my sword glows blue in the presence of rules lawyers

Around the end of last year, I Twittered

Just read this on Board Game Geek: "My sword glows blue in the presence of rules lawyers." I kind of want that on a T-shirt.

I figured that it was very unlikely that I was the first person on all of the internet to combine gaming archetypes with Lord of the Rings references, so I went online and searched for what would be my favorite T-shirt, right up until the moment something new was my favorite T-shirt.

I was astonished when I found nothing on all of the Googles, and decided it was a moral imperative that I correct this giant hole in the potential geek wardrobe. I made a Twitter poll about it to be sure, which received a couple thousand affirmative responses. My course was clear: this shirt must be created … but how, exactly? I have lots of design ideas all the time, but I am pretty horrible at making them into actual things that have anything in common with what I see in my head.

This time, though, I knew how to make it happen, so I picked up the phone …

<Wayne's World Flashback Sound>

A few months earlier, I’d had a lunch meeting with some guys from Jinx, who were interested in collaborating with me to turn some of my crazy ideas into awesome T-shirts. Some of the stuff Jinx makes is just too loud for my taste, on account of me being an old man and everything, but they had made some things I really loved, like Choose Your Weapon, the RPG skeleton, and the Failboat. They also seemed like really nice guys, the kind of people I could feel good about doing business with, which is damn important to me.

I knew that Jinx had already done shirts for The Guild, so I asked Kim and Felicia if they were happy with their experience. They had nothing but good things to say, so I told the guys, “If I come up with some design ideas, I’ll get in touch.”

</Wayne's World Flashback Sound>

Flash forward to the discovery that this combination of Lord of the Rings and fantasy gaming, which delighted me, did not appear to exist in T-shirt form. (If you see where this is going, award yourself 2d6 electrum pieces and 1d4-1 XP.) I called Sean at Jinx and said something like, "Hey, I have a design idea that at least two thousand people agree does not suck. Want to make it?"

I described it to Sean, and he set his team into motion. It took a long time and a lot of back and forth to get exactly what I saw in my head onto a T-shirt I would want to wear. It was a fantastic collaborative process, though, and the end result is certainly better than anything I could have come up with entirely by myself.

I was so happy with the design they produced, I began actively thinking about other things I’d like to see on T-shirts, and a partnership was formed that officially launches today, with this:

My Sword Glows Blue in the Presence of Rules Lawyers

My Sword Glows Blue in the Presence of Rules Lawyers, by Wil Wheaton in collaboration with Jinx.

We have developed four different designs together so far, and we’ll release one a week for the next month, until they’re all available. Assuming that people like them as much as I do, we'll make more, including a few short runs that only appeal to the 2% of people who live in the same exact weird slice of the Venn diagram that I do.

Now, I have an idea that I think could be crazy awesome, and a fun way to celebrate the release of this T-shirt: tell me your favorite rules lawyer story in a brief comment, and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win the shirt I’m wearing in that picture, as well as one in the size of your choice that doesn't contain trace amounts of my dead skin cells, suitable for eventually creating an army of clones. I'll also pick my favorite story, and read it on Radio Free Burrito next Monday.

I'm sure it goes without saying that we'll have a Rules Lawyer T-shirt meetup and group photo at GenCon, but I'm going to say it anyway: we'll have a Rules Lawyer T-shirt meetup and group photo at GenCon.

129 thoughts on “my sword glows blue in the presence of rules lawyers”

  1. And I just noticed that you are offering the shirts in bigger sizes. That rocks beyond words, most people wouldnt think to do that. Thank you :)

  2. Yeah, I specifically talked with Jinx about that; they get it, because they sell a lot of stuff to our people :)

  3. Gah!!! You’re making me hate myself for not going to GenCon this year! I picked such a bad year to run out of money to make the trek.
    Awesome first shirt, and I’m looking forward to the others!

  4. Heh. I don’t have any good rules lawyers stories, just the mental image of the Wee Free Men from Pratchett (their swords glow blue in the presence of lawyers, no rules necessary) gaming…
    Oh, and a filk song.

  5. Well according to the rules, Space Marine terminators aren’t wearing terminator (or indeed any) armour. Which means when hit by a certain type of grenade that was house-ruled for a big game (pre apocalypse) the rules lawyer argued that they could’t defend against it as it was airbourne and would all die instantly.
    The other players in this game were a-ok with the rules lawyer sacrificing 15 of his own terminators because he vouched that the rules stated it.
    its not great but my gaming groups have always been pretty lawyer-free

  6. The Situation: A fighter (40 feet up) was fitting a bad guy (10ft up) in a tree. The fighter decided to jump down and attack the bad guy. Now, the DM being a rule lawyer, had to look up the falling damage, and then decided to compliment things by having his guy set for a charge. So, that sent us to the books on how to combine fall damage with setting against a charge damage. This of course, as we are proud nerds,brought out the calculators, as we had to get the physics just right. We then tried to figure out the tensile strength of a branch to make sure that the branch the bad guy was standing on would hold them, and if not, what the combined fall damage would be and if there was crush damage to apply.
    After wasting half of our gaming time (having a blast the whole time), we called Wizards, and they just laughed at us.

  7. The Necessity of Cure Minor Wounds
    While trying to mesh Pathfinder with 3.5e, we’ve had several cross-arguments with spells and such. One player felt that the spells in Pathfinder overruled the spells in 3.5e because of the no-limit-on-cantrips rule.
    After exhaustive research and contemplation… plus a few side-quests involving a Dwarven temple overrun by demons…
    The DM sided with me in leaving Cure Minor Wounds as a great after-battle cantrip, saving spells for later encounters.

  8. So here’s what’s unclear – did you come up with that line, or just read it somewhere? If the latter, then who gets author credit for the cool line?

  9. I don't recall where I saw it, just that it was somewhere on Board Game Geek. Maybe it was in a forum .sig or something? I'm not sure. Whoever came up with it, though, is a national treasure for all nations.

  10. The only rules lawyer story we’ve had was a guy we played with who carefully crafted his 3rd edition D&D character out of prestige classes from a whole PILE of source books. The result was literally his god’s gift to man: he leveraged the “Follower” feat in some weird way where he had something like 100 “henchmen” at level 10. Moreover, he introduced the elements one at a time so it just kind of snuck up on us that he “suddenly” had this massive cult following.
    Our DM, ever the crafty one, chose to accept it rather than try to invoke rule zero and get into an argument. Instead, the DM made the reasonable claim that if you were famous enough to make 100 fanatical followers, you’d also have made some enemies. The assassination attempts from various opposing churches were numerous, but not nearly as bad as the mobbing from in-game “fangirls” swarming him at every town we were at. He had to sit out any stealth mission because people would recognize him, and he was ALWAYS the first target for enemies due to his fame (and being a cleric-type doesn’t take well to also being forced into the meat-shield role).
    The rules lawyer eventually gave up and wrote off his character as assassinated so he could roll a new character, one that might wouldn’t draw fire from every opponent ever ;]

  11. in 4E, I play a shaman. The rules lawyer just throws his hands up in frustration, because everything about my character is a “special case” scenario. I’ve got a conjuration, but it takes up a space. it has reactions like a creature, but has to be attacked directly (no AoE) You don’t know how many feats have had to be taken simply because the DM sends elites and brutes after my Spirit Companion just because it pisses him off. and after he kills it, it just pops back up :)
    I like making Rules Lawyers cry :)

  12. In another vein of crossover, I feel like something could be done with an image of Darth Vader and something about “Force Damage”. Also, that t-shirt is awesome. Alas, my only rules lawyer story is not fit for sharing in a public forum.

  13. In a D&D campaign I was playing in several years ago, we had a guy trying to argue that his lvl 3 rogue totally wouldn’t have fallen for the trap that just killed him because his int was 16 and he would have been smart enough to look for traps.
    DM said ‘You’re right, he would have been smart enough to look for traps, too bad you didn’t figure that out BEFORE he died.” Insert more arguing/whining. DM had a lightbulb moment and immediately agreed to retcon the trap and let the guy make a search roll (despite much protest from the rest of us).
    Shortly thereafter, the rogue ‘coincidentally’ finds a Tome of Clear Thought +2. More protesting from us. Then a booming voice calls out for Jim-Bob, and a redneck tree ( runs in, sees the rogue with a book, and screams in rage “You made a book out of Jim-Bob!”
    DM says “save versus horrible humiliating death, DC impossible”

  14. I don’t game, but I can appreciate it’s Stamp of Geek Approval. *makes note to purchase a couple of these for her D&D friends*
    Jinx is amazing. I was combing their site a month or so ago and came upon THIS:
    I dress up like a pirate and I knit. The logic was irrefutable. I simply had to have it. Oh yes. It had to be mine.
    I wore it to my guild’s Knitting Retreat and the response was awesome.

  15. I am appallingly short of rules lawyer stories, but I got all warm and gooey when you said “2%” and “venn diagram” in the same sentence. However, I did see where you were going with this, so I’ll take my 2d6 electrum pieces and 1d4-1 XP and crawl back into my cave…

  16. Very nice!! I love Jinx too. I came across them a few years ago when I saw the “I AM NOT A GEEK! I’m a level 12 Paladin.” shirt and starting laughing so hard that I had a hard time telling my husband about it. I told him I was ordering it for him and he looked at it indignantly and said “But I’m a level 11 Paladin.” It was sold out, so I told him not to worry that by the time it arrived he would be level 12.
    He normally has an excellent sense of humor, but still just thinks of the shirt as a serious statement of fact.
    I will be ordering yours soon!

  17. When I first met my friend a few years back, he was in the National Guard. He’d played D&D since he was a kid, just like me, but had a exhaustive knowledge of the rules (along with various aspects of history and *every* aspect of military history). I wouldn’t call him a rules lawyer by any means, because he was never pedantic about it. He was more of a rules encyclopedia.
    Fast forward a few years, he gets his discharge due to injury and decides to go to school. Law school.
    Fast forward again. He’s passed the bar. Now I game with a man who has encyclopedic knowledge of D&D rules and a law degree. He is, literally, a Rules Lawyer. Yet, ironically, he is still never ever a dick about the rules. Therefore he is probably the coolest Rules Lawyer in the Universe.

  18. Love the shirt, but had to sign up just I could post this story.
    My D&D group decided to run an “evil” campaign a few years ago. This just meant we had to pick an alignment below true neutral. So, our resident power gamer just had to make a dark knight type fighter complete with black spiked armor. For several encounters, he kept arguing that he should be able to grapple the monsters and give them bear hugs of death from the spikes on his armor. So finally, the DM had had enough and decided to bring a Dire Lion into our next fight which started the encounter by jumping out of the bushes onto the pointy death knight. True to his desires, he was able to damage it by grappling and the lion was dead…impaled on the spikes. At that point the DM said, “You are know pinned underneath roughly 2000 lbs. of dead kitty. Good luck getting out.”

  19. Wil: Great looking shirt. Artwork looks great.
    Special thanks for making it available in larger sizes, (I buy 3XL and pray that they are long enough as 4XL hangs like a Ringling Bros. tent).
    [Note to T-Shirt manufacturers: Add 2″ to the length of all your XL & larger shirts!]
    I look forward to seeing the rest of your designs!
    ps: When you coming back to Vancouver?

  20. What a wonderful partnership. Ever since the Woot.wheaton Bohr dice I’ve hoped you’d do a little more designing. I’ve worn mine nearly to bits (it’s the official DMing shirt.)
    We had a serious rule lawyer in our group for years. We ended up calling someone getting ruined in an epic way being “Legier’d (lay-jay-ed).”
    I know tabletop game stories never translate, but I’ll try. We had been playing a campaign of Fantasy Hero (1st edition, this was 1995, I believe) for several years. To this day it is the coolest and longest RPG experience I’ve ever had. The GM was a tremendous story-teller, and excelled at letting the story (and most importantly, the characters) drive the action while the skeleton of the rules held it intact. One of our players played a giant-like character named Fezik. While part of our group (myself included) were only about 12-13, he was my friend’s dad, in his early 60s, and in a wheelchair with diabetes. Each week, he got to be the strong, giantlike badass he had been earlier in his life. But he played the character with such an amazing mercy and softness that it gave great weight to every session.
    As part of the final encounter, we were desperately trying to escape a base that was being destroyed by our nemesis. Fezik had managed to magically become incorporeal and with an amazing speech, urged the rest of our heroes to escape while we could, and that he would take care of the villain while the base was destroyed around him. A character who had been nurtured for the better part of two years moved into the space occupied by our nemesis and removed the charm that made him incorporeal, sacrificing himself to kill the big bad evil guy and saving our hides in the process. It was a terribly emotional moment at the table. Fezik was gone. The largest chapter of our story had ended suddenly and tragically, and the defining member of our party was only a memory. There were very real (and quickly hidden) tears at the table.
    Until Legier suggested that the villain should get a saving throw to avoid death by matter recomposition. The mood lightened as we shouted him down. The GM fudged a roll behind the screen to appease him, and we still laugh about it when we happen to be in the same town again.
    Mr. Harrelson (the man who played Fezik) passed away a few years later. But when I think of him, I don’t see him in the chair. I see him as the heroic red-headed giant warrior who really would have sacrificed anything for his friends and family around that table.

  21. There was one time that I was a rules lawyer. It was in a game of Munchkin. Now, I had initially learned the game amongst friends without reading the rules. Eventually I did read the rules though, and learned that when giving cards away due to having too many, you must give them to the lowest-level Munchkin. (Charity!)
    The next relevant person the rule applied to turned out to be me. She was discarding an extra Wizard card, and I wouldn’t mind charming monsters for a while. So I invoked it. And proceeded to drag the game into what was, among other things, the first fight with my girlfriend. “This is the way we’ve always played it,” she argued from tradition. Then she gave the nasty accusation, “You just invoked it because it benefits you.” I snarkily admitted that invoking obscure rules for one’s benefit was the point of Munchkin (since I was accused of it), and insisted on my due with the knowledge that it’s only fair if others invoke the rule now.
    Needless to say, I lost the argument that game, with an agreement to use it in subsequent games. But by then I realized the ogre I’d let out. Now I learn the rules, but make sure the obscure ones are known before the game, and only argue against other rules lawyers.

  22. Very nice work! Can I just get a cardboard cutout of that exact picture to stick in my window to keep the neighborhood kids off my lawn?

  23. My usual D&D group (at present with myself and one other member in the group for 10 years, two more at 8 years,) had just started a D&D Birthright campaign (awesome setting, look it up,) when 3E came out. We spent about two weeks painstakingly converting our then-2nd-level characters to 3E, and another two weeks working the wrinkles out of how to convert the Birthright setting to 3E.
    About a year / 11 levels in to our campaign, rules lawyer #1 noticed that we’d been playing “multiple attacks” all wrong. We had been substituting ANY single action for each attack. So our Wizard was casting two spells per turn, the Cleric had just gotten to a third. (Apparently that’s a no-no in 3E.) The even-bigger-rules-lawyer DM just looked at him, looked in his book, went “huh.” Followed by “Well, we’ve been playing it this way for 11 levels, might as well keep playing it that way. Rules lawyer shot down. Hard. By a normally VERY rules-lawyery DM.

  24. Anecdote #2, sadly, I’m the rules lawyer in this one.
    Later, in a 3.5E campaign, our sorcerer’s player was out for the night. I was tasked with playing his character. He had wisely emailed his Word Document character sheet (I use 3-10MB Excel spreadsheets filled with tons of autocalculations for every conceivable circumstance I find myself in.) Through the course of the night, I noticed a few cases where he had done math wrong. The most egregious being that he had been following the Wizard spells-per-day table instead of the Sorcerer table. Which meant he didn’t have the 4th level spells yet that he thought he had.
    I made the mistake of bringing it up to him the next week. (In my defense, I did it discretely, without making the DM aware of his mistake.) He made a big (only semi-serious,) stink about my finding flaws in his character sheet, and I have never since been allowed to take over for a spellcaster. (Which I count as a blessing, really.)

  25. I have a million rules lawyer stories. Instead I express myself in Haiku, not for the prize itself, but for the adventure
    In spring, rules lawyers
    are not unlike Denny Crane
    only with more shat*
    *not the good kind of shat

  26. My first experience with some rules lawyering and teleport ended rather amusingly. The party had discovered that they could combine some spells to make this absolutely ridiculous teleporting combination that was wrecking havoc with my dungeon designs. Rather than just ban it outright, I warned them not to use it blindly, since “you don’t always know what the next room is going to look like.”
    One rules lawyering player insisted it didn’t matter, due to some strange combination of x, y, and z. The rules say he can teleport, so damn it, they’re going to teleport, even through a door that nobody could see through. I asked him the immortal words: “Are you sure?” His eyes were filled with disdain as he said he was and teleported himself and the entire party into what he thought was a door connecting to a long hallway.
    Turns out it was a broom closet.
    The party was scattered in all different directions as they were shunted through the rock to appear in the nearest available space. One player ended up popping out next to the main villain of the dungeon, entirely alone, and swiftly died two rounds later. The instigator of the shenanigans expired during the “1d6 damage per square of damage as his body was shunted back through a few hundred feet of solid rock.” I ruled that he was permanently entombed in the rock wall and he had to roll up a new character.
    No player ever abused teleport again.

  27. Last Friday night our massive damage, range-attack ranger, who is DM for another game we play, ended up prone at the feet of a baddy and was fairly disgruntled when the rest of us questioned the realism of using a longbow having just been knocked prone – he was probably “correct” in that there is no rule against it, but it certainly seems like there should be one.

  28. Once I was playing a swashbuckler with a friend of mine, who played a pretty amazing half-orc fighter. While on my ship, we were killing some time, and I was playing my pennywhistle when I realized Gurg had nothing to do. I offered the whistle to him for some entertainment, at which point he held it to his lips, but hesitated.
    “I…I *can’t*”, he says.
    “What? That’s crazy; pennywhistle’s easy, just blow!”
    “No, really-” my friend says out-of-character. “I really cannot even try. You can’t make a perform check untrained.”
    Role-playing ends; discussion regarding exactly how any character ever earns ranks in performing anything if you’re not *allowed* to touch an instrument or attempt to dance/sing ensues.

  29. I may be an old woman-geezer (yes, some of us are reading you, too) but I think I grok (yes, that old) the concept. Back in the day when I was a PokeMom, I used to thank the FSM that I had birthed a boy, because it seems to me that the biggest rules lawyers in the world are six year old girls. No-one can declare with the same total assurance, “YOU CAN’T DO THAT, I’LL TELL!” like a little girl with her hands on her hips.
    /sideshow bob shudder.

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