Weaning Players Off Being Rules Lawyers

I have a lively question running at RPG Stack Exchange on “How do you help players not focus on the rules?” I and my group tend towards a more old school “rulings not rules” approach when it comes to the game, and some of “the kids nowadays” who have come up on 4e or even 3e are very, very gamist and expect the rules to be God. You have to get them out of that mindset to achieve simulationist (and ideally immersive) play.  I’ve had some good answers to the question, as well as a small set of “Oh that’s evil,” which I expect I guess. And a subset that insist you have to change the rules system and use a indie storygame or something if you don’t want rules lawyering, which I think is silly because people have managed to play D&D and other crunchy games in a non-gamist way for thirty years, I guess 4e has warped everyone’s default expectations so much that they can’t conceive of that.

Anyway, chime in here with good ways to help someone who is trying to get out of their “the game is about the rules” rut and enjoy “the game is about a ‘real’ fictional world” play.  If you don’t like that style of play, fine, move on, I’m happy for you but don’t want to hear it.

10 responses to “Weaning Players Off Being Rules Lawyers

  1. Good point. Just because there are multiple volumes of rules, doesn’t mean we should be enslaved by them.

  2. Well, I think you need to be clear from the outset the expectations you have about rules and that type of play. If you make those expectations clear from the beginning, then there shouldn’t be any weaning at all.

    You should really try making the game fit the players and not try to mold players to fit your game. Games are easier to change than people. It’s also easier to just find people that share your preference for play style than to try and convince them your way is better… which brings me to a final comment.

    If you do want someone to try your play style, you shouldn’t approach like your way is superior to their way, it tends to put people on the defensive instead of being open. Calling whatever method play they have a “rut” is a good way to not get someone to be open.

    • Hmm, I don’t usually disagree with you on all points, but this time I do – please don’t take offense at my rebuttal.

      1. Oh, but there is always weaning. It’s like any other culture change issue. Even if everyone signs on to the “new way,” people have trouble adapting. That’s just human nature.

      2. We have an existing group that plays this way. We get new people from time to time. Some of them have their expectations set by previous games/gaming groups. It’s not always “a preferred playstyle” – it’s just baggage.

      3. And I’m not evangelizing a playstyle – if they didn’t want into our game/playstyle I wouldn’t be wondering about this topic in the first place.

      It’s not just as simple as how you’re describing it. All these things are a continuum, hard to define, etc. Here’s an example. I only like playing in games that have a heavy “roleplaying” element, in the old/correct definition of roleplaying that means “being in character.” Over the last two decades, I’ve visited a lot of groups who claim (in their message board postings or however they were recruiting) that they are roleplay-heavy. And once you go there, what they think that means varies wildly, on a 1-10 scale of “how much are they really about the roleplaying” I’ve seen groups ranging from a 3 to a 7 even when they come out and say it is what they’re into. So this isn’t a simple “assign a label to the game, and match labels on the people” exercise. It would be nice if it was but that’s not real life.

      Furthermore as I alluded to above, it’s not like everyone has a well defined meta-playstyle or is super experienced in a dozen game systems and RPG theory. If someone shows up and says “I’m a dyed in the wool gamist” then we just don’t invite them (and possibly dispose of their body in a dumpster). But instead what you have is people with a wide variety of experiences. Those whose gaming experience is, for example, “two years of D&D 4e,” have a lot of default expectations that they don’t even recognize, or necessarily value, it’s baggage they have from their experience. They don’t mind learning a new way, but it’s always difficult to break habits.

      • I do think it’s fairly simple when you define your expectations up front. If that takes a four to five hour, prior to game meeting, then I’d do it. I’d also invite the prospective players to sit and watch a game to see if it’s something they might like.

  3. anya marie mcdonald

    I have solved this delema by having a sign that is above me and behind me that states “MY WORLD MY RULES” this does the trick and I have very little trouble with players trying to shove the rules down my throat. I have had this type of sign since I began playing D&D and AD&D back in 1983.

  4. Paranoia. That is all.

    Having said that, I’ve often thought that a “Gamer’s Court” LARP event at a con would be a blast.

  5. rorschachhamster

    Paranoia is probably a good cure for rules lawering… “Friend Citizen, may I have a momentcycle of your time? You read about a rule in a section declared as Ultraviolett? Would you like red or black flowers on your incineration box?”

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