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"No one likes a Rules Lawyer -- exactly why?" Topic

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Action Log

07 Jun 2010 3:28 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from TMP Poll Suggestions board
  • Crossposted to Wargaming in General board

1,352 hits since 8 Oct 2009
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

quidveritas Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:06 p.m. PST

Being a lawyer myself I have never really had a problem with rules lawyers. Let's break this down a little further to see exactly why these unfortunate souls are so hated:

Pick as many as you like and feel free to add to the list.

1. I object to the fact that the rules lawyer puts winning ahead of enjoying the game.
2. I object to the fact that the rules lawyer puts winning ahead of respecting my integrity as a fellow gamer.
3. I find it distasteful when 'how to play the game' becomes more important than 'playing the game'.
4. I just don't like the smarmy, smirky face the rules lawyer gives me when he's right.
5. I have always had a problem with people that assume they are 'in charge' because they think they are smarter than everyone else.
6. I feel bad for the rules writer when a rules lawyer makes hash out of a reasonably good set of rules.
7. I hate it when I paint up a unit planning on capitalizing on a certain rule, only to have a rules lawyer deflate my balloon by circumventing my plans with his knowledge of the rules.
8. Rules are made to be broken -- doesn't the rules lawyer know that!
9. I think the mark of a misspent youth is a Rules Lawyer.
10. I don't mind being corrected on the rules, I just don't like the way a Rules Lawyer goes about it.
11. I know the rules better than anyone else -- where does a rules lawyer get off trying to tell me how to interpret the rules!
12. I come to games to play -- not to listen to arguments.
13. Rules discussions should be held AFTER the game.
14. If there's a dispute, why can't people just roll a die to resolve the dispute and get on with the game?
15. Rules lawyers are cheaters.
16. I hate the rules lawyer that has to do everything just so, when my mistake favors me, but is perfectly happy to let something go when my mistake favors him. Of course he's only too happy to rub it in later.

Well that's enough from me. ;P


TheDreadnought Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:10 p.m. PST

1, 2, 3, 12, (15 sometimes), 16.

GoodBye Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:12 p.m. PST

Rules Lawyers bring the pace of a game to a complete stop in many cases.

Rules Lawyers delight in argueing over 1/16" or less than 1/10 degree of arc.

I just don't have the time for this sort of foolishness.

When I GM, there are no Rules Lawyers discussions, right or wrong I make the final decision and I do it quickly to get the game back on track. When I play as soon as this nonsense starts I just walk away. I don't play with these people--it isn't enjoyable to me.

I have a friend I don't game with, when he plays he questions everything, it gets tiresome quickly. I like him I just don't game with him.

Interestingly he likes a certain type of game (many rules with lots of room for interpretation) and I much prefer a simpler game. I don't seem to find many Rules Lawyers playing games where the rules take up a single page.

ComradeCommissar Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:15 p.m. PST

The very quotable #9

Connard Sage Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:20 p.m. PST

What DRD said.

La Long Carabine Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:24 p.m. PST

I once saw a rules lawyer argue the rules with the author of the rules. Rules lawyer went so far as to tell the fellow who had written the rules he didn't understand how they worked.

LLC aka Ron

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:25 p.m. PST

And the just as common and equally unpleasant counterpart is the gamer who doesn't know the rules, doesn't apply the rules, "forgets" the rules, doesn't feel bound by the rules, ignores the rules, wants to change the rules in the middle of a game, etc., etc.

Wargaming is a human endeavour and an exercise in "competitive" socializing. It is therefore fraught with human weaknesses, and bound to involve frustration and interpersonal conflict. Deal with it. Chose your rules carefully, and your opponents even more so. Or take up solo wargaming.


nycjadie Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:32 p.m. PST

I don't mind rules lawyers. I don't even mind those that take themselves to seriously with games. I just choose not to play with them.

Stephen Coates, Esq.

XRaysVision08 Oct 2009 12:36 p.m. PST

My defintion of a "Rules Lawyer" is one who intentionally subverts the intent of rules in favor of literal interpretation simply to gain an advantage. This is no more acceptable at a game table than a courtroom.

Rules, as written, are intended to reflect the intent of the author. Being imperfect people, sometimes the literal word does not represent the intent either by mis-statement or omission.

At these times good sportsmen will reach agreement on what to do based on being consistant with the game or some other equitable solution that doesn't benefit one's self. The rules lawyer plays in the "cracks" in the rules.

In short, a rules lawyer is a buzz killer.

Doctor X08 Oct 2009 12:42 p.m. PST

Xray – well said and spot on.

Rules Lawyers get no play at my gaming table.

Gallowglass Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 12:59 p.m. PST

17. I can't bill the time wasted when I encounter a rules lawyer. They tend to make me feel like I ought to be charging somebody $450/hour.

Mind you, Allen's point is excellent – the guy who can't be arsed to learn the rules is every bit as bad.

Free time is too precious to be wasted on those who make one feel as though said time is being wasted.

nazrat08 Oct 2009 1:07 p.m. PST

"And the just as common and equally unpleasant counterpart is the gamer who doesn't know the rules, doesn't apply the rules, "forgets" the rules, doesn't feel bound by the rules, ignores the rules, wants to change the rules in the middle of a game, etc., etc."

Yeah, and then if correct these mooks you get branded with the Rules Lawyer title anyway. It's a no win situation, really.

Terrement Supporting Member of TMP Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 1:12 p.m. PST


Personal logo John the OFM Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2009 1:14 p.m. PST

The rules lawyer who reads them differently each time depending on how it benefits HIM is the one I hate.
I have no problem with someone who wants to play it right, as written.

Farstar Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 1:16 p.m. PST

Rule Lawyers consider "Knights of the Dinner Table" a fine example of good play.

While playing against an unrepentant Rules Lawyer is a "buzz kill" and unlikely to be repeated, having someone around with the tendency and memory to hunt down rules and cross-reference them with other rules in different places can be quite handy when the rules themselves should cover a topic and *claim* to cover that topic, and yet don't manage to convey any resolutions to that topic due to wording, arrangement, or simple volume (GW comes to mind, but are hardly the only offenders). Its a useful set of aptitudes to possess in a gamer.

What makes one a Rules Lawyer in the pejorative sense is the attitude.

richarDISNEY Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 1:25 p.m. PST

2-5, and
18) Rule Lawyers getting in the way of making the game enjoyable/fun.

My club used to have a rules lawyer in both minis and RPGs, and he could not get past the fact if we ( as a club whole, except him) changed or ignored a rule to make the game more fun, it was for the benefit of the enjoyment of the game


Ron W DuBray Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 1:31 p.m. PST

sometimes in playing a game, you forget to move a unit or fire guns or apply a rule, we call that "the fog of wargames"

if you "forget" a rule for your own advantage, then its plane out cheating.

its the players that move a unit 6 times or till it can reach its target or be in firing range,that I can't stand. I made a whole set of unit starting place markers just to stop this, and added the rule that once you picked up the starting place marker your unit was locked in place.

Xray your dead on

I blame it on monopoly, with its rule that cheating and stealing is Okay till you get nab at it.

Sysiphus Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 1:33 p.m. PST

What Allen and the OFM both said!!

The Black Tower Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 2:10 p.m. PST

Rules tend to be long winded in order to frustrate the efforts of rule lawers

But most rules are not written by lawers so there are loopholes

It is like fielding a Tiger tank at Waterloo just because the rule don't say you cannot!!

McKinstry Fezian Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 2:42 p.m. PST

My experience has been that much like the Supreme Court and pornography, I know it when I see it.

A Rules Lawyer is that gamer that manages to transcend the average questions, queries and nit picks and cross that magic invisible line between ordinary guy and jerk.

idontbelieveit08 Oct 2009 2:58 p.m. PST

"I once saw a rules lawyer argue the rules with the author of the rules. Rules lawyer went so far as to tell the fellow who had written the rules he didn't understand how they worked."

I don't think you have to be a rules lawyer to figure out that what the author wanted and what he wrote down are two very different things.

Playing with someone who knows the rules well is enlightening. When he finds something bogus in the rules and exploits that in order to win, he quickly becomes a bore.

Ditto Tango 2 1 Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 3:21 p.m. PST

3 is the best one. Too Fat Lardies (I have a couple of their rule sets, but don't play their games) have an brilliant and excellent slogan that alludes to this: "Playing the period, not the rules".

I love XRay's definition as well.

Two of my friends (both moved away for the moment, one at least hopefully temporarily) are both very successful lawyers and don't behave anything like rules lawyers when they play.

RudyNelson08 Oct 2009 3:38 p.m. PST

They slow the game down just to try to get an advantage when they should not get one.

However rules lawyers are an essential part of the playtesting process.

vtsaogames08 Oct 2009 3:44 p.m. PST

I go with XRay's definition. To me, a rules lawyer is a fancy cheat.

Dn Jackson08 Oct 2009 3:52 p.m. PST

Rules lawyers are the reason I don't play tornaments…ever. They are the reason WRG rules read like assembly instructions for a stereo, if you need three paragraphs, a slide rule, and a protractor to figure out if you are attacking a unit's flank or not, it's just not fun for me.

XRaysVision08 Oct 2009 4:36 p.m. PST

The rules lawyer is the guy who, after stating your intention to move into firing range and moving dozens of figures that insist on toppling off hills and such, pulls out his micrometer and proudly announces that you are one angstrom short.

If it weren't for real lawyers this type of guy would have been led into a dark alley long ago……

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2009 5:20 p.m. PST

The rules lawyer invariably uses the rule that favors him and ignores the rule that doesn't, but wants to argue with you angrily (and smugly) about how his interpretation is the correct one, implying that if only you were as intelligent as he is, you would understand, but since you clearly aren't as intelligent as he, you should concede to his interpretation.

brucka08 Oct 2009 6:15 p.m. PST

In Conventions:

'You didn't tell us THAT!' rightful indignation or too unwieldy rules and usually my fault – takes good social skills, an ability to compromise gracefully, and an ability to communicate well to correct.

'You didn't tell us we couldn't' [smugly] Screams 'rules lawyer' lower than even the 'barracks lawyer' and takes fortitude to ever want to run games at conventions again. Do people really derive pleasure from ruining a nicely run and pleasant gentleman's game? What satisfaction in 'winning' a game or a point is there when it was done with such malcontented malice and unpleasantness. I never have problems being reminded of a rule I may have missed or skipped – sometimes I will do it on purpose to have the game flow, usually people accept the explanation or we come to a compromise, only a few will continue that pointless argument to the general uneasiness of the others present. Rules Lawyering bespeaks an inability to separate enjoyment and relaxation from everyday living (in a rat hole). Happy only when miserable. A pox on them all, except when I need to reference something quickly and don't want to look it up AND they are not directly involved in my game.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2009 6:23 p.m. PST

Most miniatures are gentleman's games. Rules lawyers are not gentlemanly.

(Applies to women as well…)

Thus the appropriate response to a rules lawyer is to don a fake handlebar mustache and exclaim, "How rude!" or "Tut, tut."

Personal logo Volstagg Vanir Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2009 6:38 p.m. PST

Rule, 16,16, 16 and #16-

I f someone were to say aforehand:
"I plan on doing 'x', which is likely allowable by the rules
(although it could equally be interpreted as 'y')"
I would (and have) give to them the benefit of the doubt, and allow the play.

The Smarmy Jerk (and I'll name names)
who tells me after the game the same information
is unlikely to roll dice with me again.

Moreso, both reactions, if the action undertaken is my own.

Extra Crispys Evil Twin Inactive Member08 Oct 2009 7:38 p.m. PST

Dunno…I've never met one. I always just assumed it was gamer speak for Bleeped text.

Jamesonsafari09 Oct 2009 7:44 a.m. PST

I have a friend who is a lawyer, he is an extremely decent fellow.

I appreciate having someone at the table with an encyclopaedic recall of the rules and can help untangle a problem.

I agree with Xray that a "Rules Lawyer" is someone who uses obscure bits of the rules out of context and to their own advantage.

"Play the game not the rules."

Kurt Kramer Inactive Member09 Oct 2009 9:25 a.m. PST

Although I am not a "rules lawyer" (although I am a real one or at least I play one in court) because I am too lazy about learning rules, I get annoyed when people complain about someone else wanting to play by the rules.

A rules lawyer is different than a cheat. Any gamer that doesn't follow the rules that he knows are the rules is a cheat.

Any gamer that does not accept that the game master has the final word is a poor guest, whether or not a rules lawyer.

A rules lawyer will pay the same rules with everyone, the local game shop, conventions etc, application of rules creates consistency. To make an analogy, I play Monopoly with my kids and sometimes others and it is per the rules unless you tell me or we agree to house rules. No money in the middle, mortgages per the rules etc. Am I suppose to read your mind ahead of time as to what rules you want to use and consider fair? I consider it absurd that people consider it unfair that someone plays by the rules if they are not told different. What other game would that be considered reasonable?

A rules lawyer will accept house rules or interpretations if explained to him before the game and are agreed to. he may ask why, but those are the rules and he or she knows them. That is no different than any scenario specific rule.

Like any reasonable gamer, I am one who believes in rules of reason, but it is not fair to someone who learned the rules if both don't agree and "intent" or "reasonable" isn't clear to both.

There are some rule sets which I have not bothered to learn that our group regularly uses. If I make a mistake because I did not bother to read or learn the rules, then that is on me. Why would it be fair because I am too lazy to learn the game.

If I can not agree to resolve a dispute with a quick check of the rules then you roll. But that is how your decide any dispute (range, arc, line of site). Good gamers, get over the issues, keep playing and look it up later. A jerk that can not deal with disputes and hold up the game unnecessarily is just a bad gamer and may or may not be a rules lawyer.

Who decides what an obscure bit of rules are. What you consider obscure may make perfect sense to a large percentage of other gamers. How am I suppose to know what you consider obscure?

I find it wrong to punish someone else who might otherwise be a good gamer because I am too lazy to learn the rules.

A rules lawyer that takes advantage of a new player is a jerk, however any gamer who takes advantage of a new player is a jerk.

I will not game with jerks, I will game with rules lawyer.

Roger the Cabin Boy Inactive Member09 Oct 2009 11:51 a.m. PST

A rules lawyer will pay the same rules with everyone, the local game shop, conventions etc, application of rules creates consistency.

No. Rules lawyers are after advantages, not consistency, in a game. That's what makes them objectionable. Like a lawyer defending a client, they argue the rules one way or the other depending on what suits them.

Rules lawyers are reptiles that live in the interstices of well-mannered gaming society.

Martin Rapier09 Oct 2009 12:57 p.m. PST

It is the tedious time wasting I object to as every nuance is argued over and dissected. Life is too short.

Farstar Inactive Member09 Oct 2009 1:22 p.m. PST

A Rules Encyclopedist is usually a good thing to have around. They make good tournament/league judges, for example.

A Rules Lawyer is an erudite cheat.

Personal logo Lost Wolf Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2009 2:26 p.m. PST

Constant challenge to your word and integrity over minutia.

Minondas Inactive Member10 Oct 2009 4:45 a.m. PST

For me a Rules Lawyer is a personality type knowledge of every detail of the rules and unrellenting insistance on following them (mostly when it's to his advantage) are just some of the characteristics of that personality type. Other such characteristics could be complete unwillingness to compromise for the sake of the flow of the game and patronizing behavior towards any player that 'knows less' about the rules or the period. I suspect that with people like that it's not even so much a question of winning a game, but simply of proving their own superiority.

Why I don't like people like that? I think 12,13 and 14 covers it the best. Also, sometimes I myself can be an opinionated, prime grade Bleeped text that refuses to give in to such people. When that happens, there are no winners or loosers, just a lot of agrevated feelings.

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