Should the Gm look up every questioned rule?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Brother Fen wrote:
Players literally refuse to use the PRD.

I don't. The index on the SRD is terrible, such that I only use it when I know exactly what I'm looking for.


You shouldn't look up every rule at the table, but when a character death is imminent it's good to look and make sure you know what you're doing. There's sort of a hierarchy of importance when it comes to looking up rules you're unsure about. In this case, very much yes you should have.

The Sword wrote:

2.) Should I be able to have my NPC goblin Druid turn into a snake?

For me it is a resounding yes, provided you are doing it to make the encounter more interesting/challenging/fun (the last word being the optimal one). The idea sounds pretty cool to me! However with that power be careful you don't over egg it.

It sounds like the whole party didn't know you couldn't do that until 3 levels later. The appropriate response is you can do it... You're the DM.

I think you're misunderstanding the scenario. This isn't a case of purposefully giving the Druid a new ability. This is a case of the DM getting a rule wrong and accidentally giving the Druid a new ability.

These are two very, VERY different things.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Brother Fen wrote:
Players literally refuse to use the PRD.
I don't. The index on the SRD is terrible, such that I only use it when I know exactly what I'm looking for.

I prefer to PRD to the SRD. Our group doesn't use any 3rd party stuff, so I don't have to deal with all the extra stuff that shows up all over the SRD. Just feels less cluttered to me.


The PRD also doesn't have many Paizo products though, notably the Campaign Setting line, including many of the new options for new and existing races.


Rynjin wrote:
The PRD also doesn't have many Paizo products though, notably the Campaign Setting line, including many of the new options for new and existing races.

Definitely doesn't have everything. I still prefer the format.


Saldiven wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
The PRD also doesn't have many Paizo products though, notably the Campaign Setting line, including many of the new options for new and existing races.
Definitely doesn't have everything. I still prefer the format.

Which is why I usually use the archivesofnethys.com. It's mostly the best of both worlds. There are some noticeable omissions though. You won't find the combat chapter on there, for instance.


Pathfinder Card Game, Maps, PF Special Edition, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

In addition to what everyone else said about knowing the rules being a shared responsibility, you should also endeavor to get your players on board with that fact since it seems from your limited description that they wanted to participate in adjudications but bear none of the responsibility for doing so. Let them know that they're responsible for knowing the rules about their characters, let them know that table agreements about how something works are final for the remainder of the session, let them know that if they think some horrible consequence such as character death arose from a misunderstanding of the rules, they should pause the game and assist you if possible in looking up what the correct rules are. If they agree the death was valid, even if it wasn't and they find out 3 months later, see the prior sentence about table agreements being final. If it's easy to reverse/retcon, then do that, but 3 levels is significant and I wouldn't reverse a character death after that point in time (heck, I wouldn't reverse a character death after 3 sessions if enough happened during them, much less levels).

If one of your players is more experienced than you and is willing to pick up the mantle, assign them to rules duty where they can look up table questions between their turns while you're moving the combat or story along. Maybe even rotate that assignment if you have multiple willing players.


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Tumatan44 wrote:
Am I that far off base, that no GM understands every rule? If a table consensus is wrong should the GM take the blame?

No and No. I don't think even any one on the Paizo staff knows all the rules (there has been cases where the design team made a FAQ or an errata that they later realised contradicted other rules, which lead to reversing the FAQ/errata). There's literally thousands of pages with rules, only counting the Paizo official material.

Honestly, I get a little angry by even suggesting that a DM "should" know all the rules. DO YOU EVEN KNOW? DO YOU EVEN F@*%ING KNOW??? WHAT WE GO THROUGH, TO SET UP THE GAME, FOR YOU! WE SPEND OUR OWN SPARE TIME TO PREPARE SO THAT YOU CAN HAVE FUN! WE DO THIS FOR YOU! WE DON'T EVEN GET TO PLAY, WE'RE JUST SITTING THERE THROWING ALL THE FUN YOUR WAY! ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE! NOT WHAT WE WANT IN THE GAME, BUT WHAT YOU WANT IN YOUR GAME! YOU ONLY NEED TO SHOW UP AND GET EVERYTHING WE'VE DONE SERVED TO YOU! AND YOU SAY THAT WE'RE NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, BECAUSE WE CAN'T DO SOMETHING THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE??? YOU KNOW WHAT? I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE! DIE IN A FIRE! FIRE! FIIIIRRRRREEEEEE!!!!!! AAAaand back to normal again.

The DM has the veto when it comes to on-the-spot rulings, but that doesn't mean the DM is to blame. The players can make an argument and give their point of view, but what the DM says is what goes (it's only when the DM enforces their way that players should be allowed to whine when s#~~ goes south). If they can't get by the fact that you made a mistake as a DM, they either need to take on the cape as DM or leave the group.


That druid should be:
a druid 3/rogue 1
so no wildshape. You can also TPK a party with that encounter without making mistakes
more spoilers:
(superior mobility, touch sneak attacks and easy flanking all against targets that potentially have squeezing penalties).

You will make mistakes, that will not be anything close to the last mistake you will make. Hopefully there will not be any that significant, but your players have to accept you are human and the rules are just that extensive that it is impossible to know them all. The more you GM the more you learn. Players that can't accept that you will make the occasional mistake probably need to take a good hard look at priorities.

In general I agree the responsibility is on both players and GM to know the rules, but this isn't really a rules issue. The players have no way of knowing what the level of the druid is and what abilities it has unless you tell them. This is a GM prep error. Apologise and move on.


I often ignore DM mistakes if it's fairly insignificant and they are consistent about it. For instance, if a DM thinks you can attack with two weapons after making a move, what do I gain from arguing it with them.


Rub-Eta wrote:
Tumatan44 wrote:
Am I that far off base, that no GM understands every rule? If a table consensus is wrong should the GM take the blame?

No and No. I don't think even any one on the Paizo staff knows all the rules (there has been cases where the design team made a FAQ or an errata that they later realised contradicted other rules, which lead to reversing the FAQ/errata). There's literally thousands of pages with rules, only counting the Paizo official material.

Honestly, I get a little angry by even suggesting that a DM "should" know all the rules. DO YOU EVEN KNOW? DO YOU EVEN F+#+ING KNOW??? WHAT WE GO THROUGH, TO SET UP THE GAME, FOR YOU! WE SPEND OUR OWN SPARE TIME TO PREPARE SO THAT YOU CAN HAVE FUN! WE DO THIS FOR YOU! WE DON'T EVEN GET TO PLAY, WE'RE JUST SITTING THERE THROWING ALL THE FUN YOUR WAY! ALWAYS THINKING ABOUT WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE! NOT WHAT WE WANT IN THE GAME, BUT WHAT YOU WANT IN YOUR GAME! YOU ONLY NEED TO SHOW UP AND GET EVERYTHING WE'VE DONE SERVED TO YOU! AND YOU SAY THAT WE'RE NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU, BECAUSE WE CAN'T DO SOMETHING THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE??? YOU KNOW WHAT? I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS ANYMORE! DIE IN A FIRE! FIRE! FIIIIRRRRREEEEEE!!!!!! AAAaand back to normal again.

The DM has the veto when it comes to on-the-spot rulings, but that doesn't mean the DM is to blame. The players can make an argument and give their point of view, but what the DM says is what goes (it's only when the DM enforces their way that players should be allowed to whine when s@~+ goes south). If they can't get by the fact that you made a mistake as a DM, they either need to take on the cape as DM or leave the group.

That sorta sounds like "GM entitlement" rage. You choosing to take that role on yourself isn't a "good reason" to not be capable at the role.

I have always subscribed to the "if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it well" mentality. If you are incapable of doing the job, don't do it. This isn't to say mistakes won't be made, but you absolutely can mininize them, by knowing the rules of the game you chose to run. If you are a new GM, the party should know, and also be forgiving about it. If you say you will GM but aren't familiar with the rules, and fail to mention to that, that is pretty much on you.

Shadow Lodge

Regardless of which site you use, the online rules sources can make it a lot easier and quicker to look up rules during play compared to pdfs or especially print sources. I personally do like to have the books/pdfs but after reading the books once prefer to use the SRD as a reference. (In case and Paizo employees are reading I'd like to note that I have purchased several pdfs I was not originally intending to buy after noticing content I liked on the SRD - and not for PFS reasons.)

On the OP, I agree with what I think is the consensus: a GM isn't expected to know all rules, but they should review the rules likely to come up in a session before that session. It's not necessary to check the rules any time you're uncertain, but you should do so if it's likely to be a life and death situation for a PC. In this case the OP/GM goofed, but since the players also checked the rules and agreed on how it worked they share partial responsibility - if there were still concerns it would be appropriate to double-check the rules after that session, not three levels later (a forum post would have sorted you). At this point it is appropriate for you to apologize and for the players to accept your apology and move on. No one is perfect.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Just 2c for the original poster -

I don't think it's necessary to know all the rules. Just some key ones.

As a dm if a rule comes up I'm unsure about if my first Google search doesn't answer it, I'm making a call. If it's really important to a player it's usually a combat round and they have til their next turn to produce an argument.

Anything very grey I make a call, and at the beginning of next session make a ruling.

I've had characters die for wrong rules. But most of the time the experience was fun and memorable so when it was found out later it was just oh well...

And to be fair I've lost boss monsters the same way.

Your barbarian died strangled by a snake, it's pretty cool. If a player is upset later on I'd be wondering why such an adverserial attitude. I'd be firm and say yes the rules were wrong, now moving on there is a grizzly murder.


If you as a GM have an experienced player who is much more knowledgeable on the rules than you are it is perfectly okay to use him as the rules authority. Just so long as you trust him not to always interpret rules in his favor.

If as a GM you concentrate more on the story and let someone else handle rules beyond the basics you will not be able to set up some of the more "challenging" encounters as you do not have the system mastery to get every bit of synergy out of your monsters. So what. No one will notice never used an iron golem in conjunction with a red dragon, But hopefully they will remember the engaging story you presented.


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Running an adventure path, I did my prep-work and looked up the details of the rules of the abilities of every NPC and monster in the campaign so I'd know exactly how they worked.

This turned out to be way more time-consuming than I could have imagined before I was a GM. Players can't really appreciate the effort required to GM properly or how easy it is to make all kinds of mistake.


Tumatan44 wrote:
2ndGenerationCleric wrote:
I'd let the character survive. Or give back the hero points. Or give the replacement character hero points as an apology
I would have, but this happend 3 levels ago the player has re-rolled a new PC. this came up only after the Druid in the group got wild shape and understood it Months later (now). The player who died is not the one with the issue although Im sure she is not happy about her Barbarian dying...

This happened three levels ago and they want to talk about it now?

Wow.

Ask what THEY think the resolution should be. Doesn't sound to me like you did anything THAT bad (we all make mistakes).

Compensation to the player who lost a character probably is pointless by now (three levels ago is a long time), but up to you...

If they want to press this, your first post nailed it: you don't have to GM.

Maybe take a step back, and let one of the others have a chance to show how flawless they can be.

GMing is hard, they should be grateful, not abusive.


Knowing the rules is a shared responsibility. A player should be familiar with all his own abilities and any rules that he plans to use. A GM should be familiar with the general rules and the rules for any creatures he plans to use. A good GM will also be familiar with the abilities of his character.

Basically read up on the things you plan to use or expect to have used against you. It really does not take that long to read over the rules for each class that your players will be using. You don’t need to memorize it but should have a good idea on how it works. Spell especially for prepared divine casters are the hard part. You don’t need to know everything just what will be used in the game you are running.


The usual rule of thumb is just to make up something reasonable sounding in the moment, and then look it up after the session, and let your players know that you did and what you found out (as well as if you decide a house rule is needed during that time).

Unless somebody is going to die as a result, then look it up at the table.

However, you can avoid most of this, if you prep a lot as a new GM, like if your session is going to include wolves, specifically re-read the tripping section, that sort of thing. And if you read your players' sheets ahead of time and know their main abilities. That's a lot more manageable than trying to just memorize 800 other rules that won't matter this session.

Grand Lodge

TriOmegaZero wrote:

Generally, make a call and move on. Tell the player that the group can look it up after the game, so they don't take up limited session time on such things.

Obviously, if it will determine the removal of a character from the game, take the time to make sure things are correct according to the rules. Taking a player out of the game due to an erroneous rules call is never a good course of action.

Lastly, if it won't break up the flow of the session, or it is something that will benefit the entire table, go ahead and check the rules. It'll help everyone learn how the game is written, especially on rules that the players aren't likely to have a need to look up themselves.

Agree totally. I have gotten much better.


Skylancer4 wrote:

That sorta sounds like "GM entitlement" rage. You choosing to take that role on yourself isn't a "good reason" to not be capable at the role.

I have always subscribed to the "if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it well" mentality. If you are incapable of doing the job, don't do it.

I really hope you're not trying to advocate that not knowing every page of every book of rules equals to "not doing it well" or "not capable at the role". Because that's exactly what you do when you respond like that, the "you're just raging and being butt-hurt because you're doing a s~~&ty job" when I'm saying that knowing every rule is too much to ask from anybody.

And there is many, MANY cases where the DM doesn't choose to DM, he does it to even have any game. Because nobody else, none of his players, would bother even attempting doing what he does for them.


Rage all you want. Most of the time players can't be bothered to even get their character updates to you in time. GMs put in hours and hours of work before the players even get to the game and then are rarely appreciated or met half way.


A long time ago, there was a test on the WoTC site for becoming an RPGA DM. They wanted the DM to know practically all the rules from the 3rd edition core books. It took me over 10 tries before I succeeded at the test. I then immediately forgot half the stuff I memorized for it. No one can be reasonably expected to remember all the rules for Pathfinder, even the core rules.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Brother Fen wrote:
Rage all you want. Most of the time players can't be bothered to even get their character updates to you in time. GMs put in hours and hours of work before the players even get to the game and then are rarely appreciated or met half way.

It's rarely appreciated because no one asks you to do all that. I don't put in more than an hour of work into my games and we do just fine. (Also, they were talking about GM rage, so your first statement is misaimed.)


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TriOmegaZero wrote:
Brother Fen wrote:
Rage all you want. Most of the time players can't be bothered to even get their character updates to you in time. GMs put in hours and hours of work before the players even get to the game and then are rarely appreciated or met half way.
It's rarely appreciated because no one asks you to do all that. I don't put in more than an hour of work into my games and we do just fine. (Also, they were talking about GM rage, so your first statement is misaimed.)

Time investment can vary a lot. It depends on if you are making your own content and how simple your content is. But even when running a module I find I need to put in a couple hours just to make sure I really understand what's coming up.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I'm aware that experience and specific scenarios make that time vary. However, to demand appreciation for something the players never asked for (hours and hours of preparation of the GMs own accord) really is entitlement.


Yeah, if you guys aren't putting time into your scenarios then they probably aren't very good. I didn't say I was raging or needed to, but if someone else felt the need, I can sympathize completely.

You helpful guys completely ignored my example of players laziness. I ask for character level updates in advance so I can audit characters out of game. I rarely get them. That is not acceptable. That is not asking for bowing at my feet. It is asking for courtesy.


Nobody should ever demand appreciation, because what you get then isn't appreciation. But getting flack for not doing something that would take hours and hours of preparation but still is impossible is not DM rage, self entitelment or deviating from "if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it well". That's just a s$%%-head of a player.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
Brother Fen wrote:
You helpful guys completely ignored my example of players laziness.

When I don't comment on something, it's usually because I don't have an issue with anything said. Should I jump up and down in agreement instead? As for how good my scenarios are, my players come back to the table just as much as anyone elses. So I must be doing good enough.


When I Gm I wear a metal gauntlet on my left hand. When my decree is questioned, I back-slap that heretical mouth back to the floor where it deserves to lie and bleed.

Theatricals aside, when I started gming I wasnt that good at rules yet, and if something comes up that can be delayed, I assign someone at the table to look it up while the rest of the round happens.

When it is a pressing matter, we all look into it. I ask for a minute if I need to read something to be 100% clear, otherwise i'll bank on someone's knowledge or search.

If your table wants to have that 10ft pole up their arses about your rulings (which are always right, period, for pedantic know it alls) when they've been made together, someone else can gm.

Player character deaths can and often result in some awkwardness with some players, it's how it is (jokingly, I suggest you nurture that feeling deep inside and savour it from time to time).


As a matter of fairness, I will do my best to perform on-the-spot research on either the SRD/Nethys to make a call- if unable, or if it would derail/seriously obstruct the pace of the campaign/combat/narrative, I would ask the Player to defer and choose a different course of action in consideration of the rest of the board. Most of the time I am able to just flip through my CRB and other hardbacks like UM/UC/APG/ACG. It's what I expect as a Player and what I try to deliver as a DM.

I've had to revise builds before because of DM Fiat, but I realized it was more fruitful and less toxic to adapt and retrain than try to ram what I felt was true according to RAW home. The important thing is to quickly if not decisively make a call, preferably where a DM did the Player the service of at least quickly referencing something they may not be proficient with off the top of their head.

It helps if you have Players that can help you research while you try to make the game keep flowing. I learn most from munchkins, honestly, because of how hard they push the limits. A lot of 'casual' old-timers I find just have very specific playstyles/biases, dem powergamers inadvertently cause me to learn more through their shenanigans -sometimes to my chagrin, but often enough to positively expand my horizons. Very early on in my DMing experience, I had to pause the game, and blatantly tell them that I could not keep up with their level of ability, please ease off and help me learn, I am trying to enjoy myself as well, not be their personal volunteer wish-fulfillment machine. It annoyed some, but I had to let them know my limitations and the majority supported me for it.

TL;DR To keep the game flowing, make a quick call if you have to, but if able, quick reference/research on the fly together.


Rub-Eta wrote:
Skylancer4 wrote:

That sorta sounds like "GM entitlement" rage. You choosing to take that role on yourself isn't a "good reason" to not be capable at the role.

I have always subscribed to the "if I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it well" mentality. If you are incapable of doing the job, don't do it.

I really hope you're not trying to advocate that not knowing every page of every book of rules equals to "not doing it well" or "not capable at the role". Because that's exactly what you do when you respond like that, the "you're just raging and being butt-hurt because you're doing a s+&%ty job" when I'm saying that knowing every rule is too much to ask from anybody.

And there is many, MANY cases where the DM doesn't choose to DM, he does it to even have any game. Because nobody else, none of his players, would bother even attempting doing what he does for them.

It would help to read my whole post to get the answer to your insinuation. Not to mention partial quoting it so as to make it seem like I said something, which I didn't.

"What he does for them"... Kinda proves my point no?

FYI, I quoted your WHOLE post, just to make sure nothing relevant was lost. Not that it mattered in this particular case.

Community Manager

A reminder to keep it civil, thank you!

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