GM vs. Rules Lawyers


Advice

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Grand Lodge

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I have been a GM for almost 30 years now and have enjoyed doing so. I grew up on the old D&D system and have played several other systems since then. For nearly all my years I have played with friends, friends of friends, military buddies, etc... However my son has recently become very interested in gaming (over the last three years). He is a teenager and I have been taking him to conventions, which I never attended before. So I began going to these conventions with him for some good old fashioned father-son bonding time. It has been great, except for when I GM. I love to Gm, and would consider myself quite an excellent GM. I have a Master's Degree in Literature and teach Lit courses in college. So I certainly know how to weave a tale.

My problem is with the level of Rules-Lawyers that exist in PFS. I simply don't have the time to memorize every new rule that comes out on a consistent basis, and Paizo loves to send out books each month (which I enjoy because it expands the game, yet frustrates me because I can't keep up). I know I could simply just not play PFS or not GM, but it really isn't an option. My son loves the Pathfinder game system and knows it well, and if I sign up just to play I often am asked to GM because I am a Three star PFS GM and they always have shortages at the conventions. Either way it defeats my purpose for attending; having fun with my son.

I guess what I am really hoping for, other than a moment to generally rant, is if there are any tips on how to handle the rules-lawyering at conventions. I have one this Friday and am both excited and dreading this weekend.


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Say no when asked to GM.
Spend the first few minutes asking if anyone has any interesting abilities and read their source to see how it works.
What kind of rules-lawyering are you talking about?
If it's one of the highly debated rules just tell them you're the GM and are running it your view.
If it's the actual rules that you don't know/forget then their rules-lawyering is just them reminding/telling you what the rule is.


I've never participated in structured PFS events, but I've learned a lot about them from reading posts here on the forums. I'm sure by the time I finish writing this, I will have been ninja'd by several people who are more in the know than I am, but here is my understanding of it.

If there are rules that you don't fully understand, but other players at the table do, you can always just trust them to know what they are talking about and go off of their recommendation. Or use DM fiat. Be careful with this though, because if you fiat in the wrong direction, and there was an explicit rule to handle the situation and it turns out negatively for a player, they probably won't be happy with how you handled it.

I know there are ways to limit what material people can use, so you can ban books that you haven't had a chance to review yet, but I'm not sure how this works with PFS and/or players that came with a character prepared using the banned material.

I know I also heard somewhere that DMs are only required to know the core rules intimately, so I'm not sure how it's handled when a non-core issue comes up, but again, you can either trust the rules-lawyers, who make it their job to know the deep ins and outs of the rules, or make your own ruling on the issue to keep the game moving.

Grand Lodge

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If you feel that Way, Play PFS and Don't GM.

Just use PFS as a chance to Game with your son on the same side of the screen. And when your at Home running your own games then you do not have to deal with the PFS level of rules. I personally dislike some of the Changes PFS has made. So I play a lot more with Home style groups.


I always suggest taking a reasonable amount of time going over the character sheet of each player before each session, making sure I'm conversant with the class abilities, archetype, spells, items, etc. that character brings to the table. Often, I'll have to pull out a book to refresh my memory on some things. If it's a new character, or one new to me, I'll talk to the player about what the character's "schtick" is, just so I am aware of any combinations that character is likely to use.

Also, for a PFS session, ask each player if they've had any issues come up with other GMs recently that might come up again. Engage in some preventative GMing to get a ruling for those things at your table before the session starts, rather than waiting for them to pop up mid-session where the discussion is likely to be far more contentious.


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Marculus,

I understand your concern, but you must remember that, barring possibly the actual PFS forums, you are asking it of an audience of people mostly devoted to the Sanctity of the Rule. You will find less devout Benedictines.

There is some good advice on how to mitigate the disconnect that you have with your players. I will paste in a couple lines from my GM handout and hope it helps at least a little bit.

My Game Handout wrote:


The rules do not trump the GM, but I endeavor to never be arbitrary.
...
If a particular rule or interpretation is important to your character concept email me the text of it and talk to me before it becomes an issue

I am open to third party content

I don't use experience points, nor do I balance all encounters to be winnable.

Sometimes the right answer is to run away, sometimes it might even be to lose. This is NOT a wargame.

EDIT

And immediately following my post is the perfect example:
Kazaan wrote:
Nothing is worse than building a character based on the rules and then getting thrown for a loop because the GM misinterprets those rules.

If you don't get this out of the way FIRST you end up with players feeling this way. The basic assumption of the game is the Rule , which is overall OK because it keeps Paizo in business and more neat things coming out. If you have not made your GM stance clear Before it comes to this, you have a good chunk of responsibility for the problem. If you have made yourself clear, you may have to kick the offending lawyer to the curb and go on.


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10% of lawyers give them all a bad reputation. This is true in both justice systems as well as game systems. Most rules lawyers are just looking for system parity. Nothing is worse than building a character based on the rules and then getting thrown for a loop because the GM misinterprets those rules. But there are a few who are looking to get an undue advantage based on technicalities. My first few times playing Pathfinder were rather rough because the other players (including the GM), while used to other RPG systems, were relatively new to Pathfinder and burdened with limited understanding of the new system. Our GM though that characters in a grapple shared the same space and that attacks against the opponent had a 50% chance to hit the grappled ally instead. This lead to a number of undesirable situations. There were plenty of other things wrong (not least of which the GM in question was of the "GM vs players" mentality), but having someone who fully and objectively understood the rules would have probably made things go a lot smoother. There are just certain types of people who want a more structured, sturdy, and rigid rules framework and, as such, they naturally will study and seek complete understanding and competence with the rules; and expect others to, if not do that, at least trust those who actually did so. Another part of the problem is the way GMing has become treated. The GM is a referee, he adjudicates the rules, but the game doesn't belong to him. He's a player; just one with a specific job in the game, like the dealer in Blackjack. "The GM is always right" is just as wrong a mentality as "the customer is always right". Too many GMs get butthurt when someone else at the table demonstrates better system mastery and are quick to jump on them for being a bad rules lawyer trying to take advantage of other players' lack of system mastery, even though those individuals are just a minority of rule lawyers in general.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Some examples would help us answer this.

The first thing to do is make sure you don't turn a rules discussion into a confrontation. Assume that the players are not trying to cheat.

The suggestion of asking about any tricks the characters have before the session starts is an excellent one. Gives you time to look over what they are doing, see if there is anything you disagree with in their rules interpretation.

Give them a short time (less than a minute should be enough) to explain their position. If they are taking rules from someplace you've never heard of, ask them to see the source.

If a disagreement comes up in the middle of the action, have a very brief discussion and then make a decision. If they argue tell them that you disagree and that you don't want to hold up the game for a rules discussion. Offer to talk to them after the game finishes or during a break in the game. Be polite, but insistent, that long rules discussions are not appropriate in the middle of the action unless character lives are on the line.

Do not make it GM vs. players. Yes, you are providing a challenge. You are also arbitrating the actions so that they can overcome the challenge. The intent is to provide a fun time to the whole table. TPKs and rules arguments will not do that.


BretI,

I don't think he is asking whether any of us believe his individual rulings are right or wrong. I think he is trying to get advice on dealing with the disparity and conflict between Pathfinder Cultural Assumptions and "Old School" Cultural Assumptions.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I need explanation of what he sees as those cultural assumptions then.

In my experience, the only old school assumption that was always valid was to ask before play began for the GMs house rules. Everything else tended to vary wildly with group.

For PFS, the house rules are in Additional Resources and the Campaign Clarifications documents.


Unfortunately PFS ties your hands on several things.

As a player and GM I would be very likely to ever play in PFS setting because it removes control as a GM and has several aspects which are frustrating as a player. I understand their necessity with the nature of the game play format, but it doesn't mean I have to like or play that format.

If you can't handle the nature of GMing for PFS, then don't GM. No reason you need to.


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Big assumption is the acceptability of the rules lawyer.

Old School, rules lawyer is, by default, "morally" wrong, even if his interpretation is the better one.

Pathfinder, the general assumption is that if the lawyer is correct, he is also "morally" right.

I used "morally" because it points out the emotional context, not because it is really a moral issue.


Co-op the rules lawyers. If you are home and have one near by have them help you learn the new rules. This can save you a lot of reading and allow you to get down the the nitty-gritty faster.

At the gaming table rules lawyers (proper ones that are impartial, the ones that cite rules when it helps or hurts them) can be a useful means of impartiality. Use them as a consultant when others are questioning.

They need to understand it is your game but offloading some of the task to them is not impossible either (provided again you can trust their impartiality). As a player I appreciate it when the GM is willing to lean on my knowledge and skill in order to make the game better. Especially if it helps him handle the parts I don't do so well as a GM -- narration and breathing life into the story/game.

Most of this likely won't help you with PFS (except getting help learning the rules).


Point 1. No matter how straight to the rules PFS games adhere, the GM is still the final arbiter of how things go. If you continue to run into rules lawyers who are slowing the games down, work with them to continue the flow of the game by telling them I'll make a decision on what I think now, and then move on. If that doesn't work and you continue to get more and more rules arguments from one or two players and it's disrupting the game, especially at a con where time is at a premium, inform them that they are no longer allowed at this game, and that they should leave. They can talk with the PFS administrators at a later date, and move on.

2. If you don't want to deal with PFS stuff, then I would say no to whatever requests you get to run and then play yourself in both PFS and non PFS events. Also, run a game or two your self based on your version of the PF rules set, and it shows your son a difference between the many approaches that one can play with a game. No one wants to force someone to be a GM, and don't feel guilty if you're not doing so. The PFS teams will either eliminate games or find other people to GM at conventions and run.

3. Pathfinder and Old School cultural assumptions often clash due to the switch to an even rules heavier system to explain things that were decided by GMs in older systems. Just remember that if you get a lot of rules lawyers constantly, then explain to them at the start that you don't keep up with every constant weekly FAQ change or silly rules over casting 3 Prots from evil in a row makes you good, and if they are even somewhat reasonable, they should given you the benefit of the doubt. If they don't, then take note and don't GM PFS with them. It's not worth the hassle for you or your son. I've done this more then once with rules lawyers or RAW is the only true way people. They eventually learn that their way isn't always right or that rules arguments lead to nothing but game bog downs and killjoys.


Blah. I feel your pain. There are a lot of people that drag the game down for everyone else. Unfortunately, in PFS, there is no avoiding these folks. Your only options are to continue and deal with it, avoid GMing for PFS or switch completely to online play via d20pro or roll20. You could also look into building your own group at the friendly local gaming shop. It might take a month or two, but once you build a group of players, you'll have a healthy game that you can control as you like - which is a luxury no one has in PFS.


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I'll just echo the approach of what other people have said. When I GM, I ask the players before hand to fill out a little card with some basics about their characters and to specifically note if they do any "weird or obscure" things as a part of their character concepts. Then as I read through I go around the table and if they are playing a class or archetype that I'm not familiar with, I ask them to explain.

It's not going to solve all issues, but in PFS it is the responsibility of the player to have their source material available. When I play a class which has mechanical oddities (Alchemist, for instance) I print out and have handy every FAQ and clarification I'm using in my playstyle for easy reference. Not everyone's going to do that, but it is on the player to show what they can do or how something works for the exact reason you are here: no GM can know all the rules and this is ultimately a collaborative hobby.


Marculus wrote:
I simply don't have the time to memorize every new rule that comes out on a consistent basis, and Paizo loves to send out books each month (which I enjoy because it expands the game, yet frustrates me because I can't keep up).

Marculus,

I too fall into the category of PFS GMing and can't keep up with all the material coming out. Here has been my strategy.

- read the Core Rulebook, and get a good grasp of those game mechanics
- ask the players if they have funky or critical rule-bending abilities
- be upfront with the players and let them know that you aren't up to speed on all of the books Paizo puts out

Most players will help you out and be relaxed about particulars after that last.

Most players are honest. My experience with the GMs at GenCon were that they all were relaxed about anything special and just trusted the PCs for the most part.


Learn to say no when asked to GM. Simply state you are there to PLAY with your son and that is more important to you than anything else.

The key to Pathfinder is that it is a GAME and it is there to facilitate fun. Your under no obligation to strangers, despite what sounds like extreme generosity with your time from what I read above, to GM when that is not what you want to do.

Time having fun, with your son, is infinitely more important and anyone who does not understand that and make allowances for YOU to do so is not worth your effort.

A good, strong relationship with family is worth so much more than a few passing gaming friendships.


Of course with the new types of PFS you could just stick to core.

Grand Lodge

Abraham spalding wrote:
Of course with the new types of PFS you could just stick to core.

Bingo! I was going to say the same thing.

Being a GM is as much about being an artist as it's about being a rules arbitrator. Limit your colour palette, and only GM what you're comfortable with.


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cavernshark wrote:

I'll just echo the approach of what other people have said. When I GM, I ask the players before hand to fill out a little card with some basics about their characters and to specifically note if they do any "weird or obscure" things as a part of their character concepts. Then as I read through I go around the table and if they are playing a class or archetype that I'm not familiar with, I ask them to explain.

It's not going to solve all issues, but in PFS it is the responsibility of the player to have their source material available. When I play a class which has mechanical oddities (Alchemist, for instance) I print out and have handy every FAQ and clarification I'm using in my playstyle for easy reference. Not everyone's going to do that, but it is on the player to show what they can do or how something works for the exact reason you are here: no GM can know all the rules and this is ultimately a collaborative hobby.

I wanted to echo this, as well as offer a bit more. Fewer folks are asked to leave the games I run other than rules lawyers. This is not because of their enthusiasm for the rules, but for loudness and antisocialness that irritates other players to an extreme degree. While we try to work with everyone, now and then, the regrettable happens and a person may be asked to leave.

For example, I had one guy follow me around with CHARTS. He did not understand what he was doing wrong--he was so wrapped up in making his point that he did not understand when I told him that he was no longer welcome at my and others' tables.

I had another incident where someone would spam an email account with thesis-length essays on rules clarifications. When a ruling did not go their way, they tried spamming other people, as well. He would then take to tables and attempt to begin shouting matches between himself and the GM or himself and other players.

I do understand you.

If the cavernshark's idea does not work, it may be possible to establish a "working things out later, in order to keep things running smoothly" policy. I am not sure if PFS allows this, but it is one time-honored way of keeping a game moving along, without things getting sidelined overmuch.

In the end though, there are always going to be some folks who will just irritate the tarnation out of people no matter what. It is not your job to teach these folks how to behave around others--instead, it is within reason as an adult, to have the expectation that they will behave as another adult.

Also, if they are upsetting your game, they are likely upsetting others at the table as well. This means that other GMs and so forth have probably had experience with them. It may be possible to speak with a local captain or so on, and discover if this person's behavior is a known, local issue. They may be able to offer you advice on how they have handled it at their table in a way that is beneficial to everyone.

Grand Lodge

I've found that 95% of rules interaction conflicts are in the Core Rulebook (combat maneuvers are always the fun ones). Beyond that it's less a goal of understanding every feat/rule, and more a goal of looking to see if something falls outside of an average power scale. As long as it throws no flags, I tend not to inquire beyond curiosity post-scenario. If it throws flags (+15 to hit at level 6) I ask the player to explain bonus sources to get to whatever ludicrous number they got (see hunter example below). If they can account for most of that bonus with no obvious stacking issues, it's fine. I also expect players to know how their character works, so if I need to ask one about something like the above, they need to explain it to me at a high level fairly quickly. If they can't explain it, I'm going to rule that they can't do it that round and they can attempt it next round after they figured it out.

The things you should know (or have readily available if you're still fuzzy, like a core book open to the combat section):
-Core combat rules (what provokes, how to draw line of sight/cover/etc for melee/ranged/reach weapons, combat maneuvers, Flat Footed/Touch/Normal AC, movement types; aka the combat section).
-Skill interactions (trained/untrained, when you can take 10 or 20, penalties for climbing/swimming/wearing armor..., how sneak works, how long the common skill uses take).
-What the basic character stats are (HP, AC, CMB/CMD, Attacks, Movement Types, etc...)
-Familiar with core rulebook feats and maybe the really popular feats from other books (you don't have to go search them out, just learn as you go).

This last one is particularly useful, because feats let you break the above rules or improve bonuses, typically grant only so much of a bonus, and the bigger the bonus the more circumstantial its use becomes. So there is a level of expectation on how much a feat grants, and how much a 3 feat chain might grant. If a player says they could teleport around the battlefield and flank with themselves while doing it due to a series of 5 feats (dimensional dervish), that's reasonable because they've taken a huge number of feats and expended a level 4 spell to do it. Or if they have a bonus of +15 to hit from 3 feats at level 6, but are a level 6 hunter (+4 BAB) with a +6 STR bonus, a +1 weapon, and took the level 3 hunter option that increases flank bonuses while flanking with their animal companion to a +4, then that sounds reasonable (and awesome)!

However, you're there to play with your son, so do that. If your son wants to play at your table, then you could offer to GM for that purpose, but it's okay to say no!


make a group that you run and don't play PFS.


vhok wrote:
make a group that you run and don't play PFS.

He's talking about events at conventions. Generally, there aren't 'form a group of randoms and play' events at Cons, instead there is PFS.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
'Sani wrote:
He's talking about events at conventions. Generally, there aren't 'form a group of randoms and play' events at Cons, instead there is PFS.

Oh, sure there are. The bigger the convention, the more there will be. Even putting up a sign-up sheet on a bulletin board will net you players for a pick-up game run in the halls or one some side tables. The main drawback, aside from attracting any sort of oddballs with whom you may not get along, is they're highly variable experiences and a fairly random grab-bag of opportunities.

It's just that PFS are reliably there if PF is your game of choice.

The Exchange

Honestly I'm a rule lawyer, but usually unless something that a player does rubs my rule sense wrong(or I know that person in question has the tendency to read rules in such way to benefit himself though its not RAW), I usually believe what players tell me what their characters can do. Though if its a class I am unfamiliar with(like gunslingers), I'll quiz them on it before game time.

I suggest you don't GM too many slots at a con, pick lower level games (less shinenigans), don't GM more then one game per day and always be early for the game so you can quiz players at your table on how their abilities work.

One thing I learnt, though is that we're all human and imperfect. If someone gets a rule wrong that does not really interfere much with gameplay, just let it pass. There's not enough time at a gaming table to go arguing about rules.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Fellow 3-star here. My general tactics to avoid rules lawyer issues (as someone who also has to check his rules lawyer tendencies regularly):

1. As other have said, ask about any rules funkiness before the table starts. If you have questions about a particular bit of funkiness, ask the player to find appropriate references (i.e. pull up the actual text) while you continue to go around the table with the question. Unless you have a major beef with the mechanic they're claiming, as long as they can both provide a reference and justify their interpretation (in under 20 seconds of explanation), I typically go with it.

2. Remind all players that convention slots are a limited amount of time and, in the interest of furthering roleplay opportunities, the ONLY rules questions that will stop the game are ones that directly impact a character's survival. Everything else can be discussed after the game.

3. When preparing the scenario(s), if you have mechanics you're not familiar with, google it. See what the forums have said. Check out the associated GM Discussion Thread in the PFS forums. See if PFSPrep has info on it. Generally speaking, if it's weird, it's probably been discussed and a consensus resolution has been reached. This part shouldn't take terribly long - most GM threads are pretty terse and the PFSPrep material is barebones.

4. If you haven't had the opportunity to understand a particular rule (i.e. unfamiliar spells, archetypes, etc.), as long as the player has a reasonable justification (20 seconds or less), go with the player's understanding.

5. When asking about an unfamiliar rule, be as specific as possible. "How are you doing that?" is a weak question. "How are you grappling a huge creature when you're size tiny?" is a good question. "Can you quickly list all the modifiers that got you to (X) result?" is a good one if the number seems implausibly high. Specific questions result in concise answers that you can easily review.


Serisan wrote:
"How are you grappling a huge creature when you're size tiny?" is a good question.

If by good question you mean it demonstrates the rules error you're making, then sure. There are no size limitations for grapple.

Now, this particular error isn't directly relevant to the conversation here but I do feel it demonstrates a common issue that I see when people complain about rules lawyers. Someone is making an incorrect assumption about the way something works. There's no rule that says the opposite of what they're assuming, because there's no need for it. There's a rule that says: X does Y. There's no rule that says X doesn't do Z. Because why would there be? But they still want to see that in order to believe they're incorrect.

A big part of the point of PFS is that things should work more or less the same regardless of what table you're sitting down at. That's why the GM is always right mentality doesn't work there. In a homegame you can discuss house rules you want to use and everyone should know what those are going in. If you're GMing in PFS and you are making a ruling based on an incorrect assumption you are changing the way the game world works for the players. That means choices they've made, based on their understanding of the way the game world works might have been entirely different.

So my advice: Be ready to accept that you are incorrect in your understanding of some parts of the rules. Remember that trust at the gaming table goes both ways. The players should trust that you're trying to run a fun, fair game. But you also need to trust that the players aren't there trying to ruin everything for you.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Artoo wrote:
Serisan wrote:
"How are you grappling a huge creature when you're size tiny?" is a good question.

If by good question you mean it demonstrates the rules error you're making, then sure. There are no size limitations for grapple.

Now, this particular error isn't directly relevant to the conversation here but I do feel it demonstrates a common issue that I see when people complain about rules lawyers. Someone is making an incorrect assumption about the way something works. There's no rule that says the opposite of what they're assuming, because there's no need for it. There's a rule that says: X does Y. There's no rule that says X doesn't do Z. Because why would there be? But they still want to see that in order to believe they're incorrect.

A big part of the point of PFS is that things should work more or less the same regardless of what table you're sitting down at. That's why the GM is always right mentality doesn't work there. In a homegame you can discuss house rules you want to use and everyone should know what those are going in. If you're GMing in PFS and you are making a ruling based on an incorrect assumption you are changing the way the game world works for the players. That means choices they've made, based on their understanding of the way the game world works might have been entirely different.

So my advice: Be ready to accept that you are incorrect in your understanding of some parts of the rules. Remember that trust at the gaming table goes both ways. The players should trust that you're trying to run a fun, fair game. But you also need to trust that the players aren't there trying to ruin everything for you.

I chose that specific question because it's one that a lot of people don't understand because they assume it works like trip and other size restricted maneuvers. I had it come up at a table, I wasn't familiar, and we resolved it in the player's favor within 20 seconds.

Sovereign Court

Serisan wrote:


I chose that specific question because it's one that a lot of people don't understand because they assume it works like trip and other size restricted maneuvers. I had it come up at a table, I wasn't familiar, and we resolved it in the player's favor within 20 seconds.

I only remember because of the old thread figuring out how many housecats it would take to pin an ancient gold dragon. (use aid another)


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Serisan wrote:


I chose that specific question because it's one that a lot of people don't understand because they assume it works like trip and other size restricted maneuvers. I had it come up at a table, I wasn't familiar, and we resolved it in the player's favor within 20 seconds.
I only remember because of the old thread figuring out how many housecats it would take to pin an ancient gold dragon. (use aid another)

Surprisingly only about 27 or 28, assuming the lead cat gets a 10 and you have standard distribution on the aids. It's a shame when the dragon breathes on itself to get rid of the cats, though.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Unless they are housecat companions with Evasion. :)


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:
Unless they are housecat companions with Evasion. :)

I was basing things off the Familiar, Cat entry. Is there actually an option to take a cat that's smaller than a leopard as a companion?

Edit: Other than Courtly Hunter companions, that is.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Familiars actually get Improved Evasion. I wasn't referencing animal companions specifically, just companions in general.


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Marculus wrote:

I guess what I am really hoping for, other than a moment to generally rant, is if there are any tips on how to handle the rules-lawyering at conventions. I have one this Friday and am both excited and dreading this weekend.

In order to deal with a rules lawyer you must first know the rules lawyer. Or more importantly the rules lawyerS, as the different species are not the same.*

The Collector: Has all sorts of weird things from obscure sources. The character may not be particularly powerful but you wonder if they were high when they came up with the idea.

The Minmaxer: Knows the rules, uses them to make powerful characters but colors within the lines. You wonder if it SHOULD be legal but after the 5th time you ask around it surprisingly is.

Enyclopedia Brown: Knows all the rules. Insists the game be played exactly by the rules.

The Munchkin: Knows what the rules are and tries to take the most advantageous reading of every obscure or poorly worded rule in the game often to inane levels. They will try to handle animal the oppositions pet at dc 10 to make it attack their owner, stealth in the middle of a well lit room, take a monks arm off by disarming them, wield two greatswords with vestigial arms, ready an action to be automatically missed, etc.

The cheater: Much rarer than people think, but they're making stuff up and they know it.

Collector: Ask them "how the heck are you doing THAT?" they'll probably be happy to show you what weird combination it is you're using. Or just smile and nod if you want to keep your sanity.

"... You're wild empathying an ooze?
"Eyup! I even cast acid resistance on the way in so i could belly rub him!
"...HOW? Fast empathy from ultimate magic, ooze whisperer from dungeons denizens revisited

The minmaxer: Smile. think of england. Them killing the monster in 1 round gives you more time to role play. Tell yourself that 50 times.

Encyclopedia brown: Do not engage whether or something is the rule or not if you can avoid it at all. Make an acknowledgement that you heard them, say you're moving the game on and will look it up later.

The Munchkin: My lawyers have advised me that I cannot advocate the use of a rolled up newspaper or coverless core rule book. But i think this is the point where you have to say "Oh hell no" , say it doesn't work like that and move on. RAW in pfs is run (the scenario) as written, not follow every word of the rules literally with no common sense or reason.

Spending a little time in the rules forums can help here, as you'll get to see arguments from different sides BEFORE the game where you can look things up, see evidence for and against different positions, and not be blindsided by them at the table.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
Marculus wrote:

I guess what I am really hoping for, other than a moment to generally rant, is if there are any tips on how to handle the rules-lawyering at conventions. I have one this Friday and am both excited and dreading this weekend.

In order to deal with a rules lawyer you must first know the rules lawyer. Or more importantly the rules lawyerS, as the different species are not the same.*

The collector: Has all sorts of weird things from obscure sources. The character may not be particularly powerful but you wonder if they were high when they came up with the idea.

The Minmaxer: Knows the rules, uses them to make powerful characters but colors within the lines. You wonder if it SHOULD be legal but after the 5th time you ask around it surprisingly is.

Enyclopedia Brown: Knows all the rules. Insists the game be played exactly by the rules.

The Munchkin: Knows what the rules are and tries to take the most advantageous reading of every obscure or poorly worded rule in the game often to inane levels. They will try to handle animal the oppositions pet at dc 10 to make it attack their owner, stealth in the middle of a well lit room, take a monks arm off by disarming them, wield two greatswords with vestigial arms, ready an action to be automatically missed, etc.

The cheater: Much rarer than people think, but they're making stuff up and they know it.

Collector: Ask them "how the heck are you doing THAT?" they'll probably be happy to show you what weird combination it is you're using. Or just smile and nod if you want to keep your sanity.

"... You're wild empathying an ooze?
"Eyup! I even cast acid resistance on the way in so i could belly rub him!
"...HOW? Fast empathy from ultimate magic, ooze whisperer from dungeons denizens revisited

The minmaxer: Smile. think of england. Them killing the monster in 1 round gives you more time to role play. Tell yourself that 50 times.

Encyclopedia brown: Do not engage whether or something is the rule or not if you...

There are many species, aye. The other thing to remember is, the rulebook is huge and even developers can misunderstand particular points of it. So to can rules lawyers. I've found that a rules lawyer mindset can lend itself to misunderstanding.

That is, the same focus that has them so intently delving into the rules also drives their conviction. Conviction in this case can also lead to large blind spots.

So, be polite and see if things can be worked out. Anything outside of direct survival, if it cannot be determined with sources in under a minute, can be discussed afterwards, in order to keep things moving. If they get too intense and become so to the point of being antisocial--you are there to have fun with your kid.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Kazaan wrote:
10% of lawyers give them all a bad reputation.

99% of lawyers give them all a bad reputation.

Better.

Otherwise, spot on!

1-Odd rules require your letting me in on it NOW! If I think its odd and you spring it on me later...punt! No mercy.

2-At home, I try to keep players a level ahead on their toon and try to get explanations for idiocy, er, the proposed future of the character. I use a lot of 3pp and long ago ditched Vancian casting, so I can't always rely on outside help. For this reason, even my players won't ask me to GM when they're short at a Con. My exception is Champions.

3-When I do get blackmailed into running at a con, I delegate out the duties, just as I do at my table. If the player wants to run an odd build, they must produce ALL the weird crap and give you photocopies (even if you have it in your box).

4-A Rules Lawyer vs a Rules Lawyer is almost as much fun as free ice cream and pizza! Do notify security. I'd say confiscate weapons, but when both weigh in past 500, they can squish some folks without a thought.

5-Severely out of order, but always have your 'running library' to hand. My 'fantasy library' is just short of 1100 books and occupy multiple bookcases and over 1200 software files, but my 'running library' is a thumb drive.

6-Know the CORE of what you're running. Period, and no excuses.

7-Most tournaments at Cons are scripted. They have to be. Read through it with ill intent and ask the organizer cruel questions with malevolent intent. He will hate you for it, but you might save the whole thing. An age ago, I found that the last line on each photocopy was missing, saving a GenCon from disaster (it was actually 3 lines, I found out later).

8-That last is crap in an open. You must fall back on 'no' as the go to answer. Well, at least not fear it. A local game is more lasting and must observe the niceties, but the very people thrown out of their local groups gravitate to cons in order to afflict new victims. Fortunately, most gravitate to Munchkin. Unfortunately, the more misfit examples with no real gaming bones seep into PFS. Fortunately, all the PFS poobahs I know ride herd on them. I have been told they are easy to spot and find the rigid structure too confining.

The Exchange

Wow. I didn't know Rule Lawyers came in different types. I guess I'm of the minmaxer and encyclopedia brown variety,

Oh, BMW, you can stealth a well-lit room. Lol.

Id say you can't Handle Animal the NPCs Animal Companion without charm/dominate animal (or charm person) if you're of Serpentine bloodline.

Dual wielding 2 great swords would incur penalty of -4 to all attack rolls, with two weapon fighting feat. -6/-10 without. Its more trouble then its worth.

PFS does not allow called shots optional rule so you can't disarm a monk by chopping off his arms.


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On a related note.

Seriously though, here is what I think.

Angry GM wrote:

...

Depriving Rules Lawyers of Ammo by Actually Just Using the F$&%ing Rules

But…

There’s actually an easy way to avoid a lot of fights with P. leges. It’s called “know the rules and use them!” Seriously. A lot of DMs like to spread this gem of advice: “don’t worry about the rules, make judgement calls whenever you have to.” And you know what? That’s actually s$&% advice.

I will never tell you not to change the rules, not to make interpretations, and not to make judgement calls. But I will expect you to know the rules first. And to make changes, interpretations, and judgments intelligently. When the players read the rules, they are sort of accepting a promise from you that that knowledge is mostly useful. That you’re all going to be playing the same game the same way. And they are going to rely on that information to make decisions about how to build characters and how to solve problems. So, it’s sort of your responsibility to keep that promise.

Yes, I know the rules are heavy and I know there are a lot of them and I don’t expect you to memorize every g~&#&+ned thing. But know the basic rules. And if a situation is probably going to come up in your game, review those rules before that session. And have the tools, tables, and references near at hand so you can use the rules effectively.

Yes, it takes work. But guess what…

It sucks being a DM sometimes.


I don't think that knowing the rules is feisible for people as a hobby when the rules include dozens of splatbooks and hundreds of smaller sources. I think its passing the point of doable as a profession..


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BigNorseWolf wrote:
I don't think that knowing the rules is feisible for people as a hobby when the rules include dozens of splatbooks and hundreds of smaller sources. I think its passing the point of doable as a profession..

You don't have to know all the rules. Just all the rules your players are using. And of course the rules that your encounters will use.

I don't find it burdensome or onerous to expect everyone (but especially the GM) to be at least familiar with if not competent at the basic rules of the game.

And of course, I find reading the rules helps. Which is easier than ever now with searchable SRDs.


Marcelus, I know where you are coming from. I've never refereed a Pathfinder Society event but I have run different games at conventions over the years, such as First Edition, Shadow Run, Dark Conspiracy (my favorite system and setting), three flavors of Traveller, and a few more that I am sure I forgot.

Professionally, I am involved in different kinds of regulations, so I guess that makes me a Rules Lawyer.

I'm not sure I would run a PFS because of all the innumerable rules. I have a friend who is really big on PFS.

If I do run a game, which would qualify as a nonPFS, I would and do specify what rules set we are using. If you INSIST on rubbing the belly of an ooze, then I just might have a Slithering Tracker with levels . . .what, Avenger? Sleepless Detective? drop by to investigate your UNNATURAL mammalian interest in the world of ooze.

I do make the following qualifiers: first, if its not in the rules specified for this particular game, its optional. I still remember the Nuetral Ranger with the Wand of Orcus in one hand and a LG Vorpal blade in the other. And that was before we had two weapon fighting rules. The game is about the story and not the rules. If the rules are too convoluted, then it gets in the way of the story. Fine, go rub the belly of the ooze. Maybe it will follow you home. Please change your last name to Oozemeisterness. Second, the GM is always right even when he is wrong. Referees make bad even biased calls but thems the breaks. As a Navy accountant was telling me, she starting crying when she got a tattoo. The fleshscriber said, "Suck it up, buttercup!"

Now my PFS friend, who IRL is a lawyer, might not agree with my fifth paragraph. However, how do you square playability with time limits of tournament or society play and getting enough judges to do the job?

ps, I have a 4' x 11' Reading Table from a defunct Borders Bookstore downstairs in the library. It seats a party of 6 with plenty of room left over for human sacrifices to what every evil god you prefer. :P

Scarab Sages

NeonParrot wrote:


If I do run a game, which would qualify as a nonPFS, I would and do specify what rules set we are using. If you INSIST on rubbing the belly of an ooze, then I just might have a Slithering Tracker with levels . . .what, Avenger? Sleepless Detective? drop by to investigate your UNNATURAL mammalian interest in the world of ooze.

0

Invites mr ooze in for tea! Cuddles him with a diplomacy check instead of wild empathy

Quote:


Now my PFS friend, who IRL is a lawyer, might not agree with my fifth paragraph. However, how do you square playability with time limits of tournament or society play and getting enough judges to do the job?

It's not that hard really. Its more or less like running a regular game session, with a bit more emphasis on reaching the end, tonight, rather than seeing how far you get until next time.


Neon Parrot wrote:
Second, the GM is always right even when he is wrong. Referees make bad even biased calls but thems the breaks. As a Navy accountant was telling me, she starting crying when she got a tattoo. The fleshscriber said, "Suck it up, buttercup!"

There's a lot of reasons that doesn't work in pfs, at least not to the extent i think you want to take it. It really isn't fair to a player to have their character not work because the DM takes a particular dislike to them (or it). In a home game if you hate archers you can have the player avoid archers , not so much when you're sitting down with a level 5 character.


why rules lawyers exist in the first place:

I am a soccer player. I train myself playing without hands and doing awesome stuff with my feet.
Me and my team know the rules, we make up a strategy around blocking the opponent's flow by throwing the ball out when necessary.

Cool! I go to a tournament.

Turns out the judge isn't well informed. He allows people to play with hands. My awesome street soccer skills have been disabled, the judge says it's cheap and tricky. And he gives a free kick to the opponents if we interrupt their flow within the previously stated rules.

How am I supposed to feel now? Should I tell this judge he's wrong? Would I be rightfully doing so?

I believe: yes.

----

I am a Pathfinder Player. I build my characters with love and care, in order to exert as much control as possible over its degree of success in a limited set of tasks.
I know the rules, I make up strategies based on said rules. I spent time researching this stuff, knowledge didn't come for free. I am dedicated.

Cool! I go to PFS

(etc)

************

No one wants to see their hard work be canceled out, especially if rules say they are entitled to the results they achieved, especially if the reason it gets canceled out is arbitrary and out of control.

Rules lawyers are inevitable in a game like Pathfinder, where rules are a huge part of the game.

When players argue about rules, most of the times they are simply asking that the game works consistently with the previously stated rules. This is the most important factor to build trust and fairness at a table.

If you as a GM lack any knowledge about the game, that's understandable.
But it's still you not knowing something. When you realize you lack some bits of knowledge, don't get nervous or angry.
Take the chance to learn something so that next time you aren't surprised.


*headscratch*


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Marculus wrote:


My problem is with the level of Rules-Lawyers that exist in PFS. I simply don't have the time to memorize every new rule that comes out on a consistent basis, and Paizo loves to send out books each month (which I enjoy because it expands the game, yet frustrates me because I can't keep up). I know I could simply just not play PFS or not GM, but it really isn't an option. My son loves the Pathfinder game system and knows it well, and if I sign up just to play I often am asked to GM because I am a Three star PFS GM and they always have shortages at the conventions. Either way it defeats my purpose for attending; having fun with my son.

I don't play PFS, but I've heard there's a Core campaign that restricts characters to just the Core Rulebook. Is that something that that would be doable for you? Or play in a different organized play program that has a less rules intensive game structure?

If neither above will work for you, you have a bit of a dilemma. The duties that you feel put upon you (keeping up with all the rules such that you can manage rules arguments) conflicts with your desire for playing. I'm unfamiliar about how the GM/player dynamics work in PFS, so I'm don't know how much of the duty to keep up to date is actually needed in the organization. Is there anything preventing you from delegating players the duty to know specific parts of the rules material to help you make informed rulings?


Dreaming psion wrote:
s there anything preventing you from delegating players the duty to know specific parts of the rules material to help you make informed rulings?

DM "How does that work"

Player "like this..."
DM "okay.."

Is pretty much standard operating procedure for pfs.


Just say no. Isn't spending quality time with your son more important than humoring other people?


I know most of the rules and try to keep up with new errata and material. Most of my old group did as well. We found a few rules broken that we either exploited for our benefit or fixed. Most times we sat down as a group and discussed the rules we didn't like and as a group either changed or ignored. Now when one of us is GM we state which rules we may change so there are no surprises.
Rule lawyers are one thing if they are willing to let a GM do something outside the rules for a story. Most are if the story is good. But there are rules lawyers who don't care if the story is cool or good they want the rules to apply all the time especially if it benefits them. Had one in our group and he always grounded the game to a halt when he found fault. Didn't matter if we asked to suspend any discussion until after the game. Case in point. Had a low level bad guy planned on teleporting away to become a reaccouring. The easy solution for me as GM was a scroll prepared by his boss a very high level spell caster. Now rules lawyer states the bad guy can't use the scroll because the spell is above his level and he can't even use the scroll. So I explained why I was doing this wanted this guy to come back and challenge PCs later on. Everyone except him liked the idea and said okay. Rules lawyer said No I'm killing him. Explained still getting XP for the encounter. No dice. So went with Contingency spell. Rules lawyer said Nope. Ended up letting the guy die which then rule lawyer then did everything to make sure the guy was completely unrecoverable. Game ended five minutes later having spent over an hour trying to explain why I was doing what I was doing. Campaign pretty much ended that day as well. Everyone especially me ended that day so frustrated we didn't want to continue playing that campaign which was the first adventure.

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