Questions asking for the designer reasoning behind a given rule or other game elements have a long history of needing moderation. (If you're interested in past discussions on the subject, you can get a good starting point here and here.) In short, they tended to attract a lot of speculative answers that also got upvoted.

Banning such questions wasn’t ideal either (to cut a long story very short), hence the above discussion culminating in this.

Are questions which ask about the “why” of a game rule on-topic? In other words, should such questions be allowed on RPG.SE?

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2 Answers 2


Designer Reasons questions are on-topic

Four years on from the initial ban, we’re somewhat tentatively opening the gates again. That means asking questions is allowed. The community has changed, and the general expectation of support should be sufficient to cover this question type.

With some remarks:

  • We’re doing this as something of a trial. Which is to say that we’ll be keeping an eye on it, and if it goes sour, we’ll revisit the issue. (No, we're not giving it a firm trial period.)
  • If a question is attracting speculative answers (and normal curation isn’t handling it), it may need to be closed or otherwise moderated. If a question seems likely to draw speculation, consider whether it can be edited to discourage speculation, and/or leave a comment reminding answerers and voters of our expectations.
  • We want to encourage authors to explain why they're asking for designer reasons.
    • This is the same desire as always. We want to know why a question is being asked so we can help with the actual problem.
    • In short, the guidance here still applies: How can I ask a good designer intent question?
    • This is making a question better; it is not a hard requirement.
  • It’s ok for a question to go unanswered for long periods if it is answerable but no one has that answer (yet).
  • Please leave old designer-reasons questions be until/unless they come up naturally. If there is a question that needs an updated answer (and is fine aside from the old policy), or if there is some other compelling reason to reopen it, do so. But we decidedly want to avoid bogging down the reopen queue (and the home page for that matter) with these old questions.
  • We’ve had some consternation about questions that ask “why is X?” being interpreted as asking for designer reasons. However, that “why” can refer to many different kinds of questions (some requiring designer statements, some not). We will note that questions should still be clear about what they are asking for (e.g. what their “why” means) – and if they are insufficiently clear, they may need to be closed as unclear.
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    \$\begingroup\$ The guidance you link to effectively just says “don’t do it”—how is that useful for anything related to actually asking such questions? What is the point of allowing these questions if our official policy on how is “you really shouldn’t”? That meta completely invalidates the entire point of re-allowing designer-intent questions, and we would be better off just leaving them banned than this weird “you can but we’d really prefer you didn’t” nonsense. This approach does nothing but invite argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'm not quite able to synthesize the guidance to quite that reading you seem to have. My goal (and if wording is falling short of that, I'd love to get it corrected) is that we get questions that have enough context, goal, and needs, that they can be answered properly. That's in no way a special rule, we want all questions to do that. We're emphasizing it here though, for hopefully obvious reasons. For designer intent, stack wisdom is that the true solution is often outside of designer reasons themselves, to TM's guidance asks querents to consider that. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 18:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you have better guidance, I whole heartedly ask you to provide it, and I will make it clear that if something in the lined (or the above) turns out to be a problem, I (and I believe the rest of the mod team) are very open to correct it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is going to become yet another “prove to us that you are worthy to ask this question by checking all the boxes in this list of supposedly-optional suggestions,” and I think we all know it. “Consider these” will become “write up a report on how you came to the conclusion that these things do not apply.” How about, if someone thinks “the true solution is often outside of designer reasons themselves,” they can write a frame challenge answer, rather than badger the querent to prove it isn’t? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan If you observe that, then you should constructively and nicely clarify and correct any misconceptions or misapplications. Or if there are specific issues in that guidance leading it to be misunderstood, fix those. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 19:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ And my point about true solutions etc., is that we want enough information that answerers can give a good frame challenge, but since we're now allowing designer reasons we don't have to badger the querent into reframing the question first \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    Commented Jul 29, 2022 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the key part of this answer is the first bullet point - "We're doing this as something of a trial." We all want designer-intent questions to be high quality and attract high-quality, well-supported answers, and we can't really know if the community is currently well set up to handle it (with increased moderation and diamond mod abilities as @KRyan's answer here discusses) until we try it. Let's work to make it go well, and be unafraid to revert if it doesn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Commented Jul 30, 2022 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil Do let me know if there are any changes or improvements you want to make to my answer. I’ve tried to make some improvements based on the feedback received, but I think suggestions from someone less averse to the idea might be helpful. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 10:19

Yes, but...

while in general, a question for Designer Reasons is allowable (currently), they have a reputation that warrants heightened attention to them. So before asking a Designer Intent question, ask yourself: Does your question fits one of these formats?

  1. "Why did the designers make this terrible rule?"

  2. "Is this rule's outcome intended by the game's designers?" or "Is this the RAI for this rule?"


If yes, read on, you might want to refine your question!

Often, Designer Reasons is barking up the wrong tree

If your question fits the Type 1 question in both tone and style: You are currently not asking for designer reasons and you don't actually seem to want designer reasons, you want to have validation of your dislike of a specific rule. That is opinion based and because of that, it is most likely off topic, mainly for tonal reasons. To get it on topic, ask instead in a factual manner if the designers have stated their goals or explained them!

Others fall into a danger that Type 2 questions pose: There are actually 2 different variants of the question that can be hidden in this style of asking:

  • 2A questions are actually wanting to know if the designer explained something specific. Those are good and on topic.

  • However, 2B questions are different: Instead of asking if the rule interpretation is correct, they ask for the designer statements about a thing. Those latter questions are most often not about Designer Reasons at the core. Those could be reframed to make them better. If you actually want to ask such a 2B question:

Instead focus on: What problem are you trying to solve at the table?

When a rule looks weird or feels out of whack, a lot of different questions arise, one of which is "what were they thinking?"

"What they were thinking" doesn't matter in our RPG.SE context. I will quote @BESW for a good idea of why "we are here" on this stack:

We aren't here on the Stack to read the rulebooks to people. We're here to help people learn how to synthesize the mechanics, the non-mechanical text, the social context, our personal experience, the learning of the broader community, to apply all that to a particular real-life problem someone's having and find a solution for it

We need to get the question pointed at the problem to solve so that play at the table isn't impeded by a given rule or decision, rather than being pointed at discomfort with a given design decision.


Good Designer Reasons Answers use stated design goals

A good designer reason answer should use something that is publicly stated, where design goals of the game are discussed, or where changes to the game are reasoned. Interviews, errata, or even design documents are needed to back up a good answer. For example, a decent designer reason question might be:

Why were some items in renamed or totally rewritten from the Japanese version?

For this, there is an entire document in existence, which not only gives the direct translation from the Japanese version for all items, it also explains each and every changed thing why it was done. In most cases, it was the missing cultural context in western countries or cultural inappropriateness of certain symbolism. And of course:

So, the author [Ryo Kamiya] basically wrote this game as a huge dose of ironic humor at this whole Maid phenomenon. As such, he used a lot of references, gags and dialogue text that can be best described as “sexy funny”. Problem is, when we did a straight-up translation into English, some parts came out as “creepy sexy”.

  • Ewen Cluney: Maid RPG The Nun-Approved File, p.1

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