Dungeons and Dragons keeps hitting milestones with its D&D5e iteration but with that comes a nagging question—What are the best rule interpretations for DnD5e?
Dungeons and Dragons was created in 1972 when Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson introduced their spin on the classic war games scenarios. What began as three small rules booklets grew into Fifty books for the fifth edition of D&D alone.
This great expansion of rules gave way to three distinct approaches to the game.
Rules as Written, Rules as Intended and Rules as Fun.
RAW, RAI, RAF: The Best Rule Interpretations for DnD5e
Rules as Written or RAW is best described as a strict interpretation of the rules. In RAW the rules are taken at face value as printed in the guidebooks. For better or worse the rules are law, and any clarification must come from the written text alone.
RAI or Rules as Intended adds an element of problem solving and common sense when discussing rules. RAI at its core is a way to further dissect problematic rules to determine the intent behind a rule. This approach stays true to the written text of the guides but also considers what the developer’s intentions may have been as well.
RAF or rules as fun takes the simple premise of “D&D is meant to be fun”. This is the category most often referred to as House Rules or Homebrew. RAF gives DMs the freedom to shape original campaigns for their players.
In a perfect world RAW, RAI and RAF flow together or at least coexist peacefully as equally valid approaches. This unfortunately isn’t always the case.
Rules As Written vs. Rules As Fun
Die hard fans that fully embrace the RAW approach rarely give serious weight to RAI or RAF as anything other than fan fiction.
On the flip side – Fans of RAI or RAF sometimes dread when a RAW “Rules Lawyer” joins the campaign.
With that stated, the question remains – What is the Best Rule Interpretation for DnD5e?
Whenever considering campaign types, ask yourself; what is most important to your style of game play?
Is the structure of the written word more comforting or is the freedom of improvisation a greater pull?
With RAW and RAF being total opposites we’ll focus on these two options to better illuminate the playstyles.
Rules As Written is the absolute literal reading of the rules, without any interpretation of the intent behind the rules. It is synonymous with the term “rules lawyering”.
The radical truth is that rules are an integral part of D&D. The RAW approach provides a universally consistent approach to the rules. The rules after all are what define D&D as a game instead of simply improvised storytelling.
D&D’s rules are meant to organize, inspire, and lead the action of a D&D campaign. The rules are the ultimate tool the players can utilize to bring their games to life.
Best Rules Interpretations for DnD5e
The downside of RAW is the sheer number of rules provided across all the source and campaign books. Many of the rules come across as ambiguous, confusing, or seemingly contradict each other at times. This leaves a wide opening for disagreements at the table and for slowdown of the game entirely while the rules are adjudicated.
RAW sessions have a quality of strategy and planning that RAI or RAF lack. That doesn’t make RAW better or worse in any way. It’s just a factor one must weigh before starting the campaign.
RAF is the acceptance of the rules as written but being comfortable working outside of the box to develop house rules. These House rules and homebrew components are best utilized when the DM places an emphasis on fun rather than strict rule compliance.
RAF is best utilized with a stable party where the goal within a group is to play a fun game, not to debate perfect understanding of the Player’s Handbook.
In RAW, RAI or RAF it is imperative that the DM/GM take an active role in guiding any rule confusion.
This leads to Rule 0 which is the unwritten understanding in all game types that the GM has the final say on all game decisions. The DM/GM can exercise common sense and is encouraged to supersede the rules when the rules prevent enjoyment or fair play.
Many role-playing games adopt the universal Rule 0 because without it you may as well be playing a simulation game.
No matter what campaign style you are playing the DM is key to its success. So, it is essential to establish what DnD5e Rule Interpretations are best for you and your party.
Using the Rules to “Win” at D&D
To help guide the players through a campaign there must be consistent communication about the rules. This communication is most effective if done before the campaign begins, at session zero and when needed as a form of Housekeeping.
So many unexpected actions happen in a single D&D campaign, and no number of rules will ever account for every possibility. Therefore, the DM’s role is best served as a guide to the rules in the Player’s Handbook and all the unspoken grey areas in between.
In a perfect world a healthy mix of RAW, RAI, and RAF would be the universally accepted nature of gameplay for DnD5e.
No matter which playstyle you are drawn to most the end goal should always be having fun and spending time with friends.
That is, after all, how you WIN Dungeons and Dragons!
Was this Article helpful? Have any feedback or questions?
Let us know below and if you enjoyed this Article – HERE IS MORE D&D Goodness!