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Based on this implicitly system agnostic question, I answered using D&D as an example since it's a very common, often gateway system to RPGs.

Is the assumption that an answer using D&D variants as an example for implicitly or explicitly system agnostic question good practice?

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If a question specifies no system, a useful answer assumes no system. It has a responsibility to do so, or else it's potentially not useful. An answer providing D&D's mechanics or content as examples is perfectly fine so long as the answer still talks in general RPG terms, and not system-specific terms. An answer becomes not useful once it just assumes the asker is playing a particular RPG and responds as such.

D&D is a popular RPG, but only one of many other popular RPGs we regularly receive questions for. One D&D version's mechanics and contents don't necessarily apply to World of Darkness (old or new), the various Fate systems we get asked about, Burning Wheel, or maybe even GURPS.

Suppose there's strong signs they are asking about D&D though: a D&D answer may not even apply to other versions of D&D! 3.5e's simulationist mechanics are neither here nor there as far as 4e is concerned, since the systems are so different. The same stuff may not even fly in AD&D 2e. And they may still be playing Burning Wheel, Fate, or something else.

Often in questions where the system is relevant but not specified, the asker should be asked to name the system so better answers can be provided, but that's another issue altogether.

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My impression is that we shouldn't default to D&D when answering questions.

D&D has been a very popular system due to its large merchandising and it's probably known by almost every RPGamer on the planet, but it's not equally likely that anybody has ever played it or likes it.

Lots of players I know have kept very far from D&D because they favored World of Darkness' approach to gaming and many people who started playing after the Forge never touched any of the two.

RPGaming is a social activity and it often is what your fellow players play that determines your knowledge about gaming systems - D&D is not an acceptable default, not more than let's say Fate or Apocalypse World.

However, I think using a gaming system to show how things were managed by other authors is perfectly fine. Especially if one can write something about why those examples are good ways to manage the system-agnostic problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You argue that everyone knows D&D, but not everyone likes it. I don't see how this should stop people from using it for examples. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jul 24 '13 at 11:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross it shouldn't. But there shouldn't be the assumption that everybody knows how it works (or in which context the example is valid) because some never have played it. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jul 24 '13 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel I absolutely agree on that point (and this answer). \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 25 '13 at 8:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with everything except "most people who started playing after the Forge never touched any of the two"; it's very unlikely that >50% of new players in the last 13 years have never played WoD or D&D. I'd change "most" to "many" to fix that, since then it only claims there is a significant fraction rather than >50%. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 25 '13 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Excuse me for my ignorance, but what is the "Forge" that you are referring to? \$\endgroup\$ – Discord Jul 26 '13 at 16:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Discord See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indie_role-playing_game#The_Forge -- except the article doesn't mention that the forums were actually closed up a few years ago because the big conversation was done. \$\endgroup\$ – Alex P Jul 26 '13 at 17:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross I don't like D&D, so, I have only played it twice. So, I only remember roughly how it works, but I don't know the system anymore. Many of the people I play with have never played D&D. They know WHAT it is, as someone know what is Texas hold 'em but not how to play it. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Jul 29 '13 at 9:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Flamma that can be said of any game for some group. People are more likely to know D&D of some version than any other game. I don't have numbers to back that up but I'd bet money on it. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jul 29 '13 at 12:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross I concede that, just look at the questions on this site. But you can't count that everybody is going to know it in the same way that being English the most understood language doesn't mean you'll be able to be understood by everybody in the world. I would understood general ideas of the game, but I'd have a hard time if an answer rests on specific mechanics or terms. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Jul 30 '13 at 8:01

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