

    But [u]lawyering[/u] the rules can cost it.

    A rules lawyer is the guy who argues with the GM, exploits the rules, and attempts to place the written rules above the referee. That guy deserves to be kicked out of the game altogether. He's not there to play the game, he's there to slap people around.

    Anyway, that's what I've seen happen.

  6. Gary was big on players being informed about the rules. He consistently rewarded innovative usage of the rules, and being a war gamer, he was well aware of how playing with the rules could win battles.

    That's certainly different than rules lawyering.

    However, while I suspect Gary wrote that with the above spirit primarily in mind, I think you're technically correct in your interpretation. If the players are supposed to be familiar with the rules in order to take advantage of them as a source for inspiration and possible innovation, and that passage can be interpreted as a rule, then it leaves open the interpretation that one should rules lawyer. I don't think there's any getting around it. That is, until you disagree with Gary in his own game and he shuts you down for rules lawyering.

    I think we could all agree that rules lawyers will always be part of the game, and being a war gamer, Gary certainly knew that. Hell, we all become one from time to time, because we love bending the logic of the rules! I know that I'm more likely to rules lawyer if there's no one in the party already filling the function. Many D&Ders even go on in life to become lawyers. Steve Marsh, for instance, (although he's not incredibly litigious, being he's in the field of reconciliation).

    I know that whenever I express negativity toward rules lawyers, I'm saying they should be kept in check. There are a class of players that are always rules lawyers. They believe that the game is rules first, and play second, and that play doesn't properly occur without firm rules. Well, SPANK ME!

    I suspect we eventually get 4E when computer geeks (not that I'm not) who are also rules lawyers convene in one company.

  7. I remember in high school having one friend who was mad at my behavior in his game, so in my next game he grabbed up his copy of the Monster Manual and checked the appropriate entry whenever I had an encounter. It was obviously to get a rise out of me, but I didn't care. If you didn't already know the stats in there, you weren't shit in gaming terms.

    I remember one player, not a friend, in the 80's who had a copy of the module I was using. He started telling me "that isn't in there, or that doesn't happen in the module." When he whipped out his copy and smirked, I stood up and cracked my knuckles and told him he had 3 seconds to vanish from my sight. I was 6'2" and on the football team, so needless to say Mr. Douchebag vanished and never returned.