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re: Applying the Rules


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Cards, Maps Subscriber

Applying the Rules.

How do you like to apply the rules of the Pathfinder Game?

Do you see the Rules as suggestions, open to interpretation and applicable as the DM sees fit?

Do you see the Rules as Law, to be enforced without exception, to be “Read as Written”?

Or do you find you fall somewhere in between?

Again I’m just curious.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Middle of the road, as I am with most things.

If you're making big changes, they should be spelled out before the game begins.

If you're making changes in-game, they should be small and ideally unnoticeable.

Regardless of the change, it should be made to better the enjoyment of the group.

Offhand, I can recall quite a few such cases. My wife allowed the Fighter with 20+ Str and Dex to dual-wield bastard swords without increasing the TWF penalty. I allowed a single target spell to target two enemies in the same square.

I can also recall times when I should have just made a ruling instead of letting the game get sidelined by a rules argument. A player used to 2nd Edition didn't understand Sneak Attack works differently than Backstab.

The rules are a toolbox. The DM should know when a tool is right for the job and when he needs to go find a new tool.


ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Applying the Rules.

How do you like to apply the rules of the Pathfinder Game?

Do you see the Rules as suggestions, open to interpretation and applicable as the DM sees fit?

Do you see the Rules as Law, to be enforced without exception, to be “Read as Written”?

Or do you find you fall somewhere in between?

Again I’m just curious.

If the rule is not absurd then that rule is law. Anything else means success is tied not to your character's abilities, but on a player's ability to bully the DM. And no matter what comes of that, encouraging people to bully DMs to be successful is not desired behavior. On the DM side, it means using fiat to resolve conflicts. Aside from defeating the entire point of using a rule system in the first place, using fiat to resolve conflicts means that players will correctly suspect bias. If players are ruled into death they will generally be fine with it. If players are fiated into death they tend to be unamused. Just as a simple example, of one of the milder things that could go wrong with your character.

If the rule is absurd then it will be replaced by a rule that is not absurd and clearly listed in the house rules section. The same things apply to that new rule.


I make an effort to follow the rules as I understand them, but if something's unclear or wonky I'll make a split-second decision in-game that won't bog down the session. Out-of-game I'll study said rule that's giving me problems, and come to a more formal ruling.

I am not a game designer, so I understand that "balance" (such as it is) is something thought of by professional designers; this is why I tend to stick by the rules whenever possible. That said, I have no qualms about altering something to better fit the needs of my players--as long as I try to map out the potential ramifications of whatever change I want to implement.

Fun is the priority, but time is also precious! It saves me time to follow the rules as I understand them, but it's not always worth it if a certain rule kills the fun-factor. :)


ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Applying the Rules.

How do you like to apply the rules of the Pathfinder Game?

The rules of the game are the accepted laws of physics under which we all play.

The laws of physics are a neutral arbiter and provide a background for the campaign.

-James


After playing GURPS in the last year I feel liberated as a game master. I start a Pathfinder game in 1.5 weeks.

And something I learned from GURPS is that rules are for players and PCs and game mechanics. It got me out of thinking of an RPG as a board game or a card game where players and GM are dealt their hands and they have to play them. If the GM wants an NPC to do something, then they can. I don't have to work how HOW or WHY within the rules they can, they just can. In most cases the characters will never know the reason why the bad guy can do this or that. Of course a GM that runs games like this also takes on a greater responsability. A GM under this presumption can never be in "me versus the players" mode.


I think the rules are just a general guideline. Even though this is one of the best playtested systems ever, I still think it has a few areas that could use some work. So for those things I use house rules. The important thing is to remember that all rules need to be consistent, it needs to work the same way for PCs and NPCs.

My only exception to that is when NPCs do things to each other. I know you can't one-shot a 14th Level Fighter with anything short of a cruise missile, but I will allow a NPC to strike from Invisibility and cut anotherr NPCs head off regardless of whether or not that character has sneak attack or how many HP the character being attacked has. It just makes good flavor.

I wouldn't let an NPC do that to a PC or vice versa, because the rules don't allow for it. My axiom for this and all arguments about "realism" is this: As you do unto the universe, so the universe does unto you. Most rules are in place to protect PCs and I remind them of that whenever they want to circumvent them.

Whenever there is a question about how the rules should be interpreted, I listen to what the players have to say, and make a ruling. Any argument about that I usually shut down with, "Hey, this is how we are going to do it right now. I'll look this over during the week and try to come up with an interpretation that is fair and makes sense. So I may change my mind later, but we need to keep playing so this how I'm going to rule. If I decide to change that ruling later, I will let you know before we play."

When I'm uncertain, I usually rule in favor of the players.


I believe that as long as the DM's view is to better the enjoyment for those on both sides of the screen, that his word is law. If he wants to change a rule- we usually sit and talk about it. We meaning the group and the DM. RAW is usually RAW though unless there is a problem with it. (like an inconsistent RAW ruling or other ambiguity). We clear those up as a group, usually by someone who wants it to read a specific way bringing it up to the DM with both sides and letting him decide it.

As for monsters/NPC's/whatever I believe that the DM can do whatever he wants with his monsters. There should be some consistency but generally the DM has a tough job. I'm not going to hamstring him when it comes to making challenging, interesting encounters. If he needs to toss in a bonus feat or three or double or quadruple something's HP or bump its AC a couple of points then i really don't care.

That being said- things have to make sense. If something wearing platemail comes after us then I expect to find platemail on the body afterwards. If something is swinging a great axe then I expect to find a greataxe. It may not be something I can use, but it should still be there to find. There is, afterall, something to be said for verisimilitude.

-S


The rules are guideposts and good ideas. We use them only as a game aid, not the game itself.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:

Middle of the road, as I am with most things.

If you're making big changes, they should be spelled out before the game begins.

If you're making changes in-game, they should be small and ideally unnoticeable.

Regardless of the change, it should be made to better the enjoyment of the group.

...

The rules are a toolbox. The DM should know when a tool is right for the job and when he needs to go find a new tool.

That's a lot like the way I look at the rules to an RPG. They're a common structure for the player and DM to set their expectations of how player elements interact with DM elements. They're not immutable and are subject to how we, collectively as a gaming table, want things to work. They're also neither perfect nor complete and require human interpretation to work for all situations player and DM elements can get into.

Scarab Sages Owner - D20 Hobbies

ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Do you see the Rules as suggestions, open to interpretation and applicable as the DM sees fit?

Do you see the Rules as Law, to be enforced without exception, to be “Read as Written”?

I tend to build characters based on RAW.

My definition of RAW is how the rules were written but using Occam's razor interpretation (meaning if given two interpretations, one that makes sense and another that is "I WIN" then use the makes sense version.)

Then when I go into a game, I tend to allow a DM to override or use his alternate interpretation. I may law out my case why I believe it is one way or another, but when he makes a call and doesn't ask for input, I go with it.

In the games I run, I tend to stick as close to RAW (using my interpretation of what RAW means from above) as possible. If you don't put a lot of weight into a rules change (or new house rule) you can more often than not create an unbalanced rule.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

I run my games strictly by the rules as long as they are spelled out. When players make their characters, they do so within the rules and they have certain expectations of how their decisions will play out. By arbitrarily changing rules you can completely destroy their fantasy.

On the other hand, if a player comes to me with an idea during character creation that won't work within the rules I consider making changes, but only if it's done and announced before the game starts so that everyone has a chance to work within those same rules.

Obviously this doesn't cover things that the rules aren't specific about or situations where the rules don't apply. When this happens you have to use your best judgement, but it almost always requires creating rules on the fly.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Cards, Maps Subscriber

Thank you all for your posts.

As for myself, it seems like a few others whom have put it more succinctly then I, I tend to use Read As Written as a default. If I’m while GMing, things are not clear, Ill make a ruling, and then during a break or at the end of a game, we can figure out how to do things in the future.

While I am very willing to discuss things, and if another player whom I know and trust has a better grasp of the rules, I may rely on his/ her encyclopedic knowledge of the rules. My litmus test for this is if they interpret the rules fairly, and not to their advantage all the time.

I guess at the end of the day, I think the rules are guidelines which we follow by interpretation, and such interpretations are based on precedent. Everyone else may voice an opinion, but in the end my own interpretation and decisions are what will stand. I am willing to bend the rules slightly for the sake of a story line, but not too much.

Again thank you all for you posts, and I wish everyone a happy holiday.

Sovereign Court

I use RAW and keep a copy of my houserules available for my players so they aren't surprised by them. If a player is unhappy with my ruling I ask them to accept it for the session and debate it with me after the session so as not to break immersion and derail the session.

That said, small changes can be made on the fly and i'm not afraid to make a judgement call on something...


I use RAW but use circumstance bonuses and eyeball skill + something else to encourage players being imaginative.


DM decides outcome of all things in-game. Rules are just suggestions how he can do so when does not want to take arbitrary decisions.


ElyasRavenwood wrote:

Applying the Rules.

How do you like to apply the rules of the Pathfinder Game?

As they are written. Back when I frequented the WOTC forums, I wrote simple maxim that I adhere to when running the game:

Myself wrote:
Arderkrag's Law of Game Physics: If it makes sense in the game world, then the rules will allow it, and if the rules allow it, it makes sense in the game world. Whether it makes sense to you or is internally consistent is irrelevant.

Effectively, I suspend "making sense" and "game immersion" for the sake of the rules.

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