Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Rules in Dispute

Thursday Theories

Rules. They exist in gaming (and society in general) so that people can get along. They are there to resolve dice rolls, to tell you what you can and cannot do in the bounds of the game and to keep things (relatively) argument free so everyone can get on with the point of ENJOYING their chosen game. But what do we do when both sides see the rules differently?

Now there are as many different styles of rules resolution as there are gaming styles. Roll a dice, call the judge, punch each other in the throat, pistol duels at dawn... But most don't solve the actual problem of the dispute. That both sides see the rule differently. Whether it's one sides inability to read a rule through to the period (the natural conclusion to a sentence and, therefor, the natural conclusion to most rules) or one side interprets the rule differently, rules disputes are a reality for every gamer. Worst of all is that when it happens, the game being played comes screeching to a halt as both sides argue their case and challenge the other to prove them wrong (again often leading to pistols at dawn... or maybe my gaming group just does things differently?).
The aim of this article is to explain a few of the different, more common, ways of resolving these arguments, their pros and cons specifically, so that all involved can continue doing what they came to the table to do... play and have fun.

Now most companies include a way to quickly resolve most dice issues:
Is the die "cocked*"?
Sit another die on top of it, if it falls, or the dice move when this is enacted, then the dice is cocked and rolled again.
Is the die rolling an unusual amounts of high/low rolls?
Check to see if it's loaded**.  If the dice are, Judo-chop the person in their baby maker and roll them off a hill somewhere.
These are simple enough ways to solve the disputes. But what about when it comes to a written rule?

Again, the companies offer a couple of answers.

The simplest, is to roll a D6. on a 4+ one side or the other wins and the other side deals. As I said, very simple. It's also utterly useless. It forces an ultimatum on both sides without any real resolution. Would YOU be fine with someone blowing off your view on the rule (correct or otherwise) and just immediately say "whatever", roll a dice and if it comes up in their favor (despite being incorrect.. probably) continuing on to win the game?
NO. No you would not.
There are two huge issues with this system.
1: No real resolution is come to. Both sides have their version, believe it totally, and leave the result (often a game changing issue) up to chance? No sir! Nothing is resolved but that someone will walk away from that table pissed as all hell, odds are, has lost all enjoyment from the game and are now hot under the collar and will potentially ruminate on the issue until they go mad, climb a tower and start shooting. (Ok that may be a little extreme but I'm making a point here).
2: Unfortunately, the person that is usually in the wrong knowingly is the first one to suggest this option. It sucks, but it's true. This usually happens in tournaments (or at least does at ones I go to, possibly a reason why I stopped... hmmm....)
Of course the main (only) benefit of this system is simplicity through speed. Roll, read result, done. Nothing more. Nothing less.


The other common option included in rules systems (specifically Games Workshop):
Read as Written (R.a.W.)
This means that rules are explicit (well duh!) and are to be taken only in context with how they are written.
Again, utterly junk.
The core problem with rules disputes is that both sides read the rule differently (barring the assholes who are stretching a rule wording for their own end. You people have a special place reserved for you in hell beside child molesters and people who talk in theaters). It could be as simple as emphasis on the wrong word, or a misunderstanding of a word. These things happen. When I was working for Games Workshop, R.a.W. caused more rules disputes than actual RULES disputes. Interpretation is everything in rules, and interpretation can take a long time.
The major benefit, once everyone involved has called in the "Authority" on rules and come to a consensus on which interpretation of the rule is correct, then that becomes standard practice... for those involved in the dispute that time. (Again, G.W. experience: Different interpretations of the rules were considered sacrosanct in EACH store. no commonality was reached, until both stores ran a tournament against each other.)

So obviously the two most common systems have their pros and cons (in my brain). So I have come to subscribe to a different approach. Respect.
Stop the game. Pause. Take a breather. Pull out your rulebook. FIND the rule. Read it out loud. Show it to your opponent. Get their opinion. Come to a quick answer that you are both fine with. If not ASK AN UNBIASED OTHER PERSON AND ABIDE BY THEIR VERSION OF THE RULES UNTIL AFTER THE GAME. If you cannot do this, then the game is done anyways. One person or the other will get mad and piss the game away. If all involved arn't having fun then the game is no longer a GAME and you should stop. Shake hands. Walk away.
If you can, then finish the game, and discuss what happened, your version of the rule and come to a conclusion that both sides can live with. Because when you do this, then the game is better the next time. And other people will want to play with such paragons of the game. If you just spend your time bickering, they you're not old enough to play the game and should go ask your parents when nap time is. Because, seriously, GROW UP.

One last note here before I wrap up. My suggested rule works for both Wargaming and Roleplaying. Though in Roleplaying and tournament play there is an additional affidavit: The GM/Ref is always right. If you feel the need to argue a rule with your GM/Ref, then you can write it down and discuss it with them after the game. The GM/Ref's word is law, because they are acting as the arbiter for dozens upon dozens of other things in the game and don't need the additional hassle. They want everyone to have fun at the table and bickering stops that flat. If your GM/Ref make a rules call, then abide by it please. IF you don't like it, an intelligent, respectful discussion after the game will allow both to see each-others side and you can come to a balance that both sides are happy with. If your GM/Ref shuts you down without giving you a chance to put forth your case (I imagine while punching babies in the face and strangling puppies... THE MONSTER!), then perhaps you may not want to play in the game with these people again.

AAAAANYways, I hope I managed to get my point across without too much ranting, and, as always, Comments and Criticisms are welcome.

Until next time,
May your rules be right, and if not, your dice will be!
Bean out~

*Cocked is a rather naughty term used to describe when a dice does not sit flush on the table and an accurate read of the relevant side cannot be determined. No it has nothing to do with chicken, dicks, or chicken dicks.
**Loaded dice are dice that have been weighted to one side or another to roll one result more often than any other. If you use these, you are a bad person and need to jump off a building somewhere. preferably into a cart of manure while Marty McFly zips away on his skateboard.

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