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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Read as Wrong: What is Correct? Reading Comprehension.

This is Part 2 of an article series.  You can find Part 1 here:

Introduction and Recap:

To recap, in part 1 of this series, I closed by stating that this article series intends to move forward with the notion that there is a BETTER way to negotiate rules disputes other than “Read as Written”, that “Read as Written” (RaW) as a sole rules arbitration tool produces the same “Bizzaro 40K’ that gets produced when rules arbitration takes place without applying the RaW philosophy.  Moreover, part 1 also sought to introduce the idea that the RaW banner has become a sort of cult-like mentality which I refer to as the “Church of RaW”, to which many people within our community flock to and follow.  Mostly, this is because the promises of the Church are quite alluring as it promises a method of rules arbitration which is logical, results in absolute truths, and disregards our human nature’s incessant ability to interject our personal feelings into arguments.  However, the siren’s call that is these idealistic principles has some very serious drawbacks of which I believe our community is growing to ignore.

Ultimately, where I will end up with these essays is not as a denial as to the usefulness of the philosophy of RaW.  Rather, what I am seeking to do is to help provide the community with the thoughts that perhaps RaW is not the ONLY answer but rather a TOOL that when combined with all the other myriad tools out there, HELPS to CORRECTLY resolve rules disputes.  I will contend that using RaW as anything other than one tool out of a tool box ultimately leads to INCORRECT rules resolutions, the same INCORRECT rules resolutions that a follower of the Church accuses anyone who is not a member of the Church of arriving at by any other methodology.

What is Correct?

If I really wanted to, I could devolve this essay at this point into a riotous romp through thousands of years of philosophy about “the Universe”, “Universal Truth”, “human perspective”, and close out with a ton of links to thousands of philosophical essays covering this topic.  We could all sit around, toke on a hookah, talk about our small part in such a massive Universe, and ultimately resolve nothing except getting high while stroking our egos.  (Hell, we could get really interesting, hit some acid, and end the night actually thinking we’ve solved the Universe’s greatest mysteries by tapping into the stream of unconscious energy and reading each other’s minds.  Seen this happen, so true story, bro. :) )

Fortunately, though, I don’t have to go there!  Our beloved gaming system has definable boundaries and actual answers to the mysteries that it manufactures, and even better, solely because our game system is manufactured, that means our brains can actually wrap themselves around the concepts it presents.  Sweet!

So, if we actually do have correct answers, then why are there so many rules arguments?  Where are these correct answers when I’m sitting at a game table trying to explain to some very emotional competitor that actually, a Flying Monstrous Creature not being grounded after it takes a grounded test is wrong even though the Rulebook doesn’t explicitly state that, is neither “Read as Written” nor correct.  (See what I did there?  Used a RaW argument that was proven WRONG!  Note the Bizzaro 40K that this rules issue created.)

One of the major tenets of the RaW philosophy is that if you read the words of the rules exactly as they are written that you will arrive at the only possible, logical conclusion.  If this were not true then the Church of RaW would be forced to acquiesce that perhaps correct answers to rules questions can be found by some other means than just reading words.   
Although I agree that this line of thinking is very alluring, there’s this BIG problem that we know for an undeniable FACT that RaW doesn’t always produce correct answers.  What encompassing proof by contradiction is this that is so absolutely powerful? 

The GW FAQs.

See, correct answers in the 40K Universe don’t come from logical proofs.  They don’t derive themselves out of undeniable, mathematical certainty.  They come from the gaming company that wrote the game.  GW is the supreme court of our game.  What they say is the correct answer regardless of if what they say is logically ascertainable from the Rulebook or not.

This is what CORRECT is. 

Ultimately, as a TO and podcaster, when I get asked a rules question, I’m not interested in providing WRONG answers.  I’m interested in providing RIGHT answers.  RIGHT answers are those that when the rubber meets the road that the gaming company will agree with me on., not those that I can obscure in a drawn out proof misquoting or cherry picking sentences and words.

This is very important because it introduces the notion that what we should be seeking is to actually find those CORRECT answers, not logical proofs of INCORRECT ones.  And this leads to our next topic.

Reading Comprehension

One thing that is immediately obvious about our set of CORRECT answers is that our governing body doesn’t always rule in favor of the direction that the “Read as Written” results in.  Fundamentally, this should be all you need at this point to out of hand reject RaW as a rules governing philosophy, and I could end this essay where it stands.  However, as stated, that’s not my goal nor intent.  What I want to express is that RaW is IMPORTANT but only because RaW is the first baby steps into a much broader area, known as Reading Comprehension.

I LOL’ed when I read this:  (WIKIPedia on reading Comprehension)

Reading comprehension is defined as the level of understanding of a text/message. This understanding comes from the interaction between the words that are written and how they trigger knowledge outside the text/message. .[1]
Woah!  “the interaction between the words that are written and how they trigger knowledge outside the text/message?”  Hold the phone!  Are you trying to tell me that there is meaning to some text besides what is actually written on the paper?  That true comprehension of what you read doesn’t just involve the words on the paper but also knowledge outside the paper?

“That Which Isn’t Written.”

I recall a time in my life where I HATED analogies.  I could write an essay on that topic.  You know, those statements on the SAT that read something like: “this is to this as that is to _______”.  And you were expected to come up with an answer to this.  Absurd!  Preposterous!  You can’t prove a result to this bogus question.  There’s nothing factual here.  There is nothing but assumptions based on what you “feel like” the common ground it.

I loved history when I was in school in no small part to my Dad being a history teacher.  I specifically remember a teacher I had junior year who would use standardized tests at the end of each chapter in our book.  I was a smart-ass teenager like everyone else, and I remember several times, thinking I was funny and not realizing that I was just being a jack-ass (see statement about nerd culture above), that I would go up to her in the middle of tests and express to her that although I knew the answer to Question #36 was “A”, that arguably “C” could potentially be correct as the question itself was ambiguous due to wording.

And even then, I couldn’t admit it to myself that if it was so ambiguous, provably so, why did I know for certain that “A” was the correct answer even though by logical proof it wasn’t?

Because there are forces at work which drive CORRECT answers which aren’t necessarily WRITTEN DOWN in the text you are reading.  “That which isn’t written” is exactly what English professors are trying to beat into your skull with all that jazz about context, bias, history, and a load of other jargon that I of course memorized (math geeks have zero trouble memorizing and regurgitating) but not actually internalized (because it’s tripe and unprovable to begin with. 

Wouldn’t you know?  Just because you can argue ambiguity in an analogy doesn’t mean that the analogy has no CORRECT answer?  All that means is that you flatly just don’t perceive the answer.  It’s not ambiguous at all if the guy that scored an 800 on the English portion of the SAT blew through it.  You just suck at reading comprehension (and probably at vocabulary which is a big contributor, but I digress).

Think about it.  The lauded authors of history didn’t get that way because “they wrote good words”.  You don’t MOVE people emotionally with text.  You move them when they comprehend what you are really trying to say.

And what I’m really trying to say is that it is fundamentally obvious with any amount of reading comprehension that our governing body, the body which produces the CORRECT answers, doesn’t just use words to find them, it uses comprehension of the text to produce them. 

“That which isn’t written”  NOT EQUAL TO “Read as Written”.

More to come.


  1. The biggest problem with not using RaW as the only tool is that you have to know what's going through the designer's head when he writes the rule and what he means for the effect to be. This is where we get RaI (Rules as Interpreted). We can definitely use precedence to push us in a direction, but I have found it to be more prone to error or abuse than RaW.

    Also, my position is spoiled and biased from having worked with a gaming company where RaW was followed above RaI, and the designers and developers frequently told players "Play this as it is written until we publish an update to correct the issue." Now, the turnaround for updates in the games they published was much faster than GW (usually within a couple of days with extensive playtesting happening ont he change in that time period), but that is the issue GW should address. It's the responsibility of the people writing the rules to remove as many of the ambiguities as possible. GW has made giant strides over the last couple of years, and I honestly approve.

    Also, let's go to your FAQs that you use as evidence that RaW is sometimes wrong. If you will note, these documents actually have 3 sections: Errata, Amendments, and FAQs. When something is changed under Errata or Amendments, this means the words and rules written in the book are changing; that now you use RaW because the text is much more clear and unambiguous. I have seen at least one time where a rule was changed in FAQ, and I was saddened. FAQ is for clarification, not changing, and the issue it covered should have been resolved under Errata.

    The point is, I guess that we know designers are human and make mistakes. When they issue Errata and Amendments, it reinforces RaW, and these things should be applauded. It leads to better rules writing in the future.

    I frequently find issues that create problems with game flow or game balance using RaW. I'm part of a rules committee for a tournament series that compiles these issues and sends them to GW for clarification and errata. We almost always follow RaW, even when the local community doesn't agree. It does, however create an impartial playing field.

    I'm probably not going to convince you that our approach is the right one, but I want you to see that we really just want GW to take credit for their mistakes and correct them rather than having a bunch of people arguing this way or that in the middle of an event. Clear (and balanced) rules, make the game fun at every level (casual and competitive).

    1. The biggest problem with using only RAW is that you end up with answers that you know are simply incorrect, as to how the game is meant ot be played and expecting GW to fix it just has not proven to be a good mantra. Futhermore allowing strict raw ends up with peoples armies getting screwed upon rule changes. I do agree that strict rule changes should be amendments or errata, but simply GW does not work that way, and though they have gotten better waiting for perfection is a bad idea.

      I look at a lot of Message boards and see RAW ruling that people simply know are wrong.

      The grounded rule (when 6th hit) was something I never questioned how to play until people brought up RAW being different.

      Currently Vehicles being unable to take invul saves (other than Bjorn) even though they are a purchasable for DE vehicles.


      We all know how these rules are supposed to work but by Strict RAW they worked the opposite of what we all know to be true.

    2. @RayJ

      A lot of what you are saying is really cross-talk for the RaW, but isn't completely related. As in, a lot of what you are saying I agree with.

      I as you wish GW would do a better job of being technical with their rules and correcting them. I wish they would do a better job being technical with Erratas, Addenudums, FAQs, and so on.

      This isn't about driving GW to do better. I think we should totally do that in any way we can!

      This is about driving rules arbitration to do better in the tournament circuit. And that's something WE control.

      But to do that, we have to stop thinking that reading the rules in a Rulebook which was poorly written to a technical standpoint and was written with context in mind, that somehow this produces bad calls. It doesn't.

      Reading Comprehension NOT EQUAL TO Read as Intended.

      This is a critical point. Not only is this shown to be true by GWs FAQs, it's just IS true by definition.

      Reading Comprehension EQUALS Read as Written.

      Because reading what is written INVOLVES comprehending what is written, at least in terms of the way GW writes. I wish it weren't so, but it IS so. We should make them do better, but waiting on them to do so and in the meantime purposefully making bad calls is definitely not the way to go. :)

      GW Isn't the game company you worked for. They don't put the effort into their rules that they need to. We have to accept that because otherwise, Bizzaro 40K is the result. And I don't want to play Bizzaro 40K at a tournament. I want to play 40K at a tournament. :P


      Aside from rhetoric, though, I'm betting that if I read the calls you have made for you tournament, many of them were made correctly and provably so later on when we found out the correct answer.

      It's very easy to get caught up in defending the "RaW" philosophy because what we are actually defending is competitive 40K. Going to talk about that in the next post too.

      So, not to confuse these two things. I am a competitive player. I do run competitive events. I like competitive 40K. :) (I just don't like competitive Bizzaro 40K :P)


      Or Doom of Malantai hitting units in vehicles...

      Or Njal hitting Flyers with Tempest...

      Or full on Character Squads of Paladins, Nob Bikers, and such...

      Or Flyers being stuck at some arbitrary amount of inches rather than their declared speed....

      Or trying to Look Out Sir AFTER saves...

      Or... Or.... Or...

      (Or passengers taking hits from a Night Scythe destruction which hasn't been FAQ'ed yet but will be and to a result we all already know the answer too but countless wasted energy and BLOG posts from the Church of RaW makes us have to wade through...)

      There's so many scenarios that if analyzed with reason and comprehension rather than blinders (RaW), one can flatly see are bad calls. I'm not saying I always get my rules interpretations right (I definitely don't), but seriously, Ground FMCs as an example is lolzy.

      Expecting a mathematical proof to prove what reading comprehension already tells us is obvious, is just dumb. :) Don't know how else to say it.

  2. Good food for thought. Keep at it.

    Personally, I don't see you enlightening any church of Raw members, but that says more about dogma, than your ability to make a cohesive argument.

    1. I don't think I'll create any enlightenment. What I'm really gunning for is just to create the conversation that hey, we don't have to be bullied into playing the game we all know we aren't supposed to be playing because somebody says it's "RaW". (especially when the majority of the time someone uses that word, I can prove that what they are saying isn't even RaW to begin with :P)

      I don't want to be ruled by the lunchroom crowd.

      At least give me the debate team crowd or something. :P

  3. This has been some good reading, and I feel the same way.

    I understand that from a tournament perspective that RaW is possibly preferable for a level playing field. I think what tournament players are forgetting is that this system was never designed for competitive tournament play, but rather for casual hobby play. GW has stated this before.

    I think for most casual games, these rules are ironed out using a bit of common sense. Tournaments have judges to sort these things out.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    1. I really want to differentiate between RaW and any relation to competitive play because these things do not EVER go hand in hand. That's something I intend to debunk here.

      Frankly, RaW isn't anymore useful for competitive play than it is for casual play. If it produces wrong answers, it's wrong for tournaments and for casual. :)

      That's one of the biggest suggestions that the Church of RaW wants to have us believe. This notion actually comes from the idea that rules need to be transferable from one tournament to the next, and one of the tenets of the Church is, "well, we read the words as is, so there is no ambiguity, thus making it more relevant for tournaments because its transferable".

      Not only is that sentiment patently false for exactly the reason you just stated (because they didn't write the words where the is no ambiguity), but that's also NOT what is IDEAL for a tournament to begin with.

      What is IDEAL, are CORRECT answers lolz. (durr)

      Not answers which are incorrect but through rules lawyering can somehow be shown that that's how the game is to be played.

      This is TERRIBLE for a tournament.

      That's the piece that seems to be lost out there in the RaW sauce that we as a community seem to have forgotten about in our quest to create a more globalized game.

      RaW doesn't always produce CORRECT answers. And tournaments need to be CORRECT, not Bizzaro 40k created by a rules philosophy that frankly, sucks at finding correct rulings. :)

      What good are tournament results when we find out a month later that half the rulings in the tournament got over-turned by GW because the judge at that tournament decided that "RaW, I should blindly disregard context... aka read the rules with zero comprehension... and force my players to participate in a game of Bizzaro 40K rather than actual 40K?

      The answer is ludicrously and sadly, none. :) The tournament results reflect what happens if you play Bizzaro 40K. Not real 40K.

      (e.g. he lets somebody use Cybork bodies on their allies to create a lolzy illegal army that's "raw" that wins his tournament, but two weeks later is found out to be illegal which we all already knew... making his tournament winner a sham )

      I'm going to talk about this in the next article but the elements of true Reading Comprehension ARE Read as Written, inherently and ARE transferable.

      A TO just has to have the guts to say "look man, quit being stupid and play the game like you know it is supposed to be played --- a.k.a sorry you suck at the reading comprehension part of reading and/or are just trying to rules bully" rather than going "well, yeah, I guess, err.. that's really dumb and not intended, but yeah... errr.."

      That's bad policy. :)

    2. My intent may not have come across as clearly I would have liked in my previous post, but this response is exactly my feeling so I don't feel a need to try clarify. Have a cookie :)

  4. I think the biggest thing I'm taking away from the articles is this:

    I believe many of us have a very similar attitude, but lack the ability to put it into a cohesive and articulated manner. Thank you for doing so. This is an area that deserves to be discussed.

  5. Very good article even though it is high on the snarky meter.

    So, you don’t want to play “Bizzaro 40k”, which mainly happens at a tournament, which the designers of 40k say over and over that they aren’t making a tournament ruleset, which is how it gets used by folks like you and I.

    So, if you want to start from RaW why not address the catch-all the designers of 40k have written into their book and have little call outs on almost every page?

    You seem to like philosophy but aren’t following the syllogism…If the 40k designers can’t or won’t make a ruleset that is unambiguous enough for tournament play and we want to play in tournaments…

    Yes, yes, we like the 40k models and the settings, but we aren’t happy with the rules. So, let’s ditch them and do it ourselves.

    1. Few things here in response.

      First, it's a politically motivated essay. So, "snarkyism" just comes with the territory. It's the internet lolz. :P Although, I'm actually pretty tame in this one, more snarky in the last one, but if it is coming off that way, it's hitting home which is GOOD for the intent. I hope anyways. :)

      As to the rest, I totally support liberally resolving rules issues for tournament play. It's not the nature of tournaments though that create Bizzaro 40K. The opposite is also true. Before there was large scale tournament play, gatherings were directed by local house rulings which also creates Bizzaro 40K. It is precisely because of that we got onto the RaW kick to begin with.

      But it's a progress trap.

      Now, instead of resolving rules in a fair way, the philosophy gets used to incorrectly resolve rules in a competitive way or bullying way or other way.

      What I'm really saying here is that at no point is disregarding context an acceptable means of Reading anything as Written. If you aren't reading the context, you aren't at all comprehending what has been written, regardless of how something is written (although more technical writing would help tremendously!).

      Put more flatly, arbitrating rules to a wrong answer, especially when it's obviously wrong, should in no way be justifiable. It's just wrong. :P And then, by definition, that makes the methodology of how you arrived at said answer wrong as well.

      So, we do re-write rules for tournament play. We have to address a lot of problems. We will need to basically re-write a lot of things to continue.

      All of this is true.

      But politically, you won't get buy in creating your own game for a lot of valid reasons. What I'm advocating is that we continue to modify the game as we need to play, let's just make sure that when we make rules decisions, that we are doing it for the RIGHT reasons to arrive at CORRECT answers. :p Not intentionally arriving at incorrect answers and then claiming that we arrived there as a result of an infallible system. This is a mutually exclusive predicament. :P

  6. Thanks, I guessed based on the pix you used that snark was the goal and you did it. Which isn't a bad thing.

    I'm 100% with you on the RaW issue. I've been playing since 1986 and back then being a kid and playing with other kids and the rules being in the state they were, it was very difficult to separate RaW v RaI.

    Clearly context is king. I don't personally feel that GW word smiths rules. My guess is Matt Ward's "near" is equal to Phil Kelly's "around".

    I think what most folks forget is we play by the rules, but GW doesn't make much $ off the rules. They are a model company, they state it over and over. They also state that this is a for funzie game and not a hard rules set.

    We want GW to make an air tight rules set.

    So, at what point to we move out after Daddy has beaten us so many times?

    I would love to see somebody kickstart a hard core tournament rules set.

    I guess what I'm saying is if you take the INAT FAQ (I'm not saying anything about the quality or whatever), that is pushing the rules set in a certain way to the point that INAT FAQ is different than vanilla GW 40k.

    At what point do we say, "Ok, if you want to come play at the NoVA or 11th Company Event or the Bay Area Open or ...; this is the rulebook you use".

    Go beyond a set of FAQs.

    I think a great example of this is the Saint Celestine question. Anyway you come down on it, you are making it up. GW simply didn't provide rules. Maybe they will address it, but until then you have the made up answer.

  7. Interesting article, and I know I'm a bit late to the party, but I wanted to input my £0.02...

    If you play with a friend in your home or your local gaming place, then sure, house rule that you can have zombie mobs up to 100, put a daemon prince on a pimped out attack bike or let you your Space Marine chapter master turn into a dragon every other turn it really doesn't matter.

    But when you play against someone you don't know well in a shop, tournament, gaming club or somewhere else, the only thing you really have in common are the rules as written in the various rulebooks.

    And if you don't follow those, then you are essentially playing 'Calvinball' where there is nothing preventing your little toy soldiers from doing anything you think they should be able to do.

    RAW may be stupid at times, but it is the only thing we have in common when we play with someone who may interpret RAI (Rules as Interpreted) differently from you.

    GW is quite frankly shit at getting their rules into a sensible position, and we have sadly gotten so used to it that we make excuses for them like someone in an abusive relationship who makes excuses for the violent partner and says s/he will change.


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