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 Post subject: Interpreting Rules & Disputes (from Arcimious Primous...)
PostPosted: Sat Jan 21, 2017 8:47 am 
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Under the player generated Weapon Combos thread there has been a discussion of Arcimious Primus and whether or not it can be used with Spinning Strikes/two weapons. This has digressed enough into the philosophy & theory of rules interpretations that I wanted to move my response to a new thread before replying....

wilcoxon wrote:
val Holryn wrote:
The crunch books get submissions from many different people and their writting styles and syntax are slightly different from each other. My reading of the fighting style is that your interpretation (that you can use any weapon) is reaching.


How so? By a literal reading of the rule, it is clear that it is not required to have a hand free ("primarily"). It's impossible to know intent so all we can do is read the literal meaning of the rule. Also, given that there is the Talent to specifically allow using magic with a two-handed weapon "easily", I would hope that the fighting style would work fine with a two-handed weapon.


Well I guess I would start by saying that it can't be clear when at least four seasoned arcaniacs are arguing different sides of the argument. Before this thread started I thought it was perfectly clear that you *had* to use a one handed weapon with this style.

I think Matt Flynn has weighed in and put the actual argument to rest, but I want to address the assertion that we can't know or at least guess at the intent of rules and that our *only* recourse is a literal reading.

I disagree.

Although I do think a literal reading would of the rules is a great idea and a powerful base for an argument, I also believe that many other possibilities deserve consideration such as: A natural reading of the language in the rules. A comparison of the rule or talent to other similar rules or talents. A simple comparison or "thought experiment" about the power levels of the possible interpretations (under powered, about right, bent/overpowered, broken). Or even guessing what the intent of the rule is meant to be. One can also interpret rule disputes through a philosophy like: "if it isn't expressly forbidden then it's allowed," or the opposite "if it isn't expressly allowed then it's forbidden," or even "does this support or undermine the tone I'm striving for?" Or "is this fun?"

My opinion has long been that one should "run the numbers" from as many different possibilities as practical and triangulate on where they seem to all intersect. And maybe seek second (or third) opinions from respected players and judges. And campaign staff in a living campaign.

Literal readings of the rules can sometimes take you to strange (obviously wrong) places just as other sources of rules interpretations. In the 4th edition of D&D they had text in the Horizon Walker that said when you spent your action point to take a move action you immediately got it back. A small minority of rules lawyering players insisted that they could spend it again immediately to take a second, third, fourth (etc) move action to reposition their PC anywhere on the map they could potentially move to. Because that was what it literally said. But by that logic a Horizon Walker could also walk the sword coast in one round from the city of Watersdeep to Baldur's Gate. Or cross continents & swim across oceans. Such an interpretation (of infinite moves) while the literal reading failed a natural reading test, a comparison to other similar powers gained by other prestige classes test, and the "broken-ness" test. While common sense tells me the players who tried this should have been laughed off their tables, it became a big enough deal WotC issued official errata. (And amazingly some people complained about the "nerf" of the forums).

So my closing thought is that while it may be impossible to ever perfectly know the intent behind a rule, I think it's almost always the case that when you have disagreements you need a more detailed analysis than just a literal reading of the rules.

_________________
Eric Gorman

AKA Ambassador Tukufu, man of letters, tomb raider and Master Sword Sage
. . . and Sir Szymon val'Holryn, Order of the Phoenix
Formerly Sir Jaeger val'Holryn. Weilder of the Holy Avenger: Thonanos. Gave his soul to help free King Noen


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