A possible problem

First of all, I am not trying to pick a fight with anyone, I am only trying to make the site better.

Having only been a member on this site for a few weeks now, I am concerned by a perceived trend in answers to D&D 5e questions. Having done some digging, I suspect that this trend may be in part due to people answering 5e questions like one would answer a 3e or Pathfinder question. The trend I am referring to is that of starting from a rigid "No" stance unless something is explicitly stipulated in the rules. The 5e rules simply do not cover as much as 3e and Pathfinder, and that is by design, in an effort to lessen the importance of rules in favor of empowering the DM to do it the way that is best for their group.

Guilty until proven innocent?

I realize that sometimes "No" is the only good answer, but it seems that many answers get written and up-voted that assume that the answer has to be "no" unless you can find where it explicitly says in the book that the answer is "yes". I do not believe that this logic can work in 5e, there are just too many things that were purposefully left out or left vague.

I worry that this tone will lead to frustrating budding new DMs and players that don't realize that the rules are their to guide, rather than stifle their creativity. I fear that by approaching answers to 5e questions as if they were dealing with the more rules-heavy 3e and Pathfinder questions could give new DMs an erroneous belief that they are supposed to run 5e just like 3e, which causes problems, since the rules for many situations simply are not elaborated on in 5e.

With 5e we are seeing growth in the tabletop community that we have not seen during any previous edition. A seasoned DM may understand that "Rule 0" is always in effect, but I worry for the new DMs and players who may get the opposite idea from the experts on this site and think that "DM fiat" is wrong.

Good intentions

I know that the people who submit answers are doing so because they legitimately want to help and that nobody wants to foster bad practice on purpose, but I worry that harm may be being done by accident. We need to be careful of those things that we may unintentionally imply by the tone of our answers

The core of the issue?

What I am seeing is probably only a symptom of the real issue, if there even is an issue.

Is the problem people not sticking to the system and letting 3e experience color their 5e answers?

Is it the way the questions are worded that are limiting answers to more strict interpretations of rules?

Is it an assumption that everyone already knows that a DM can overrule anything that they don't think is right for their group?

Some Examples

I am including this section at the request of commenters and to improve clarity, it is not personal against any of these users, who I am sure have plenty of other good answers on the site. The following are from a few of the more recent "Can I" questions about 5e.

This answer from Szega places unnecessary restrictions on bonus actions, but at least reminds the user that rulings can fix it. Compare with encryptor's better answer to the same question.

This answer from NautArch implies that there is no way to use the rules to allow a Large sized creature to use a Medium sized weapon as if it were a lighter weapon sized for them, going as far as to claim that "Size doesn't matter" when it clearly does.

This answer from Val claims that RAW says "No" but then explains that RAI says "Yes".

This answer from Erik is a great example of a 5e "No" answer done the right way. Compare with the answer from disobedient tiger to the same question. Luckily, in this case the better answer got more votes, but the other answer still got a lot of votes.

This answer from Val illustrates both striking an initial negative tone and taking an overly restricted view of the RAW. The answer by Joel Harmon to this same question is also unnecessarily restrictive, though it is better because it at least submits potential alternate avenues of approach.

This answer from chaoticgeek presents a case where the answer treats a unique spell as all other spells. The rule cited in the answer probably assumes that the overlapping spells in question are producing the same effect, which is not the case in the question being asked.

This question illustrates the type of person I am afraid might get the wrong idea from overly restrictive answers to 5e questions. Can you see how someone like this may see "RAW says no" and think that their hands are tied?

I hope that these examples help to illustrate the points I am trying to make.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that there are (at last count) about 16 distinct types of fun in RPGs. That makes a suggestion that answers should objectively promote maximum fun vulnerable to being based on a too-narrow definition of fun. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 0:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're using GM and speaking community-wide, but as I try to think of examples, my thinking is this is largely or entirely contained within the D&D Q's, and it's pretty connected to how the D&D community operates or the modern D&D philosophy that's developed (especially since D&D 3e). If this is only appearing in a section of the community it would be more useful to target discussion to that specifically; if it's occurring elsewhere it would also be useful to clarify that. This doesn't make it any less of an issue, just helps us handle it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 9:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The linked video is specifically about designing challenges that can only be overcome in the one way that the GM has in mind. I think that's different from the DM saying No because the rules also say No. I admit that useful answers should probably also explain how something can be done (i.e. Yes) in addition to saying why something can't be done (i.e. No), but picking a useful answer is already part of the upvote/downvote process. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ (N.b. I totally agree that the site should be friendlier and that a Yes is more friendly than a No, but that shouldn't mean — I dunno — misleading readers as to what information is actually present in the rulebooks!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am still new to the community, so I am willing to accept that this is not as widespread of a problem as it seemed to be in the relatively small sample size I have seen. Mostly I would hate to see games get so bogged down in rules lawyering to the point of forgetting that the point of the game is to have fun with friends. I don't want the rising generation of new DMs to think that their hands are tied. I want them to be empowered to make informed rulings that drive fantastic stories at their tables. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re-reading my question today I am afraid that I struck a more negative tone that I intended. I don't have time to edit now, but I will try to at some point. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Jacob Hey, no worries. Revise it when you can. It would just help to be across what's going on that you're seeing. For example we get a lot of questions that are just about the rules, and we have certain expectations around homebrew based on how our Q&A network works. It tends to be that something we could call rules lawyering is the most common form of Q&A — or rather, someone wants to understand how the rules work, and we tell them without making anything up. (We say "no" if the rules do.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suspect that the problem I am sensing may be a symptom of people who are trying to treat D&D 5e as if it were 3.5e. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/29367/… \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 0:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have overhauled my question. I hope it makes more sense now. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 4:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think your general premise here is understandable and valid, but it's really hard to prove that a problem exists if you don't give solid evidence. Could you add some links to questions where you feel that people are giving answers that are too RAW-heavy for your 5e taste? I haven't seen this issue personally, so seeing some specific examples would be very helpful in understanding where you're coming from. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 8:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DuckTapeAl, I added examples to illustrate my point, I hope that they help. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 13:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Luckily, in this case the better answer got more votes" - That's not luck, that's site design. \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ It appears that Jacob has, with my evidence being that the user name has reverted to a number, found this community to be less than welcoming and has left us, or simply didn't like the answers given to the question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 19:25

1 Answer 1



Here's the deal. Everyone (most people at least) know they can do whatever they want in their games. But they are asking a question not because they need someone to tell them "sure you can! make it up! let your freak flag fly!" but because they want to know what the game rules actually say, if only as a starting point.

Therefore if the question is "does rule X work this way" or "can I do this" and the answer by the game rules is no, then an answer of no is the right answer. If you personally want to add "but of course you could make it yes..." well, they already know that. It's a valueless appendage to an answer, but add it if it makes you feel better.

There's no explanation needed of "why no makes the game better." That way lies random opinionated arguing best left to forums. If someone really needs help on that, they can ask "would changing this unbalance the game" or "how can I make it so all PCs can fly at will but not mess up lower level encounters..." Then that specific question can be answered.

After reviewing the new examples, my point stands. If an answered wants to add tested homebrew suggestions to an answer to a non-RAW-only question that’s fine. But what we don’t want is untested “ideas” on how to do something. Seeing some of your answers to those questions, they include untested speculation. “Here’s how I might rule” is not answering from experience per Good Subjective, Bad Subjective, and site users tend to downvote that content as a result.

If you want to expand on a topic - that’s for a discussion forum or blog. Here we answer questions. In fact all the answers you link are good, and many of them add in “you could rule otherwise” or “here’s how it works at my table.” I shall upvote all those answers now for being good.

I understand your concern about clueless newbs being lured into a RAW-only playstyle by accident, but do not see any actionable suggestion that meets site content standards to address that. If you wanted to ask a question like “Do I have to play D&D 5e by the rules” (hmmm... didn’t we have one of those in the last month?) new folks can be referred to that’s fine. But we expect rules questions to answer with:

  • what the rules say
  • designer clarifications
  • documented instances
  • tested home-brew
  • I did it this way and here’s how it turned out


  • wild guesses
  • declarations of “RAI” with no evidence of that intent
  • “how I’d do it”
  • here’s a new rule/ruling I just wrote I’m sure it’s good
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that you are making a potentially dangerous assumption. There are a lot of new gamers joining the community with D&D 5e that may not realize how DM rulings work and how they can use them to meet the needs of their group. My whole point is that these folks may make unintended inferences based on some of the answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 0:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have clarified my question. I also looked up some of your answers and have found that they are generally insightful and useful, which makes me think that you must have misunderstood the intent of my question. Hopefully my edit better articulates what I am trying to address. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 0:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suspect that the problem I am sensing may be a symptom of people who are trying to treat D&D 5e as if it were 3.5e. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/29367/… \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 0:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ I just overhauled my question some more. I hope it makes more sense now. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 4:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Given your examples, my answer stands. In fact basically every answer you link at least says “dm can rule otherwise” if not providing a lengthy discussion thereupon. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 15:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Okay, I think I get what you are talking about now. I still don't agree, but I can at least understand why so many other people do. I believe that your answer will help me to make more informed questions and answers in the future. \$\endgroup\$
    – user39671
    Commented Oct 28, 2017 at 16:35

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