How to use rules lawyering for good.


Advice


The rest of my group is a bit new, so I tend to be the go-to guy for rulings. Figuring out when to butt in with the mechanics is tough though. For example, we were dive-bombing some planar portal from 300 feet up last session, and my buddy the arcanist was jazzed to throw his wall of fire across the gateway's opening.

"Ummm," says I, "What's the range on that?"

We checked. He had to wait for his next turn.

"Thanks man. I almost had fun there."

It was all in jest, but I do get self-conscious from time to time. When you're the most experienced gamer at the table, when should you interject and when should you let stuff go?

Relevant bonus comic.


Ask your group. Ask your GM.

Offer it as a group resource that they get to decide when to use and when to just play thorough and have fun.

But if you're the only one who is concerned about how accurately the rules are followed, then you need to ask yourself, "What level of slipshod rules adherence can I tolerate, and when does ignoring the rules make it no fun for me.

You can't impose your own strict style of play on a group that isn't interested.


CrystalSeas wrote:

But if you're the only one who is concerned about how accurately the rules are followed, then you need to ask yourself, "What level of slipshod rules adherence can I tolerate, and when does ignoring the rules make it no fun for me.

You can't impose your own strict style of play on a group that isn't interested.

It's tough. I don't want to feel like I'm somehow cheating, but I also don't want to undercut fun moments or our GM's authority.

In that same session I forgot to make a concentration check to liberating command myself out of a grapple. I caught it on the next dude's turn, but the GM's response was "don't worry about."

I'm beginning to think that the best thing is to police myself as best I can and ignore that sort of thing on everyone else's turn.

Scarab Sages

I grapple with this issue a lot, especially in PFS. I really prefer encounters to run properly, which means applying soft cover against ranged attacks, checking for ranges on spells, adjudicating Dispel magic correctly (seriously, that spell description is nightmarish) checking to see if buffs and debuffs were applied etc.

However, I sometimes feel like I'm slowing the game down or taking people out of the moment. So recently I've tried to check stuff a little less, especially for new players who, for example, choose to throw a dagger with a pre-gen sorcerer.

I'm still not sure the best way to handle the balance between having a good time and enforcing the rules so the encounter is fair. Advice would be great.


I agree, it really depends on how much the group/dm cares. I think so long as you're not getting into arguments or causing the game to get paused so that someone can double check the rules on something all the time it's fine.

I've had instances where I was in disagreement with a DM on how a particular ability worked. I put forth my understanding and the DM countered with a different one. I let it slide in the moment so the game could move forward and discussed it with the DM afterwards. They didn't budge on their position and so I didn't bring it up again.

I will admit that instances like this drive me to DM because I end up having more fun since I can run the game the way I feel it should run and everyone wins. :)


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Me and my group would generally get annoyed if rules were being ignored for the sake of "fun". The example given in the OP would have likely led to some jokes about how the wizard gets to do whatever he wants 99% of the time, there's no need to make that 100% of the time.

It sounds like most of the people in your group don't really care, though in my view that just means that Pathfinder isn't a very appropriate system for them... The system kinda collapses and loses everything that sets it apart when you don't treat it as rules heavy.


It really depends on the situation, or what kind of rules you aren’t 100% on.

For example, if everyone has a slightly different idea as to how running, jumping, running then jumping, etc work, I think saying ‘You know what, make a dex check, we’ll look these rules up next break’ is perfectly fine.

Anything involving magic, though, I’m a stickler about. I feel like as game breaking as magic can (possibly, sometimes) get, there’s no reason to make it worse by not knowing the numbers from your spells.

The only other time I get rule-finnicky at the table is when I’m not sure if my GM is not following the rules, or if there’s a house rule that only the GM knows about. For example, we were having a great deal of trouble with some trolls, and I got mad. I got mad because I was acid splashing the troll, the barb would kill it, and then later it would get up. It turned out that instead of the actual rules, the GM decided it took 10% of the troll’s max HP worth of acid or fire damage to turn off the regen, but didn’t tell anyone.


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I've been guilty of this as well and now strive to avoid it at all costs. While it only seems fair to interject when a rules violation occurs in favor of the party since one would normally interject when a violation occurs against the party, we are all here to have fun, and ultimately it's the GM's job to keep up with such things.

IOW, "Why didn't you tell me that Bob McOtherPlayer's wall of fire was only medium range?", asked no GM ever.

If someone's obviously trying to pull the wool over the GM's eyes, that might be different, as would be trying to cheat with your own actions.


blahpers wrote:

I've been guilty of this as well and now strive to avoid it at all costs. While it only seems fair to interject when a rules violation occurs in favor of the party since one would normally interject when a violation occurs against the party, we are all here to have fun, and ultimately it's the GM's job to keep up with such things.

IOW, "Why didn't you tell me that Bob McOtherPlayer's wall of fire was only medium range?", asked no GM ever.

If someone's obviously trying to pull the wool over the GM's eyes, that might be different, as would be trying to cheat with your own actions.

So what's the scenario where you would interject with rules? Is it ever appropriate?


I'd interject if it was apparent that the other player was actively attempting to deceive the GM versus simply forgetting a rules detail. This isn't because I want the rules to be adjudicated as written so much as that sort of behavior is best addressed as soon as possible for out-of-game reasons. Even then, I'm likely to chat with the GM afterward rather than bring it up mid-game unless the ramifications are sufficiently overwhelming that a simple retcon or "OK, we'll play it the right way from now on" isn't sufficient to keep the game stable.

Grand Lodge

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I will interject politely and say "can we check on how that works?" If it's a matter another PC dying.


Well, yeah, that's something that screws us, so I'd like to be sure it's right. : )


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I've always slowly brought rules to bear within my group. Instead of just laying everything out at once, I trickle it out, and eventually they call upon using the rules correctly. When they ask 'do the rocks give me partial cover?'i feel so proud.
And as long as the GM doesn't railroad my character, his feats, effects, or spells because they don't 100% know the rules, I can just have fun.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

the rules are there to lend believability and a sense of fairness to the game and to model the world in a descriptive manner. The PF d20 model is not very accurate. The model goes for simplicity and bounded effects.

Rules lawyering for fairness is generally the GMs job. Given the many add ons to CORE it does become a big thing. Some of the options are contradictory.
The rules, while improved, still have a lot of holes and it's the GMs job to patch those holes in his world.
Sometimes the GM is not the "tech expert" and is in more of a manager role. That's fine as long as the players understand the GM and respect his decisions.


As mentioned above, if it prevents a character death, then speak up.
If it will cause minimal delay, mentioning you don't think it works that way is sufficient. The GM (or affected PC) can then ask for clarification.
If the GM says "wait a sec while I look it up" is another time to speak up.

All other times, an after session comment it more appropriate. Say with an email to the GM.

Remember, the object is to have fun, not follow rules slavishly.

/cevah


I try not to talk out of turn. If a player asks "Can I block the portal with a wall of fire?" I would say "I don't think so." If he said "I block the portal with a wall of fire!" I'd pull him aside after the session and ask him if what he did was within the rules or if he knew. The GM and his current victim should be the only rules lawyers. For maximum game flow and fun, you should only speak when appropriate and let the GM handle "cheaters" or "newbies." If the GM is stumped but you know the truth, you can probably lawyer it up.


You did nothing wrong.

If they don't want to be corrected they should know what they can do or don't take those options.

His off hand comments aside you're not the villain here. They all want you to come rules lawyer for them when it's in their favor.


I see this as a matter of trust. I want to trust that everyone is working under the same rules and that they will affect me and be affected by me the same. If the player creates a wall of fire at 800ft, then I cant argue when an NPC sorcerer casts it at 800ft later.

Same as if I was adding a soft cover penalty to my attacks, but the GM wasn't doing the same... Maybe I would have used less healing, or that enemy would have gone down before slaying our Mount.

This is a good example of good lawyer -ing, you delayed an action 1 round, no actions had to be redone, no major rolls had to be remade, no spell lists had to be rechosen because they "didn't know it worked like that".

This is also a game, so as long as everyone is having fun, that is Rule 0. And the GM should be the one to tell you cool it, or keep going if there is an issue. That is the GM's burden.

And to Pantshandshake and his houserule issue: I 100% agree houserules should be written somewhere the whole group can see. If acid does 10%hp damage before being effective to regen, I should know going in that is a rule different from what I know (the core). If the GM can point to his paper with the rule he showed day 1, then me pointing to core rules or bestiary 1 entries is irrelevant. Otherwise it seems like GM cheating (GM FIAT is different).


Guardianlord wrote:
And to Pantshandshake and his houserule issue: I 100% agree houserules should be written somewhere the whole group can see. If acid does 10%hp damage before being effective to regen, I should know going in that is a rule different from what I know (the core). If the GM can point to his paper with the rule he showed day 1, then me pointing to core rules or bestiary 1 entries is irrelevant. Otherwise it seems like GM cheating (GM FIAT is different).

I disagree with you for there, changes like this can help prevent metagaming. The important thing is to include that information if the characters make their knowledge checks.

Changes that impact the character directly such as a certain spell/feat not existing should be revealed during session 0/character creation.


Grandlounge wrote:
I will interject politely and say "can we check on how that works?" If it's a matter another PC dying.

Good call. I've always felt like player death is the one place where the rule books come out, the character sheets are thoroughly shaken for last minute help, and everyone goes by the book as much as humanly possible.


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Knowing acid works differently may affect choices in builds and spell selection, I'd say it's valid.

You shouldn't know there's a house rule after choosing an option.


In this case, my wizard made a mid 30’s knowledge check to see what trolls had going on. That was the time to explain the regeneration house rule. Instead, we had to learn about it well after the fact.

I guess you could consider it metagame insurance. Personally, I consider it super bad form. You need to trust that your GM either knows the rules or will at least notify you that a house rule is present. Once you start down the slope of never knowing if you know how to play the game you’re playing, it for sure leads to more slowdowns, rules discussions mid-session, and angry players.


Yeah, if the GM didn't mention it after the check that was a bad call.

I support players not knowing things their characters wouldn't know. If the GM telling you about changes to enemy types makes you prepare for that in character, that is metagaming unless there is some reason in character to make those preparations such as a known troll threat in the area.

If you know you are hunting for trolls then it would make sense to do the proper research and prepare accordingly. If trolls came out of nowhere you wouldn't necessarily be prepared to fight them.


Pantshandshake wrote:

In this case, my wizard made a mid 30’s knowledge check to see what trolls had going on. That was the time to explain the regeneration house rule. Instead, we had to learn about it well after the fact.

I guess you could consider it metagame insurance. Personally, I consider it super bad form. You need to trust that your GM either knows the rules or will at least notify you that a house rule is present. Once you start down the slope of never knowing if you know how to play the game you’re playing, it for sure leads to more slowdowns, rules discussions mid-session, and angry players.

I agree that a house rule changes not being identified up front is bad form. You can change monsters to curb metagaming without changing the rules. If you don't want players metagaming how to fight a troll then make them blue and call them GooGoo monsters. You wouldn't have to change anything else about them and suddenly players will be surprised when it regrows a limb. If you're afraid that players will jump to fire and acid damage then make it cold and electricity instead that stops it's regeneration. Everything is new again without having to make some wierd house rule.

I'm sure there would be plenty of grumbling if in midcombat the DM told you that your character just fumbled their weapon because they are wearing breastplate armor. It's a house rule of theirs that breastplate armor makes you fumble your weapon when you roll a natural 4 on an attack roll.

If a DM wants to make a house rule like that it's fine, but players should be informed of such rules ahead of time since they could affect character creation. If acid is suddenly now amazing maybe I want to make an acid wizard, which has nothing to do with trolls and everything to do with the house rule.


At any rate, I didn't mean to start a conversation about one of my games in particular. Just trying to illustrate when I feel it's ok to go rules lawyer at your GM.


YOU DON'T! You wait until after the game to point out all your "corrections" to the gm instead of delaying play. At which time you can argue your points with out pissing everyone off and ruining the game for the night. The gm is there to delagate the games rules. Otherwise why have a GM you have a perfectly good rulebook to tell you how to play.

-keep a notebook close by write down your tread for the problem so you don't forget what you want to "correct".
-only use your power to delay the game if the gm asks, and only if you have the resource on hand.
-use your power of "delay the game" sparingly. Because too much use will just cause a unitchable.... itch.... in the group.

Sorry for the harshness in tone. But we have a soft gm and an overpowering rules lawyer. It is tearing my group to sunders.


As for your example

Unprepaired players do not know thier powers. They look it up themselves or have it writen down. Move on with the round if they dig up the information before the next round then they can have thier fun otherwise tough titties. Maybe next round. Its called a spellbook for a reason. You either read up on what you know as a spell caster or summoner or play something else. Its called planning ahead. If your friends with the spellcasters then make a time inwhich you guys can get together and write out the spells on paper, on cards, or copy and paste it into a document in thier or your tablet or phone.


It’s usually not worth losing game tempo to clarify rules.
If the rules breach is significant, or if something important is endangered, on a case by case basis, mid-game rule clarification can be justified.

Silver Crusade

In general, in my games we play quite strictly by the rules, we have tons of fun and yet we usually stop not more than twice per session to check them, which takes around 20 seconds at most (you know, with apps, internet and modern technology).

To everyone saying to wait after the game not to waste time, how many times rules clarifications come up in your standard game sessions? And how much time does each one take? Because if in your experience your group would need more than 5 rules-related interruptions, lasting 5 minutes each, then it means that you probably should learn how the game works first.

I think the OP should speak up if he believes anyone (GM or players) is misusing the rules. He agreed to play Pathfinder, not Another-RPG-similar-to-Pathfinder-except-when-it-isn't. It's their problem not knowing how the game works, not yours for having spent time understanding it. And it's especially not your fault if someone needs to break the rules to have fun.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

personally I don't think players need to know all the rules about details up front as that just allows metagaming and there should be some discovery in the game especially if they are first level characters.
Nobody knows the rules of this universe, only physicists are closer than everybody else and that took years of studying. What leads you to believe that first level characters know all the rules about everything and can make future class decisions based on that knowledge?

Character death is a sad thing. Tragedy happens. What the characters do next is the point and a life lesson.

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