Get me a lawyer!
All games have some sort of rules – even if they are very basic or very fluid. Rules give a game the structure it needs so all players know what they need to do. Rules allow everyone to know what to expect from a game, even if the game includes a lot of randomness or unpredictability. Rules aim to prevent disagreements among players. Without rules there would probably be chaos – but then sometimes that is what you want from a game.
However, just because a game has rules doesn’t mean you can’t change them to suit your player group. House ruling a game is very common and sometimes necessary if the rules aren’t clear. Most of the time these house rules are only small changes and they still are in the spirit of the overall gameplay – or at least in the spirit that your player group sees in the game. I have written about this before.
What I have not written about is how strict you are with rules – including house rules. Chances are there is someone in your player group who is quick to point out when someone doesn’t follow the rules. That in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can become an issue if the game looses its fun, just because someone constantly throws the rulebook at you – especially if that player chooses to quote the rules only in those situations where it benefits them – and maybe even stretches the rules a bit too far, just so they win the game. This is known as lawyering and can border on cheating.
Of course, just because you want to make sure everyone follows the rules so that everyone has a chance to win, doesn’t mean you are a rules lawyer. As I mentioned above, following the rules is necessary, even if your group decides to create its own set of rules for a game. Especially if you are in a tournament situation, where the rules of a game will have been made clear at the beginning, so there are no misunderstandings later.
Saying that, tournaments are often the place where you find rules lawyers. If a competitor makes an honest mistakes, a rules lawyer will pounce and call for an adjudicator to disqualify the player, so that they can take the win – which really makes their victory rather hollow, and chances are they lose in a later round.
So, have you got a rules lawyer in your group? Are you a bit of a stickler for rules? Do you see yourself as a rules lawyer, or are you just trying to ensure everyone is following the same set of rules? Please post your thoughts on the subject in the comments below.