This question was based on a thought I had in reaction to this: Is a question that ends up only having 'designer reason' answers off-topic even if designer reasons aren't specifically what the asker is seeking out?

The way I understand it, asking for designer reasons in questions (which forces answers to only answer with designer reasons) are what's off-topic, but there seems to be some confusion as to whether designer reasons are allowed at all on this site, whereas I believe that if an answer wanted to include designer reasons, that's fine, so long as the question isn't limiting itself to only that.


  • designer reason questions are off-topic, because they force answers to only provide designer reasons as answers (and even then they should be on-topic in theory, but in practice we can't stop people from speculating);
  • but there's nothing stopping an answerer from providing an answer that uses or even entirely consists of designer reasons, so long as the question itself isn't restricting answers to provide only that.

Have I understood this right?

Also related: Are questions about rule intent on topic?


1 Answer 1


Here's how this breaks down:

  • We do not, in point of fact, have a problem with answers talking about designer reasons.
  • We do have a problem with answers making big claims without proportionate citation, and with misleading answers. This usually gets corrected by downvoting.

Questions asking about designer reasons were banned because, simply, we saw a ton of questions asking for designer reasons in D&D, and every single time we saw loads of answers that fit the second bullet point: people looked at D&D's rules, reverse-engineered some speculation about designer intent, and then presented their speculation as concrete fact. Thus we'd regularly wind up with multiple different answers, all doing this, all contradicting each other, not a single designer citation to be seen among them. Voters were not responding with downvotes, and moderators deleting things only made people angry. There was almost never an actual citation to be found (because D&D's designers rarely share the thought process behind a mechanic or piece of content) but folks could not abide the void; they wanted to answer.

It was a farcical breakdown of our system every time. We simply concluded that kind of question was not workable in our system and deemed them off topic.

Notably, however, not off topic because of the design reasons themselves.

To some extent, problems with answers can help identify problems with the question. Is a question drawing tons of purely opinion-based answers where good subjective is breaking down? That might help us notice it's an opinion-based question that needs to be closed and revised. (But maybe there's just a few low-quality answers we need to downvote and it's got nothing to do with the question itself.)

However in the case someone asked a good question and got a good answer that also cites designer reasoning... that's just a success of the system. Mission accomplished. No problems here. Designer reasoning was not itself the problem before and it isn't a problem here. Although, do keep an eye out for whether they're doing the reverse-engineered speculation thing or actually citing the designers.

It so happens that for some of our games that's relatively normal: design questions about adjusting Fate Core can often poke into the “why” of the current state of the game, for example, because the authors have just written so much about their design processes and reasoning.

If the question gets multiple answers all seeking to speculate about designer reasoning with no citation, then we may look to see if we have a bit of a problem in the question itself and if it needs revision. (Or maybe there's just a few low-quality answers that need downvotes.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would like to add that there are lots of answers which include Crawford/Mearl tweets as backup, and back when Crawford's tweets were official rulings, we got lots of answers which consisted entirely of the tweets as well. And most of them are well accepted. Although these are not designer "reasons", they are designer "intent", which is pretty much the same for me. haha \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jul 22, 2020 at 19:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint Rulings can be entirely different from intent. "I intended it to work this way, but it doesn't because of some other thing I didn't anticipate. I'm ruling that it works this other way." is an entirely valid set of things. A designer can rule based on what they intended, though the important part of that would be them stating their intent, not making the ruling. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 22, 2020 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Even though I've already accepted this, coming back to this again, I just wanted to make sure: your answer is saying that I have understood it right (as per the question at the end of my post), right? As in; if you were to add a title to this answer (not that you need to, but if you did), it would be "## Yes, you've understood that right", and then the rest of your answer clarifies the details beyond that \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Jul 27, 2020 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS As-is, no, it's not in those terms & I would not add that heading. You're seeking clarification. Rather than focus on confirming the specific bullet points you provided, I focused on just laying out the situation broadly so you could work out whether your understanding is accurate. This isn't a roundabout way of saying yes/no, it's a method of carefully providing clarity without inadvertently confirming potential misconceptions. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27, 2020 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you are seeking explicit confirmation of your bullet points though I'd put it like this: (1) No, I would not be comfortable summarising it that way. I feel the mark is missed slightly in that summary such that it would have people misunderstand the facts of the situation if all they read was that bullet point, in small but critical ways. I would instead summarise it the way I did here in this answer, and if forced to summarise further down to 3-4 lines, I think I would wind up with a different summary. [...] \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27, 2020 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ (2) Yes, we have no problem with answers providing designer reasoning, because we have no problem with designer reasoning inherently. This is what the last half of my answer is about. However, if your answer revolves solely around conveying designer reasoning to the querent, I would urge you to pause and consider whether you're actually providing an actionable useful solution to the querent. Given the question must not be solely about designer reasoning (or it would be closed), you're probably missing something, such as assessing the rules as we have them now, or providing actionables. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27, 2020 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, a lot of that makes sense to me, particularity (2), I can see how I've oversimplified that there. (1) I'm a little less clear on; as I understand it from the meta Q&A that saw designer reasons banned, it was because they in practice were too hard for people not to answer with speculation, and could perhaps be reworded into better questions anyway. So I'm guessing that's what I was missing from my (1) bullet; that such questions were off-topic for other reasons, and the designer-reasons part was just a clue, not the cause? \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Jul 27, 2020 at 14:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS (1) misplaces the point by saying "they're off topic because they force people to provide designer reasons as answers." You then further explain the main point in a parathetical aside, but it is presented as an aside. In a sentence I'd summarise it as "Designer reasons questions are off topic because a large number of D&D questions saw a constant breakdown of process because people constantly speculated misleadingly when actual citations weren't available, which they almost never were, and the community couldn't self-correct." \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27, 2020 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah ok, now I understand. Yes, I can now see why you wouldn't want to give a "yes/no" answer. Anyway, none of this affects my acceptance of your answer, and thanks for clarifying where my wording was leading me astray. \$\endgroup\$
    – NathanS
    Jul 27, 2020 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're welcome. I'm also open to be pinged in chat if you want to talk about it more. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 27, 2020 at 14:21

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