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


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.

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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?


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


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.


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".



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.


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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