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Shock and Aweful

What makes someone a rules lawyer?

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I play with a group of guys who are all new to the game including the GM. The GM doesn't seem to put much time in to reading the rules of the game but I do and I watch a lot of online games. The GM is often getting things wrong and I have corrected him in the past but he doesn't seem to like to be told anything and is quite the dictator GM. This is his first time playing this game so its not like he has a set of house rules its just a lack of knowledge. I'm afraid of being labeled a "rules lawyer" because it's get such a negative connotation to it in the RPG world but rules do matter to some expent for the balance of the time.  What seperates a rules lawyer from someone sighting a rule that has been handled incorrectly?  I understand that a GM can change anything they want but I feel like there is a huge difference between house ruling something because it makes sense to you and just not knowing the rules.

To me rules matter, if you are not following a set of rules (includig house rules) then you are not playing a game. Rules are the bounds of limitation that make everything that happens within them more real. Anything happening outside the rules just feels like a mistake and ruins the balance of the game. I'm not talking about arguing with the GM, only citing siteing rules when they are applied incorrectly. If he understands the rule and just doesn't like it, I don't fight that.

Examples:

Having the pilot roll piloting planetary when flying a starship in atmosphere. 

Letting critical injuries expire untreated

Exceeding the two manuver limit

assigning the wrong amount of difficulty  for specific range bands

----------------------------------------------------------------

I feel like if I don't say something we wil get into a habit of doing these things incorrectly and it will throw off the balance of the game. Where do you draw the line between someone citing an inccorect rule and rules lawyering? I want to play the game the right way without pissing off the GM.

 

 

Edited by Shock and Aweful

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My advice is chat about it with the GM afterwards, agree a "go along with GM at the time and look up rule later" approach. There are some rule cribsheets for stuff like combat difficulties, so GM shouldn't even have to get involved in those. Unless GM is asking for advice, then game table is not usually the best place to correct them.

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The definition of a Rules Lawyer seems to be flexible in its severity, but generally implies someone who stops the ongoing story quote rules or otherwise halt the action over rules.  It's not always a bad thing, but in general people want the story to keep flowing.  It'd imagine the threshold is different at every table.

I wouldn't label you a rules lawyer based on what you'e posted - there's rules for a reason and this is all just make believe if there's no structure around it.  That said, I definitely agree with the others that it's worth having a chat with the GM alone, another time.  Maybe the other players feel the same?

At the end of the day, this is affecting your enjoyment of the game, and that's the entire reason to play, so that's why it's widely called Rule Zero.  If you don't have that, what do you have?  It really sounds, from your example, that the GM is just making minor mistakes.  If you do know the rules well enough to quote them without a book, it might be advantageous to offer yourself up as a reference when you play - I've done this when my pals have GMed and they've done it when I have.  It's one thing to interrupt the GM and another wholly to answer their question in the stream of action.

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Here is the thing: I'm a GM who follows the "rule of cool." I know the rules as written fairly well and run without any house rules, but I'm willing to bend the letter of the law for a good story or to keep things moving along, and sometimes I do miss something. Yes, rules matter, but they aren't perfect and are intended to facilitate rather than impede everyone's fun.

That said, you don't sound like much of a rules lawyer to me. Here is the number one rule: do not interrupt play to argue rules, especially minor ones. Unless it is a major rule with significant character-story stakes attached to it right then and there, wait until the session is over and then discuss it with your GM. You'll note I didn't say argue with your GM. Discuss it with them.

Diplomacy is key. Not just in gaming, but in life. They may react strongly and come off like a "dictator" because you are interrupting, arguing, and publically correcting them mid-game. And, that can be, even if you are 100% right about the rules as written, quite rude. It may turn out that you and your GM have different play styles and irreconcilable differences. Or, you may discover that they are open to you helping them learn the rules out of game.

I agree with the suggestion that, if you know the rules well enough to quote them without stopping the game to look stuff up, you can offer yourself up as a resource. I've been the rules reference at a table. Just remember: you are offering to help the GM during the game and are not there to police them or second guess them. When I'm running a game I have zero objections to a player saying "hey, doesn't that rule work like...?"

I do, however, have little patience for players who make it feel like we're in a power-struggle or a constant game of one-upsmanship. Or who simply do stuff that throws off the flow of the game. That is tiresome and results in a player not being long for my table. Its not whether you are right and they are wrong. Its whether or not you effectively communicate in a way that builds bridges and brings results. Here is a method that might help: LERI.

Ergo: Listening, Empathy, Rapport, Influence. If you want to communicate with the game master you have to talk to them. You need to listen to them in order to understand their position / viewpoint so that you can build a rapport with them through which to influence how the game runs. If you approach them as a friend and seek to reach a mutual understanding that works for both of you as opposed to walking in like adversary you have a much higher chance that they will be willing to listen to you, too.

You see, that's the reason that rules lawyers are upopular: they are adversarial. Everything is a legal case that has to be argued and won. Its about winners, losers, and control. Outside of the courts, in the real world, that isn't how most things work. Especially when its just a hobby people are sitting down to socialize over and have some fun with. Negotiate, compromise, and have fun.

Edited by Vondy

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2 hours ago, Shock and Aweful said:

To me rules matter, if you are not following a set of rules (includig house rules) then you are not playing a game.

Putting on devil's advocate hat:  but are we playing a game, in the traditional sense?  We're not playing Risk, or Monopoly, or any other game with a defined set of rules, a timeline, and a winner.  I prefer to think of it as cooperatively telling a story, and if the rules don't facilitate that, then **** them to heck.  And I say that as "the rules guy" at my table (whether playing or GMing).

Anyway, as noted by almost everyone, you have to take it up away from the table.  I have a rep as the rules guy, but I don't interrupt and only offer info if asked.  And I do get asked, I have to assume because I don't interrupt.

 

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  1. It's the GM's first time playing the game.
  2. The other players are new.
  3. FFG Star Wars core rulebooks are organized like a scrapbook that's been taken apart in a wind tunnel and put back together blindfolded.
  4. The GM's rule misinterpretations aren't too game-breaking.

I think you should cut the GM a little slack. If his misinterpretations were mostly in favor of the players, you might consider laying off him entirely and finding a new table.

Edited by wilsch

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I get changing stupid rules, but most of what you're saying seems like it's just a matter of him not knowing the rules.

In that case, I really think that it will be fine if you try to help him out during a session. Don't waste everyone's time arguing, but it never hurts to correct a rule or two. If he wants to disagree with you, let it go and continue. But if a 5-second correction can get things right, then that's probably fine.

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In so far as being a "rules lawyer" in a negative context goes, that's the guy that stops the game dead to argue some minutiae about the rules, and won't let the game proceed until they're acknowledged as having the "correct" interpretation, and will badger if not verbally assault the GM and players until they get their way.

Now that doesn't mean they're always right, as I've encountered rules lawyers that would go out of their way to twist the wording of the rules to benefit them, using selective interpretation of the words written; case in point would be a rules lawyer player bring the game to a halt to argue that the Pierce weapon quality means you automatically inflict said quality's value on a successful, no matter how high the target's soak value is.

From the sounds of it, the OP isn't doing any of that.  My suggestion mirrors that of others, and that is to have a conversation with the GM, off to the side and away from the table, occurring either before or after the session.  Do NOT try to force this conversation in the middle of the session, because even if you are right and it's of benefit to the entire group, all you're going to do is frustrate the rest of the table and draw the ire of the other players.  And if it's a new GM, confronting their decisions in the midst of the game too often may well cause them to decide it's not worth the hassle and just stop GMing entirely; you might have the satisfaction of being in the right, but since there's no game, what does it matter?

That being said, there are times when I will question a GM's interpretation of the rules in the midst of a game, especially if it seems said interpretation comes out left field, but I also remember to do two important things: One, I ask the question tactfully, phrasing so that I'm not directly challenging their decision and most certainly not quoting page numbers.  And Two, after the GM answers the question, no matter what the answer is or how I feel about it, I let the matter drop for the rest of the session.  As a GM myself, I respect that once a GM has made their decision on how a rule is interpreted at their table, I acknowledge that decision and get back to playing the game.  I may talk with the GM about said decision later on, but that's usually more to get a better handle on their reasoning process for making that decision.  I've had such conversations where the GM later admitted I was in the right, and they'll keep it in mind for future sessions, and I've had conversations where the GM's reasoning made such perfect sense that I adopted it for my own games.

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To my way of thinking, this is what defines the Rules Lawyer, apart from just a player or GM who knows the rules of the game adequately, well, or backwards and forwards along with all permutations, interactions, official errata, and unofficial but common "patches":

The Rules Lawyer actively seeks to use the letter of the rules to their advantage at all times.  At its mildest, this manifests as using abilities, traits, etc. that were never intended to interact to support one another, but there's no rule specifying they can't interact, to achieve mildly (or overwhelmingly) overpowered builds (the Rules Lawyer is related to the Munchkin in this way).  At its wort, the Rules Lawyer will downplay or "forget" small, little-known rules aspects that curtail the Lawyer's fun, while using every single obscure piece of written information to hamper the GM's efforts to create challenging, meaningful encounters, or even disrupt the other players' ability to function by having laundry lists of "why you can't do that" ready at all times for all circumstances.  Essentially, at their worst, no one at a table with a Rules Lawyer is allowed to have fun but them.

That's a completely different animal from being familiar with the rules and quoting them as needed when questions for how to resolve certain situations arise.

For instance, I played in a D&D game (started in 3rd, moved to 3.5 when that was released), where the DM was another "story over rules" kind of guy, which didn't generally hamper us too much.  However, one memorable event occurred when one player (himself a total Rules Lawyer and Munchkin) decided to go off the rails and solo an encounter the DM hadn't intended for us to even meet for several more sessions, involving an enemy Druid (I think).  When the player cast a spell requiring a Will save, the DM didn't have proper stats for the enemy yet, so decided his Wisdom was an average 10.  At which point it was pointed out to the DM that a Druid with 10 Wisdom can't cast any Druid spells, which somewhat undermines the point.  The player who pointed this out wasn't being rude or condescending (though this was the most notable instance of this DM not being fully familiar with the 3/3.5 ruleset, and there were some complaints regarding that, but his storytelling skills were top-notch), he was just pointing out an oversight the DM made while gaming by the seat of his pants.  In my book, that's no-harm-no-foul.

As another for instance, I run a New World of Darkness (or Chronicles of Darkness, if you prefer) game that's on indefinite hiatus.  I allowed the players to pick pretty much any of the gamelines to create characters from, so we were running around at one point with two vampires, a Mage, a Promethean, and a Geist.  I straight-up told all the players that memorizing all the rules for all their various powers, abilities, innate resistances/immunities/weaknesses, and so on was impossible for me, and I would be relying heavily on them to be familiar with the rules for their own splats to communicate to me what they could and could not do.  It worked far better than it had a right to, honestly.

I agree with a lot of what's been said here:  talk to the GM in private, see if he would rather play more loosely, or if he would be grateful for the assistance of a rules expert at the table.  If the former, then you either have to clam up and accept the loose application of the rules, or find a new gaming group.  If the latter, then you and he can inform the other players that they'll be relying on your rules expertise going forward.

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6 hours ago, Shock and Aweful said:

I play with a group of guys who are all new to the game including the GM. The GM doesn't seem to put much time in to reading the rules of the game but I do and I watch a lot of online games. The GM is often getting things wrong and I have corrected him in the past but he doesn't seem to like to be told anything and is quite the dictator GM. This is his first time playing this game so its not like he has a set of house rules its just a lack of knowledge. I'm afraid of being labeled a "rules lawyer" because it's get such a negative connotation to it in the RPG world but rules do matter to some expent for the balance of the time.  What seperates a rules lawyer from someone sighting a rule that has been handled incorrectly?  I understand that a GM can change anything they want but I feel like there is a huge difference between house ruling something because it makes sense to you and just not knowing the rules.

To me rules matter, if you are not following a set of rules (includig house rules) then you are not playing a game. Rules are the bounds of limitation that make everything that happens within them more real. Anything happening outside the rules just feels like a mistake and ruins the balance of the game. I'm not talking about arguing with the GM, only citing siteing rules when they are applied incorrectly. If he understands the rule and just doesn't like it, I don't fight that.

Examples:

Having the pilot roll piloting planetary when flying a starship in atmosphere. 

Letting critical injuries expire untreated

Exceeding the two manuver limit

assigning the wrong amount of difficulty  for specific range bands

----------------------------------------------------------------

I feel like if I don't say something we wil get into a habit of doing these things incorrectly and it will through off the balance of the game. Where do you draw the line between someone citing an inccorect rule and rules lawyering? I want to play the game the right way without pissing off the GM.

 

 

Correcting someone on being in error isn't rule lawyering.  Rule lawyering is looking for exploits in the rules, the infamous "but it doesn't say I can't do that."  or taking fragments of a single sentence from a paragraph to support doing something that runs completely contrary to what the paragraph in total is explaining.  Essentially looking for back doors around the rules.

Sounds like your GM just isn't up to speed on some of the rules.  I agree with everyone else though, deal with it out of session, not during.  I never stop and research stuff at the table.

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Below is a link to one of the better System Cheat Sheets I've found, it says Force and Destiny but the rules are the same as EotE so don't concern yourself about that (in fact just don't print the cover sheet). What I would do in your situation is print one for each player and the GM, and when you hand them out say something like "I found this awesome cheat sheet..." and leave it at that. Make a point of referencing it whenever you build a dice pool for your PC or and when they use a Skill etc. Don't force anyone else to use it (some will some wont), don't use it to show how someone has got it wrong at the moment. If your GM is any good at what they do they will use it as well, at least some of the time. If they don't and they continue to make basic rule's errors that affect play (at least in your opinion) and it drives you nuts then find a new GM.

Human beings are hardwired to react poorly if they feel that they are being treated unfairly which is why rules exist. The biggest issues I've found that ruin games and cause arguments is when the RAW is bent or broken or the Rule of Cool is used inconsistently or unfairly (or at least seemingly unfairly). It's easy to mistake this negative reaction from a player to what seems like an unfair ruling by a GM and arguing about it using the RAW as rules lawyering. It's part of the GM's job to be fair and consistent with their rulings which is why they need to be fluent in the RAW. The Rule of Cool shouldn't be a crutch or substitute for a lack of knowledge, it should be a choice made from knowing that you are breaking or bending a rule because the effect adds to the fun for everyone at the table. /rant.

star-wars-force-and-destiny-cheat-sheet.pdf

Edited by FuriousGreg

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PS. on the Rule of Cool. 

Quite a few GM's use the RoC a lot and there is nothing wrong with this as long as your group is okay with it as well. If a GM is finding that a player or several players react poorly or don't react positively when they do use it then they might be using it arbitrarily or unfairly, or just too often and should probably consider changing how they use it. GM'ing is a privilege and a good gaming group is a gift that shouldn't be abused. The rules of each game you run are as much for keeping you honest and fair as the GM as it is for the Players.

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10 hours ago, Shock and Aweful said:

I play with a group of guys who are all new to the game including the GM. The GM doesn't seem to put much time in to reading the rules of the game but I do and I watch a lot of online games. The GM is often getting things wrong and I have corrected him in the past but he doesn't seem to like to be told anything and is quite the dictator GM. This is his first time playing this game so its not like he has a set of house rules its just a lack of knowledge. I'm afraid of being labeled a "rules lawyer" because it's get such a negative connotation to it in the RPG world but rules do matter to some expent for the balance of the time.  What seperates a rules lawyer from someone sighting a rule that has been handled incorrectly?  I understand that a GM can change anything they want but I feel like there is a huge difference between house ruling something because it makes sense to you and just not knowing the rules.

To me rules matter, if you are not following a set of rules (includig house rules) then you are not playing a game. Rules are the bounds of limitation that make everything that happens within them more real. Anything happening outside the rules just feels like a mistake and ruins the balance of the game. I'm not talking about arguing with the GM, only citing siteing rules when they are applied incorrectly. If he understands the rule and just doesn't like it, I don't fight that.

Examples:

Having the pilot roll piloting planetary when flying a starship in atmosphere. 

Letting critical injuries expire untreated

Exceeding the two manuver limit

assigning the wrong amount of difficulty  for specific range bands

----------------------------------------------------------------

I feel like if I don't say something we wil get into a habit of doing these things incorrectly and it will through off the balance of the game. Where do you draw the line between someone citing an inccorect rule and rules lawyering? I want to play the game the right way without pissing off the GM.

 

 

The bolded one is the only one that would "get my panties in a bunch"

The first one seems situationally reasonable 

The second is just a screen wipe (moves the game along/it happened offscreen) so yay!

Using the rule of cool could justify the third, but I wouldn't let players move more than twice (i.e. the third maneuver would be using a talent/drawing an item)

 

So while you aren't  entirely unjustified, I'd say you're being a rules lawyer.

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In my mind the rules provide the level playing for resolving uncertainty. If the GM and the players don’t agree on how uncertainty is resolved and the GM resolves via fiat then players are going to feel cheated.

Fair action resolution is the key GM skill and must be taken seriously.

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In my group, for a while I had a guy who I would define as a rules lawyer. He would often try to bend the rules just slightly purely to benefit himself, not the group as a whole. There were even times his reasoning for doing something was literally, "Well the book doesn't say I can't, so that means I should be able to." 

So to me a "rules lawyer" is someone who will stop the game to argue every rule no matter how small, and it only ever benefit the "rules lawyer" not the group as a whole.

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2 hours ago, HistoryGuy said:

In my group, for a while I had a guy who I would define as a rules lawyer. He would often try to bend the rules just slightly purely to benefit himself, not the group as a whole. There were even times his reasoning for doing something was literally, "Well the book doesn't say I can't, so that means I should be able to." 

So to me a "rules lawyer" is someone who will stop the game to argue every rule no matter how small, and it only ever benefit the "rules lawyer" not the group as a whole.

I have never understood why GMs let players do that. I would simply point out that if they dont like it they can take it up later, and if they get all lawyery, as in the "Well the book doesn't say I can't, so that means I should be able to." arguement, I would just point out that I can give them as many setback dice as I want to for any reason I care for.

Someone who plays against the rules set or the GM need to be broken of that habit or need to be driven out of gaming. I am not saying you should never question rules, but like most everyone here, I think you shouldnt stop the game to argue. It ruins everyone elses fun including mine

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19 minutes ago, korjik said:

I have never understood why GMs let players do that. 

I was new to RPGs and GMing at the time. I honestly thought that was just a part of it.

It also doesn't help that I'm a very non-confrontational person. It took me a little while to figure out that, to some extent, as the GM its my way or the highway. In the position of this particular player however I agree with the post that said to talk to his GM outside of a session. And maybe even volunteer to GM a mission and see what the other players think.

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I think this is a dangerous way to exist as a GM, to repeatedly demonstrate to the players that you are not going to ever put in the time to actually read the rules and instead want to run a game that has little in the way of non-fiat structure. As a player who has a better grasp on the rules and likes them, your enthusiasm is probably going to erode each time the GM shows this ignorance to the rules.

This game has a culture around its rules if you watch online games or listen to the podcast then you get a feel of how good it can be to use the game as it was built. FFG benefits from this because it allows them to sell material, but for the players I think it enhances their sense of value of the system. I run some fairly controversial house rules, but even I understand (and feel) the love of this system in RAW form.  

Edited by Archlyte

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@Shock and Aweful

In my opinion, the easiest way to go here is to make your role official. Ask the GM whether he would accept you as the "rules guy". I've been at tables where this worked pretty well - the GM concentrates on the story and when he isn't sure how to abjudicate something, he just asks the rules guy who can usually quote the relevant part or at least find it relatively quickly. Everyone gets a consistent ruling and it's barely slower than the GM just making rulings by himself.

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Something else that occurs to me is that RAW typically allows you to try something whether you have a skill or not. Having ranks in a skill just means you get to roll proficiency dice (Y) instead of ability dice (G). As such, if a character doesn't have a skill there is (generally speaking) no reason to allow a player to substitute a related skill. A character with Agility-3 and no piloting skill still gets to roll 3G for their piloting checks. You can always be liberal with boost dice if the circumstances warrant it. And if the skill is highly technical, you can add setback dice for not having the skill. An honest mistake by a new / inexperienced GM is is to be expected, but applying proficiency dice from the wrong skill is not a fudge I would intentionally allow. Rules mastery takes time, both in terms of reading and experience. Players should be patient and tolerant as a new gamemaster is learning the ropes. But, rules mastery is nontheless in the gamemaster's job description. The effort has to be made.

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On 6/23/2018 at 5:16 PM, Vondy said:

Rules mastery takes time, both in terms of reading and experience. Players should be patient and tolerant as a new gamemaster is learning the ropes. But, rules mastery is nontheless in the gamemaster's job description. The effort has to be made.

While I'm personally all for GMs learning the rules and would ask that GMs for my games do so, I'd generalize it as: "The gamemaster's job description is making sure everyone's having fun." If they've got no rules knowledge and their entire table doesn't care that they're making stuff up as they go along (and I've seen groups that work just like that), there's no problem. Of course, when players want more consistent rulings in line with the rule system, the GM should make the effort to learn them (or, as mentioned in the previous post, outsource parts of the job to someone else).

Edited by Cifer

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Shock and Aweful, you are a rules lawyer.

So am I.

What makes you a Rules Lawyer is that you see the rules as an important framework for fairness, continuity, and understanding the meta functions of the game  world.

Not every GM is going to put in the effort and consideration necessary to understand or to judicate rules fairly.  As a rules lawyer, you'll find these people to be very frustrating to play with.

There are a couple of things that you can do about this: 

- Learn the Operatic version of the theme song to "Frozen."

- Push the envelope!  If the GM isn't applying the rules fairly, figure out just how far you can bend the rules.  If the GM is real lax with the "Rule of Cool," just make sure your world breaking actions sound "Cool."  It's an interesting intellectual exercise seeing where these limits are . . . from week to week.  :ph34r:.  Years ago, I had a GM who was REALLY bad about following the gaming rules and we tried to talk through the differences.  He threw the "Rule of Cool" excuse and speed of play-ability excuse as well.  It was frustrating to watch the lack of consistency and the very unfair application of in game decisions.  These games would also bog down, because the players (not just me) didn't really understand what was permitted from week to week.  I eventually took this approach to "Push the Envelope."  In time the GM got frustrated with the outlandish stretches that I was making and when he would ask me "Don't you see how this request is inappropriate?!?!?" my response was always, "No, I don't." :D  When there are no consistent application of rules there are no rules.  Only a GM Fiat being driven over rocky Italian hillsides & mountainous switchbacks.  Sometimes to illustrate absurdity, you must rely on being absurd. :wacko:

- Get your own group.  It's a common frustration, but watching someone else doing something poorly when you KNOW you can do better is . . . frustrating.  With effort, you should be able to find a group of like minded players.  This is what I did and so far so good.  My players seem to prefer a GM who is knowledgeable of the rules and consistent in their application.  Where I get into trouble is when I don't apply the rules fairly (and yes, I do make mistakes like that still.  And when I do make those mistakes, I'm happy to correct myself in game).

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Rules-lawyering in the RPG context is the act of using the letter of what the rules say - and, especially, what they don't say - to violate the spirit of the rules.

Correcting the GM when he misapplies the rules isn't rules-lawyering. Saying, "there's nothing in the rules that say I can't destroy the Death Star with a baseball bat" is. 

Dice get rolled when it's dramatically appropriate. You don't roll dice to drive the car to the store to buy a gallon of milk. You roll when you ramp your car off a bridge onto a barge floating along the river below.

A GM who doesn't accept the above isn't a good GM. I'm often wrong about rules when I GM and I'm gracious when I'm corrected. A GM who gets defensive needs to have a discussion with you or you need to leave the group.

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