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The current policy on "designer-reasons" questions states that they are off-topic and are considered to be off-topic because they often receive answers that make guesses and do not involve actual citation and quality evidence. This is also explained quite well in KRyan's answer to the question "Are these “history-of-gaming” questions designer-reasons?"

Clearly "designer-reasons" questions and "history-of-gaming" questions are similar, if not directly related.

Meanwhile, "history-of-gaming" questions are on-topic and, under a number of questions asking about designer-intent, I have seen comments along the lines of, "if we convert this into a history-of-gaming question it will work for this site".

Clearly "designer-reasons" questions and "history-of-gaming" questions are different.


The following are some questions that are currently closed (often only after the policy change I linked at the start, and many with lots of close and reopen votes across their life so far):

Most of these questions have highly-scoring, (though that doesn't mean much since the questions were on-topic) lengthy, and detailed answers with references to various quotes, documents, and facts.

There are also the following three questions which have no positively-scoring answers:


The problem for me is that the following questions (and others) are currently open:

Many of these questions have highly-scoring, lengthy, and detailed answers with references to various quotes, previous editions, documents, facts, and even quotes from the designers.


Is it just that I'm allowed to ask about designer-intent so long as I can shape or contort my question into being about either history or lore to ask effectively the same question but with different wording?

I wasn't here when "designer-intent" questions were made off-topic, but I know that they were made off-topic because of the type of answers they so commonly received. And yet, even those questions with excellent answers (listed earlier) are currently closed.

I'm honestly confused and the reason I'm asking this is because when I see a questions like "Why is a round 6 seconds?" or "Why are Ghouls not proficient with their bite attack?" I am utterly lost as to whether or not these are on-topic or off-topic and thus completely unsure whether they should be closed or open.

Are questions like "Why is the D&D gorgon a metal bull?" and "Where does the stereotype that wizards can't wear armor come from?" and "Why did D&D Paladins originally have a requirement to be Lawful Good?" and "What inspired the D&D version of the Rakshasa?" about designer intentions or the history of gaming?

How can I tell, and when should I cast my close vote?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not going to express an opinion on the matter yet--haven't really thought through it--but have a +1 for a good research project =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 3 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it “topicality” or should it be “topicity”? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jul 4 at 10:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov: Per Wiktionary, topicality means "The condition of being topical." I've never seen "topicity", but apparently it is a chemistry term meaning "The stereochemical relationship of substituents to a molecule and to each other"... "Topicality" is the right word here. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 4 at 13:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the record, the "Why, from a lore perspective, are druids the only class who can cast the Flame Blade spell?" question, I really did want to know lore-only, not designer reasons at all... This was not me twisting a designer reasons question into a "disguised designer reasons" question (although I do mention in the question how I originally thought I did want designer reasons, but then realised lore was actually what I was after) \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jul 12 at 19:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Oh yeah, fully understood. I mainly just wanted a parallel between "Why, from a lore perspective, are druids the only class who can cast the Flame Blade spell?" and "Why do bards and druids get Heat metal?" so it does seem like framing and asking specifically for lore and specifically not for tweets (and the like) is the way to go \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jul 12 at 19:28
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Up front, just for some perspective, I want to point out that we don’t really have a problem here. Like, there isn’t a rash of ambiguously-history-or-intent questions that we need to deal with, there aren’t a bunch of history-of-gaming questions attracting the same kinds of problematic answers we saw with designer-intent, or a ton of solid history-of-gaming questions getting closed when they shouldn’t be. Judging the appropriateness of old questions on the basis of a newer policy is kind of a rather academic exercise, not a pressing need. The community seems to handle questions as they come in well and appropriately for the most part, and if it’s all a bit “I know it when I see it,” then so be it. That’s leveraging the expertise of our users, especially the long-time users who have seen a lot of questions and have a sense of when a question is going to be a problem and when it isn’t.

In short, the current policy is effectively: vote to close it if you recognize the signs that this is going to draw speculative answers like a designer-intent question. Vote to reopen if you recognize a question closed as “designer-intent” is actually a solid history-of-gaming question that shouldn’t have been closed. Don’t vote at all if you can’t recognize which a question is.

And this is fine. The systems are working as intended and it isn’t causing any trouble.

But!

We can of course discuss what the “signs” are; experienced users can try to articulate what it is that they’re picking up on when voting on these things. Particularly since the decision was a while ago and otherwise-experienced users might not have experience with this, and that’s only going to get more common as the policy ages. I just want to maintain some perspective, and also set up expectations for this answer—I am not discussing any kind of policy here. I am talking about what kinds of rules of thumb I use, what I look for, and so on. Don’t treat this as “our policy,” because it isn’t. Our policy is what I said above: vote to close if you recognize a problem, vote to reopen if you recognize a solid question closed unnecessarily, don’t vote if you don’t know. That’s it, that’s all it is and all it ever should be.

Things to keep in mind

  1. The linked policy answer says “Questions about rule intent (RAI) are generally off topic,” (emphasis original). Note some really important qualifications on this statement: it applies to rule intent, and it says generally off-topic. (Yes, I realize that there is later a more-general sentence, but I don’t consider this contradictory.) Moderators (by which I mean all users who are operating in the moderation role and who have the relevant privileges, i.e. close votes) are still ultimately responsible for addressing each question on its own merits.

  2. Read all of the examples in the linked question’s answers: they go through a lot of stuff that is, and isn’t, problematic. This is how you build up your judgment and ability to recognize problems and non-problems. My answer is really just augmenting that list.

  3. Always keep in mind what we’re talking about here: problematic answers. What answers are problematic? Primarily with these sorts of questions, baseless speculation. Judge the question based on how much you expect people to respond to it with baseless speculation. We have not found explicit statements in the question demanding that answerers avoid that to be very effective, so that is often not good enough, but it’s certainly a often-necessary first step.

  4. Questions asking about the intent of rules are often particularly problematic, because they are often not asking what the querent really wants to know. Please stop being evil’s answer addresses this specifically, for example, and mxyzplk’s certainly alludes to it as well. Sometimes the best way to address an XY situation is with a frame-challenge kind of answer, but other times it is best to close the question and clarify it. Questions about “RAI” very, very often fall in the latter category. Again, it remains the responsibility of individual moderators to exercise judgment with any particular question, however.

  5. What we really want to see is a question that is clearly, on its face, deep enough that it won’t seem plausible for someone’s speculation to work. Questions that show substantial research effort are a great start, because answerers seem to intuitively catch on to the need to at the very least match what the question has already done. Short questions tend to be interpreted as simple questions, and simple questions tend to be interpreted as questions accepting simple answers. Doesn’t get much simpler than speculating.

  6. Part of the reason why history-of-gaming questions have been fine and designer-intent questions haven’t been is because history-of-gaming questions focus less on “what were they thinking?” and more on “what was the context at the time when they made this choice?” Again, “what were they thinking?” is a tough question, that masquerades as a simple one—that’s a huge problem, that’s really the problem. Look for questions to dig deeper, to “take off the mask” and emphasize the difficult question that is actually being asked.

  7. When looking at historical questions, good answers prove we had a good question. This entire discussion is about the quality of answers and the tendency for certain otherwise-valid questions to attract bad answers. If the answers that a question gets are good, that means it wasn’t the problematic kind of question. Rather than look at them in confusion, try to get a feel for why those questions worked. There is nothing cut-and-dried available, but there are patterns and tendencies you can learn to recognize.

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