D&D General When do you overrule RAW?

Clint_L

Hero
I was watching the Critical Role special from Wembley, and there comes a moment where the party is fighting a kaiju-sized opponent and a character, Bo, tries to use a reaction attack from the sentinel feat to stop it moving after another party member. The attack is successful, but Mercer immediately overrules it, asking the player (his wife) “how do you do that?”, to which she had no real answer. Note that after missing on the initial attack she had spent her only reroll to try again, believing that immobilizing the monster was critical.

I agreed with his ruling - her comparatively tiny character somehow locking down a massive supernatural creature to whom she was insignificant would have made no sense in the story. But I know others would have very different feelings. So my question is: when do you feel justified overruling RAW?
 

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Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I feel justified overruling RAW when it conflicts with a clear RAI. That's why the whole "this darkness spell creates light!" argument in 3.X never bothered me. The terminology was clearly intended to mean that it lowers the ambient illumination by one level (according to the game's listing for degrees of brightness) and was simply poorly written, assuming that the area was brightly lit by default. So yeah, "it makes a pitch-black area become shadowy" was never an idea that flew at any table where I was the GM.
 

Reynard

Legend
If some Rule As Written blatantly conflicts with the established tone, genre conventions, "physics" or fiction of the campaign, I feel at ease over ruling it. Or, if the rule is just "stupid" (from our perspective).

I do think it is important to consider how over-ruling in that manner impact player choices, such as the example cited. I think it is bad form to let a player burn a reroll on a doomed venture.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
I think once you start asking melee characters how they effectively fight giant monsters, you've effectively hamstrung them. How far a stretch is it from "how do you stop Godzilla's movement" to "how do you actually hurt Godzilla with your puny weapons?".

"Nah, bro, you can't use Menacing Attack on the Dragon, he's too badass to be scared."

"I know the power says you can move them 5' back, but come on, he weighs 100 tons!"
 

Bagpuss

Legend
I think once you start asking melee characters how they effectively fight giant monsters, you've effectively hamstrung them. How far a stretch is it from "how do you stop Godzilla's movement" to "how do you actually hurt Godzilla with your puny weapons?".

"Nah, bro, you can't use Menacing Attack on the Dragon, he's too badass to be scared."

"I know the power says you can move them 5' back, but come on, he weighs 100 tons!"
Yeah if you are going to do that then you need to do the same for magic users.
 

Bagpuss

Legend
I do think it is important to consider how over-ruling in that manner impact player choices, such as the example cited. I think it is bad form to let a player burn a reroll on a doomed venture.

I don't think it was necessarily a doomed venture, if she could of come up with some reason to stop it that made some sense within the fiction, rather than just the rules, I think he would have allowed it. But that does penalise unimaginative players.
 

CreamCloud0

One day, I hope to actually play DnD.
Yeah if you are going to do that then you need to do the same for magic users.
the issue is✨magic is magic✨ and therefore doesn't have any 'realistic limits' that it needs to conform to and is thus much more free to perform whatever nonsense the players desire it to as the DM doesn't need to square it with their preconcieved notions of what's possible like they do with martials as magic specifically does impossible things
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
Yeah if you are going to do that then you need to do the same for magic users.
Yeah, like a Warlock using Repelling Blast, Grasp of Hadar, or Lance of Lethargy can punt around or slow anything regardless of size on hit without even a save, but here's the Battlemaster's Pushing Attack:

Pushing Attack​

When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one superiority die to attempt to drive the target back. You add the superiority die to the attack's damage roll, and if the target is Large or smaller, it must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, you push the target up to 15 feet away from you.
 

James Gasik

We don't talk about Pun-Pun
Supporter
the issue is✨magic is magic✨ and therefore doesn't have any 'realistic limits' that it needs to conform to and is thus much more free to perform whatever nonsense the players desire it to as the DM doesn't need to square it with their preconcieved notions of what's possible like they do with martials as magic specifically does impossible things
Hard to see this as a good thing, personally.
 

R_J_K75

Legend
I know Im in the minority, and will probably be scoffed at if not actively berated but...I'm old, I can't remember spells, skills, feats, every class feature, etc. So I'll ask my players, "What does that do"? If they cant give me an answer in 30 seconds, Im familiar enough with the rules regardless of edition to make an educated on the spot ruling. Consistency be damned as well, but sometimes I will overrule RAW/RAI just to keep the game/story going.
 

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