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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, 4Kids version

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. The end result is makes the game rules feel arbitrary in that no person could possibly be fully informed to every permutation of the mechanics, as though it is making things up as it goes along. Hopefully, the improvisation will make some degree of sense.

Deliberate and clear cheating which acknowledges that the characters are bending the rules or finding some technicality to exploit is not the intended scope of this trope. It's especially common with Tabletop Games of varying sorts due to having pages and pages of rules and amendments to account for weird gameplay interactions with behaviors that can be decided upon between players or a tournament judge, and the story can hide clearly flawed gameplay within the indexes. In other scenarios, such as pre-programmed rules in video games or when there should be inspections of player gear and equipment that use of this trope becomes more strained. That said, game designers and judges altering the rules in the middle of playing it (via Selective Enforcement, Bribing Your Way to Victory or Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat) can make this trope more literal than normal.

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 can't quite make sense of its own internal logic.

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. If a new rule is specifically crafted to prevent an existing abuse, it's an Obvious Rule Patch. If a significant tenet of a contest's format is altered mid-play, see Sudden Contest Format Change.

Also compare How Unscientific!, New Powers as the Plot Demands, Gameplay and Story Segregation, Screw the Rules, I Make Them!, Loophole Abuse. Contrast Puzzle Thriller. Golden Snitch is a subtrope. Be sure to stop by Serious Business on your way out.


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    Yu-Gi-Oh! examples 

Pre-Battle City examples

  • It should be noted that most of the examples in this section are based off of earlier parts of the series, when the rules for an actual physical card game had either not been created or were still in their infancy, as the manga was first published in 1996 while the first set of trading cards weren't released until 1999. Basically, the games, cards, and interactions were treated more like Shōnen fight scenes than an actual card game with defined rules. Cards were allowed to have creative or bizarre interactions resulting in complex cause and effects that often had some degree of logic behind them — things that, in real life, would work brilliantly in a Tabletop RPG, but be unreasonable to implement in a card game. While some stranger interactions were eventually implemented in one way or another, many one off interactions are simply ignored for the rest of the series and in the game. The switch between manga and anime doesn't help, as it means that a lot of already dodgy interactions were changed due to differing rulesets.
  • 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 and it was never possible to keep track of with the limited information given (the bonus was usually 30%, though). The 4Kids dub tried to squeeze in a split-second Hand Wave at the start of Duelist Kingdom, where Pegasus implies he programmed all kinds of secret new rules into the duel arenas and expects the players to learn them through trial-and-error.
  • 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, the Player Killer's Castle of Dark Illusions. This destroys the Dragon Champion on impact, causing Yugi to lose most of his Life Points (going from 1600 to 300 due to stats being changed between the manga) 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 (which were keeping all of the Player Killer's monsters paralyzed). Yugi ends his turn, ending the effect of SoRL, thus causing the destruction of the Castle...and all of the Player Killer's monsters, which were underneath and, due to the Player Killer'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 the same episode as the above, 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 ATK 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?' (Most guesses have assumed it'd work by flipping the cards facedown, at which they'd only be revealed when attacking, which does briefly happen at one point. Notably, the only card with a similar effect in the card game proper, the spell Darkness Approaches, was eventually completely rewritten because face-down attack position cards were indeed a ruling nightmare.)
  • Speaking of the Swords of Revealing Light, they had a different effect in the first episode. They held only the monsters back that were present during the card's activation. But whenever Kaiba summoned another monster, the new monster was capable of attacking, while in all subsequent appearances, the Swords of Revealing Light will hold all opposing monsters back. This is less true in the manga, where players would occasionally bring out monsters and not have them trapped by the Swords.
  • 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 tide on the battlefield to go out lower than it was before he summoned the Moon, and beaching Kajiki's sea monsters. Konami is well aware of how ridiculous that is, as evidenced by this card: Attack the Moon! (Even then, that card only lets you destroy your opponent's spells, not your own, though you could achieve similar results to what Yugi did by destroying your opponent's field spell with it.) Especially jarring is that Yugi also played the Burning Land card, which should be able to accomplish the same Field-destroying effect in a less convoluted way based on its previous appearance, but instead had its effect changed to allow Curse of Dragon to attack all monsters on the opponent's field.
  • The Yugi vs. 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 any event, the result was on Kaiba's side of the field. Because it was a Fusion of an "undead" monster (note: despite looking like the skeleton of a mammoth, Mammoth Graveyard is actually classified as a "Dinosaur" type monster, not a "Zombie" type) and a "living" monster, the unnamed Fusion Monster's ATK and DEF decreased by the ATK and DEF of Mammoth Graveyard every turn.
    • 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. And then, Kaiba uses Monster Reborn to revive the destroyed head, returning it to the power level of a regular Blue-Eyes White Dragon. No other Fusion Monsters ever display this characteristic and this is never brought up again; it's possible this might be a trait of Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon, in which case the trick would work in the rules (fused materials go to the Graveyard, so Kaiba was effectively just reviving one of his regular Blue-Eyes), but the new head is treated as incorporated into Ultimate Dragon.
  • 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 (this was Incorporated in Yugioh Dark Duel Stories, in that Mystical Elf can transfer it's attack to boost Blue-Eyes White Dragon). It also could, apparently, stop Magic Effects because it was "chanting a mystical chant".Over two decades later, Konami would later print a retrained version of her as a reference to that duel.
  • 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, a monster without a listed effect, was resistant against FIRE monsters, just so Jonouchi would get a disadvantage against Kaiba. Additionally, Dinosaur-type monsters were weak against FIRE monsters for no reason (perhaps a reference to the Cretaceous extinction?), giving Jonouchi an advantage over Dinosaur Ryuzaki. This is later dropped.
  • 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 note . 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). Furthermore, the first time Yugi uses Summoned Skull in the anime (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 nobody has seen before and are only exclusively used by him. Since he is responsible for creating all of the Duel Monsters cards, any cards he makes are technically legal, even if they are wildly unfair, making this an in-universe example.
  • This trope is relatively justified when more than two duelists participate in a duel. The game had no 2v2 rules for some time, and there are still no written rules for anything other than 1v1 and 2v2. The solution is basically just to come up with a set of rules everyone agrees to which happens a few times in the series to allow for things like 4-player free for all. What's more, the actual mechanics are known to change from appearance to appearance. Sometimes, players can use cards controlled by an ally player as if they control them (for instance, fusing them or benefitting from protection effects), and sometimes they're treated as an opponent you're incidentally not attacking right now (for instance, attacking them). Sometimes, allied players share Life Points, other times, they have separate counters. It's particularly strange in cases of asymmetric teams, such as a two-on-one duel. In particular, whether or not the solo player gets extra turns or greater starting LP varies. For instance, if Player 1 and 2 are on one side and Player 3 is on the other, does the turn order go 1>3>2>3>repeat, or 1>2>3>repeat? Does Player 3 start with double the LP of Player 1 and Player 2 or the same LP, and do Player 1 and 2 share LP?
  • Bandit Keith's Machine-Type monsters were immune to magic attacks to give him an advantage over Jonouchi, even though Yugi's Dark Magician was able to destroy the Meikyu Brother's Labyrinth Tank in an earlier episode. To add insult to injury, one such "magic" attack said machines shrugged off came from Giltia the D. Knight, which is classified as a warrior type; apparently, just looking wizard-y enough qualifies a card as having "magic" attacks.
  • This even happened before Duelist Kingdom in the manga. In the game’s debut, Trap Cards did not exist, and Spell Cards had to be Set for a turn before they could be used. This rule is completely forgotten by Death-T, which introduces another rule that lets Kaiba Normal Summon a monster during his second Main Phase on account of his first Normal Summon that turn being destroyed. This never happens in any later Duel.

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". If the new rules had just been for Battle City, it would be one thing, since tournaments sometimes use House Rules, but Kaiba somehow makes the rule change permanent: even after the tournament is over, nobody ever goes back to the pre-Battle City rules despite these being the official ones in-universe. Even players from alternate universes use Kaiba’s new rules for some reason! This is less true in the manga, however, where it's indicated that the "Super Expert" rules used in Battle City are simply a different format, with it being played before Battle City began. Out-of-universe, this was due to the "Expert Rules" format being introduced to the real card game (in its first few months in Japan, the card game used a Duelist Kingdom-esque ruleset), which was initially introduced as an alternate format but quickly became the only one.
  • A major plot point in the later story of the manga is the rule that a monster Special Summoned from the Graveyard cannot attack the turn it was summoned, and a major reason why Ra is considered a big deal is that it can do just that. However, errors still slip through on occasion: for instance, Yugi's first Duel with Marik has Buster Blader attack on the turn it was revived, which was necessary to pull off the loop. This is less relevant in the anime, where this rule is kept strictly to Fusions, but it creates an Adaptation Induced Plothole for the Egyptian Gods still being treated as if that limitation applies.
  • 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 ATK. 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. Kaiba justifies this by saying doing so would really defeat the point of the tournament in the first place, which is to see who deserves to be called the best. If Kaiba were to nerf his opponent's best card just so that he can win, Kaiba would lose face, and more importantly, sell out his own principles.
  • Obelisk's Soul Max effect changed during the Battle City tournament. First, it could destroy all enemy monsters and inflicts 4000 damage, but later in the finale, Obelisk's ATK increases to infinity instead note . Not only that, Obelisk changes its color when powering up, something that didn't happen with the previous Soul Max effect. In the manga, its effect was always the "increase to infinity" effect, with "destroy all monsters and do 4000" being more of an attempt to express that.
  • 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 Honda-Bakura, he uses a strategy that works purely by making his graveyard go away. The cards aren't banished 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 says he's making up the rules as he feels like it.
    • A somewhat odd example from the Dark Sanctuary duel: Yugi notes that Bakura's strategy will fail because he needs to play more than five Spell/Trap cards at once to achieve it. Bakura then says that Dark Sanctuary allows him to have more than five on the field at once. Yugi then counters that it doesn't matter what the card says - there is simply no mechanism in Kaiba's duel disk for Bakura to play a sixth card note . This is glossed over, as Bakura never gets to five anyway. In the real game, Dark Sanctuary does indeed allow the Spirit Messages played by Destiny Board to be played in the monster zone.
    • Ishizu's Blast Held by a Tribute card, that she uses against Kaiba, uses a similar mind-reading hidden-information mechanic to Dark Sanctuary. In that case, she designates one of her monsters as the target, then when Kaiba uses his spell card to tribute it for Obelisk, the effect that will destroy it only goes off if Obelisk, specifically, attacks.
  • The Doma arc gives us the Legendary Dragon cards. The Legendary Dragon cards are neither monsters (they're usually played in the Spell and Trap Card Zone), Spell Cards (they can be played even when a monster effect prevents Spell Cards from being played) or Trap Cards (they don't have to be Set before being used), they are just "something".
  • During his Duel with Kajiki, 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 drowned that easily (slightly justified by its original name being "Wyvern Warrior"), Umi has no effect that would harm monster cards that cannot breathe underwater, a mechanic that only works with the hologram system, or negate effects of other cards, such as Fairy Box.
  • When Kaiba introduced 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, likely due to the real game not including it.
  • 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 do not work simultaneously. Even moreso, this was an attempt to patch an oddity in the manga where he was simply somehow able to order Red-Eyes to attack him... even though the Duel was already over. Heart of the cards?
  • Before the duel between Jonouchi and Rishid, people could apparently create Fusion Monsters as long they have Polymerization. When Jonouchi drew it and he had three monsters on the field, the Spell Card was useless because he cannot fuse them for some reason. Presumably, having the fitting Fusion Monster is indeed needed, even though this was never an issue before, or possibly them needing to be some kind of "viable" fusion, as many of the video games expressed it.
  • Another aversion, a similar case like the Toon Monsters above, Yugi first believed that Noa/Noah is violating the rules when he introduces Spirit Monsters. Noa 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. (In the Japanese dub, Yugi has heard of them.)
  • Noa's duel with Kaiba/Yugi. Kaiba loses due to a card effect without running out of Life Points, at which point Noa turns him to stone. At which point, everyone seems to forget that Kaiba had lost, and acts as if he is simply unable to continue the duel, so Yugi takes over from where Kaiba was at the previous turn, and on top of that he is for some reason allowed to mix his own deck with Kaiba's remaining cards for the rest of the duel. Justified, however, in that Noa frequently cheated, and Yugi points out that Kaiba would have been able to win or force a draw otherwise. Noa rolls with Yugi's challenge because he wants to prove he's stronger, and because Yugi continuing where Kaiba left off means he's at a colossal disadvantage.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Movie: Pyramid of Light is infamous for its errors, with some of them involving ignoring rules or effects. It's especially problematic, because, unlike the manga or the anime errors, nearly all the cards in the duel are real (or at least have real-looking text), and the game's rules had been completely solidified for years.
    • In the simulated duel, Kaiba summons Blue-Eyes Ultimate Dragon. The writers forgot that Osiris's Lightning Blast effect would decrease Blue-Eyes' ATK by 2000.
    • Jonouchi being attacked on the opponent's first turn. Not to mention that the attacking monster wasn't played face-up in vertical position.
    • During the Pegasus duel, it seems like nobody involved knew how Toon Monsters worked, having them be Normal Summoned through Ultimate Offering and getting their levels reduced via Cost Down to reduce Tribute requirements—neither of these are true in the real game, where Toons can only be Special Summoned and have an explicit number of monsters that need to be Tributed to play them (admittedly, the second part was something of a ruling headache for a while). Curiously, their "summoning sickness" (being unable to attack on the turn they're summoned) is kept intact, and it's also correctly ignored for Toon Dark Magician Girl (who doesn't suffer from it in the real game).
    • The film breaks its own rules at one point, albeit ones that can only be determined through Freeze-Frame Bonus: Kaiba's Deck Destruction Virus is claimed on its effect text to activate when a DARK Fiend with 500 or less ATK is destroyed. Yet it activates in the film when Peten the Dark Clown, a card whose type is clearly written as Spellcaster, gets destroyed. Additionally, Return from the Different Dimension has its real-world effect (where it can only summon your banished cards) ignored, since Kaiba's entire strategy revolves around using it to bring back Yugi's banished cards.
    • For some reason, the film miscounts the number of Dragon-types in Kaiba's Graveyard (it skips Paladin of White Dragon, which is rather self-evidently draconic). This would give Shining Dragon 4800 ATK, and push Kaiba over the line into winning the Duel when it attacked Yugi.
    • When Anubis replaces Kaiba in the duel against Yugi, the rest of the duel is 1/3 this trope and 2/3 Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!. First, Obnoxious Celtic Guardian is destroyed in battle by Sphinx Teleia which has 2500 ATK, despite the fact that Obnoxious Celtic Guardian cannot be destroyed by monsters with 1900 or more ATK (which saved him from Noah once), and Teleia's effect doesn't activate, which would defeat Atem. Second, Anubis sets Theinen the Great Sphinx like a Spell or Trap Card on the field, despite it being a Monster Card (no, he doesn't set it in Defense Position).
  • The Five-Headed Dragon was a Ritual Monster in the Virtual World arc, mostly because the Big Five didn't have Dragon-type monsters that could be fused into it. Later, at the beginning of the Grand Championship arc, it is a Fusion Monster, and it remains a Fusion Monster as seen several times in GX.
  • In the anime, the Egyptian God Cards cannot be affected by any card effect apart from each other's (for more than one turn), and in Ra's case, not even that. However, in the first duel with The Seal Of Orichalcos, it does raise Obelisk's ATK. Apparently, because the Orichalcos is more ancient, it has more power than the Egyptian Gods. This in and on itself makes little sense as at the end of the arc the Egyptian Gods battle the Great Leviathan, essentially the God of the Orichalcos, and kick its ass.
  • The duel against Dartz has quite a bit of this. First, it is said that The Seal Of Orichalcos can't be made to leave the field by any means. However, Dartz does remove it, in order to activate an enhanced version, which is later replaced by an even more enhanced version. Then when the Pharaoh summons the Legendary Knights, they destroy the Orichalcos anyway.note  When one of Dartz' monsters is destroyed, he pays all of his Life Points to summon Divine Serpent, a monster with infinite ATK, and an effect that makes him able to continue, even though he has no Life Points. Unsurprisingly, despite being hit by an attack with infinite power behind it, the Pharaoh still doesn't lose, and uses a card that also makes him unable to lose, as long as he keeps his Dark Magician Girl in play. Then the Pharaoh has two of his Legendary Knights attack Divine Serpent, and make their attacks constantly reflect each other, until their ATK raise to infinity. Then he suddenly sacrifices them in the middle of an attack, so as to summon a fused form of the Legendary Knights, which gains the infinite ATK, and then is able to destroy Divine Serpent, and win the duel.
    • The exchange with Hermos and Critias is a particular mess. The start of the loop is Critias copying the effect of a trap, which allows it to redirect its own attack to Hermos. Hermos is then able to banish three monsters to significantly increase its stats and then attack Critias. This doesn't work in the rules on several different levels: it suggests that Hermos can somehow change the target of Critias's attack to be itself, or alternatively, that it can somehow negate Critias's attack and then attack in the middle of that attack, and then Critias can change Hermos's attack target to be itself. Additionally, though Critias supposedly got this effect by copying Attack Guidance Barrier, the card itself has clearly legible text and was used earlier in the duel, and it has far more limited applications (can only be used in response to an opponent's attack, not your own attack, can only redirect the attack to a Defense Position monster, which neither Critias nor Hermos were, ends the Battle Phase after the battle takes place, when Yugi clearly attacks afterward). The only way to even try to resolve this is to say that Critias wasn't copying Attack Guidance Barrier, but instead simply used it as a cost to activate its effect, but even that contradicts it being able to copy Mirror Force earlier. This isn't even getting into the question of how this can result in an infinite loop, when none of the above effects are mandatory and would therefore require Yugi to activate them manually each time.

Second and later series examples

  • Yu-Gi-Oh! GX:
    • Call of the Haunted's effect was changed to its real-life counterpart's, 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.
    • In the climax of Judai's duel with Yubel, we see the latter preparing to Fusion Summon a monster that will destroy all of existence if it goes through. Judai stops this by using a Counter Trap that lets him select what will get fused, and then chooses to fuse Yubel with himself. While there could be precedence for choosing Yubel, as they are a spirit of a monster and they did use their card self in the duel itself, Judai is not a monster, or even a card in any way, shape, or form, and shouldn't be a selectable target. Despite this, the fusion goes through anyway, which ends the duel. That said, this particular example is Justified in that the card used is a magical artifact established to have effects on the world outside the Duel, and not anything printed by Industrial Illusions. After all, it's a card with the potential to fuse dimensions!
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's:
    • The newly-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 Spell Card "Spider Web". Earthbound Immortals cannot be attacked while a Field Spell 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 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.
    • In the Dark Signer arc, two of the Duels of Darkness were interrupted at the right moment when Yusei and Aki are about to lose. Later, Rudger and then Demack tell Yusei that Duels of Darkness cannot be cancelled, despite Kiryu and Misty doing exactly that. While in Kiryu's case it makes a bit of sense, since Yusei's D-Wheel broke in the Duel which would automatically end the Duel, but Misty's excuse was not very convincing.
    • Riding Duels are duels on motorcycles. They have some special rules and special Spell Cards, the Speed Spells. However, Yusei, Jack and Crow team up together to duel Rex Goodwin. The twist? They duel on their motorcycles, but Goodwin has just the high ground and stands there the whole time. There is no mentioned rule of semi-Riding Duels being possible. Like his three opponents, Goodwin is limited to use Speed Spells and he gets Speed Counters, which can increase or decrease the speed of the D-Wheel, but he has no D-Wheel. Later, he even says that Crow and Jack don't get any turns as long as they cannot drive their D-Wheels after they crashed (and they crashed because he sabotaged them in the middle of duel), but he still isn't riding a D-Wheel, yet he is excluded from the rule.
    • The effects of some cards were changed to make them closer to their real-life counterparts. For example, Junk Warrior's effect was a Continuous Effect in the early part of the anime, later it's changed to a Trigger Effect. And Blackwing — Sirocco the Dawn could be Special Summoned from the hand if there are only monsters on the opponent's side, the Special Summon part is later changed to "Normal Summon without Tribute".
  • 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 the 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 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 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 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 Photon 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 Galaxy-Eyes Photon Dragon out.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V:
    • Yuya literally creates an entirely new kind of summoning and type of monster cards, Pendulum Summoning and Pendulum Monsters, literally in the first episode, due to Z-ARC's power. However, at the very least, everyone watching reacts as the audience does, with confusion and interest. 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 in 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, starting with this anime, the player who starts the duel cannot draw in the Draw Phase.
    • During Sora's duel with Yuto/Ute, Yuya joins them in the middle of the duel, playing on Sora's side. This violates the rules without any question, but his Duel Disk accepts his action as legit and activates the Battle Royale Mode. Yuya has his own field and starts with 4000 LP while the other two duelists don't, giving him an advantage and Yuto a big disadvantage. Additionally, the plot progresses a lot thanks to Yuya joining the duel and major questions of the series are revealed as a result.
      • Sora also disappears in the middle of the duel, so it becomes back to 1-on-1. This is still a weird situation for a Duel. Again though, Sora didn't withdraw so much as he was forcibly teleported back to his own dimension, so the magical/sci-fi element isn't exactly something we have rules for in real life. Yuri's Duel with Yuzu also ends without a winner or a surrender when the same thing happens to him.
    • The Battle Royale is not only legal in-universe, but it is also used in the Maiami Championship. The only illegal part is that you cannot join in the duel when you aren't participating in another on-going duel. If you do, you get 2000 penalty damage. This might be a special rule for the tournament because people won't get much advantage like Yuya did before. Generally, the Battle Royale Mode is a plot device that allows the writers to break more rules and traditions from the previous series in order to advance the plot or to give their characters more Character Development. Or just for Rule of Cool.
      • The 2000 Life Points intrusion penalty is also inconsistently applied across the board. Overwhelmingly it's the protagonists who get hit by it while the bad guys don't, even in situations where they should. It gets to the point where it starts affecting one specific character only after he undergoes a Heel–Face Turn, confirming beyond a shadow of a doubt that it only exists to put the good guys at a disadvantage. And then later, the enemies are also affected by this, just so that they would lose easily.
    • The Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V manga has Yuya using tokens for Xyz Summon to summon Dark Anthelion Dragon which shouldn't be possible as tokens can't actually be used for Xyz summons. To clarify, the moment a token leaves the field, it ceases to exist. Xyz Materials are not considered to be on the field so it's impossible for it to be attached to a Xyz Monster. This is also why Sangannote  does not trigger if it was used as material as an example.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS has the "Storm Access" skill used by Playmaker in Speed Duels, and it allows one Extra Deck monster to be added to the Deck while in battle. Although it didn't garner as much reaction and many even copied the skill, later on, this trope works for the villains as Bohman and Windy can somehow spam their Skills in the middle of a Master Duel with little explanation as to how. Meanwhile, Queen used a similar skill against her battle with Ai and it's implied they all cheated since the first two are AI and Queens's the one who owns and controls LINK VRAINS.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! SEVENS gleefully lampoons this and the "Shining Draw" and "Storm Access"-type abilities above during Yuga's duel with the possessed Luke when Yuga plays 1/Infinity, a Trap that returns the Spell cards in both players' Graveyards to their decks and then has each of them draw a card. If they don't draw the exact same card Yuga will take enough burn damage to lose the duel. Luke draws Fusion, a card that Yuga explicitly does not have. He draws it anyway. Because at that very moment a piece of space debris containing the data for Fusion hits Yuga's Duel Disk and transforms the top card of his deck into a second copy of Fusion! The spectating Big Bad complains that this is blatant cheating since Yuga technically added an outside card to his deck mid-duel only for a quick consultation of the rulebook to deem the card legal due to an act of God clausenote .

    Other Anime/Manga 
  • Bakugan has a serious problem where it's not even clear what the rules are to begin with beyond "whoever's mon loses is the loser". How and when you could use the cards and the exact rules of team fights were even more ill-defined.
  • 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.
  • Death Note:
    • More and more rules of the Death Note and the Shinigami get introduced or expanded explanations as the series goes on, often via Light testing the rules via trial and error or Ryuk omitting some of them early on. It doesn't get out of hand, though, as the base rules remain the same.
    • Intentionally invoked with Light telling Ryuk to add two fake rules to increase the doubt of Light being Kira. As Shido's Death Note is the only known one where the rules are actually written in, it's possible for Ryuk to write fake rules down after confirming with Rem that he won't get trouble for that.
    • The King of Shinigamis occasionally adds new rules after learning from recent events on Earth that were caused by the Death Note to prevent the same kind of future chaos. This is especially done in Death Note Special Chapter, where he adds the rule of not allowing the Death Note to be sold, which leads to the main character Minoru Tanaka dying at the end of the chapter.
  • In Dragon Ball, this is how the rules of the wish-granting dragon Shenlong were constructed as the story went along. At first Shenlong could grant any wish, no questions asked. This holds true until the Saiyan Arc, where it's introduced that he cannot restore someone back from the dead more than once (in addition to a similar rule where he can't grant the same wish twice), to add permanence to the later death of Chiaotzu. In the same arc, he also reveals that he cannot kill the oncoming villains as they exceed his powernote . In the Namek Arc, it's introduced that he cannot revive anybody who died of old age, just so that King Kai has to bank on the Grand Elder, the one he wanted to revive, on having died due to the added stress of Freeza exterminating his people. And at some point, it's established that he cannot revive anyone who died over a year ago - except no, he totally can, but doing so returns the subject in the exact physical state they were in at the moment of their death, rather than in full health.note 
  • 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 2002 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 NetMobile 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: The Series:
    • During Ash's match with Ritchie in the Indigo League, the sleep status was counted as a KO, a rule that was never used before and hasn't been seen since. It served as the first (of many) Diabolus Ex Machinas for Ash to lose the Indigo League.
    • Ground-type Pokémon had been hurt by Electric-type attacks several times up to the Johto tournament, but with zero Foreshadowing, Ground types were revealed as immune to Electric-type moves in said tournament. After this, the relationship of Ground types being affected by Electric type moves switches between immune and not immune as the plot demands.
    • Ghost-type Pokémon are generally portrayed as having the advantage over Psychic types ...outside of a single episode of the Johto arc, where they are portrayed as having a disadvantage instead. This might be because the battle in question is Girafarig versus Gastly; Girafarig would actually be immune to Ghost-type attacks because it is also Normal-type, and Gastly would be weak to Psychic-type attacks because it is also Poison-type. However, the dialogue makes it explicit that all Psychic-types are strong against all Ghost-types for some reason.
    • Solar Beam is a Charged Attack, but sometimes certain Pokémon just fire it immediately without charging and with no Sunny Day to accelerate the process. This is especially blatant in the Pokémon the Series: XY.
    • Most infamously, Ash once managed to defeat a Rhydon by having Pikachu shock its horn, randomly guessing that it was his weak point. This bypassed his immunity to Electricity for some reason. A few series later, in Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl we learn that Rhydon's horn actually attracts electricity due to his Lightning Rod ability, which is actually advantageous to him as it and it protect his teammate and has absolutely no effect on the Ground-type Rhydon.
  • During Fukuwara Mask's town revitalization wrestling event in Tiger Mask W, however, the count-out rule was not enforced for the final match because the mayor asked the referee not to.

    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
    • This is actually embraced as a core gameplay element. Official manuals stress that when the rules and a card effect conflict, the card takes priority, and basically any rule in the manual can be violated by some combination of cards. This includes cards that prevent you from playing cards, attacking your opponent, or even winning the game. This does mean that some combinations can create infinite loops or bizarre interactions which most players will have no chance of properly understanding. As a result, official tournaments have long lists of specific rulings for many cards which explain their functionality in common strange interactions, as well as three levels of judges who deal with rules disputes at tournaments.
    • As a result, this also happens during the design phase of a set. For example, 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 version of the card during the game.
    Opponent: You can't do that!
    Designer: I redesigned it while the ability was on the stack.
    • Magic: The Gathering has also had a situation similar to the Yu-Gi-Oh! example of Pegasus using cards no one had ever seen before because he created the game. Richard Garfield has used custom cards several times, including an adorable case when he proposed to his girlfriend. It took several games, because he never drew his Proposal in the first two.
    • Then there are Silver-Bordered cards (as opposed to normal Black Border cards), which intentionally turn this up even further. All Silver-Bordered cards are explicitly not legal in any sort of formal play and don't exist on any digital clients of the game. They allow mechanics that don't actually work within the games normal rules, having cards that are both in your hand and in play, having non-integer stats (including fractions, infinity, and π), influencing games outside of the one they're cast in, and getting benefits from high-fives from people outside the game. Silver-Bordered cards exist primarily for joke sets and promotional cards, but some of the more feasible designs have inspired regular black-bordered cards, like Giant Fan inspiring Power Conduit and The Cheese Stands Alone being reprinted verbatim as the black-bordered Barren Glory. Some also are simply regular cards but with their effects amplified, like having Triple-strike to top the Black Border double-strike.
    • To a lesser extent, this was the purpose of the oddball Future Sight expansion, the denser to the silver-bordered sets' wackier, It included mechanics such as enchanting a card that wasn't in play, referencing a card type that didn't exist yet, and counting individual Mana symbols on cards. The set (and its precursors, Time Spiral and Planar Chaos) were so difficult to parse (particularly for new players) that they directly inspired a massive change to the way sets were designed, particularly in regards to restricting more complex cards to higher rarity while making common cards significantly more straightforward.

  • In The 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 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 Cannonball Run, they make a point at beginning of each team punching a card in a time clock to note their start time and the cars left at staggered intervals. This indicates that the winner would be the team with the best overall time, not necessarily who makes it to the finish first. At the end, all the racers act like it's the first team to punch their ticket that wins and JJ is mad at Victor for stopping to save a dog, despite the fact they left quite a bit after the "winner". Everyone else just gives up.

  • 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) it's 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.
  • 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.
  • In the third/fourth Ranger's Apprentice books, Halt is banished by the king, but instead of the traditional "exile for life", it's only for one year, since the "for life" bit is tradition, not law. Everyone around is very much aware that the King is doing his best to skirt the rules, but since everyone is rather fond of Halt and realizes his value, nobody complains about it too much. It technically ends up being eleven months and five days, thanks to more Loophole Abuse.
  • In The Sword of Truth, magic seems to work however writer Terry Goodkind needs it to in a given scene, even if earlier information has suggested that magic can't work that way. One of the clearest examples is the Mord-Sith's method of capturing wizards. They are able to steal any magic used on them and use it against the wizard, including protective spells. Despite this being established, the wizard Zedd later states that the Mord-Sith are not a threat to him because "I have protection." The strong implication is that he has a protective spell that prevents them from stealing his magic, but this would be impossible as they could steal the protection spell as well. It's just one of many examples.

    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 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.
  • Pretty much every instance of time travel in the Arrowverse brings in some new rule as to how time travel works, which usually contradicts previous episodes.


    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.
    • Ironman rules, especially what happens in a tie, are always changing to create drama and generally conspire to get the heel closer to victory.
  • A notorious one is the "30 Day Rule", where a reigning champion must defend the title at least every 30 days. At this point, WWE has pretty much abandoned it, but it tended to only be enforced when Real Life Writes the Plot or it made sense within a storyline to force a heel champion to defend or sometimes for a face with a kayfabe injury.

  • I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue: Lockdown Mornington Crescent, where the rules change literally every turn, thanks to the UK's ever-shifting tiered lockdown system. Rory Bremner complains that it cheapens the whole point of the game if the rules are that inconsistent.

    Video Games 
  • An actual gameplay point of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. The game has "Laws", which are basically rules, the judges draw "law cards" and if ANYONE break the rules, they get sent to jail (Except bosses). As the game goes on, more laws appear and you have to obey multiple laws at the same time, some of those laws are just stupid (No damage to monsters? How is that fair?!) and only appear because the plot requires the game to get harder. That sounds fairly simple until you see the "Advanced Laws", only Judgemaster Cid can use them and they are obvious plot devices.
    • When Judgemaster Cid is trying to arrest Ezel, he uses an advanced law that "prevents him from using any ability", this is rather confusing since, for starters, it's an individual law (which is cheating by itself) and laws never PREVENTED you from doing anything (just punishment after breaking).
    • The second time is even weirder when you fight Llednar, who is actually invincible.Cid says Llednar's Omega spell is too dangerous to use, and throws an advanced law at him to prevent him from using it. Except it doesn't prevent anything, after a short time Llednar will start to cast the spell, but Cid sends him to jail before he finishes it. Technically speaking, Llednar never managed to break the law since he was sent to jail before that, but thanks to that, you can win the battle.
    • And lastly, there is an advanced law called "Fortune" created by the last boss and given to Llednar that makes him completely invincible. This goes against everything you learned so far, being immortal isn't a breakable rule and only Judgemaster should be able to use advanced laws. The last boss just says Screw the Rules, I Make Them!.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    This happens because Roy is flagged with neutral karma. Even after comitting genocide on a whole tower full of people, snobbish as they were. The biggest offense however is when you find out that one of his victims is Herbert "Daring" Dashwood, famous for his Galaxy News Radio's story snippets, who unlike most of the apathetic residents of the building, is merely enjoying his retirement on a comfortable place, and clearly an Cool Old Guy with good karma on his name. And Roy stays neutral even after this, meaning that you cannot exact revenge without tanking your own karma, and having Three Dog, host and owner of the same radio who broadcasts Daring's adventures, calling you out personally and publicly on this.
  • Ace Attorney introduces new laws relatively frequently, almost without exception to inconvenience the defense. The most egregious example of this happens during the final case of Spirit of Justice, the prosecutor of which being the monarch of the country the trial is being held, and who has no problems literally rewriting the law on the spot. Of course, she's also the culprit of both crimes you're going to court for, so she has a vested interest in winning the trial at all cost. In fact, the only way to win that case is to show that she has no claim to the throne by proving she has no spiritual powers which is required to be a ruler of the kingdom the game takes place in, making her royal guard turn against her and all the laws she's passed up until this point become null and void.

  • 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. Probably not, though, as he mainly avoids the forums simply to avoid doing things out of spite.
    • The forums spent many a thread statting 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 Control Weather to generate 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.
    • The backstory justifies this by showcasing the gods coming to an agreement not to directly intervene in each other's realms, after the last time divine arguments resulted in their last planet being destroyed.
  • Goblins author Ellipsis ostensibly based her 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. She's claimed that the fights 'work out fairly' within the House Rules she 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.
  • In Erfworld, the DM set up an unwinnable scenario, flat-out saying that the only the players could have won was to cheat. After the DM ends up stuck in the scenario, he does that: he uses necromancy to reanimate a volcano.

    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 an RPG in the final battle.
    • The rule about "no heavy weaponry for scientists" was rescinded for the second and third RPs.
  • Mercilessly parodied in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series by exaggerating the trope as it was played in the source material. In fact, it's strongly implied nobody has ever played the game properly: the rules are apparently so overly complicated and impossible to understand, Duelists don't even bother reading them and just make up what they can do on the spot as their duels go on. When Kaiba announces the Battle City Tournament will actually follow the game's official rules, this is considered as the first real twist of the show by the other characters.
    Joey: The best part is, I have no idea how I did any of this!
    Mai: Do you even read the descriptions on your cards?
    Joey: Wait, there are words on those things?!
    • Kaiba actually once tried to learn the actual rules (something treated both by Mokuba and himself as a Dangerous Forbidden Technique) in order to prepare for the tournament, and programmed the AI he was dueling to play entirely by them. Upon checking these rules, the AI promptly decided they were way too needlessly complicated and wiped them out from its memory, before proceeding to play as everyone does.
      Kaiba: Even the most advanced computer in the world can't figure out this game!

    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 special where Poof debuted, in which a rule was meant to be implemented but Jorgen never 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.
    • One episode has Cosmo picking up Da Rules and ripping off the page that says he they can't help Timmy win the movie's competition, but he never does it again. The funniest part is, Timmy changed his mind later so he didn't even break the rule.
    • There are several times where new rules were added into the book specifically because Timmy had screwed up that badly, most notably with Christmas. As the series went on, it's implied that several more rules were added offscreen because of all of Timmy's random Noodle Incidents and were more or less specific to him because he's just that bad.
  • Futurama's blernsball is an example of this trope. This is done for Rule of Funny, of course.
  • Total Drama 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.
  • In Ready Jet Go!, Mindy's overprotective mother has a rule that she can't go past Jet's yard. In "Constellation Prize", however, Mindy says that there's a new rule that she can go to the Deep Space Array as long as she's with Jet, Sean, and Sydney.

Alternative Title(s): Screw The Rules I Have Plot, The Catapult Turtle Flying Castle Gambit