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There Are No Rules

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Summer: Welcome to Skate Club, kiddo. Two go in, one comes out. Weapons at your disposal in the middle. Anything goes.
Harley: An' the rules?
Summer: None.
Harley Quinn v2 #10

Stock Phrase. When someone's describing a game unfamiliar to the audience - especially if it's a particularly dangerous game - they will say this. Usually preceded by "There's only one rule..." Occasionally, they will list two or three rules of the game which are easy for the audience to remember, and round it off by saying that "Apart from that, there are no rules!"

This is almost a Dead Horse Trope; if it crops up in media nowadays it'll at least have a lampshade hung on it. Although there are a few stray instances of it being played straight, even today.

When there's only a rule number 2, this is a Parodied Trope.

Standard battle cry for "No Rules" Racing. Compare Calvinball, when all the "rules" for a game are made up at players' whim. Contrast Screw the Rules, They're Not Real!, when a competitor ignores rules they aren't forced to follow:


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Half, the Brutal Killer Martial Arts Tournament is like this. Any weapon or tactic is allowed. The winner must either kill his opponent or put the King's seal on his forehead.
  • Zoids: New Century: The Backdraft Group's Battle Mode 0999 is this trope. And they milk it for everything it's worth.

    Comic Books 
  • This is Summer's summary of the underground "Skate Club" in Harley Quinn v2 #10:
    Summer: Welcome to Skate Club, kiddo. Two go in, one comes out. Weapons at your disposal in the middle. Anything goes.
    Harley: An' the rules?
    Summer: None.
  • Comes up in a Judge Dredd story where Dredd has Mean Machine challenge a Scottish mutant clan leader to a headbutting duel:
    McBean: Right laddie, let's talk about the rules —
    Mean Machine: What stinkin' rules? There ain't no stinkin' rules!
    McBean: Oh, so ye ken the rules, then?
  • Played with in Preacher. A mook that Jesse Custer kicked the shit out of earlier is looking for a rematch. When they finally meet up, he tells Jesse that this time, it'll be a fair fight. His boss, who has seen Jesse fight and knows how tough he is, offers some advice.
    Mook: This time it'll be a fair fight!
    Boss: If I was you I'd cheat like hell.
  • In the 2000 AD adaptation of The Stainless Steel Rat, "Slippery Jim" diGriz lands on a Feudal Future planet and finds the nobility jousting with flying motorbikes. He finds this rather dull and quickly adds his own unique spin.
    Jouster: 'Pon my word! The chap's upside down! Is that allowed in the rules?
    Slippery Jim: Course it isn't, you snark! Nobody's ever bothered to write any rules!
  • In Jon Sable, Freelance #10, Sable goes looking for trouble and finds three thugs standing by a Trashcan Bonfire with baseball bats. Jon challenges the biggest one to a fight and picks up one of the bats. He then says "Okay, let's get the rules straight". when another of the thugs responds "There ain't no rules!", Sable invokes the Plank Gag by turning quickly with bat over his shoulder and whacking the big guy in the head. He then follows it up by using the bat to launch a Groin Attack on the second thug.

  • In The Adventures of Pinocchio when Pinocchio, Lampwick and the other naughty kids arrive at Terra Magica, they're outraged upon being shown small chalkboards with various rules on them ("No noise", "Brush your teeth", "Go to bed on time", "No lying" etc) before the fat clown tells them "I forgot the biggest rule of them all: THERE ARE NO RUUULES!" and gives them maces to literally break them.
  • Parodied in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Logan has challenged Butch to a fight for leadership of the Hole in the Wall gang.
    Butch: No, no, not yet. Not until me and Harvey get the rules straightened out. (Starts walking towards Harvey)
    Logan: Rules? In a knife fight? No rules!
    Butch: (Gives Logan a kick, disabling him)
    Butch: Well, if there ain't going to be any rules, let's get the fight started. Someone count 1,2,3, go.
    Sundance: (very fast) 1,2,3, go!
    Butch: (Knocks out Logan with a two-handed punch)
  • Fight Club: Members Only - "Fight Club has only ONE rule: there are no rules!" (This is a Bollywood film with no relation to the more famous David Fincher movie.)
  • In Grease (1978), Leo says "The rules are... there ain't no rules!"
  • From Hot Dog - The Movie: "Here are the rules for the Chinese Downhill - there are none!"
  • Out Cold:
    Luke: Good evening. You all know the rules of King of the Mountain. Rule number one: you do not talk about King of the Mountain. Rule number two: there are no rules.
    Anthony: What about rule number one?
    Luke: [Shines flashlight in Anthony's eyes] That's really more of a guideline than a rule. Do NOT interrupt.
  • Variant from X-Men, at the cage match:
    Promoter: Whatever you do, don't hit him in the balls.
    Fighter: I thought you said anything goes.
    Promoter: Anything goes, but he'll take it personal.
  • From the trailer for Leatherheads: "For a special breed of men called Leatherheads, the rules were simple: there were no rules."
  • In Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome:
    Dr. Dealgood: I know you won't break the rules: There aren't any.
    • And Max still manages to break the rules.
  • Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
    "No touching of the hair or face... and that's it!"
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Captain Jack Sparrow in the first film gives an entire speech to Will on how there are no rules when it comes to duels aside from any physical barriers.
    Jack: The only rules that truly matter are these: what a man can do, and what a man can't do.
    • And then there's the pirates' opinion of the Pirate Code: "The Code is more what ya might call 'guidelines' than actual rules."
  • The live-action Popeye with Robin Williams has an organized fight, where the gamesmaster announces, "Now, you all know the rules: there are no rules."
  • Rat Race: Donald Sinclair gives this answer when one of the contestants asks what the rules of the race are. They're allowed to cheat as much as they want to sabotage each other's progress, but they did have to sign waivers to absolve the casino of any responsibility.
  • The Horse Soldiers: When Marlowe and Kendall decide to settle their difference by duking it out, Kendall asks what the rules are. Marlowe replies "Just make them up as you go along" and—before he has finished speaking—Kendall punches him the the face.

  • In Roald Dahl's autobiography Going Solo, he writes that when he was in Africa before the outbreak of the Second World War, his young native servant Mdisho suggested killing the Germans before the war started.
    Roald Dahl: With us, nobody is allowed to kill anybody until the whistle blows, and the game is officially started.
    Mdisho: But that is ridiculous! In a war there are no rules! Winning is all that counts!
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss is surprised when a rule change is announced mid-game, thinking to herself that there aren't really any rules in practice - although cannibalism is frowned upon.
  • In Paul Robinson's Instrument of God, "The Sign by The Right of The Road" states "There is no law except the Law of the Jungle in the Frontier, anyone may do anything to anyone out there. Rule #1 doesn't apply there, there are no rules."
  • Mune Shinri: There are essentially five "boundaries" not rules, and don't you dare call them rules. They basically boil down to not bossing others around and not being bossed around (since rape, theft, or murder are means of doing stuff to people they don't want, these count).
  • Said word-for-word in the Matthew Hawkwood novel Rapscallion, just before Hawkwood's duel with the Marmeluke:
    "What are the rules?"
    "There are no rules," Matisse said
  • In Wedge Goes to Arizona by J.T. Edson, Peaceful is challenged to a knife fight. He asks what the rules are, which confuses his opponent. When he says there are no rules, Peaceful immediately kicks him the groin, following it up with a kick to the jaw as he falls.
  • The Locked Tomb: Gideon the Ninth: The necromancers and cavaliers summoned to Canaan House by the God-Emperor are told that the one rule in their challenge to ascend to Lyctorhood is "never open a locked door unless you have permission". A few murders in, it's clarified that that's the only rule — all other laws are suspended for the challengers by divine fiat.
  • Tales of the Bounty Hunters: In "The Last One Standing: The Tale of Boba Fett", Han Solo is placed in a Forced Prize Fight as a punishment for cheating at cards on a planet with very strict sportsmanship laws. The referee forbids eye gouges, blows to the throat and groin, and intentional killing. "There... are... no... other... rules."

    Live Action TV 
  • An Arrowverse promo involving a superhero vs. supervillain Fight Club has the Arrow taking The Flash (2014) in an elevator to a Missing Floor in the Palmer Tech building.
    Arrow: It's something we do to blow off steam. Just remember, this club has only one rule. (elevator pings and they exit into arena) There are no rules!
    Felicity: The only rule of this Fight Club...
    Cisco: gotta break the rules if you want to survive!
  • Subverted in Friends in describing the Ultimate Fighting Champion tournament. At first Ross claims (in a very dramatic voice) "The only rule is 'there are no rules!'" When confronted with the absurdity of this, he admits that there are two rules: no eye gouging or fish-hooking (pulling out your opponent's cheek with a crooked finger).
  • Subverted in Corner Gas when Lacey describes her new bulletin boards. This phrase is met with complaints that if it has that rule then there are rules and it's decided that the new bulletin board is too confusing.
  • Happens in an episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers where the Monster of the Week makes Tommy and Jason hate each other. They almost end up in a fight arranged by Bulk, who says "The only rule is - there are no rules!"
  • Parodied in Malcolm in the Middle when Francis moved in with Richie for a while.
    Richie: Welcome to Chez Richie. Rule number 1: There are no rules. Rule number 2: No shoes on the sofa.
  • Dark Angel episode "Fuhgeddaboudit"
    Dochnovich: All right, here are the rules. Well, there ain't no rules. Hitting below the belt's allowed... eye gouging's allowed...
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer series finale:
    Robin Wood: Welcome to Sunnydale High. There's no running in the halls, no yelling, no gum-chewing. Apart from that, there's only one rule: if they move, kill them.
  • The Tourney in the Merlin episode "The Shadow of the Sorcerer":
    Merlin (watching a fighter knock a practice dummy's head off with an axe): Tell me he can't use that during the contest.
    Arthur: He can use what he likes. It's an open tournament.
    Merlin: What about the knight's code?
    Arthur: It counts for nothing. The only rule is ... there are no rules.
  • Subverted in Community. During a Duel to the Death in the Sun Chamber, the announcer gets a little bit over the top.
    Announcer: Weeeell, boys and girls, I hope you brought your popsicles, because it's about to get SCALDING HOT in the Sun Chamber! You already know the rules... BECAUSE THERE AREN'T ANY!!!
    [One of the other students storms down and snatches the microphone off him]
    Replacement Announcer: Geez, Dennis, are you on coke? Take that crap off and sit down! [The original announcer dejectedly slinks away] Sorry about that. Of course there are rules.
  • Rule six of the Monty Python "Bruces" sketch is that there is no rule six.
  • Parodied on an episode of The Drew Carey Show when Drew and his friends were going to have some kind of competition:
    Lewis: There's only one rule.
    Drew: There are no rules?
    Lewis: No. No tickling.
  • A downplayed version in Iron Fist (2017) when Colleen Wing takes up cage fighting.
    Ringmaster: Look you guys know all the rules, huh? Tap out or knock out's the only way out of this cage. Otherwise, whatever works.

    New Media 

    Professional Wrestling 
  • At least one commentator has said something along the lines of "I like hardcore matches because the rules are simple - there are none!"

    Tabletop Games 
  • The first page of the GM's Guide for the Tabletop Game 7th Sea says: "GM Rule #1: There are no rules. GM Rule #2: Cheat anyway."
  • The GM's rules for Paranoia (spoilered for your protection, citizen) amount to "Rules are for players; if it sounds fun, do it" and "Kill the bastards." If your security clearance is violet or below, please report to your nearest Happy Fun Time Reeducation/Soylent Manufacturing Center.

    Video Games 
  • Played with in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, when Hades sets up a tournament to get Cloud and Hercules to fight each other so that Hercules will be weakened enough for him to take him to the underworld. When Sora steps in to fight him to save Hercules:
    Hades: Rule #6! There are no rules! Ha ha!
  • In the Dragon Age series, the rules of the Orlesian "game" (i.e. the cutthroat competition for power and prestige between Orlesian nobles) have been summed up as "Anything goes" in the Encyclopedia Exposita.
  • Each JauntTrooper game assigns you a mission (eg. assassination or MacGuffin retrieval) to accomplish in a Wide-Open Sandbox. The manual states:
    Rule #1 is complete your assigned Mission. There is no Rule #2.
  • This is LEGO Dimensions' tagline, which describes the game perfectly.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry: The Hinamizawa Games Club's official mantra is "Always aim to win; do whatever it takes to win." As long as the cheating doesn't get too blatant, anything goes. The club members employ psychological warfare on each other, involve people from outside the game, rig things to their advantage... not doing any of this is considered to be "not taking the game seriously".
  • In World of Warcraft, Dr. Dealwell explains the rules of the Thuderdome to the player: The rules are simple: Two men enter, one—wait. Sometimes there's women. Two people enter, one—Wait, no, sometimes it's more than two...and that means more than two come out— Alright, only rule is stay in the dome! There are no other rules!
  • Smogon, one of the main communities for competitive Pokémon battling, has several formats with differing rules and permitted Mons. One of the formats is called "Anything Goes", and as the name implies, this format has no restrictions... except that it keeps the anti-trolling Endless Battle Clause, "Players cannot intentionally prevent their opponent's Pokémon from fainting from PP depletion and Struggle recoil."
  • This is given an existential exploration in the franchise Assassin's Creed, where "Nothing is true, everything is permitted".
    Altaïr: Our creed doesn't command us to be free, it commands us to be wise.

    Web Animation 
  • In Ultra Fast Pony, at the Running Of The Leaves, it's outright stated that there's no rule against cheating.

     Web Original 
  • Cobra Kai: Tory's response to Sam's complaints about her fighting style during the school brawl ("this isn't a tournament! There are no rules!")

    Western Animation 
  • From The Simpsons episode "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," in which Homer goes to a Rock 'N' Roll fantasy camp:
    Mick Jagger: Rule Number One: There are no rules!
    (everybody cheers)
    Mick: Rule Number Two: No outside food.
    (everybody groans)
  • In The Fairly OddParents!:
    Cosmo: That's the first rule of Timmy Ball, Timmy wins.
    Wanda: I thought there were no rules in Timmy Ball.
    Cosmo: Well, that's the second rule.
  • In Regular Show, Mordecai exploits a literal lack of rules, including no rule against having rules.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Mongul does this when explaining the rules of his race in "Death Race to Oblivion!":
    Mongul: Rule 3: There are no other rules!
    • He later breaks his word to demand that Batman turn off the Batmobile's jet mode. Batman calls him out on it, too.
  • Celebrity Deathmatch subverts the Trope most of the time. A few episodes claim that it applies, but other episodes say they have a few rules. (For example, in one episode, the "number one rule of Deathmatch" is, "Don't piss off Mills". And indeed, in most cases, whatever Mills Lane says goes.)

    Real Life 
  • In ancient Greece there was a fighting sport called pankration or 'all powers', which had two rules (outside Sparta, where it had none): (1) no eye gouging, and (2) no biting. You win when your enemy surrenders, is knocked out, or you die,note  whichever happens first.
  • The early UFC events were promoted under this tagline, even though they actually did have some rules (eye-gouging was banned, for example).
  • You ever wonder why professional wrestling is so popular in the South? It used to be real, and it used to be vicious. There weren't really any rules beyond "no killing". People grew their thumbnails extra long for more effective eye-gouging. People frequently lost eyes and ears during matches.


Video Example(s):


Putting down a mutiny

When Harvey Logan tries taking over Butch Cassidy's Hole in the Wall Gang, Butch knows he hasn't a chance in a real fight. So he makes sure that it will be a short one.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / CombatPragmatist

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