# Missing Rules

#### 5ekyu

I have this idea that one day, in the far, far future, we will no longer need to say "do what works for your group" because we'll know that has always been true

Anyway, what I was drawing attention to is that DCs appear to be intended to be objective, not subjective. That seemed to mean focus on the jump distance, not the jumper. When I do that, it feels easy to reach a consistent ruling. The 18 Strength character never has any issue clearing 10', whereas the 10 Strength character finds it a real challenge to clear 18'. Characters, generally, are challenged to clear 20', but higher level characters will find that more doable.

I then had the further thought that perhaps for some interpreters, the amount of increase over a character's usual jump constitutes an objective fact about an unusual jump. The objective part of the DC setting exercise is determined by looking at the specific character, and the subjective part of the DC setting exercise is determined by looking at the specific character. The aim, I think, is that bringing the character in on both sides means that clearing 2' or 20% more or whatever distance over your usual, has the same difficulty for all characters that attempt it. I then hit a standard problem with flat adds, which is they don't respect the diversity of features that can mean for some characters, an extra 2' is almost nothing, while for others (in an extreme instance) it nearly doubles their jump!

In terms of the question - is this what the rules guide to doing. I think they don't, because I think the character is not meant to come in on both sides of the DC setting exercise.

In terms of the question - does this work well? I think if you go this route, percentage makes far more sense than a flat add. I guess one chooses a scale - say DC 5 for each +20%. The math then is pretty straightforward - I can usually clear 18, I want to clear 25... actually, the math isn't super-straightforward. No wait, it's +40%. DC 10? I might need to roll 4+. Say I go for 35', about double, DC 25, I might need to roll 19+. Clearing 40' is my maximum without Guidance or Bardic Inspiration.

And there's the rub: players have all kinds of resources to bear on this, that can make a high DC doable, or circumvent it all together (cast Fly?) That makes scaling subjectively for me a questionable pursuit, but if I did scale, I'd scale percentually.

Again, what works for your game is just friggin' fantastically doodlely wonderful.

For my games, taking a task like say jump (or say another strength task like say lifting) where the basic "what you can do fine with no risk, no action, no trouble" is entirely varying per individual and keyed to strength... taking that task and then saying "but now i will set the DC for "a little bit more" and totally divorce it from the "same thing it would be based on if it were 2' shorter" produces rather inconsistent results which lets weaker characters do "a little better than normal" with a higher confidence than the stronger more athletic one does.

It would be as if i were staging a drinking contest - drink 10 flagons of ale - and had the halfling, the human and the huge giant face the same DC because i wans't going to adjust for their size.

its like say - to go to a more strength related point - if i had a halfling loaded to his carry capacity at str -8 and a brawler str-18 prof athletics loaded to his str 18 capacity and i wanted each to carry 2lb more. Were i to assess a DC for "fatigue" after a while of lugging that around because you were overloaded, it would not be based on the whole weight carried (the acceptable no problem weight and the amount of extra weight) as a total DC. Most folks would think "the extra 10lbs on top of 240 is practically nothing, but the extra 10lbs on top of 120 might be noticeable as far as long term fatigue would seem. (Both can carry encumbrance penalties of course and again we see those scaling based on "the safe weight/strength and how much over - not a total factor.)

But sure, for jumping, any Gm can rule that unlike a bit of the other strength stuff its gonna be based on a total not the overage compared to the baseline and thats scrumdiddlicious for games where that kind of thing makes sense.

its all good.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
That's an interesting viewpoint. RPG rules simulate an imaginary reality. Simulations are necessarily incomplete, the only question being where you draw the line? In that context, a critical enabler of RPG is the rule-generating-DM, who can continuously fill out the world as players explore it. This has been the case for every edition of D&D: 5e has not pulled off the remarkable feat of being the only edition of D&D to be incomplete.
Just look at general athletics section. There was no reason other than deliberate to list only climbing, jumping and swimming. That wording limits athletics RAW to those three things and nothing more. It then goes on to describe things dealing with only those three things. It's not incomplete. The athletics is a complete rule that is limited to only three athletic possibilities. Incomplete would have been wording like, "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while doing physical activities which include climbing, jumping, or swimming." That chance in wording opens athletics up to be able to cover other things. It's now deliberately written so as to be an incomplete list of what athletics can do.

It is the shared rules that tell us we are playing D&D. We agree that a DM can alter or ignore rules. We don't agree that this makes the rules in some sense less important or at fault. In many places the rules are clear and almost universally accepted. In some places they are incomplete, sometimes deliberately. In other places they are ambiguous or contradictory. Those latter are not deliberate: the designers intended to express clear meanings. That is why they publish Errata and Sage Advice. What the designers did not intend to do is cover every conceivable case.
You now have article links of the designers, podcast audio of the designers, and the DMG telling you that rules are secondary to the DM making rulings. What more do you need?

Jumping is a good example of an incomplete rule, not a vague one. RAW is clear on how far a character can usually jump, and incomplete on how far a character can unusually jump. RAW is not incomplete as to offering an injunction to set a DC, and rules about how to set one, but it does not detail what distance should relate to what DC. We know that "most people" can manage a DC 5, and that a "low-level character" should struggle to make a DC 25... which in this context doesn't seem especially helpful. Vexing as it is, there is nothing vague about an absence of information.
No. Telling you that you athletics can be used to jump unusually far is vague, not incomplete. There is only one thing it can do there and it tells it to you. That's complete. It's vague, because it doesn't tell you what "unusual" means, or define "far." You've seen the different ways people here are interpreting unusual and the the problems they are having with how far, far is. That's because it's vague, not incomplete. It doesn't list DCs, because the intent of 5e is for the DM to make those up himself. None of the skills have DCs listed. So it does tell you how to determine difficulty.

The DC chart is another example of a complete, but vague rule. It gives a chart of numbers, but uses words like "easy," "medium," and "hard." What do those mean exactly? Nobody knows. What you might view as hard, I might view as medium or easy. What I might view as nearly impossible, you might view as only being hard.

Maybe I misunderstand what you want to say: you're saying that because a DM can choose to alter or ignore a rule, that rule becomes vague. Is that really right?
No. And I'm not sure how you can even be guessing that when I literally wrote this in response to you a few posts ago.

This is not correct. I am not arguing that the rules are vague because the DMs can make rulings on them. Many of the rules are vague, because they are vague. Others are not vague. Whether vague or clear, though, they are all secondary to any and all DM rulings, as the DMG makes clear on page 4.

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#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
I have this idea that one day, in the far, far future, we will no longer need to say "do what works for your group" because we'll know that has always been true
I think it has almost nothing to do with not knowing it has always been true, and almost everything to do with people accusing others of onetruewayism if they don't say it.

#### clearstream

##### Be just and fear not...
I am not arguing that the rules are vague because the DMs can make rulings on them. Many of the rules are vague, because they are vague. Others are not vague.
Yup, that's how I see it, albeit I would say "some" instead of "many". You're making an appeal to authority, and FWIW I don't believe that authority is saying exactly what you interpret it to be saying. Regardless, it isn't the case that rules are "secondary" to rulings: there are rules, there are rulings. Neither plays second fiddle to the other. To quote another authority -

In a very broad sense used by Wittgenstein in his discussion of rule-following, a rule is anything that can be followed such that:
a) our having, grasp or use of it can play a role in generating and explaining our action.
b) our actions can accord or discord with it;
I think what is happening here is that your test for primacy is "can this prevail over that?" whereas my test is "do these two things create the gameplay by working together". Let's imagine Amy removes all the rules - she refuses to even read them - how does she know she is playing D&D, in her world of rulings-only?

#### Oofta

##### Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Just look at general athletics section. There was no reason other than deliberate to list only climbing, jumping and swimming. That wording limits athletics RAW to those three things and nothing more. It then goes on to describe things dealing with only those three things. It's not incomplete. The athletics is a complete rule that is limited to only three athletic possibilities. Incomplete would have been wording like, "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while doing physical activities which include climbing, jumping, or swimming." That chance in wording opens athletics up to be able to cover other things. It's now deliberately written so as to be an incomplete list of what athletics can do.
Not sure I could disagree more. D&D is about creativity and using the tools you have in ways not explicitly spelled out in the game. At least it is when I DM.

As it says in the DMG page 239
Often, players ask whether they can apply a skill
proficiency to an ability check. If a player can provide
a good justification for why a character's training and
aptitude in a skill should apply to the check, go ahead
and allow it, rewarding the player's creative thinking.​

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
Yup, that's how I see it, albeit I would say "some" instead of "many". You're making an appeal to authority, and FWIW I don't believe that authority is saying exactly what you interpret it to be saying. Regardless, it isn't the case that rules are "secondary" to rulings: there are rules, there are rulings. Neither plays second fiddle to the other. To quote another authority -
Below is the exception to appeals to authority.

"Exception: Be very careful not to confuse "deferring to an authority on the issue" with the appeal to authority fallacy. Remember, a fallacy is an error in reasoning. Dismissing the council of legitimate experts and authorities turns good skepticism into denialism. The appeal to authority is a fallacy in argumentation, but deferring to an authority is a reliable heuristic that we all use virtually every day on issues of relatively little importance. There is always a chance that any authority can be wrong, that’s why the critical thinker accepts facts provisionally. It is not at all unreasonable (or an error in reasoning) to accept information as provisionally true by credible authorities. Of course, the reasonableness is moderated by the claim being made (i.e., how extraordinary, how important) and the authority (how credible, how relevant to the claim)."

Note the bolded part. Most authorities are learning about something, not actually creating it. The designer of a game as a lot more credibility when it comes to why he made the game, than say you or I. You and I have been playing D&D long enough to qualify as authorities on D&D, but as these discussions show, we can be wrong or have differing opinions. The person who made the game has much stronger credibility and should be accepted as provisionally true, especially when the game and further articles back him up.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
Not sure I could disagree more. D&D is about creativity and using the tools you have in ways not explicitly spelled out in the game. At least it is when I DM.
I agree about it being about creativity. That's what makes my point so important. Look at my wording. By saying "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while doing physical activities which include climbing, jumping, or swimming," I am inspiring the players to be creative. It makes them aware that there are other options out there for them to explore and be creative with.

The rule as written is the opposite. By saying "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping, or swimming," they are creating a box consisting of those three things and placing the players inside of it. It's very difficult for many people to break out of box, so WotC is actually stifling creativity with the RAW on athletics.

As it says in the DMG page 239
Often, players ask whether they can apply a skill
proficiency to an ability check. If a player can provide
a good justification for why a character's training and
aptitude in a skill should apply to the check, go ahead
and allow it, rewarding the player's creative thinking.​
Cool. The players can't be assumed to have read the DMG. They need that creative inspiration built into the PHB in some manner, like the wording I used in my example.

#### Oofta

##### Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I agree about it being about creativity. That's what makes my point so important. Look at my wording. By saying "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while doing physical activities which include climbing, jumping, or swimming," I am inspiring the players to be creative. It makes them aware that there are other options out there for them to explore and be creative with.

The rule as written is the opposite. By saying "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while climbing, jumping, or swimming," they are creating a box consisting of those three things and placing the players inside of it. It's very difficult for many people to break out of box, so WotC is actually stifling creativity with the RAW on athletics.

Cool. The players can't be assumed to have read the DMG. They need that creative inspiration built into the PHB in some manner, like the wording I used in my example.
I really do need to get proficiency in investigation/reading someday. Never mind.

#### clearstream

##### Be just and fear not...
the reasonableness is moderated by the claim being made (i.e., how extraordinary, how important)
For me a claim that rules are in some sense inferior to rulings is extraordinary, and important. The D&D rules are foundational to the D&D game - the game literally would not exist, were it not for those rules. Thus I am not content with the appeal you are making, because I think it misrepresents the authority in question, and because I think we're able to add worthwhile thinking to what they have said. Especially by considering the work of philosophers on rules and meaning.

In that vein, your comments have definitely influenced me, positively. I like your suggestion of "including" for the Athletics rules, and I absolutely endorse a position that DMs can - and should - alter or ignore rules. I agree with your heads up that the designers took that into account when writing 5e... yet 'twas always thus. Gary Gygax made similar comments, briefly, back in the day. As others have said -

Rule Zero in 5e is no different in its core interpretation than other versions, and amounts to this:

The GM has final say in all things relating to the game.

One of the things we focused on in the DM’ing packet was giving the DM a really clear sense of ‘here is how checks work’ and different die rolling conventions or whatever, but here’s how you use these things.
Hence I don't believe it was the project of the designers to make rules inferior to rulings. For one thing, that contradicts the commercial intent of professional designers, who, ultimately, are designing products for use. Their livelihood depends on the value of the rules and narratives they sell.

This is a nuanced argument, and while I'm trenchant in debating it, I do so to learn. I'm interested in why some DMs have taken designer comments that amount to authorising DM fiat, to argue for an absence of concrete meaning in any of the D&D RAW. If that is what they are doing?

#### Xetheral

I don't set DCs based on the abilities of the character. If a situation includes a gap to be jumped, for example, that's unusually far for some characters such that they need to make a STR (Athletics) check to clear the span, the DC would be the same for each person making the attempt.

I see the designations, easy, medium, hard, etc., to refer to the difficulty for the average person, not the difficulty for the individual making the check.
I agree that DCs should be universal in general, but I make exceptions when the nature of the task is inherently relative. The DC to squeeze through a space, for example, is going to depend on the size of the creature in question compared to the size of the space. If the creature is small enough compared to the size of the space, I'd rule the task is so easy that there is no risk of failure. If the creature is large enough compared to the size of the space, I'd rule the task is impossible. In between, I'd set the DC in such a case relative to the size of the creature. Doing so permits the chance of success for any particular creature to go smoothly from 100% to 0% as the size of the space decreases, without any sudden discontinuities.

I treat jumping the same way, except that the rules already tell me how far a creature can jump so easily that there is no risk of failure, so I don't have to decide. Beyond that distance, I'd set a DC relative to how much additional distance (in absolute rather than relative terms, see below) the character needs. If the additional distance is large enough, I'd rule that the task is impossible. Again, for any particular character, I get a smoothly decreasing chance of success from 100% to 0% as the distance to be jumped increases.

There is an additional complication for jumping because the Strength score of the character is a factor both in determining the additional distance the character needs, and also a factor in the character's likelihood of succeeding the resulting check. This results in high-strength characters being more likely than low-strength characters to jump (e.g.) 1 extra foot, and I'm fine with that, because it makes sense realistically. (I set DCs based on absolute extra distance rather than proportional extra distance because of this complicating factor where strength is already on both sides of the equation.)

Just look at general athletics section. There was no reason other than deliberate to list only climbing, jumping and swimming. That wording limits athletics RAW to those three things and nothing more. It then goes on to describe things dealing with only those three things. It's not incomplete. The athletics is a complete rule that is limited to only three athletic possibilities. Incomplete would have been wording like, "Your Strength (Athletics) check covers difficult situations you encounter while doing physical activities which include climbing, jumping, or swimming." That chance in wording opens athletics up to be able to cover other things. It's now deliberately written so as to be an incomplete list of what athletics can do.
May I suggest using "exclusive" in place of "complete" and "inclusive" in place of "incomplete"? "Complete" implies a sense of sufficiency that I don't think you intend.

#### dave2008

##### Legend
Just look at general athletics section. There was no reason other than deliberate to list only climbing, jumping and swimming.
Poor word choice / organization is a plausible reason. Have you asked in Sage Advice? It is an easy enough fix that it might be corrected in the next printing if you point it out. This could be a case of RAW and RAI are not lined up and they do want to try and correct those when they can. Let them know.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
I really do need to get proficiency in investigation/reading someday. Never mind.
No worries! We've all misread things here.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
For me a claim that rules are in some sense inferior to rulings is extraordinary, and important. The D&D rules are foundational to the D&D game - the game literally would not exist, were it not for those rules. Thus I am not content with the appeal you are making, because I think it misrepresents the authority in question, and because I think we're able to add worthwhile thinking to what they have said. Especially by considering the work of philosophers on rules and meaning.

Hence I don't believe it was the project of the designers to make rules inferior to rulings. For one thing, that contradicts the commercial intent of professional designers, who, ultimately, are designing products for use. Their livelihood depends on the value of the rules and narratives they sell.

This is a nuanced argument, and while I'm trenchant in debating it, I do so to learn. I'm interested in why some DMs have taken designer comments that amount to authorising DM fiat, to argue for an absence of concrete meaning in any of the D&D RAW. If that is what they are doing?
Rules cannot be equal to rulings. Rulings must trump rules in order for the game to work the way that it does. If the DM can overrule a rule and change it, the rule is automatically inferior to that ruling, otherwise the DM could not change it. If the rules were equal or superior, the DM would be constrained to follow them like we do with board games.

5e focuses on rulings over rules by making lots of the rules vague, and setting the game up for the DM to decide a lot of things like how to jump farther, how much farther the PC can possibly jump, and what DCs to assign the attempt.

In that vein, your comments have definitely influenced me, positively. I like your suggestion of "including" for the Athletics rules, and I absolutely endorse a position that DMs can - and should - alter or ignore rules. I agree with your heads up that the designers took that into account when writing 5e... yet 'twas always thus. Gary Gygax made similar comments, briefly, back in the day. As others have said -
I also take things from the debates here and use them in my game. Sometimes I take it as is, sometimes I have to tweak it a bit to make it work for my game, and some times it just doesn't work out and has to be abandoned. I love this site for ideas on how to run my games, though.

Hence I don't believe it was the project of the designers to make rules inferior to rulings. For one thing, that contradicts the commercial intent of professional designers, who, ultimately, are designing products for use. Their livelihood depends on the value of the rules and narratives they sell.

This is a nuanced argument, and while I'm trenchant in debating it, I do so to learn. I'm interested in why some DMs have taken designer comments that amount to authorising DM fiat, to argue for an absence of concrete meaning in any of the D&D RAW. If that is what they are doing?
A few things. As I mentioned above, the fact that the DM can override the rules with his rulings automatically makes them inferior to said rulings. If his rulings were not above the rules, he could not make them except where the rules just don't cover something. Second, we are not arguing for an absence to concrete meaning in RAW. RAW needs to have meaning, even if a lot of it is vague or incomplete like 5e rules. We just expect that those rules are secondary to our rulings such that we can add, subtract or alter those rules as we see fit to make the game better for our players.

#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
Poor word choice / organization is a plausible reason. Have you asked in Sage Advice? It is an easy enough fix that it might be corrected in the next printing if you point it out. This could be a case of RAW and RAI are not lined up and they do want to try and correct those when they can. Let them know.
It would be a plausible reason for a few instances. 5e has so many of them, that I find it wholly unbelievable that professional game designers could make that many mistakes in wording. I think that some of it, such as the Magic Missile contradiction is a mistake, but that most of it is intended to force DMs and players go to rulings.

#### dave2008

##### Legend
It would be a plausible reason for a few instances. 5e has so many of them, that I find it wholly unbelievable that professional game designers could make that many mistakes in wording. I think that some of it, such as the Magic Missile contradiction is a mistake, but that most of it is intended to force DMs and players go to rulings.
Hmmm. I feel like there is a misunderstanding here somewhere.

I agree that the book was written to make DMs and players go to rulings. That has a been a big theme of 5e. However, I thought you said that the rule for Athletics by RAW only applied to 3 things. Thus it was not written well for rulings. That is why your suggested revision was better and why I believe it may have been a mistake as written (since it was not guiding us to rulings as I believe was the intent).

#### Mistwell

##### Legend
For me a claim that rules are in some sense inferior to rulings is extraordinary, and important...
Hence I don't believe it was the project of the designers to make rules inferior to rulings.
"I think D&D is at its best when the game is about the DM's rulings rather than the actual rules. The rules are a tool that a DM usea to keep the game moving and inform decisions. The rules don't make decisions for the DM, unless that's how the DM wants the game to work." - Guy who wrote these rules.

That sure sounds like the rulings are superior to the rules.

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#### Maxperson

##### Morkus from Orkus
Hmmm. I feel like there is a misunderstanding here somewhere.

I agree that the book was written to make DMs and players go to rulings. That has a been a big theme of 5e. However, I thought you said that the rule for Athletics by RAW only applied to 3 things. Thus it was not written well for rulings. That is why your suggested revision was better and why I believe it may have been a mistake as written (since it was not guiding us to rulings as I believe was the intent).
Quite possibly. I was thinking that response was more than it was and applied it to all of the athletics portion. My bad.

#### robus

##### Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
It would be a plausible reason for a few instances. 5e has so many of them, that I find it wholly unbelievable that professional game designers could make that many mistakes in wording. I think that some of it, such as the Magic Missile contradiction is a mistake, but that most of it is intended to force DMs and players go to rulings.
The fact that running, for one, is not included in athletics seems like a big clue that they probably meant it as suggested athletic endeavors rather than an exhaustive list. (failed my wisdom save again it seems )

#### robus

##### Lowcountry Low Roller
Supporter
"I think D&D is at its best when the game is about the DM's rulings rather than the actual rules. The rules are a tool that a DM usea to keep the game moving and inform decisions. The rules don't make decisions for the DM, unless that's how the DM wants the game to work." - Guy who wrote these rules.

That sure sounds like the rulings are superior to the rules.
And the first ruling is when to apply the rules. One ruling to rule them all

#### clearstream

##### Be just and fear not...
That sure sounds like the rulings are superior to the rules.
Rules cannot be equal to rulings. Rulings must trump rules in order for the game to work the way that it does. If the DM can overrule a rule and change it, the rule is automatically inferior to that ruling, otherwise the DM could not change it. If the rules were equal or superior, the DM would be constrained to follow them like we do with board games.
I am saying that just because a DM can overrule a rule, that does not prevent that rule being equal to the ruling. What do I mean by equal? I mean - equal in enabling a group to play D&D. I am contrasting that with a putative hierarchy of rulings (superior) over rules (inferior), which I think could imply that rulings are more important than rules in enabling a group to play D&D.

Linguistic, metaphysical and ludological philosophy about game rules frequently describes them as constitutive. You see this in references like "Rules of Play" and Reiland's "Constitutive Rules". Constitutive rules are in contrast to regulative rules, and the basic difference is this:

...regulative rules regulate antecedently or independently existing forms of behavior; for example, many rules of etiquette regulate inter-personal relationships which exist independently of the rules. But constitutive rules do not merely regulate, they create or define new forms of behavior. The rules of football or chess, for example, do not merely regulate playing football or chess, but as it were they create the very possibility of playing such games. The activities of playing football or chess are constituted by acting in accordance with (at least a large subset of) the appropriate rules (Searle 1969)
Generally, it is believed that game rules are required to be known and accorded with for a game to exist at all. If there were no D&D rules, there could be RPG, but there could not be D&D.

That is a super-short summary. It is why I think rules must be on equal footing with rulings, even if a DM can overrule them. D&D rules enable a group to play D&D. Rulings tailor the rules to a group's preferences and fill in where the rules do not cover some eventuality. The designers, in their comments, acknowledge and endorse both of those activities - tailoring to preferences, covering eventualities. If by "inferior" you mean only that the rules are subject to tailoring and filling in. Then I agree with that. I just wouldn't use the label inferior because to me it does a poor job of explaining what is happening. The designers don't rank rules inferior to rulings, in my sense.

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