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Alister: But you can't fuse a trap card with a monster!

Kaiba: Looks to me like I just did, Alister.
Yu-Gi-Oh - Ep 150 - (For once, it's not a quote from the abridged series).

Games have rules. Those rules are around to make everything fair and give everyone a reasonable chance for success. They do not always make logical sense, but they're there.

However, sometimes the story isn't paying attention. This trope is where the rules of a game within a given work are made so vague or complex that there is no possible way they can be understood. Sometimes, the story just makes things up as it goes along. Hopefully, the improvisation will make sense.

This is not about the differences between rules in a work and rules in a game it's based on (The former will often be inherited from the latter), but when the rules of a work don't make sense and violate their own internal logic.

As well, deliberate and clear cheating which acknowledges that the characters are bending the rules, or finding some technicality to exploit, are also not this trope. The key is about implausibility and being unbelievably complex.

Contrast Magic A Is Magic A which is effectively the opposite of this: the rules may not make complete sense or be accurate but so long as it is consistent it works. If it involves liberties with the rules of real sports/games it's Gretzky Has the Ball. If there really aren't any rules (or the rules change very frequently), then it's Calvin Ball.

Also compare How Unscientific, New Powers as the Plot Demands, Gameplay and Story Segregation, Screw the Rules, I Make Them, and Aint No Rule. Golden Snitch is a subtrope. Stop by Serious Business on your way out.

Examples of New Rules as the Plot Demands include:


Yu-Gi-Oh examples

General examples

  • There are plenty times where monsters appear out of the blue, or change on impressive manners. What's weird is that players seem aware of how to change them, even if they've never done that before.All this raises a lot of questions.
    • Fusion monsters: There are many fusion-monsters that "surprisingly" happen. It seems as if every possible monster combination was possible, and it depended on a player to discover which ones were the best. In some of the video games, you can fuse monsters just by playing two cards together. However, in the TGC, you usually actually have to have the fusioned monster card before attempting this, making fusions a lot less viable than in the fictional counter-part. Interestingly, though, the characters actually do seem to have the cards when they know what monster will appear as the result of a fusion, including their stats and effects.
    • Special Summon monsters: Some monsters which are not fusions, but require weird special summons conditions instead. Red Eyes Metal Dragon, for example, is a monster that requires a Red Eyes Black Dragon with Metalmorph. Dark Magician once old by Time Wizard effects becomes Dark Sage.

Pre-Battle City examples

  • It is important to note that many of the examples in this section are based off of earlier parts of the series, where card interactions were much more complex and simulated a lot more cause and effect. This was because the series used a lot of games that had these kind of interactions, and the rules hadn't been set in stone yet.
    • As for later examples, many duelists, including the titular character, use cards (or even whole decks) with no counterpart in the card game or other media, and only use them once. This results in most duels being transparently engineered to go in a specific manner, completely negating the "randomization" rule of a card game.
  • One example in Yu-Gi-Oh (the former Trope Namer in fact) comes from an early episode (which can be seen in episode 10 of the "Abridged Series"), where Yugi uses a monster called Catapult Turtle to launch a fusion monster, Gaia the Dragon Champion, at another monster, Panik's Castle of Dark Illusions. This destroys the Dragon Champion on impact, causing Yugi to lose most of his Life Points and the castle's flotation-ring to fall off, but seemingly doesn't destroy the castle... until Yugi mentions that the Castle is now being held up by Yugi's Swords of Revealing Light. Yugi ends his turn, ending the effect of SoRL, thus causing the destruction of the Castle... and all of Panik's monsters, which were underneath and, due to Panik's Chaos Shield, couldn't get out of the way in time. If these things had been real, physical creatures engaged in a battle, this would be reasonably creative and entirely valid. But they're just tokens in a card game, subject to the rules thereof, and Yugi's trick has absolutely no basis in the rules (but it looked cool). The real card game hadn't yet been made when this episode was written, but unless the writers thought the real card game would somehow simulate Newtonian physics, it still doesn't make much sense.
    • In the same episode, the flying castle itself has the effect of hiding the villain's monsters in darkness, so Yugi can only attack the darkness and get his monsters killed by cards he can't see. How exactly is that supposed to work without holographic technology? 'You're attacking my monster. Sorry, it has higher attack points than yours. No I can't prove it, that would defeat the whole purpose of the shrouding darkness. Just take my word for it, will you?' While still over-complicated, Yu-Gi-Oh! Wiki came up with a useable explanation for Castle of Dark Illusions effect in the anime.
    • An episode in Yu-Gi-Oh GX reuses the darkness shroud shtick, but differently and in a way that would work just fine in the actual game; any non Fiend-type monsters must attack when able, but the opponent gets to select the target.
  • Bandit Keith plays machine monsters as they are all resistant to spell attacks, even from non-Spellcaster monsters. No card ever designates how it attacks the opponent monsters outside of the holograms - even half the Magicians look like they're physical attackers. Meaning that the only way to verify this is through the aforementioned holographic technology.
    • This is applied twice more in two different Joey duels (see a pattern here?) in Battle City; against Espa Roba, he tried using Time Magician's monster effect against Jinzo, but supposedly Jinzo has "futuristic armor" that protects him from rusting (not part of its effect), while against Weevil Underwood, his monsters start getting infected by the Parasite Paracide Weevil slipped into his deck, turning them into bugs, but somehow his Gearfried the Iron Knight was immune (likely an interpretation of Gearfried's ability to destroy all Equip cards equipped to him, but Parasite Paracide isn't an Equip card, or even the kind of monster that can be treated as such).
    • Time Wizard tends to get this a lot. Time Wizard's actual effect is to flip a coin and whoever loses the toss has all of their monsters on the field destroyed (and losing half of their total ATK from their LP). Time Wizard does several different things during the Duelist Kingdom. Its first use was against Mai, where when it activated (and Joey won), it didn't destroy Mai's Harpy Ladies, just weakened them. Also when he had Baby Dragon out when he used it, it then aged into Thousand Dragon. Thousand Dragon is a fusion monster between Baby Dragon and Time Wizard in real game though that might be just so this mechanic could be implemented in the game somehow. Later, when he used it against Bandit Keith, it made Keith's Barrel Dragon rust and weaken. Then when he used it against Yugi, it made his Dark Magician become ancient, and dropping its ATK from 2500 to 200. Then Dark Magician transformed into Dark Sage, a totally new monster with 2800 ATK, which surprisingly is something that you can actually do, well sort of.
  • In episode 29, Shadow of Eyes forced "men" to attack Harpies Lady but did not affect "female monsters". Needless to say this leaves a lot of questions. Many monster cards in the game do not have discernible gender while some card's illustration show multiple people, some male and some female.
  • In his duel with Mako, Yugi calls an attack on "Full Moon". Three major problems with that. First, "Full Moon" is Yugi's own card and is on his side of the battlefield. Second, it's a magic card, not a monster. Third, he's trying to stab the fucking moon with a sword. Yet not only does this somehow work, it dramatically alters the battlefield, causing the ACTUAL tide (not a card effect) to go out lower than it was before he summoned the moon, and beaching Mako's sea monsters.
  • In Joey and Yugi's Tag-Team duel against the Brother Paradox, the latter plays a card called "Labyrinth Wall", which has 0 ATK and 3000 Defense because, you know, wall. However, its effect appears to be changing the genre into a dungeon-crawler board game. It would be like if, when someone plays an ace of spade in poker, everyone then has to play chess for the next hour.
  • The Multiply card is apparently so badly designed it can divide by zero, creating a wall of infinite Kuribohs that spawn in real time with disregard for monster space. Also Kuribohs "self-destruct on contact with enemy monsters". In his second duel against Pegasus Yugi tricks Pegasus into using Thousand Eyes Restrict's effect to equip itself with Kuriboh causing the Kuribohs to explode blowing out Thousand Eyes Restrict's eyes apparently negating its effect. Yugi took damage equal to Kuriboh's ATK for some reason.
    • The damage was probably caused by Thousand Eyes Restrict's effect, which transfers damage resulting from battle while it has a monster equipped to the opponent. This was a 300 ATK monster battling a 0 ATK monster, but the damage transfer effect was active. Result: Yugi takes 300 damage to his lifepoints, but Thousand Eyes Restrict has no monster equipped to it and can't reequip this turn, leaving Yugi free to attack it with Magician of Black Chaos for the win.
  • The Yami/Kaiba duel in the Duelist Kingdom arc gives us this little gem. Yugi is able to fuse one of his monsters, Mammoth Graveyard, with Kaiba's Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon. The result was on Kaiba's side of the field. Because it was a fusion of an Undead (Zombie-Type?) monster and a "living" monster the unnamed fusion monster's ATK and DEF decreased by the ATK and DEF of Mammoth Graveyard. Needless to say, this defies the entire mechanics of Fusion Summon in the Trading Card Game. Also note that the real Mammoth Graveyard is a Dinosaur-type.
    • Later, Yugi attacks it once its ATK was low enough for his weaker monsters to defeat it. However, it is stated that because Blue-Eyes White Dragon is a Fusion Monster that requires three Fusion Material Monsters it must be attacked three times to completely destroy it, so Yugi's attacks just kill one head. It is not possible to partially destroy a monster in the real Trading Card Game, nor do any other Fusion Monsters ever display this characteristic.
      • As a matter of facts, it'd be possible to do that in the real Trading Card Game, "When this card is summoned, put 3 tokens on this card. When this would be destroyed, remove one counter instead. When this card is out of counters, destroy it". It's just funny they used this rule only once.
    • It gets better. Kaiba uses Monster Reborn to revive one head of the Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon with 3000 ATK, while the rest of the monster still had low ATK. As to how you could make sense of any of this without holograms is anyone's guess.
      • To be fair, you could just say that Kaiba revived one of the Blue-Eyes' fused into the Ultimate Dragon, and the writers chose to represent that as just one of its heads coming back. Whether the effect the Ultimate Dragon was under could actually happen or not aside, reviving a fusion material monster after fusing it is a completely possible strategy.
  • There was a least an attempt to justify all the rules weirdness in the Duelist Kingdom saga. At the start of the tournament, Pegasus announces that his tournament will incorporate "new rules", all of which he promptly refuses to disclose, because "what fun would that be?" However, he was probably just referring to the newly-added element of field effects.
    • Also, Pegasus said to Yugi that a Shadow Duel transforms a duel into a real battle of monsters and magic. That way, not only would it explain their second duel (which kind of made sense until Pegasus made it a Shadow Duel), this could also mean that they are screwing the rules. With magic.
  • In Yugi's duel with the fake Kaiba, it's revealed that Mystical Elf, a normal monster was actually an effect monster in the anime. It was given the effect of transferring its ATK (800) to another monster you control.
  • In the same duel, it used a nonexistent effect to stop one of fake Kaiba's spells because it was "chanting a mystical chant." Also, another card that was used in this same duel (and others) was Spellbinding Circle. It stays close, but in the anime, they added the effect of lowering the target's ATK by 700.
    • This was later added to the game as another card, Shadow Spell, which has exactly that effect.
  • Pegasus' use of Toon Monsters surprisingly stayed close to what they actually do. However, it usually manifested this as abducting his opponent's monsters and turning them into his own Toon monsters, whereas in the actual game, the normal and Toon monsters are totally different monsters, and the two being in the same duel would more or less be a coincidence. He also used it to hide Dark Rabbit, which is not a Toon and is a normal monster from being destroyed. His Toon monsters couldn't be targeted at all. This was shown as them hiding inside Toon World. You couldn't see his monsters until they attacked.
    • Pegasus' Toon Monsters did become much closer to their real life counterparts in the movie, using their primary special ability of attacking an opponents' life points directly. It even included Pegasus having to sacrifice 1000 life points to summon Toon World. However, it still wasn't exactly correct, as Pegasus didn't have to wait a turn after summoning a Toon monster to have it attack.
  • Two duels in the dub featured musical montages with sped-up combat, causing it to seem like a duelist filled their field in one turn, when it happened over several turns in two separate episodes in the original version.
    • This was exclusively in the Kids' WB! version of the show. The reason is unclear, but some say it was to promote the Music to Duel By soundtrack, and others believe it was to make up for the delay of the premiere by two weeks due to 9/11. Regardless, other countries that aired the 4Kids dub did get the two episodes separately, as did the DVD release and 4Kids' streaming services. The episodes eventually did air separately in 2006 and 2007 on the now-defunct 4Kids TV block.
  • One card in particular, Makiu gets this an awful lot, its effect in real life is totally different then in the show. It does something different every time it's played-In the duel with Weevil, it washes away the spores of the Great Moth and powers up Summoned Skull, then in the duel with Joey, it's used during Joey's turn to stop the attack of Thousand Dragon, and finally in the duel with possessed Keith, it weakens all his machine monsters.
    • Summoned Skull also gets this in the duel with the Rare Hunter, where it charges up Alpha The Magnet Warrior's attack by 200 points, this one in particular stands out because of how pointless it was, Yugi could've just attacked with Beta The Magnet Warrior and his Skull and he would've won, there was no need for that random effect to be thrown in.
      • Not true. Alpha's 1400 ATK and Skull's 2500 only totals 3900, not enough to win the duel that very turn. However, he used Monster Reborn to revive Chimera the Flying Mythical Beast (2100 ATK), and used it to attack the Head of Exodia (1000 DEF) that the Rare Hunter had set in Defense Mode. What he could have done is use Beta to destroy the Exodia Head, and use Skull and Chimera to defeat the Rare Hunter.
    • Being fair, Maiku DOES power up Summoned Skull (And thunder type monsters) in real life.

Post-Battle City examples

  • Bakura tends to do this more often than not as his entire strategy. In Battle City, Dark Necrofear works to summon a Field card called Dark Sanctuary, which seems to be activated by the system reading his mind to see what card he designated the target without anyone else knowing. How this could actually be enforced under any situation, period, is not entirely clear though it is worth noting that this is not the case in the Japanese version. And in his final appearance, he manages to be in three places simultaneously and completely flouting the rules in all three. As Zorc, he ignores the effects of four separate all-destroying attacks. As Tristan-Bakura, he uses a strategy that works purely by making his graveyard go away. The cards aren't removed from play and don't go to his deck or hand, which is the only place they can go, but the graveyard just...goes away. And as the game master, he explicitly said he's making up the rules as he feels like it.
    • And then there's his duel with Bonez. He discards his entire hand without activating a card that would let him do anything like that. Then he wins the duel with a card that is better with a larger graveyard.
  • The Doma arc gives us the Legendary Dragon cards. Joey's and Kaiba's appear on top of their Decks via magic in the middle of a duel. Kaiba's card gives us the page quote. Yugi's dragon allows him to fuse it with ...something magical (see Bandit Keith on that "definition"), Kaiba's allows him to fuse it with a trap card, and Joey's allows him to fuse it with a monster to form an equip spell card. All of which gain new effects in addition to the ones they already had.
    • Savior Dragon from 5D's does that too.
    • A lot of cards in the game don't appear to have been actually made and designed by Pegasus or his company, and would likely be banned in an official tournament, as it is like using a "Create-a-card" program and expecting it to be valid.
  • There is also the Seal of Orichalcos, which has multiple stages and new effects added to it with every use in a duel. An attempt to make a semi-playable version was made (not usable in an official tournament, much like the God Cards), but it ultimately ended up as a very watered down version with 1 point font.
  • Battle City has its own version of the Castle of Dark Illusions in the Spell Card Umi (Sea) used by Mako Tsunami in the duel against Joey Wheeler. When activated, it conceals all of the cards on his side of the field under a layer of water. It doesn't end there, as Mako uses his free arm to cover Joey's view of his duel disk; a move that should be considered downright cheating.
  • Each time The Winged Dragon of Ra is played it has a new power. First, there is that special writing which can only be seen under the light of the God (and that means the hologram). When Mai summons it, it doesn't work, since you need to read the text (that is written in Egyptian) to activate it. Marik promptly reads the text, taking Ra to his side of the field and activating it. Next battle, it has a new ability: it can increase/decrease its attack points by decreasing/increasing his owner Life Points, at the owner's will. And this is all before the battle is against Yugi, when it shows its real power. Its effect to reduce life points and increase its attack points can be reversed by playing De-Fusion. Somehow, Marik managed to pull of stunts like, "But wait, the Winged Dragon of Ra has even more effects than are printed on the card!" without getting a, "no. You're a very silly man and I'm not going to play with you," in return.
  • Lets not forget the duel of Yugi against the guy Marik gave Slifer and controlled.
    • First, in both manga and anime, Survival jam instantly comes back to the field with no cost when it is destroyed, the effect actually being paying 1000 LP and it coming back during the next mainphase.
    • Second, at least the manga (not sure about anime anymore) has the gem about jam defense, allowing the owner to redirect attacks onto the jam in the TGC, while redirecting a DEFENSE against an attack onto revival jam in the manga...
  • The Dub tried to avoid some of the fridge logic by removing the text from the cards, meaning you had to have read a manual listing card effects before playing (and conceivably answers some of the questions regarding not knowing what an opponent's card does). It still gets ridiculous for some. For starters, why the hell did Pegasus write so many damn rules and redundancies into a card that he himself was afraid to play?

Second and later series examples

  • Much later, in 5Ds, Yusei is dueling Rudger. Rudger has his Earthbound God Uru on the field, as well as a the field magic card Spider Web. Earthbound Gods cannot be attacked while a field magic card is on the field, so Yusei pulls some Loophole Abuse and declares that he'll instead attack Rudger directly, a strategy that, needless to say, is impossible.
    • Actually, is a valid strategy. In real life this is impossible because the Earthbounds don't have the "cannot be attacked rule". But, as a matter of facts, depending on wording this can happen. If you only have monsters that can't be targeted for an attack (like Legendary Fisherman), then your opponent is allowed to attack you directly.
  • Now Yu-Gi-Oh ZEXAL is getting in on the action. In Episode 43, Kaito Releases Yuma's monsters to summon his Photon Kaiser. This is iffy enough because the rules don't seem to specify whether the two are sharing fields or not (the previous episode implies this is not the case, as Kaito's Photon Pressure World Field Spell damages everyone who doesn't control a Photon monster, and Yuma is damaged by it). What happens next is a blatant example, however. To clarify, Photon Pressure World's effect is that when a Photon monster is summoned, everyone who doesn't control a Photon monster takes damage equal to the summoned monster's Level x 100. Kaito summons Photon Kaiser, and for some reason (most likely that Yuma would lose otherwise), Photon Pressure World doesn't activate. With no good reason. And the card text is written in such a way that the effect is compulsory. It can't even be argued that Kaito and Yuma do have separate fields and that Kaito summoned Kaiser to Yuma's field because Kaito himself doesn't take damage from Pressure World (he would also lose from that damage), and he proceeds to Overlay Kaiser with Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon to Xyz Summon Neo Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon


Other Anime/Manga

  • Battle B-daman seems to forget every so often that shooting your opponent's fingers... or head... or friends... with a marble capable of shattering stone is, in most games, a flagrant foul. Not that the real things shoot like that, but still...
    • To say nothing of all the weird table setups, bizarre tournament events such as a marble-powered elevator, and other head-breakingly improbable challenges.
    • Especially notable is that, according to one of the final battles, joining a game already in progress and ganging up on a single person is allowed by the rules. Because ganging up equals the power of friendship. This is despite the villains being condemned for it earlier in the show.
  • In Miyuki-chan in Wonderland, Humpty Dumpty forced Miyuki to play a giant game of chess against her own lesbian reflection with full-sized scantily-clad human women as chess pieces, and whenever one piece took another, she'd bitch-slap the shit out of the piece that's just been taken, and her clothes would disappear. Also, the stakes are that whichever Miyuki lost would have to take her clothes off. And THEN it starts getting weird. the real Miyuki never said "Check" or "Checkmate", and we didn't see a single red/black piece take a single white/blue piece, and yet, all of a sudden, Humpty Dumpty declared the Reflection the loser and the reflection stripped.
    • Humpty just wanted to watch one of 'em strip, and face it, the reflection was a lot more willing. Did you see her cry over that "loss"?
  • Code Geass does this with Chess. Not only are illegal moves shown, such as pawns moving backwards, but Schneizel manages to declare "Checkmate" on Lelouch/Zero by putting his king in front of Lelouch's king. Although that move was done on purpose to try and expose Lelouch. Amusingly enough, Lelouch somehow has a Black Pawn right next to his own king.
  • Mega Man NT Warrior usually only changes the amount of damage that certain attacks do to even the playing field (Megaman's default megabuster is a lot more powerful), and since the characters are actually using chips in an environment with proper physics, it makes sense that certain things can be done. But at the same time, at one point in the series, they decided to speed up the combat by making chips more like equipment rather than one-time attacks. Adding this rule would probably destroy the internet when the guys with meteor chips start using them...
    • Probably the most noticable example would be the Life Sword Program Advance. At first it appeared to be a wave of some sort. During the final battle of the tournament Megaman and Protoman were dueling with them like actual swords.


Collectible Card Game

  • CCG magazine InQuest Gamer (then just InQuest) proposed a variation of Magic: The Gathering they dubbed "Kangaroo Court", which allowed players to apply real-world logic to the game, effectively acting out this trope long before Yu-Gi-Oh existed. One given example showed a player arguing that using Pacifism on Angry Mob should destroy the mob, since it's no longer angry and would disperse.


Film

  • The Sylvester Stallone film Over the Top builds up to a double-elimination arm-wrestling tournament, and the announcer reminds us of this just about every time he speaks. Stallone's character, Lincoln Hawk, loses once to John Grizzly (whose psyche-out techniques include DRINKING MOTOR OIL and EATING CIGARS) in the quarterfinals, and his spirits are broken before his son reminds him that it's a double-elimination tournament and repeats a speech from earlier in the film. Hawk comes back to beat both Grizzly and Bob "Bull" Hurley to win the championship...but wait! We never did see Grizzly or Hurley lose before that, did we? Most of the championship went by in the form of a montage of every single match, in which we saw Hawk, Grizzly, and Hurley easily winning all of their matches...then we saw Hawk lose to Grizzly...and then we saw Hawk beat Grizzly, Hurley beat the other quarterfinalist, and Hawk beat Hurley after a single (albeit extremely long and climactic) match. The entire "double-elimination" aspect was apparently thrown out as soon as Hawk was done using it for a plot device.
  • In the climactic scene of Space Jam Michael Jordan takes off from half court with the Tune Squad trailing by 1 point. Stretching his arm to be directly over the basket via the Looney Tune laws of physics, Jordan releases the ball and literally drops it through the hoop for the winning pseudo-dunk at the buzzer. The movie however fails to recognize that since MJ took off from where he did, the shot should have counted for three points instead of two. Of course the movies would rather have the protagonist team win by 1 point than by 2, so the final score was shown as 78-77 rather than 79-77.


Live-Action TV

  • An episode of the live-action kids drama Zoey 101 had a Battlebots-style remote-controlled robot war, where the main characters lose to the stereotypical nerds after their bot destroys the other with a hammer. When the main character's best friend comes in with her own tiny bot, the nerds laugh at it until it fires a huge laser at the other bot, completely destroying it and winning the match. Apparently, there Ain't No Rule saying you can't use military lasers in the competition.
    • Whereas the hammer being slightly too tall when upright got said nerds disqualified. Selective Cheating?
  • Star Trek: Voyager played with this in the episode "Worst Case Scenario". Tom Paris found an old unfinished role-playing holodeck program Tuvok made that dealt with a potential Maquis uprising on Voyager. It was made in all seriousness, but they try to finish it up as a decent role-playing game instead. However, when they try to edit the program, they find that Seska (crewmember turned traitor) reprogrammed it as a no-win situation with Everything Trying to Kill You. To buy time for the engineers to shut down the holodeck, Janeway took control of the game stats and became a Deus Ex Machina working for Paris and Tuvok. The game would send crew members to kill them, and Janeway would materialize phasers in their hands. Eventually ended with the computer going for the Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies solution, but Tuvok figured a clever way out of that.


Real Life

  • Carnies have a term called an alibi, which is when someone who has apparently won a game of chance is told about a previously undisclosed rule, in order to be able to deny giving them a prize. A common example is stating that the player crossed an invisible "foul line." At least most of them are up front about not allowing underhand shots.
  • The NFL has some rules that are so obscure that even coaches are not generally aware of them. Sometimes they are called attention to in playoff games, which leads to accusations that the league is manipulating the outcome to allow the more popular team to advance to the Super Bowl. Recent infamous examples include the tuck rule, which changed the outcome of the 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff Game, and the "Bert Emanuel" rule, so named when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had an apparent pass reception overturned by officials in the 2000 NFC Divisional Championship Game. The latter ensured that the "Greatest Show on Turf" offense of the St. Louis Rams, considered to be more ratings-friendly than the Buccaneers' stifling defense, would reach the championship; while the former extended the chances of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady's star power. A recent non-playoff example occurred during a 2010 game between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, in which a potentially game-winning touchdown catch was overturned when officials ruled that Lions receiver Calvin Johnson failed to maintain control of the ball because he set it down too quickly after catching it.
    • The problem with the NFL the amount of nit picky rules that the human refs are supposed to take into account along with the general vagueness of a lot of rules coupled with the limitations of the review system. The official NFL rule book isn't made publicly available (at least not easily acquired (not on the internet, though a simplified version is available)) and most people aren't privy to NFL officials meetings that clarify interpretations of the rules. Most of the examples would definitely fall into the Your Mileage May Vary for these reasons (they may appear to be bad calls to people on the losing end or 50% of non-vested viewers while the other half will feel otherwise. An example: during a punt the ball was rolling into the end-zone and a player from the punting team dove onto the ball, initiated contact with the ball outside of the end-zone and released contact with the ball after it was in the end-zone. It was ruled a touchback, it was challenged, reviewed and upheld. The rule that allows you to down the ball is called illegal-touching and doesn't clarify (at least in the internet rules version) whether you just have to touch the ball or have to possess the ball for it to be downed. It's interesting because for it to be considered a fumble or a muffed reception, the receiving team merely needs to graze the ball. Interpretations of the rules seem to follow along the US Justice system whereby previous interpretations continue until corrected by a higher authority.
    • Illegal touching means that the ball is downed when the kicking team gains control of it and cannot be downed in such a way as to give the receiving team worse field position than when the kicking team first touched the ball. Thus, if a member of the kicking team attempts to down the ball, but it goes into the endzone off his hands, it's a touchback. If the ball is deflected toward the receiving team's endzone and then downed, the ball is placed back where it was first touched. And now for the Game Breaker: if a ball is touched by a member of the kicking team and a member of the receiving team then gains control before the kicking team does, the ball can be advanced by the receiving team, and the receiving team CANNOT FUMBLE. If the kicking team recovers a fumble or intercepts a lateral pass on such a play, the ball is downed instead of going back to the kicking team. This means that, except for the risk of throwing the ball back through your own endzone for a safety, there is no risk to attempting a rugby-style multi-lateral pass play (which like pulling the goalie in ice hockey, is normally reserved for an end-game desperation play, but is a free option on a delayed penalty, wherein the opposing team is not allowed to gain possession).
    • None of the above examples, however, may be more frustrating to fans than the league's apparent knee-jerk reaction to any hit/tackle that causes a major injury to a few players by declaring it illegal, leading to players recently getting massive fines/suspensions for hits that many observers claim was "just a good football play" and those observers complaining that the game is becoming sissified.
  • NASCAR has been known to change the rulebook on the fly as needed. Sometimes it seems arbitrary, sometimes it's in response to apparent overdominance, and sometimes it's just figuring out that having people race at full speed to the start/finish line when a caution comes out is less than safe when the reason for the caution flag is a guy sitting helpless a few hundred metres in front of said start/finish line.
  • Similarly, the Formula 1 rules on pit stops, tyre management and Safety Car scenarios (just to name the most usual ones) seem to change every year, if not every few months.
  • As society is constantly changing, the law needs to be constantly revised, resulting in constant new laws introduced, and changes to original laws.


Tabletop RPG

  • Pretty much every RPG ever made includes a phrase for the GM somewhere along the lines of, "These rules are ultimately suggestions, feel free to take or leave them as you please."
    • This is almost universally known among the tabletop RPG community. Given the name of "Rule 0": The GM's word is law (Rule 0, being, of course, this or a case of Screw the Rules, I Make Them, depending on the game and the DM). And is often used to shut down the more obstinate Rules Lawyers.
    • Which is sometimes lampshaded by experienced GMs questioning why they should pay good money for the books in the first place, then. (In practice, mind, a good rules system can take a lot of work off of the GM's shoulders. If other people argue that there's no problem with the rules because they can always be changed, though, do expect this point to come up.)
    • That said, sometimes a rule gets tossed because nobody in the group likes what it does in play, except perhaps the resident Munchkin. Who may be why it's getting tossed, too.
    • This gets complicated when games specifically design the rules in such a way that they already incorporate plot. Some indie games like FATE seem to rely on players putting plot before the rules, but can one even perform a Catapult Turtle Flying Castle maneuver when the game encourages one to? When putting the plot before the rules is part of the rules, we're left with a strange paradox.
    • There are also some RPG systems (too many of them to count, and most of them indie games) that have the first rule (after all, the zeroth one was already taken) being "if real-life physics and/or biology says it's so, it's so". And that way it's pretty easy to convince players, since nobody is willing to jump from tenth floor or to get shot with a volley from a musketeer squad just to prove that his character would be able to survive it.
  • Every point just made regarding Tabletop Roleplaying Games is also true of table top wargames, with the exception that it becomes a rules agreement between friends. The best solution is roll a die, then check the FAQ for a ruling sometime later. It also helps that these rules oversights come up less often in wargames, which tend to have clear-cut mechanics with units only having a few actions available on their turn. Players often like adding story-based rules to the games, too.


Video Games

  • In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, Sylvia decides to start changing the rules to the UAA matches, such as setting up a Battle Royale, allowing Charlie and his 24 cheerleaders to fight as a team, and allowing Shinobu to fight for Travis but giving Travis the ranking.
  • The gravity in Super Mario Galaxy can't seem to make up its mind on how it works. Sometimes it pulls things towards the center of the nearest planetoid, and sometimes it's a universal field that points in a general "down" direction. The sequel is even more inconsistent, to the point that the player is required to blindly leap off some ledges with no clue as to whether Mario will safely land on their underside or plummet towards infinity.
  • Final Fantasy X establishes early on that Spira's dead eventually transform into monstrous, feral creatures called fiends, and must be "sent" (i.e. magically transported) to the afterlife to prevent the transformation from occurring. But partway through the story it changes its mind and no less than three principal characters are revealed to be members of the "unsent," a small group of dead people who remain in the world of the living without transforming or losing their original human identity. How were they spared from the fiend-making process? Because they possess "powerful wills" and "strong feelings regarding things left unfinished in their lives." Translation: "Because they're important to the plot."
    • Considering the main point of the backstory is two early Unsent setting up the entire sociological world of the game, it could be considered part of the "one big lie" that fiends/pyreflies exist at all.
    • That still doesn't adequately explain why the fiend thing would happen to some people but not others. It stands to reason that any person in Spira might die with some Unfinished Business still floating around, whether that person is important to the story or not.
      • People who are neither sent, nor accept their death, start to envy the living, and then resent them, which leads to their transformation to fiends. There's no reason why somebody could not remain unsent, as long as they have a task to complete.
      • Also, note Seymour's mutation after numerous times of being slain but unsent. Perhaps there are means of shaping the unsent to various needs, or the unsent degrade the more they come back. There are unsent soldiers, for instance, in old Zanarkand.


Web Comics

  • In the FAQ for Order of the Stick, Rich Burlew states that he doesn't have the exact Dungeons and Dragons stats for the characters so as not to limit what he can do with the story. He's also displayed a willingness to stretch the D&D rules to fit the plot. By way of example, Miko Miyazaki's escape from a forcecage spell prompted readers on the forum to point out that that's not how forcecage works.
    • Of course, in that particular example, it wasn't exactly forcecage; it was Xykon's Moderately Escapable Forcecage, since Xykon planned for Miko to escape anyway. However, it's entirely possible that this was a hasty Retcon by Rich Burlew in response to the abovementioned forum posters.
    • The forums spent many a thread starting out Familicide. Initial estimates measured its Spellcraft DC by the hundreds, which may have been technically possible (it was researched by an epic level wizard, and cast by a wizard with the power of three epic level casters) but was insanely unfeasible and unlikely. An easier method was later found involving combining different seeds in unorthodox ways (allowed by the rules, but very subject to the whims of the DM). In any case, it's unlikely Rich bothered to come up with actual stats for the spell.
    • And inevitably lampshaded when Durkon employs Weather Control (specifically, thunder) as a sonic attack. The following strip opens with an angel questioning the use of the spell thus, and Thor basically telling him to mind his own beeswax and not contradict the thunder god.
    • A later comic had one of the Southern Gods telling (well, snarling at) Thor to back the hell off when he tries a similar feat outside his designated territory.
  • Goblins author Thunt ostensibly based his comic on Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons, and yet frequently writes low-level characters dealing improbably-strong blows to high-level characters, like here and here. In both cases, the wooden guy with the green hair is level 10, fighting against level 2 characters. He's claimed that the fights 'work out fairly' within the House Rules he uses, at one point averting the trope by giving a play-by-play explaining how the fight would play out if it were at a gaming table.
    • It would be irresponsible, however, to not point out that one of the second level characters in question is named Minmax.


Web Original

  • One of the guiding principles of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe was that the needs of the story story overrode the rules whenever necessary.
  • In the first RP of Darwin's Soldiers, scientist player characters weren't allowed to carry heavy weaponry. For some time in the first RP, Zachary got to wield a bazooka and he wielded a RPG in the final battle.
    • The rule about "no heavy weaponry for scientists" was rescinded for the second and third RPs


Western Animation

  • In The Fairly Odd Parents, the fairy bible "Da Rules" provides frequent examples of this trope. One being that new sub-points of certain rules are added so that the plot can't be magically fixed. For example, magic can't interfere with love (ie wishing a partner to move away to eliminate a rival). In a later episode, they add that the rule doesn't mean both parties have to be in love with each other. It has also been hinted that new rules to avoid some wishes appear every time a wish goes horribly wrong.
    • Actually confirmed in the x-mas special and somewhat parodied in the baby one
    • By parodied, we mean "meant to be implamented as a rule but never got around to it". Its a joke thats used at least twice when Timmy asks why he can't wish one of his Godparents to be pregnant, with Wanda then Jorgen Von Strangle (the main rule maker himself) having to check Da Rules when asked about it, and leading to the above.
  • In Calvin and Hobbes the game Calvinball is the definition of this trope. Rules are made up on the fly during play.
  • Total Drama Island fits this, mostly because of Chris, aka Mr. Screw the Rules, I Make Them. It can go from "not a rule to be had" to "dem's the rules" in about two minutes. Lampshaded, of course, by Heather. Lawsuits factor in as well.
  • Futurama's blernsball is an example of this trope. This is done for Rule of Funny, of course.
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