Besides this blog, I also write about strength and conditioning. I was one of the nerdy kids playing D&D instead of running around at lunch, and I always failed those fitness tests in P.E., but now I'm a certified trainer with a passion for getting stronger. Go figure.
There is something that I learned from training that applies to gaming. It is Jim Wendler's "Rule of Awesome." Now, if you look at Jim, you may not instantly think, "this guy would be a great GM." But you are wrong.
Jim Wendler knows how to make a ruling on the fly.
Jim Wendler has two mottos. The first isn't relevant here, but the second one (discussed here) is.
His second motto is:
"Is what I'm doing awesome? If I ask myself that and the answer is no, then I don't do it."
I found it applies even more so to gaming than to training. In gaming, being awesome is inherently functional. The whole point of gaming is to have an awesome game.
I've brought this up before on the SJG web forums, discussing an edge case in GURPS.
To apply this, you only need to know two things:
One: What's the core of my game like? Is it realistic and gritty, or is it cinematic? Is the whole point of the game to scare the bejesus out of your players and have squid-headed gods eat their sanity with a giant sucking sound? This does not depend on rules systems, it depends on flavor.
Two: What would be awesome? If the game is realistic and gritty, any ruling that makes the game more realistic and gritty is awesome. Does blood drip into the PC's eyes from a cut and give him a a penalty? Hell yeah it does! That's awesome! If the game is cinematic, does letting some guy pick up a ladder and start kicking ass qualify as awesome? You bet it does.
Notice in none of these cases does "everyone open their books, grind the game to a halt, and argue over the meaning of the sentence construction used and the precise meaning of the words" add up to awesome. That's never awesome. That's something you do later, when you try to figure out what the rules say to do. That's something you do ahead of time, if you want to ensure that you have the ladder fighting rules down correctly. But in play, go for the rule of awesome.
It wouldn't hurt to learn to squat, deadlift, and bench press, though, but stick to my other blog or Jim's website for that. ;)