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Drama Mamas: How to rein in a rules lawyer

Drama Mamas Lisa Poisso and Robin Torres are experienced gamers and real-life mamas -- and just as we don't want our precious babies to be the ones kicking and wailing on the floor of the checkout lane next to the candy, neither do we want you to become known as That Guy on your realm.

I have a confession to make: I've always loved The Carpenters. This has nothing to do with this week's letter.
Dear Drama Mamas,

My fiancee and I run a small guild comprised of real-life friends. Though tiny and very casual, we've accomplished quite a bit, and personally knowing each other we are very open to assist one another, offer suggestions and take critiques. We play together almost every night, and meet several times a week to RP, play war games and TCGs usually in my fiancee and I's apartment. This has been the routine for about 5-6 years now. As great as this is, we have a friend that "sucks" the fun out of not only in our games but WoW.
I'll call them K. K likes to stop a game match and recite the rules (e.g., "OK, you'll be making an illegal move.", "That's not how you do it." or opens a rulebook on the table). Often times, K recites them, and still misunderstands them. Politely we correct them, but usually registers as an attack toward K. K gets very defensive. Granted, in certain games, like a tabletop war game, if the mini is on the edge of terrain where it can fall over, we allow the player to move the mini forward to where it is steady. Never have we done anything horrifically game-breaking or heavily in another's favor, and we'll call the person out if they try. K knows this, and is still stubborn about the rules. K also likes announce the most mundane news stories and details and gloats. A lot. We all listen and acknowledge them, but it's especially annoying when we are trying to get something done. If something does not go K's way, K typically pouts or on some occasions refuses to talk to anyone for weeks at a time, then appears out of no where as if we have forgotten. As much as we tolerate K's attitude, we've had moments of annoyed and aggravated arguments between a friend and K. Unfortunately, this has also transferred to WoW.

K likes to play their shaman, DK tank and hunter. In Wrath we would run randoms with our guild and join PUG raids (usually weekly raids, we're very casual.) Often K would play their shaman healer, and often times the tank would die, I would have to help heal on my balance druid or we would wipe. We would dread when K was on his healer, and then I chose to heal, which bothered K and they decided to take the tanking role. K was OK at holding aggro, but the instance would often take at least twice as long as it should. As a hunter K would often do far less damage than they were able to do. K has gem and enchanting issues. We noticed this and offered to help K. As usual though, K remained stubborn, and we had a fight within guild chat. In rage, K was kicked by a friend from the guild for about a day and a half. [...] If K loses a loot roll, K will often explain why they need it more than the person who won the loot. [...] Despite all this, K is still very helpful crafting items for us and helping level professions and we're happy to do the same for them.

We have been trying to tolerate their actions, since bickering would get us nowhere, and we have been trying to prevent any further drama. It is reaching another breaking point, and this is especially bad since my fiancee and I wish to recruit new players into the guild. I honestly believe we are not ready to recruit due to not being able to get to the bottom of K's issue, which K refuses to discuss (e.g. pouts, does not sign on, etc.) Any suggestions would be wonderful; my fiancee and I love your column. Thank you!

Sincerely,
Tired Boomchicken

Drama Mama Robin: Tired, you have yourself a Rules Lawyer. Every circle of gamers has one, has just gotten rid of one, or is waiting for the next one to emerge. If a gang-o-geeks happens to have two, strife occurs. There can be only one. (Unless one becomes the master and the other the apprentice.)

In my opinion, there is only one way to deal with a Rules Lawyer: Tell him who's boss, and if he has a problem with that, he can move on.

It really is that simple, but I'll get more detailed for your situation and wag my finger at you a bit. You've been way too nice all these years! Rules Lawyers don't have to be funsuckers. They can be fun, a good resource and can even grow to the point of laughing at their own foibles right along with you. But you have to be firm or else they will walk all over you, like K has with you.

Whether you are in the role of game master, guild leader or liaison to the PUG raid leader, you have to be clear that while a certain amount of private debate will be allowed, the leader is the boss of K. If he's got a problem with that, he knows where the door is -- both physical and virtual. (I'm going with "he" for K to avoid pronoun trouble.) The conflicts that happen in your apartment will be more difficult to deal with, but you can actually handle the WoW one rather easily without any confrontation at all.

Because you are looking to add new members to your guild, now is the perfect time to write up a guild charter -- complete with detailed rules -- and have all current guildies agree to it. To be clear, these rules will not just be the ones to keep K in line but will be the code of behavior you wish all of your guildies to follow. Talk to each guildie privately and individually to iron out the kinks of the charter.

Do the same with K. Explain to him that you are setting up these rules to make it easier for everyone to avoid drama once strangers join the guild. Be clear that since you will be holding the newbies to these rules, everyone in the guild will have to follow them as well. There's no need to single him out. (This is also a great time to address any other issues you've been having with your friends and they with you.) Once you've all agreed to the new charter and the ramifications of not following the rules, K will have a new set of rules to be lawyer-y about.

It will be up to you and your fiancée, Tired, to be firm with K about following these rules. And if it comes down to kicking K, do it. You've been giving him the power to suck your fun for long enough.

Drama Mama Lisa: K is a rules lawyer, all right -- and he's also a social misfit. Unfortunately, your years of tolerating him have done nothing but reinforce his self-centered, monopolizing behavior. It sounds as if you've finally reached the end of your rope. Good for you, and much good for the future of your group and your guild.

Decide whether you're going to try to enlist K's cooperation by talking to him directly or whether you're going to let new rules do the talking for you. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

Talking to K directly allows you to lay down an objective bottom line -- and you should. Let him know that all the OOC news and bickering over rules are turning off the other players and that you as the GM have decided to put a lid on both those things. Enlist his rules lawyering tendencies by asking him to help keep everyone on track. If he's as antagonistic as you say, he's likely to take personal offense -- even if you stay objective, which I recommend -- and you might lose him as a player and a friend. If he does agree to the new approach, steel yourself for zero tolerance in your very first gaming session; if you let things slide now, you'll be right back where you started.

If you choose to let the rules do the talking for you, things won't be so clear. K is likely to become angry and argumentative when he notices that the new rules are being used to tighten the screws on his lip. Then you'll probably end up needing to have The Talk with him anyway -- so be prepared. Still, it's a good idea to have all these rules in place before you recruit anyway.

By the way, in either scenario, don't allow a return if K storms out or guild quits. Say it with me: "Oh gosh, K, we thought you were gone! We filled your spot already. We're full up." Practice it now.

Either way you go, you have to come face-to-face with the admission that gaming is less fun when K's around and that giving him the boot might be the best solution in the long run. It's never fun to ask a long-time player to move on -- but if nobody's having fun simply because he's around, what's the point?

Dodge the drama and become that player everyone wants in their group with a little help and insight from the Drama Mamas. Remember, your mama wouldn't want to see your name on any drama. Play nice ... and when in doubt, ask the Drama Mamas at robin@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Drama Mamas

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