There’s an odd thing that goes along with tabletop gaming. Books. Lots of them. It’s amazing how much we spend on the damned things, when really all you need for a table top game is a pencil, a piece of paper, some friends, and some imaginations. Sure, having codified rules helps, but still. Nothing grinds the game to a halt faster than having to open one of those books to double check something. So here’s a trick I use in my own game: Books are for between sessions. There is no opening of books allowed at the table. Period. If there’s a disagreement about a rule, the DM’s ruling stands until it can be reviewed between games.
There are some implications to this: 1. Every caster needs to have a ‘real’ spell book. They need to print out the spells they have access to along with all the pertinent information. If someone has to look through a book to find out what their spell does or how it works, they don’t get to cast that spell. Bummer.
2. The DM has to prepare better than they normally would.
I, as the DM, don’t even bring my books to the table for fear that I’ll be tempted to open them. All my adventures are planned and written out to the point that books are unnecessary. All my encounter statblocks are on my adventure sheets. All the xp and treasure rewards are as well. If the encounters make use of slightly more obscure spells or rules, I put the details about those into the adventure sheets as well. What if I need a random encounter? Well as I discussed before, they’re all written out long before hand, too.
Don’t think you can go entirely bookless, or don’t want to leave the option of opening them unavailable? Try this: if someone has to look up a rule or a spell or some other thing in the middle of combat, they lose their turn. Their character spent their 6 seconds trying to figure out how to do what they wanted to do, and lost their chance to act in combat that round. It leaves the players the ability to look things up, but it penalizes them for not knowing their characters.
The most important thing to remember, again, is that if there is any sort of dispute, the DM is always right. Even when they’re not. Make your ruling. Enforce it. Keep it that way for the rest of the session, then look it up before the next one.
Critical Misinterpretation is a weekly tabletop role playing blog which is updated every Wednesday at 9am Pacific. As a bonus feature, every Friday, it will provide to you a fresh, new encounter to use in your own tabletop gaming.