D&D 5e has been called by it's creators a Living Rules System. What this means is that:

If we know something is an issue, we’ll let you know that we plan to address it. When we have some ideas, we’ll put those in front of the community and playtest them before making any changes. If a change is well liked and solves problems, we’ll implement it as an option for DMs to use.

We don’t plan on rushing things. It might be a year from when we raise an issue to when we have a fix. But as soon as we can, we’ll share that solution as an option for DMs and players to use as they wish. Groups that never felt the effect of the issue in the first place can ignore it, while those looking for a solution will have a well tested, proven response.

After the release of the starter set, we saw an example of this. In an Article called "Building Adventures" it gives some suggested guidelines for XP daily budgets.

The article then gives a disclaimer which reads:

Warning: These are not final rules. Although they've been playtested thoroughly, you can expect some adjustments before they debut in the Dungeon Master's Guide in November.

However, at the bottom of the article it says:

You might find that you'll use this system of challenge rating and XP budgets to familiarize yourself with fifth edition encounters and combat, then slowly dial it back as your intuitive sense of the party's strengths and your own personal DMing style take over. And as with any tool, you might end up using these guidelines in ways that their creators could never have predicted. Have fun, and make the rules your own.

Now, let's see if anyone manages to use this article and the material in the Starter Set to hit 20th level by GenCon . . .

It seems clear that the intention is for these rules to be used to play the game, and to understand the game.

However, when I asked a question based on these rules, it was mentioned that:

@WesleyObenshain We can ask questions about what has been released so far just fine. We can't ask questions that draw on a combination of released and unreleased rules though. @WesleyObenshain The question is actually based on the encounter/XP guidelines, which do not appear in any published material. It appears in the playtest and in a preview article that carries a bolded warning that these are not final rules.

I suspect that during the year between the official releases, and official surveys, there will be many Legends and Lore articles, or other WOTC articles that introduce rule changes or ideas that will not be in it's final form.

So, are rules which are published by WOTC and given to the public to use, allowed to have questions based on them, or only if they are published as a "final rule", or only if they are published in books which have a non-digitial counterpart?

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    \$\begingroup\$ This recent answer to another question seems relevant. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 5:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I get a critical failure (i.e. a 404 error) whenever I try to go to the page on Living Rules and Building Adventures. Could you please fix the links? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


Yes, you can ask about all these kinds of rules.

Look, here's the deal. I know it's a shock to a lot of 3.5e/4e players who have adopted a very strongly legalist/"canon" approach to rules, but it's quite familiar to us OD&D/AD&D grognards.

In any game - here 5e is being explicit about its approach, but really for any game, even a game that tries to portray itself as a NP-complete legal doc - the game rules are always evolving. You are always empowered to change them personally as well. Sometimes important and fun additions will come from some non-physical-rulebook source (used to be Dragon Magazine back in the day). This is good, effective, and results in fun. It's on topic here. House rules are asked about here - in 3.5e/4e they were treated as "some weird special exception" instead of "expected business as usual" as they were in 0e/1e/2e, but there's nothing about any of this that makes more organic rulesets off limits - except for those two games, pretty much all games are like that. 5e had to come up with a cute "Living Rule System" name to help get it back into people's lexicon, but any old Palladium player or AD&D player was used to it happening any time Kevin or Gary had a new flash of inspiration. As we see from Are rulings that only feature in Dragon/Dungeon Magazine 'official'?, trying to define "official" is even a pretty difficult (and, I would argue, valueless) effort. There is a bunch of game content - some in WotC physical books, WotC e-books, WotC paper or e-magazines, WotC blogs or other Webby things, forum posts, etc; and the same from second and third party publishers. All rules are "living." And you get to choose what you want to use. And once you do, you are still welcome here!

But this does have implications as to how you ask and answer questions. It means that declarations of "strict RAW" don't make a lot of sense. It means you should generally cite your sources a lot more in questions and answers (e.g. "We are playing with the Paladins of Alternate Alignment from Dragon #106, and I have a problem..." "We are using the original 5e Starter Set Stealth rules and so...") It means we have to rely on Good Subjective, Bad Subjective a lot in answers ("I tried doing that and here's what happened...") more that just doing a lawyerly proof of "what RAW says" and considering it a job well done (instead of helping people have a better game). At the same time, avoid "Bad Subjective" (speculative) questions and answers.

I know it seems a little scary now but it's a brave new/old world - the hobby thrived as did discussions about the games (ah, rec.games.frp, how I loved you) when all games were more organic. The shift to games as massive legal documents is relatively recent and mostly an exception in the longer history of gaming.

Everything changes. The law changes, science changes, religion changes. They're all on topic on their relevant SEs. We mods have tried very hard to inculcate good habits into people on this SE because we knew this day would come in some way. So now we're faced with a more organic super-popular game and a flood of new users coming to ask about it. It's time for everyone to step up and help them out in the same way, using our SE best practices. Help turn them into constructive questions, but don't get scared off because there's not a "simple RAW" answer to them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, this right here. Asking about organic rules is great, right until the question is, "I want to understand this game better, so what is the immutable mathematical truth about X?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 14:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, those who want "an objective truth about this game!" will be stymied. But that's an XY problem anyway, what they should really be looking for is "what will work best in my game." Equating that to "what the masters tell me!" is sloppy and incorrect at best. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 25, 2014 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Theoretical Optimization, Tourney play, and I'm not the GM are all situations where RAW is a useful or necessary context. Whose 'writing' (you, the tourney staff, and your GM respectively) is important might vary from game to game, but that doesn't make questions looking for answers within existing text 'bad' or even less good than more 'organic' questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 8:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ The shift to games as massive legal documents is relatively recent and mostly an exception in the longer history of gaming. In contrast, the USGA has rules, and a book of rulings on the rules, for Golf that are and have always been very legalistic. (Maybe because the wealthy and their lawyers were once the few who could afford to play). One of the general societal influences that has leaked into our lives and games is the rigor of computer code ~ rules. It is hard to prove, but it seems to me that the overlap between CRPG and TTRPG has influenced this rules dependency. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 12:41


Yes, with a But

If there's no rules in basic for the situation and Wizards puts out 'Living Rules' that address it, those new rules are relevant and can be used in an answer. Not using them means ignoring what WotC is writing about a game put out by WotC, which is kind of silly. Any such answer should say explicitly that it's based on the living rules, which are subject to change.

The risk with those rules is that they could change when the DMG comes out... but that's not as big a deal as it sounds. We already have cases where an answer from a couple of years ago is no longer correct, or there's now a better answer due to errata or new game material coming out. When that happens, either the original answer(s) are edited to reflect the change, or someone posts a new one with the new material. (This actually even happened on a 3.5 question, just because someone happened to find a line in the Rules Compendium that changed our understanding of the situation!)

The same thing happens on Stack Overflow pretty regularly when someone asks "how do I do X?" and the only way is a convoluted method, until a new version of the platform comes out and suddenly you can call foo.DoStuff() to do it all for you. Given that, I've seen the SE format handle this situation pretty well.


The problem in this case is that "Building Adventures" is an article, much like various Dragon and D&D Insider articles, and therefore not "canon". Lacking any other evidence I have to assume the the Living Rules System is a reference to the Basic Rules, which have not been updated with this material. In addition, it is expressly stated within the document that these rules are subject to potentially significant change (as it concerns the question) within the next 4 month. This makes it rather inadvisable to consider it part of the Basic Rules as of yet.

On the other hand, as with other questions, players should be free to establish their own guidelines for the answer, where relevant. In this case, the critical issue with this question is that it contains a lot of irrelevant text, much of which confuses the question you're actually trying to ask. In fact, your question would be equally readable without any reference to the article or the term "Adventuring Day".

Several attempts have been made to help you turn this into a question the community feels is worth answering. The most recent of which was posted in the very chat you referenced. The post in question may end up being considered by the community as part of the Living Rules System, but as it stands I sincerely doubt that will affect the status of your question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "subject to potentially significant change (as it concerns the question) within the next 4 month." -- But all the rules are subject to potentially significant changes in 12 months. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, I'm not asking about that question you linked to, so I don't see why it's relevant here. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMNoob Because it was the impetus for your question. Much like regular questions, Meta questions require an actual problem. Since you failed to provide it, I referenced it. A survey may or may not happen in 12 months; that does not mean that the rules will be officially changed at that time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 7:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I think it's just going to muddy the conversation and doesn't really help anybody. The problem is are these articles part of the scope of questions or not. Not if my particular question about statistics is a good question or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Commented Jul 24, 2014 at 7:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Many D&D answers are from "non-canon" sources - like Dragon Magazine articles. The Q&A section wasn't technically canon... And the designer blogs for D&D Next are little different - it's the staff writing in authoritative voice. As with the answer here, it's a community decision process best left to the rating system. \$\endgroup\$
    – aramis
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 12:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @aramis You're missing the point; which is that where certain sources can be considered a given, the specific rules in question (and likely further similar rules) would require specific referencing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 23:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Adventure Day is a game term. See page 57 of the Basic Rules (DM) see the DMG, see the PHB (in the section on rest). Living Rules are alive and well. The question is actually based on the encounter/XP guidelines, which do not appear in any published material. It does now, in both electronic and printed versions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 20:14

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