Noting that Lords of Waterdeep (LOW) comes with a "Rulebook" that is labeled not merely "Lords of Waterdeep / Rulebook" but rather says "Lords of Waterdeep / Dungeons & Dragons / Rulebook" (emphasis mine), I wonder if therefore the contents of LOW could and should be employed to answer questions about 5e (or 4e) that arise sometimes on this stack, at least questions of the format, "Is X possible in 5e, and if so, by what means?"

As an example, I will use a hypothetical question about owl bears. It would be normal on this stack to ask (and answer) a question such as "Can adventurers domesticate owlbears?". If we were to deem Lords of Waterdeep irrelevant, we would answer by the usual WotC souces (core rulebooks and published modules, etc).

But what if we were to consider Lords of Waterdeep a "governing" source for this question?

Well, then we would notice that there is a Quest Card in LOW titled "Domesticate Owlbears", from which we can derive the following knowledge:

  • Yes, it is possible for adventurers to domesticate owlbears.
  • Specifically it requires one cleric and two wizards to do so, though it does not require any other adventurers beyond these.
  • The result will be that the owlbears are suitable to being used, for example, by the City Guard of Waterdeep.
  • After the duration of the process, at least two owlbears would have been domesticated (given that it is plural, not singular).
  • Finally, since this task can be completed in roughly the same time as other random quests (which are all roughly speaking side quests, not module-size endeavors), it therefore must not take a tremendously longer time than the average side quest takes to complete. Conversely, that it is a "quest-length" task in the first place means it doesn't take just five minutes (it is not a lot quicker than the typical side quest).

That's quite a lot of things to be settled, but of course it would not settle what level the cleric and wizards needed to be, nor how many owlbears (if any beyond two) could be domesticated together, nor the precise length of time (other than being in the typical range of time that side quests take). But it would help us quite a lot in answering the question.

That is just one example, for purpose of illustration, and I am not particularly interested in owlbears here, just in the validity (or lack thereof) of this approach generally.

Some additional things I believe are relevant, but not immediately obvious how to interpret, are the facts around timing. Lords of Waterdeep was released in 2012, the year that WotC was developing 5e. Lords of Waterdeep was issued an expansion in 2013, when WotC released the playtest packet for 5e. Does this mean Lords of Water deep is slightly "too early" to be considered, and that it should be relegated, if it applies to any table-top adjudications, to 4e only? Or is still "part of canon" in a way that can make it binding for 5e?

Given all the above, can we settle whether it is OK to cite LoW in answering D&D 5e/4e questions on this site?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it possible to migrate this to main? This isn’t an appropriate question for meta. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov You should be able to vote to close this to have it migrated to main (under "Community Specific" now I think). Though I disagree with you personally. This question is asking whether we should consider it part of canon/RAW, that's a meta question/frame. A mainsite Q along the lines of "Is LoW part of 4e/5e?" might work, but probably wouldn't be very good. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 22:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Am I missing something here? This question asks if rules from one game apply in any way to another game. That is in no way a question about rpg.se, but exactly the kind of question we answer on main every single day. Am I misunderstanding the purpose of meta? This one seems particularly obvious that it’s a main question not a meta question. @Someone_Evil I’m sorry if my tone sounds offputting here, I’m just really confused. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 22:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil To add some more thoughts, V2Blast’s answer below has absolutely nothing to do with the function of the site at all. All it does is explain the relationship between some rule sets. I don’t learn anything about rpg.se or our community by reading this Q&A, which I’ve come to expect when reading meta. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 22:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Hmm... I suppose that's a fair point. The core of the question is better suited to main, but the frame of the question is very much suited for meta and it's awkward to migrate a question as a frame challenge. My specific concern is perhaps that it can't really go on main without a major overhaul to its frame and still would probably not be a great question there either. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ This might be a case of the title question being quite different to the body question. The title is quite directly a question about site practices; the body is an investigation into canonicity and authorial adjudications which honestly are kind of secondary. At least part of this belongs on meta, because it's asking how we do things here on this site. I'd tentatively put some blame for that mess on the Stack Q&A system literally instructing people on the ask page to state their question in the title and use the body merely to expand on it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 1:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ For what it's worth, this question was originally asked on the main site (10k rep required to see the deleted post) but I left a comment asking for clarity and stated that if the question was about site practices then it should be asked on meta. The post was then moved here, to meta, without any further discussion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleMonkey It would be very insightful if you submitted an answer with your perspective as to why you thought it belonged here vs on main site. Or maybe just a comment with that perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 4:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW yes, the way the initial comment from @PurpleMonkey was couched, did convince me to move it to meta. At the time I believed it was about what this site defined as relevant, eligible material for deciding things in a 5e (or 4e) game. The first comment above from Someone_Evil is spot on... I wanted to know if we should consider it part of canon, and that seemed meta-ish. Happy to stand corrected and migrate it back to main if that is the consensus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 6:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Isn't every question asked on main a question about what this site thinks about something or other? Who else would it be asking? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 11:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Uhh... it's slightly odder than that. A mainsite question shouldn't really be asking the communities opinion on something, it should be asking experts about what is correct/the best way to do something (or eqv.). If it is asking the community for how it should do something, it's better of on meta. This is odd because there's a version of this question for either and the mainsite question is probably cleaner (it doesn't include the community imposing what is canonical onto a question which we don't generally do), but it isn't really the one asked (see also 'frame'). \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov If it helps, the current version of this question reads more like "Are rules/lore from LoW acceptable support for answers on D&D 4e/5e questions?" Asking if something is a valid support material is very much a meta topic. But you are correct that this question is quite borderline and a tweak in the wording either way could change which site it belongs on. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin Mod
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 13:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin I suppose you're right.Thanks for the perspective. Again, I do apologize if my confusion seemed like aggression at all, I certainly didn't intend to sound aggressive. It seemed totally obvious at first that this wasn't a meta question, but you and Someone_evil have been really helpful in giving some perspective. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean, if this is a meta question, then so should the other questions we have (especially with 5e) about what the official sources are. Right? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Bearing that in mind, I have edited the last paragraph (removed reference to designer statements) to keep the final question more in line with the overall post and title question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 6:15

1 Answer 1


No. The board game's rules aren't part of any D&D edition's ruleset.

Lords of Waterdeep is a board game:

Lords of Waterdeep is a strategy board game for 2-5 players. You take on the role of one of the masked Lords of Waterdeep, secret rulers of the city. Through your agents, you recruit adventurers to go on quests on your behalf, earning rewards and increasing your influence over the city.

Expand the city by purchasing new buildings that open up new actions on the board, and hinder—or help—the other lords by playing Intrigue cards to enact your carefully laid plans.

As the name suggests, Lords of Waterdeep is set in Waterdeep, and thereby is based on the Forgotten Realms setting that was originally published as a campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons.

However, that doesn't mean its rules are part of the D&D 4e or 5e ruleset, or the ruleset of any other D&D edition. The D&D 5e rules are those that appear in the official D&D 5e books, per this Q&A on RPG.SE: Where do I find the "official" rules for D&D 5e?

There's playtest material that may end up being published in an official book, and there are optional rules that appear in the official books... But board games - even officially licensed ones - are not (and will presumably never be) a source of official rules or mechanics for the tabletop RPG.

Sometimes rules/mechanics in one medium will correspond to similar ones in another, but they often won't line up at all; even when mechanics in one medium do have a parallel to mechanics in another medium, that doesn't mean anything with regard to whether Lords of Waterdeep is actually part of the rules of D&D itself.

That said, that doesn't necessarily mean you're never allowed to mention the Lords of Waterdeep board game in your answers. For instance, if the 5e rules are silent/ambiguous on an issue, it could hypothetically be relevant to mention that the board game does allow for a certain thing to be done. However, even then, that alone is not enough to support the claim that the same thing should be allowed in the tabletop RPG; you'd need to elaborate on that point and better support it. And regardless, you should keep in mind that it specifically isn't evidence that that thing is allowed in the tabletop RPG, because it's not part of the tabletop RPG's rules.

Likewise, for questions about lore, it may be relevant to mention that a certain thing is supported by the board game's lore, especially if it's unaddressed by the 4e/5e books - just as it might be appropriate to reference relevant lore from past editions of D&D if a topic is not addressed in the current edition's material. Once again, you'd just need to keep in mind that it's not a direct part of the D&D lore, and that there may be inconsistencies between the board game's lore and the tabletop RPG's lore. (I also have no idea when the board game is set, or if it's even set at a particular point in time.)

Basically, you could mention something from the board game where relevant; it just needs to actually be relevant and support the point you're making - and you should keep in mind that something being true in the board game doesn't make it true in the tabletop RPG.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 I think what you are getting at revolves around the self-labeling of these materials: that because LOW is described as a strategy board game whereas 5e is described as a role-playing game therefore, being two different types of games, they cannot be "the same game" for interpreting rules-oriented questions. Is that the crux of the matter? \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 7:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ValleyLad they're not the same game because they are different games. Different editions of actual D&D are all role-playing games, but they are also all different games and a question which is based on 5e's rules cannot be answered as if it was a 3e question or a 4e question. Even if sometimes it's helpful to refer to the rules or lore of other editions as a guideline for making reasonable rulings, those rulings are obviously not RAW for the edition of D&D in question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 8:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer That's reasonable. Where I was coming from, was looking at the years 2008-14 as "the 4e era" of WotC and then 2014-present as "the 5e era", and since LOW came out on the cusp of these, that it could be taken to describe the same world, as it were, as one or these editions. That's why I phrased the original question as merely handling questions of "what is possible" [in that world]. But it makes sense to say that even if they are set in the same world, they are different games, so there's no reason to expect applicability, and that's the end of the matter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Valley Lad
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 8:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pretty much. The lore might sometimes line up in multimedia franchises, and sometimes it might not - but the mechanics of different types of games almost never line up well, and even where they do sort of match, something being mechanically allowed by the rules of one product doesn't mean it's allowed by the rules of a different product, especially one in a different medium. For instance, whether something is possible or true in a video game based on Marvel Comics material doesn't tell us anything about whether it's possible or true in the original comics, nor in the MCU. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 13, 2020 at 8:14

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