Rules lawyering


I have, in the past, been accused of being a rules lawyer or at the very least of participating in rules lawyering. So when I talk about the practice, I like to think that I do so with a point of view that is informed.

Rules lawyering is fun. It is fun to bend a ruleset to your whim and to out think your oppenent. It is fun to be the very best by using the rules as they are put down.

Rules lawyers ruin roleplaying games. Rules lawyers take an exciting and dramatic story and turn it into a battle about the semantics of a block of text in a book.

I actually do feel both ways. I play a lot of strategy games in my freetime, and rules lawyering allows me and my friends to take very challenging games and defeat them. I play a lot of roleplaying games, and rule lawyering slows down the pace of the story and sometimes makes impossible things that ruin the narrative happen.

There is only one rule when playing games, and that is to have fun. I might go as far as to say that the rule is actually to maximize fun. In a multiplayer setting, maximizing fun means being aware and considerate of the other people at the table. You should have some common goals, and those goals can be whatever maximizes the fun for everyone at the table. If those goals include dominating some hardcore minature combat, then I say that rules lawyering will probably be a welcome addition to the table. If those goals include having deep story and engaging in-character conversations then rules lawyering might slow things down and annoy people.

The post above is an example of an attitude that I’ve very much grown out of, and don’t especially appreciate any longer. It’s also one of the reasons why 3e (and derivatives) have dropped to the bottom of my playlist. It’s just not the kind of argument I enjoy anymore, and I don’t especially want to be at a table where such a conversation is likely to occur, at least not a conversation relevant to a game I am actively playing in. However, I am quite happy for other people who enjoy those kinds of conversations, and sincerely hope that they can continue to enjoy optimizing their characters and fighting about what definition of the word “is” is.

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