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. I don’t play much video games but for rules lawyers, I was once told I was not allowed to dance for a live rock band DEEP FINE GRIND(that I knew), at the campus bar at NAIT Northern Alberta Institute of Technology School. “This is not the sort of place that allows dancing!” I was told by an angry female manager. “You have to sit in your chair and not move or you can get out of the club now!” Apparently I was too sexy in my mini skirt, boots, and a top that covered my entire upper body upto my neck with no cleavage and long sleeves. I looked too sexxy in my dancing that it desturbed her and her own sexual insecurities. I am repeatedly told that I do not belong at parties or functions if I choose to wear body fitting clothes that any normal person could wear, be confident and dance normally. My naturally cartoonish sensual physicality and volumptiousness of my upper body, something beyond my control and nothing to do with my personality or intellect, always seems to get me abused, and shunned and not given jobs, a sexual harssement target, and no female friends because they think I want to steal their boyfriends. Even the geeks I have a crush on can’t seem to give me a chance because they assume so many things and no one cares to look at the real me. It seems most days that when I walk outside and just be my fun self, I am told NO, you are not allowed to be your self here, because it intimidates us. No, you will not get a decent job with us because you look like a whore and you are known for hanging around bands(my job as a promoter). No I don’t want to love you because you must be a whore, so I won’t give you a chance. It may be frustrating to have people tell you what you can’t do in a video game, but image that if everyday people in your real life judge you by your looks and tell you that you are not allowed to be yourself, not allowed to work doing what you love, that just being you and minding your own business is a crime. Lucky I have enough stars as friends who can understand the separation felt from the vast audience of unaware, and to know where I belong, as a star myself. I try to not let those mean people intimidate me with their hate, to hate myself. I love myself, and I shine, despite the things they may throw at me. I make my own rules, based on the highest good for all. Then I stand my ground rooted in what I believe. Oh won’t you all stand by me and we can all win this game ;)

  2. Love the filk song! Reminds me of this guy I gamed with back in high school. The guy we picked up and stuffed, butt first, into one of those big galvanized tin trash cans that stand around high school halls.

  3. I like the picture. It looks like an eye! The lettering is perfect on the TShirt. I be the rules lawyer just to see your sword glow ;) Blue is a good color for you!
    And whoever told you you were old? Get outa the suburbs fast! Think how you will feel when you are ninety and dream about the sunny days of your forties and fifties!? You are still young and coming into the prime of your life! Think Feel Be Young, not old. Exercise your body until you feel great. Enjoy movement because what you don’t use, you lose. Find fun Physical ways to relieve stress. WHen is the last time you went surfing? or just soaked up the beauty of a sunset to regenerate your cells? You are only as young as you choose to be in your own mind. Come on, you are one of the lost boys in neverland, you are not allowed to grow up and get old! You must hold on to the chilldhood essence that is your true soul’d expression! Be confident and take care of yourself and do only what makes you happy! No comprimises to your hearts desire. I suggest you have more fun outdoors! xo

  4. I’m lucky enough to have two gaming groups right now. One is awesome and plays pretty much everything in character. The ideas and personalities all flow in a fantastic storytelling fashion.
    Then there is the new group I’ve been trying out….
    The person running the D&D game IS a rules lawyer. So much so that he actually modded the game so it’s not Wizards D&D. It’s a bizarre 3.75 game of sorts. Of course, since he made everything to be adapted to his liking, he is a massive rules lawyer to the point that it’s neither a strategy game or a role playing game. It’s a game of rules and situations. At the end of the first game, he asked me if I was actually going to be coming back to play. When I inquired if people normally quit after one game session, he looked sad and said it was known to happen.
    We still run other games, but I just couldn’t get into a non role playing RPG…

  5. So, brief background. In Steve Jackson’s game GURPS, you take damage until you are negative, at which point you roll a health check to see if you die. If you succeed, you stay alive. If you enough damage so that you are at more than negative your starting hit points, you take another health check to see if you die, and so on until you are at more than negative 5 times your starting health when you die no matter what.
    So, my story. I’m in a GURPS fantasy campaign and the party is chasing a group of slavers. The captain is a huge fop with a giant hat. To escape us he jumps down to his ship where he is caught by some of his sailors. We don’t feel we can safely follow him because jumping will get us shot to death. Then I remember his hat fell off when he jumped. So I ran over to his hat and yelled out his name while doing a dance on top of his hat. He yells to shoot me, but due to height I am out of range of their bows. So one enterprising sailor turns the ballista at me and fires (yes the giant crossbow designed to sink ships). GM rolls a hit, I roll a dodge and not only fail, but am 1 point from critically failing. GM looks at me and this conversation starts:
    GM: Sorry, your character’s dead.
    Me: Not necesarily, after armor it takes 72 points of damage to kill me.
    GM: But it’s a ship weapon.
    Me: I don’t care, roll damage.
    GM: But it’s designed to take out ships.
    Me: Then you should have the stats in the Vehicles book, roll damage.
    GM: Sighs.
    flipping of Vehicles book, a bunch of dice rolled.
    GM: Ok, after armor you take 70 points of damage.
    Me: Hah, I have 2 points left before insta-kill.
    GM: Yeah, but you owe me 5 Health rolls.
    Me: Ok. (Succeed at 4 Health rolls). Just one more. (miss last roll by 1).
    GM: See told you you were dead.
    Now in my defense, I am just as likely to correct a rule when it is not in my favor as I am if it is in my favor. If I can remember one of my “argue the GM into hurting me” stories I’ll post it as well.

  6. Congradulations on the new venture. I wish you the best of luck and success. I have placed my order today. My family and I are currently in the middle of an epic monopoly game and we make up our own rules to make it more fun. I currently own all the airports so I offer frequent flyer miles. See fun
    My best, Deb. Also, have you taken your wife dancing?

  7. Too true!! And yes, I do agree that there is a certain allow-ability when it comes to making combos with Magic. BUT, he was all about the “I know the infinite combo of X and Y and I will use it religiously because that’s the only deck I know how to win with.” That kind of combo whoreing.

  8. Oh man, I know the type! I know someone who built a deck completely around an infinite-turn combo with a Temporal Manipulation – on a Panoptic Mirror – combined with a Doubling Cube. Many of the cards in that deck are, of course, centered around searching for those 3 cards, and then all he needs is a 1/1 creature and he wins.

  9. Kind of a Rules Lawyer Story: I was GMing Tunnel & Trolls (I know… I know) and my anally challenged brother-in-law (lower case) was one of the players. The delving team entered a dungeon room that turned out to be nothing but a (red herring) bedroom. My ass-in-law decided that the dresser sitting innocently against one wall MUST contain treasure. When he attempted to open it, I made it clear that the group should move on. Each successive attempt failed and angered him more. He decided that there was a rule that: “That God-damed dresser has treasure and you HAVE to give me a way to get at it!” He then took a war hammer and smashed it to pieces. Consequently, his character was fatally impaled by a very large splinter. You see – I can be a rules Lawyer, too!

  10. My Rules Lawyer story comes from a Nascrag playtest a few years back. We run as many playtests as possible before GenCon so that things run smoothly at the actual convention.
    This story took place in the final battle, where our heros had been miniaturized and sent inside the young Prince to defeat the magical virus with which he had been infected. The battle had two parts, in one part the PCs had to fight a holding action against the rapidly reproducing virus, in the other they had to decode the DNA of the virus which was encoded in a sodoku grid (of course!). The idea was that the ongoing fight would add urgency to the solving of the puzzle.
    The RL, a player mind you, looked over the situation and insisted that since D+D 3.5 combat rounds were only 6 seconds long, that the players involved in solving the sodoku only be allowed to view the puzzle for 6 seconds per round!
    OK, so technically he was right. But, it so MISSED the spirit of the encounter that he was roundly overruled.
    He’s a great guy by the way. Just incredibly detail oriented.

  11. Wow. Way to reduce me to tears and force me to stop lurking and actually comment for once.
    I forth. He can have my random entry. Anything…just…wow.

  12. At Con-Version in Calgary yeeeears ago, I saw my first game of Star Fleet Battles being played on an enormous map. There were only a dozen or so ships on the map by the time I’d gotten there, and a Federation dreadnought was riding roughshod over pretty much everybody. “How did you rate such an overpowered ship?” someone inquired. “No one said I couldn’t,” smirked the DN player, who was a smug git in addition to being a rules lawyer.
    Each turn, the gamemaster would go around the table asking players to make declarations, until one of the ‘spectators’ unexpectedly chimed in with, “I uncloak now.”
    While the dreadnought player gaped, the GM nodded and placed a Romulan Warbird counter two hexes directly astern of his ship.
    Turns out he’d been passing movement orders and the like to the GM on the sly, as well as holding back a plasma torpedo for quite some time while cloaked. I gather they double in effect every turn until they are fired, so by the time he unleashed it, it was powerful enough to not only blow through the dreadnought’s rear shields, but actually passed out the front of the ship, as the crowd cheered madly.
    “You didn’t even tell me you were playing,” sighed the git.
    “No one said I had to,” replied the Romulan.
    Love the shirt!

  13. The biggest rules lawyering I’ve ever come across was from back in 1990. Myself and a bunch of my 10 and 11 year old friends would play a version of Hero Quest cobbled together with our own bastard rules, with campaigns lasting 7 or 8 hours and DMing that made the story and game enjoyable rather than a day long argument about why Andrews Wizard couldn’t turn the entire other members of the party into goblins for the hell of it.
    We took our game to another friends house thinking that he would enjoy playing too, but had to spend the entire day doing something else because his parents insisted on reading through the entire rule book (that we didn’t use) to make sure it wasn’t unchristian or some sort of black magic.
    Ironically I think we spent the day playing Shadow of the Beast 2 on the Amiga whilst the Lawyers studied the material.

  14. Can I get a version where the sword is already glowing blue?
    Sadly, I must confess, that I am a rules lawyer, but strictly in the role of public defender. It’s not an uncommon thing to see older, more experience, players brow beating newbies to demonstrate their superior knowledge. It happens to the best of us at times, the temptation. Often, the poor newb is robbed of their hard earned xp or magic item at the twist of fate – which is where I, the public defender rules lawyer, step in to take the case.
    Recently, I was able to overturn a house rule a DM had put in place in regards to the pricing of certain magic items (I’ll spare you the gory, geeky details of the full argument), and after the game was over, I was approached by another player who thanked me. Apparently the DM was using the same rule several of his games, and my case created a new precedent that brought rejoicing from many tables.
    So yes, hate me, for being a rules lawyer. Hate me for bringing the game to a crashing halt when I point out the fact that the dragon in question is red (not white), and therefore is not immune to cold. Just remember that I’m out there fighting for you, the player.

  15. Player ((with glaring eyes and frothing at the mouth)): The book says *insert random book rule here*!! ((gives me the ‘take THAT you suck ass DM!’ look))
    Me: The book ALSO says the rules can be modified by the DM ((points to self))
    Player ((almost incoherent, and actually gives the DM a bit of a scare, because she really thinks he’s going to hit her… again): I don’t care WHAT you think. The book says *whatever* and we go by the book!!
    Me: Oh. In that case, Tiamat suddenly appears before you and flames you with her red head ((rolls dice)). Damn, you took X amount of damage. Sorry *player* you’re dead. Oh dude, I’m sorry, but the book says that can happen.

  16. Awesome shirt.
    But I just noticed something kind of funny. The 2XL shirts are out of stock. Major stereotype fail! ..Or win, depending on how you view it.

  17. Rules lawyers? I have never had an experience with one. This does not mean that my group’s games flow easily, however. We’ve mostly had tangent artists and indecisives. Both have been known to diverge an entire play session, especially when the tangents are built to epic proportions during an indecisive’s turn. Though it was aggravating at times, often there would be many good laughs and at least some progress in the story.

  18. Yeah, I saw that on someone’s sig on BGG as well, and cannot remember whose. Following the principle of maximum laziness, I asked other Geeks to tell me.
    The T shirt is definitely cool. But I would just like to diffidently mention that rules lawyers need love too. They also serve who only stand and say NO. I never got into RPG or D&D, but I recall a conversation I vaguely overheard where one guy was bragging how well his character was doing, a combination thief and monk. Apparently he was using the best of both dichotomous types. I recall the looks he was getting from other participants. It seemed this guy was more or less imposing his will on the game, and some other players may have wished for a DM to tell him no, you may not do that. But that might not be what you mean by rules lawyer anyway.

  19. I know this isn’t much of a geek game but I have distinct memories of my grandmother being a rules nazi, which is worse than a lawyer, in case you’re not familiar with nazis. The game in question: Monopoly. Yes, monopoly. This was back when there was only the classic Parker Brothers version and not all the Simpsons, Star Wars, and Miley Cyrus variants.
    The story is simple: we (my two siblings and I) were kids and wanted to bend the rules and she would vehemently defend them. The funny part comes in years later when I find out that if no one buys a property, in goes on auction to the highest bidder! That would have changed the whole game! It’s just funny that she was so crazy about playing by the rules and not adding things (like the free parking variant where that space gets all the money from fines), but she forgot to defend what may be the most important rule in the game.

  20. Most of the stories I can think of are more along the lines of “stupid player tricks” than Rules Lawyer stories. Here are a few items that are more on-topic:
    The first time I DMed a game, I decided to make it Paranoia, because if anyone tried to be a rules lawyer, the other players would shoot them for treason.
    My husband and I were playing a second edition D&D game (on a MUD, in a wizard’s workroom with a dieroller coded, so that his buddies in other states could game). The bad guy cast chain lightning with my husband’s mage as the primary target. Chain lightning in that edition, did x dice of damage to the primary target; then it jumped to the nearest person and did (x-1) dice of damage, and kept going till it ran out. My husband’s character survived the strike and then it was his turn. “I dim-door right behind the bad guy!” When the chain lightning jumped to the bad guy, it killed him.

  21. Dude, I LOVE this shirt! I drove like a maniac after work to reach the J!NX offices in San Diego before closing last Tuesday so I could pick mine up before departing for the Origins Game Faire this past weekend. It was a BIG hit; all my GMs loved it, and several folks at the con asked where they could acquire it!
    As for Rules Lawyering stories, I have many and varied examples, but my favorite actually comes from a card game, not an RPG. My friend Dan and I were playing in the Star Trek CCG regional event up in Mountain View, at the largest game shop I’ve ever seen. There were 60 of us playing, plus two more Magic drafts happening at the same time, and folks playing Quake on the lines of computers bordering the walls. Dan was playing his favorite reckless Klingon deck, including a card called “Klingon Death Yell” which specifies: When your Klingon with Honor is killed, ‘yell to warn the dead’ and score 5 points.” Dan loved dropping this card on folks and yelling at the top of his lungs to really rattle his opponent. Also, the rest of us found it hilarious. By the third round and him having played this 2-3 times a game, the owner game over to our tournament director and spake a line that has been oft quoted in our circles ever since: “Could you ask him to stop that? He’s scaring the Magic players.” The TD laughed but nodded, and Dan agreed to desist. Two rounds later, Dan’s opponent called the TD over for a ruling when Dan attempted to play the card and score some points for his Klingon personnel’s death. The opponent insisted that since Dan hadn’t ‘yelled to warn the dead’ as specified on the card, then he couldn’t have the points. The TD laughed, then realized the guy wasn’t joking. Luckily the TD was not as uptight as Dan’s opponent and awarded him the points.

  22. I may have preferred a Rule Lawyer in my situation!
    My friends wanted to expand our 3.5 D&D group, so we put out a call for a couple new players. We picked up two seemingly nice gents. The first of which wanted to be the DM. We all agreed and proceeded to play our first game.
    That’s when the new DM said to us, “Oh, by the way, I don’t play with the 5 foot step.” And pulled out a sheet of 135 “house rules” he wanted us all to adhere too.
    Needless to say, that group didn’t last long.

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