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Why do characters with a high prime requisite gain bonus XP?

The question presents some information, then asks:

What is the reason for this rule? Did the game's designers ever explain it, either officially or anecdotally?

Is this a "designer reasons" question that should be closed, since "designer reasons" questions are off topic?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Question is worth asking; kinda what meta's for. \$\endgroup\$ May 4 at 19:19
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No, it's not off topic- it seems to fit "history of gaming"

I'll borrow from a comment that @doppelgreener made under the question.

This question is first and foremost trying to understand why a rule exists. It is asking about the designers' own statements secondarily to that; their statements are tangential to the rule's function.

This is the kind of question where both experience and expertise can provide an answer. Granted, I don't think it fits into the "what problem are you trying to solve" category, but it certainly fits into our "History of Gaming" broad category as it establised a precedent for at least one other game system.

Let's face it: there's damned little expertise available (in particular after folks like RSConley, ExTSR and a few others who have been around that long stopped visiting) on this site, for how interrelated the OD&D, AD&D 1e, and BECMI rules are. A veritable Gordian knot to try and unpack unless you were around first hand (at TSR, like ExTSR was) or second hand (as I and a lot of old fart were as we consumed the products as they came out).

I thus offered an answer, though I believe the the 'history of gaming' tag may be the better choice.

Most of what was published in OD&D was never explained. Or, if it was, one had to soak it in as Dragon/Strat Review articles came out. While some restrospective "here's why we did that" is available on places like dragonfoot forums, it's not comprehensive.

As the later OD&D derived systems came out, particularly Gary's Magnum Opus, AD&D (1e), some stuff got a fuller explanation (usually in the DMG) on what was behind it. And some never did.

I'll add to may answer once I dig into a few other blogs among the D&D/RPG archeologists, but the evidence in the AD&D 1e PHB seems to me to explain what was going on when EGG put that terse bonus into the original book: which was tightly constrained by space, and which got ported into BECMI.

What is in BECMI - cited in the question - could easily be explained by @ExTSR, who wrote it, but he stopped feeling welcome here a while back. (Separate topic, and water under the bridge if my last discussion with mxy on that topic is any indication).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sometimes the problem you're trying to solve is just understanding something, or improving your systemic understanding of a game. I'm a proponent of the "What problem are you trying to solve," test, but I think this is fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    May 6 at 22:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ If someone went through and mechanically asked a separate but basically identical question about each D&D edition where such a rule occurred, that might trip the flag-- what problem are you trying to solve that can't be solved in one question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    May 6 at 22:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Novak Good points. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 23:43
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I think the question's fine and on topic.

The person has a concrete problem they're focused on: they've identified a rule, and they don't understand the function of the rule such that it exists. They're asking us, the experts, to explain what this rule is here to do. And the experts have answered, outlining for us the practical problem that occurs in gameplay in the absence of this rule that its existence addresses.

In our FAQ for asking about designer intent, we're directed to a different way to ask questions about intent: “What impact will it have on the game if this rule is changed in this way?” Well, this question's functionally asking this: what impact would it have on the game if the rule was gone, and thus, why is it there? It worked well and received good answers.

Yes, the question also prompts for designer explanations. I believe this is an entirely secondary, tangential prompt as one potential angle for seeking an answer to their primary question, which remains: what's this rule here for? That follow-up question doesn't need to be there because it's not remotely core to the question and is getting it targeted for closure incorrectly, and it was in fact removed a short while after this meta question was opened (based on conversation in chat) but has since been put back.


What I don't get is why that secondary question is what we're looking at so intently. Earlier today we received another question: How do you teach someone else how to play D&D?. It was asking how to introduce someone to D&D. It did so by asking what videos or so on we should show the player. This would get it closed for resource recommendation. We can tell plainly however this is not the main thrust of the question or the person's problem—they just want to introduce someone to the game. So I updated the question to ask that part out loud:

I want to teach this person a basic grasp of the game, and let the rest of us fill in gaps as they come up. How can I teach them this? Are there any helpful resources, online guides, videos I ought to give this person for example?

The question's open, doing well, and has received several good answers guiding this person on introducing a new player to the game. We didn't close it as a resource recommendation, and still haven't, despite the fact it includes a request for resource recommendations, because we can tell it's a good clear on-topic question and the resource recommendation is entirely secondary. (I didn't make this edit to sneakily make a point, either, to be clear—I just made this edit because it's what the question needed, and now hours later while writing this answer noticed the parallel.)


I think in closing Why do characters with a high prime requisite gain bonus XP? as a designer reasons question we're doing ourselves a disservice. It's clearly worked well, and there's something for us to learn about how this question got structured such that it worked. There's no problem we're solving in closing it. I don't think closing it is following the spirit or the letter of the law in any fashion, it's just ... a perfectly fine question. Leave it open.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can I bounty this? \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Self answer to my comment: bounty is not available on meta. 😒 \$\endgroup\$ May 7 at 18:05
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This is a textbook example of a designer reasons question.

If we look at the revisions to the post we can see that up until the most recent revision, the question explicitly asked for designer reasons:

Did the game's designers ever explain it, either officially or anecdotally?

ThomasMarkov, with zero input from the original author (who has not logged into this site in over 5 years), removed this line, and then started this meta question about whether the question under discussion is a designer reasons question.

The complicated history of the D&D versions involved has no bearing because the asker explicitly asked for designer reasons. If the asker had explicitly asked for the history of this rule, or if there was any lore associated with it, then that would not be a designer reasons question. They didn't ask that, they asked why the designers made that rule.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To be clear, I posted this question prior to making that edit, and I made that edit after discussion and some agreement with several members in chat, starting about here. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 13:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov It's great that you guys talked about it in chat, but we shouldn't be editing a question to change what it's asking for without input from the original asker. If you want to answer a more on-topic variation of the question, just go ask a new question. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ We made the question on topic without invalidating the existing answers. We don’t have to ask for input from an inactive user to do that. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 15:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov You fundamentally changed what the question is asking for. The fact that that didn't invalidate existing answers doesn't make that OK, it just adds support for the position that [designer-reasons] questions should be off-topic, because they tend to draw a lot of poor answers. If an asker is present and working with us to get their question on-topic, that's one thing. Radically changing an old question without the asker's input is another. There's no need to try to "rescue" old questions; if you think there's an answerable variant in there, just ask it as a new question. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ This one did not draw poor answers though, it drew good answers to the question we changed it to. The community owns the question, we don't need permission to from an inactive user to improve it. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 16:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't believe Thomas's edit fundamentally changed the question at all. The question's trying to understand what the purpose or function of a rule is such that it exists at all. Both title and initial question line up with that. The question prompts for designer explanation, but that doesn't define what their question is about: it's not primarily seeking designer input, and dropping that didn't even affect the top answers it already had. Answers have shown the rule resolves a specific observable gameplay issue, and we don't need designer input for that either. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 16:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Basically I think the question is one worth drawing a clear line around as a category: "what purpose does this rule serve? why is it here, such that its absence would change things?" Designer reasons questions are pointed in our faq to ask what would happen if the rule changed or was missing. This question's asking the inverse rather than contrive some scenario in which it's different: what's it doing that it's there? The question is in good shape and received good answers pointing out the problem it resolves that would exist in its absence. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Maybe I'm misreading the meta you linked, but it sounds like, "what would change if this rule was removed" is on-topic while "why does this rule exist" is off-topic. The question under discussion is clearly interested in the latter. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 17:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ They seem like two sides of the same coin to me. Either way we're looking at the rule does such that its absence makes for a difference. Both get about the same answers. Now, "what have the designers said about why they put this rule here?" obviously didn't work in the many many many D&D 5e questions we got about it... but whatever we have isn't that, and it worked just fine here. \$\endgroup\$ May 5 at 17:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov "This one did not draw poor answers though, it drew good answers to the question we changed it to" (years after the answers had already come in). I'm not sure that is how the flow of time works in my corner of the universe. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    May 5 at 23:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think it is a textbook example of how we, as a community, have lost our way with the trigger word "designer reasons" and how we are letting tags drive the bus. But that's just one user's opinion. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 16:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast The tag has nothing to do with it. Until someone decided to dramatically change what the question was asking for without input from the asker, it was explicitly looking for statements from the designers about why they wrote that rule. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast 1) I happen to think it's a good policy, because while those questions have drawn some good answers, they also tend to draw a lot of bad answers in the form of unsupported speculation. In my mind they go in the "types of questions that I find really interesting but that the community can't seem to answer properly or just don't work well in the SE format" category. 2) Just because you don't agree with a community policy doesn't make it not the policy. If you don't like the policy, you should work on meta to change it, not help individual questions skirt/ignore the policy. \$\endgroup\$ May 6 at 21:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast no, that's at least two users' opinions. I regret only that I did not think of the pithy phrasing for the response before you did. That said, yes, this is a text book example of how a questionable decision gets magnified all out of proportion by overzealous movements to retroactively enforce compliance with it across the entire history of the stack. Do other stacks do this? Do other stacks see activity on nine year old questions(!) to bring them into compliance with recent meta discussions? \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    May 6 at 22:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak I'm not the one who bumped the question back into activity. I'm perfectly fine with leaving old questions that don't meet our current standards alone. The standards are for currently active questions. Once the question became active again, the standards should be applied. If you've got issues with whoever keeps trying to close old questions that don't meet the current standards (issues I sympathize with as the most active reviewer on the site, we don't need those questions gumming up the queue), take it up with them. \$\endgroup\$ May 7 at 1:02

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