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Tormsskull
2007-10-10, 07:46 AM
Hi everyone,

I've seen a lot of different views that skirt this issue from time to time, so I thought I'd just put the question up directly: Is there a difference between an interpretation of the rules, and a house rule?

Here's an example:

A DM is reading a description for a fictional spell named "Steam Blast". The spell's fluff (or wrriten description) indicates that the spell gathers moisture from the immediate vicinity, then heats it to an incredibly high temperature, thus injuring a solitary target. The mechanics of the spell then indicate that the spell causes 2d6 damage on a failed Fortitude save.

The PCs are in the middle of a dust-bowl type area, and when a PC tries to cast the spell, the DM says it fails because there is no moisture in the air.

Is this an interpretation, or house rule?

Another example:

A level 1 barbarian PC, who is iliterate, levels up and informs his DM that he wants to take a level in Wizard. The DM reads over the multi-classing rules and the Literacy rules and tells the barbarian PC that he cannot multi-class to Wizard at this time for a couple of reasons.

First, the barbarian PC did not indicate that he was studying over anyone's shoulder (there isn't even a Wizard character in the PC group), didn't indicate that his character was interested in wizardy at all, and Second, that the barbarian, being iliterate, would not have been able to read any books on magic or do a lot of types of magical research.

Is this an interpretation, or a house rule?

Tally:

Example #1
Interpretation: 7
Houserule: 9

Example #2
Interpretation: 4
Houserule: 11

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-10, 07:54 AM
The first one is a house rule. The mechanics of the spell say absolutely nothing about failing when there's no moisture in the air. The fluff is superfluous.

It's like saying a disintegrate spell has to be green. It's just silly.

The second is a house rule. There are no rules saying a PC can't take any class he likes; just suggestions to the DM to make it slightly more realistic. Barbarians who take a level in any other class automatically become literate, for example.

Yes, it's silly, but that's how it works.

Anything that adds to the rules is a house rule. Really, there are very few 'interpretations' and many, many minor house rules.

banjo1985
2007-10-10, 08:02 AM
I agree that the first one is a house rule. Really it's taking science and putting it into a largely unscientific setting, causing a particular spell to drop in usefullness a little/ Having said that, it's a pretty decent house rule, if the spell description says it needs moisture in the air then it makes sense to require it. But it's a house rule, as the GM is taking the rules and adding to their meaning.

However, I think the 2nd one is an interpretation. It's sensible to need someone to read before they can study wizardry. If the rules suugest the GM be careful when deciding whether a character can multiclass in a certain area, then this is an interpretation of the rules, as they are taking the statement and reading it to mean Illiteracy = No Wizard levels.

Just my take on it anyway.

Vasdenjas
2007-10-10, 08:07 AM
I think the difference between the two is simply a matter of either making a decision based on information that isn't fully developed (interpretation), and going specifically against something written down to meet your playstyle.

So for the first one, I disagree with Yuki. Since it has no mention one way or the other about types of areas, and it does mention that it takes ambient moinsture, it seems to be simple interpretation of the rules to state it doesn't work in the desert. If the spell stated "This effect works even in low-moisture environments, such as deserts.", and the GM still didn't want it to work there, THAT's a house rule.

I agree the second is a house rule though. I find the majority of things that get changed are indeed interpretations, not house rules. House rules actively change the stated rules. I disagree with there being "few interpretations". Look at these boards and the WotC boards to see how many small things can be disagreed upon because of the wording in the books.

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-10, 08:34 AM
A spell does not need to say "this spell works in arid conditions" or "this spell works underwater" or "this spell works underground." Spells are assumed by the rules to always work, unless there's no target or the effect doesn't fit in the space provided.

Specific exceptions are spelled out (such as call lightning, which specifically says it doesn't work underground).

The fluff is not the spell description. It's an example of how the spell could work. If it described the spell's results in literary terms, it's not a game rule.

Dubie
2007-10-10, 08:34 AM
I'll have to go with both interpretations, even if I disagree with them. Steam Blast should be able to make use of moisture in the targets body.

The second, also an interpretation (though I agree with this one more). Its stated that the DM should monitor how people multiclass. And being illiterate does make it kind of difficult to pour over magic tombs and learn the arcane arts, especialy if your a self taught Wizard.

Tormsskull
2007-10-10, 08:38 AM
Specific exceptions are spelled out (such as call lightning, which specifically says it doesn't work underground).


You know, I thought I just read in the PHB like 2 weeks ago or something that call lightning specifically said it DOES work underground, which threw me for a loop. Can anyone confirm?

Edit:

Found it:
Call Lightning (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Call_Lightning_%28SRD_Spell%29)

"This spell functions indoors or underground but not underwater. "

See, this would lead me to believe that the designers thought that at least SOME DM's would come to the reasonable interpretation that Call Lightning would not work underground, and thus specifically mentioned that line so as to prevent that interpretation.

Fixer
2007-10-10, 08:41 AM
1: Interpretation which I disagree with.
2: House Rule that I agree with.

Steam Blast can just as easily superheat air and jet that instead of moisture so the spell should have worked normally. Simply because the name of the spell is Steam Blast does not mean it can't just as easily be named Superheated Blast of Air.

While there is nothing in RAW that says you have to pre-study before multiclassing it is a matter of roleplaying.

Tyger
2007-10-10, 08:42 AM
You know, I thought I just read in the PHB like 2 weeks ago or something that call lightning specifically said it DOES work underground, which threw me for a loop. Can anyone confirm?

Yes it does. It specifically states that it works indoors and underground, but not underwater.

It does do more damage in stormy conditions, but it can work underground.

On to the original questions.

They are both interpretations, though the second is one that I would agree with (I like a touch of realism in my games) while the first is still possible. There is always moisture in the air... if not, we'd be unable to live there. It might be a tiny, insignificant amount, but there is some there. Not to mention, even if there wasn't (duck catgirls!) there is always Hydrogen and Oxygen in the air, so the magic could certainly work to combine them.

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-10, 08:42 AM
Oh! Call lightning is the spell that doesn't work underwater, not under ground. It works fine in a dungeon.

Sorry, my bad.

Edit: Damn Tyger-Ninja...

As an aside, does anyone know of an example that specifically doesn't work underground?

Kaelik
2007-10-10, 08:51 AM
Steam Blast is a houserule. Spells work unless they say they don't.

Multiclassing limits are houserules. No matter how you swing it, a Barbarian who multiclasses or PrCs is at some point completely illiterate and then ten seconds later magically literate. Just like a Rogue can't completely dodge a fireball and then suddenly can. It's silly, but it's there. The level up system won't make sense inside a single class, why should it have to for multiclassing?

Thinker
2007-10-10, 09:09 AM
Example #1:
Unless the spells says Material Components: Moisture in Air this is a house rule. It is a house rule that makes sense, but still a house rule.

Example #2
There are no real limits on multiclassing, except the favored class nonsense (nonsense, but it still exists). Flavor and crunch are completely separate. It would still be a logical house rule to implement, depending on how you want your world.

sikyon
2007-10-10, 09:32 AM
I think both are house rules.

The first one could work in a ton of different ways, it's just fluff. You can argue/justify anything, like the fact that people sweat and this could be moisture in the air, and that there is always moisture in the air, you have no idea how far the spell collects water from and you have no idea exactly how much water is collected and heated. It could be a tiny amount of water heated to extreme temperatures and fired. This is why you ignore fluff for mechanics, or you get bogged down in these kinds of arguments. So Houserule.

The second one is trying to apply a logical system to an illogical case. Your PC can instantly learn a language when he levels up by putting 1 skill point in. How does he do this?!?! Barbarians can become literate in the same way by just using 1 skill point. He doesn't have to read, try to read, or anything beforehand. Does he "pick it up"? Trust me, it's not that easy to just pick up writing a language you can speak (I have experience). I think it's unreasonable to selectivly apply logic to these cases. So houserule, and a poor/unfair one at that.

Tormsskull
2007-10-10, 09:36 AM
Example #1:
Unless the spells says Material Components: Moisture in Air this is a house rule. It is a house rule that makes sense, but still a house rule.

Example #2
There are no real limits on multiclassing, except the favored class nonsense (nonsense, but it still exists). Flavor and crunch are completely separate. It would still be a logical house rule to implement, depending on how you want your world.

Your position is one that I thought I would see a lot in this thread. And I'm glad I did because I have a follow up question.

Viewing Flavor and Crunch as being completely separate, would you think that the Call Lightning spell's description text of "This spell functions indoors or underground but not underwater. " is Flavor or Crunch? If its Flavor, then you can basically disregard it because it is not part of the mechanics. But if it is Crunch in your opinion, please explain how you came to that conclusion. Or in other words, how did you determine it was Crunch?

sikyon
2007-10-10, 09:40 AM
Your position is one that I thought I would see a lot in this thread. And I'm glad I did because I have a follow up question.

Viewing Flavor and Crunch as being completely separate, would you think that the Call Lightning spell's description text of "This spell functions indoors or underground but not underwater. " is Flavor or Crunch? If its Flavor, then you can basically disregard it because it is not part of the mechanics. But if it is Crunch in your opinion, please explain how you came to that conclusion. Or in other words, how did you determine it was Crunch?

It's crunch, because it specifically says what the spell can or cannot do.

Fluff describes the process, and the process is irrelevant, only the product is relevant.

Things like material components are protected because previous parts specify that you must pay the material components in no uncertain terms.

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-10, 09:44 AM
Your position is one that I thought I would see a lot in this thread. And I'm glad I did because I have a follow up question.

Viewing Flavor and Crunch as being completely separate, would you think that the Call Lightning spell's description text of "This spell functions indoors or underground but not underwater. " is Flavor or Crunch? If its Flavor, then you can basically disregard it because it is not part of the mechanics. But if it is Crunch in your opinion, please explain how you came to that conclusion. Or in other words, how did you determine it was Crunch?

It's crunch, as it states, in no uncertain terms, "this is when you can and cannot use the spell". Fluff describes what the spell is (a bolt of lightning), crunch describes what the spell does (1d6/level electricity damage to the target) and when it does it (when you cast it while not underwater).

Kurald Galain
2007-10-10, 09:48 AM
The difference is mostly moot.

One might argue that an interpretation of a rule cannot directly contradict it, whereas a house rule can; and one might argue that a house rule is usually made in advance and written down somewhere, whereas an interpretation is required whenever a gray area exists.

The bottom line is that gray area situations are always the DM's call. Some of them start from the RAW (crunch) and interpret from there, others start from what they consider in-world logic and realism (fluff) and argue from that side.

sikyon
2007-10-10, 09:52 AM
The difference is mostly moot.

The bottom line is that gray area situations are always the DM's call. Some of them start from the RAW (crunch) and interpret from there, others start from what they consider in-world logic and realism (fluff) and argue from that side.

Not to alot of players or DM's. Many people like to live under the delusion that they are playing games without alot of house rules, when actually they are. This helps them feel more comfortable and defensible in their practices. Something that they... may not deserve.

Ralfarius
2007-10-10, 10:03 AM
They're definitely both house ruling. By that, I mean, there is no ambiguous wording involved that could be interpreted one way or another.

There is a lack of restriction on the use of steam blast. If there was a noted restriction (does not work in low-moisture environments), like there is for call lightning, that would be a different case. Especially if it had a nonspecific restriction, low-moisture environment could be open to interpretation.

However, I'm fairly sure that there is always some moisture in the environment, and the nature of the spell seems that it would collected what is needed from the air and do its thing.

There is also a lack of restriction on taking basically any class. That barbarian could technically take a level of wizard even if he had 9 int. He would be able to cast any spells, but he could still have the level. He would also, by virtue of taking the wizard class, become literate.

If there were some sort of requirements for taking classes, then there may be interpretations restricting a character. However, that would also leave the interpretation that the taking of the wizard class actually involves said barbarian learning to read by pouring over some spellbook and scrolls, thus becoming literate by the time he hits that experience requirement to actually take the level.

So, there you have it. As far as I'm concerned, they're both house rules. The first could be sensible from a role-playing/fluff perspective, but even then I might contest the ruling.

Thinker
2007-10-10, 10:16 AM
Your position is one that I thought I would see a lot in this thread. And I'm glad I did because I have a follow up question.

Viewing Flavor and Crunch as being completely separate, would you think that the Call Lightning spell's description text of "This spell functions indoors or underground but not underwater. " is Flavor or Crunch? If its Flavor, then you can basically disregard it because it is not part of the mechanics. But if it is Crunch in your opinion, please explain how you came to that conclusion. Or in other words, how did you determine it was Crunch?

The Call Lightning spell explicitly states that it does not work under a certain condition. I am of the same mind as those who say that the mechanics are just what the spell does, not how it gets there. The steam blast in your example creates a blast of steam, it is irrelevant that it does so by drawing moisture from the air because you did not specify that this was a requirement for the spell to work. If you wanted it to require moisture, it may look something like this:


Steamblast
Transmutation
Level: Drd 2
Components: M,S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target: One creature
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes

This spell draws moisture from the air, superheats it, and blasts the target, dealing 2d6 + 1/caster level points of damage to the target. This spell does not function in arid climates such as deserts.
Material Component: a wooden match.

Indon
2007-10-10, 10:16 AM
I feel both are interpretations.

A house rule is changing a rule in the game. An interpretation is adding a rule in the game where there previously is none, or the existing rules are insufficiently clear and require adjudication.

Fireball has no explicit mechanic for setting things on fire, but the spell's fluff notes that it can set things on fire. Having a Fireball set something on fire seems to me to be an interpretation, not a houserule. "Steam Blast" is similar; its' fluff contains information that has a bearing on mechanics, but the mechanics are insufficiently explicit and require interpretation.

As for learning magic without actually having studied magic, again the book does not list any form of mechanical requirements for obtaining a class. However, fluff descriptions list things that can be mechanical in nature (such as actually studying magic in the case of the Wizard), and since the book never explicitly says that you can retcon in such things, the rules are again insufficiently explicit for this circumstance and require interpretation.

However, the second example is different regarding its' scale, and a DM who places such emphasis on narrative should make it clear to his players that he will do so, rather than simply suspend the narration to allow free selection of classes.

Lord Lorac Silvanos
2007-10-10, 10:45 AM
Both the examples given were house rules, but....


The descriptive text for spells are not just fluff.

In this case it imposes the restriction that there need to be moisture in the "immediate vicinity" for the spell to function. The amount is not specified so imposing a "common sense" restriction on the amount of moisture in the air would be a house rule.

However, if you enter an environment without any moisture whatsoever the spell would not function. It is a condition that would be met very rarely and possibly require that all creatures in the vicinity are without bodily fluids and flesh etc.

Tallis
2007-10-10, 11:33 AM
I would call the first interpretation (ignoring the issue of there actually being moisture in desert air). It specifies that the spell works by drawing moisture from the air. If there is no moisture it is reasonable to assume that the spell would not work. The fluff tells you how the spell works. It can be changed with little impact on the game, but that would be a houserule. I see this as being along the same lines as being dead preventing you from acting. It doesn't specifically state it in the rules, but it can be safely assumed.

The second is a houserule, though I believe it is mentioned in the books somewhere as an option for handling multi-classing. I do require my players to let me know at the beginning of a level that they are planning to multi-class next time they level up. Depending on the world it is reasonable to require those training to be wizards to know how to read also. Still: houserule.

Hyfigh
2007-10-10, 11:43 AM
Both are houserules. Any rulings made outside of mechanics are houserules.

The first is based on a houseruled spell, then has a houserule placed on the spell itself. As said before, the description of the spell has nothing to do with the moisture in the air.

The second is a houserule because their are no rules prohibiting multiclassing because of fluff reasons.

Nermy
2007-10-10, 11:49 AM
I'd tell the DM that the target is in the immediate vicinity of the spell, so the spell draws moisture from him and in addition to damage the spell should fatigue him as well.

Yakk
2007-10-10, 12:20 PM
One problem is "the DM doing that is being a bit mean", sort of like having every bad guy have heavy fortification against a group of rogues.

A less mean way to do it would be "the air is so dry, the spell takes an extra turn to cast -- but the air is already hot, so it gets a +2 DC and +50% damage". Sure, that screws things up -- but it screws things up in a non-"you are screwed" way.

Dubie
2007-10-10, 12:25 PM
Fireball
Evocation [Fire]
Level: Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Area: 20-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes


Here is an example of why the descriptive text should be considered rules, and not just fluff. Based on what you see above (the 'rules' portion) what does this spell do?

That being said, I still disagree with the interpretation given in the example....

Indon
2007-10-10, 12:27 PM
Personally, I'd just drop Steam Blast's damage by one die level, or maybe lower the save DC a couple points.

But I'd do that because there's still moisture in the air even in arid environments.

Similarly, I'd probably give a damage bonus in places like rainforests, probably increasing the damage by a die level or increasing the save DC.

Thinker
2007-10-10, 12:29 PM
Fireball
Evocation [Fire]
Level: Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Area: 20-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes


Here is an example of why the descriptive text should be considered rules, and not just fluff. Based on what you see above (the 'rules' portion) what does this spell do?

That being said, I still disagree with the interpretation given in the example....

The text is not just fluff. It is a combination of fluff and crunch. Its not that difficult to parse the two.

Counterspin
2007-10-10, 12:29 PM
Both are houserules. The spell descriptions are flavor text, and have no mechanical effect.

Hyfigh
2007-10-10, 12:32 PM
Fireball
Evocation [Fire]
Level: Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Long (400 ft. + 40 ft./level)
Area: 20-ft.-radius spread
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Reflex half
Spell Resistance: Yes


Here is an example of why the descriptive text should be considered rules, and not just fluff. Based on what you see above (the 'rules' portion) what does this spell do?

That being said, I still disagree with the interpretation given in the example....

Easy. It instantly (duration) creates the effect of a fireball (namesake) at a maximum range of up to 400ft +40ft/level (range) in a 20ft radius spread (area).

The damage is listed in the description of the spell.

The descriptions in a spell are not entirely fluff. When it covers the mechanics of the spell, they are rules. When it explains what the spell may look like, ect. thats fluff.

Indon
2007-10-10, 12:38 PM
The descriptions in a spell are not entirely fluff. When it covers the mechanics of the spell, they are rules. When it explains what the spell may look like, ect. thats fluff.

The appearance of a Phantasmal Killer is not fluff.

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-10, 12:48 PM
The appearance of a Phantasmal Killer is not fluff.

The effect of the spell is its appearance... and it doesn't have a set appearance, anyway!

The appearance of disintegrate is entirely fluffy, however, Why does it have to be green?

Dausuul
2007-10-10, 12:58 PM
The first one I would consider an interpretation. The letter of the RAW must be augmented by an application of common sense. Otherwise you end up with idiocies like "dead man walking." Since the spell is described as drawing moisture from the air, it is reasonable to argue that it would not work in an area with no moisture, just as horrid wilting ought not work on a creature that has no water in its body.

There is a tendency among people on these boards (and, it often seems, in WotC as well) to regard crunch as all-important and fluff as disposable, but that's not really the case. The rules are meant to simulate a pretend reality, and they cannot possibly cover every conceivable situation that might arise in that reality. So we have crunch to cover the standard, expected situations, and fluff to provide guidance for extrapolating to unusual cases. Both should be considered part of the ruleset.

The second instance, I would call a house rule (albeit a perfectly reasonable one), because it's going beyond the "corner cases" presented in the first situation and changing the way the rules are actually designed to work.

brian c
2007-10-10, 12:59 PM
I'd classify both as house rules.

The first one seems pretty unreasonable, since it's giving the DM power to say exactly when and where the spell can be used ("Oh, you want to cast that? Sorry, not enough moisture") since it's really up to the DM whether or not there's enough moisture. However, since you said it's a "ficitonal spell" anyway, then it seems like the spell itself is a "houserule" so to speak, and I don't think that's really in the same category of "houserule or interpretation" as the second instance is.

The second one, as people have said, there's no rule anywhere that says "you must look over someone's shoulder to multiclass" (ahem (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0126.html)), and there's no rule saying Barbarians can't be wizards; they automatically become literate when gaining a level in another class.

Edit: Forgot to mention: I think the second one is pretty reasonable, but it's still not the way the rules are written.

Lord Tataraus
2007-10-10, 01:02 PM
Both are house rules, the second one for the same reason everyone else says. The trouble with the first one is that, yes it is an interpretation to an extent that the DM realizes that the spell would not work in this condition and thus rules (read: creates a house rule) that the spell does not work. All interpretations end with a DM ruling which is a form of house rule.

Edit: I just want to comment that agreeing or disagreeing with this fictional DM's ruling is completely irrelevant and detracts from the issue being discussed and may create some bias.

Indon
2007-10-10, 01:59 PM
Both are house rules, the second one for the same reason everyone else says. The trouble with the first one is that, yes it is an interpretation to an extent that the DM realizes that the spell would not work in this condition and thus rules (read: creates a house rule) that the spell does not work. All interpretations end with a DM ruling which is a form of house rule.


Wouldn't defining all interpretation as house ruling defeat the purpose of defining a class of DM intervention as rules interpretation in the first place?

Closet_Skeleton
2007-10-10, 02:07 PM
The PCs are in the middle of a dust-bowl type area, and when a PC tries to cast the spell, the DM says it fails because there is no moisture in the air.

Is this an interpretation, or house rule?

Niether, it's just annoying.

Anyway, the least humid places on earth are at poles, where the water is either frozen or liquid. Everywhere has some moisture so he's just trying to screw the party over with a poorly thought out "realism" excuse.

tainsouvra
2007-10-10, 02:12 PM
The PCs are in the middle of a dust-bowl type area, and when a PC tries to cast the spell, the DM says it fails because there is no moisture in the air.

Is this an interpretation, or house rule? House rule.

Also, the DM needs to stop trying to apply real-world physics to D&D in this way--not because physics are bad, but because he very clearly has no idea how the real world works in this situation. There is moisture in the air in the desert--I'm in a desert right now and it's a little cloudy, as a random amusing example--so his explanation is nonsensical.


A level 1 barbarian PC, who is iliterate, levels up and informs his DM that he wants to take a level in Wizard. The DM reads over the multi-classing rules and the Literacy rules and tells the barbarian PC that he cannot multi-class to Wizard at this time for a couple of reasons.

First, the barbarian PC did not indicate that he was studying over anyone's shoulder (there isn't even a Wizard character in the PC group), didn't indicate that his character was interested in wizardy at all, and Second, that the barbarian, being iliterate, would not have been able to read any books on magic or do a lot of types of magical research.

Is this an interpretation, or a house rule? Very house rule, in fact not informing the barbarian of this rule ahead of time is poor DMing.

Shiny, Bearer of the Pokystick
2007-10-10, 02:27 PM
Both are 'house rules'.
A house rule in this instance could be defined as a new, supplementary rule, invented by a DM either to accommodate their particular tastes or the tastes of their players, or to fix a perceived oversight or illogic in the rules as written/officially interpreted.

'Rules interpretation', by contrast, is an application of an existing rule, perhaps to a novel situation- thus necessitating the application of reason on the DM's part, and a knowledge of the rule's intent, again, on the DM's part.

While the former instance could be considered a 'novel situation', it is clearly an addition to the existing rules- that of a material component, atmospheric moisture. A more reasonable 'interpretation' would be that in arid settings, the spell generates enough moisture spontaneously to create its effects, since it is not terrain dependent as written.

This is not to say the fluff can be discarded; however, since it is a literary description intended to support rules data in a visual/sensory/imaginative way, it can be changed at the option of the player or the DM. If I wish to state that my fireballs look like roaring, fiery lions, I am able to do so without difficulty. The fluff is changed thereby, but the crunch is not.

The second example is a house-rule as well, since there are no restrictions on Barbarian multiclassing to 'interpret' to reach this conclusion. It is obviously and blatantly a new, invented rule.
It might be a reasonable interpretation of the system, if the DM is working from a very strict simulationist perspective and feels that this particular area is important from a standpoint of internal consistency. However, it is not a reasonable interpretation, or indeed any sort of interpretation, of the rules as they exist.

Dubie
2007-10-10, 02:36 PM
I don't think its a poor interpretation in the second case. Just how exactly does an Illiterate Barbarian, with no tutoring whatsoever, become a wizard? Same could be said about a Wizard, with no access to weapons, or a fighter to teach him, suddenly becoming a fighter...

I don't have my books with me, but I seem to recall that there was the clause that the DM must approve a new class before its taken. Therefore DM saying no is a reasonable interpretation of the written rules. (If I'm making this up, I appologise. I'll read into it tonight when I get home).

tainsouvra
2007-10-10, 03:19 PM
I don't think its a poor interpretation in the second case. Just how exactly does an Illiterate Barbarian, with no tutoring whatsoever, become a wizard? By gaining experience points and using them to take a Wizard level. While many DM's rule in various sorts of training, the rules themselves do not.

TO_Incognito
2007-10-10, 03:25 PM
I don't think its a poor interpretation in the second case. Just how exactly does an Illiterate Barbarian, with no tutoring whatsoever, become a wizard? Same could be said about a Wizard, with no access to weapons, or a fighter to teach him, suddenly becoming a fighter...

This makes some sense, but applying it consistent and fairly totally breaks the game. Haven't been practicing running stuff over while mounted? You can't take Trample as your 5th level bonus feat. Haven't been practicing dodging area-of-effect projectiles? You can't take Rogue level 2 at all, because there's no way you have Evasion. Haven't been poisoning yourself? You can't take Monk level 11, because there's no way you know how to repel all poisons. Haven't done any tracking recently? You can't take Ranger level 8, because there's no way you're further honed your tracking skills when you haven't been tracking at all.

No, DM fiats this drastic totally destroy the game. As long as the Barbarian has a roleplaying reason for becoming a Wizard, and declares that he has been studying magic and literature for a little while now, he should not be barred from multiclassing.

Indon
2007-10-10, 03:29 PM
By gaining experience points and using them to take a Wizard level. While many DM's rule in various sorts of training, the rules themselves do not.

If I recall, the example for multiclassing in the 3.5 book involves a rogue picking up the basics of magic from the party Wizard in order to gain a level.

While not explicitly in the rules, it is strongly implied.

Hyfigh
2007-10-10, 03:29 PM
The interpretation/houserules ordeal has nothing to do with whether the change was a reasonable explination or not. It's all about whether or not the DM had to change the mechanics in the game in order for their 'interpretation' to function.

If this 'interpetation' involves something that can be backed up mechanically, then sure, it's just one of probably a few ways the rules could be read.

If the DM needs to make up rules to accomidate for a certain circumstance or to make up for reasoning (or more specifically, a lack-there-of), then it's a houserule.

Tequila Sunrise
2007-10-10, 04:05 PM
A DM is reading a description for a fictional spell named "Steam Blast". The spell's fluff (or wrriten description) indicates that the spell gathers moisture from the immediate vicinity, then heats it to an incredibly high temperature, thus injuring a solitary target. The mechanics of the spell then indicate that the spell causes 2d6 damage on a failed Fortitude save.

The PCs are in the middle of a dust-bowl type area, and when a PC tries to cast the spell, the DM says it fails because there is no moisture in the air.

House rule. There is no climate on earth (or any earth-like fantasy climate) that has absolutely no moisture in the air. So unless the spell description mentions that the spell fails when cast in a dry climate, the DM has just made a house rule. It is understandable how the DM would come to the conclusion that the spell would "realistically" fail, but we are talking about magic here. Perhaps in a dry climate the spell heats the lesser number of water molocules to a proportionally higher temperature, thereby causing the same amount of damage as in any other environment. In an arguable circumstance like this, the DM is making a house rule.



A level 1 barbarian PC, who is iliterate, levels up and informs his DM that he wants to take a level in Wizard. The DM reads over the multi-classing rules and the Literacy rules and tells the barbarian PC that he cannot multi-class to Wizard at this time for a couple of reasons.

First, the barbarian PC did not indicate that he was studying over anyone's shoulder (there isn't even a Wizard character in the PC group), didn't indicate that his character was interested in wizardy at all, and Second, that the barbarian, being iliterate, would not have been able to read any books on magic or do a lot of types of magical research.

Interpretation, or more aptly a 'judgment call'. In certain situations it is downright necessary and expected that the DM makes a judgment call. When multiclassing is concerned, I fully expect any good DM to take at least a moment to think the situation over and then say "yes", "no" or "maybe". Personally I feel that the DM is justified in not allowing said barbarian to multiclass, solely for the reason that he has had no wizard to look over the shoulder of, which is an explicit requirement of multiclassing. (barring classes like the sorcerer) If the barbarian had had a wizard to look over the shoulder of, the rest could be retroactively explained:

Barbarian Player: "Ever since Rognok saw Evyn cast that fireball, he's been impressed by magic. Would Evyn have been willing to help him out?"
Wizard Player: "Sure, I would have helped him learn to cast spells."
Barbarian Player: "So that just leaves the problem of literacy. Well the first thing that Evyn would teach Rognok would be how to read and write, so problem solved."

A strict DM might still decide that retroactive explaination doesn't work or that Rognok needs to spend 2 skill points on literacy before he can begin wizard training, but it's a judgment call all the same.

Curmudgeon
2007-10-10, 04:28 PM
We need a good example of an interpretation, so here it is:
Shatter

Shatter creates a loud, ringing noise that breaks brittle, nonmagical objects; sunders a single solid, nonmagical object; or damages a crystalline creature

Alternatively, you can target shatter against a single solid object, regardless of composition, weighing up to 10 pounds per caster level. What definition of "solid" do you use?
rigid, not flexible
without voids or breaks
neither liquid nor gas
Whichever choice you make is your interpretation. It can't be called a house rule because the choice in no way deviates from the written rules. But the interpretation chosen makes a big difference in the power of this low-level spell.

Roderick_BR
2007-10-10, 04:30 PM
I agree with Yuki_Akuma: Both are house rules.

In the first case, it's an interpretation that while it makes no sense, the rules doesn't say it'll make a difference. It's saying that it NEEDS to have actual water around you. So, in a desert, it can work. You'll just say that the blast had more hot air than water.

In the second, it's personal opinion on how multiclass works. One can argue that learning how to read is part of his training, since he'll become literate if he pics a level of wizard. It's just weird that a character can do it suddenly, when he pics up a level. But by rules, he can.

PS: Comment about the Call Lighting. It works underground and indoors, but not underwater, and it gets stronger in a strong storm. Notice how it's different from the AD&D version. In that one, you can't use it indoors or underground, and you NEED to be under a storm. The idea here is that you probably summon a mini cloud or something. You can do it inside a house or a dungeon, but not underwater, and under a storm, the spell doesn't summon the cloud, it just uses the one that already exists.

Lord Tataraus
2007-10-10, 04:57 PM
Wouldn't defining all interpretation as house ruling defeat the purpose of defining a class of DM intervention as rules interpretation in the first place?

Rules interpretation is a narrower category under the broad term "house rule". So it is not to be confused with a homebrew, or variant rule. A rules interpretation can change for DM to DM, so it is therefore a house rule (a.k.a. DM ruling) since you cannot guarantee that, using Curmudgeon's example, while in DM A's game where solid is defined as "neither liquid nor gas" that Shatter will work on cloth in DM B's game who might define solid as "rigid, not flexible".

Hyfigh
2007-10-10, 04:59 PM
We need a good example of an interpretation, so here it is: What definition of "solid" do you use?
rigid, not flexible
without voids or breaks
neither liquid nor gas
Whichever choice you make is your interpretation. It can't be called a house rule because the choice in no way deviates from the written rules. But the interpretation chosen makes a big difference in the power of this low-level spell.

That is perfect.

Anxe
2007-10-10, 05:42 PM
The first one is an interpretation. The second one isn't an interpretation, that's an actual rule.

horseboy
2007-10-10, 06:22 PM
Interpretation to the both of them. These situations clearly fall under the same situation as the death/drowning area. The wording is poorly written so the DM has to figure out what they meant.
A house rule is something made out of whole cloth.

Kaelik
2007-10-10, 09:07 PM
Why did two people magically pop up claiming that it's a multiclassing rule? Maybe you should show us this.

Falrin
2007-10-11, 06:57 AM
They are both houserules. Our Holy RAW protects the crunchy parts while ignoring the fluff, that's the way it works.

Can you cast a Flaming Sphere when there is no oxygen around?
Can you summon a Polar Bear you have never heard of?

Yes you can. The spell states what it does, so yo do it. This is a basic game mechanic for people to be able to understand eachother. When you start adding extra 'difficulties' you are changing the game in such a way that the other people around your table won't be able to know, follow or play with.

In Game of the Goose the owner of the game can't suddenly state that a goose can keep moving when it ends on an a bridge. Why? (fake scientific fact for the sake of argument) A real goose would never stop walking in the middle of a bridge because they're afraid of heights.

This is Basic Mechanics. People need these to have a basic ground to play with.


Who plays by this holy RAW? Nobody does. This is where our little friend common sense enters. Common sense states that when you're dead you can't keep fighting, when you drown you don't gain hp. Does common sense state that you can't cast a Steam Blast in a Dust Blow? Here we're on tricky terrain, but I'd go for No. You, the Player or the DM does not know the exact working of a spell. Does it draw Water from your own bodies? From your food? How much water does it need? When it heats to little, does the air heat as well to compensate? A discussion without an end thus (follow me here) Common Sense dictates that Common sense doesn't apply here for the sake of the Game. This happens a lot. The huge Earth Elemental jumping on people won't kill them. Falling 2 miles, Swimming in lava, ... It's D&D.

So that are the words we use in our game: It's D&D. You're carrying a Spare Greatsword, a longbow a light mace and 4 daggers along with your backpack and 7 days food and water without any negative effect? It's D&D. You're on fire fighting an Fire Elemental but you can keep casting instead of screaming in pain trying to put it out? It's D&D.

It's D&D. Play it like a Game with Fireballs and Gelatinous Cubes, with capped falling damage and weird drowning rules. It's D&D.

Arbitrarity
2007-10-11, 07:17 AM
Why did two people magically pop up claiming that it's a multiclassing rule? Maybe you should show us this.

DMG pg 14? :smallbiggrin:

Or PHB 59, which has the line "The DM may restrict the choices available based on the way he handles classes, skills, experience, and training" and goes on with some examples. Of course, that this gives the DM free reign over class control means that calling class control not a houserule sounds remarkably like claiming that applying the text on DMG 14 isn't a house rule.

Lord Lorac Silvanos
2007-10-11, 07:20 AM
They are both houserules. Our Holy RAW protects the crunchy parts while ignoring the fluff, that's the way it works.

Can you cast a Flaming Sphere when there is no oxygen around?
...

Yes you can. The spell states what it does, so yo do it. This is a basic game mechanic for people to be able to understand eachother. When you start adding extra 'difficulties' you are changing the game in such a way that the other people around your table won't be able to know, follow or play with.


Again, the descriptive text is not just fluff. If the header contradicts it the header takes precedence, but the details found in the descriptive text could imposes limitations on the use of the spell.


DESCRIPTIVE TEXT

This portion of a spell description details what the spell does and how it works.

Taking your Flaming Sphere as an example:

While nothing prevents you from casting a Flaming Sphere in an environment without oxygen (assuming that you do not need air to speak to meet the verbal requirement or are casting a silent version or are simply directing the sphere into this environment), the spell description explicitly prevents the Flaming Sphere from functioning without oxygen.


It can be extinguished by any means that would put out a normal fire of its size.

Kurald Galain
2007-10-11, 07:26 AM
Ah, for the days of Paranoia, where all this ruleswonkery discussion is considered treason...

:smallbiggrin:

Kaelik
2007-10-11, 07:52 AM
DMG pg 14? :smallbiggrin:

Or PHB 59, which has the line "The DM may restrict the choices available based on the way he handles classes, skills, experience, and training" and goes on with some examples. Of course, that this gives the DM free reign over class control means that calling class control not a houserule sounds remarkably like claiming that applying the text on DMG 14 isn't a house rule.

A) The DM can also tear up your character sheet and kick you out. That doesn't mean that Rule 0=Must set weird limits. Any application of Rule 0 is a houserule. Why does everyone have this crazy bias against admitting that they are houseruling restrictions to classes. I do it all the time, not just forcing the Shapeshift variant on Druids, but also limiting spell selections and other goodies, limiting the way people level up. I do it all the time, I just don't have some obsessive need to pretend it isn't houseruling.
B)DMG 14 addresses "Changing the Rules" and "Additions to the Game" as such, if it actually said anything close to what you are claiming it would still be an application of Rule 0. That said, even though I did not read the entire page thoroughly and only skimmed it, there was nothing on the page that I saw about multiclassing at all.

Yuki Akuma
2007-10-11, 08:17 AM
While nothing prevents you from casting a Flaming Sphere in an environment without oxygen (assuming that you do not need air to speak to meet the verbal requirement or are casting a stilled version or are simply directing the sphere into this environment), the spell description explicitly prevents the Flaming Sphere from functioning without oxygen.

Methinks you mean Silent. And you don't need oxygen to speak; you need... matter. You can speak underwater. Heck, you can speak while encased in cement. If you can breathe without oxygen, but you're in an atmosphere, you can cast a spell with a verbal component.

Doing it underwater or while incased in cement is harder, of course, 'cause you're not used to speaking in water/cement.

Indon
2007-10-11, 08:35 AM
Rules interpretation is a narrower category under the broad term "house rule". So it is not to be confused with a homebrew, or variant rule. A rules interpretation can change for DM to DM, so it is therefore a house rule (a.k.a. DM ruling) since you cannot guarantee that, using Curmudgeon's example, while in DM A's game where solid is defined as "neither liquid nor gas" that Shatter will work on cloth in DM B's game who might define solid as "rigid, not flexible".

Ah, it would seem that we have the same thought processes when it comes to this, but simply different vocabulary.

For me:

House rule - DM fabricated alternate rule, or new aspect to the game (Synonymous with Homebrew, a slang term)
Interpretation - Clarification or extention of rule.
Variant rule - Officially published alternate rule, such as the Massive Damage Save or the Sanity system published in Unearthed Arcana.

In fact, looking over the other responses, there appear to be a lot of different definitions of the applicable terms.

Lord Lorac Silvanos
2007-10-11, 08:41 AM
Methinks you mean Silent.

Yes, indeed. Thank you.


And you don't need oxygen to speak; you need... matter. You can speak underwater. Heck, you can speak while encased in cement. If you can breathe without oxygen, but you're in an atmosphere, you can cast a spell with a verbal component.

Doing it underwater or while incased in cement is harder, of course, 'cause you're not used to speaking in water/cement.


Then there is always the interpretation of the "strong voice" requirement of verbal components. :smallwink:

Dubie
2007-10-11, 08:47 AM
Flaming Sphere
Evocation [Fire]

Level: Drd 2, Sor/Wiz 2

Components: V, S, M/DF

Casting Time: 1 standard action

Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)

Effect: 5-ft.-diameter sphere

Duration: 1 round/level

Saving Throw: Reflex negates

Spell Resistance: Yes
A burning globe of fire rolls in whichever direction you point and burns those it strikes. It moves 30 feet per round. As part of this movement, it can ascend or jump up to 30 feet to strike a target. If it enters a space with a creature, it stops moving for the round and deals 2d6 points of fire damage to that creature, though a successful Reflex save negates that damage. A flaming sphere rolls over barriers less than 4 feet tall. It ignites flammable substances it touches and illuminates the same area as a torch would.

The sphere moves as long as you actively direct it (a move action for you); otherwise, it merely stays at rest and burns. It can be extinguished by any means that would put out a normal fire of its size. The surface of the sphere has a spongy, yielding consistency and so does not cause damage except by its flame. It cannot push aside unwilling creatures or batter down large obstacles. A flaming sphere winks out if it exceeds the spellís range.

Arcane Material Component: A bit of tallow, a pinch of brimstone, and a dusting of powdered iron.


There you have it. Flaming Sphere will not work without Oxygen, as that would cause a normal fire of its size to stop burning....

I don't think the issue here is phobia of admiting to house rules. Everyone has house rules. The point of this thread is to find that line between house rule and a rules interpretation.

Arbitrarity
2007-10-11, 03:35 PM
A) The DM can also tear up your character sheet and kick you out. That doesn't mean that Rule 0=Must set weird limits. Any application of Rule 0 is a houserule. Why does everyone have this crazy bias against admitting that they are houseruling restrictions to classes. I do it all the time, not just forcing the Shapeshift variant on Druids, but also limiting spell selections and other goodies, limiting the way people level up. I do it all the time, I just don't have some obsessive need to pretend it isn't houseruling.
B)DMG 14 addresses "Changing the Rules" and "Additions to the Game" as such, if it actually said anything close to what you are claiming it would still be an application of Rule 0. That said, even though I did not read the entire page thoroughly and only skimmed it, there was nothing on the page that I saw about multiclassing at all.

Yeah, I know. I was being somewhat sarcastic, so I believe I should use metalanguage tags. DMG 14 mentions "changing the rules", and essentially amounts to rule 0. All references to DMG 14 were indirectly to Rule 0. The comment about "Seeming remakably like" essentially amounted to saying that just because the book gives you free reign to change the rules, does not mean changing the rules isn't houseruling.

Lord Tataraus
2007-10-11, 04:02 PM
In fact, looking over the other responses, there appear to be a lot of different definitions of the applicable terms.

I quite agree with Indon. We all have a different definition of the term "house rule". Therefore I suggest one of two approaches to continuing this "discussion":
1) We, as a community, establish a well-defined meaning of the terms "house rule" and "rules interpretation" (in an orderly manner so as to avoid a flame war).

or

2) We, as a community, accept the fact that we all have different definitions of the these terms among others.

or

3) ignore this post completely.

Of course the second option does end this thread quite abruptly, and the first option has the potential to never end. And the third option is mean.

Draz74
2007-10-11, 04:58 PM
The first one is a house rule. The mechanics of the spell say absolutely nothing about failing when there's no moisture in the air. The fluff is superfluous.

It's like saying a disintegrate spell has to be green. It's just silly.

Technically, this is a house rule. A giant, overarching house rule that seems to be universally accepted as game "doctrine" by Yuki and many of the other regular members of this forum.

It's a house rule that I strongly agree with, 95% of the time; but I still feel I should point it out.

I refer, of course, to the differentiation of "fluff" vs. "mechanics."

Technically, the PHB never says anything about spell descriptions being divided into "fluff" and "mechanics." It does not give you guidelines about which things in a spell description should be interpreted as mechanics, and which shouldn't. (If it did, it would probably be like the Mystery descriptions in Tome of Magic, with the fluff and mechanics actually separated on the page and by italics. In that book, you could probably make a solid argument that changing the "fluff" is interpretation while changing the "mechanics" is a house rule. But even in ToM, I'm not sure the rules themselves actually tell you to treat the different sections differently in your games.)

For the "green disintegrate" example ... I agree, it's ridiculous to enforce that disintegrate has to be green. But according to Yuki's standards, I still think it would technically be a house rule to allow a non-green disintegrate ray. The only reason nobody goes around claiming that the "green" description is "crunch" is because the color of the ray doesn't interact with any other game rules (that I'm aware of). But what if it did? The "green" text is still just as valid, for a 100%-literal interpretation of the core rules, as any other part of the spell description.

Just something interesting to ponder.

P.S. With all this in mind, I vote "interpretation" for the first question of the OP. I vote "house rule" for the second, although it falls under the category of "house rule that would be stupid not to make, in terms of verisimilitude of the game, if the Barbarian hasn't been showing any interest in magic or learning to read." (Kind of like making Monks proficient with Unarmed Strikes.)