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Rules lawyer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A rules lawyer is a participant in a rules-based environment who attempts to use the letter of the law without reference to the spirit, usually in order to gain an advantage within that environment.[1] The term is commonly used in wargaming and tabletop role-playing game communities,[2] often pejoratively, as the "rules lawyer" is seen as an impediment to moving the game forward.[3] The habit of players to argue in a legal fashion over rule implementation was noted early on in the history of Dungeons & Dragons.[4][5] Rules lawyers are one of the "player styles" covered in Dungeon Master for Dummies.[6] The rules of the game Munchkin include various parodies of rules lawyer behavior.

Related terms[edit]

  • In the US military, "sea lawyer" is used in the navy[7] and "barracks lawyer" in the army.[8]
  • The term "language lawyer" is used to describe those who are excessively familiar with the details of programming language syntax and semantics.[9]
  • On English Wikipedia, a "wikilawyer" is a contributor who attempts to use the wording of policies to win disputes rather than reaching the goal of the policy.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fine, Gary Alan (2002). Shared Fantasy. University of Chicago Press. pp. 109–113. ISBN 0-226-24944-1.
  2. ^ Beattie, Scott (2007). "Voicing the Shadow: Rule-playing and Roleplaying in Wraith: The Oblivion". Law, Culture and the Humanities. 3 (3): 477–492. doi:10.1177/1743872107081432. S2CID 144615842.
  3. ^ Kaufman, Daniel; Kestrel, Gwendolyn F. M.; Selinker, Mike; Williams, Skip (2002). Book of Challenges: Dungeon Rooms, Puzzles, and Traps. Wizards of the Coast. p. 123. ISBN 978-0-7869-2657-2.
  4. ^ Swanson, Mark (January 1979). "Trapped: Four Years in the Gilded Hole". Different Worlds (1): 15–17.
  5. ^ Edwards, Ron. "A Hard Look at Dungeons and Dragons". The Forge. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
  6. ^ Slavicsek, Bill; Baker, Richard; Grubb, Jeff (2006). Dungeon Master for Dummies. For Dummies. pp. 135, 136. ISBN 978-0-471-78330-5.
  7. ^ Garner, Bryan A. (1995). A Dictionary of Modern Legal Usage. Oxford University Press. p. 512. ISBN 978-0-19-514236-5.
  8. ^ Herbert, Don (2007). 63 Days and a Wake-Up: Your Survival Guide to United States Army Basic Combat Training. Basic Training Book. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-595-42511-2.
  9. ^ "language lawyer". catb.org.
  10. ^ Jemielniak, Dariusz (14 May 2014). Common Knowledge?: An Ethnography. Stanford University Press. p. 98. ISBN 978-0804789448.

External links[edit]

  • Alex Loke. "Immoral Gaming". Places to Go, People to Be. Retrieved 2005-12-30. — Loke advocates Games Masters using rules lawyers to their advantage, by turning the other players against them.
  • "What Should I Look Out For When I'm Playing?". What is Role Playing?. Retrieved 2005-12-30. — a description of two “rules-lawyer traps": always insisting upon following the rules and believing that there should always be a rule to cover every situation
  • "The Rules Lawyer". Meta-Gaming Strategies. Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2005-12-30. — which lists the rules lawyer's two weapons as “an onslaught of evidence, textual readings, precedent, and reasoning” and the “dreaded filibuster”.