In our two-week old campaign, the DM is trying to say I need food or water, or otherwise I'll suffer from exhaustion.

But I am a Warforged Juggernaut, and the Warforged Resilience trait says I don't eat, sleep, breathe, etc. (WGtE, p. 68):

  • You don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe.
  • You don’t need to sleep and don’t suffer the effects of exhaustion due to lack of rest, and magic can’t put you to sleep.

Can the DM override my racial traits?

He feels my race is too overpowered and he wanted to even it out. He claimed the only way for me to die is to be "crushed by a tarrasque".

He offered to give me immunity to one element to compensate for the ability to gain exhaustion. I picked immunity to undead because that's his entire campaign.

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    – Someone_Evil
    Apr 12, 2019 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AmmonBecker Interesting. These are more things you might strongly consider mentioning in the question. Also usually immunity is to a type of damage (say slashing) rather than a source (the undead) which makes me suspect a somewhat inexperienced DM or else one with a specific vision. You might want to mention experience levels in your question as well. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2019 at 16:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ "the DM is trying to say I need food or water, otherwise I'll suffer from exhaustion" — did you know that before you chose the race? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Apr 12, 2019 at 17:17

4 Answers 4


The Direct Answer

The direct answer is yes, the DM can override racial traits and absolutely anything else they want to override.

Your Specific Situation

This would be an odd thing to override. First, most campaigns don't make a big issue out of food and water. They are often assumed to be adequately available so that it doesn't become much of a mechanical issue. They are often mentioned in story and fluff, but rarely an issue (not never, I've seen it raised in survival situations with low level characters in earlier editions).

Also, that is a legitimate advantage of warforged provided as part of its racial balance. In campaigns where the availability of food and drink is an actual issue, the fact warforged don't need to worry about that problem is an advantage of the race written into the standard rules.

How to handle it

As is often the answer, you should talk to your GM. Its likely they forgot about that trait.

It is also possible they are doing it deliberately. While rare in my experience, some gritty campaigns do make food and water an issue, especially in harsh areas where the availability is low and acquiring the necessary supplies can be a challenge meant to be solved in game. If the GM is making a deliberate point of it in the campaign, they may not want your character to be simply immune to it.

However, if they are doing it deliberately, they are depriving your character of a legitimate advantage and doing it in a way that doesn't fit well storywise with the warforged. You may want to work with them to have them give you some other minor trait to compensate and to provide a story explanation for why your warforged needs it that fits well.

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    – V2Blast
    Jun 22, 2019 at 4:55

Yes, But...

Yes: The GM is the final arbiter of the campaign, subject to the players just getting up and leaving him without a game to arbitrate. Moreover, GMs often override specific rules from the rulebooks in order to set a certain desired aesthetic or produce some certain effect.

I myself have overridden race bonuses in games before, although the situation was quite different. (I was running a game that dramatically restricted the allowable races-- no halflings, no gnomes, no etc-- but some players were interested in the purely mechanical aspects of other racial traits. I allowed them to apply almost any official package to their characters in that mechanical sense, but in that mechanical sense only.)

But... Character design choices are serious choices for the players to make. They are often (nearly) irrevocable, and have long-term consequences. Overriding something like that can work, but it has to be done up front, in the open, so that the players are making informed choices.

In my case, during the planning stages of the campaign, I told people how things were going to work. There were no surprises. And had I gotten extreme pushback (had people been more interested in actually playing halflings and gnomes than in the mechanical advantages) I would have had to change my plans.

In your case, it looks like the GM is retconning an aspect of your character. It could be the case that the GM had planned some initial arc that relied on tracking food and water, wearing the characters down on a trek across the wilderness or something. But in this case, he ought to have had the foresight to put the restrictions on the table in advance, not after the fact.

Some advice on your unspoken question ("What should I do?") is this: As others have said and more will say after me, talk to your GM. Start with the most charitable interpretation you can when you talk to him, but point out that he's taking something away from you after the fact, without warning, and without compensation, and that you don't think that's right.

You may or may not budge him. What you do from there-- accept it and get on with the game, or find another one-- is your decision.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It could be the only food and water you must take in will be mildly poisoned in some manner which causes the storyline to progress. With one in the party not poisoned, it breaks the flow of the entire campaign plot. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2019 at 17:14

There are two answers to this question.

The first answer is that your GM is god. A GM has the ability to override any rule and implement any other rule, for pretty much any reason and it is "within their rights" so to speak. Your GM may have a house rule that overrides your specific racial traits.

However, if your GM is new to the game or the race, then maybe it was a mistake. If they aren't they really should have told you about the house rule before they accepted your character, or just made you choose a different race.

My advice would be to privately point it out and tell them that you were frustrated by their assertion because you had expected that it wouldn't apply to you. Ask them if they have a house rule that overrides that trait, and if they have any other house rules you should know about. You could also ask why they want to play that way, and see if there's another way that you could play into the spirit of that. For example, if your GM wants to make you do inventory management and be careful about money, etc., maybe your character is going to worry more than others about ammunition, or clothing, or some other resource.

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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[Y]our GM is god." A god with potentially limitless influence but only over a very small area, and a god that you—as a player—can abandon at any time, and, when that occurs, a god that sees its influence on you cease. (Not my downvote, but The DM is god trope may've turned others away from this answer more strongly—I find the answer otherwise possessed of good advice.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2019 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the analogy. (D&D) gods need prayer, DMs need players. They may have a lot of power, but if they don't keep their followers happy they can lose that power. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2019 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnMontgomery That's a nice t-shirt you have there for the next con you attend. "gods need prayers, DM's need players" They should sell like hotcakes. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2019 at 19:59

The DM can say anything they want. They can say "you must stand on your head when you roll a d20", or "warforged need food and water".

You can say anything you want. You can say "no they don't" or "my head is a pineapple".

In D&D, however, the generally agreed upon convention is that the DM is in charge of what happens in the world that they are "running" -- the game world.

Assuming you are agreeing to this convention, then the DM can say anything about the game world, and that holds in the game world.

It is also, generally, a convention that the DM shouldn't use this first granted ability capriciously and without forethought. The rules of D&D itself should, by default, be what you are playing by, and the players should have an idea of how the world works by looking at the rules.

After all, you are playing D&D.

All of these are no more powerful than the convention, but a game of D&D generally requires a DM and a game of D&D generally requires players. Unless both the DM and any players can come to an agreement about the convention and what is "fair", there won't be a game of D&D.

In other words, you are free to walk away, and find another DM. You are free to recruit your fellow players to also walk away. That DM is free to have whatever rules they want.

If you where the DM, and asking "should I make warforged eat and drink, because I think they are over powered?", I'd say "no, that is a bad idea; the non-eating/drinking of warforged is pretty core to their narrative, and is a relatively minor power in a fantasy orc-killing adventure game: but conventionally you have the right to say that, however you may not have players shortly".

But you aren't the DM. You are a player. So you have to decide: is the game otherwise good? Is there a sign that this is going to be a continuing problem, where the DM arbitrarily changes the game rules on a whim? Can you find a game where the DM doesn't do this?

No D&D is better than bad D&D. And leaving a game is generally irreversible. So I'd advise saying "If you are going to rewrite my character, please do so before we start playing. But if this is important to you, I'm game.", and keeping an eye out for this problem repeating.


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