I would argue that, no, it's not. So long as the question being discussed is a matter of RAW, then experience is not a valid argument. If someone has played a game for 20 years, then yes, they're likely to know an answer to most questions involving the rules.

However, if someone challenges them on one of those answers, why does 'I've been playing this game for longer than you have' become a valid argument? Shouldn't they still have to site their sources?

This forum seems to put a lot of emphasis on citing your sources, and I'm wondering if experience should really be allowed to be one of them, when the question at hand is a matter of RAW. After all, just because you've been playing a game for twenty years, if you've been playing it wrong the whole time then you're still playing it wrong.

The specific reason I brought this up is because of something that happened to me while I was gaming. I said that I drew my weapon as I charged, and another player at the table said you couldn't do that. I knew that he was wrong, and said as much. His only argument to this (which everyone seemed to go along with, for some reason) was "I've been gaming for 20 years. I know what I'm talking about." Well, surprise, surprise, when we looked up the rule (correction, when I looked up the rule, at the end of the session) in the game we were playing, it was allowed. I pointed this out, and that's how we've played from then on.

Why do I think this is an issue? Well, partly because, when I ask a question that concerns RAW, and I get back an answer that doesn't quote where the rule came from, it's less helpful, as I now simply know that said rule exists.

What does that matter for this forum? Well, mainly, I just don't think that citing your sources in matters of RAW is strongly enough emphasized here. When I first asked this question the answer I got back did not include a source. When I asked for one, the first thing I got back was a link to another question, also not stating its source.

Now, I admit, it could simply have been an issue with that specific question. It could be, that, had I asked any other question that concerns the RAW, I would have gotten back an answer with a quoted source, or at least been given one had I asked. That said, I brought this up in the first place with the hopes of discussing the issue, to determine if it's an issue at all, which is why I tagged it under 'discussion'. It was late when I wrote the question, and I forgot to add the 'does anyone else think this is an issue?' bit. For that, I'm sorry. I'm not trying to rant, or be argumentative, I just want to help make this site as helpful to people as possible. And, as I've said, in my experience, answers concerning RAW are more helpful when they cite a source.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a forum. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Dec 1 '14 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer "Forum: an assembly, meeting place, etc., for the discussion of questions of public interest" Quote; dictionary.reference.com/browse/forum definition three. If this is not a forum, by definition of the word, then what is it? \$\endgroup\$ – Zach Dec 2 '14 at 10:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ "for the discussion of questions". Meta is, I suppose, a forum by your definition. The main site specifically disallows discussion. The main site is a repository of expert knowledge and a place where people can ask questions of experts. I don't know if there is a specific term. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Dec 3 '14 at 3:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Discussions can be in a question and answer format. It's not a traditional discussion format, but that just means that a forum based around the use of that specific discussion format would also be non-traditional. And, again, what else would you classify the main website as, if not a non-traditional forum? As you pointed out, there is no better term for it, and the descriptor, while inexact, is accurate. \$\endgroup\$ – Zach Dec 4 '14 at 4:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ alright, that makes sense. We do seem to try to make an effort to distance ourselves from non-Q&A forums however, and questions that elicit discussion (presumably of a different kind than you are talking about) are not allowed, so probably a different term, if one could be found, would be preferable so as not to give the wrong impression. Maybe replacing forum with 'SE' or 'site'? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Dec 4 '14 at 6:16

Citing rules is encouraged, BUT…

Yes, citing sources is encouraged. Often, you'll see people linking to SRDs or citing page numbers in answers about rules questions. However, this isn't always possible or appropriate. Because questions on how to "correctly" play RPGs, or how to solve an RPG-related problem, are often subjective in a way that questions on programming aren't, at RPG.SE we rely heavily on the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective guideline.

Essentially, it says that a question that requires a subjective answer needs to be answered either from experience or from a citation to be "good subjective". Another way of stating it is the "Back it Up!" principle: back it with experience, or a cite.

Obviously many rules questions are not subjective and can be answered with citations, but often even rules questions don't have objective answers, such as when the rulebooks themselves are unclear, ambiguous, or outright contradictory. At that point, a ruling is the only productive course – and that gets into the realm of subjective experience.

As a result, an answer that cites experience is valid. Whether it's as or more valid than a cite to the rules is a matter of, ahem, subjective judgement. Fortunately, that's exactly what the voting system is designed to measure! So we allow answers from experience, but we don't have policy that privileges either experience or rules-citations – both are allowable in answers and won't get outright deleted. Meanwhile, the question of which is more valid is outside of the purview of policy, and is left to the voters.

Still, isn't citing the rules when they're available better?

However, the above doesn't really address the substance of your objection or dismay at the way people are answering some questions. Some perspective on how the "other side" thinks might help.

The reason many people cite experience instead of or even over RAW, is that games which are functionally-complete in their rules-as-written are

  1. a relatively new concept
  2. a bit of a Holy Grail that no designer has ever achieved.

RPGs are notoriously "underspecified" systems – even those that attempt to be complete are not fully-executable procedural programs that could be implemented without human-level-intelligence doing some (or a lot of) interpretation. This is true even of games like 4th edition D&D, which tried their damnedest to avoid underspecification.

As a result, interpretation of the RAW in order to translate it into functioning play procedures is unavoidable, and experience with a game is a definite advantage in that translation process – though the degree of that advantage is necessarily debatable and subjective, for exactly the same reason. Complicating this is point (1): few game designers until recently even tried, or understood the utility of attempting, to close procedural gaps in the rules, making very many published games especially underspecified. Most game designers have, historically, instinctively or consciously tried to bridge these gaps with a brief example of play or a "what's a roleplaying game?" section, but of course these are not rules in the way that people mean when they speak of "RAW", and they are only successful at bridging gaps by conveying intangible cultural ideas about what it "looks like" to play the game.

As a classic example, original D&D doesn't even explain how to play the game or what you're supposed to do during play. OD&D is impossible to play according to anything like the modern concept of "RAW", because there's just not enough there. Every play group therefore plays their own idiolect of OD&D, and experience is vital to comprehending even the rules that are written.

Needless to say, someone with 20 years of experience of what it "looks like" to play the game will have a leg up on understanding both the rules-as-written, the rules-as-intended, and the rules-as-actually-playable. As a downside, that same person will have a disadvantage of having to separate those three from a fourth: rules-as-we-play-them. So you can't really win either way – either you have an executably-incomplete set of rules and need subjective cognition to fill the gaps, or you have to judiciously, subjectively, untangle your subjective experience of play in order to distill out a (non-existent) Platonic ideal of how the rules work absent home-game-experience bias.

As a result there is a necessary cognitive dissonance when someone tries to follow the "rules" despite their being incomplete, which creates in the community an irreconcilable divide: those who resolve that "no-win" situation by privileging the Platonic ideal of a RAW by more-or-less forcefully denying that subjective interpretation is necessary, and those who resolve the "no-win" by privileging experience and forcefully denying that RAW should be followed in every way. Both sides see the other as unreasonable, but really, the unreasonableness is the concept that RPGs have complete rules that can be followed to the letter.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 That was pretty insightful, both into this issue and into RPGs in general. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 28 '12 at 12:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Being a relatively "young" gamer (started with D&D3.5), and playing mainly heavily specified games (Pathfinder, Shadowrun, MHR), it always shocks me when the answer to a specific question is "There is no rule for this". Thanks for the insight. \$\endgroup\$ – Cristol.GdM Nov 29 '12 at 21:05

Of course "I've been playing this game for (a long time/longer than you)" is not a valid argument for being right. People try to push being an authority like that when they're in a debate over an issue, are confident they're right, but don't want to go to the trouble of having to cite a source or look it up in the rules.

You said in that levelling question: "I play with people who redefine 'rules lawyer,' and who make me look downright agreeable."

Here's the thing: We are not rules lawyers. Well, most of us aren't. The Community At Large is not generally going to ask "But where does it say that in the rules?" if the answer's good enough. If it's important, or you want to know what the book is from, you can always ask. Nobody is going to proactively cite every single statement about the rules, for the same reason your coplayer tried to say "I'm more experienced" - it's troublesome and time consuming. Are we paid for these answers? No, we just earn points for them and contribute to a community we like. So take it or leave it. We're not going to spend an hour for every single rule we mention.

So: Don't expect everyone to cite every rule mentioned proactively. Ask for a source if you need it.

In the case of the levelling question, asking was quite valid, but it was also a case that it is simply not stated in the rules - it's just accepted as generally understood in the community. There was nothing to cite, so the answerer was providing another explanation, and at no point did they try to say they were right because they were more experienced. I consider myself lucky I found an official statement from a lead designer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, complaining about no RAW when there is no RAW is just kinda pointless. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 27 '12 at 1:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ Indeed, and expecting every answer taken from someone's experience with RAW to contain an exhaustive list of citations is unreasonable and simply not going to happen. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Nov 27 '12 at 12:49

Although more experience doesn't mean someone else's answer is better, experience is a universally accepted good that tends to help people know what they're doing. On RPG.SE, a certain amount of personal experience is in fact required to answer many questions (those whose answers are more subjective than a simple rules quote may solve). See the SE blog post Good Subjective, Bad Subjective for why.

Having said that, it's hard to know what you're talking about since you're handwaving generalities instead of citing specific questions and answers/comments you found to be objectionable. Though people are welcome to state answers and comments you find objectionable, that is what the voting and answer-acceptance mechanics are here to sort out. If someone's experience has led them to a somewhat 'tarded result, they will tend to get voted down.

However, I suspect you are looking for answers to things that are, surprise, not ironclad legally defined in an RPG's rules. There's a lot of stuff like that. I know it makes the rules lawyers among us sad, but there is a level of common understanding and customary use that is useful in interpreting what you think a game's rules are saying. In which case, experience is useful, especially experience with multiple data points.

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    \$\begingroup\$ But, ultimately, experiance has to be grounded in something. If a source can't be sited, then what use is the information? For me, this site is more helpful when people point out where the rules they're citing can be found, as I can then take that information and show it to the people I need to show it to. When someone answers a question I ask, whether or not that answer is correct, it's less helpful if they don't tell me where I can find that information somewhere else, as all I then know is that it exists. \$\endgroup\$ – Zach Nov 26 '12 at 4:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ My response would just be to cut and paste the third paragraph of my answer again, so I will forgo it. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 26 '12 at 4:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Although just to maintain my sanity, the word you are looking for is "cite." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 26 '12 at 4:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ So, what you're suggesting is, no one should ever challenge the global 'house' rules? \$\endgroup\$ – Zach Nov 26 '12 at 4:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Challenge away. Challenge or change book rules too. No one cares. However, many questions don't have an answer that is an unambiguous rules citation, so in those cases you'll get other lines of reasoning. You're welcome to not find them convincing, but you started this question with the premise "they shouldn't even cite experience at all!" which is a goofy ass non starter of a statement. Doesn't mean you have to use it or agree with it. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 26 '12 at 5:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Only in matters concerning actual rules. When suggesting a game, or house rules, or problems with an ambiguous matter (such as alignment) experience is perfectly acceptable as a source. However, as my (edited) question states, is it really a valid argument to say that, just because you've played the game a long time, that means you're right? \$\endgroup\$ – Zach Nov 26 '12 at 5:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zach Of course it isn't. What are you trying to resolve here? Has anyone actually ever said that? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 26 '12 at 10:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zach You really are going to have to be clearer about what exactly has led to this post. It feels at the moment that you are deliberately avoiding giving any specific examples. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Nov 26 '12 at 13:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, due to timing my suspicion is it's about rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/19006/…, where that's quite an overdramatic interpretation of what's going on there. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 26 '12 at 17:02

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