D&D 5E Why the "Official" Rules do matter

Stalker0

Legend
A common counterpoint when people bring up rules issues, is the notion of "hey its your game, play as you want". And for a good portion of people, that's an option.

Recently I've been given the opportunity to DM games at a local "beer and games" kind of place. Its similar to AL, a group of players show up, and off you go....though the DMs do get to run their own stuff, you don't have to run modules.

So in this scenario....sure I can spend valuable time and effort trying to put my houserules in the game...and a little more time convincing maybe 1-2 people who don't want those houserules....and a little more time reminding people of the houserules during the game, because I'm sure some people will naturally forget when its their first (and maybe only) session with me.

But lets be honest....time at the table is precious ESPECIALLY in these kinds of scenarios....and its just not worth it. So...the official rules it will be.

Adventure's League is the same way, while DMs have some flexibility... there is in fact an "official" way to play, and AL DMs are going to be following it.


So at the end of the day, the official rules do matter for a portion of the RP world. More than ever, the idea of going to Dnd events as compared is to a standard dnd group is becoming a thing....and with it, the burden (or benefit) the official rules carry. So yes...I do think the rules debates and errata and rules updates matter, because sometimes thats all you got.
 

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el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I think any two GMs even if ostensibly using the same exact rules are still going to run the same thing very differently just based on what they emphasize or downplay or forget or remember and their understanding.

When I used to run D&D events at GEN CON I knew I had to basically use the core rules for the sake of familiarity of everyone at the table (though not everyone at the tables were always all that familiar or cared), but I knew how I'd rule things and my interpretation of what the pre-fab module said was going to be different from the next table over running the same scenario. So instead of worrying about official rules beyond basically sticking to core stuff, I focused on everyone at the table having the most fun within the context of that three hour window.
 

payn

Legend
If you are in a situation, like organized play, you should probably lead with that in discussions. Its not folks fault for not knowing that in advance during many of these rules postings.
 

I would say that it is often perfectly feasible to make your preferred rule on a thing happen even in a casual drop-in group, or even if you move between multiple groups. But even if you are willing to do the work to make one or several rule changes happen you're still going to be more or less playing official rules on the overwhelming bulk of game elements. The rules matter because I only have the energy to change the 3-4 that bother me the most, and not even those in every group I game with.

I think "you don't like it, just change it" theory is overly influenced by people who have a singular, insular group that effectively can just have their own rulebook. But the more groups you are in, the more groups the people in your groups are in, and the more changing the membership, the higher the overhead of maintaining houserules.
 

aco175

Legend
I think that there may some more general house rules that most people use or are fine with. Something like average monster damage or you saying that healing potions do full healing. I do like the option someone said last month about rolling for HP if you want to use it as a bonus action and full healing if you take the whole action. Something like this is easy and all the players would get it in a convention game. It may even make the game more fun and the players get to take a house rule home.
 

GMMichael

Guide of Modos
So in this scenario....sure I can spend valuable time and effort trying to put my houserules in the game...and a little more time convincing maybe 1-2 people who don't want those houserules....and a little more time reminding people of the houserules during the game, because I'm sure some people will naturally forget when its their first (and maybe only) session with me.
There are significant differences between adding rules, modifying rules, and removing rules. In addition, you might say there are two kinds of rules: those used by the DM and those used by the PC. As long as you don't touch the PC rules, you can add, remove, or modify DM rules all you want.

So yes, let your one-session, I've-never-met-you PCs use the official rules. But there's still a lot of room to change things around and stray from the official rules.
 

One of the big things with 5E is that it's the ultimate compromise edition, designed to appeal to the largest possible player base. Because of this, there are a lot of aspects that many people don't care for, but can either live with or easily change. If I were to play/run AL, I'd suck it up and do it the way it's supposed to be (which is why I don't). However, when playing a private game, with an insular group or not, the DM is not only able to customize their game, but I feel is encouraged to do so.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Official rules provide
  • A vocabulary
  • Sets expectations of the types of game
    • For example, D&D will likely have combat or a chance for combat as a way to overcome at least one challenge during an adventure.
    • A D&D game will likely have different focuses than a Fate game which will be different then a Blades in the Dark game and different than a Hero System game, even if all are running adventures are titled "The Horde of the Dragon".
  • Provides default paths of resolution that are shared
    • Allowing players to evaluate odds
    • Speeding play by not requiring explanation of each step
  • Familiarity / pool of players
    • Both for play and for discussion in a broader sense, such as here.
    • Portability of play - going to different organized play, recreating a character idea in a new campaign like low changes, etc.
  • Reduces anxiety/stress of unknown system/mechanics joining a game
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
I like to tweak rules. Specifically for settings. But d&d is the base. When I tweak the rules for a setting they rarely deviate as much as 2E ravenloft does from The PHB or birthright or dark sun. I like to throw in a homebrew class from time to time to give a setting a flavor.
And to me that’s why I really like playing with my older groups. We are way more flexible than younger groups (in general, one really creative guy at flgs), and we have the mindset that d&d is for creating new settings, places, monsters etc.
 

Necrozius

Explorer
Yeah as others have stated, even without house rules, each DM has their own style that should be transparently communicated to a new group in the campaign pitch.

Then again, I’ve had players at my table who where outright STUNNED that I used the advantage and disadvantage rules outside of Inspiration spends. I had to remind them that the intention was to replace all the many granular bonuses and penalties of 3e and 4e. But still had someone tell me: “I’m pretty sure that’s a house rule”.

Best to clear things up, even if you want seemingly small things like “standard array for everyone” or “no homebrew rules, please, only official books”.
 

Sithlord

Adventurer
Yeah as others have stated, even without house rules, each DM has their own style that should be transparently communicated to a new group in the campaign pitch.

Then again, I’ve had players at my table who where outright STUNNED that I used the advantage and disadvantage rules outside of Inspiration spends. I had to remind them that the intention was to replace all the many granular bonuses and penalties of 3e and 4e. But still had someone tell me: “I’m pretty sure that’s a house rule”.

Best to clear things up, even if you want seemingly small things like “standard array for everyone” or “no homebrew rules, please, only official books”.
These are things when playing with strangers. Which until 5E were quite alien to me. Before that it was primarily playing at friends homes. It’s still stunning to me how many people play with people that aren’t their friends these days.
 

Yaarel

Mind Mage
A common counterpoint when people bring up rules issues, is the notion of "hey its your game, play as you want". And for a good portion of people, that's an option.

Recently I've been given the opportunity to DM games at a local "beer and games" kind of place. Its similar to AL, a group of players show up, and off you go....though the DMs do get to run their own stuff, you don't have to run modules.

So in this scenario....sure I can spend valuable time and effort trying to put my houserules in the game...and a little more time convincing maybe 1-2 people who don't want those houserules....and a little more time reminding people of the houserules during the game, because I'm sure some people will naturally forget when its their first (and maybe only) session with me.

But lets be honest....time at the table is precious ESPECIALLY in these kinds of scenarios....and its just not worth it. So...the official rules it will be.

Adventure's League is the same way, while DMs have some flexibility... there is in fact an "official" way to play, and AL DMs are going to be following it.


So at the end of the day, the official rules do matter for a portion of the RP world. More than ever, the idea of going to Dnd events as compared is to a standard dnd group is becoming a thing....and with it, the burden (or benefit) the official rules carry. So yes...I do think the rules debates and errata and rules updates matter, because sometimes thats all you got.

Official rules are like a language.

One can, of course, make up ones own language.

But how many people would one find to speak the language with you?
 



Sithlord

Adventurer
Personally I think we should adopt the Chinese writing system. Then we can read the works of anyone in the world no matter what language they speak
 

teitan

Legend
So hey it's your game, play how you want IS an official rule, specifically called out but beyond that define official rules. Are you talking feats? That's an optional rule. Grids & minis? Optional. Uncommon races? Optional. Expansion books like Xanathar or Tasha's? Optional. The official rules are in the basic D&D PDF. I'm really tired of players who shame DMs for not "following the rules" when the rules specifically mentioned in most cases are optional rules and not default and that the core rules themselves Rule 0 things to "it's your game, play how you want". It was a stated design goal that they wanted the people who play to be able to play their way whether it be a 1e style game up to 4e, with and without feats and all at the same table. It's a system that was designed to be houseruled and customized.
 

teitan

Legend
this link provides a list of EVERYTHING in the core rules called out as optional, some would surprise you. AL changes it's rules all the time as well, with a major change having occurred recently, so it's kind of hard to pin down "official rules".

 

aco175

Legend
I forgot about minis being an optional rule. Given the choice at a game to use them or not, I would want them. I guess that is an easy optional rule unlike flanking or massive damage.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Yes, having a set of rules matters and is very helpful to running the game. Especially if the players all are relatively familiar with them.

However... the "rules debates" here on ENWorld are pointless, because no matter what side you fall on... the fact that everyone is arguing means there is no common conclusion. Which means that if/when you go to your beer and pretzels / Adventurer's League table to run a game... you are going to probably have the players there ALSO fall on both sides of the rules argument (should it ever come up). Which also means that you, as the DM, are still needing to just make a ruling. Same you would have done without spending three weeks on a thread of 3000 posts arguing about some nitpicky rule. You're going to make a ruling... one or more of the players probably won't agree with it... and telling them "No, no... I worked this all out on the messageboard I go to, and finally got everyone there to come around to my way of thinking! This is really how the rule should work!" ain't going to satisfy them.

The game has "rulings, not rules" built into it... because there are a lot of rules that DMs have their own they like to play and will never agree with others on what those rules should be. And the designers knew this... which is why they made many of those rules more ambiguous-- so that any particular DM could interpret said ambiguous rule in the manner that they would have chosen to play it in the first place.
 

Back of the envelope math
According to recent polls, 13.7 million people actively play DnD
26 AL adventures are mithral sellers on dmsguild.com and 9 are adamantine
Mithral is 2501-5000 sales
This means there could be close to 5000 active AL DMs. With six people each that's 30,000 players. Maybe 90,000 if each runs the same adventure 3 times
AL players are 0.65% of the audience
They shouldn't remotely be "the bar" for determining what should and should not be in DnD
 

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