Friday, January 27, 2012

Learn the Rules

I think I am going to put this out as a table tent in front of me when I GM from now on.  As much as it may apply to me at times, I do make an effort.  And I know I don't avoid learning the rules in an effort to get away with things.
     Something happened on Monday that upset me.  Not a lot, but enough to tweak my enjoyment of judging a Pathfinder Society Scenario (read: being the Game Master for an roleplaying game, in this instance Paizo's organized campaign for Pathfinder).  And because I wasn't aware of the issue until we were about 40 minutes into the session, I didn't want to cause a scene and call the offending player out.
     Most of the players had 4th level characters (with one having a 5th level), so nobody was new to the campaign or the system.  In fact, I am nearly positive that all the players at the table had been to the Monday night games at Chicagoland Games before.  As such, I was not expecting any kind of problem.
     Now, I have gotten a little lazy in my attitude towards Pathfinder Society play.  I don't always update my records right away, I don't closely follow the ongoing story, and I don't dig through the rules to find all of the combinations the players are sure to want to abuse so they can play the most powerful version of their characters as possible.  But where I have truly gotten lazy is in how I handle the players before the session starts, probably because after eight years of judging organized play I have begun to think that experienced players should be responsible enough to play the game without cheating.  Or, if they feel the need to cheat, they will at least cheat on dice rolls and not the basics of the rules.
     Then there was the player with the 4th level Cleric.
     I had judged him before, a couple of months ago.  I remember him not really knowing the rules, which was okay at the time.  We are trying to get new players to show up – both because we want more people to help grow the campaign and because we want them to buy stuff from the store that lets us use the space – and that means that some people will start playing without really looking at the rulebook.  Fine.  He had problems with some of the core things about his character, but they were corrected as we played the scenario.  At the end, I very politely suggested that he go over the few areas about which he seemed to be completely unfamiliar.
     I didn't think that would necessarily solve the problem, but I thought it would be a step in the right direction.  Lo and behold, he shows up for the Monday session with the same character and proceeds to make even more egregious mistakes in regards to his character.  And I want to be clear I am not slamming somebody's play style.  Sure, it bothered me that he wanted no roleplaying, just roll playing (meaning that he just wanted to roll the dice for everything his character did), but because he seems to have come to Pathfinder through online play, I kind of expected that.  No, this player consistently misunderstood nearly every rule in regards to his character.
     He didn't want to memorize his character's spells ('I can just cast anything on my spell list, right?').  He wanted to add his character level to his channeling.  He wanted to roll the wrong dice for his channeling.  He would stop the action to look up a spell description on his phone (which does happen, but he waited until it was his turn to even start the search and that would stop the game dead for at least a minute), but he only did that a few times.  Not carrying around a rulebook (or a printed copy of his spells), he seems to have opted to keep his spellcasting to a minimum.  Again, that can be a fine play choice but he could have helped his fellow players by actually being familiar with what his character could do.
     And I don't mean as a 4th level Cleric.  I mean as any type of Cleric.  Or spellcaster in PFS. 
     I corrected him on his belief that he could spontaneously cast his spells (which I had done before), but he continued in his belief that he did not need to prepare his spells or make a spell list.  He got a little frustrated that he couldn't do whatever he wanted (I think this had as much to do with him wanting a more combat focused experience and I was trying to gives as much RP time as possible, so he may have had some legitimate frustration with my style).  But he has a 4th level character.  That means he must have played him – because I'm pretty sure he hasn't been judging – at least nine times.  To be fair, that is about five times too many to have any uncertainties on the basics of the rules, and at least three sessions too many to not know the basics of what his character can do (you know, by the actual rules).
      It pissed me off.  I was already in a bad mood because I forgot to pack a book for my train rides to and from the game (meaning I missed out on over two hours of reading I could have accomplished), but that anger was directed at myself.  I was hoping that the players would be able to give me as good an experience as I was planning on giving them.  I like to think at least three of the five players honestly enjoyed the session.  I enjoyed a lot of it.  But not the guy who shows up to play the game without any regards to playing by the rules.
     I can stand a small amount of cheating.  I don't view it as all that different from the people who try to min-max the hell out their PCs to get the best advantages they can find.  But cheating usually means having an understanding of the rules one wants to find a way to get around.  I respect that a whole hell of a lot more than showing up without knowing what one is doing in what is essentially a session not for beginners.  I see that as wasting my time and being discourteous to the other players.
     Just learn the rules, man.
Okay, I know it is in the Star Wars alphabet, but I think it conveys the thought just as well.

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