|What You Guys Need Is A Lawyer!|
They were four men who entered the Lair of Sidion that day: Yarnn the
Mighty, whose sword had slain more than a thousand men; Jaccotan the
Bastard, who would relieve you of your life, your purse, or both, without you
even knowing; Merron the Wise, four-score sorceries at his fingertips; and
Parlan the Pedantic, who had once reduced an entire tribe of Orcs to tears
with a withering critique of their attack strategy.
Even to Yarnn's jaded eyes the dragon was magnificent. Along its thirty-foot length, scaled skin pulsed and flared from purple to green to purple - much like the holo-thing on Yarnn's credit card in fact. Everything about it said raw power. Every movement it made proclaimed the party's imminent death. Yarnn had seen bigger dragons, but that had been on a holo-vid entitled "Death of a Party". His sword GroinSeeker sang mournfully, but Yarnn, even Yarnn, was scared. The dragon turned to face them, rose up on its hind legs, and began to breathe, a mighty breath that seemed to suck the very air from the echoing cavern.
"Oh Shit!" thought Yarnn, "Fireball."
Finally the obscene whistling of the breath stopped and for a moment there was quiet. Then the great beast's cheeks constricted, its cold lips pursed, its lungs pulsed, a firestorm was born in the back of its throat and----
-----"You can't do that!" shouted Parlan.
A useless puff of smoke erupted briefly from the dragon's nostrils before dying in the cold cavern air. "Huh?"
"I said you can't do that!"
A look both confused and pathetic settled onto the dragon's face. "I can't?" it muttered, settling back down on all-fours.
Parlan advanced forward, and waggled his finger at its snout. "You're a purple dragon right?"
"That's what my mum told me."
"And purple dragons can't breath fire! Red dragons can..."
"But you're not red, are you?"
"Erm... now you come to mention it - no."
"Glad we've got that sorted out," announced Parlan clapping his hands together and walking away to the rear of the cavern. "You guys carry on, don't mind me."
Remember this. Your GM is a bastard. Forget all the stuff he spun about how you should be grateful to him. About how he puts in loads of work, just so that you and the other players can have fun. About how he'd love to play, but someone has to make the supreme sacrifice so the game can go ahead. That's crap*.
Your GM is a bastard. The game is merely an ego-trip power-fantasy in which he seeks to establish his intellectual, spiritual and emotional superiority, over you, the players. To do this he will lie, cheat, manipulate and advance spurious arguments about how "the rules are only a guide to the actual storytelling".**
But remember this: The rules might be merely a fraudulent device he uses to reinforce the lie of his impartiality, but he needs to preserve that lie. So sometimes you can use those rules against him.
In short, good quality rules lawyering can make the difference between party survival and party annihilation.
The above example was an example of the simplest rules lawyering scenario. The GM had, quite simply, fucked up. He didn't know his own game system's rules, and you caught him. Once caught he had no option but to concede and back down. But the situation will not always be so clear cut.
* Well perhaps "crap" is a bit strong, and not actually correct when evaluated from an absolute truth point of view, but hey - we're trying to write an article here!
** Again, in choosing to use strong, descriptive words such as lie, cheat, and manipulate, we might have failed to actually tell the truth here. A bit.
A more complex situation...
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