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New Rules as the Plot Demands
Amelda: "But you can't fuse a Trap Card with a Monster!"
Kaiba: "Looks to me like I just did, Amelda."
Yu-Gi-Oh! - Ep 150

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.

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 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 Calvinball.

Also compare How Unscientific!, New Powers as the Plot Demands, Gameplay and Story Segregation, Screw the Rules, I Make Them!, and Ain't No Rule. Golden Snitch is a subtrope. Be sure to stop by Serious Business on your way out.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Yu-Gi-Oh! examples 

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.
  • In the first season, Duel Monsters was played on a large field with multiple areas of attack. Different monsters had different field advantages depending on where they were played that it was never possible to keep track of with the limited information given. Often the bonus would vary wildly from doubling a monster's stats to tripling them to raising them by 50%.
    • Duelist Kingdom standardized it to 30%, resulting in weird things like Panik's Castle of Dark Illusions having 2509 defense points.
  • In the fifteenth episode of the second series anime, 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 (going from 1606 to 300 for no apparent reason) and the castle's flotation-ring to fall off, but it 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 had been real, physical creatures engaged in a battle, this would be reasonably creative and entirely valid. But they're just cards in a card game, subject to the rules thereof, so Yugi's trick had absolutely no basis in the rules (but it looked cool).
  • In his duel with Kajiki/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 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 Kajiki's sea monsters.
    • Hilariously, Konami is well aware of how ridiculous that is, as evidenced by this card: Attack the Moon!
  • 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. Said 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 and blow out Thousand Eyes Restrict's eyes, apparently negating its effect. Amusingly, in a scripted 4Kids voice actors duel with Yugi against Mai, Dan Green uses this effect by scattering Kuriboh cards all over the play mat.
  • 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 using Polymerization to fuse the Living Arrow card (which has since become Spell Shattering Arrow) with Mammoth Graveyard and then fire it at Kaiba's monster, resulting in a different fusion...or something...in any event, the result was on Kaiba's side of the field. Because it was a fusion of an "undead" monster and a "living" monster the unnamed Fusion Monster's ATK and DEF decreased by the ATK and DEF of Mammoth Graveyard.
    • 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 Ultimate Dragon is a Fusion Monster that requires three Fusion Material Monsters, it must be attacked three times to completely destroy it, so Yugi's attack killed only one head. No other Fusion Monsters do ever display this characteristic.
  • In Yugi's duel with the fake Kaiba, it's revealed that Mystical Elf, a normal monster at first glance, actually had the effect of transferring its ATK (1100 at the time, due to a Magic Card) to another monster you control. It also could, apparently, stop Spell effects because it was "chanting a mystical chant."
  • Makiu, the Magical Mist gets this an awful lot. It does something different every time it's played — in the duel with Insector Haga, it washed away the spores of the Great Moth and powers up Summoned Skull; in the duel with Jonouchi, it's used during Jonouchi's turn to stop Thousand Dragon's attack; finally, in the duel with the possessed Keith, it weakens all his Machine-type monsters. To make things even better, in the original manga, the card was printed with the effect: "Water vapor surrounds all monsters on the field". Apparently, the players' imaginations were supposed to take care of the rest. This was a callback to the original design of the Yu-Gi-Oh card game, being an RPG similar to Dungeons and Dragons with a randomized card system. However, due to the ambiguity of the card effects, the idea was scrapped. These examples are a prime reason.
  • Battle Ox, an monster without an effect, was resistent against FIRE monsters, similar like the Machine-type monsters above, just so Jonouchi get an disadvantage against Kaiba. Additionally, Dinosaur-type monsters were weak against FIRE monsters for no reason,, giving Jonouchi an advantage over Dinosaur Ryuzaki. This is later dropped off.
  • During the duel against Dinosaur Ryuzaki, Jonouchi's Swamp Battleguard was protected by the borrowed Lava Battleguard, which reflected the attack directly to the Serpent Night Dragon. This scene symbolized the friendship between Jonouchi and Honda, but there is no way a monster can protect another monster without the fitting effect. And then Ryuzaki destroyed both of them with a single attack of Red-Eyes Black Dragon. The reason was that they tried to protect each other again, but apparently failed because Red-Eyes was too powerful. This still made no sense in the game and is never brought up again.
  • Summoned Skull also gets an effect in the duel with the Rare Hunter, where it charges up Alpha the Magnet Warrior's attack by 200 points.
    • If Yugi attacked with monsters in a different order though, he would've won without this "effect" anyway.
    • Throughout the series, Summoned Skull is implied to attack with electricity, which is used to give him a huge variety of added abilities (additional ATK points, greater range, etc). None of this would make any sense without the holograms.
      • Furthermore, the first time Yugi uses Summoned Skull (when dueling Pegasus through the video tape), Summoned Skull attacks physically, which is why it can't attack Pegasus quickly enough to win Yugi the duel. Of course, it could easily have attacked quickly enough with electricity.
  • Flying monsters could not be attacked by ground monsters. This is Retconned later, since all monsters are able to levitate anyway.
  • Pegasus combines this with Screw the Rules, I Make Them! when he introduces Toon Monsters, cards that nodody has seen before and are only exclusively used by him. Since he is the creator of Duel Monsters, he is able to use cards that defy rules, but they still are technically legal, so it's actually an aversion.

Post-Battle City examples
  • The Battle City rules themselves count as this. The rules used in the show were deliberately moved closer to that of the real life TCG with no greater justification than "Kaiba changed the rules for his tournament" even though he in no way owns Duel Monsters. Then again...
  • 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 two new abilities: it can increase/decrease its attack points by decreasing/increasing his owner Life Points at the owner's will, and it can attack at the same turn as it has been summoned. And against Jonouchi, Ra has an Phoenix Mode that allows Marik to destroy all monsters of the opponent at the cost of 1000 LP, and it cannot be harmed in this mode. And this is all before the battle is against Yugi, when it shows its real power.
  • In the duel between Yugi and Marik, the latter uses all his life points but one to add to the Winged Dragon of Ra's attack points. Because Marik has made this duel a Shadow Game, this manifests itself as all of Marik's body except one eye becoming part of Ra. Because of this, Marik is able to later use the card De-Fusion to separate himself from Ra and restore his life points. One problem with this: Marik isn't a monster, or even a card. Unless Kaiba's holograms are good enough to hide his entire body and make it appear somewhere else, Marik only appeared to be 'fused' to Ra because of the Shadow Game, so 'de-fusing' shouldn't have been possible within the Duel Monsters game (as they were never actually fused in the first place).
  • Averted in Kaiba's reaction to the Winged Dragon of Ra. Midway through the series, Kaiba discovers through his computer that Ra has several 'unwritten' powers. Seeing as it's his tournament and he made the rules for it anyway, he could just declare that only the abilities listed in the text count, making Ra much easier to defeat, but he doesn't. Justified since this would really defeat the point of the tournament in the first place, which is to see who deserves to be called the best and if Kaiba were to nerf his opponent's best card just so that he can win he'd lose face and more importantly, sell out his own principles.
  • 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.
  • The Doma arc gives us the Legendary Dragon cards. Jonouchi'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 Jonouchi'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. Another issue is that the Legendary Dragon cards are neither monster, spell or trap cards in the anime, they are just "something".
  • Battle City has its own version of the Castle of Dark Illusions in the Spell Card Umi (Sea) used by Ryouta Kajiki in the duel against Kazuya Jonouchi. 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 Kajiki uses his free arm to cover Jonouchi's view of his Duel Disk, a move that should be considered downright cheating.
    • During the duel, Jonouchi's Alligator Sword is inside the Fairy Box, but when Umi is played, the monster almost drowns. Aside from the Fridge Logic that alligators cannot be drown that easily, Umi has no effect that would harm monster cards that cannot breath underwater, a mechanic that only works with the hologram system, or negate effects of other cards, such as Fairy Box.
  • When Kaiba introduces the new rules with the Duel Disk System, Fusion Monsters couldn't attack in the same turn when they are summoned. This rule disappeared since the fourth season.
  • During the life threatening duel between Yugi and Jonouchi, where the winner gets the key to free himself from the anchor, Yugi chooses himself as Jonouchi's Spell Card's target. Yugi lose all of his Life Points, but Jonouchi realizes that his Spell Card allows him to be attacked by Yugi's Red-Eyes Black Dragon, so Jonouchi would lose all of his Life Points as well. Regardless how you look, Yugi lost his Life Points first, and Jonouchi needs minutes to figure out that he himself can be attacked. Both effects of his Spell Card does not work simultaneously.
  • Before the duel between Jonouchi and Rishid, people could apparently create Fusion Monsters as long they have Polymerization. When Jonouchi drew it and he has three monsters on the field, the Spell Card was useless because he cannot fuse them for some reason. Presumely, having the fitting Fusion Monster is indeed needed, even this was never an issue before.
  • Another aversion, a similar case like the Toon Monsters above, Yugi first believed that Noah is violating the rules when he introduces Spirit Monsters. Noah explains that the Spirit Monsters are legal cards that are secretly created by Pegasus, but since nobody has ever heard of them, they are a completely new type of Monster Cards in this game.

Second and later series examples
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • The effect of Magical Cylinder seems to depend of the era it is played. In the Duel Monsters era, it reflects the attack to the attacking monster. In the GX era, it reflects the attack directly to the opponent. The latter is played early on by Sho, while the former is used by Yugi during his duel with Judai, who somehow traveled to the past.
    • Call of the Haunted's effect was changed to its real life counterpart, while in Duel Monsters, it had an entirely different effect — not to mention it was a Spell Card (in the original) back then.
      • The same happens to Deck Destruction Virus and Jinzo.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds:
    • The new introduced Synchro Monsters with new rules related to them. This is justified, considering that the game has advanced so far between 5D's and GX, it is actually an aversion. This feat is later repeated with the Xyz Monsters in ZeXal.
    • Yusei is dueling Rudger. Rudger has his Earthbound Immortal Uru on the field, as well as the Field Magic Card "Spider Web". Earthbound Immortals 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. Entertainingly, this was actually the original ruling for the specific wording of this particular attack-immunity effect possessed by the actual Earthbound Immortal cards (originally used for the Legendary Fisherman of Kajiki (the freaky fish guy) fame). The original ruling had been overridden specifically by Konami for these and subsequent cards to make them more viable. Cards that retained the old ruling now specify, via errata, that they allow for direct attacks so as to avoid confusion.
    • And later we have Yusei, Jack and Rua creating new cards in the middle of a duel, including two different monsters from the same blank card at different points!
    • Riding Duels are duels on motorcycles. They have some special rules and special Spell Cards, and of course, it does not work in real life. However, Yusei, Jack and Crow team up together to duel Rex Godwin. The twist? They duel on their motorcycles, but Rex Godwin has just high ground and stands there the whole time. There is no mentioned rule of semi-Riding Duels being possible.
  • Yu Gi Oh ZEXAL:
    • The Duel Monsters game has become closer to the real TCG, so Normal Summoning monsters in face-up Defense Position is now an illegal move, something that was totally fine in previous series.
    • 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. At best it might be argued that Kaito summoned Kaiser to Yuma's field (which it plainly wasn't, and in any case has no basis to begin with). Doing so would damage III and IV but not Kaito because he had GE Photon Dragon out.
    • ZEXAL also features the Shining Draw and Barian's Chaos Draw Abilities, allowing duelists to create cards as answers to specific situations. Yuma only uses Shining Draw roughly one duel per arc prior to the final one, while the Barian Emperors use Chaos Draw during the last arc in the same fashion.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V has Yuya literally creating an entire new kind of summoning and type of monster cards, Pendulum Summoning and Pendulum Monsters, literally in the first episode. However, everyone watching reacts as the audience does, with confusion and interest, at the very least. Many people think that's an Ass Pull, and even Yuya needs 291 more duels to figure out how to Pendulum Summon again. Since the various Special Summonings play a major part for the setting and the plot, this trope is played straighter than anything above.
    • Since Yuya doesn't fully understand the Pendulum mechanic himself, it feels like this when a part of the mechanic occurs that he himself didn't know.
    • Also, due to the rule change in real life, in the this anime the player who starts the duel cannot draw in the Draw Phase.

    Other Anime/Manga 
  • Battle B-Daman:
    • The show 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.
  • Megaman 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.
    • In "The Net Mobile Grand Prix" the main cast enters a friendly virtual race. While the chips they use in the beginning made some sense (Nitro chips and change of accessories) the chips gets increasingly random near the end, with at least one racer turning his car into a fighter jet.
  • Pokémon:
    • Ground-type pokemon were more than once hurt by electric-type attacks, but in the Johto tournament, with zero Foreshadowing, the Ground-type was revealed as immune to electricity, and after this, they switch between immune and not immune as the plot demands.
    • The Ghost-type is generally portrayed as strong to Psychic-type... outside of one episode of the Johto arc, when he is portrayed as weak instead.

    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.
  • Magic: The Gathering sometimes has this happen during the design phase of a set. Notably, during one test, Reaper from the Abyss was about to murder itself due to its Morbid ability, so the designer playing it added "non-Demon" to the playtest card.
    Opponent: You can't do that!
    Designer: I redesigned it while the ability was on the stack.

    Film 
  • In Hunger Games, the rules are changed midgame to allow two winners, if they are from the same district. When Katniss and Peeta are the last two standing, a voice over rescinds that rule, meaning one of them would have to kill the other. Rather than bow to the wishes of the evil government, they decide to eat poisonous berries and deny them any winner. Government relents and names them both victors.
  • The climactic duel in The Warrior Heir is traditionally fought to the death, but Jack and Ellen tell the organizers to go stuff it in the end, gambling on the fact that there aren't a lot of Warriors and the traditionalist Wizards aren't about to reduce their numbers.
  • 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.

    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.
    • Malcolm in the Middle once did something similar, where Hal designed a robot with a weapon that fired bees at the other humans. It's never stated if this would have been allowed in, but the other characters are more concerned with how wrong it sounds than what the rulebook would say.
  • Star Trek: Voyager played with this in the episode "Worst Case Scenario". B'Elanna Torres 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.
  • Rudy in Kickin' It seems to be under the pressures of both a franchise owner and a corporate employee with the rights and privileges of neither: he's said to own the dojo and its' mentioned that he borrowed money from relatives to invest in it, but Bobby Wasabi can close the location and lay him off at will.

    Literature 
  • Dragon Poker, a game popular in the world of Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures consists entirely of this. In-universe, its described as the most complicated game in the world, and has so many rules that to anyone who's never played (I.E. the readers) its functionally indistinguishable from Calvin Ball. Gameplay is only vaguely poker-shaped and is equal parts moves that have never been mentioned before using cards that have never been mentioned before, and Rules Lawyering over obscure rules and modifiers based on absurd things like the phase of the moon or which cardinal direction the player is facing when sitting at the table which completely change the values of cards and the outcomes of moves. Pretty much ever single move, card, or rule of the game gets mentioned exactly once in the entire series, and almost none of them are ever explained to the reader. This is, of course quite intentional.

    Pinball 
  • In Sharkey's Shootout, the game rules change according to which opponent the player is currently up against, as well as whether the current game is 8-ball or 9-ball.
  • Stern Pinball's Transformers table changes the game rules according to what faction the player chooses at the beginning, such as whether certain shots will increase the Score Multiplier or the Bonus Multiplier, or how jackpots are collected in the multiball modes for the factions' leaders.
  • In AC/DC, the game rules change according to what song the player has currently selected.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Wrestling does have rules. Or, rather, different matches have rules. Wrestling does not always stick to these rules, or they may simply make up new ones whenever a confusing situation arises. A match breaking its own rules is usually the hallmark of a botch that had to be covered up, or the bookers just not caring. Some examples of this include:
    • Royal Rumble matches. Especially in early years, whether or not someone could eliminate themselves or whether they had to be propelled by someone else was totally inconsistent. A rule about not being able to eliminate yourself was made up on the spot to cover for Macho Man botching. Also, the Royal Rumble twice ended in a draw. Once, they were both declared winners. Once, the remaining two fought it out until there was only one winner. Again, this was to cover a botch.
    • WCW was quite notorious for a while for totally ignoring the rules of their matches, like brawling outside in a cage match, or scoring a win by pinfall in a match type that couldn't be won by pinfall.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • Most tabletop roleplaying games incorporate what's generally known as "Rule 0," which is the GM's word is law, giving him free reign to adjust or ignore the rulebook at his whim as well as simply make up new rules on the spot. It's to be hoped that the GM will only do this to make the game more fun. House Rules should generally be negotiated and agreed upon before play begins.
  • Every point just made regarding Table Top Role Playing 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, allowing Shinobu to fight for Travis but giving Travis the ranking, and killing assassins who lose the ranking match without dying by their opponent's hand.
  • 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's Spira is to death what Narnia was to time travel. Things start simple enough: when someone dies, their spirit must be "sent" (that is, magically transported) to the Farplane, Spira's version of the afterlife, and those not sent eventually transform into monstrous, feral creatures called fiends. Things get complicated later with the "Unsent," strong-willed (read: plot important) people who die but aren't sent, effectively tangible ghosts, and can pass on either by willingly fading away or by being defeated and then sent. (Whether an Unsent can actually be around a sending without suffering any "ill" effects is also inconsistently portrayed.) Still later, we see zombie-like Bevelle soldiers wandering the ruins of Zanarkand, humans in appearance but fiends in mind and spirit. Seymour is just the opposite: he dies multiple times, becoming an unsent after the first time, achieving progressively more powerful fiend-like powers each time he returns but never losing his human identity, in contrast to Auron who is also an Unsent but never receives any fiend powers. Then there's the Fayth, people who willingly gave themselves up to animate Aeons, who can be tied to one person's Aeon or everyone's. Plus, there's Tidus and Dream Zanarkand, memories of people who may have existed maintained by the Fayth. Finally, there's Yu Yevon, who is more of a Walking Spoiler than the rest here.
  • The penultimate level in Fear Effect reveals that when Wee Ming comes into contact with blood, anyone in the surrounding area mutates into a monster, and yet Lam somehow doesn't mutate in the brothel like all the prostitutes even though he was standing right next to Wee Ming. Similarly, when Lam mutates at the very end, Glas is unaffected by Wee Ming's Blood Magic even though he is standing nearby.
  • In Fallout 3, killing an evil character usually yields no negative karma and may even give the player positive karma. Not so in the Tenpenny Tower quest, a storyline about a feud between a demented Ghoul named Roy Philips and the Ghoul-hating human residents of Tenpenny Tower. Here, killing the Obviously Evil Roy Philips gives the player negative karma as a not-so-subtle way to encourage the player to try diplomacy instead. Good luck with that.

    Web Comics 
  • In the FAQ for The Order of the Stick, Rich Burlew states that he doesn't have the exact Dungeons & 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 stating out Familicide. On the one hand, it could genuinely be done by epic spellcasting rules. On the other hand, 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. On the third hand, if you're willing to seriously cheese the rules (and your GM lets you get away with it), there is a notorious bug in epic spellcasting which allows one to build arbitrarily powerful spells for a small fixed cost. 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 & 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 
  • 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
  • One of the guiding principles of the Global Guardians PBEM Universe was that the needs of the story story overrode the rules whenever necessary.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Fairly Oddparents, 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 (i.e. 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.
    • Parodied in the episode where Poof debuted, in which a rule was meant to be implemented but nobody got around to it. It's a joke that's 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.
    • Also of note is that genies aren't bound by Da Rules, but this isn't necessarily a good thing.
  • Futurama's blernsball is an example of this trope. This is done for Rule of Funny, of course.
  • 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.

    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. 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 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. For many years, the official NFL rule book was not available on the internet (now it is, along with the offical casebook), and most people aren't privy to NFL officials meetings that clarify interpretations of the rules. Most of the examples would definitely be subjective 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).
    • Especially frustrating is 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 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, as such an incident happened with Dale Jarrett in Loudon in 2003.
  • 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. However due to the obvious potential for abuse, many countries have something banning or restricting ex post facto laws (laws that are applied retroactively, prosecuting people for things that were legal when they did them).


Loophole AbuseScrew This Index, I Have TropesNo Sell
Named by the AdaptationMedia Adaptation TropesNon-Serial Movie
New Powers as the Plot DemandsThe Plot Demanded This IndexPlot-Powered Stamina
Master ConsoleGame TropesNo Export for You
Name TronRule of CoolNice Hat

alternative title(s): Screw The Rules I Have Plot; The Catapult Turtle Flying Castle Gambit
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