RPGuide
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RPGuide

Rules buddies

Most role-playing games have a lot of rules. Not all — there are some truly excellent rules-light RPGs out there. But games like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder or any World of Darkness game have books upon books of rules, many of them quite complex. So it can be a challenge to learn all or even most of them.

Not everyone has the time or inclination to read three different game manuals, or the memory to hold onto that much information. It’s a lot for anyone, much less anyone with memory or attention issues. Chances are good that the Storyteller knows more of the game mechanics, but they already have so many jobs to do. They’re busy enough that I really don’t want to add more work to their plate.

So what if you’re just not good with rules, or don’t know them? Unless you’re a table entirely of new players — in which case, congratulations; you’re about to have a ton of fun — chances are good that one of the other players is more of a rules nerd, or even a rules lawyer! A rules lawyer is someone who knows the rules inside and out, often using them to maximize combat damage or some other game effect. An impolite one can drive a Storyteller absolutely nuts. But that’s not what we’re talking about here.

Art by Tithi Luadthong

In this case, someone who knows the rules better than you do is your new best friend. If you can, sit next to them at the table, or have a private chat open with them if you’re playing online. While the Storyteller is busy doing their job, you can (quietly) confer with your rules buddy about how a spell works, falling damage, or what exactly that level of your vampiric Discipline does. That way, when it comes to your turn in the combat, crisis or any other type of scene using rules, you’re ready to go. You don’t have to ask the Storyteller a lot of questions about how your powers work, and don’t hold up the whole table while you figure out your move with this new information.

Now, all of this is predicated on having someone besides the Storyteller who knows most of the rules. Even if your table isn’t made up of entirely new players, maybe the most experienced one is only on their second campaign, or is learning a new edition of the system. If a rules buddy isn’t available, that’s alright. It’ll slow down play as you all learn the ropes, but everyone has to start learning at the beginning. It might be worth discussing during a table talk and you can all be on the same page and take it slow together.

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Erica Lindquist

Writer, editor, and occasional knot of anxiety for Loose Leaf Stories and The RPGuide.