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The published rules book for D&D 5e contain both rules text, and images. All the text is rules text, there is no distinction between flavor text and rules text. But what about the images? Are they also part of the official rules?

There are questions like this one, that asks how a bag of holding looks, or this one, that asks how the astral sea looks, or this one, that asks how the mirror image spell looks like, or this one, that asks how an Aarakocra looks like. There is an actual picture of the bag of holding in the rules. There is also a picture of an Aarakocra in the Monster Manual. Here is a question about how the mechanics of astral arms work, where an image of how these arms look is informing an answer, but I am not majorly looking for how this affects game mechanics, but if only the rules text defines how things look, or if pictures also count.

Do these item officially look the way depicted, or are those images merely illustrative, creative flavor?

(Of course, a DM might decide they look differently in their setting, but what is the default?)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you give an example when images being or not being part of the rules would actually change how something works mechanically? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 11:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot here the image clearly solves the problem to decide if astral arms have hands or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Molot, I provided one thanks to Eddymage. But really there are a lot of questions that are not about the rules mechanics, but are from people who just want to know how stuff looks, and it would be good to understand if the depictions in the published rules books are a source for that or if only rules text that describes how these things look counts. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 12:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast a picture of a druid wielding 2 scimitars probably wouldn't say all druids have 2 scimitars and must adopt a certain 2d pose all their lives, but it might prove that a druid can wield 2 scimitars if it was part of the rules. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast That doesn't make this an opinion though... They're asking whether or not they are official and enforceable. If there are no official references to official images being rulings, such as in Sage Advise, then the answer is probably no. But that doesn't mean it's opinion-based. Opinion-based would be along the lines of "Do you think DM's should be allowed to rule based on images in the books" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 7, 2023 at 20:56

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Not rules unless stated, but always official content

Great question. The only instance of an image in the rules being the only authoritative source of information is the rules for Creature Size and Space: Creature space usage for tiny through gargantuan

The rules only state that a monster takes up a certain number of hexes but doesn't tell you how to distribute them. For a huge monster it just says "7 hexes" - contrast to the rules for playing on a grid it says "9 squares (3 by 3)".

I imagine most logical and sane DMs (and DMs do tend to be both logical and sane) would distribute 7 hexes in a circle, however there isn't anything in the rules telling us to do that.

I'm not aware of any other images which are necessary to the rules.

Does the rulebook contain fluff?

You have no doubt heard many people say that the 5e rulebooks don't have fluff. There are specific parts of the rulebook where we are explicitly told we are dealing with rules. A great example is the rules for casting spells where it is stated that everything in the description is rules:

Each spell description begins with a block of information, including the spell's name, level, school of magic, casting time, range, components, and duration. The rest of a spell entry describes the spell's effect.

But this can't necessarily be extended to everything in the rulebook. In the introduction of the basic rules it states that several parts of the book are not rules;

Part 1 is about creating a character, providing the rules and guidance you need to make the character you’ll play in the game. ...

...

Part 3 is all about magic. It covers the nature of magic in the worlds of D&D, the rules for spellcasting, and a selection of typical spells available to magic-using characters (and monsters) in the game.

Part 4 is especially for the Dungeon Master. It contains instructions for how to challenge the player characters with adversaries that are a good test of their abilities, plus dozens of ready-to-use monster descriptions. ...

There are many parts of the rulebook which are not considered to be rules by the community, a great example would be class descriptions.

In summary I think we can accept that not everything in the rulebook is a rule, and without some kind of indication that an image is a rule we shouldn't assume it is. They are in the book as official illustrations and that does give them weight in discussion.

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