I just cannot help myself...I keep reading Dragonsfoot, even though it usually annoys the hell out of me. Perhaps it's because there are some good ideas to be found amongst the idiocy; more likely, I am simply a masochist who enjoys becoming constantly irate. In either case, this thread dealing with "ending multi-classing" got me thinking, specifically about Rule Zero. Rule Zero, of course, is the primary unwritten rule in rpgs: the dungeon master is always right. Some people really hate this idea, but I don't think you can truly play the game without having some final authority. You start a game, any game, with specific rules in place. If something happens that isn't covered in the rules, the DM has to make a ruling. If a rule creates a stupid result, the DM must have the authority to overturn that result to ensure the game continues.
Anyway, there are two posts in that thread that bother me. Relevant quote #1: "...Gary suggested we all do that in his manuals." I don't disagree with the first part of the quote, which essentially says to change the rules to whatever you want, but this portion annoys me. Not to be a total dick (which I am, anyway), but seriously, what the fuck do I care about Gygax? Appeal to Authority [Gygax] is a bullshit fallacy people use when they have no real reason to support their argument. I don't really care what Gygax said as he is irrelevant to the game I'm running. Rule Zero basically nullifies anything anyone has ever said about any game I'm going DM. I appreciate that he was wise enough to understand this point, but I also am beginning to understand why he grew tired of answering rules questions in the later part of his life. The DM is the absolute final authority for his game, no one else.
The second post is even more problematic: "Tell the players to roll up new characters." Why? If you read the first post, it's obvious the players aren't familiar with AD&D, and instead coming from a 3rd edition mindset. It's not necessarily the fault of the DM (he may not understand AD&D that well himself), and truly the players could be taking advantage of the system, but you know what...fuck it. The DM can simply say, "Okay, you fucked up but we can retcon the characters." Perhaps consolidate XP or something. Anything is possible, there's no need to roll up new characters. Again, rolling up new characters might be the end result, but the implication of this post is that the AD&D rules are immutable and the DM has no real authority to just hand-wave some stuff to get the game back on track. That's dumb as fuck. Rule Zero. The DM can do whatever he wants, ESPECIALLY when there might be some need to ensure everyone has a good time. I'd go so far as to say that a DM who adheres to the rules to the detriment of everyone's fun is pretty awful. This isn't to say DMs can't kill characters or have to give out tons of treasure or whatever, but if there is a dispute like this that could easily be resolved through a thoughtful ruling and one way results in fun and the other a bunch of pissed off players, it's obvious to me which one is best.
Once again, I feel like I'm ranting in response to people whose mindset is adherence to some sacred cow called The Rules. Less complex games can get by with rigid rules, but a game like D&D must allow the DM to do whatever needs to be done. If you're playing D&D with a DM you don't trust, find another game. Corollary, if your players are troublesome jackasses, find new players. Players should let the DM make rulings per Rule Zero and the DM should definitely take player input on those rulings seriously.