Dealing with table variation


Pathfinder Society

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Washington—Bothell aka Velisruna

As someone who enjoys playing... inventive builds, I often run into situations where the rules are unclear and there is some table variation e.g. using intimidate to demoralize things that don't speak the same language, or the reach of my whip maneuver character while she is enlarged (shameless plug). Not all vague areas can or will be cleared up; I'm more looking for advice on how, as a player, I should best go about springing esoteric corner cases on unfortunate GMs. I will already have pages up with evidence like the rules for intimidate or James Jacob's post on whip's reach if I am planning on playing that character and I am usually prepared to play a different character when the GM doesn't want to give a ruling. Any advice on other ways to limit GM headaches?

5/5

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My best advice would be to present the situation with all of he arguments where there is genuine table variation. Don't assume that your interpretation is automatically right and recognise that people can and will disagree with you at times.

Otherwise make sure to have all of the relevant material easily available and well explained and flag the issue as soon as possible at the start of the session, not when it arises mid game. If playing with the same set of regular GM's I would ask them to deal with the issue before the session. This is harder to do at conventions and frankly may well not be worth the table time you lose doing so.

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5

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andreww wrote:
flag the issue as soon as possible at the start of the session, not when it arises mid game.

I agree with everything Andrew said but wanted to especially emphasize this part. Expect me to be a LOT less willing to consider your point once the game has started.

One other point : make sure that your character is still viable if the ruling goes against you (or have another character you're ready to play). If the entire character concept is shot down you're probably pushing the boundary too hard

Sovereign Court

How about don't go out of your way to be THAT guy? If you're coming to the table with an argumentative build, and you KNOW you're bringing an argumentative build, then, for my part, you're breaking the Don't Be a Jerk Rule. As a GM I want to provide a fun experience for my table as a whole, and someone coming in, especially intentionally, with a special snowflake look-at-me-I-wanna-rules-debate-unclear-issues character, you're not going to be welcome at my tables after too many of those game stopping, fun-sponge shenanigans.

Silver Crusade 5/5 5/5

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RoshVagari wrote:
How about don't go out of your way to be THAT guy? If you're coming to the table with an argumentative build, and you KNOW you're bringing an argumentative build, then, for my part, you're breaking the Don't Be a Jerk Rule. As a GM I want to provide a fun experience for my table as a whole, and someone coming in, especially intentionally, with a special snowflake look-at-me-I-wanna-rules-debate-unclear-issues character, you're not going to be welcome at my tables after too many of those game stopping, fun-sponge shenanigans.

The "don't be a jerk" rule no longer exists :-).

I sort of agree with you and sort of don't. In the abstract, a build that pushes the rules in too many or too esoteric ways isn't a good idea.

But I have no problems with the specific examples raised by the OP. He has a whip build and wants to find out how enlarge person works? Totally reasonable. He intimidates a lot and wants to know how it interacts with language? Also reasonable.

In fact, at least from the examples given, I think the OP is being very, very good and proactive. He has a fairly normal build (whip user, intimidator) and has noticed some potential issues before the game.

I have a Mouser swashbuckler. I KNOW that there is some table variation on how acrobatics interacts with him entering an opponents square. I raise it before the game. Surely that is my being a good player as opposed to my using edge cases to ruin peoples fun.

5/5

The "don't be a jerk" rule certainly exists, it just no longer uses the ill-defined term "jerk". It's an entire paragraph with links to a code of conduct/policy page.

3/5 Venture-Agent, Canada—Alberta—Grand Prairie aka DM Livgin

Since PFS is such a self governed group (I don't have the time to check every characters build for legality) it is a good rule of thumb to follow the most conservative reasonable interpretation of a rule.

For example, I have a grappler and when a grappled foe wants to use two weapon fighting to make a full attack against the character I inform the GM that the foe can attack with both weapons. Because it is a contested rules item, I go with the less beneficial interpretation. If the GM has the time and inclination I'll explain the other interpretations and arguments. That way the GM can just focus on the game instead of trying to figure out if I'm gaming the system at the expense of others fun.

For just complicated items, I make table tents or have all the modifiers written down in my character folder. Eg:I try to feint the shambling mound, I take penalties depending in it's intelligence, these are the penalties:

Shadow Lodge

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Paizo Superscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
andreww wrote:
My best advice would be to present the situation with all of he arguments where there is genuine table variation. Don't assume that your interpretation is automatically right and recognise that people can and will disagree with you at all times.

I want to emphasize this part.

You will earn a lot of goodwill from me if you can present the argument *against* your interpretation in a non-snarky way. It may not make any difference in how I rule in that particular case, but it will make a huge difference in how much I will value your interpretations on an ongoing basis.

Grand Lodge 3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Southwest aka Socalwarhammer

3 people marked this as a favorite.

This is really quite simple. If you commonly play a build type that is subject to both an 'A' and 'B' interpretation be prepared to play it both ways.

Unless the GM or another player is totally unaware of the rules or a particular FAQ(which can happen), it is YOUR responsibility to be flexible, not theirs, especially when you know there are 2 (or sometimes more) commonly accepted ways to interpret a particular issue or power combo, etc.

DO NOT ARGUE. Ask, listen and present your understanding of the rules and then understand that ultimately the GM's ruling is final. Don't get fussy... Don't illicit other players to advocate for you... Don't authoritatively press an ambiguous issue... Don't phone a friend who agrees with you and ask them to explain it the GM (this one actually happened to me once). Just be ready to be flexible.

Shadow Lodge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Velisruna wrote:
I'm more looking for advice on how, as a player, I should best go about springing esoteric corner cases on unfortunate GMs.

How do you best go about presenting your case? Find a better way to present it. If your methodology for trying to "inform" your GM uses the same language bolded above, then I can see your problems begin entirely with your presentation.

4/5

When I last built a character who was odd enough that I was not sure how the rules interactions would work, I consulted with the local VC and two different VLs to try to be sure I had a solid understanding of what I could and could not do with the character. While I know nothing says VOs are always right either, hopefully they would be aware of possible rulings which might apply.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

GM Lamplighter wrote:
The "don't be a jerk" rule certainly exists, it just no longer uses the ill-defined term "jerk". It's an entire paragraph with links to a code of conduct/policy page.

No, it has been supplanted by the code of conduct. I don't see how building a character that requires the GM to make judgement calls violates the code of conduct, provided you do it respectfully, and accept the GM's judgement.

To answer the origional OP's question, over the years John Compton has written several guides to this:

How are badly written rules handled in PFS (uses Ice tomb as it's example, which has since been errataed, but the example still stands)

Doing strange things that the rules do not cover(In this case glueing multiple splash weapons together.)

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

Quoted for reference

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Scarab Sages 5/5 Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Thames Valley aka chris manning

one of the absolute worst things a player can do is ask me as a GM to make an on the spot ruling, whilst presenting his 50 page treatise on why his character should be allowed to do 125d12 damage with a feather or jump vertically 600ft from standing or any of the other shenanigans i have seen.

I dont have time to read more than a few paragraphs, and also dont want to be the guy they quote as 'but my last GM allowed it' at the next table..

Lantern Lodge 5/5 RPG Superstar 2015 Top 16 aka Black Powder Chocobo

I agree with the others that asking before the issue comes up goes a long way.

Before the monk flurry was FAQ'ed, at GenCon 12 I used a monk that flurried with 2H weapon and wanted to know if I'd get 1.5 my Str mod in damage when flurrying with it. During sign-ins, I asked the GMs: 2 GM's said ok, 1 said no. I played it accordingly and moved on. All of the GM's were polite about it whether ruling for or against the 1.5 Str and the issue didn't waste any time during the game itself.

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Washington—Bothell aka Velisruna

I may have over-stressed the shenanigans I am pulling.
When I am going to play my whip build, at the start of the game, I bring up the issue that there are no rules for calculating the whip's reach from size changes. I will show the evidence for the large whip's reach which are: the large Balor wields a whip with 20 foot reach but has a special ability that alters how they use whips and James Jacobs made an unofficial post saying he would give the large whip 30 foot reach (triple reach). I will have the Balor's statblock and James Jacobs' post up if the GM wants to see them. I have thought about creating a file of bookmarks that includes those and the rules for reach weapons, the whip, and larger creature's reach as well but I don't want to overwhelm the GM. I will also note some GMs before have split the difference and gone with a 25 foot reach. The character doesn't need the 30 foot reach so I am still happy to play if the GM says it is only 20 feet but if the GM doesn't want to bother with the problem, I will play something else.

The Intimidator is less of a problem, especially as his intimidate is more about posturing and body language (being a beefy scary-looking half-orc) so I don't bring it up at the start of the game especially since it isn't a problem I often run into. When it does come up though, I will have the rules for demoralize and the clarification that it is a mind-affecting fear effect and I will note it is not a language-dependent effect. I will then accept the GM's ruling even if it means taking a penalty, though I might grumble quietly when I can't strike even a little fear into a mundane animal after sticking it with my poleaxe. I've made sure the character can still contribute though as constructs and undead do show up and are certainly immune to fear so I am still competent at hitting enemies until they stop moving even if they are immune to fear.

I am certain I will have another build that falls into some vague rules territory. Until recently my Eldritch Guardian with an improved familiar was my worst offender but, with the rules being more hotly contested in that case, before I played her I brought it up with a local Venture Captain and he agreed with my interpretation. I try not to abuse grey areas, its more my builds run into them while trying to work out the concept such as whip wielder or intimidator and I won't abandon a fun build just because the rules don't cover everything. In this thread, I'm more trying to get opinions for when I should present my information, and how much I should present to make dealing with such cases as quick and painless as possible for the other people at the table.


The problem is when you and several GMs think that something you've done works one way (because why would it not?) and you try to use it at a different table and get shot down mid-fight or suddenly have an "illegal build."

Example:

War Blessing:

Prerequisite: Mystery or domains class feature.

Benefit: Choose two warpriest blessings when you take this feat. Each of these blessings must be tied to a domain granted by your deity or to one of the two domains that represent your spiritual inclination and abilities. Twice per day, you can call upon the minor blessing from one or the other of your chosen blessings. This ability otherwise acts like the warpriest blessings class feature. Your effective warpriest level is the highest level that you have in the class that has the mystery or domains class feature.

Channeled Blessing:

Prerequisites: Blessings class feature, channel energy class feature.

Benefit: When you channel energy to heal, you can instead deliver a warpriest's blessing to a single willing creature (including yourself) in the area that otherwise would have been healed by your channeled energy. The blessing must be one that requires a standard action and affects one or more creatures. If the blessing would normally affect multiple targets, you affect only a single target. The target receives the blessing in place of the healing and any other effects of the channeled energy. (This application doesn't count toward your uses of blessings per day.)

GM1: "Not a problem"
GM2: "Not a problem"
GM3: "Not a problem"
GM4: "It says, 'Acts like a blessing' but it doesn't say that it is a blessing. Rebuild."

The Exchange 5/5 Venture-Agent, Kentucky—Lexington

Velisruna wrote:
Any advice on other ways to limit GM headaches?

As someone who played an overrun specialist to level 9 before retiring because every GM ruled Greater Overrun, Charge Through, and Elephant Stomp differently; don't play characters with significant table variance.

It's not fair to the GM, the other players, and more importantly your fun will be killed.

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5 Venture-Agent, Washington—Bothell aka Velisruna

James Risner wrote:

As someone who played an overrun specialist to level 9 before retiring because every GM ruled Greater Overrun, Charge Through, and Elephant Stomp differently; don't play characters with significant table variance.

It's not fair to the GM, the other players, and more importantly your fun will be killed.

The difference here is my main tactic isn't changing much depending on GM fiat. With the more conservative ruling, my Whipper can still pull people around and mess with them through various maneuvers. My Intimidator can still hit things with 2 hander and power attack. It has not been enough of an issue were it breaks my build, unlike what seems to have happened with your overrun specialist. The vague bits just need to be worked out with as little disruption to the table as possible. I am willing to play a different character if the GM doesn't want to make a ruling but I won't completely drop a character just because not every interaction has a clear RAW answer.

5/5

Velisruna, your method of handling variation is completely sound. Your specific examples of variation are well within the acceptable, non-snowflake/abuse, realm of "hmm, no hard rule? Okay let's...". I believe others here are concerned that validating your approach too strongly would open the door to others using it in far more variable circumstances.

For instance, to use Kitty Catoblepas' example, if someone's entire focus is buffing others with a channeled blessing, it will cause disruption at the table if they can't use it and have a prolonged debate over it.

5/5 5/5

Personally, I think it's good to be proactive regarding rules that are unclear and subject to table variation, as discussed. It's better to get a ruling early so that the flow of the game is not disrupted later. If your build can be invalidated by an adverse ruling, that's a real issue and in cases like some of those discussed, I think it would be better to get an idea of where your GM will come down before the game starts so that you can switch to a different character if your primary play strategy is invalidated. I think the approach you've described in your posts here looks good to me - be polite and respectful and most GMs will be receptive. Strategies built on corner cases can be fun, but when the rules don't really cover what you're trying to do clearly, you can expect some different rulings and should be ready with alternatives. Good luck and good gaming!


1) Make a quick but fair explanation of all sides to the GM before the game starts.

2) Have more details ready if the GM asks. Try to present them fairly and compactly.

3) If the GM rules against your favored interpretation, be cool about it. Either switch characters or play with this ruling. Do not comment on it once there's a ruling and learn to let it go. Being passive-aggressive about it ruins everybody's fun. (and yes, this is something I personally have to bite back)

4) If you are going to switch characters, don't have the next one use a different corner case. Do something whose main tactics are standard.

The Exchange 5/5

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I most often encounter table variation with rules that are in the CRB. Common things that are hard to predict that the judge/other players will be "playing differently".

here's an example (or several examples) of table variation that occurred at a table I was at last night.

AOOs for moving:

- PC tumbles past a monster. Player rolls one Acrobatics roll and fails (rolls a 3), so the Monster takes an attack for each square the PC moves thru. Judge (and two players) state "this is how everyone in the world does it! Show me in the rules where it only gets one AOO." After the game we looked up the rule - but heck, "everyone does it the other way, ..." implying the CRB is clearly wrong.

Knowledge check to ID monster.:

Judge: "Roll Knowledge XXXX".
Player: "34"
Judge:"Ask 3 questions.",
Player: "What can I ask?",
Judge: "Things like Special Attacks",
Player: "OK, I ask that."
Judge: "No, that's not how that works, you have to ask 3 questions".
Player: "??? ok, whatever. What does my PC know about this monster?"
Judge: "NO! you can't pull do it that way! You have to ask one of the standard questions!"
Player: "What are the standard questions?"
Helpful player: "you know, things like Special Abilities, Special Defenses, Best Save, HP - except you can't ask exact HP..."
Player: "Ok, I ask that"
Judge: "you ask what?"
Player: "what he said" pointing at Helpful Player
Helpful Player: "What are it's Special Abilites?"
Judge: "Robot Traits"
Helpful Player: "So like Construct Traits?"
Player: "What?"
Judge: "Yeah"
Player: "What?"
Judge: "What's your next question"
Player: "???"
Judge: "Ask a question?"
Player: "What does my PC know about this monster?"
Judge: "You have to ask one of the standard questions!"
Player: "... ah... what's it favorite color?"

.

Skill usage:

- Perception to locate traps. "You can't see the trap until you are in the room. The trap triggers when you enter the room. So, you can't avoid triggering the trap."

- Disable Device to remove a trap. "How are you going to remove the Gravity Trap? There is no way to disable it from inside the room it is in - maybe you can disable it elsewhere in some other room?" and "You have to be beside the lasers to disable them - so they shoot at you while you are there."
.

Take 20:
on a Perception check. "That take's 20 minutes."
.

Take 10:
on a skill check "You can't take 10, you might fail." And after a roll of '3' succeeds, repeating the check get's the comment. "You can't take 10, you might fail."
.

Drinking a potion, and AOO:
Drinking a potion gives the attacker an AOO, and if the attack hits, damage is dealt and action of drinking is interrupted (action is lost, and potion may be destroyed).

I really don't often see a problem with BUILDS, that is something I have control over, that I can expect. If I have a build with something that I know might have issues - like the Healing Bomb discovery for example - I will ask the judge how he will deal with it in play. So as not to waste game time later. Having a printout of the "rule" and any other examples I can find. Maybe some questions I need to know the answers to see how it works at that table.

Healing Bomb Questions:

An Ally is involved in melee with several undead. So I throw a Healing bomb targeting my ally.
1) Does my friend HAVE to count his DEX at part of his touch AC?

2) Do I count my INT in the splash damage to the undead?

3) Do the Undead get 1 or 2 Saves? And what type of saves? Will or Reflex or Both?

4) If I used a Potion for the Healing Bomb, how do I calculate the DC for the Save/Saves? From my Bomb DC? or from the Potion DC? or from Both (Reflex for my Bomb DC, and Will for the Potion)?

The "table variation" I have trouble dealing with would be when something in the CRB works different at this table, different from every other table I have played at. (I don't like to have rules discussions when I am trying to PLAY).

Shadow Lodge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
nosig wrote:
I most often encounter table variation with rules that are in the CRB. Common things that are hard to predict that the judge/other players will be "playing differently".

You've mentioned a number of things that clearly don't fall under "table variation" they fall under "haven't read the rulebook".

In particular...

AoO's for moving
There's table variation, and there's outright ignoring rules...

SRD wrote:
Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round doesn't count as more than one opportunity for that opponent.

There are some common sense things in there, but how did the GM (and two players) react to that?

The Exchange 5/5

MisterSlanky wrote:
nosig wrote:

I most often encounter table variation with rules that are in the CRB. Common things that are hard to predict that the judge/other players will be "playing differently".

You've mentioned a number of things that clearly don't fall under "table variation" they fall under "haven't read the rulebook".

In particular...

AoO's for moving

There's table variation, and there's outright ignoring rules...

SRD wrote:
Moving out of more than one square threatened by the same opponent in the same round doesn't count as more than one opportunity for that opponent.
There are some common sense things in there, but how did the GM (and two players) react to that?

After the game, the discussion as we hurried out of the shop?

"everyone does it the other way, ..." implying the CRB is clearly wrong. Or that there must be some other rule that gives the monster more AOOs... 'cause that's the way "everyone else in the world does it!"

yeah - table variation...

Liberty's Edge Venture-Agent, Online

Even if it did allow multiple AoOs, why in the world would you keep moving? There is no rule that say you have to plan out and commit to your entire move action before you take your first step.

The Exchange 5/5

Michael Hallet wrote:
Even if it did allow multiple AoOs, why in the world would you keep moving? There is no rule that say you have to plan out and commit to your entire move action before you take your first step.

(shrugs) I have no idea - it wasn't my PC moving, it was one of the guys who "knew how the rules worked". I figure he wanted to get by the monster - and the first time he had tried to tumble thru it he had failed and the judge stopped him in a square with another PC (so the two of them were squeezed) and did the AOO there - he then finished that move by moving back out of the squeeze spot. (this is another instance of "table variation", the guy he moved into took the AOO - this group does a lot of things different from the way I thought they worked).

anyway, my point is, most "table variation" that pops up at a table is on common rules...


Michael Hallet wrote:
Even if it did allow multiple AoOs, why in the world would you keep moving?

Panther Claw:

Prerequisites: Wis 15, Combat Reflexes, Improved Unarmed Strike, Panther Style.

Benefit: While using Panther Style, you can spend a free action, instead of spending a swift action, to make a retaliatory unarmed strike. You can make a number of retaliatory unarmed strikes on your turn equal to your Wisdom modifier.

I guess there's this Style Feat/Chain that the rule would encourage.

I wonder if the monster in question had Combat Reflexes...?

The Exchange 5/5

Kitty Catoblepas wrote:
Michael Hallet wrote:
Even if it did allow multiple AoOs, why in the world would you keep moving?

** spoiler omitted **

I guess there's this Style Feat/Chain that the rule would encourage.

I wonder if the monster in question had Combat Reflexes...?

6-20 Returned to Sky:
If I am remembering it correctly, it was the vs. the big boss in the basement - but it might have been vs. the Fabricator 'bots... it actually came up more than once I think.

if someone wanted to look the creature/creatures up to see if it has Combat Reflexes?

3/5

nosig wrote:
Knowledge check to ID monster.:

I am now totally going to add what a monster's quest, fav color and air speed velocity are as part of my "standard" questions. Thank you :)

5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Tampere aka Rei

nosig wrote:
Kitty Catoblepas wrote:
Michael Hallet wrote:
Even if it did allow multiple AoOs, why in the world would you keep moving?

** spoiler omitted **

I guess there's this Style Feat/Chain that the rule would encourage.

I wonder if the monster in question had Combat Reflexes...?

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
It does, on both subtiers.
5/5 5/5

As long as the monster gets flung into the Crack of Doom if the GM fails to answer, I'm good with that. :)

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