Looking at the Rules

One thing I’ve noticed a number of times while perusing blogs or boards are comments to the effect of “I put the book aside while game mastering and hardly ever open it during play.”

Is this common? I ask because I constantly am referring to the rules while game mastering. Looking up spells, monster stats, and weapon ranges are three things I do a lot, and I also check other various things as needed.

The Tome of the Labyrinth Lord (and his dice)

The Tome of the Labyrinth Lord (and his dice)

It’s not like I GM with my nose in the book or constantly interrupt play to look up something. Not at all. But I do have a book behind my screen and it’s usually open. It’s not unheard of for me to say “give me a sec while I review this” when something unusual comes up, though I definitely try to keep that to a minimum and if it takes me more than a moment to grok whatever it is I’m checking, I revert to a d6 check or something to keep things moving.

Also, I generally do NOT include monster stats in my dungeon write-ups, though sometimes I do roll up monster hit points ahead of time. That’s actually something I should do more often, as it’s a great time saver. I’ve got a system of notation I’ve adopted for tracking monsters (hit points, who is fighting who, etc.) during the game and putting that together before play, ready for use, is something I should consider.

I have weapons charts, spell lists, and other common requirements on my screen, but the need to reference the rules still arises. The idea of knowing it all and running the game completely from memory is something that I cannot fathom. Players, with all the important stuff on a character sheet and a limited number of spells, should be able to manage okay, but I’ve never been comfortable “winging it” to that extent as a GM.

Make stuff up as I go or work from vague ideas when running an adventure? Absolutely. But actually run the mechanics of the game without referencing the game book? Not hardly. This is why I go to the trouble of making my own digest-sized comb or coil bound rule books.

I will fully admit that I do not think I’ve played as much as many of the game bloggers, and I know that playing more often will lead to “just knowing” more of the rules and stats, but the idea of “hardly ever” looking in the book seems so far outside my experience that I don’t know how I’d ever get there.

What do readers think? How do you do it? Does Kilgore need to man up and keep the book closed?

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