Guest Editorial by Adam: Common Sense Rulings

Adam from the WAAGH Drill Teef Blog is back with a guest Editorial!

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My hat goes off to anyone who takes the 40k Community helm in both hands and steers through these troubled waters.  It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice to month after month and year after year devote precious time, capital, and health to support our community. This gratitude comes with an understanding of the difficulties in dealing with the vocal and often arrogantly opinionated web presence of 40k fans.

A great many of us love going to events to meet up with far-flung friends and roll dice.  I’m far from a veteran at this sort of thing, but I’m already extremely stoked at the prospect of pulling up to at least a dozen tables at Adepticon only to throw my Greenskins into a hail of enemy fire from a bunch of new friends. Thank you for making this possible.

There has been a lot of talk lately of how important it is for the 40k Community, going forward, to be more heavy-handed with the rules of the game. Let’s face it, adjudicating someone else’s rules system is only one part of all the responsibilities an event organizer has on their plate. Considering the risks of running a major tournament, I’m sure that rules debates can seem small or even petty to someone who could easily lose their livelihood if a more fundamental issue comes up in the preparation process.

This is why I applaud the Independent Tournament FAQ team and their efforts. It’s a great way to gather a consensus on these adjudications because it allows people to share the burden. There has been some negativity lobbed their way in recent months, but at the end of the day, all that truly matters is that the game goes on. Even if you disagree personally with one or two rulings, at least we’re all playing the same game.

However, since we seem to be at a precipice these days, on the verge of changing the way the 40k Community looks at what is “official” and which rulings should be made on a number of issues, I wanted to add my voice to the din of public opinion.

When RaW Has No Right Answer

I would like to offer up the concept of ruling on the side of common sense rather than Rules as Written in a few specific situations.

The first situation in which a Common Sense Ruling should override Rules as Written is when there is no clear choice between decisions. This includes blatant rules contradictions such as when the “Out of Range” FAQ came out and the rules seemed to tell us that wounds both MAY and MAY NOT be allocated to models which were in a unit that was, in part, within range.

Another similar situation is when rules seem to have scope issues. These are rules which don’t clearly follow the guidelines for specificity (or, using the terms from the rulebook, basic vs. advanced). A lot of times, it’s the ambiguity of the phrase “as normal” or something similar which causes the problem. One specific situation where lack of scope causes logic issues is the ability (or lack thereof) for models to assault Walkers when they can’t hurt said walkers. Also included in this category is whether vehicles may take saves from Grav Weapons.

When RaI Seems Like a Fallacy

Which is always.  Because it is.  Okay, that’s a little too absolute.  I personally feel that Rules as Intended is fraught with fallacy.  There is no true way to divine intent.  There is no certainty with this approach and there can be no quorum because it’s all based on knowledge which simply does not exist. This makes it tough to argue RaW vs RaI because at least RaW has some substance to it.


When the Cinematic Approach Seems Like the Only Way

A lot of us in the community love to argue RaW like a pair of lawyers on a bad procedural drama on TNT. This is fun and all, but I don’t think it’s all that helpful. If, at the end of the day, the RaW conclusion hurts the game, makes no logical sense, or adds a great deal of pointless complexity, then it should be ignored. I know, dogs & cats… living together… mass hysteria! It’s not the end of the day if we rule on the side of common sense in these situations.

Note that ruling with the Cinematic approach isn’t meant to break clear rules.  Sometimes the rules are certainly very abstract and can’t hope to perfectly represent real combat physics.  Common Sense Rulings are meant for situations which break a common person’s brain to think about any other way.

For example, how many hits does a void shield take when you put a blast marker over 8 models inside? How about 6 models? 10? Let’s just agree that 1 hit is the only answer that makes any kind of sense.

Sometimes when I offer a solution like that, the response is, “Why is that the only answer that makes sense… show me in the rules where you can draw that conclusion.” The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to show someone in the rules whether or not your common-sense ruling holds up to the RaW or not because your approach is different. The shot from the blast hits the shield before it hits any models. It’s a shield. That’s what it does.

We do not have to break the game in order to adhere to RaW. If we do that, the bad rules win and everybody else loses.

And that’s what I’d like to see going forward. If we’re going to all be playing under a community FAQ, I think it’s important that the rulings make sense to as many people as possible. I know that there are a bunch of folks who hammer away at their desire for rules purity down to the letter.  I know that some folks, particularly my own peers of the nerd variety, absolutely cringe at the thought of an arbitrary ruling based partially on a cinematic approach.

It’s just that I can’t imagine strict RaW is how the majority of players would like their games to be played.   I deeply hope that the mindset for all of the 40k Community decision-makers will always be to do no harm and let common sense always prevail over RaW and RaI.

Players Taking Responsibility

Sometimes we just have to take this stuff in our own hands.   At the end of the day, we pull up to a table and something happens which we have to gird up our grown-up loins and make a call about.

For example, I attended the awesome Da Boyz GT.  In my fourth game, I asked my Space Marine opponent if he was going to shoot at the Gretchin holding my quadgun on the roof of my Bastion with his Thunderfire Cannon. It being Hammer & Anvil deployment with Night Fight in play, he said, “I can’t. I’m outside 36 inches.” I knew what he was talking about. It hadn’t been covered in the FAQ, but I knew it was a contentious one and I thought that the ruling he was using was dumb.

“No, it’s Barrage dude. I don’t care about that interpretation. Go ahead.”

“Are you sure? That’s how the guys at my store make me play it.”

“That interpretation is fucking stupid. Shoot my Gretchin.” He shot and the Blast promptly scattered off the table.

At that point, my opponent knew exactly what kind of game we were about to have and it was one of the best games of the tournament. We had a great time.

We, as players, are more than capable of adjudicating this stuff on our own. Don’t call a Judge and don’t do what Jervis “I hate everyone who plays this game” Johnson says and roll it off like gentlemen. Instead, let the story on the table unfold in a way that feels right.  Just look at the situation and do what makes the most sense for that situation, even if it’s to your detriment. In most cases, the ruling should be in favor of what makes most sense anyways.

I Promise You’ll Like It… It Feels So Good…

I implore with everyone involved to let Common Sense rule your decisions.  It’s not always the easiest or even the most error-free way to do things, but at least you’re not just blindly following the words of people who actually admit that it’s up to us to fix their rules, not them.


About Reecius

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12 Responses to “Guest Editorial by Adam: Common Sense Rulings”

  1. Fagerlund March 23, 2014 5:14 am

    Well, the problem with “Common Sense” is that it is equally arbitrary as “RaI”. Lets take your example.

    “For example, how many hits does a void shield take when you put a blast marker over 8 models inside? How about 6 models? 10? Let’s just agree that 1 hit is the only answer that makes any kind of sense.”

    Why is it the only thing that makes sense? A blast weapon isn’t necessarily one single shell. It could also be shrapnel – and then suddenly each model hit under the blast seems like a good approximation of how many shrapnel bits hits the shield.
    “Common Sense” suffers from the exact same problems that “Rules as Intended” does – because they’re actually the same thing, just different interpretations of what’s written. For a competitive game RaW is the ONLY thing that makes sense – because then it is equal for everyone and not based on who is a good sport and who is there to have fun. That’s why this Community FAQ seems like a good idea to me, if GW can’t make clear rules someone else has to.

    With that said I personally play with “Common Sense” rules, because I play with friends. Our rule of thumb is usually: “Does it kill stuff? If the answer is yes then we allow it”. And that’s fun for me. But in a competitive setting what is really needed is clear rules.

    • Tirelion March 23, 2014 6:25 am

      I agree, even In the night fight situation, I think that not letting the barrage weapon fire outside of 36″ is still the right call. It seems to me that the reason the thunderfire wouldn’t have shot is because, he’s not really sure that there is even a target there to shoot as it is too far into the darkness to make any sort of range or directional determinations. Isn’t that what searchlights are for? I think that even “Common Sense” is subjective and people will often still not feel the same way about it.

    • Adam March 23, 2014 7:25 am

      The community FAQ is great. I love it. But it doesn’t need to adhere strictly to RaW. All that matters is that we all play by the same rules, not that they forsake common sense for the sake of RaW “purity”.

      Common Sense may be arbitrary, but at least its based on some kind of consensus that certain things make sense and fit into the game in a certain way where RAI is just trying to divine what another human being was thinking when they wrote the rules.

      • Fagerlund March 23, 2014 11:28 am

        Yeah I agree there as well, but this consensus on Common Sense is different depending on where you are from. Common Sense might not be the same thing where I am from as where you are from… so in a tournament setting where people might have travelled far… yeah you get my drift.

        Steve Hughes, Australian comedian, had a rant about this. As he grew up in Australia and later moved to England he was very amazed by English peoples desire to put warnings on everything. Like if there was a big hole in the ground you’d always find a huge sign with “WARNING! Don’t get close to the hole, you might fall in!”. In Australia he said, they called it Common Sense to step around the hole, and should you fall into the hole you were a clumsy idiot.
        My point here is that someone obviously felt those big signs were needed, even if it seems like it’d be obvious to most people that it’d be dangerous to fall into the hole and it should be avoided… And that’s why I wrote that it’s the same side of the coin as RaI, while the semantics are different you kind of end up in the same spot.

        While I would like to think that it’d be possible to let people use their Common Sense to solve these rules issues, I mostly see it leading to arguments that could be completely avoided if the rules were clear – ie RaW. I am sure that a lot of people would have great games using the mentality you write here (I know since I do it myself!), but I’m also sure that the urge to win for some people would ruin it for everyone else (how many stories haven’t you heard about “that one guy”?).

  2. NIK2286 March 23, 2014 7:18 am

    I feel like most people are missing the point of this article.
    The phrase: “Don’t be a dick.” Comes to mind, but I can’t be certain. But according to the above posts, that’s just my opinion so in no way could it possibly be true.

    Hmmm. Seems as though if you come to any conclusion that isn’t explicitly spelled out letter for letter, you’re wrong somehow.

    And people wonder why we’re losing players to other systems

  3. RyanL March 23, 2014 7:33 am

    I’d guess that when most people say “Rules as intended” they mean exactly the same as you mean when you say “Common sense”.

    It’s perhaps a fallacy to claim that we know the thought process of the person who wrote the rule but we can make an informed and educated guess based on existing and similar rules and with the hope that they were also using common sense.

    Even then, as others have pointed out above, what one person sees as 100% common sense, a perfect reflection of real life and clearly as the author intended may not be in agreement with their opponent sees – what happens then? Argue about it or perhaps just roll off. 🙂

    • Adam March 23, 2014 7:44 am

      Yeah. When two people are playing a game together and there is no agreed FAQ, and they can’t agree on the adjudication, then it’s truly a matter of just rolling it off, unfortunately. Though, when there’s a previously agreed-upon FAQ which makes a good effort of addressing issues and weirdness in the system, that helps immensely because that conversation has already been had by the organizer before the game started and by attending everyone has agreed to abide by those rulings.

      For the matters which are not perfectly clear such as the “what about submunitions?” argument involving the Void Shield, I would agree that there can be many explanations for different interpretations. Anyone can divine myriad excuses as to why something may have an exception. Our People, in fact, do love banishing absolutes from a debate… this is a good thing… living in a world of absolutes is no way to live. However, at the end of the day, someone has to make a call that makes the most sense.

      One shot to a void shield would be the most common cinematic effect from the majority of blast weapons. Indeed, many blast weapons which use submunitions sometimes do actually have multiple blasts and even if they didn’t, its the culmination of all submunitions which generate the blast effect… they certainly don’t do multiple hits on one model when they just hit that one model. Best to treat the shield almost like a transport with models inside and do one hit on it. That’s probably the best anecdotal rule to use in this situation especially considering the properties of the void shield.

  4. iNcontroL March 23, 2014 9:21 am

    interesting article. I agree mostly with the spirit of the article and it is closer to how I think/play but hilariously like all things WH40k I think there are strong arguments on the other side… yet another debate to be had 🙂 Well said though!

  5. bonesaww666 March 23, 2014 11:42 am

    Drink Beer.

    Throw Dice.

    Have a Good Laugh.

    Always vote for the Cinematic approach, you’ll find that this may be the best 40k has ever been.

    Straight up.

  6. michael March 23, 2014 11:53 am

    Well common sense would dictate that the space marines can ‘see’ that far because of advanced targeting equipment and all that crap…

  7. Smuffle March 23, 2014 2:28 pm

    I tend to make as much sense of RaW as possible, however I agree that when the rules are ambiguous that the cinematic approach is muccchhh better. Blast against a void shield? Hell, I say D6 hits, and you don’t have to target a unit, just shoot the shield. That’s cinematic to me and isn’t shit for the player who finally has a use for his vanilla Leman Russ battle tanks, and the other guys unit doesn’t get one shot if the shields go down. Fair to me.

    Additionally, running tournaments at my FLGS, I’ve had lots of people complain about Heldrakes ability to ‘buttflame.’

    Well, I can only see that GW ruled this in a cinematic way. The Heldrake is a freakin’ dragon. Logically, as it flies over it’s pitiful prey it would spew fire all over them, rake them with it’s claws, and continue forth. Because the rules state the phases as Movement/Shooting/Assault, GW ruled that instead of complicating crap and shooting in the movement, the Heldrake can simply have a 360° fire arc, which makes complete, logical, cinematic sense to me.

    Bonesaww, has the right idea to me. Even my tournament gaming group would prefer Beer, Dice, and Laughs. That sounds like a wargaming bar…Amazing idea…

    Anyways, embrace the cinematic approach!

  8. Leth March 24, 2014 5:56 pm

    I care less about the individual rulings and more about consistency. Many of these minor rulings have huge impacts on what lists I might bring. So I would like to hear about them in advance. If the major tournament organizers can gather together and hammer out a FAQ that is standardized it would be fantastic, even if the rulings I dont agree with. Just so I know what to expect.

    I am not saying this would be easy in any way shape or form, but I feel it would go a long way towards helping standardizing the hobby that will filter down to the individual shops and then eventually everyone will be playing the same game