Is the necessary anymore? We have quite a number of questions tagged with it, but does the tag actually add value?

I'm asking because I recently had identified as one of my frequented tags. Looking through the list, it occurred to me that there was almost no relation between the questions that were being highlighted.

feels a lot like a "meta tag," (which are bad). What is a question exclusively tagged about? Does that tag provide meaning?

It might just be that I'm feeling a little down on overly-generic questions, but it seems to me that system agnostic questions would be better off scoping themselves in the question body.

Thoughts? Anyone feel the need to defend ?

For reference, these are the questions tagged exclusively with :

How do underground tunnels stay up? Is it possible to dig under a castle wall without magic to support the tunnel?

Why would I hire you?

Recommendations for Arctic Campaign Sites/Settings

Why does everyone carry a 10' pole?

What characterizes a "Modern" role playing game or gaming system?

A summary of visibility?

What are these questions about?


I'm seeing this tag start to slowly infect old questions, so I'll try again to present my viewpoint on it.

Consider this question: How can I make a Mi-Go city seem dangerous?

It's tagged with the systems and tags. What does this have to do with system-agnostic?

Take a look at my answer.

This is a good answer to the question, by any metric you care to name. It is highly upvoted. It received favorable response from the question author via comments. For a while it was even accepted by the question author. This is not to say that it's the best answer (a better one came along later), but it is a good and desirable answer.

This answer is system agnostic.

So, given that system-agnostic answers to the question are desirable, should this question have the system-agnostic tag added in addition to its system tags?

If not, where is the line? Does the author have to decide between system agnostic answers and systemic answers? Do they need to ask the question twice with different tags? Who would be interested in system-agnostic when it stands alone, but uninterested in it when it's used in conjunction with a system (any system)?

Again, what is the purpose of this tag, and what does it represent? Is this something we need to add to every soft question that isn't strictly a rules lookup? Is it a tag to say that systemic answers are unwelcome (and if so, how does that apply to homebrew or off the cuff systems developed specifically for the question?)?

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ To be as a tag it feels like a "I don't want an answer from system X or Y, but general advice", and as such it's one of my favourites... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 18:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pureferret I think I understand why people use it, I'm just asking if a tag is really the right way to do it. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ See my answer for my 180. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 20:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The obvious answer for your edit is that the author wanted an answer not specific to trail of cthulhu, but for any ruleset for a cthulhu game, as he specifically stated in the body. He was playing ToC, however. There's no problem with two-tagging things. If you're looking for an ad&D 1e or 2e answer, use both tags. He wanted trail or agnostic, so an agnostic tag is appropriate. I just think you're manufacturing a sense of confusion where there is none. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 1:53
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Umm... The two tags he used have nothing to do with what I'm asking. I'm asking if he should have added system-agnostic in addition to those two tags. Because system-agnostic answers were helpful/useful/desirable. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I have now up voted both your answer and the question. I am torn. I like the idea of calling out that you are looking for answers that are generic, but I do wonder if maybe we simply should assume/state that all questions without system specific tags should be treated as if the questioner were seeking generic answers, and then the tag becomes redundant. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2102
    Commented Oct 21, 2015 at 13:18

5 Answers 5


It's a fine tag, not a meta tag. Just as someone might only tag something , they might instead tag it . Same cognitive slot, different meaning.

And frankly it's quite useful to shoo off the people who are "just SURE you want a D&D answer even through you didn't tag it that way" or the like. Utility trumps theory; it's a good tag by that metric too.

Sometimes you want answers specifically divorced from game mechanics or game specific stuff. gives a way to get that.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Certainly, if there's utility to it, let's keep it. Part of asking this is to try to gauge if that utility exists. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ The key difference between the D&D tags and SA is that D&D indicates the presence of a topic; SA indicates its absence. A question tagged D&D is about D&D. The tag narrows the topic of the question. A question tagged SA is about...? Should all questions not tagged with a specific system be (theoretically) tagged SA? \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 23:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ As to newbies... Have you ever been able to use it to stave off an off-topic answer (anecdotal is fine; you don't need to dig up links). Most of the feedback I remember hearing is that newbies have difficulty even seeing the tags. And I can remember plenty of off-system advice on questions with all manner of tags. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 23:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It is "about" gaming not linked to a specific set of mechanics, which is useful in my experience. If someone doesn't find it useful, they can not use it. That's the beauty of an emergent tagging structure \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 23:33
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The emergent nature of the tag structure isn't really relevant here. We deal with system-non-specific questions a lot. Tag wikis, and the taxonomist badge all suggest community curation (much like we did for the D&D family of tags, and are working on for the WoD tags). Likewise, we wouldn't allow role-playing-games to emerge as a tag, yet there are a number of questions above where SA is used like role-playing-games would be (i.e. to circumvent the tagging requirement). \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 23:51
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Whatever. It's certainly one of my favorite tags, and I find it useful (as do many others clearly). The argument against seems silly, it's like if game systems were religions, saying atheist/agnostic aren't legit religions to tag with, because "blah blah blah theory." Clearly. Useful. Period. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 5, 2012 at 14:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Atheism/agnosticism would be systemless gaming in that metaphor (and I'd be fine with a "systemless" tag, for questions unique to that mode of play... And I'd contend that questions specifically about systemless play shouldn't be tagged system-agnostic). System Agnostic is more like comparative theology (i.e. the commonalities of all religions). Also, let me be very clear here: I'm not trying to get rid of system agnostic questions, just the system-agnostic tag. I'm contending that a question tagged (system-agnostic gm-techniques) could be tagged (gm-techniques). \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 5, 2012 at 14:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ And I'm saying the tag has value and it seems the voters agree. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 1:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The votes are interesting, and tell me that I shouldn't do anything drastic (but I wasn't planning on nuking the tag or anything similar anyway). But as you yourself have pointed out, seven like-minded meta users is pretty small compared to the site population. What I'm looking for here is reasoning, something that either 1) isn't hypothetical, or 2) if it IS hypothetical, at least doesn't run directly contrary to my experience (as the ward against new users argument does). Just trying to understand here. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 3:25

I think as shown by your sample questions could definitely be a meta tag. It is used in different ways by different people. As a result it gets used as the only tag on some questions by well meaning people.

We should encourage better tagging choices. Here is what I'd suggest for the questions you noted.

Tunnels and visibility

I don't like these questions as . Neither one requires RPG experts to answers and as generic real world knowledge should be directed somewhere else (not sure there is an SE site on point for either).

Questions here should be directed at RPG experts. Those two are not. Sure some of us may know something about either. But that doesn't mean we are experts and even if so, there most likely aren't enough other experts in mining to properly judge/vet the answer.

If they are directed at a certain system, then everything changes! All of that same information can be used, but experts in the game can weigh in on what rules are available and how they should be used. For instance, I know every edition of D&D has at least something on tunneling. Even without magic, there are rules available to help the questioner. As one answer hints at, if you have access to a dwarfs, it's quite reasonable to say that your tunneling speed is super-human.

If we make the questioner to name the system, it will help these answers.

Failing all that, I still think removing the is the way to go. Perhaps a could be used.

Artic Campaigns

I feel that this is a . If it isn't a sys-rec, then it is .

Why would I hire you?

Mis-tagged, the content indicates that is the system. I suspect the questioner was trying to broaden the pool of answers, but I think it just waters down the question. I'd also rework it a bit to incorporate @mxyzplk's warning in the comments.

Modern Roleplaying

I think works better for this one as well.


From your linked blog post these seem the most relevant tools:

  1. If the tag can’t work as the only tag on a question, it’s probably a meta-tag. Every tag you use should be able to work, more or less, as the only tag on a question.

I think can work on it's own, but perhaps it isn't as good when combined with, for instance or to give more clues based on the question

  1. If the tag commonly means different things to different people, it’s probably a meta-tag. In a cruel, ironic twist, the meaning of the tag [subjective] itself … is actually subjective.

Edit: In agreement with mxyzplk, who said that the means. "let me hear solutions that are mechanic independent". That feels a lot closer to what I meant to get across previously.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't mean "let me see mechanics from WoD or 4e or GURPS" - it means "let me hear solutions that are mechanic independent," which is, you know, a thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 3, 2012 at 23:34
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: I wonder if this confusion with the meaning of system-agnostic is indicative of a larger problem. Maybe the tag wiki entry should be clarified - however it's intended, what will matter is how it ends up getting used (such as the situation with Community Wiki). \$\endgroup\$
    – user1637
    Commented Jan 4, 2012 at 14:49

It feels as if you have two different questions: Is system-agnostic a useful tag? and Is it being used properly? The first is easy: yes, there are many good reasons to tag a question this way, (to get views from a wide spectrum, as well as to avoid "page 377a says no; nobody plays anything but My Favourite RPG (tm)"). But the second is really up to the community: it is easy for questions like this to be off-topic, or for on-topic questions to attract off-topic answers (as in the underground tunnels). I think the benefits outweight the problems, but it's not obvious.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem I'm having is that I'm extremely skeptical of both of those benefits. Given that I've seen a great many people post off-system answers to questions tagged with a specific system (Pathfinder to 4e questions, 4e to Dresden Files, etc.), I don't really see how SA can help. Particularly since system answers are sometimes appropriate to SA questions ("Such-and-such-a-system has a great mechanic for handling this that you can adapt..."). \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 5, 2012 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ So far as system agnostic (no hyphen) questions reaching a greater audience... I do certainly believe that. But is the system-agnostic tag necessary to do so? Do you think a question tagged (system-agnostic gm-techniques) is more likely to be read than one tagged (gm-techniques)? Are you actively using any of the UI features related to the system-agnostic tag? \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Commented Jan 5, 2012 at 14:15

Why are meta tags bad?

These tags are a problem because people don’t realize this and will often use that as the question’s only tag.

Hmm, doesn't seem to be a problem here. Either A) this isn't a meta tag, and it's fine, or B) this isn't a problem, and it's fine. Either way, it's fine.


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