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Stack Exchange recently announced version labeling for answers, something they will initially work on implementing at Stack Overflow. The details are laid out in this Meta Stack Exchange post: Version labels for answers.

This community wiki answer identifies RPG as a possible destination for implementing the feature, due to various RPGs having multiple editions.

I want to offer this meta post as a platform for brainstorming/discussing ways we might implement the feature here, as well as a place to express concerns about its implementation.

At the time of writing this post, the table entry for RPG reads:

Site How labels might be used Possible Concerns Example labels
RPG the edition or version of a game's core rules (the main tag would be the game, like dungeons-and-dragons), The way different games express their versions varies widely. 5th-edition 3.5-edition

I'd like to bring the well received implementations and concerns generated here to the table and discussion there on Meta Stack Exchange.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A general observation... D&D and other popular systems typically have separate tags for each edition. However, it's worth keeping in mind that some less-popular systems may only have a single tag or two for the system as a whole, and simply don't have edition-specific tags to further differentiate them. (This distinction may be worth addressing in responses to the proposed feature, e.g. whether version labels may be useful on the latter category of questions but not the former.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Oct 19 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Additional remark on small systems: When enough questions accumulate, we try to dissect them into different categories as best we can. Exalted and The Dark Eye for example underwent this splitwork \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 24 at 9:36
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Disclaimer: Since I first posted my answer, there have been a few good answers and comments that have highlighted how the version labels may be useful. I feel that they have solid points, but I still stand by my views presented in here and have hopefully updated them to present my viewpoint better.

I feel it'd be a neutral change at best, and is far more likely to be detrimental.


To understand how these would affect us, lets look at the most useful scenarios for it (as indicated by the table):

We have questions without any edition tag on them, and people apply version labels to their answer in order to identify the associated edition.

This seems perfectly fine until you realize that the OP's question is coming from a specific edition, and that edition may not even have an answer in the question they asked for themselves. Additionally, this also leads to high amounts of duplicates questions being added, as questions that already exist don't have answers for other editions and questioners need to wait for answers to the central question to be posted instead of asking a new one.

If we then argue that questions should have the edition on them already, and thus questions asked for another edition aren't duplicates, then why would we need to apply a version label for the edition? All answers on that question should be for that specific edition in that case.

Not to mention how to handle things like and , which are based on a system, but are also their own system as well.

Additionally, something to remember is that a version label is not something required for an answer. If the answer is not based on a particular edition, or is general advice that's being given out, a version label shouldn't be applied to the answer.

However, if a new user is posting a new answer for a question, and every answer so far has had a version label, how likely do you think it is that they'll feel pressured into adding a version label, even though it may not be relevant or even apply? And if their answer gets sent to a review queue, is a reviewer likely to make the mistake of adding a label when one shouldn't be added?[1]

So at best, it's a neutral change with a lot of work behind it, and likely it makes for a worse user experience while increasing the learning curve for a new user.


The ability of users to create versions.

Something else to note, is that the initial plan is only for versions to be rolled out to Gold Badge tag users and Moderators initially, before the requirements are slowly lowered. For systems like (an example used for where versions might be useful by another answer), they don't even have enough questions for anyone to qualify for a silver badge in the tag, let alone a gold badge, leaving the initial push of versions to heavily rely on moderators.

While the requirements may lower over time, the smaller systems that benefit the most from these version labels will have the hardest time creating them.


Editions are not the TTRPG equivalent of Versions.

That table is also misguided in thinking that the equivalent of versions for us are the various editions when they are not. Claiming that and are merely different versions of is like claiming that C++ and Lua are merely different versions of C. While there are similarities between them, and they do have relations to each other, they're wildly different and should be treated like two different programming languages or the two different systems they are.

"But Will, what's the TTRPG equivalent of versions then?" You ask. I'll tell you. It's books. Each and every book written for the same system is a version. It's a version that applies changes to the system or adds more content and capabilities to the original system.

So if we use version labels, they should be used for books. Not that we should use them anyways.

Now for some RPGs, their editions can be equivalent for software versions, but the same point about books being versions still applies, it just happens to be the rulebooks of the various editions rather than other books written for the system.

SilentAxe's idea of using versions for different settings in a system (such as ) is a valid idea for their utilization as well (a very nice one, imo). However, this also lends more confusion about how versions should be created, as well as what constitutes a version or version range.


Notes

[1]: I don't see this as a rather large issue, as we generally have pretty good crowd around here and mistakes can be caught quickly, but it is one of the multitude of smaller issues that version labels will bring, and I can practically guarantee it happening at least once.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Editions are not the TTRPG equivalent of Versions." This is the first concern I thought of, I think you're spot on about that. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ TBF, I don't blame the poster of the table for thinking that, it's a fairly simple trap to fall into from how both versions and editions are notated. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Oct 19 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Casually muses about using Matrix 1, 2, and 3 as examples of things that aren't versions as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Oct 19 at 16:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Of course. The issue is that D&D 4e and D&D 5e aren't different versions of the same game, they're entirely different games altogether. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19 at 16:18
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It all depends on how we apply it, and at best, it is an unexciting feature.

Willuwontu describes why it might be a bad idea to apply it to editions, but I think that is an incomplete picture about how we could use the feature except for books -which is a good idea.

We have a few systems in which errata frequently changes the outcome and sometimes even the progress about what material to consider when making a ruling.

In particular, we write answers that apply until errata introduction invalidates them, but they still might be helpful for users to highlight changes or reasonings. By adding a version note - if that is possible at a granular level - we can preserve outdated answers and mark them visually as thus.

In the case of D&D 5e, we also have the "Jeremy Crawford does official rulings on Twitter" and the "post-Jeremy Crawford does official rulings on Twitter" eras. By labelling accordingly, we can distinguish and preserve valuable old answers that are invalid for some but are valid for other play styles.

I assume that version numbers will create an amount of work that is hardly worth applying them like this for many systems, but it might work out for D&D 5e - even then, arguable, not worth the effort.

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This feature might be useful for some RPGs but not others

The main problem is that for some franchises such as and , each edition is a completely new game that is only loosely based on the previous one. As such, each question should be tagged with the specific edition, and there would be no need for version labels in answers. Additionally, new content and errata for these games tend to be released in a haphazard manner without specific version identifiers, which would make choosing and searching for the correct label difficult.

And yet there are other systems where new editions contain only minor improvements and changes while mostly remaining the same. From experience, I know that is one of the games where the specific edition is only relevant when citing specific rules, and no one would notice if the table were using a different edition. Similar examples (judging only by what other people say) are GURPS and Call of Cthulhu. For these games, adding version labels to answers could be useful and might prevent confusion when the correct/best answer differs between editions.

It might be useful for questions about settings

For example, in , each release of a new D&D edition is accompanied by major changes while maintaining previous events as at least partially canonical. In such cases, it would be useful if the answer were tagged with the era from which the answer takes its information. Then while the question might be generic in regards to the edition, labeling the answer would make it easier to understand why answers would be different and update them with the missing info.

The lack of a single universal approach might make it not worth the effort

As I have hopefully demonstrated, there are cases when this feature would be useful. But not all RPGs' questions would benefit from this feature. And deciding when it would be applicable and when it would not requires not only expert knowledge about the specific RPG series but also for the community to form a consensus about when and how to use these version labels. I am worried that the benefits that would be gained from implementing this feature would not be worth the effort people would have to spend to come to such a consensus.

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Not all questions under the same tag would benefit, but others would

I hadn't planned on answering, as the existing posts are all very reasonable and seem to make good judgements on the matter.

But then I came across this question:

How to improve my descriptions of the health status of monsters

It's got an edition tag of , but the answers should be able to draw on experience from other editions (or even games?), only needing to supply a version label if they quote or explicitly use rules/information of that edition.

This is is in contrast to a pure rules question, because ultimately what matters for the above question is the style of game being played. The question could be easily written as:

How to improve my descriptions of the health status of monsters, in combat focused games?

But we don't tag things based on game style (it's too fuzzy for tagging), but the title specifies then explains what experiences the answers should draw from. In that way even a combat heavy game of fate could supply an answers of sorts, if they can explain it in a way that can be understood by someone who plays D&D 5E. Hopefully flagging it up with a label means:

  • D&D Players are clued in early what experience this answer draws on, and then primes them to read the answer differently
  • Allow players interested in that edition/game to benefit from this answer, even if the question is not obviously connected
  • Labels would let you filtering out editions/versions you are not interested in (e.g. a Fate player may end up seeing the D&D question with only the Fate answer, or a D&D player might be able to ignore the Fate specific answer if they particularly didn't want to see it).

Overall I can see a strong case for it, but it necessarily requires rethinking and potentially breaking out existing paradigm.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Man, I love how people can look at the same things and come to different conclusions, it's great. IMO, I think that question should be system agnostic, because the system doesn't really matter there. There isn't any rules text in the game for how to describe it, and therefore any advice given doesn't need to be grounded in 5e. While answer labels wouldn't hurt it, advice from no particular system is allowed as well, and encouraging the use of version labels would hurt the willingness to post/cause confusion for those answers and whether they should label or not (they don't need to). \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Oct 20 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I do have to admit, the other posts have made me see some use for version labels, but I still don't think they're worth the curation effort those small use cases would provide. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Oct 20 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @willuwontu I was following you until this bit "encouraging the use of version labels would hurt the willingness to post/cause confusion for those answers." I disagree there. Also, sure the questions could be system agnostic, but it's not. We can work with that. If there was a system/edition specific answer, having the question tag and label match up would be useful. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Mhmm, I'll concede that a label would be useful for that answer. But let me put it this way, if a new user is posting a new answer for a question, and every answer so far has had a version label, how likely do you think it is that they'll feel pressured into adding a version label, even though it may not be relevant or even apply? And if their answer gets sent to a review queue, is a reviewer likely to make the mistake of adding a label when one shouldn't be added? Remember, having no version label is absolutely a valid thing for an answer, and I think it adds a bit more complexity to the UX. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Oct 20 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @willuwontu Gonna be honest, the more we talk about this, the more it sounds like a nightmare to manage. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @willuwontu: Without taking a stance on whether such a feature should be implemented/would be beneficial here... I don't really foresee "being pressured to add a version label" or "adding a version label when one shouldn't be added" as likely/major problems on this site if the feature were implemented. For the most part, the same issues could exist with question tags (system tag aside), but for the most part, the community handles those issues just fine in the rare cases where they crop up. (That said, version labels would be a newer feature, and increased UX complexity is a valid concern.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Oct 20 at 18:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ (That's just my personal view, of course - I'm not speaking for the mods or the company there.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Oct 20 at 18:18
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Usability of a version-tag system breaks down for games like the

The World of darkness has generally 5 editions. first, 2nd, revised, 20th anniversary and starting with Vampire, 5th.

The engine behind the World of Darkness, the Storyteller system, has undergone relatively minor changes in the first two editions, some more extensive tweaks for revised and then an overhaul and streamlining for the anniversary renditions. 5th edition on the other hand was pretty much a rebuild. So from an engine standpoint, versions might make sense...

But WoD also has an ongoing metaplot from 1st to the end of revised, then the 20th-anniversary re-envisioning of some of the metaplot and then the re-invention of itself for 5th edition. Here tags could be used based on the version or position in the Metaplot, such as Year of the Scarab or Year of the Hunter.

And then there are the various splats: one might argue that each splat like is a version of the , as it has variant rules specific for it. However, each of the Splats is a game of itself, due to many rules being not crossover to others...

Some games might use tags for Metaplot-arcs

As I noticed the ability for Metaplot such as the WoD theme years, I actually suddenly thought of L5R. Which had a running metaplot from 1st to 4th edition and a reboot in 5th. The Metaplot arcs could be used for tags, in case a lore answer requires it, but usually, those arcs are only lore questions.

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All answers so far are "Meh" to "probably not". I'm going to make a bit more definite statement.

I think it's a bad idea.

For basically all systems, we got tags in place that work perfectly well as far as I can see.

The versioning tag could be useful on sites like SO, where the difference between Python 3.8.1 and 3.8.3 could be relevant for your corner case. Those differences are, however, in general extremely minor compared to the entire subject.

For RPG's, the differences are much, much more significant. I can write Python code for 3.8 with a tutorial for 3.0 or even 2.7, but I can't play [dnd-5e] with a rulebook from [dnd-3.5e].

Tag versioning might have an edge-case to differentiate pre- and post- errata, but I can't remember a question where that would warrant a difference like that - most people just follow the errata once aware.

I do, however, think it would be confusing, especially for people not specifically informed. This uncertainty could mean they just omit a tag rather than risk a mistake, and I think we should avoid that.

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