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I like to think that admitting my mistake is the first step to learning.

I learned the rules (features, traits, spells) fairly quickly and feel confident in my knowledge on how the rules as written work. At first I found myself disrupting the table far too often by correcting the mistakes my fellow players made when using a feature/trait/spell. I've realized that that's the DM's job, not mine, to correct the players if need be. Ever since then, I was able to stop myself from disrupting the table by rules lawyering the other players, if anything I might come to them after the session, away from the table. Really my mentality was that the other players aren't my problem, so I shouldn't deal with it. Although I no longer speak up when my fellow players make mistakes, I just can't stay quiet when the DM is the one making mistakes. To give a few examples (not to badmouth my DM):

  • Stating that the Shield spell only affects one attack instead of lasting until the start of the caster's next turn
  • Inconsistently houseruling how critical damage works. Sometimes it's double dice, sometimes it's maxed dice + rolled dice, sometimes it's double damage including modifiers (I don't mind houserules, I mind the inconsistency)
  • Asking for a strength saving throw to resist a grapple
  • Using an enemy Gloom Stalker Ranger's Shadowy Dodge feature after the result of the players' attack rolls are announced (he used it against us to reroll Nat20s)
  • Homebrewing a magic sword that deals an ambiguous "2d8 slashing and necrotic damage" which became an issue when we fought a barbarian

These are not houserules. He states when there is a houserule at his table (critical successes for ability checks, for instance, including initiative). When brought up about these issues, the DM does admit that he was mistaken. These mistakes are minor, but there are always a few every combat encounter, and it always slows things down when I chime in to point them out. However, the table doesn't care about these mistakes and is having fun regardless, and I'm ruining it.

How do I stop myself from interrupting the session to correct the DM's mistakes?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you asked the DM & other players how they feel about you correcting the DM? Do they prefer that you offer corrections, or would they rather the mistakes go uncorrected? \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    May 23 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Though the DM sometimes ask for my advice on rulings, he did told me recently that I was interrupting too much. I can't really tell how the players feel about it because we mostly play through online video chats so it's hard to read people there. \$\endgroup\$
    – field158
    May 23 at 20:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DanB while it's not fully about the RPG, this community is the most able to answer this question directly from experience (after all, haven't we all played with a group that followed the rules loosely, or had a player who knew more about the game then the DM?). \$\endgroup\$ May 23 at 22:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ The other player aren't bothered by letting mistakes go uncorrected, but you are. If you let your or your allies abilities get accidentally nerfed (e.g. Shield), would you personally be having less fun, given the frustration of sitting there knowing something should have gone differently. You wrote the question as if staying quiet always is obviously the best outcome, but perhaps you can clarify in the question if you're sure that's really true. Like would finding a balance of some threshold of "likely to significantly affect the course of elements" be ok for everyone? \$\endgroup\$ May 25 at 23:36
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Don't be too hard on yourself

Reflexively correcting your DM is not great, but being aware of it and trying to improve is great! Even if your progress isn't as rapid as you'd like, making the effort is the greater part of success.

This is a two part problem: you are one part, and your DM is the other

The other players are non-factors, as they apparently don't care about the rulings. So the main issues come down to (1) your DM being forgetful (or inattentive or inconsistent), which is the source of the errors you notice, and (2) your self-described inability to not point out those errors. So we can attack the issue from either or both points.

Help the DM become more consistent

From the description it sounds like the DM is relatively inexperienced (at least with D&D 5e), and simply forgets which rules apply and when. That's pretty common, but you can't force anyone to study the rules in depth if they aren't motivated to do so. What I recommend is helping the DM prepare some kind of reference notes to address areas where you notice regular mistakes. The format doesn't matter very much as long as it's helpful to the DM. Having an at-a-glance reference not only provides the mechanical information needed but also helps reinforce a habit of checking specific information out quickly before committing to a ruling.

That's what I do for rules that I know I forget or make mistakes with often. Many DM screens are great for this, as they include a quick reference for most of the base mechanics of the game. For more specific references (like the properties of a homebrewed item) I like to prepare index cards with the relevant information. I won't need it as much as the information on the DM screen, but it's still available at a glance when needed. And if the DM finds themselves with too many index cards to work with for a session, then they've planned a session beyond their ability to keep organized and have a chance to pare things back.

The DM is likely to improve with experience, both in running any TTRPG as well as with the specific mechanics of D&D 5e. This is a device to help them gain that experience more quickly, while also mitigating the impact of inexperience while it's a factor. It's also worth mentioning to the DM that the inconsistency in rulings is a problem for you, and brainstorm with the DM about why it's coming up and what steps you might be able to take, together or separately, to make things better in the future.

Understand why you feel compelled to interrupt, and recognize that this is bad form at a gaming table

First and foremost: it is inappropriate in most games to contradict the DM in the moment. Even if you are correct about the rules, the DM is responsible for keeping the game running (in addition to knowing, understanding, and correctly applying the rules). Fixing rule-based errors while slowing the game and distracting player focus is not necessarily better than the game progressing fluidly with a more fluid approach to the rules. Feel free to consider it a rule that you not contradict the DM in-game, and then bring your enthusiasm for strict rules adherence into play.

It may also be worth reminding yourself what the role of the DM is at the table. It's not just a matter of knowing the rules and applying them exactly. The DM's job is to interpret the rules, what they are meant to represent, and how the current in-game environment interacts with them. I tweak the rules all the time to better suit specific circumstances in an encounter, though I'm generally careful to explain my reasoning for not using the official rule. The DM not only applies rules, they also determine which rules apply and when.

As for how, exactly, you might restrain yourself, I'll ask about how you managed to stop correcting the other players. The question states that you realized that correcting the other players wasn't your responsibility and so you stopped. Similarly, it isn't your responsibility to run the game for the DM, and it isn't clear to me why that realization worked in the one case but not the other-- particularly when you've observed that this behavior degrades the game for everyone. It's hard to give specific advice when this is unclear, but I can suggest a couple of very broad options which might help you with your side of the issue:

Mention relevant mechanics where appropriate. I sometimes do this myself as a player, mostly to remind myself of the rules in the moment and to give the GM (or other players) a chance to correct me. If you roll a natural 20 on an attack roll, it's easy to say "Yes, a critical hit! Now I get double damage dice!". Bringing up the mechanical result as a comment is not correcting anyone, nor is it rules-lawyering.

Be the DM. This combines thorough knowledge of the rules and a propensity for correcting others with the actual responsibility for doing so in the game. There are other factors governing how well this will work (like the rest of the group buying in), so it may not be a workable option for you.

Write down inconsistencies you notice during sessions and commit to talking about them after sessions. You can still note the issues, and won't forget about them, but by moving the discussion of problems to a different setting you may be able to deflect the urge to force a conversation at the time the disputed ruling occurs. This is what I do as a DM. I make my ruling and stick to it, but I write down the item in dispute, promise to look it up after the session, and then at the next session update people on what I've found and fix any problems the mistake may have caused (like giving a free potion of healing to a player who lost HP due to the error).

Play a different game. D&D is a relatively rules-rigid system, compared to many others that exist. If strict adherence to the rules is causing problems at your table, playing a game where the rules are less strict might help. That said, if you really like sharply defined rules you may not enjoy a game system that's looser with them.

Appreciate what matters in the game. Some issues are more consequential than others. Inconsistent rulings on things like critical hit damage may be irritating (I would probably be annoyed), but it doesn't really matter when it wouldn't change what choices you make. You would probably not choose to not land a critical hit (even if that were an option available to you, which it usually isn't) with double-dice-plus-modifier versus max-dice-plus-roll. Stating the wrong duration of Shield isn't very important if there aren't additional attack rolls to resolve. It might be worth stopping to consider whether or not a mistaken ruling is consequential, at all. If nothing else that time to think it over might help break the "I can't stop myself" cycle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer is exactly what I was looking for, and has very insightful tips on restraining myself. I was able to stop myself from correcting the other players because I trusted the DM would be there to correct them, but what happens when the DM makes a mistake? Essentially it's because when the players are wrong, there's a DM who can correct them, but when the DM is wrong, there's no one who can point them out. \$\endgroup\$
    – field158
    May 24 at 5:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @field158 When the DM is wrong, you can point it out. However, that has to be 1-on-1 and outside of play time so you don't undermine their authority. Also, this can be tricky from an interpersonal perspective depending on your personality and theirs. If you do this, make sure you're approaching it from the perspective of wanting to help the DM, not of wanting to be right. In fact, before you make it a regular thing, you should make sure the DM wants and would be grateful for your help. If they don't want it, attempting to give it to them anyway will only make things worse. \$\endgroup\$
    – gto
    May 25 at 2:46
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Have a discussion with your group about this

The best thing you can do in this case is have a discussion with you group as to what they expect in terms of you correcting the DM and other players, as well as RAW in general. You may find that they are perfectly fine with you offering your expertise and authority on the subject on the spot.

If I was a DM in the same spot your DM is, I would most likely ask that you note things you think are mistakes and bring them to the attention of the group after the session has been completed. The reason I'd prefer it to be after the session is that interruptions (particularly during combat, which is when this is most likely to come up) during the middle of a game are disruptive. If we talk about it after, that lets everyone go ahead and pull out their rulebooks and have a discussion about it without breaking the immersion that I (as a DM) strive to keep up throughout the session. Basically, If I was making mistakes as DM, I would welcome corrections, but not in a way that is disruptive.

You may find you group and DM would prefer that you not correct them at all, in which case you're most likely running a looser, more RAI campaign. In terms of what you can do if they don't want you feedback, the only real option for you is to just bite your tongue and enjoy the game. But if this really bothers you, you may have to find a new group.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would agree with this with one small caveat... if the ruling at the time would cause a character to die through fault of the DM not understanding something I would want that brought up immediately as the player in question. Had that happen with a previous DM who thought that finger of death in 3.X was 5d6 PER LEVEL damage on a made save... which killed my character (I was not present at the time to argue the ruling). \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    May 23 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ ...okay, killing a character while the player isn't even present is bad DMing no matter how you look at it... \$\endgroup\$ May 23 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym spitting the facts \$\endgroup\$ May 24 at 0:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would be careful following this advice - you don't want it to end up sounding like "What can we do about our crap GM who can't remember the rules?" \$\endgroup\$
    – colmde
    May 24 at 8:21
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First don't derail the train over minor errors.

It is entirely possible the DM in question is newer to it, or comes from a completely different DMing style, I guarantee you also make mistakes, all of us do. No DM is free of errors. Constantly interrupting the DM just undermines the game flow. You are creating a bigger problem out of small ones.

If inconstancies bother you consider offering to make a house rule page everyone can access. One of my players did this creating an entire discord channel, because we had to house rule some workable swimming and sea combat rules in a sea based campaign. It made everyone's life easier and has made the flow of the game smoother.

lets look at your problems individually,

Stating that the Shield spell only affects one attack instead of lasting until the start of the caster's next turn

Using an enemy Gloom Stalker Ranger's Shadowy Dodge feature after the result of the players' attack rolls are announced (he used it against us to reroll Nat20s)

these two go together, these are about players not knowing how their abilities work, in which case it is not the DM's job to tell them how they work, it is the DM's job to tell you how they work right now, to keep the game moving. Things like spell and ability card can help here as can many online platforms that allow players to bring up spell and ability descriptions. Interrupting the DM here is just counterproductive.

Inconsistently house-ruling how critical damage works. Sometimes it's double dice, sometimes it's maxed dice + rolled dice, sometimes it's double damage including modifiers (I don't mind house-rules, I mind the inconsistency)

this is where offering to codify house-rules can be helpful, but only if they they are easy to access. A DM has a lot on there plate don't expect them to remember every ruling they have ever made.

Asking for a strength saving throw to resist a grapple

A small error that could e fixed in seconds, especially in 5E, there is nothing wrong with asking about this as long as you are not harping on it. The key here is asking, "Do you mean strength/athletics check?" NOT "you are wrong, it's this."

Homebrewing a magic sword that deals an ambiguous "2d8 slashing and necrotic damage" which became an issue when we fought a barbarian

A simple error that can be fixed later, don't expect homebrew material to account for every contingency, even official material can't do that. This is something that could be fixed on the spot with DM fiat and fixed permanently later. Making a note of this and reminding your DM at the end of session or outside of session can be helpful here, they may forget to change it. After the session is over you can offer "How about 1d8 slashing and 1d8 necrotic"

Finally if this is not bothering the rest of your players you have a question to ask yourself. If you can't handle a more freeform group you may need to find a different group.

Ask yourself a question, Has ANY DM been acceptable to you, if not, consider both DMing yourself and learning to accept imperfection in others. If you have had other DM's who you felt did not make these errors, this may not be the right group for you. If you can, try enjoying it as a more narrative style. Learning to let things go is an important skill dnd can teach.

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Come to an understanding with your table

"I'm in this question and I don't like it."

Like you, I have learned the rules reasonably well. I find enjoyment in playing by those rules. Also like you, I find myself at tables that play things a bit loose. Some knowingly play things loose; they revel in creative ideas, like lightning bolt spreading out in water to strike a larger area. Others unknowingly play things loose; they don't know the right rules (or don't want to look them up during the game), so the DM makes a ruling.

Your goals should be:

  1. Determine what kind of table you currently have.
  2. Agree on how your table will handle rules going forward.
  3. Find an outlet for any excess rules corrections.

Determine what kind of table you currently have

From your question, it seems like you have a bit of both types. Your table is probably unknowingly loose regarding the crit damage rules, but knowingly loose about critical success for ability checks.

The easiest way to find out is to ask. Ideally, you'd do this at a low stakes time. Post-session isn't great for me (DMing really takes it out of you), but that may depend on your DM. If your group manages to assemble before session start (lucky!), that may be a good time to bring it up. A mid-session break may also work.

The usual human interaction rules apply. Let the table know how you feel - you like following the rules and want to help the table do so, etc. Let them know that you don't want to disrupt their fun. Give a couple example rules, but make sure you indicate that you're fine with house rules (assuming that's true, of course).

Then listen and see how they respond. Does everyone kinda shrug and not care? Do the players (and DM) have different ideas about the current state of rules at the table? Or is everyone on the same page?

Agree on how your table will handle rules going forward

Now that you have an idea of what kind of table you have, it's time to figure out how to proceed. Maybe the table is currently really loose, but wants to be better about rules. Or maybe the rules are seen as an obstacle rather than a tool.

If the table is strongly opposed to written rules, then you can skip to the next section. Otherwise, you have an opportunity to discuss your table's plan for rules uncertainty going forward.

If you're playing online, "let's read it together" is extremely effective. If there's any disagreement about how an ability works, the player links the ability in chat for everyone to read. Better yet, players always link the ability when they're using it. This is really fast and provides a clear quote to draw from.

If you're playing offline or with a more rules-resistant group, it's better to pick your battles. Talk with your table about what kind of rules they'd like to disrupt the game over. Only when a PC might die? When a ruling would make a PC twice as strong as they should be? Twice as weak? Only in low-immersion situations? What about rules that help/hurt monsters?

Find an outlet for any excess rules corrections

Now that you know how your table wants to interact with the rules, you can properly deal with your concerns about interrupting the session.

If you get into a situation about which the table has agreed to interrupt the game, interrupt the game. No need to feel bad about it. You still want to reevaluate this with the table every so often, but you shouldn't hold back if the moment arises.

For every other situation, there's my tried and method: write the rules question down. If the table wants some/all rules discussion to occur outside of the session, this helps you remember what to discuss. More importantly, writing it down gives you something to do in the moment besides interrupting the session. The time you take to write it down gives you a chance to get past the impulse to speak out.

I'll do this even if the table never wants to discuss the rule. I enjoy figuring out the nuance of a rule and what leads to its many interpretations, even if that never reaches the table. You might even find that you missed something about your own interpretation - I know I have.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Did you try this with your table? How did it go? I'm a bit scared to try it myself because I don't feel like it's my place to talk about a rules interpretation overhaul with the table \$\endgroup\$
    – field158
    May 25 at 6:26
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I have a table full of ADHD players, so I've found that just SWAGging a ruling and moving on won't fly. Some players, like yourself, just can't move on if they think the rule may be wrong (particularly if a different ruling might be to their benefit). So we came to an agreement that when they're having trouble with a rule, I'll make what seems a sensible ruling, with a promise to look the rule up after the session. If I'm wrong, and I was wrong to the players' detriment, I will say so and do my best to recton things to fix it. If I'm wrong in their favor, I'll point that out too, but they get to keep what I mistakenly gave them.

It does mean there's always some post-session research I have to do. But that's reading I would have wasted game time with otherwise, and it keeps the game session from getting derailed over rules lawyering. There's usually a couple of these every session (although the retcons are much rarer).

So I'd suggest talking to the DM about this. Its possible they are used to sessions going like this, and don't mind. But I think more likely they'd prefer if you just came to an accommodation where the rule gets clarified post-session, so if it comes up again you all have a common understanding of what is supposed to happen. Make sure to also discuss ahead of time what, if anything, will be done if the table ruling turns out to have been off.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just as a side note, its continually amazing to me how much more trouble I have looking up a rule during a session (while everyone's waiting on me) than I do outside of a session. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    May 24 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ What's SWAGging? \$\endgroup\$
    – field158
    May 25 at 6:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @field158 - I've linked a definition in the answer in case you aren't the only one who didn't know. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.E.D.
    May 25 at 16:55
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What works for me is deciding that these aren't mistakes -- the game you're playing has a big unwritten house rule "the GM will get excited and misremember rules". Now none of the mistakes are mistakes and there's nothing to criticize.

With most games, especially board games, people want to know the by-the-book rules. Messing up even one can ruin the game. Everyone wants mistakes corrected, or at least to know which rules they're house-ruling around. But that's hardly the case for an RPG. And it's not as if your GM is going to be taking the GM test next month, or you're training for competitive by-the-book modules. It sounds as if these mistakes aren't favoring one person or are attempts at railroading.

As soon as you starting thinking that most encounters are supposed to have 2 or 3 things work differently than how they did last time, that little nagging "make sure they know the official rules" voice goes away.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "But that's hardly the case for an RPG." It sounds to me like OP would disagree. And from my own perspective, I would choose not to play in a game that had that house rule. \$\endgroup\$ May 24 at 22:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DM_with_secrets My impression is the OP doesn't mind the misremembered rules so much and is looking for a better way to bite their tongue. \$\endgroup\$ May 25 at 1:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't enjoy it, but the table doesn't seem to care so yes I'm looking for a way to bite my tongue. But if you ask me, ideally everyone would know how to play the game according to RAW (of course RAW doesn't cover everything, grey areas are up to the DM). \$\endgroup\$
    – field158
    May 25 at 6:13
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Actually when finding it hard to stop an impulsive correction I've learned -mainly through chess training- that it can be very useful to add a physical barrier to things.

Like I tend to use my hands when explaining something, and raise my hand when wishing to correct a dm (or anyone for that matter).

So now if I notice that tendency in a group I tend to make a the conscious choice -when I notice I start to getting "that urge"- to sit on my hands. Actually really put my hands below my legs.

Then when I wish to correct the DM, I actually notice it before I start drawing attention from the group (and am stuck in the corner where I have to correct him), and I can first think: "is this important, does the group want this". It gives me a second or two to control the impulses.

It might sound childish, but it works and it's actually really helpful.

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the table doesn't care about these mistakes and is having fun regardless, and I'm ruining it.

I think this is a key factor. Are you able to have fun as well?

My suggestion is that you tell yourself "This is the DM's game and I'll follow their way of doing it" and try to enjoy it without interrupting.

But since you seem to know the rules better than the DM and you care about playing correctly, I suggest you keep in mind or take some notes, and then discuss with the DM afterwards in private, so that they also can learn more. This assumes that the DM appreciates you doing this and is open to improving their detailed rules knowledge, of course.

This way, the whole group can enjoy the game without friction, but you also get the benefit over time of better attention to rules.

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First things first, are the errors egregious or minor? If they are minor, I don't see any reason to correct him/her unless is a life or death issue.

Egregious errors should always be brought to their attention. Not everyone is well versed in the rules.

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