The [not] usefulness of saying "Ask your GM"


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I figured I'd start a thread here in the discussion area about this question, which has quickly become a sort of pet peeve of mine on these forums.

Invariably someone will ask a question, and someone will find it in their great wisdom to tell them to ask their GM.

The problems with this nearly worthless statements are:

1. They could be a GM looking for advice for other players on a ruling that isn't 100% clear to them.
2. They could be a player looking to learn the rules before they present a flawed character to a GM, wasting his/her time.
3. [Insert your own reason for asking a question on the forums rather than just asking your GM with a doctorate in Pathfinder that you have on call 24/7.]

So, who else finds this answer annoying and on the other foot, who here thinks it's a 100% valid answer (to all or just some questions?)

Also let's all try to keep this civil, so that we can discuss it without getting anything deleted or the thread locked.


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It's just case by case. Somebody here ask for a rule and it happens that there is no rule at all that covers the situation, they will have to ask their DM or if they are the Dm they will have to make a rule by themselves.


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I find it annoying sometimes too, but there are things the rules don't cover, and situations where the poster is trying to use something "not as intended". In those cases the GM is the best one to ask.

It is situational for me⬅⬅ TLDR

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Well, yes but another example of a time it's told to me the most is when I am looking for advice on how to balance something in my own games that I have created or such, and even after I make this intent clear (more so lately), someone will usually tell me to ask my GM... it's like... didn't I just say that I am the GM looking for advice and opinions?

Scarab Sages

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1. As Ive said to you before, being upfront about your role (as a gm) and expressing the fact that you are looking for advice on how to rule rather than looking for a ruling (like a player would) will significantly change how people will respond to you. I doubt anyone whose read the OP will say ask your GM when you have said you are the GM

2. Ask your gm is generally stated when there is an ambiguity or outright silence in the rules, esp. where the boards disagree. At that point the best reaction is to ask your GM. Its not just said to avoid answering the question. Its said because the GM is the final Aribter of the rules.

Its not a 100% answer to all questions, and when clear rules questions come up by players, I have always seen that answer presented rather than just jumping to "Ask your GM".

Scarab Sages

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Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:
Well, yes but another example of a time it's told to me the most is when I am looking for advice on how to balance something in my own games that I have created or such, and even after I make this intent clear (more so lately), someone will usually tell me to ask my GM... it's like... didn't I just say that I am the GM looking for advice and opinions?

There are those that will post without reading. those people should probably be ignored


The advice of asking your GM to me is regarding rulings for that particular game. About half the threads I've read are being done in homestyle campaigns. In home style campaigns a GM may rule far differently on some things then official rules. For instance in my old campaign we ruled Critical Focus, a feat stacked with Keen a magic weapon bonus. By official rules they don't stack yet our group which had three GMs with years of experience disagreed. By their own rules they should have stacked since both were two different bonuses and should have stacked.


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Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:
So, who else finds this answer annoying and on the other foot, who here thinks it's a 100% valid answer (to all or just some questions?)

Why do you believe that this is an either-or question with only two valid answers? Trying to shoehorn people's opinions into such simplistic categories is impossible.

If you get annoyed because people posting on a public forum don't answer the way you want them to, you're going to be continually annoyed.

You can't control how people read (or misread) your post. You can't require a certain level of knowledge for posters. You can't even be sure they're answering the question you wanted answered.

Perhaps, instead of trying to control other people who are posting on forums, you could learn to skim the posts and only read the ones that seem pertinent to your dilemma. Learn to stop wasting your own time by reading comments that aren't relevant.

You're never going to control public boards. You can only learn to manage your own anger.

Generally, on these boards people quote the rule(s) if there is an obvious rule.

If there isn't, and if there is a difference of opinion, then the only accurate answer is "ask the GM". I don't see people giving that answer if there is a clear rule to follow. So why should they stop giving the absolutely best, most accurate answer when there isn't a clear rule?


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Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:
Well, yes but another example of a time it's told to me the most is when I am looking for advice on how to balance something in my own games that I have created or such, and even after I make this intent clear (more so lately), someone will usually tell me to ask my GM... it's like... didn't I just say that I am the GM looking for advice and opinions?

Sometimes people just jump to the newest comment, and/or they don't really read what you said. The number of times I have had to repeat something, especially in long conversations is astounding.

Paizo Employee Pathfinder Society Lead Developer

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burkoJames wrote:

1. As Ive said to you before, being upfront about your role (as a gm) and expressing the fact that you are looking for advice on how to rule rather than looking for a ruling (like a player would) will significantly change how people will respond to you. I doubt anyone whose read the OP will say ask your GM when you have said you are the GM

2. Ask your gm is generally stated when there is an ambiguity or outright silence in the rules, esp. where the boards disagree. At that point the best reaction is to ask your GM. Its not just said to avoid answering the question. Its said because the GM is the final Aribter of the rules.

Its not a 100% answer to all questions, and when clear rules questions come up by players, I have always seen that answer presented rather than just jumping to "Ask your GM".

This is good advice. Put another way, there's something to be said for a person laying out the context of the question (e.g. "I am a GM looking for advice on how to make this ruling" or "I am a player working with an ambiguous rule in my character's design and need clarification"). As burkoJames notes, that can help shape the discussion and the responses, such that even if the line "Ask your GM" pops up, it's likely as the closing line of a more robust post that provides some more targeted advice.

Ultimately, Pathfinder RPG has some ambiguities in it, and there are times when the English language can convey 90% of a concept's meaning without perfectly defining all of the subtext. Sometimes the Design Team can clear up those questions, and sometimes it's better to work out a fair resolution with the other participants in one's game. Sometimes a question is just one of true GM permissiveness, such as asking if one could play a bugbear PC. In that example, it sure does depend a lot on the specific GM's thoughts, but we as a community can at least lay out some ramifications of what would result.

So yes, flippantly dropping "Ask your GM" can be annoying, but I see it still serving an important purpose on these messageboards.


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Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:
So, who else finds this answer annoying and on the other foot, who here thinks it's a 100% valid answer (to all or just some questions?)

I sometimes find it annoying - especially when the question is more "I'm looking for a range of views, since this is obviously a subjective area". In other words, when it is obviously not meant to be "What is the 100% indisputable answer" but rather just "what do you think?"

The times I think it's valid is when people think the topic they've asked does have a 100% indisputable answer and the responder thinks it's in the hands of the DM (ie pretty much any alignment query or similar). There are some questions in which the rules are deliberately and openly subjective, so looking to the forums for a definitive answer is probably misguided.


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As the GM in my campaigns, I can't ask my GM, but I do come here to ask other players and GMs for their opinions.


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If the thread title or the very first sentence make it clear that the OP is the GM (and mad as it may sound "I'm running a game" is insufficiently clear for some people, but "GM Needs Help" is as unambiguous as you can get), then a post simply stating "ask the GM" is rather thoroughly unhelpful, I agree.

However, it can be a useful shorthand for something. Here's the full script:

"The question you have raised is an interesting one with sufficient ambiguity and tendency to table variation that I do not feel comfortable offering guidance even to a fellow GM about how I would handle this issue, because the precise details of how you run your table actually matter in answering this. Ultimately the decision is yours. Thanks."

Waaaaay easier to just say "ask the GM".

I guess it comes down to how the question is phrased, in many ways.

If the question is "how should I run this?", then a lot of people will say "it's up to you", however soliciting the approach other GMs would take is more likely to get more detailed responses of the "here's how I would do it" type.

In fact, "how should I run this?" comes across a bit like asking for someone else to take responsibility for your table.

In short: You are the only person you can decide how you should run something. Other people can be asked for their own methods, but it's your responsibility to choose what's best for you and your game.


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I'm not really comfortable answering this question, you should ask your GM.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

In my opinion, as a GM asking others to give help to better understand mechanics, gameplay options and the consequences of fiddling with them, allowing or disallowing things - be it new class options and spells etc or players trying to play with unusual or wonky rules options - is most likely a sign of being a good GM.
It means that you take your players and their wishes into considerationas opposed to just prohibiting things or letting everything fly no matter what, because you just do your own thing anyway.

Chemlak is right that "how should i run this" sounds a bit weird, but a "how would you run this" or "how could this be run" is a very good question. After all, the forums are here for GMs too to get advice and experienced people exchanging their experiences and sharing it with less experienced people will probably lead to one thing:
A better game for everyone which is likely to attract and fascinate more and new people as well as holding the ones who are already there.

What i always find important there, wether for player or GM help, is to add the "...because..." and explain some reasons or background mechanics, connected to the problems presented.


IDK, in my experience the "ask your GM" line gets dropped usually after the issue has been discussed. Often times the discussion leads to a point unsupported or outside the rules, but a situation many folks would be willing to house rule. Since they cant speak for everyone, posters direct the OP to their GM. /shrug


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Zelda Marie Lupescu wrote:
Well, yes but another example of a time it's told to me the most is when I am looking for advice on how to balance something in my own games that I have created or such, and even after I make this intent clear (more so lately), someone will usually tell me to ask my GM... it's like... didn't I just say that I am the GM looking for advice and opinions?

From the "Pathfinder Forum Memes that Grind your Gears" thread,

I wrote:

Speaking of which, there is a related thing that grinds my gears: needing to defending the premise of an entire forums. If you start a thread in the advice forum, you get responses like

"Never take advice from people on the forums, the forums are terrible and you shouldn't sink to the level of asking strangers on the internet for gaming advice!"
Okay, then what's the advice forum for?

Similarly, in the Rules Questions forum, you get responses like
"Just ask your GM, because they can override the rules, and the forum can't, and you're a whining munckin if you ask strangers on the internet about the rules, you should only ever ask the GM!"

Or
"You're the GM, so why do you care what the rules are? Just do what you want to do. I suggest screwing over your players' PCs as much as possible though, but really you are the GM so don't ask strangers on the internet about the rules!"

It's even more annoying when the first response is given to a GM, or when the second response is given to a player.

Or in the house rules forum, when people respond saying you can't do X because it isn't RAW/RAI, when doing X is the explicit purpose of the house rule being discussed in that thread in the house rules forum.


Conversely, I'm annoyed by posts that assume a GM should -not- be asked. The rules are a guideline unless you're playing PFS.


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I rarely post to either the Rules or Advice boards due to their general level of vitriol, but when I do, I try to remember to phrase my question as:

"I'm the GM of a home game, and I'm not sure I made the right call/I'm not sure how to rule this situation.

I ruled it/am thinking of ruling it this way. What do you think?"

I find I get the most helpful responses when I phrase my questions that way.

That said, when a question pops up that's clearly about how something functions within a campaign world (e.g. alignment questions), AND it's mot made clear that the poster is the GM, AND it's not clearly specified that the game is for PFS, then "Ask your GM" is the appropriate response!

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