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So, I've been noticing a trend on lately. Mainly, people realising that "rules" is banned, so they use the first tag that starts with rules which, y'know, says rules on it.

This is which, while quite related to rules, isn't.

I've also been noticing that our user community isn't really bothering to address these potential discrepancies in comments.

So, a question to each of you all. On a brief review of the , how many of those questions, do you believe, intended to just use it as the tag? Examples would be delightful.

Useful sorting categories (add more to your answer if you have a better ontology):

  • Absolutely incorrect. They used this tag as a "rules" tag
  • Absolutely correct. There is evidence in the question that they really are interested in RAW
  • Questionable, but we didn't comment on the question. Why didn't we?
  • Questionable, but we did comment (and the user didn't respond)

To be very clear, this is a function of your interpretation as reader, based on how well they signaled their intent. If their intent is unclear that itself is interesting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ In a lot of cases this comes down to user intent, which isn't something we can easily determine. For example, this question could have been tagged with rules-as-written when the querent actually meant something more along the lines of rules-clarification, or they might have been trying to disallow answers along the lines of "It's unclear, but here's how I would do it/have done it." Without a statement from the user we're basically just guessing what they meant. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Nov 28 '14 at 0:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. But that's what I'm interested in. "Class: obviously wrong. Class: we should have left a comment. Class: we did leave a comment, but user hasn't responded. Class: absolutely correct" \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 28 '14 at 0:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough, if you haven't got any answers by the time I get home I'll have a go. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Nov 28 '14 at 0:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ What @Miniman points out is why I brought up my concern about us making assumptions about the meaning of this tag: people regularly use it without explaining why they're using it. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 28 '14 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. But since we're approaching this as "people likely to answer the question" this is a hermeneutic reading of "do we perceive that they used the tag in a useful way? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 28 '14 at 0:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm very much feeling like [rules-as-written] is a meta tag. One with quite a lot of value, but still a meta tag. I don't know how those two considerations balance out, but I think its meta-ness can no longer be ignored and should be accounted for in any discussion of the tag regardless of whether we intend to keep it. (Needing to know asker intent to understand if it's being applied right is very much a mark of a meta tag, which is why it's relevant here.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 28 '14 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im not worried about its meta tag ness so much as its "being used as a rules tag" \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Nov 29 '14 at 6:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ How much are you actually noticing this? I hear a lot of stuff from experienced users claiming that it's (potentially) being misused, but I see very little evidence of it actually happening. I support a more thorough audit, but I feel like your introduction has biased things inappropriately. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 1 '14 at 0:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I notice that a at least once a week, newish users tend to use rules-as-written instead of the banned rules (and then I edit the tag out). And I'm interested in how many times I miss that. I'm not trying to draw out the "do we want a meta tag" debate. I'm just "how many of these uses actually are rules-as-written instead of rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 1 '14 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ And how do you determine that they're using the tag without intending it? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 1 '14 at 3:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I ask them if their question is unclear and/or if they're low rep. That's why I posed the question, to see if anyone else is getting this impression of mis-matched intentions. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Dec 1 '14 at 8:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there a source for the reasoning behind banning the rules tag for those who aren't familiar with that decision or the distinction between rules and rules-as-written? \$\endgroup\$ – Ellesedil Dec 9 '14 at 20:38
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You know, this made me think for a while. This answer may not be what you asked for, but I hope help people think about this, even if a tangential way.

I checked a bunch of questions around the site. Most of the time, like here, here or here, the question seems to be about the rules, without the need to completely stick to the rules as published. Those questions are more about how to proceed in a given situation (be it RAW or by some interpretation) than really using the literal text from the books.

Questions that are "Truly RAW" are a bit different. Are humans living creatures? By the rules, that is? is an example - the querent explicitly rules out anything that is not written on the books - it's about how rules, as written, interact with other and what happens from there. My question about Night Elves and Volcanos is also a "Truly RAW" question, despite not having the tag. It is not about how to rule a given situation, is about what happens if you take the book literally. This question from KRyan is, maybe, one of the best examples of what I would consider a good use of the Rules-as-Written tag: he explicity says that he doesn't want non-published material and what he already researched, and his question is about finding a set of rules for a given situation and how them would work.

The thing with Rules-as-Written is that it is a tricky subject. You need to make clear what is ok and what is not on your question if you want useful RAW answers. RAW could be Core-only, Core-Plus-Splatbooks, Core-Plus-Splatbooks-Minus-Rules-Compendium, Core-Plus-Splatbooks-Minus-Tome-Of-Battle-Cause-My-DM-is-Crazy, Core-Plus-Splatbooks-Plus-Magazines, etc, etc, etc. And that's only for D&D. What, exactly, would be RAW for games that are massively subjective? Or for games that have a WTFazillion of modular, non-exclusive splatbooks, like GURPS?

Heck, some DM's even consider Flavor Text as rules. They are written on the book, aren't they? This whole thing of "Rules as Written" is, ironically, pretty subjective.

So, people that really want a by-the-book answer will say that out loud in the question, citing what is the valid material that could be referenced. Most of the time, however, our users are mostly interested in figuring how to use the rules in a given game.

So... What I see, from my random browsing, is that what is really happening is that people are often just asking "rules clarification" questions — a sister to RAW questions, but with lesser constraints, where new users are basically saying, "Hey, I need help understanding this set of rules!" I know that this behavior is supposed to be the SE's default, but most of newcomers are not aware of that and tag away with .


Moar audits!


I will expand the first 3 questions, to explain why I think they are not RAW.

  • Is a Bluff check necessary when telling the truth? - I think this is not a RAW question. Here, we are not dealing with rules interactions. We have the explicit aknowledgement that this may be the case of DM-Fiat, and this question is not about some strange, bizarre use of the Bluff Skill. To me, this is just a , and not a case.

  • Can I choose to grant Combat Advantage? - This one is a bit problematic. At first, I don't see any evidence that this question should be using the RAW tag, however I don't know what exactly happened on comments and, by what SevenSidedDie said on comments below, this question appears to be an exception and not representative to the question at hand.

  • How does shaking off hold person work? - This is just a rules clarification question. There is no aparent need for the RAW tag, and the user is indeed a new user, so he may not be aware of what exactly RAW means on the context of this community. This appears to be a case.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re observations: this is the impression I've been getting too: questions merely about the rules have been getting the RAW tag, which is a misuse. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 1 '14 at 21:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re the proposed solution: I think it might work. [rules-clarification] would get (properly) less used than the old-bad [rules] tag. Right now minimal tagging for a rules-clarification question is just a bare system tag, which is okay... but maybe not ideal? Such a tag would definitely catch the users who are hypothetically misusing [raw], yet do so without decreasing the usefulness of [rules-as-written]. That's worth at least a trial run, I think! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 1 '14 at 21:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you withhold a proposed solution and stick to just the audit, so that I can vote for the usefulness of your audit without also having to implicitly vote for a particular solution? Putting both together muddies the voting. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 1 '14 at 21:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Why do you think question two and three are misusing the RAW tag? \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 1 '14 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a good point @doppelgreener makes; observations might be agreed with, but acting on changing the situation is a different kettle of fish that should be voted on separately if it gets to that. I've cut out the proposed solution for now. It can be dug out of the edit history should a meta be opened in that direction later. I kept some of the text as it relates to observations & impressions — how does it look? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 2 '14 at 1:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Well, It looks good, indeed. Thanks for fixing it! \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Dec 2 '14 at 11:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely disagree with your assertion that any of these appear to be misused. They might be misused, it's conceivable, but the fact that all two of the three have accepted answers that discuss the RAW suggests, probably not, at least for those questions. Particularly the one about Combat Advantage, which accepted the only answer to actually cite the rules, despite the higher-rated answers that failed to do so. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 2 '14 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Using RAW to answer a non-RAW-Exclusive question is fine. So is using RAI. That's okay. Is not citing rules that makes a RAW question or answer, is deliberadly adhering only to it. Those questions are rule clarifications, not a study on how the rules, as exactly written, affect the game. RAW have more constraints than what is needed to answer those questions. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Dec 2 '14 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Also, both accept answers are not RAW answers. The 4e question is explicity a DM-Fiat suggestion, and the Bluff one is about DM reasoning. The other one is not accepted. I don't see from where your reasoning is comming. Discussing RAW is one thing, answering RAW is a different matter. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Dec 2 '14 at 18:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both of those cases are situations where the answer turned out to be that RAW doesn't really cover the situation. That doesn't make the question any less interested in the RAW. Both answers make a point of discussing the RAW and its deficiencies, which is valid per challenging-the-frame. This is done because the RAW isn't helpful. But the question-asker, since he did not know the answer, couldn't have known that when he chose the tag. I see no evidence that the question-asker made a mistake. And I think it's really poor form to assume that they did. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 2 '14 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ The first and second examples appear to be correctly tagged with RAW (the second is aggressively tagged RAW, based on my memory of its comment history). The last does look like it fits this answer's working definition of a mistag—it's a rules clarification request on its face, and it's a first-time user. (Whether one agrees that those criteria should qualify as a mistag is another issue layer.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 2 '14 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ However, the second example has issues all by itself though and isn't representative of the problem we're poking at, at all. There, the asker wants a RAW answer that doesn't exist, because they don't like what RAW says, so tagged it with RAW and argued in comments with everyone who told them what RAW says. Then they accepted an answer that says what they want to hear despite being non-RAW. That says to me the question is mistagged by definition, but this falls under "don't edit war with the asker" so it should(?) stay tagged RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 2 '14 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThalesSarczuk I think your first bullet is missing its link. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 3 '14 at 21:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Much better researched with the additional examples. I still disagree with your analysis of two of the first three, though, as per KRyan. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Dec 4 '14 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ You assume the Master of Shrouds question is mistagged because... what, you just don’t want it to be tagged RAW? “How does this work?” combined with a RAW tag is a pretty clear indication of what the question wants. Assuming that it’s not what they want seems disingenuous. Give the users the benefit of the doubt. Especially as the RAW answer was accepted. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 4 '14 at 15:31
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Experiential audit of the Experiential audit of [rules-as-written]

Repetition intentional.

I see a lot of questions being listed as misuses, based on the idea that they are rule-clarification type questions. That alone is insufficient to conclude that a question has been mistagged.

A person can ask for a clarification of the rules without the RAW tag, and RAW does not mean rules-clarification. That said, they also can ask a rules-clarification question with the RAW tag; that is a valid and meaningful choice.

With no more information than that, you have to assume that they intended to do what they did. Didn’t tag with RAW? Must be interested in answers not necessarily out of the rules. Did tag with RAW? Must not be, must want everything to be by the book.

Only when you get someone tagging RAW, but asking after houserules, suggestions, and the like, or commenting that answers are too legalistic, should there be reason to start suspecting they acted in error. On the flip side, someone not tagging RAW, but then commenting on answers asking after book citations, is also someone you should suspect made a mistake.

But don’t assume there was a mistake just because there could have been a mistake. For all you know, the tagging could have been quite intentional. In fact, considering that they explicitly went and tagged it, the safer assumption is that it was. You don’t know what they want better than they do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've deleted my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Dec 4 '14 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, I don't mind at all. No problem \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Dec 4 '14 at 16:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThalesSarczuk If you'd care to join me \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 4 '14 at 16:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here's the problem with this analysis: our RAW tag is special. It has special rules. It is a weird exception. You, equally, cannot assume that someone new to the site is intending to invoke those special site rules. That is the source of everyone else's problem with the tag. If it wasn't a tag with special site rules attached to it, nobody would care if it was being accidentally used wrong. But it does, and so it matters, because if it's being misused, it's actively impairing our ability to help them with their actual problem. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 4 '14 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ So here's the situation: if we assume they meant it, we must assume they mean to invoke the tag's special treatment. If we assume they didn't mean it, we have to assume they misunderstood the tag's purpose. Both are assumptions that have no justification. Hence: how do we fix that? We can't pick one or the other, because both are invalid assumptions to make. So something's gotta change so that we can move forward. The alternative is this coming up all over again next time that unacceptable situation causes a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 4 '14 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ The justification is that they chose the tag and have taken no actions that indicate they didn't mean to. The justification is that they are human being who, it should be assumed, know what they want better than you do. The justification is that we should not assume people are too incompetent to use the site. The justification is that your null hypothesis that they are mistakenly using the tag unless someone proves otherwise is presumptuous and disrespectful. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Dec 4 '14 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Which would be fine, if we knew they knew that the tag has special rules; but they're new, so we know they don't know. Because of the special rules right there in the tag wiki, there is no null hypothesis, only two competing non-null hypotheses. Hence, the special rules must burn to restore the tag to non-meta-ness, so we can stop worrying/arguing about how people use or misuse the tag. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 4 '14 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie What about assuming they meant it and making sure that the concerns implied by the tag are addressed, but not penalizing people who answer from other angles, so long as at least one answer does exist with RAW citations etc.? Particularly in cases where the written rule itself explicitly calls for GM discretion. \$\endgroup\$ – Random832 Jan 26 '16 at 16:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Random832 No, any “answer” to a RAW-tagged question that does not address the RAW is not answering the question, and should be downvoted. I will certainly always do so. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '16 at 16:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The problem (and the reason I made this comment on this old meta question) is that that's not always what the person who uses the tag really wants. And in cases where a written rule explicitly calls for discretion, I would say commentary on what sort of interpretation is intended is even within the literal bounds of the tag. And since the value of the site is in the whole set of answers, rather than one answer standing alone, I think considering that other answers address it is a reasonable compromise. \$\endgroup\$ – Random832 Jan 26 '16 at 16:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Random832 If it’s not what they really want, they need to edit their question. The thrust of this discussion is that a number of people here were assuming that people didn’t really want the RAW tag even though they explicitly used the tag themselves and gave no indication that it was mistaken. It is entirely possible that people can misuse the tag, but we cannot assume that in the absence of evidence. That runs counter to everything else on this site, not to mention basic courtesy. You or I don’t know what someone wants to ask better than they do themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '16 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Random832 Besides, it is impossible to control how people vote. No policy involving "not penalising answers" could be enforced even if we wished to make one. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 26 '16 at 16:29
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Of the top 26 recently active RAW questions 25 are 'Absolutely Correct' in my opinion and 1 is Probably Incorrect based on the 'thanks' comment the OP placed on one of the answers. I have added an inquiring comment.

1 in 26 is less than 1 in 20, so we're doing pretty good compared to some people.

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