Once upon a time, I used to judge card game tournaments. In semi-competitive circles, judges are at once respected and despised. We’re respected because the rules literally say you have to, on threat of being asked to leave. We’re despised because when we lay down a ruling, it can change the way a game is going.

The thing is, the greater majority of our rulings were simple. The ‘golden rule’ of TCGs is the idea that if, at any time, a card’s text disagrees with the written rules, the card wins. Simple right?

The issue is, even with that simple idea, people could misinterpret things. I’m not talking about legitimate issues with card text, since that happens in most games and actually does require some knowledge to be able to call. I mean when the plain English on a correctly written card isn’t read.

Among judges I knew, a simple command starting spreading. “RTFC.” Read the ‘freaking’ card. Obviously, this was never said at an event, we took ourselves more seriously than that, but it was the way to respond on the internet, and our stories took on a new layer of secret language to confuse those poor folks who overhead.

Of course, that admonition really should apply to a lot more. People say a lot, even when they think they haven’t. Context offers us a lot of clues about the deeper meaning of something.

Something as simple as the word used to describe another person can tell us about a person’s outlook. And missing some of those clues can occasionally leave us wondering what’s being discussed.

Books use the same tools, and the best authors build there worlds in what’s not said. So obviously, leaving the clues is a skill I have to master, as I often am too ‘on the nose’ with my dialogue. Serious weakness. And missing the clues can definitely change the interpretation of the books when you’re reading!

What’s your ‘read the card!’ moment? Let everyone know in the comments below!

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