Durham Region Amateur Pinball League Rules


1. Introduction

The Durham Region Amateur Pinball League (Drapl) rules are based on the Toronto Pinball League (TOPL), Free State Pinball Association (FSPA) and Bay Area Pinball Association (BAPA) league rules, with modifications based on variable attendance and skill levels. These rules are designed for leagues consisting of three people up to an unlimited number of players, playing on four machines at a single location. Scoring is based on how well one does relative to players of similar ability. The nature of the Drapl league system allows players of all skill levels to play in a single league that is fun and competitive for everyone.


1.1. League Officials

In these rules, SLO stands for Senior League Official. For situations requiring an immediate decision or rule interpretation, this refers to the highest-ranking league official present who is not directly affected by the decision. In particular, rulings of malfunctions or interference should be deferred to an uninvolved official. In other cases, it refers to any appropriate league officer.


The order of rank for league officers is: League President, League Vice President, League Treasurer, League Statistician, and other designated person(s).


1.2. Discretion of League Officials

These rules are a guide. At times situations will arise that aren't specifically covered by these rules. In these cases, the SLO should make a decision in the spirit of the rules. This decision shall be documented for later reference, and be applied consistently should the situation arise again.


1.3. Season

A single season of league play consists of 15 weeks, which may be non-continuous due to holidays or expected large-scale absenteeism. At the end of fifteen weeks, a playoff date will be selected and league members will compete for the title of Playoffs Winner.


2. Attendance and Lateness

The SLO must designate a specific day and start time for league play. League players are expected to attend all matches of the season.


2.1. Start Time

Any games in progress by league players at league start time are immediately halted at SLO's discretion. Players join their assigned group and begin league play immediately.


2.2. Unannounced Lateness

If a player arrives late unannounced, the SLO will attempt to place the player in their designated group if possible. If that is not possible, they will be placed in the next available group. This may put the player in a group of higher skill. If play has already started and the SLO determines the player's arrival would unduly disturb group distribution, the player may be excluded from that week's play.


If a player arrives after his group begins play, the player may join the game in progress if possible. Joining the game is permitted if the machine permits it, and the last player of the group has not finished their first ball. Adding players should be done so as not to disturb the person currently playing. If unable to join the game in progress, the late player will receive a score of zero (0) for that game.


2.3. Announced Lateness

If a player gives advance notification of possible lateness, the SLO will place the player in the appropriate group prior to beginning play. If a player arrives after his group begins play, the player may join the game in progress if possible. Joining the game is permitted if the machine permits it, and the last player of the group has not finished their first ball. Adding players should be done so as not to disturb the person currently playing. If unable to join the game in progress, the late player will receive a score of zero (0) for that game.


2.4. Guests

Non-Drapl members may play as a guest in the league at the SLO's discretion. A guest's scores are recorded on the score sheet, and guest players are treated as regular league members in score calculations.


3. Machine Play Rules —General

3.1. Extra Balls

On all machines, extra balls must be plunged and not played normally. These are referred to as "unallowable" or "plunged" balls in this document.


When a player is required to plunge an extra ball, the player may touch the machine to set up a skill shot before launching the ball. Once the ball is set into motion, the player may shake or nudge the machine, and is allowed one single flip. The player may opt not to flip at all if he wishes not to.


3.1.1. Ball Save

If the ball is returned to a launcher lane that requires a manual plunge (e.g. by a ball saver), the player may re-plunge the ball. If the player has used his single flip on the current extra ball, he cannot flip again on a ball save. Conversely, if the player has not yet flipped, he may do so on a ball save.


Some machines will give infinite ball saves (e.g. Tales of the Arabian Nights). In that case, the player is forced to flip once in order to hit any switch and end the cycle. The choice of aim and timing is up to the player.


3.1.2. Stuck Extra Balls

If a plunged extra ball becomes stuck somewhere on the machine, the player may attempt to nudge the machine to free the ball. If nudging fails to free the ball, and there is no operator present to free the ball, the player (or SLO) will be required to tilt the game in an attempt to free the ball. No compensation is provided in this event, nor is it considered a major malfunction.


Buy-ins for extra balls are not allowed, except as noted in sections Playing Opponent's Ball and Interference.


3.1.3. Replays and Specials

No award is given for credits earned by replays or specials during league play. If a machine awards extra balls for replays or specials, they are played as prescribed in the Ball Save section.


3.2. Malfunctions

Pinball machines are complex assemblies that can exhibit many unintended behaviors during play. To keep league play on track and prevent excessive focus on minor glitches, only a major machine malfunction can affect league play. A major malfunction is one that results in a loss of ball in play that is not a normal part of the game (i.e. premature loss of turn). In disputed situations, the SLO shall decide whether or not a malfunction is considered major.


The following are examples of major malfunctions:

A player is forced to tilt the ball in an attempt to dislodge a stuck ball (unless it is an unallowable extra ball; see section Ball Save).

A turn ends prematurely (i.e. with 1 or more balls in play).

A ball is auto-plunged or otherwise shot into play prematurely.

The following examples would not be considered major malfunctions:

A player tilts away a stuck ball when it was not clearly necessary.

A multiball round ends prematurely but does not result in loss of turn.

A ball goes airborne and drains.

A lit kickback fails to kick the ball back into play.

A ball saver fails to work.

A player tilts another player's ball. (This is Interference.)


If a problem with a machine is announced to league players by the SLO before league play is started, then that problem is not considered a major malfunction even if the result is loss of ball in play.


If a major malfunction occurs to a player during the course of a game, the player has two options: at the end of the ball on which the malfunction occurred, he may either continue the game as is, or request that all players in his group end the current game and replay the entire round. The player must request a decision from the SLO prior to any players in the group start playing their next ball. The requesting player is responsible for ensuring that the next player does not begin play before a decision is announced. If he allows the game to continue, then it is presumed that he wishes to continue playing the game. If the game is replayed, the second (replay) score becomes his score on that game, regardless of whether it is better or worse than his previous effort.


The SLO can declare a machine unplayable at any time if it is not functioning properly and the resulting malfunction(s) will, in his estimation, impair the ability of players to obtain fair scores. If the first ball played by all players result in major malfunctions, or if play cannot be continued on a machine for any reason, the machine is automatically declared unplayable for the rest of the meet, or until the machine is repaired. In these cases, the entire game is replayed immediately on a machine designated by the SLO.


Catastrophic malfunctions such as slam tilt, total machine failure, fire due to overheated components, main processor halts, and similar events are handled on a case by case basis, using the malfunction rules described above if possible. Frequently, catastrophic malfunctions will invalidate all scores for that group on that machine. However, depending on when the malfunction occurs, the scores as played may stand if so decided by the SLO (e.g. catastrophic malfunctions on the last ball of the game). Any recorded scores on the machine at the time of failure will be used if the machine is brought back into service and affected players replay, or players accept agreed-upon scores.


It is recommended that the league prepare a maintenance sheet on which is noted any malfunctions that are found on the various machines during league play. This list should be passed on to the site's management to assist in the proper maintenance of the machines.


3.3. Positive Malfunctions

If a malfunction causes a player to receive an exceptionally unfair advantage over the other players, and there is no reasonable way to avoid it, then the game is stopped and a new game is started either on the same or a different machine at the SLO's discretion. If a positive malfunction can be avoided (such as the awarding of extra points by repeated tapping of a flipper button), then this behavior shall be reported to the SLO and shall be avoided during subsequent league play. At the discretion of the SLO, the game may be replayed if it is felt that an unfair advantage was already gained by one or more players due to the malfunction. It is the responsibility of all members of a group to ensure that positive malfunctions are not abused.


Note that a one ball "multiball" is not considered to be an exceptionally unfair advantage.


3.4. Gameplay Promptness

When a player's turn comes up in a league match, he is expected to begin play promptly. If a league player does not begin play in a reasonable amount of time, the SLO may plunge the ball for him, and the player may not play the ball.


3.5. Practice Games

Once league play starts, a player may not practice games that he is scheduled to play later in that match. Practice games are allowed on machines that a player is not scheduled to play during that match, if it does not interfere with league play by his own or other groups. Practice games must be ended immediately if a league group is ready to begin a scheduled game on that machine.


3.6. Distractions

In general, random distractions that occur during league play (including minor physical bumps) are considered normal play conditions and no allowances are made for the effects of such distractions on a player's game.


3.7. Non-League Players

League players do not take precedence over other customers at the establishment. Having a non-league customer play your ball is considered a distraction and not interference; control of the ball should be regained as quickly and politely as possible. Close attention should be paid by league players to their game in progress to guard against this situation.


4. Illegal actions

4.1. Playing Own Unallowable Extra Ball

If a player nudges, flips, or otherwise plays his own unallowable extra ball, he must stop as soon as the error is recognized. The other group members may request a game restart if the amount of play time and scoring of said ball is deemed excessive by the SLO.


This does not apply in cases where a player must flip once to avoid "infinite ball saves." (See Ball Save)


4.2. Playing Opponent's Ball

The violator shall attempt to trap the ball(s) on a flipper as soon as the error is realized. On the second or greater offense (per meet), the violator receives a machine score of zero (0) for the game.


If the affected ball was an unallowable extra ball, there is no additional compensation for the victim. Otherwise, the victim may choose one of three options: continue playing the erroneously plunged ball (if control can be recovered) or replay the entire game. The player must request a decision from all players in the group before play resumes. The requesting player is responsible for ensuring that the next player does not begin play before a decision is announced. If he allows the game to continue without announcing his request, then it is presumed that he wishes to continue the game and play an additional ball. If the game is replayed, the second (replay) score becomes his score on that game, regardless of whether it is better or worse than his previous effort. The rest of the group waits for the player to finish the replayed game before starting their next game.


4.3. Interference

Interference in another player's game is not tolerated. Interference includes intentional slam tilts, tilting an opponent's ball, or nudging the machine during another player's ball, even if the action does not cause the victim to lose the ball. It also includes intentional distraction of a player during his play. Talking or coaching is not considered interference, unless the player at the machine specifically requests that he not be talked to during play.


An intentional slam tilt is one caused by an aggressive and excessive shove of the machine, or by an attempted bangback or deathsave. Any other slam tilt is considered accidental. All slam tilts are handled as catastrophic malfunctions.


If a player interferes with another player, causing a drain and/or loss of turn, the victim of the interference may request to replay the entire game. If the next player starts play with no decision announced, the victim is presumed to wish to continue his game. The interfering player is required to pay for the replayed, even if there are credits on the machine.


Interference is considered a serious violation of league play rules, and a penalty is attached. Serious violations are cumulative over an entire season, not just one match. For these violations, the following penalties are assessed:


First and second offense: Forfeit the current game with a machine score of zero (0).

Third offense: Forfeit of all games in the current match with machine scores of zero (0).

Behavior which causes a player to be ejected from the establishment by the management will be penalized as an automatic third offense, even if it occurs before or after league play.


Fourth offense: Forfeit of season. The player's scores are wiped, and the player will be suspended from the league.

Violence of any kind against fellow players, vandalism of pinball machines or other property will be penalized as an automatic fourth offense.


4.4. Not Starting the Proper Number of Games

If too many games are started inadvertently, balls for the extra games are plunged but not played. If too few games are started, additional games are started, if possible, so that the number of games on the machine matches the number of players in the group. If the proper number of games cannot be started by the above means for some reason, the game is ended immediately and a replay of the machine by all players commences. The player responsible for the wrong number of games being credited (who pressed the credit button) pays the cost of the restart.


4.5. Out of Order Playing

Players must take their turn on all machines in the correct player order as determined by the scoresheet. If a player's turn is incorrectly played by another group member, the group may take one of two actions: the incorrect order can be maintained for the remaining duration of the game if the order sequence occurs from the beginning of the game, or all play must halt and the game restarted with all players in the correct order based on the scoresheet. If the group decides to continue play, the order must be corrected on the scoresheet to avoid confusion later while recording the totals.


4.6. Deathsaves and Bangbacks

Deathsaves and bangbacks ("biffs") are techniques used by some players to return a ball back into play that has already gone down an outlane or otherwise drained. These techniques are not allowed in Drapl league play. A player that successfully performs a deathsave or bangback will receive a machine score of zero (0) on that game, and must plunge any remaining balls without playing them. However, it is allowable for the ball to bounce back into play of its own accord (most common on Gottlieb games).


Since these maneuvers do not interfere with any other player's game, performing a deathsave or bangback is not considered a serious violation of league rules.


4.7. Cheating

Pinball can often be frustrating, especially during competition. The Drapl rules are designed to deal fairly with this fact, to encourage people to control themselves, and to compensate for various mishaps that might occur during play. On the other hand, violation of any rules with the clear intent of preventing another player from fairly playing the machine or of unfairly increasing one's own score can only be described as cheating, and is not tolerated. Cheating will result in the player's immediate suspension from the league.


5. Player Grouping—Non-Playoff Matches

Players are arranged into groups of three or four, so that players of similar ability are playing against each other during any given match. A match consists of four games, played on four different machines (if possible) during a single meet. All games are played in multiplayer mode (players alternate turns and scores are displayed simultaneously on the machine). At the end of each match, scores are recorded for the purpose of awarding an overall season winner, and to determine the group ranking for the next league night.


5.1. Group Size

If the number of players is a multiple of 4, players will be arranged in groups of 4.


If the number of players is not a multiple of 4, players are arranged into as many groups of 4 players as possible, with remaining groups having 3 players; the lower-ranked groups will get 4 players.


Ranking is based on the final score from each player's previous week. This allows movement between skill level groups on a weekly basis.


5.2. Ladder Ranks

At each meet, all players in the league are ordered in a single ladder listing, beginning with the top player in group 1 and continuing down to the last player in the lowest group. This ladder is then divided into groups of 3 or 4 based on the number of league members in attendance, and players within each group compete directly with each other during that meet.


5.3. Median Player

When a group consists of three players, the fourth player position will be scored as the Median Player, consisting of the Median score from all groups for that specific machine. Players are then assigned points based on their relation to both group players and the Median Player.


If any player ties the Median score, the player will be deemed the winner over the Median.


5.4. Calculating the Median Score

5.4.1. Odd number

If the total number of players present is odd, the Median score is the middle player's, when ranked from highest to lowest.


For example, if there are 9 players, the Median will be the 5th player's score, and the top 5 players will be deemed as having beaten the Median score.


5.4.2. Even number

If the total number of players present is even, the Median score is the average of the two middle players, when ranked from highest to lowest.


For example, if there are 8 players, the Median will be the average of the 4th and 5th players' scores, and the top 4 players will be deemed as having beaten the Median score.


5.5. Playing Order

Player order is determined by the scoresheet and player ranking. Player order changes for each machine. Every week, each player (in a 4-player group) will have a chance of playing first, second, third, and fourth. In a 3-player group, each player will have a chance of playing first, second, and third, and one position will be repeated.


 6. Scoring

It is each player's responsibility to be sure that their machine scores are recorded correctly on the scoresheet as each game is finished. In order to avoid errors, scores must include commas to separate thousands, millions, etc. Any possible scoring errors should be brought to the attention of the SLO as soon as possible. Once notified of a possible error, the SLO shall contact all the players in the affected group to determine their recollection of the scoring. If all players are in agreement, then the scoring will be corrected. However, if all players in the group do not concur with the reported error, then the scores as written on the scoresheet shall stand.


6.1. Game Points

The player scoring highest, second, third, and fourth on a machine will respectively receive 4, 3, 2, and 1 game points. (In 3-player groups, one of these awards will go to the virtual Median player.) The number of points available per player for the meet, which is the total number of points awarded for all 4 games played combined, ranges from 4 to 16.


Any ties in machine score will be resolved by a one-ball playoff between the affected players on the same machine. If this playoff does not resolve the tie, additional balls will be played until the tie is broken.


Game points are one measure of a player's ability, one that depends both on their ability and their attendance record: of two equally-able players, the one attending the most weeks will have a higher score. This serves as an incentive to attend league nights as regularly as possible.


6.2. Percentage

The other rating used by Drapl is the percentage. This measure is independent of the number of weeks played. Weekly scores can vary from 4 to 16 points; this is applied to a zero-to-100 (percent) scale. The average of a player's percent scores for the season is what we call their percentage.


A player must attend at least 5 meets per season for their percentage to be valid.


  7. Machine Selection and Play Order

Machines are selected by group consensus prior to beginning play, based on each player voting for 4 machines, and the four machines with the highest number of votes being the machines of choice for that meet.


In the case of locations where there are 12 or more machines in playable condition, a random drawing is performed to maintain a decent level of variety. Machines will be separated into 4 groups by location, to help avoid crowding. If a new machine has appeared since the last time the league played there, this machine is automatically picked. Otherwise, one machine will be randomly picked from each group; the same machine cannot be drawn two meets in a row.


In the case of a location with 4 machines, no vote is taken.


In the case of a location with fewer than 4 machines, a vote is taken to determine which machine(s) will be played twice.


7.1. Machine Play Order

After machines are selected, each group picks an available machine of their choice. When a group finishes a game, they move to the next available machine. Games do not have to be played in the order indicated on the scoresheet.


7.2. Machine Replacement Selection

If a machine should become unplayable during league play, a replacement machine must be designated by the SLO, subject to as many of the following constraints as possible.


The replacement machine:

· Should be in good working order.

· Should not be already scheduled for play by the affected group.  

· Should not be scheduled to be played by another group in the affected round.

· Should be chosen to minimize group backlogs.


  8. Playoffs

The Drapl playoff system consists of a combination of two-player matches in a double-elimination format. Advantage is given both for total points during the regular season, and performance percentage. This means a low-percentage player is encouraged to attend as many meets as they can, in order to improve their point total.


8.1. Playoff Divisions

Playoffs consist of a single division, with all players in a single ladder ranking subdivided into Single and Double Elimination ladders. Division qualification is determined by each player's average ladder rank over the season.


8.2. Playoff Format and Machine Selection

Each division playoff match consists of a series of games played between 2 players, using the same rules as regular-season games. All matches except the finals are best 2 out of 3—two games are played, and if each player wins one game, a third game is played to determine a winner. The loser of the match moves to the losers' bracket if it is their first loss, otherwise they are eliminated from the playoffs.


There are two choices to be made for each game: which machine to play, and the order in which the challengers will play. On the first game of each match, the initial pick goes to the player having the higher season percentage. They may decide the machine to be played, or the order of play. The opponent makes the remaining choice. For the remainder of the match, players alternate having first pick of either machine or play order.


A player may not select the same machine twice for a single match. The exception to this is if there are fewer machines available than the number of games in a match, in which case duplication is allowed. If a selected machine is being played by another league member but not for playoffs, the players may request to take over the machine. Otherwise, players will wait for the selected machine to become available.


8.2.1. Finals

The final game between the remaining two players is based on a Best Of Five format—the first player to win three games is declared the overall Playoffs winner.


  9. Dues

The league treasurer will collect dues at the beginning of each season. For players who have not paid their dues, a charge of $4 per meet is charged, an amount that is not put towards total dues. No league member may compete in the playoffs without first paying outstanding dues for the entire season. Non-league members may pay to compete in the playoffs.


When playing at non-arcade locations where machines are set on free play, a $6 location fee is also charged. This money goes to the host, to compensate them for the time, effort, and parts required to keep the machines in league-ready shape.


First-time guests may try out a league meet for free (no league dues), although the location fee always applies.


9.1. Regular Season Play

Players will pay for all games played with the exception of games set to Free Play or that have existing credits.