This is awkward, because the policy exists solely because designer-intent questions so regularly got poor answers. There isn’t any problem with the query per se, nor is it impossible or even improbable that RPG is a great place to handle answering them well. Designer-intent is topical, clear, focused, and answerable. It’s purely that, in our experience, for all they could be answered well, too often they were not. We were, frankly, reluctant to ban the topic. (Well, many of us were; honestly I wasn’t too terribly sad to see them go.)
These three questions do not exhibit that problem. Ultimately, all of those questions have answers that dig into actual sources and evidence, and do a good job of backing up their cases (even if direct, objective evidence has yet to be found for any of them). They are some great answers, to rather popular questions.
So my answer to the question here is, if there is a problem here, we need to dig into what’s different about these questions, versus the others that were so poorly-handled. Deciding “oh well, those are great questions and answers, but too bad, can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs,” we are doing ourselves and our readers a gross disservice. Instead, we have to grapple with the idea that we might need a more nuanced policy.
I have some speculation as to why these Q&As went better than designer-intent Q&As usually did. I think part of it is that digging into history is harder, leaving folks less likely to be over-sure of themselves and thus happy to speculate baselessly. I think a lot of it is also the work that each of the questions did up-front—if you can’t match and expand upon the research effort already in the question, you really have no business answering, and I think people intuitively respond to that.
And I think a lot of it has to do with how the request is really for information on the historical context and precedents that existed when these choices were made. It’s clear that these aren’t just “what were they thinking?” but rather “what came before that prompted this choice?” There is no prompting for answerers to “imagine themselves in the role of the ones who made this choice,” which is exactly the sort of baseless speculation we have no use for.
Which does also perhaps suggest an easy way to edit these questions to remove any doubt on the score, by eliminating “why” from them and replacing it with explicitly “what precedents and context existed at the time?” Ultimately, though, I lean towards not doing that—it just doesn’t seem necessary, as we already got what we wanted, some great answers—but it is something we could consider.
But I’m adamantly opposed to closing or worse locking these questions. They’re great; if anything is wrong, it’s we who should adjust.