Before we delve into the meat and potatoes of rules lawyering, it’s important that we get a few terms straight. Courtesy of 1d4chan, these are:

The Golden Rule: “The GM makes the rules; don’t argue with the GM.”

Rule Zero: “Roleplaying games are entertainment; your goal as a group is to make your games as entertaining as possible.”

Sure there will be outliers and “um, actuallies” from the periphery, but by and large these are the rules of the land. Have fun. Don’t argue with the guy who’s running the universe. Ask any group of gamers if they believe in these rules and the majority will agree. This includes the same gamers who swim in the murky waters of the rules forums. And it is these gamers that I most want to discuss.

There’s this anxiety among such denizens that someone, somewhere, is “not playing right.” And as one of these denizens, I can tell you that my greatest fear is that (O dear gods, no!) it might be me. I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent on this stuff. Can my horse attack if I charge with a lance? When do I apply damage from armor spikes? Can they tell I’m using magic if it’s a silent spell? The fictional lives of my favorite characters may depend on these answers, and it’s vital that I get them right. So I head to the forums, and there we argue and we parse. We talk about “rules as written” vs. “rules as intended,” and always we refer back to the text. What exactly does it say? How is it unclear? And since it’s unclear, where do we go next? We’ve got no choice at this point but to strike out into an unknown wilderness of YouTube videos, searching for panel discussions and ancient forum threads that may contain developer commentary. Did they ever clarify? Please somebody, tell me that they clarified!

To someone who’s never gone through this process, I’m sure it looks obsessive bordering on neurotic. However, I think it’s endemic to RPGs as a medium. There’s no other hobby that tries desperately to simulate a living world, gives you hundreds of pages explaining exactly how that world works, and then says, “Just do what the GM says. Don’t worry about it. We’re all here to have fun.” We desperately wish for some figure in authority to say, “This is how it works. This is the one true ruling.” But in the end, The Golden Rule and Rule Zero are the only authority we’ve got.

Question of the day then. Have you guys ever gone on a wild rules hunt? What drove you to it, and did you ever get a satisfying resolution to your question?


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