What does RAW mean in Dungeons & Dragons?

Rules as written

In role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons (DnD), RAW is a well-known abbreviation that stands for “rules as written”. This phrase is often used by players and Game Masters (GMs) to explain how a particular action in the game should be interpreted based on the exact words of the game’s rules.

For instance, if a character in DnD tries to scale a mountain, the game’s rules will provide details on how challenging it will be and what steps the character must take to succeed. GMs who stick to the letter of the rules, also known as RAW, might require players to roll a dice to determine their success in climbing, regardless of their character’s physical strength or abilities.

However, since role-playing games are meant to be flexible and collaborative, a GM and their players might agree to use what’s known as RAI, or “rules as intended”, which is a more flexible interpretation of the rules. The key thing to remember is that role-playing games aren’t just about following rules or rolling dice, they’re about having a good time.

Example for using ‘RAW’ in a conversation

Hey, I just read the rulebook for Dungeons & Dragons (DnD) and I have a question.

Sure, what’s up?

So, when my character wants to climb a wall, do I have to roll a dice to see if I succeed?

According to the RAW, yes. The rules say you have to perform a skill check.