How to deal with incorrect interpretation of rules (and/or cheating)?

I’m pretty new to this community and I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about the rules of DnD 5e. But after several years of playing and running this system, I think I have a rather good grasp of it.

Last week I found myself at a table with a bunch of very nice people. During the game I noticed that a lot of rules were heavily bent or outright broken, mostly in favor of the respective character. This led to some pretty wonky situations, for example cantrips that rivaled third level spells in their effectiveness or low-level characters making an absurd number of attacks each round.

Most of the time I could understand why someone would come to this interpretation and I tried to clarify, especially because some of the players seemed to be very new to the hobby. But every time I did, I was told that I’m wrong and that they know how it works. I didn’t want to be a wise-ass, so I just said “Okay, let’s keep playing”.

I’m not there to play the most powerful character at the table. And I’m not there to lecture people. So I didn’t really care when the rules were ignored or someone pulled of an impossible turn. I just want to have fun, so I’m not interested in long discussions.

So my question is: How to handle such situations in the future? Just ignore it? Comment on it? Whack the offender with a Player’s Handbook? Sacrifice a goat and use its blood to summon Jeremy Crawford?

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two ways:
if you’re the DM, your ruling counts, so if something is wrong in your opinion overrule it

if you’re a player at the table, ask the DM to clarify, if the DM is fine with it the ruling stands for that moment at least

if it is detrimental to your fun and the players think they are in the right and the DM is backing them on it, the only other option is to play with a different bunch of people next time

also i have annoyed quite a few DMs with my “rules lawyering”, and so far everybody has been fine as long as I accepted their ruling on the specific occurence

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To add to tersidian, if the dm is interested in a fair game but wants to keep things moving, they may well say we will keep the current ruling but discuss it with you afterwards. Some dms may just want to have the discussion away from the table because it slows things down or they feel insecure of the rules. I would suggest that you have a conversation with the dm away from the game as a first step.

As someone who is really new to dming I’d add that for me it’s ok to be called out if I’m misinterpreting the rules or if someone cheats. There are some parts and classes I’m not yet too familar with, or I mix up some things, or forget something, especially if it gets a bit stressful. I try my best but I still rely heavily that my players know their characters and are honest in what they are doing. So I would be happy if someone gives a call, because they might actually know better than me.

I hope your experience didn’t happen at my table and if it did I am sorry. Also hope in that case, that I didn’t rudely shut you down. Please throw the book at me next time.

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In this particular case, I was a player. And the GM didn’t really have the energy to strictly enforce any rules, as they had their hands full with running the game. The players just told them what the characters do and what happens as a result. The session itself was very enjoyable, so I didn’t want to bog down the game. I had the feeling that these players wanted to feel powerful in the game, so looking up rules and proving that I’m right would just make them sad and/or angry. And that’s not fun at all. I’m a big fan of RAF = Rules as Fun. But first you must know the rules, so you can use them in a way that’s fun (for everyone). It’s Rules as Fun, not Do-Whatever-You-Want as Fun.

Thanks for your advice. Next time I will talk to the GM after the game, if I think it’s necessary.


I don’t know if I played in your game or not, because I have no idea what the forum name of my GM last week is ^^. (Plus, I’m really bad when it comes to names). But don’t worry. As I said, the game was fun and I wasn’t shut down by the GM.

Figure out whether it’s incorrect interpretation of rules, deliberate changes to the rules, or cheating, and take it from there. Those are three entirely different kettles of fish.

Also as somebody who gets slowly into DMing I must say to know all the class specific abilities is the hardest. Mostly if you haven’t played for so long you don’t know all the types And I prefer to trust my players if they told me they have an other attack because of a specific feature I don’t like to Challange it all the time. And certainly in the heat of the game everybody makes errors (or sometimes is flavor). Especially beginner DMs are very happy if you talk to them afterwards. I start to look tings up afterwards and know them better next time.

It might depend on the system a bit (DnD generally being less open to tweaking rules on the fly than some other systems), but generally the RAF approach is absolutely fine with me when there is at least an implicit shared understanding between all the players and the DM. As H pointed out, throwing rules out of the window might occur for different reasons and if everybody is fine with it in favour of having a good session, I guess the Crawford ex machina risk is relatively low.
If on the other hand it is a case of abusing the goodwill of the DM at the expense of other players or of the story (i.e. the DM as the other participant) or even just exploiting your build in a way that puts the other characters in the back seat for a significant part of the session (especially if it is a one-shot and this cannot be compensated next time), I would probably tend to speak to the other players (if I was the DM) or the DM (if I am the player on the receiving end of someone else’s munchkinism) even directly during the game.
But it’s hard since we all sometimes get carried away and a good DM does not stop a brilliant idea just because of, well, smallprint somewhere in a rulebook.
So it really is fun first for me as long as everyone comes along :grin:

Figure out whether it’s incorrect interpretation of rules, deliberate changes to the rules, or cheating, and take it from there. Those are three entirely different kettles of fish.


an addition, although I consider myself an experienced DM, my rule of thumb for D&D5 is, that unless I explicitly housruled it for this rpg-session @Tersidian is always right :laughing:

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To add to that there is hardly a better way to kill immersion and tension at the same time than a 5-10 minute rule discussion in the middle of heated combat.

In my experience a quick decision is usually better (even if wrong) in those cases if it keeps interruptions short. I can always revise how I rule it for the next fight/session if it matters.