I recently saw a post about creating a dc tag and then used it on a (Fate 2.0) question I had been thinking about for a while. It has been brought to my attention that the name is disputed on the grounds that 'dc' is a system specific term and should be reserved for that use. I disagree, as both I and those I game with use the term in a much more general manner (and not all of us played D&D as our first system, though the people who taught us probably did, I think). I am in favor of keeping the tag as is and adding synonyms as they are created/used in questions, but a good deal of discussion about the name of the tag seems to be happening in comments (on my question, on the question of whether the tag should exist, etc.) and it should really have it's own question.

So, what do you think? What should the tag be called and why?


We should endeavor to use tags that match the verbiage used in the appropriate systems. So a DC tag should be , but if another system has a similar mechanic, it should be tagged with what it's called be it or .

My rationale for this is pretty simple. If a question is about DCs in D&D, "target number" isn't something someone is going to search, and it doesn't classify things well at all within that system.

The word "Target Number" has no meaning in D&D, and thus the tag should be used. On a Fate question, would be the appropriate tag.

  • \$\begingroup\$ How does this match with the current only use? The creator of the tag uses "DC" to refer to a Fate mechanic which is not called "difficulty class" by the Fate system, so he tagged it with his colloquial use. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 5 '14 at 3:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd argue that use is incorrect and should be corrected to a more appropriate moniker \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Nov 5 '14 at 3:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW We don't give any priority to the user who created something, not even their own posts. Everything here is owned by the community, and is folded and spindled until it serves the community well. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '14 at 4:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Oh, aye. I'm just sayin'--as tagging's a folksonomy we need to look at how it's being used even if our conclusion is "that's not how we'll do it from now on," and Wax's answer seemed to sidestep that bit. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 5 '14 at 4:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the answer: +1. But there's also an argument that we should synonym everything to the generic term, like we synonym [dm] to [gm] (and related tags). That said though... we only really synonym when it's necessary to fix something. So until a problem needs fixing this is good and we can laissez faire, because anticipating problems and pre-fixing them is inefficient and often the cause of more messes than they fix. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '14 at 4:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW There is definitely an argument to be made that DC is the dominant term and what we should use as a primary tag. There are certainly large chunks of the RPG community who have kleenexed the term into genericism. But I think that argument is rooted in D&D-centricism, and we've tried hard to avoid becoming DnD.SE. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 5 '14 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ This to me is a great example of why this tag doesn't need to exist at all. Basically everything ever tagged [difficulty-class] if it's a D&D specific terminology tag is also going to be tagged with [skills], since that's where a DC is set 99% of the time. That makes this tag entirely redundant. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Nov 5 '14 at 12:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus 99% doesn't equal 100%, nor does it equal "everything" or "entirely." And that's assuming that 99% is correct, which is debatable. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '14 at 0:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie You're welcome to try and find a case where this is actually useful if you like. I just find it to be redundant clutter. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Nov 6 '14 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus Maybe it is. But if that's what you want to convey, misrepresenting the state of affairs is ineffective. (Example: spell DCs have nothing to do with skills.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 6 '14 at 0:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ On my experience, there are more different systems that use TN than DC, it could even be argued that the term is much older. But of course, that does not take playerbase into consideration, DC is widely more known than TN due to d&d's popularity. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 3 '17 at 13:07

As a term used consistently by a single (albeit popular) engine, the d20 System, "difficulty class" is a term which users who aren't familiar with that engine won't be able to find when tagging their questions.

Call it something generic/common with synonyms for system-specific terms as necessary.

From the comments on that main site question:

Fate 2.0 got the term "Difficulty" from Fudge, which existed long before d20, so it's pretty safe to say that it is not just meaning DC without saying "DC". The wider community doesn't fit your view based on your local players—that is something only done by the subset of RPG community who mostly got into RPGs with D&D. The original generic term, and still the most widely used, is "target number". Ironically, D&D invented "DC" to avoid using the existing most-common term, and to parallel its existing "AC". It might even have got it from Fudge. (SevenSidedDie)

I think is the term most commonly used by a wide variety of systems (Fate, AITAS, and so forth). "Difficulty class" is prevalent in some circles because it's the term used by a popular engine (the d20 System), but anyone who doesn't use the d20 System will not think to use that term unless they've acquired it via cultural osmosis. We should not assume that our users come to us pre-immersed in RPG culture.

Thus, using a generic term and common synonyms seems most reasonable to me: tagging with DC makes it harder for non-d20S-familiar users to find the right tags. Using (or whatever else winds up being chosen, like ) with synonyms to other system-specific terms seems the most accessible.

seems ideal because it'll be picked up by people looking for , and because many systems use it as the "official" term for their implementation of the concept.

It's awkward, but it's the best I can come up with.


I think using a different term, perhaps target-number as suggested, would be valuable if that term really is more commonly used. I understand that the prevalent use of the term DC (difficulty class is not actually a term I hear used ever, except as the first part of an answer to "what does DC mean?") is probably due in part to the prevalent use of D&D and the various other d20 systems, but if the use of the term to apply to any rpg is widely accepted, I think it would be best to use it, as it would actually cause less average confusion to new users as they are more likely to be familiar with the term. Also, if the term ever becomes part of standard rpg jargon (like 'GM'/'DM', XdN notation for dice, 'system', 'PC', 'NPC', adventure, etc) then we should give primacy to the term as it is used by experts, even at the expense of immediate accessibility, and explain what the terms mean as necessary.

In this case, however, I don't think that my use of the term represents a significant enough percentage of the population to be deemed jargon, though I am still unsure if it is popular enough to be the most common term used and thus superior to, for example, 'target-number'. I generally think that it is best to let the community sort these kinds of things out via tag usage or avoidance, but if 'dc' is popularly perceived as D&D specific, I should at least use a different tag on my 'FATE' question.

My problem with Wax Eagle's approach (having one tag per system) is that I'm not sure it would be possible to address questions tagged 'dc' (or equivalent) and 'system-agnostic' if that tagging method is followed, yet I think good questions with those tags (or even just 'dc' by itself) exist. If we have one tag per system and I ask a question with just that tag, aren't I locking myself into that system?

More importantly, the idea of a 'dc' or 'target-number' or whatever else it may be called is one Platonic idea, regardless of the Platonic form it has in any given system. It's expression in each system is merely a reflection of the one Idea, and it would be useful to have a tag that refers to the Idea of the 'dc'/'target-number', rather than an individual form.

In fact, if we had such a tag, we could, as BESW suggested, make all of the suggested system-specific tags synonyms. I think that in doing this we would lose nothing, as the Form of a given system can be made clear by using both the dc Idea tag and the tag for the specific system in question, which seems much more natural and aesthetically correct to me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The primary purpose of tagging as I understand it is to connect experts with questions they can answer, and to help people find answers to problems they face. I'm having trouble imagining a reasonable scenario where someone's a non-system-specific expert on difficulties, or is looking for solutions to problems with difficulties that leads to cross-searching for systems they don't know (and so can't search for by that system's term). \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 5 '14 at 9:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Non-system-specific expertise has to do with being able to us dc/target-number related difficulty to, among other things, drive narrative, provide a satisfactory amount of difficulty for a given player group, integrate mechanics and cosmology, and provide the illusion/bait of the possibility of advancement. The section situation you are having trouble imagining is best left to the community to demonstrate through the creation of new questions, if, indeed, there is anything to be demonstrated. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 5 '14 at 10:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer if it's system agnostic question about target numbers/DCs, I'm gonna go ahead and say it should be closed. \$\endgroup\$ – wax eagle Nov 5 '14 at 11:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ for what reason? Too broad? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Nov 6 '14 at 0:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Until we have such a question, we should not be making pre-emptive tagging choices based on it, so whether or not it'd get closed is moot. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Nov 6 '14 at 9:06

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