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When Nothing Makes Sense

Sep 16, 13 When Nothing Makes Sense

There is no such thing as the perfect game. No one set of rules is superior to all others or able to take into account every possible situation that will come up. As such, players and Gamemasters are likely going to find aspects of every game that they either do not agree with or that do not make sense to them. For me, this came up in Shadowrun with how they handle firing more than one bullet at a time – say, from a fully automatic assault rifle. Burst-fire and Fully-auto firing acts as a penalty to your target’s defense based on the number of bullets you send flying at them. This works great in combat, as it is easy to picture how evading a single shot is less difficult than avoiding a spray of shots all coming at you at once, but the issue I had was with firing at a structure, trying to destroy someone’s cover. Structures do not defend themselves, so there was no real point in firing more than one bullet at it.

So what can you do when things like this come up? Well, for me, there are three possible solutions. The first is in checking the game’s forums. As I discussed when talking about running a new game, the forums are a great place to get answers. Here, you will find a variety of discussions from other Gamemasters and players, many of whom might share your misunderstanding/interpretation of the rules and who have already started a thread regarding it. If not, start one yourself. This is also how players like us are able to get some response from official representatives from the creators of the game itself, as many of them act as forum administrators. For rules clarifications, this is what I would most highly suggest.

Secondly, talk it over with your fellow players/Gamemaster. Discuss how they see the rule you are having issues with and see what they think. Maybe they have some thoughts on it that you do not. Maybe they are reading it in a different way that will make more sense to you after hearing it. This happens to me all of the time. As with the Shadowrun example, this is exactly how I worked through it. The Gamemaster of my current game explained how, if a barrier was going to be chewed up by gunfire, it would not be acting as a barrier in the first place. Sure, your bullets are likely tearing chips out of it, but realistically you are not going to chainsaw down a barrier with an assault rifle. You would run out of bullets well before you did enough to that barrier to hinder the person hiding behind it. Is this completely realistic? No, but it works for the game, and that is really what matters.

Finally, if you really do not agree with a rule and could not find your answers either through the forums or your fellow gamers, what can you do? Change it. If you are the Gamemaster, then talk it over with your players and explain to them what you will change the rule to. If you are a player, ask your Gamemaster to make a call on the rule in question that you can both agree to. It is just a game, after all. It is meant to be fun, not cause headaches. This is what we call “House-ruling,” and my groups have a number of them for various games that we adhere to. Sure, they were not what was intended by the creators of the game, but so what? We are the one’s playing it, after all. This tends to be my last resort, as house-rules can often cause just as much headache as unclear rules, but it is always an option.

Remember, you have plenty of options available to you when it comes to a rule or mechanic you do not understand or agree with. How you want to handle it is up to you, though I would always recommend trying to understand/work with the rule as it exists before resulting to house-rules. In short, in my opinion, your best resource is always other people. Talk to them. We are all fans of this wonderful hobby of ours.

We do not bite. I promise.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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About 

Joshua is a freelance writer, aspiring novelist, and avid table-top gamer who has been in love with the hobby ever since it was first introduced to him by a friend in 1996. Currently he acts as the Gamemaster in three separate games and is also a player in a fourth. When he is not busy rolling dice to save the world or destroying the hopes and dreams of his players, he is usually found either with his nose in a book or working on his own. He has degrees in English, Creative Writing, and Economics.

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