My group is mostly new to Pathfinder (including the GM), and we sometimes take "Accidental Liberties" while playing. For instance, my character has a spear with the "Brace" feature. I had been using that feature in the same round as casting a spell or firing an arrow. I just learned that the readying of a Brace is a standard action (as all ready actions are) so I shouldn't have been able to do that.

I am often studying the rules (believe it or not, I enjoy it) outside of our game session and often find instances where we might have stretched or broken the rules a little - nothing crazy that I would consider cheating. I point these little "Accidental Liberties" out just so everyone gets a chance to see how things should have worked.

I haven't found anything so drastic as to require a retcon or call anyone out, in fact it is just as often me taking the "Accidental Liberty" as anyone else.

I haven't had any negative feedback from any of our players, and we don't get into fights over what is or isn't right, but I don't want to be the annoying "rules lawyer". Furthermore, I NEVER do this in-game - at worst, I will look up a spell if I don't remember the range of damage dice or whatnot. Also, I don't point out obvious "GM fiat", only when I think we were just all assuming as opposed to understanding.

I don't think I am impeding anyone's fun, and I am certainly having a blast.

Is what I am doing ok, or should I be leaving all of the rules research to the GM, and let him decide what we can or cannot do when we are doing it?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Highly related: How does a player correct a GM mistake without being a rules lawyer or a pushover? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Nov 13, 2014 at 20:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I love this question, but I don't think this is completely "system-agnostic". There are systems where following stricly the rules is probably better, while there are other systems (most of them as far as I am aware) where they are more guidelines than actual rules/laws. D&D and PF certainly are the later. Gladly the accepted answer has comments on this though. Still I'm not sure about the tag. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    May 28, 2018 at 19:49

6 Answers 6


If everybody's having fun, you're fine!

There is no universal answer to this except "Whatever works for your group." Some people will like it, some won't care, some will be annoyed, so you really have to tailor this sort of thing to the group you're playing with.

As a GM, I encourage this kind of analysis but generally keep it to a post-mortem after the session instead of pausing mid-story: if we can't remember a rule when we need it, we do whatever feels right and look it up afterward. And I love it when my players become rules experts; it's not a job only the GM can do. Spreading the authority and agency among my players has good effects on group cohesion and smoothness of play.

You may want to directly ask your friends, before or after a session, and make sure everybody's cool with what you're doing and how you're doing it. They're the only ones who can really answer this question for you.

(Note: There are a few games, like the *World iterations, where improvised rulings are much less appropriate and it's important that everyone--including the GM--knows the rules and follows them closely.)


It is only natural, especially in a system as complex as PF, that rules "errors"/misinterpretations will occur. As a GM I would let the previous ruling stand (going back and redoing a round seems pointless unless it is causing serious player grief) but discuss the "correct"/RAW ruling and either implement it next time or just agree to homebrew that situation. You can also write down questions and research them between sessions.

Being a "rules lawyer" is a tricky situation. If you have a better grasp of the rules than the GM then you should privately discuss it with him/her on how they want you to step up. It is not unreasonable for a player with a character who has, for example, a lot of grappling ability to be the subject matter expert (SME) on grappling and step in when other characters grapple, taking the load of systems knowledge off the GM. Same for the spell caster, healer, etc. Each player knows their slice of the rules, but the GM may not have the experience to know ALL the rules, so delegating aspects of it is not uncommon. But when to step in and correct something and when to let the GM fiat handle a quick case is a sensitive issue and should be done as privately as possible between the SME and the GM.

Keep a close eye on the other players. If there is a lot of snide comments or eye rolling then you are being too obtrusive. If the GM seems annoyed, you need to cool it for a while. Some of this may just be frustration with the rule set and not towards you personally, but it is easy for feelings to get hurt in this situation.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "watch for eye rolling" - depending on how you communicate and how they take it this behavior could be taken anywhere from "blameless retrospectives" to "smartypants who loves to point out everything I did wrong every single game session." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Nov 13, 2014 at 20:33
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Especially because the rules lawyer usually says an action CAN'T be done, or that the penalty for something is greater than expected, so he can be a serious downer to a game session. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason K
    Nov 13, 2014 at 21:12

This can be awkward, but in my experience as long as you’re cognizant of how it can be awkward and disruptive, and make good-faith attempts to avoid disruption, a good group will welcome the contributions. The key to my experiences with this has been to establish this kind of role for myself in my group; everyone knows that A. I know what I’m talking about, and B. I am honest and fair in how I bring up such information, e.g. not only when it is to my benefit.

The first thing is not to interrupt the flow. Don’t correct things in the middle of things unless it’s really serious; wait until a natural pause or better the end of the session. No one will ever appreciate a pedantic correction while the game is going.

The second thing is not to undermine anyone. That includes both your DM and your fellow players. Make it clear you’re not demanding that a ruling be changed, just want to clarify. I have a lot of good effect with

So you know that time I did XYZ? I just felt that, in fairness, you should know that I reread it and realized it doesn’t work that way.

if, for example, the DM allowed me to do something the rules wouldn’t have. You’re offering information, not demanding or even suggesting any particular action with that information. It leaves your DM able to say things like

Well, OK, things seemed to work fine the way we did it, so we’re going to keep doing it that way.

Ah, well, OK, in the future we’ll do it by the book.

Oh, really? I didn’t think that sounded right, and it changed a lot of things. I think we might have to redo that scene.

(Obviously that last one is an extreme step for a DM to take and not recommended in all but the most dire of situations.)

Also, offering honest information like this even when it hurts you/your party allows you to more honestly offer similar information when the mistake/liberty hurts you; your DM can trust that you’re not fishing for a “correction” but honestly offering information.

And of course, listen to the feedback of your fellow players, DM included. Ultimately, the timing/frequency of these kinds of things is going to depend a lot on how interested they are in “having it right by the book” and how the flow of the game is for your game. Matching their desires/expectations is the most crucial step in being able to offer such information.


It all depends on the group

As already was said, if people are having fun, everything is all right.

Managing a campaign and remembering rules is burdensome - you can help

I like to be DM. Really. But I like to weave a story most. Bookkeeping is something I do when I have to. I really like it when my players knows the rules that affect their character. If one or two of them are proficient enough with rulebooks that I can simply ask them "So how does this work for your Thrunn?" and trust their answer, I have more time to spend on the ones that are not. And if all of them can do it, I'm in heaven! All my time I can spend on story, mood... It was really satisfying to have this conversation:

- What's the DC of this lock?

- 20

- rolls, add this, use that... Nope, fail.

I didn't need to recall his rules. I could trust him to know and use them, without cheating, and the other players were not sitting there, waiting for the two of us to decide if the door stays locked or opens.

If you can work it out with your DM, you can make it easier. For everyone.

Don't let the rules overshadow the story

This is a game, yes. But there are no winners, by design. The game does not end; an RPG is not about winning but about telling a story. If you think you did something not exactly by the rules, talk with your DM. And with your party. Outside session, to avoid destroying mood. Maybe DM decided to ignore some rules to keep better "flow"? Maybe he made something up to keep things fast and simple? To avoid looking in books? If you think your group did something not by the book, of course you have the right to ask why, and to ask if in future / in general you will be using the rule in the book, or the one your DM actually used. It is your right to know, but whatever you do, whatever you insist, remember that you are having fun, because you like to tell stories, and you like to do it together. Rules are for that, not the other way around.

If your group gets its fun from playing by the rules,

using and abusing them etc, that's fine, too. But in that case you probably wouldn't need to ask your question in the first place. Just make sure you all have a similar idea about what kind of fun you want to have.


My current Pathfinder group is in a similar situation. Half the players are brand new to the system, and even the more advanced players (including the GM) don't always understand a rule the first time it gets used... or the first several times. Luckily, this has never caused strife in my group. Once someone discovers an error, we just resolve to get it right next time. That someone isn't always the GM, and he seems appreciative of our honesty when we let him know.

Rule wording can cause confusion, and in some games (such as Pathfinder), the sheer amount of rules can be difficult to remember in play. These misunderstandings are honest mistakes, and as long as your group treats them that way, addressing them doesn't have to impact your fun. It sounds like you're committed to doing this in the least disruptive manner possible, and that's good. By waiting to address the errors outside of play, you're not putting anyone on the spot or slowing down the game.

You could also try bringing it up with only the GM first, especially if you know you have sensitive players in your group. Let the GM know that you noticed the RAW seems to be different than what the group does in play. The GM can then let you know whether it's fiat, decide if it should be if it isn't already, and address it with any sensitive players in a private manner.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to how your GM and fellow players feel. You said there aren't arguments or complaints and that everybody's fun seems unaffected. That's a good sign. If you want to be sure, though, just ask! I can't stress communication enough for fun and healthy play, and I'd recommend having this discussion as a group. Explain your intent (enjoying your study of the rules, just wanting to make discrepancies known) and ask how they would like you to handle it.


It is important for the GM to learn what he is doing differently to the rules. These decisions may make the game either harder or easier for the players. A good GM accounts for these differences to make the game balanced to the level his players find entertaining and fun.


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