I happened to notice a mistake that one of the other players has been making a mistake that causes their character to be much more powerful than the rules dictate that they should be. I'm sure that this was an honest misunderstanding and not malicious on the part of the other player. That being said, now that I've noticed the mistake, the rules are very clear in both RAW and RAI and widely agreed upon by the online community. This is not a grey area.

This mistake has been very impactful in multiple past game sessions. It has been key to our victory in two past "boss fights". (I'm not saying that we couldn't have won without it, but the fight would have been very different). The player is understandably very enthusiastic about this power, and our GM has expressed frustration at how difficult to manage this power is, but she was committed to allowing it in the interest of fair play.

We are between sessions now. This issue is likely to come up next session. Who should I talk to, when, and what should I say?

Related, but from a GM perspective: What is the best way to retroactively fix a mistake? (2 shields) Related, but during a session instead of between sessions: How does a player correct a GM mistake without being a rules lawyer or pushover?


5 Answers 5


Broach the subject outside of game time

Don't bring this up in the middle of a dangerous battle, when the player tries to use the power at a crucial juncture. (Then the DM rules it illegal, some PC bites the dust, and it's all your fault.)

Who to talk to first? It's all about the personalities

I don't think there's a correct answer, in the general sense, whether to speak to the DM, or the player in particular. In some gaming groups, just bringing this up at the beginning of a play sessions would be fine. It very much depends on the personalities involved.

Touchy Co-Players

You are afraid the player might feel you “went behind their back” if you go directly to the DM — but all you're doing is discussing the rules of the game. Is the person just a little touchy, maybe?

If so, then maybe you do want to talk to them first. That's a social-skills decision you are going to have to make the call on, yourself. There are pitfalls either way.

(Other answers give guidance on speaking discretely with the GM. The rest of this answer assumes you would rather broach the subject with the player, first.)

If you talk to the player first

The trouble with talking to the player first is they might object to you telling the GM. Then you have to explain why you are going to do it anyway, and try to get them on board.

Set a friendly and cooperative tone when you broach the subject, something like: “You know that power we felt was too good to be true, we might have been right about that. It's a good power, but not quite as super as we were reading it as.”

Objections the player may have to informing the GM

Over the past 35 years, I’ve heard a lot of excuses for trying to hide rules information from a DM. Here are a few common themes, and how you might respond to them.

The For the Good of the Party Defense

If the player says that the power helps the party survive and succeed, remind them the DM is already complaining about it being hard to balance monster encounters with this power around. That means, you can expect harder monsters in the future if you don't “come clean.” So if this power fails, the party will be in deep trouble.

The You’re just jealous of my awesome character objection

If this is a “power gamer” who wants to have the strongest character, assure them their character is still plenty tough. Under the current rules interpretation, his character is too much stronger than the others. Assure them that even with the new ruling, their character will still be tough and a great ally.

Make sure they know you are not trying to “stick it to them” but feel the game would be more fun when they get the balance right. Some of the other players need their chance to save the day.

The You're on the wrong side defense

The player may try to make it into a players-vs-DM thing, and that informing the DM is like betraying the party. You remind him the DM is just trying to get the balance right. You are actually helping the party by making sure the DM doesn't have to send bigger-and-badder monsters against you.

Don't agree to keep it secret

No matter the objection, you can just let the player know that, since the DM is bound to figure this out eventually, you really think it’s best the DM is informed right away.

Encourage the player to bring up the issue themselves, and if they do, don't ever mention it was you who discovered the rule. Even if the player gives you credit, emphasize the player’s role is reviewing the rule and coming to the new understanding.

If you can’t get agreement from the player to inform the DM, just remind him that you are Lawful Good and cannot deceive an innocent Dungeon Master.

Potential Problems

The biggest downside to this approach is that you reveal yourself as the person who informing the DM of the issue.

As a teenager (ages past) I saw cases where the player of the “nerfed” character tried to turn the rest of the players against the “informant.” These typically didn’t amount to much, since the other players don’t want their characters overshadowed due to a rules misinterpretation, either.

(It’s always possible for adolescents to eject a member of their peer group, under this or that pretense. But in that case, if it weren’t a disagreement about rules of a game, it would be something else very soon.)

Stick to your point about wanting the game to be fair and balanced for everyone, and resist making the argument personal, and no fair-minded group will blame you.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ There is also the option of bringing it up with both the GM and the player there. Although as you point out, don't do it in combat as the ability is just being used. This avoids both the problems of going 'behind the players back' and doesn't give the player any chance to try to talk you out of it. Easier to ask forgiveness than permission ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 5:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whoever you go to first - tone is everything. What works wonders is something along the line "I was wondering about this power and think we may have overlooked something in the Rules on Page. 215" - Then read the rule together and let them find the mistake on their own. They will be a lot more cooperative, if you don't go "I know you did something wrong" \$\endgroup\$
    – Falco
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @timster That was why i didnt add anything about speaking with them together in my answer after the OP asked in comments. Its hard to guess at a way that would be possible without it feeling like a "rules intervention" \$\endgroup\$
    – Mayshar
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I agree with the suggestion of doing it with both people present. My ideal is at the end of the session, just say "Hey, guys, I just looked it up, and the book says..." \$\endgroup\$
    – Airk
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 17:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Then the DM rules it illegal, some PC bites the dust, and it's all your fault." Why is that a problem? \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Commented Aug 31, 2019 at 15:52

I think the easy and short answer here is to "Talk to the GM and go over the details of the rule in question with them and then let them handle it."

You said you were between sessions, so now would be a good time to bring it up with the GM. Mention you have noticed something that you didnt think was correct according to the RAW so you did some reasearch, and here is what you found.

It sounds like the GM also isnt aware of the specifics of how the rule should work in this instance, based on their comment of not knowing how to handle the power. I would imagine if they knew what the rule was, they would have not let it happen.

If they do know what the rule is and they still chose to let it happen, then there isnt anything for you to do really. They have already made their decision to let it play as is.

After you bring it up, its up to the GM to decide how to proceed, and whatever they decide is simply the way it is. There is nothing wrong with realizing a rule mistake between sessions, and starting with the next session making it clear what the actual rule is and stating to the players this is how it will be from this point forward. There are many ways the GM could decide to handle it, and any one of them could be a perfectly correct answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer, but I feel a little like I'm going behind the other player's back if I go to the GM instead of him. If that's a ridiculous thing to think then feel free to say so. \$\endgroup\$
    – mbocek
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 20:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I dont think its ridiculous, but if they are honestly making a mistake or misinturpting the rule, they will just be sad, not angry. Honestly, the GM should be checking the rule themself, especially if it seems to be gamebreaking. If the player is deliberatly cheating, they deserve to be called on it, if its an honest mistake, the GM should handle however they feel is best, but if they dont know its wrong, they cant do anythign about it. Bring it up in front of the player(get them together) if it makes you feel better). \$\endgroup\$
    – Mayshar
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I wouldnt want to bring it up in front of a player i didnt know in fear they would think i was a rule lawyer or trying to accuse them of cheating. Letting the GM handle it is best. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mayshar
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mayshar I'd be happy to call a player on it between fights. "Is that how that works?" Do it as a question. "The way I read that, it works like this." Then wait for the response. Open a dialogue rather than delivering an accusation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 22:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Certainly, if you are playing with someone who is intentionally cheating, letting them continue to do so comfortably is not a good option. But as you said, each situation should be addressed in its own context, and that is not the context being addressed here... I don't see any advantage framing a clear misinterpretation of the rules (whether intentional or not) as something that might be incorrect instead of just pointing out the problem to the GM and letting them correct it in future sessions. \$\endgroup\$
    – kungphu
    Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 1:50

This isn't something which every player is prepared to do, but, if you have any game mastering experience or aptitude at all, you could do something which I have done as a player for basically the same reason.

(Almost. In my case, the reason wasn't to demonstrate why allowing a bad rule interpretation to persist would be game-breaking and un-fun. In my case, the reason was to demonstrate why a rule in a do-it-yourself non-published system was a bad rule and needed to be changed, due to its being game-breaking and un-fun).

Play-test it. Create a scenario and ask the GM and the other player to either run it the way you designed it or let you run it yourself, as a "non-canon" mini-session. This scenario should be designed to spotlight how this unbalanced super power is a detriment to the game you're playing.

It could also be allowed to stand, if the house-rule is supplemented with a disadvantage. Brainstorm: Insatiable hunger after the shift? 12 hours of unconsciousness? Scorched vestments and resulting nudity and defenselessness?

And I particularly like the idea of tying the situation in to a plot. Maybe the only reason this particular character is able to use this spell in a way no one else can is because of the unresting spirit of a deceased Dragon who will get closer and closer to possessing the spellcaster if they continue to use it. Maybe there is a faction of holy warriors dedicated to genociding Dragons, and they hound the spellcaster while shifted or the whole party after they have been observed in the company of a Dragon.

I completely agree that letting the GM handle it is the right way to go, but, the above are ideas you might be able to use to convince the GM to take action, and to give the GM ways to bring the other player in and get invested with whatever change the GM might rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for incorporating the mistake into the game instead of ret-conning. We probably won't do this, but its a very cool idea anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – mbocek
    Commented Jun 9, 2016 at 21:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Since you have used this solution, how has it worked? The answer would be improved if you're able to elaborate on your experience with this recommendation to support whether it effectively solved the problem and whether it has any downsides. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 5:08

The best way to deal with this is the first time it happens to just say to everyone: "X doesn't work like that", however, that ship has sailed.

As the next best option, at the start of the next session say "You know how awesome that X was last session, well I looked it up and, turns out, RAW it's not as awesome as we thought. It can only do Y, going forward, are we going to play it by the book or the way we did last week?"

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have experience with this sort of solution? How has it worked? The answer would be improved if you're able to elaborate on your experience with this recommendation to support whether it effectively solved the problem and whether it has any downsides. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 5:07

Most of the other answers have focused on the right answer to talk to the other players like adults. All good. But what happens in game?

Going back and retrofitting one session is hard, many is nearly impossible. You could start the game again but I have never seen it work. Playing English games when our understanding of English was basic, we had to retro fit many such errors. What we did was a mixture of retrofit, use the correct rules from now on, and making the mistake part of the story. The latter always worked best as it gave us more story to work with.

Therefore, I suggest you could make the mistake part of the story you are telling. Find an explanation why said power was (is) more powerful for that one character. Is it a blessing from the gods? A curse from some demon? Something even more nefarious? This way, you get some extra story without having to retro fit lots of adventures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, it's better to retcon the (invisible) reason that the character turned into a dragon, than to retcon the (extremely visible) historical fact that the character did it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10, 2016 at 11:11

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