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Archlyte

Why GM Rulings are better than Rules

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SWRPG is admittedly a new-school narrative style game. In the more recent games there has been a trend toward Narrative-style games, and a trend toward games that can be more easily capitalized on as a product (Proprietary Dice, Rules that suggest RAW is always right and that the books must be purchased to play the game at it's full capacity). This is somewhat in opposition to old school games that were not great money-makers for their publishers but could be played with minimal investment such as Traveller which used normal six-sided dice and had few books initially. 

This Star Wars license must be expensive for FFG to maintain so I don't begrudge them their designs that were intended to sell their product and to make players reliant on the official stuff. In fact I feel they have made a quality product that is beautiful and worth the money. Considering all the piracy that goes on it's understandable that the price point is high because they have to adjust. 

But

A more recent trend I have noticed in players is that they tend to be really prolific and litigious rules lawyers. The game says there is a rule for this and a tree for that and you need to build your character out of the official Legos. There is nothing to stop you from doing otherwise and people often do, but I notice that many of the people I have played with or discussed the game with ascribe to the hierarchy of: Rulebooks > GM. 

I know that the books themselves in many places dispel this, but nonetheless more than any other system when you stray from the official rules you get player emotional episodes. I'm not talking about big deviations from the rules either, just rulings based on GM adjudication of the situation. 

I feel that the GM has to be able to rule on the situations that occur and it is largely the players job to react to those rulings rather than try to get them overturned or challenge them in the court of RAW. Assuming for the sake of the argument that the situation isn't some gross violation of the spirit of things in either direction, it would seem to me that the GM should have deference. Players who challenge you are attempting to have Narrative Control, and while the game does give that to the players in the dice, a situation of egalitarian Narrative Control by committee would in my opinion result in something unwieldy and likely to please no one.

To me Rulebooks are the tools by which the GM creates the simulation of the game space. The GM uses the rulebooks to define the constants of the physics of the game world. To me the GM is not a servant of the books though. The specifics of what actually happens are on the GM to describe, and even when Devs talk about this they seem to always bow to the idea that the GM has final say. But when a player does not like the answer or outcome and holds up the book description the GM loses some agency. The book says this is what happens. I find this to be a bad way to try and run a game. The guys in the FFG offices are not playing in the game, they are not on the ground in that session. They published a set of guidelines and the dice to give the players possibilities, but a local arbiter of the events is still necessary. What do you lean toward in your games?

Rules or Rulings?  

 

Edited by Archlyte

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I’m lucky in that, all but one of, my players has never read any of the Rulebooks so ultimately it’s my ruling that stands.

The guy who did read the rules GM’d a game for us for about 6 months to give me a break from my usual GM duties & a welcome chance to actually play a character! I’ve no idea how he was making up his dice pools but it certainly wasn’t using anything described in the rules... Rather than tell him he was doing it wrong I just let it run, it was his game after all & bottom line it was a great campaign which I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of.

Just goes to show... it’s the story that counts 😃

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Oddly enough, one of my Facebook "memories" today was a post called the Three Laws of the GM (modelled after Asimov's Laws of Robotics):

 

1) You shall create fun or, through inaction, allow fun to be had.

2) You shall always obey the dice and the rulebook, except where such results would conflict with the First Law.

3) You shall protect and nurture the narative and the simulation of your shared gaming experience, so long as such protection does not conflict with either the First or Second Law.

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3 hours ago, Dafydd said:

Oddly enough, one of my Facebook "memories" today was a post called the Three Laws of the GM (modelled after Asimov's Laws of Robotics):

 

1) You shall create fun or, through inaction, allow fun to be had.

2) You shall always obey the dice and the rulebook, except where such results would conflict with the First Law.

3) You shall protect and nurture the narative and the simulation of your shared gaming experience, so long as such protection does not conflict with either the First or Second Law.

Personally, I might switch 2 and 3 around, but otherwise I agree with the sentiment behind this.

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16 hours ago, Archlyte said:

To me Rulebooks are the tools by which the GM creates the simulation of the game space. The GM uses the rulebooks to define the constants of the physics of the game world. To me the GM is not a servant of the books though. The specifics of what actually happens are on the GM to describe, and even when Devs talk about this they seem to always bow to the idea that the GM has final say. But when a player does not like the answer or outcome and holds up the book description the GM loses some agency. The book says this is what happens. I find this to be a bad way to try and run a game. The guys in the FFG offices are not playing in the game, they are not on the ground in that session. They published a set of guidelines and the dice to give the players possibilities, but a local arbiter of the events is still necessary. What do you lean toward in your games?

Rules or Rulings?  

 

My gaming group has always had this view.  We use the rulebooks and the system and stay as close to the rules as possible but the GM always has final say as long as it's not completely out of whack.  We call it the GM Fiat.  We have a group of 10 players with most of them taking the GM chair at some point. We don't fall to the GM Fiat often but usually there is a reason that either pushed the story forward or prevents the story from going off the rails.

that's not to say that we, as players, don't always argue about it at the time but we've got a good group and if the GM says "That's my final decision" we usually go with it.

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11 minutes ago, Donovan Morningfire said:

Personally, I might switch 2 and 3 around, but otherwise I agree with the sentiment behind this.

Personally, I would tend to agree. If everyone leaves the table having had a fun session, no one should care about the minutiae of Page 237, paragraph 6.

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11 hours ago, Dafydd said:

Oddly enough, one of my Facebook "memories" today was a post called the Three Laws of the GM (modelled after Asimov's Laws of Robotics):

 

1) You shall create fun or, through inaction, allow fun to be had.

2) You shall always obey the dice and the rulebook, except where such results would conflict with the First Law.

3) You shall protect and nurture the narative and the simulation of your shared gaming experience, so long as such protection does not conflict with either the First or Second Law.

I like this. I believe in following the rules and dice because it stabilizes the experience, but I also think that there are situations that the rules can't always cover and fun is a great guideline. 

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13 hours ago, AceSolo5 said:

I’m lucky in that, all but one of, my players has never read any of the Rulebooks so ultimately it’s my ruling that stands.

The guy who did read the rules GM’d a game for us for about 6 months to give me a break from my usual GM duties & a welcome chance to actually play a character! I’ve no idea how he was making up his dice pools but it certainly wasn’t using anything described in the rules... Rather than tell him he was doing it wrong I just let it run, it was his game after all & bottom line it was a great campaign which I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of.

Just goes to show... it’s the story that counts 😃

Yes I agree totally. When I am a player the GM has the sacred seat. If I don't like it enough I just stop showing up but I don't complain about it or try to override the guy. To me that is unacceptable Player behavior. There is only one GM at a time to my mind (I have never seen a co-gm situation that I felt worked) and not ceding the authority to that person is essentially just being selfish and rude. You want to be the GM then start a game, otherwise be a good player or don't play. 

People sometimes need to learn this stuff though, so if someone is doing stuff like this from a position of ignorance then I have patience with them as I try to correct it. 

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7 hours ago, Darzil said:

Also, it's usually better to make a quick GM ruling than spend minutes looking for a rule. Can always look rule up later and correct for future sessions.

Totally agree. I ascribe to: do something, even if it's wrong :)

Edited by Archlyte

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