The 11th Company 40K Podcast

Welcome to the 11th Company BLOG. The 11th Company is a Warhammer 40K podcast dedicated to players, strategies, and tactics.

You can download our episodes at the website, from ITunes, several podcast sites, or connect directly to the RSS Feed. We try to release a new Episode every Monday Night. Check it out!




Podcast Archive:

Search This Blog

Friday, February 17, 2012

The RAW argument, tunnel vision, and willful acceptance of absurdity

I've been involved in a few rules discussions in the past week or so. Normally, I try to avoid these at all costs, but I don't know what struck me this week to get into it. Most likely, it was the post on BoLS about trying to claim that you do not move a vehicle by pivot, measure, move.

I then got involved in discussions on Dakka, oh boy, then I remembered why I don't engage in rules arguments where the first tenet of the argument is:

*** The only correct answer is the one that can be shown via RaW. ***

The rest of this article has nothing to do with the argument on BoLS. I think that Caldera is exactly in the spirit of trying to play the game correctly by noting that something doesn't "look right", seems to violate some books rules, and expressing a valid opinion.

Likewise, detractors express theirs as well.

This is more directed at the people in the argument who keep saying, "but RaW, the rulebook doesn't say... support... prove... etc."

The purpose of this article is to describe why taking the RaW approach to arguing rules for Warhammer is inherently flawed.... by RaW of course!

Proposition #1: Arguing that something isn't "RaW" as a dismissal is an argument using a vacuous truth, one which can never be proven contrary. Why? Because you have set the bar for required evidence of proof above and beyond the tool which you will use to measure it.

Watch this hilarious episode of the Boondocks....

You can fast forward near the end where Riley takes the stand. The prosecution plays the Video of R. Kelly doing a crime, and then Riley starts to state "that ain't R Kelly" even though R. Kelly gives up his social security number, has his grandmother on the video, and on and on as part of the gag.

What's going on here? The person whom the prosecution is trying to convince is setting the bar for required evidence above and beyond what is actually provable. Thus, he is create a vacuous truth, a truth who can never be disproven.

Asking this rule book to prove something beyond a SHADOW OF A DOUBT is flawed at its core. You are asking that the book explicitly state the exact words you need in order to believe something true. The absurdity here is of course this is known to be impossible.

However, we can just then try to rest and say, "well if it isn't written down explicitly, it can't be accepted as truth."

Proposition #2: RaW places an absurd value on the writing within the rulebook. What, why? After all, in the rules discussion, the rulebook defines our Universe, so nothing else should be acceptable in terms of understanding the rules?

Do you want the rulebook to look like that?

You do if you want to use the rulebook's RaW as the only way to determine the correct answer to a rules question.

Truth is, we all know the rulebook itself isn't very technically written. Placing the value of a rules argument solely on if something does or does not exist in the RaW is fundamentally flawed because the book itself is not written to withstand such scrutiny.

This is why we have a Supreme Court in the US, to interpret what is fundamentally flawed, the Law. Written as best as it can be, relying on it as "RaW" sometimes makes you right and sometimes makes you wrong.

The bottom line is, it's not the only path and relying on the written word alone is absurd.

Proposition #3: Demanding an RaW explanation is often an unwillingness to except proof by implication and proof by contradiction, usually because the rules lawyer in question doesn't understand them.

I'm not going to get all philosophical on you, but here's the quick definitions.

Proof By Implication: This is when something doesn't need to be explicitly stated but is rather implied by the existence of other evidence. (If you are into astronomy, this is basically the theory behind Dark Matter. You can't see it (RaW), but you know it's there based on the evidence provided by things around it. (Proof by Implication).

Point: I don't need the Rulebook to explicitly tell me that units move in a path, the existence of difficult terrain rules implies it. (this is in regards to arguments on BoLS)

Proof By Contradiction: I can show that you are not correct by coming up with a scenario which invalidates the assertion. With a Proof By Contradiction, I don't need to give you the right answer, I just need to show you that the answer you have given is wrong. The rulebook does not need to prove an assertion if I can disprove it using other rules.

*** The Bottom Line ***

The temple of "RaW" really needs to topple. It gets old.

You realize that by "RaW", the game of 40K is mostly unplayable. Why? Exactly because of Proposition #1 and Proposition #2. By "RaW", we are placing an unreasonable burden on a flawed document.

And no, I'm not arguing that everything should be ruled RaI.

What I'm stating is that using common sense, reasoning, and simple proof tools, are all acceptable ways to resolve a rules discussion. RaW is not the only way, and in fact, is probably the worst way to approach the discussion.


  1. Great article!

    The issue with those who ONLY argue from a standpoint of RaW is that they tend to completely ignore "the most important rule!"; second sentence states "In a game of this size and complexity there are bound to be occasions where a particular situation lies outside these rules..."

    The premise of this game, beyond having fun, is to be reasonable with your opponent. Common sense goes a long way!

  2. Are you sure you're not a lawyer Neil? That was very well reasoned and presented. I think there is a 'law' of 40k that is set up by presidence. I agree that RAW is flawed by the non-techical nature of the rules that GW present, but in my experience, and I came up in 40k gaming with some pretty extreme 'rules for advantage' players, is that 'rules as intended' comes to be 'rules as interpreted', so when things got absurd, I often went to RAW in defense. I tried brand X (Hordes) for a while and that rule set is VERY much RAW, and I believe that fence hoppers like myself bring that aspect into 40k. I would really enjoy playing 40k in the world in which this article creates.

    1. Even Warmahordes has problems. :)

      I don't want to be confused as to stating that RaW is not a valid argument tool. What I'm stating is that it's not the only tool, and for good reason to present a case.

      Especially for GW books!

  3. The problem is that if you go by "rules as intended" then you get massive fluctuation of rule adherence from gaming club to gaming club, region to region. One area might choose to take Cladera's side where a gaming club on the other side of town might not. When those 2 clubs meet in some local tournament you will have a very heated argument in about 15 minutes. Some people's entire list/ strategy/ army playstyle depend on that extra few inches of movement and they have based their tactics around it. Its akin to arbitrarily saying that missile launchers are now only 24" range and s6 ap4. Its not written in the rules like that but we didnt think GW intended to have so many s8 ap3 shots on the board. We figure they intended it to be a little toned down.

    Its a perfectly legal move. For the record, I play DE and when I move my skimmers i measure from the starting point where the stand meets up with the model. I then mark off how far I want to move, then place the model down on that spot facing whatever direction I want.

    1. I think it's a legal move too, but it wasn't really that part of the discussion so much as the "but the RaW says..." part that has been annoying me all week. The holy temple of RaW doesn't mean jack. :) At the end of the day, RaW is meaningless if you can't play the game. By itself, an argument based on RaW is fundamentally flawed just like one based on RaI. You have to combine them to arrive at a conclusion with your group etc. This does lead exactly to the scenario you pointed out... .thing is...

      It's already like that. :) The scenario created by different rules interpretations already exists. I travel to a lot of events, and part of doing that is keeping up with that event's FAQ or rulings. They are all different, already.

      Even in that BoLS scenario, my event and local scene would never rule like Caldera is because to us, it's wrong, RaW. :P To him, RaW, it isn't. Point is, RaW then apparently is up for interpretation so RaW = RaI. Reading the rules as written is just another means of determining intent. RaW takes a backseat to RaI, not the other way around. Even the written word has to be interpreted. It's language.

      Best advice for most people in my experience is to familiarize yourself with the areas of the game that you know are contentious. Then, call ahead if you are going to an event. I've been burned before and likewise have had opponent's burned because of it. :(

  4. I'd like to point out two things. First, the legal system uses a combination all the time, like Neil said in his article. That's how precedents are set in the first place. The best a judge can do is interpret the written laws as best as he can. That's him judging =P, making him a judge of not just people but of what is right by that society's laws.

    Second, this reminds me of another of Neil's posts where he pointed out that if you are basing your tactics on rules you know are contentious, you should be ready for a TO to shut you down.

  5. I am a Rules-As-Written guy. However, I know that the rules are not always (often?) well written, and often defy logic. Yet those written rules are all we have.

    There is a solution, perhaps a compromise: house rules. Where the rules break down, fix them yourself, either in your basement or your club. If the hardcore, exploitative RAW guy doesn't like it, revoke his invitation.

  6. Thank you 11th company, you're my only hope.

  7. The rulebook is the only common ground I have. I've never played with anyone from GW so I have no actual idea of what was intended. They way the rules are written I don't quite know they do either! I grew up in a different country to every single guy I play against, so I've got culture against me. I didn't know them before I met them at the game store, nor do most of us have similar professional backgrounds. We also have a pretty large age range to boot. Heck, people's ability to read English isn't even the same!

    The only common ground is the rules. That's it.

    This creates a huge dilemma when the rules are not clear. Many rules are (the S vs T chart, instant death, etc), yet many others aren't (multi assault, movement). If the rule is indeed clear I think RaW is the way to go. MLs are S8 ap3. RaI is simply find stupid. So when the rules are not clear one has to begin with the clear ones and then simply try to hash it out. Are there a similar rule that is clear? There you go!

    When it all falls down is where there are no way you can "know", and in this case I would argue that RaW just tells me "doesn't say", rather than trying to somehow deduce the meaning. This is where the stupid arguments come from. Trying to put meaning into something which never was there in the first place.

    Which takes me full circle. The rules could be written far more clearly. They could be written for someone who have no other information than the rule books. It would lessen the stupid rules disputes and we could focus on the game as such.

    Side note. I would love to see the designers at GW put the rules into the hands of some very smart people who had never played the game before and have them play a game in front of them. Bet they would be very very surprised :)


Due to spam, all comments are moderated.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.