Mar 20th, 2012 by Terence Jason Dorman
by Terence Jason Dorman, Awesome Manager of Inspired Writings
In my last post I mentioned that I would continue sharing my history with The Spoils and my service as the first Judge of Great Justice. While I certainly wish to talk about that further, I’ve decided to take a moment this week and address an issue that I find a lot of judges across all games struggling with. I don’t think any judge is excluded from this issue as I know I went through it when I first started out, and I imagine that most (if not all judges) had a similar experience. For the sake of simplicity, though, I’m only going to refer to The Spoils and Spoils judges throughout this piece.
The issue I’m referring to is how to deal with the pressure and power of being a judge.
Once a player has decided he wants to become a judge he will usually go through the process of reading the rules a couple of times and then undertaking the test. Once the test is passed the player is officially a judge, gains the “Level 1 Judge” title on The Spoils forums, and can judge his local events with the prestige and knowledge gained from passing the test.
But what if he messes up? I know when I first started judging The Spoils at Grasshopper’s Comics I was constantly worried that I’d get a ruling wrong or be unable to answer a question. This feeling of fear or anxiety regarding one’s ability to judge is the pressure of being a judge, and not all new judges handle it as quickly or effectively as others.
It is perfectly reasonable to feel this sort of pressure. A judge is in charge of running an event, making sure it runs smoothly, and handling any rules questions or violations that come up throughout the event. Just running a smooth event can be pressure enough for some people, and that is before adding in the necessary rules knowledge!
To put it simply, The Spoils rules are not easy. The last time I printed out the Comprehensive Rules Reference it came in at 34 pages. That’s a lot of rules to know, not to mention the Tournament Policies and the Penalty Guidelines that a judge also needs to know!
So how does a judge handle all of this pressure? With power of course! To be clear, though, I’m not saying that a judge should abuse his power to meet his own ends. Judges should never rule unfairly or favor particular players, nor should they use their judgeship for any sort of personal gain, whatever that may be.
What I mean is to use your judge power to alleviate your own pressure. Don’t feel overburdened with having to memorize every line of the Comprehensive Rules Reference or every penalty for every infraction in the Tournament Policy. I can’t think of many judges who know all of this information off the top of their head, and the ones who do are ones who have been playing Spoils since Open Beta, and even they get this wrong from time to time.
Instead, use the tools you have to make your job easier. Not sure how to run a smooth tournament? Head online and check out some help documents. Have a rules question? Check out the FAQ or head to the Judges forums and ask someone knows.
While these may seem like obvious solutions, some judges may put too much pressure on themselves and simply forget they have these options available to them. Also, these suggestions don’t really help in the heat of the moment, so let me cover that as well.
From what I have observed, the most common concern found in new judges is being able to know the rules on the spot. While this is an admirable goal, it is not always possible. As I said before, there are a lot of Spoils rules, and only maniacs like me know them all off hand. Don’t feel pressured to be able to answer a question the moment it is asked, you don’t have to!
Instead, gather the knowledge required to be able to answer every question that could come at you, even if you don’t know it right away. There is nothing wrong with telling your players to wait a moment while you check a ruling. If you don’t want to seem un-knowledgeable you can even say something like “Let me just make sure I have this right before I give you an answer.”
My experience has shown me that players would much rather have a correct and explained ruling rather than one that is answered quickly. Sure, speed can be a concern, but just remember that you can always add time to the clock for those players if a ruling takes a noticeable amount of time.
If rules aren’t your issue and you find yourself concerned with running the event, the only thing I can really tell you is to relax and enjoy yourself. Gaming is supposed to be fun and exciting, so never go into an event with the feeling that is work. Meet your players, interact with them, enjoy the atmosphere! You may not be playing yourself but you can get involved with the action and have fun with it anyway.
Overall, though, don’t let yourself get pressured by judging. Judges have tons of materials to access when it comes to rules, suggestions, and knowledge, and every judge has the power to use those materials. Check out the forums, ask your friends, read the documents, they’re all there for you!
There are many judges who have come before and there will be many more after you, so be sure to learn from past judges to make your experience more fun and less pressured. As Captain Planet says, the power is yours!