Rules Lawyering

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Rules Lawyering

How you interpret the rules can be as important as the rules themselves

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i disagree with your ruling on the "flycycle"
>':-D

if there was someone on a floating disc and they tried to push the wizard, following basic physics, (never a good idea when magic is involved) the pusher cannot move the wizard away from the disc, it would follow him, all they would be doing is pushing themselves off the disc.

While I admire the ingenuity, this ultimately seems like a really bad idea for players. Duration of the spells could result in being stuck in a really bad spot, a trap with an anti-magic shell could go from a minor inconvenience to instantly fatal. If the wizard is knocked out, depending on how high up they are, the fighter is a lot of trouble.

That's usually how I deal with this sort of thing. If it makes sense, the person can do it, but it's just an opportunity for me to deduce how to defuse it. A guy is abusing the rules around Ring of Invisibility? Put them up against a few mercs with blind fighting. That sort of thing. I'm not saying you actively discourage this by always thwarting the players (because I have to admit, the flycycle is awesome) but they have to expect their enemies to adapt to the situation as well.

It's how the game stays fun. A longsword +1 is great when the rest of the party has normal longswords. When everyone has a longsword +1, then you usually need a longsword +1 to get by. Otherwise the fun is gone. It's like turning on invincibility in a video game. What's the point?

RikSharp:
i disagree with your ruling on the "flycycle"
>':-D

if there was someone on a floating disc and they tried to push the wizard, following basic physics, (never a good idea when magic is involved) the pusher cannot move the wizard away from the disc, it would follow him, all they would be doing is pushing themselves off the disc.

Well, the disk provides a force (arcane force vectors? Not that normal physics is completely relevant with magic of course) towards the caster, while the caster has essentially resistance-less horizontal movement due to levitate. If you hook your legs over the edge of the disk (or otherwise brace yourself so you don't push yourself off), and give the caster a shove... the caster will be the one to move rather then the disk (because the disk has a persistent force applied towards the caster) - and then the disk magically putters over towards the caster.

As for not abusing such things, we've had a few of our own tricks thrown back at us (literally in the case of using single pebbles with area silence on them against casters, when one such caster threw a handful of pebbles disguising a silenced one at us).

The time with the centaur flotilla happened when we raided a keep secured by an army of dire orcs and managed to sneak the whole party through to the boss's quarters and vault. Stuck with only utility spells at the top of an alerted fortress with hundreds of enemies... we figured out a way to take the balcony exit. :) Although in this case we used fly, so didn't have the levitation movement issue.

<- H.L.V. Centaur

RikSharp:
i disagree with your ruling on the "flycycle"
>':-D

if there was someone on a floating disc and they tried to push the wizard, following basic physics, (never a good idea when magic is involved) the pusher cannot move the wizard away from the disc, it would follow him, all they would be doing is pushing themselves off the disc.

I'd think the last thing you'd want to do is to interdict the notion of physics into a fantasy rules discussion and certainly don't want to make a rules arbitration of a fantasy game based on a real-world notion. In some settings it would be more appropriate, but not in a traditional setting that uses the concept of "magic" as one of its foundations. It WILL become a can of worms that will keep cropping up over and over again. Oil and Water.

aegios187:

RikSharp:
i disagree with your ruling on the "flycycle"
>':-D

if there was someone on a floating disc and they tried to push the wizard, following basic physics, (never a good idea when magic is involved) the pusher cannot move the wizard away from the disc, it would follow him, all they would be doing is pushing themselves off the disc.

I'd think the last thing you'd want to do is to interdict the notion of physics into a fantasy rules discussion and certainly don't want to make a rules arbitration of a fantasy game based on a real-world notion. In some settings it would be more appropriate, but not in a traditional setting that uses the concept of "magic" as one of its foundations. It WILL become a can of worms that will keep cropping up over and over again. Oil and Water.

You should have been there for the "Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine", or the "Invisible Crystal Ball Spy Satellite" discussions. It's a shame we could never get them to work as expected.

I've never had much trouble with rules lawyers in any of the campaigns I've run. I generally have a simpllified version of the rules from whatever system I use. I mostly use tristat, which is fairly loose on rules anyway, so the only things I really take into account are the die rolls and a few other things like that. I keep my games fairly realistic in terms of what's possible and what's not, but I'm always willing to talk thing out with my players. We mostly play by my "House Rules" which have only been modified...once I think after we reread a part of the rules and came to the conlcusion that it meant one thing when we thought it meant another.

Dear Escapist staff: I think I just fell in love with all of you.

You've also given me all kinds of ideas for my game on Friday. Thanks.

my group tends to do insane things. For instance, we're running an Exalted game heavily influenced by Avatar the Last Airbender, and each of us has the ability to "bend" different elements. The one true invention in that regard in our game, is the Woodbender. Wood is not an element in Avatar, but it is in Exalted. The other forms of bending work chiefly like their Avatar counterparts - Waterbenders can shape and move water, as well as freeze it, fire benders can create and manipulate fire, earthbenders can levitate and shape earth, airbenders can create gusts of wind and control air currents.. The woodbender has actually the most real "power", as he can "move and levitate plantmatter, as well as cause it to miraculously grow."

That last power is really the crux of it all. We have used that woodbender for many many utilitarian tasks, including turning our wooden ship into a wooden submarine (with the help of the waterbenders to keep it waterproof and help it move).. We also took a boat designed to skim along the sand, launched it off a ramp provided by the earthbender, grew wooden wings just before it took off.. It glided down safely off the bluff into the water, and then we repurposed it to be a sailing boat.

That woodbender can do some pretty amazing things.. we've made several submarines in our sessions... No other bender has the amount of flexibility that that woodbender does, and that's because we basically had to come up with rules and situations where woodbending "fit".

several of our players are also always trying to come up with ludicrous "power armors"

But I think that the Storyteller inadvertantly gave me the best one in a recent game. I don't think even he realizes how good it is yet.

I'll save that for a special occasion to show him :)

Interesting point, and I agree that consistencyis always important. However, that is not to say that you must become a lawyer to be consistent. Personally, I think rules through logically and question their effects. For instance, here I would have questioned "Why does the floating disc automatically follow? Does it have a primitive intelligence, or is it simply a tehter effect?" Logically, the second makes more sense. This begs the second question: "If the Floating disc is pushed, what happens to the levitating wizard?" By the assumption that they are connected via a tether-like force, the levitating wizard would be dragged behind it. This is because, given that hand motion of your average wizard (i.e. not strong) is enough to propel the wizard sideways as given by the original description, levitation does not give any particular stability in the air. Then, it follows that trying to push the wizard like that would just result in Newton's third law biting you in the behind and no motion once the wizard and disc are 6' apart. So simply pushing will not move the pair anywhere.

Of course, the wizard could probably just use a gust of wind, or the other chracter could fire an arrow with a rope or some other means of pulling and so move the pair that way instead.

Couldn't the caster just push himself away from the disc with the stick instead of needing someone else to sit on it?

The stick is 10 ft, and the range of the floating disc is 6 ft. This means that there are 4 feet of stick outside the disc's range. Because of this, the wizard could apply constant force on the stick, and constantly accelerate. The only limit to speed in this case is the warrior's ability to balance on the disc against the increasing air drag.

You artificially limit the movement distance by computing the actions like a computer (warrior pushes, wizard moves, then disc moves back into range) when in fact all of this happens simultaneously.

Add a rope tied around the disc and you get a magical air chariot (with a wizard horse).

Rule-book, Citizen? You are guilty of reading materials unsanctioned for your colour designation. Please report to the nearest Happy-Fun(TM) Termination Centre for summary execution.

Thank you, and have a pleasant day.

Happiness is mandatory.

The Computer is your friend.

Meh, we nixed multiple Floating Discs a long time ago - casting another one simply replaces the current one.

And the guy on the disk pushing the wizard is also exerting force on himself in the opposite direction, what keeps him from pushing himself back off the disk? It's not exactly a textured surface. It's a slightly concave disk of force.

I have to say here and now, the stealth bomber idea is absolutely beautiful. I'd disagree with the floating disc/levitation ruling (it actually popped more than once in games I've played in).

Still, despite the technicalities, I do agree with the basic premise of the article. Making rulings does require a bit of organized thought behind it.

Altorin:
one true invention in that regard in our game, is the Woodbender.

Hehe. Woodbender.

Caliban1972:
Meh, we nixed multiple Floating Discs a long time ago - casting another one simply replaces the current one.

And the guy on the disk pushing the wizard is also exerting force on himself in the opposite direction, what keeps him from pushing himself back off the disk? It's not exactly a textured surface. It's a slightly concave disk of force.

Magic may be involved in making a Floating Disk. Certain physical constants will prevail even in settings where magic is just as real as gravity, however magic has the unique ability to negate paradoxes.

Consider the disk tethered magically to the wizard's waist, and the fighter on the disk is capable of staying on the disk while applying a force against the tether. Whether it's his exceptional balance, friction against the disk itself, or the fact that he's tied himself to an invisible floating platform made of magical energy, the game world would reasonably allow for the situation to occur.

One could argue minutia indefinitely about the tensile strength of the magical tether, how much force the fighter could apply before crushing the wizard's bones or destroying the pole, and so on. Assuming the fighter merely holds slight pressure against the wizard, who is not affected by gravity by Levitation, that force has to go somewhere. One could argue that even this small amount of force, held for long enough, would accelerate the pair infinitely - creating a free energy paradox. Or, a clever DM can find a middle ground that keeps the game moving forward, while maintaining a consistent sensibility in relation to the game world. You can really only go so far with the physics of these situations before it becomes pointless because of the magic being a factor in the first place.

CaptainCrunch:

aegios187:

RikSharp:
i disagree with your ruling on the "flycycle"
>':-D

if there was someone on a floating disc and they tried to push the wizard, following basic physics, (never a good idea when magic is involved) the pusher cannot move the wizard away from the disc, it would follow him, all they would be doing is pushing themselves off the disc.

I'd think the last thing you'd want to do is to interdict the notion of physics into a fantasy rules discussion and certainly don't want to make a rules arbitration of a fantasy game based on a real-world notion. In some settings it would be more appropriate, but not in a traditional setting that uses the concept of "magic" as one of its foundations. It WILL become a can of worms that will keep cropping up over and over again. Oil and Water.

You should have been there for the "Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine", or the "Invisible Crystal Ball Spy Satellite" discussions. It's a shame we could never get them to work as expected.

Am I to understand that is a magical version of a low orbit ion cannon that shoots elves out of it? If that is indeed so I say fuck the rules and interpretations, make it so number one.

When I was reading through those important books I noticed that Rangers can get a shark as an animal companion so I had the best idea ever. Have a wizard cast create water and levitate on it so I could take my shark any where. Who wouldn't freak the fuck out at a magic flying shark that can drown you if it makes a successful grapple check?

Not so sure about the disc trick (the "pusher" might push himself off his floating disk... that could hurt), but the article gave excellent advice. Nice simple version of legal interpretation too. Rules lawyers are a godsend in playtesting by the way. Never playtest without one :)

Interesting... If a little convoluted. The problem I foresee is that some variants of "rules lawyer" do it because tinkering with the minutiae of the rules or arguing to gain an advantage are what they enjoy, much like one player enjoys the tactics and excitement of combat and another likes the characterization and dialogue of role-playing. While consistency is important, if something like this crops up too often, it creates the danger of slowing things down to the detriment of everyone who doesn't find the particulars of half-monster prestige multi-classing the subject of fascination.

At the risk of sounding flippant, sometimes there's more virtue to just "winging it", a skill that every GM should learn. There will absolutely be times when a serious and/or recurring problem demands this kind of deep analysis, and certainly a GM should appear to be fair and consistant for the long-term health of the campaign. But there are other times when it would be well to just make a ruling and move on.

The particular problem raises different questions to me as a GM; I think I would possibly come to a similar conclusion, but for different reasons. The peculiarities of "levitate" (a second level spell) are clearly in place to differentiate it and weaken it in comparison to "fly" (a third level spell, and one which allows movement in all directions.) It's hard to imagine a case where a magician with access to and need for "fly" would put "levitate" on the same spell list. The letter of the law is that this spell is to be used for horizontal movement, and this spell is not, excepting the ceiling rule to prevent it from lacking the most basic functionality. Conversely, though, the players' "flycycle" idea is a rather novel way of using two spells to overcome the inherent limitation of "levitate", and such innovation should be rewarded (not least because it encourages such lateral thinking and makes the game more enjoyable for everyone involved.) A brief look over the two spells might suggest that the thusly-created "flycycle" could work for, say, floating across a pit, but would certainly lack the agility of someone casting "fly". And the caster of the disk might have to keep a constant concentration on the act of keeping the disk where he or she wanted it (with the pole), as the disk will try to keep returning to 6' from the caster whether he or she wants it to or not. Likewise, the character on the disk might require similar concentration to keep "on balance" on the invisible platform enabling his or her horizontal momentum. I wouldn't advise taking such an arrangement into combat.

RikSharp:
i disagree with your ruling on the "flycycle"
>':-D

if there was someone on a floating disc and they tried to push the wizard, following basic physics, (never a good idea when magic is involved) the pusher cannot move the wizard away from the disc, it would follow him, all they would be doing is pushing themselves off the disc.

Disagree, there is friction, and the disc doesn't move until there is a significant distance.
Its better to think of it as the wizard having an electromagnet which he flicks on and off. It works.

Caliban1972:
Meh, we nixed multiple Floating Discs a long time ago - casting another one simply replaces the current one.

And the guy on the disk pushing the wizard is also exerting force on himself in the opposite direction, what keeps him from pushing himself back off the disk? It's not exactly a textured surface. It's a slightly concave disk of force.

My reasoning is that the disc must have some frictional force, or otherwise it's useless for moving treasure around. If I ruled that a force sufficient to push a floating man 4' was enough to knock a 200-lb man off the disc, I'd have to also rule that treasure on the disc could slip and slide off pretty easily. Since safely transporting objects is the core use of the spell, I found that it would be absurd that the disc would be frictionless.

My only issue with the ruling lies in the interpretation of the disc's height.

"The disc will be created at the height of the caster's waist, and will remain at that height, following the caster wherever he goes."

I read that as saying that the disc cannot change it's vertical height (relative to the surface over which it floats). It will attempt to follow horizontally but cannot follow vertical changes except where a reasonable slope or set of stairs allows it.

Within that limitation, i'd be willing to try out the disc-as-perpetual-motion-machine idea. Of course, i have a special fondness for floating disk antics; i once created a fat NPC wizard (3rd ed) who rode around on a permanent floating disk using a variation of the mage hand spell for propulsion.

If my players ever found themselves with enough free time to test out magical physics problems of such a speculative nature, I clearly must have let the narrative stall out to such a degree that I'd quit doing my job as a DM. Of course, this all depends on what your group is after - some prefer more puzzles or less tactical combat, we tended to favor action and suspense, though not at the expense of mechanics.

I never had much trouble with rules lawyers in the games I ran ,even though the groups I've run have included actual lawyers (myself and others). I appreciated anyone willing to point out rules or interpretations that they thought should be different, but normally it was something we hashed over outside of the game sessions.

It was in the Living Greyhawk and other such tournament settings that I ran into people willing to sacrifice the entire game experience upon the altar of the rules, and while I understood that in such an environment the rules were paramount, there is the unavoidable fact that an RPG by its nature tries to use limited rules to model unlimited possibilities. At some point you have to admit the need for individual interpretation of a specific set of facts, rather than trying to shoehorn everything into the same predetermined outcome.

fanklok:

CaptainCrunch:

You should have been there for the "Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine", or the "Invisible Crystal Ball Spy Satellite" discussions. It's a shame we could never get them to work as expected.

Am I to understand that is a magical version of a low orbit ion cannon that shoots elves out of it? If that is indeed so I say fuck the rules and interpretations, make it so number one.

The "Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine" was the brainchild of one of our elf characters. How it's done in B/E, I think: 2 Elves + 2 Bags of Holding filled with barrels of oil + Levitate + Floating Disc + Invisibility (10ft).

Elf #1 casts Floating Disc, then Levitate.
Elf #2 casts Invisibility (10ft), and gets on the Disc. (Invisibility is optional protection against flying monsters.)
Together they soar to a great height (I think 1000ft), making sure they have time on Levitate / Floating Disc to perform the bombardment, and still get down safely.
Elf #2 drops barrels of oil, with a length of fuse sufficient for the length of the drop. Elf #1 could also drop barrels, but is more or less the designated lookout in case a dragon stops by.
Assuming the 1000ft drop, a barrel of oil will deal 100d6 damage on impact, then burn an area (20ft square?) for 1d8 for a number of turns. 2 Bags of Holding can carry a lot of oil, so bombardment can continue unabated as long as the Levitate / Floating Disc holds out.

The reason it wouldn't work in game context is wind - the ruling was "of course you can do that, but there's no way it's going to be accurate." Experiments dropping large rocks with Giant Strength showed similar results, and it makes tons of sense. Perhaps if we tried adding stabilizing fins to the barrels...

I would have ruled the exact opposite. If the "tether" is elastic, they'd push apart, then come crashing together. The energy that some of you are using for propulsion would be stored in the "tether" like the torsion spring in a ballista.

Mantua429:
I would have ruled the exact opposite. If the "tether" is elastic, they'd push apart, then come crashing together. The energy that some of you are using for propulsion would be stored in the "tether" like the torsion spring in a ballista.

The disk moves toward the caster when the distance between them is greater than 6ft; there is no equivalent "caster moves towards the disk" in the spell description. Using your torsion spring interpretation, you would trap the caster by closing a door between him/her and the disk.

CaptainCrunch:

fanklok:

CaptainCrunch:

You should have been there for the "Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine", or the "Invisible Crystal Ball Spy Satellite" discussions. It's a shame we could never get them to work as expected.

Am I to understand that is a magical version of a low orbit ion cannon that shoots elves out of it? If that is indeed so I say fuck the rules and interpretations, make it so number one.

The "Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine" was the brainchild of one of our elf characters. How it's done in B/E, I think: 2 Elves + 2 Bags of Holding filled with barrels of oil + Levitate + Floating Disc + Invisibility (10ft).

Elf #1 casts Floating Disc, then Levitate.
Elf #2 casts Invisibility (10ft), and gets on the Disc. (Invisibility is optional protection against flying monsters.)
Together they soar to a great height (I think 1000ft), making sure they have time on Levitate / Floating Disc to perform the bombardment, and still get down safely.
Elf #2 drops barrels of oil, with a length of fuse sufficient for the length of the drop. Elf #1 could also drop barrels, but is more or less the designated lookout in case a dragon stops by.
Assuming the 1000ft drop, a barrel of oil will deal 100d6 damage on impact, then burn an area (20ft square?) for 1d8 for a number of turns. 2 Bags of Holding can carry a lot of oil, so bombardment can continue unabated as long as the Levitate / Floating Disc holds out.

The reason it wouldn't work in game context is wind - the ruling was "of course you can do that, but there's no way it's going to be accurate." Experiments dropping large rocks with Giant Strength showed similar results, and it makes tons of sense. Perhaps if we tried adding stabilizing fins to the barrels...

My version was better, those would only keep it on target for a horizontal flight but vertical will still get blown off by wind. Instead think Ghost/SPecter from Starcraft except magic. You'll probably need to invent a new spell or two. One enchants the barrel/projectile and the other "enchants" the target as long as what ever is being shot/thrown/tossed at what ever the target is within the possible range it will gravitate to it.

Georgie_Leech:
Of course, the wizard could probably just use a gust of wind, or the other chracter could fire an arrow with a rope or some other means of pulling and so move the pair that way instead.

That's the thing, the "flycycle" ruling in the article means that either levitate is useless in strong winds, because the wizard will be blown about, or that levitate can be used in strong winds to mimic fly, a higher level spell. While I encourage creative use of spells in my games, especially low-level spells, I'm a bit more cautious about using them to render higher-level spells redundant.

CaptainCrunch:
The reason it wouldn't work in game context is wind - the ruling was "of course you can do that, but there's no way it's going to be accurate." Experiments dropping large rocks with Giant Strength showed similar results, and it makes tons of sense. Perhaps if we tried adding stabilizing fins to the barrels...

Yeah, we once used a Spelljammer ship and a tons of coarse gravel to destroy an army of undead. The great thing about shambling hordes and numerous small projectiles is that you don't really have to aim. Even if your DM rules that only one in every 100 rocks finds a target, the odds are in your favor.

I really feel that if you placed a fixed object between the wizard and the disk (your 10' pole) instead of the rider and the wizard, it would result in a constant speed of travel. (A safe decision that benefits the party and rewards ingenuity) Or they have created a reaction that propels them forward at ever increasing speeds that would probably harm both participants. (also rewarding in a way...... *splat dead*)

That is if you can safely secure a pole between the edge of the disk and the mid section of the caster.

ot; Great article as always. I usually get something useful out of every one of these. I think this article is good for players and DMs and should be shared with entire groups.
*Threatens group into reading.*

fanklok:

My version was better, those would only keep it on target for a horizontal flight but vertical will still get blown off by wind. Instead think Ghost/SPecter from Starcraft except magic. You'll probably need to invent a new spell or two. One enchants the barrel/projectile and the other "enchants" the target as long as what ever is being shot/thrown/tossed at what ever the target is within the possible range it will gravitate to it.

It was mainly designed to deal with large armies, and monsters big enough to try to aim at from high up. Adding targeting spells into the mix would just burn through more spells than it's worth, which is why the Dwarven Doom Platform is probably going to be a better option.

Dwarven Doom Platform
A spellcaster of sufficient level enchants a large platform with Levitate or Fly, such that it can carry a specially designed Dwarven siege machine that can aim accurately, straight down, from a significant height (and at least one person to operate it).

It's usage would be more as a portable engine of mass destruction (Fly), or a static base defense for use against a large force (Levitate). Since the operator is out of range of arrows and crossbow bolts, it's effectively a "kill lots of things until you run out of ammo" machine. As with the Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine, it's only weakness is flying monsters (or flying enemy wizards with Dispel and Feather Fall.)

CaptainCrunch:

fanklok:

My version was better, those would only keep it on target for a horizontal flight but vertical will still get blown off by wind. Instead think Ghost/SPecter from Starcraft except magic. You'll probably need to invent a new spell or two. One enchants the barrel/projectile and the other "enchants" the target as long as what ever is being shot/thrown/tossed at what ever the target is within the possible range it will gravitate to it.

It was mainly designed to deal with large armies, and monsters big enough to try to aim at from high up. Adding targeting spells into the mix would just burn through more spells than it's worth, which is why the Dwarven Doom Platform is probably going to be a better option.

Dwarven Doom Platform
A spellcaster of sufficient level enchants a large platform with Levitate or Fly, such that it can carry a specially designed Dwarven siege machine that can aim accurately, straight down, from a significant height (and at least one person to operate it).

It's usage would be more as a portable engine of mass destruction (Fly), or a static base defense for use against a large force (Levitate). Since the operator is out of range of arrows and crossbow bolts, it's effectively a "kill lots of things until you run out of ammo" machine. As with the Elven Orbital Bombardment Machine, it's only weakness is flying monsters (or flying enemy wizards with Dispel and Feather Fall.)

Damn it man the more convoluted, unnecessary, and dangerous to the operators health it is the better. I am also a firm believer that if there is a racial name in a weapons name that is the ammunition.

Here's another fine example of rule lawyering used to create massively advanced systems. And this one doesn't even use magic:

http://nodwick.humor.gamespy.com/ffn/index.php?date=2010-09-02

I don't care about the technical debate behind the rules that resulted in levitate and floating disks being used to fly. A flying, invisible, centaur bomber sounds awesome. I think 4-5' per round handicaps it enough to make it of limited use.

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