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Why Rules Lawyering Is a Negative Term

Seramus

Explorer
Among my groups, citing a rule once is a welcome reminder... especially when an honest mistake seems like it is about to be made. Having an argument about the rules right then and there is what earns you the title Rules Lawyer. Having an argument about the rules after the game is a grey area - allowed to an extent, but unwelcome if you persist.

That attempt to debate during an unwelcome moment is the KEY in our groups.
 

Zardnaar

Adventurer
I can gets rules lawyer when the DM doesn't know the rules or changes thing on the fly/inconsistent rulings. Some rules are fairly clear.

I don't mind the DM changing rules as long as it's clear and upfront. Or if they want to errata something you can change say a feat you have picked.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
1. Ruling.

2. Brief objection (if any) is made.

3. Play moves on. If necessary, further comments after game.
That's how I do it as both a player and a DM, with one slight modification. If it's a very important situation, I will allow a 3a second brief argument if they can explain it in a different way that might make a difference. If one, or occasionally two brief explanations don't do it, play moves on and we can discuss it later.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
If you don't see the strong correlation, it probably has more to do with not being in touch with the common usage than anything else. I wouldn't say most cheaters are rule lawyers either. That's definitely just a subset of cheater.

But the idea that a rules lawyer is someone who digs for exploits and interpretations that are "technically correct" but questionable to a layman's reading of the rule (just like lawyers finding technical loopholes in the law) is very widespread in the hobby and has been for well over 20 years. All you have to do is look at the long-running Knights of the Dinner Table as a standalone comic and back in its early days in Shadis Magazine to see how long the idea has been around.
They’ve been around when I started in 1981, and I suspect since 1974. I don’t think any DM has all of the rules memorized. And with a username like mine, you might be shocked to learn I’ve made mistakes in the past as a DM as well ;)

I don’t think anyone is calling someone who reminds the DM of a rule is a rules lawyer. I think the distinction is when the person does something that generally goes against the context of the spirit of the game design based on a loophole and demands the DM cater to that rule after the DM already ruled otherwise.
 

Horwath

Explorer
Instant replay (VAR) is the death of sport. And once it gets its toe in .... it just gets worse and worse.
VAR is THE BEST thing in sports as there is still large corruption for many sports.

The "mistakes" by referees, intentional or not, have ruined the reputation of many sports.


on topic, as a rule lawyer myself, I can say that is can be a very bad thing as it can halt the game to a dead stop when rule lawyer and DM get into a debate on the rule and rule lawyer is correct :D
 

Hussar

Legend
Heh. DM'd today and I made a mistake. I thought that Guidance in 5e was d4+1, not d4. Player piped up and said, "Isn't that d4?"

Me: No. It's d4+1
Player: Are you sure?
Me: Well, I was until you said that. One sec. Whoops, you're right. D4.

To me, that's the job of a rules guru. I had a number wrong, not a MASSIVE mistake, but, a mistake, I fixed it and we moved on.

There's no rules lawyering going on there.

But, let's be honest here, when we're referring to rules lawyers, it's those gamers who are attempting to twist the wording of the game for their advantage. And, in doing so, make the game a LOT less fun for everyone else. So, yeah, I think [MENTION=4937]Celebrim[/MENTION] makes a good point. Rules lawyers are dysfunctional gamers. They actively hurt the enjoyment of the table.

it all comes down to the level of impartiality which distinguishes a rules lawyer from a rules guru.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
on topic, as a rule lawyer myself, I can say that is can be a very bad thing as it can halt the game to a dead stop when rule lawyer and DM get into a debate on the rule and rule lawyer is correct :D
As a non-rules lawyer, I won't grind the game to a halt and argue like that. It's not fair to the DM or players. If the DM won't quickly see the light, I will stop arguing the incorrect ruling and have a discussion about it after the game.
 

Sadras

Explorer
What I find works best is if you turn to the rules lawyer and say "I understand that if any more words come pouring out your..." particularly if we're having chicken for lunch.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
As a non-rules lawyer, I won't grind the game to a halt and argue like that. It's not fair to the DM or players. If the DM won't quickly see the light, I will stop arguing the incorrect ruling and have a discussion about it after the game.
Huh. Judging by the Druid armor thread, this post strikes me as a bit odd because it describes the opposite of what you are doing in that thread.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Huh. Judging by the Druid armor thread, this post strikes me as a bit odd because it describes the opposite of what you are doing in that thread.
If you're trying to get a rise out of me, you'll have to do a lot better. I don't believe for one second that you think posting in an online discussion is the same as playing D&D.

Oh, and what I'm doing in that thread is the same thing that you and everyone else there is doing. Posting in circles for hundreds of posts. ;)
 

Sadras

Explorer
I don't get that one at all.
Lol. It was a GoT reference, when the Hound basically informs a Lannister soldier that his conversational skills where increasing the Hound's appetite for chicken. Of course it was said with less grace. If you haven't seen it then yeah it would make absolutely no sense.

I was playfully suggesting such tactic could work on rules lawyers. :p
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Lol. It was a GoT reference, when the Hound basically informs a Lannister soldier that his conversational skills where increasing the Hound's appetite for chicken. Of course it was said with less grace. If you haven't seen it then yeah it would make absolutely no sense.

I was playfully suggesting such tactic could work on rules lawyers. :p
LOL Or people who saw it, but didn't remember it. ;)
 

jmartkdr

Villager
Well, just when I thought this was going to be an unambigious hate bash of rules lawyers, you've managed to find the ambiguity.

The problem I foresee even though I've never observed this first hand, is that there are GMs that do not believe that the game should be about fairness or that the players should know what the rules or are what to expect of them. There is a theory of GMing out there that the best game is always constructed by the arbitrary whim of the GM, and that the expectation that the game will be fair ruins the game.
In the non-adversarial end of the spectrum, there are some dm's who flat out do not care about the rules, and expect everyone to just go along with their vision of the universe, so anyone mentioning a rule would be treated as an interruption or disruption to the game. The rules don't matter, they say, just do what seems logical. (The fact that you don't really know anything about the situation because all facts - even facts about your own character - are mutable isn't seen as a hindrance to planning or making meaningful choices.)

If you prefer to play a structured games, these dm's will frustrate the hell out of you and genuinely not understand why you're upset.
 

Fanaelialae

Adventurer
Respectfully, I think that you're incorrect.

A bad DM doesn't care what players, including but not limited to, a RL, says. A RL doesn't save a session, s/he just makes it worse. If the DM is, in fact, a bad DM, then everyone will recognize it and pretty soon leave. OTOH, if the problem is the RL, then they are ruining it for everyone else.

However, a decent DM will listen to a player who briefly states that a ruling was incorrect. As I pointed out earlier, at my table it's pretty simple-

1. Ruling.

2. Brief objection (if any) is made.

3. Play moves on. If necessary, further comments after game.


See, the difference between a RL and a regular player who happens to know the rules is that there is no overarching belief in doing something for "justice" or whatever justification is needed - just, "Hey, doesn't it work like this? No, okay."

But for every night you think you've saved, go back in your history (when you went too far, as you put it) and think about how many nights, and parts of nights, have been wasted for absolutely no good reason?

*shrug* Again, no one thinks of themselves as the bad guy. But there's a reason people generally do not enjoy having Rules Lawyers at the table. In my experience, being right, and having fun, are not the same thing.

(And all of this is assuming that the RL is "right." Which ... well, is not always the case.)
That's a very black and white way of looking at it. In my experience, very few DMs are bad all of the time. It's much more common for a decent DM to get a reputation as a bad DM because they get into a stubborn rut every now and again. And, respectfully, I've sat at my table whereas you have not. I know for a fact that there have been times when a bad call was changed because I was there.

As I've said, I follow the protocol outlined above myself in most cases. But sometimes a cherished PC's life is on the line and some DMs will occasionally behave irrationally in these situations. At those times, I think it's okay to dispense with protocol, and address the issue until an agreeable resolution can be reached. I think it's far better to hold up game than to allow a player's night to be unfairly ruined by a bad call. (And, yes, I feel this way irrespective of which side of the screen I happen to be sitting on.)

As to your question about pros vs cons, if you've been paying attention you should already know the answer. I'm a respected member of my table and have been at weekly games for roughly two decades. That's over a thousand sessions of D&D. Somewhere in the ballpark of 6,000+ hours. I certainly wouldn't tolerate a disruptive presence at my table for that long, and neither would they.

That said, my point is and has been that we can all benefit from being able to admit when we are wrong with grace and humility. We all have more fun at the table if we listen to each other rather than one figure bringing a "my way or the highway" attitude. Believe me, I have GM'd a great many times so I know it is a considerable amount of work, for which players oftentimes are less than grateful. But there is good rules lawyering/guruing and there's bad. I think it's important to remember that just like a DM usually isn't all good or bad, the same thing applies to rules lawyers/gurus and just about every other play style out there.
 
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Teulisch

Villager
ultimately, the negative behavior is not rule knowledge, or pointing out forgotten or mis-remembered rules. the problem is when people argue with the DM.

however, because of the name attached to this negative behavior (wasting everyones time arguing), the label sometimes gets applied to those of us who read and remember the rules. sort of like how people will call you a munchkin or power gamer if you simply build an optimized character. because they dont have that skill, and are jelous or angry that you have a skill they do not.

the biggest rules issue, tends to be when unclearly worded rules are read to mean different things by different people. with 5e, it can also be an argument over which optional rules apply. house rules can cause issues, especially as people making house rules often dont think through all the implied consequences beforehand.

a lot of people argue because of their ego. they cannot see themselves as being wrong, ergo the other person is wrong, and the rules are just their leverage to be RIGHT whatever the cost.
 

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