So about 4 1/2 years ago, when I still might have deserved that "Newbie Blogger Award" I refuse to take down, I wrote the following:
"I really hate rules questions, rules complaints (gah!), and rules commentary during play. Hate, hate, hate. I hate "I thought we were using rule X, but I guess not," I really hate "I'm pretty sure he gets a situational +2 on this because of blah blah blah, we should look it up," and I utterly explicative deleted despise "I don't like this rule but I'm going to accept the results even though it's a bad rule" comments.
I feel all of these trash the game system, break the atmosphere, and poison my enthusiasm for running the game. I think all of them are some form of "I don't like rules that don't favor my guy" combined with "let's maximize our benefits at all times, not matter how slow the game gets.""
- Possible Table Rules (August 2011)
I was reminded of that post when I was reading about Mark Langsdorf's Caste of Horrors game. I commented there, about rules arguments:
"I have a "no rules arguments" rule at my table for just that reason. You're welcome to argue later, but not during game. You can point out I might be doing something wrong, but that's it. No one person in the history of gaming has ever said, "Wow, that was a great argument about rules that session!" so there is no reason to do it.
I pretty much do the same, though - the NPCs do stuff like the PCs do stuff, I give them the same benefit of the doubt (If you reflexively dodge stuff that is out-of-game known to be a threat, the bad guys can, too) and if the players don't like it, we'll change it next time. Not this time.
It's not a magical solution or anything, but it's the best I've got. Players arguing with the GM over rules and rulings is just pure loss of game time. Arguing during email between sessions? Great time to figure out what everyone expects and wants done."
I'm not singling out Mark here - I look forward to those summaries. It's just that games getting bogged down in rules arguments is not something I have happen that often.
Some of it is group dynamics. We've played together a long time, mostly - the core players have played with me for 20+ years. We've already had many of those arguments out.
Another is the rule I mentioned above. It's not even one argument we tolerate. We're all happy to spend a handful of seconds checking if we've got it right. We're all willing to slow down briefly to settle on a ruling if something seems badly wrong.
Otherwise, we argue later. By email. On breaks. Between sessions. By phone, even (rarely that, these days.) We find a way to resolve it after play. If someone got badly done over by a mistake, we find a way to keep the results that happened in play and make it right.
If it turns out something was wrong, well, it was just a freak occurrence. It must have been a critical failure, or critical success, or the tidal pull of the moon pulled that guy's weapon back into balance, or there was a special on heavy crossbows that day.
We're pretty strict with looking rules up. And strict about arguments.
The GM's decision is final, but you can always argue with me about how it should go in the future, between games.
At the table?
Like I said, no one looks back on the rules arguments and says, "Wow, I really loved that argument!"
That's not why we play.
Is anything, including avoiding character death, worth making the game more argument than game?
I think not.
I'm glad my group and I have managed to settle on that, even if we argue about spells and weird edge cases during our breaks in play. The play is the thing, after all.