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  Click here to go to the first special guest post in this thread.   Thread: Ask a GM [07/15/08]: Handling Rules Lawyers

  1. #76
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    I'll share a good recent experience here to add some perspective. I write my own game system and recently in running a game, i had a player say "you can't do that". The game stopped and i put forward rationalizations, which were all lame and reaching, but could work if they had to. The group insisted it was not fair for NPC's to have an advantage not available to the players. In the end, i got nailed by my own desire to simply let the story dictate all, and had to allow PC's the options this NPC had. While no one immediately went out and re-tooled their character, everyone felt that fairness had been served. I doubt any of the PC's will use this ruling, but it made the players feel better about their position in the game world... and that's important. So i guess this goes towards the idea that these sorts of players can be used to everyone's advantage in certain situations. Rules, like laws, are meant to provide a framework wherein everyone is equal - this means that players feel better that they will simply not meet some arbitrarily built opponent. This promotes a feeling of fairness and goodwill between players and GM's. Rules Lawyers may only be trying to ensure this as it reinforces this (albeit sometimes to ridiculous lengths).

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

  2. #77
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    True, the game rules should act as a form of physics. Those rules should not be broken void of some spectacular necessity.

    In the same vein, sometimes you need to bend the rules for the sake of the story. Not necessarily break the rules, but bend them. If an important character gets killed in one shot maybe you knock them out instead? Or if the main villian ends up being taken out, maybe you need to inject some allies that "save the day" for the villian.

    This is one reason I give certain characters including PCs plot points... basically experience points that let them rewrite a scene that completely screws their character. They earn them doing dramatic things like maybe self-sacrifice to save a friend. But sometimes villians have those too so beware!
    Randal Snyder
    Sundered Epoch.org

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    I don't bend or break the rules for NPCs. I want the players to know that they can one hit and honestly kill the villain just I can them. I try to work out anyway I can to keep from killing a character once it is clear that they will otherwise be dead. I've had players demand to know how much damage I have just done to them so they can just say "damn"

  4. #79
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    I've always felt that the rules are a framework, a guideline, in order for a game to function it needs structure, but that structure can and should be altered if it will better suit the ideas of the GM/DM and help to create a more engaging, entertaining world for the players. That being said, fun is the name of the game, be fair to your players and respect their opinions, don't arbitrarily apply modifications just because "you are in charge". In short, my personal philosophy as far as rules are concerned is to be flexible, and to always, always, use your head.

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    Build bending into the rules

    One thing i can say about my own experience is that we work with something similar to what others have mentioned.. we call them action points. They are basically used to bend rules, modify outcomes and in general, give the players an edge. This can be automatic success, bonus to chances, re-checking a bad outcome (re-roll for table top). We also incorporate a trait called good luck, which gives the the character a free action point each game session. And those characters with good luck allow the GM to fudge, bend, and error in their favor while at the same time providing an actual mechanic to do it in.

    Of course, we do have bad luck as a mechanic... funny how no one has taken it beyond the few play test sessions we had to try it out.

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

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    Action pts... what an odd idea. Personally, I never felt like the players needed even more help than they already had, why would they need things to be even easier?? The difference in point of view may be due to variation in GM styles. I always introduce pretty interesting NPC friends into the campaign, so the players already have "help" for when they get into trouble, and I give pretty generous xp type awards too, so the idea of action pts or luck as some people have described it would just defeat the purpose of trying to give the players a challenge.

    What we did start to experiment with (but didn't get far enough for the players to see the results) was "villain pts". Any time one of the players did something unbelievably stupid, it would generate a villain point, which could be saved or used to create a villain to cause trouble for the players. (We were playing the GURPS system) Each villain point would provide 100 character pts to generate the villain with, so if there was a lot of villain pts accumulating, there could in theory turn out to be a very powerful villain making an appearance. Luckily, my brother wasn't in the player's party, so I could give him the villain pts and let him figure out some wicked plans to harass the players. He was scheming to use the 4 villain pts that had built up to make the dark elf princess.

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    Stomp on the Rules Lawyer... LOL. j/k

    Hey,

    In my 6 years now DMing I've had to deal with that a lot. So here's what I did to deal with it. First, I forced the time into my schedule and read (while taking notes) the books. You gotta know your rules. This doesn't mean you have to memorize every one. But more than likely, the event, or situation, will trigger a memory to bring the rule to the surface.

    When that doesn't work, I have literally told the group right before we started playing for the night that...

    "The game has been lagging because of people "rules lawyering". So if it's not your turn (straight up) keep quiet, and butt out. I, as the DM, will make a judgement call, and if it's important to you to be discussed, make a note of it and we will discuss it after the game or before we start our next session."

    This usually stops any arguements because good players, even rules lawyers, understand keeping the momentum of the game at a steady pace.

    Charles

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    Excellent solution Charles. Between both parts, the combined solution is one of the best I've seen here. Simple, effective, and fair.

  9. #84
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    Agreed

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    Quote Originally Posted by Holocron View Post
    Action pts... what an odd idea. Personally, I never felt like the players needed even more help than they already had, why would they need things to be even easier?? The difference in point of view may be due to variation in GM styles. I always introduce pretty interesting NPC friends into the campaign, so the players already have "help" for when they get into trouble, and I give pretty generous xp type awards too, so the idea of action pts or luck as some people have described it would just defeat the purpose of trying to give the players a challenge.
    The action point system I built was more to give the players a sense of control and empowerment. Of course most GM's introduce helping NPC's into game play, and fudge or alter outcomes to keep the story going - the concept of action points would be borne out through play any way. Its more of a psychological issue where the players get to feel like they owned the activity in question. This gives them a better sense of satisfaction and enjoyment through a built in mechanic which the GM can fall back on. Many times too these are used in "heroic" type situations, so rather than relying on random rolling, they feel more involved in a victory when they have expended some finite resource - even the name was meant to play on their feelings. Again, most of the time a GM can simulate the gains through their own story and checks without the player knowing... but this mechanic just has a nice effect of elevating the players feeling of involvement and [hopefully] love of the game.

    Incarna; Role-Playing Game System
    www.incarna.net
    Running: 3+ campaigns set in single custom milieu world.

  11. #86
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    Having been a Rules Lawyer from time to time, I can share how we controled me.
    1. Made me DM
    2. 2 Minute Rule - 2 minutes to look something up
    3. If anyone was doing something complicated their turn (i.e. Grappling) to have the book open to for quick reference.
    4. Beer/Soda getter - didn't allow me time to argue them

    Generally though the 2 minute rule and know what your doing worked best. As I aged grew a lot more gray hairs I've stopped lawyering and enjoyed the game for what it is more.
    Bill
    The Yeti aka Magnus the Archmage
    ~"Henry Bowman lives within each and everyone of us, and it's time to start acting like it. "
    A Story Hour set in Valus by Funeris
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  12. #87
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    My simple answer for dealing with rules lawyers is I cite rule 0 which is, "These rules are only guidelines and if they interfere with what you're trying to accomplish feel free to alter them." If a rules lawyer cannot take this rule and let things be for the game I'm running there's the door. I have no tolerance for rules lawyers that dominate the game and prevent anything happening even when it isn't their turn.

    I have a reason for such a dim view of rules lawyers and it comes from my experience in gaming with a grand total of 5 of them at one time. I remember I was trying to run a session of Champions and when I said something about how the bad guys were targeting the player characters they all proceeded to start yelling at me that I wrong. This went on for about 15 minutes and my desire to finish the adventure died. I packed my bags and left the group never looking back. No gaming is much better than abusive gaming.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farcaster View Post
    Inquisitor Tremayne asks,

    "How do you deal with a player who knows the rules backward and forward and corrects you, the DM/GM, on the mechanics of a game system?"
    You thank them for the correction, log it in your memory for future reference... then you may choose to handle it in light of the new information or just continue on as if they hadn't said anything. If they protest, just say "I might do it that way next game, but for now... we are doing it this way." You are the DM... it's your game. Listen briefly to your players and if you make rules changes, try to keep them informed as it will likely affect how they will develop their characters.

    I once played in a 3.5 game where the DM had a house rule that a roll of a natural 1 on an attack roll meant that you dropped your weapon. A stupid rule as I had about 4 attacks per round and was thus throwing my weapon away approximately every 5th round. My solution as a player wasn't to insist that it was stupid... I just carried half a dozen swords with me, took the Quickdraw feat, and life went on.

    Funny though... as I write this... I wonder why none of the foes I fought ever dropped their weapons. I had to run around the room and collect my dropped weapons at the end of every fight. Why didn't any of the monsters drop theirs?

    Anyways... my point is that even if the player is correct, it isn't worth disrupting the game. Ultimately... the DM is boss.
    "A man that carries a cat by the tail learns something that he will learn no other way." - Mark Twain

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    I tell my players, "Unless it is a matter of life and death, DON'T DO IT!!!!" If they bring up a trivial rule durring the game, they will be penalized. Bring it to my attention after the game, and you will be rewarded for the correction (ussually in experience). I have a very good grasp of the rules, but the memory isn't what it used to be... I generally don't mind the corrections, and have tried to use these players as helpers and such. The problem is, everyones suspended reality. Once trust is built between player and DM, they know I am not the enemy. I am just a friendly judge trying to facilitate the entire groups fun. They eventually learn that I am not out to ruin the campaign and their characters over a simple rule.

    If that doesn't work, I repeatedly kill their characters so they can keep busy making new characters. They get the hint, or leave crying.
    Most men lead lives of quiet desperation.


  15. #90
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    Good policy. Hahah, before killing off characters I personally would start with something less hostile, but still illustrative. Maybe cut their experience gain in half that session for every offense. When you start taking away xp rewards or increasing them, they'll at least get the message.

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