We have several questions recently where a commenter asks the OP to quote the rules for their game so that they can help them. Is this appropriate?


4 Answers 4


Only when you're already familiar with the RPG involved.

Whether you should ask for a rules quote depends on your motive:

  • Yes: Your motive is that you know the RPG, and the question would be clearer with the precise wording that the asker is having trouble with (especially when there are possible errata or version differences involved).

  • No: The motive is that you think you could write an answer, despite unfamiliarity with—or perhaps never having even read—the RPG in question.

    It's also probably a bad idea for selfish reasons: any answer you write is likely to be seen as oddly incomplete by anyone who does know the game, buying you downvotes, or comments asking for details you can't provide (which is embarrassing and can turn into a mess of comments when you can't admit your lack of expertise).

    It's also likely to not do the asker or the Internet any favours anyway—important wrinkles you miss from lack of knowledge can easily mislead the asker and spread misinformation!

It's also worth saying that, if you don't know the game but your motive still feels like the first case, you can easily be wrong that it's unclear and should still leave it alone. Asking for a quote when it's obvious to actual players of the game can cause confusion, if they start second-guessing themselves and the question because they assume you know what you're talking about and think they might be missing something.

I have been guilty in the past of doing part of this—answering for a game I don't know based on only a quote in the question—so I can speak from experience. It's a bad idea, and feels bad in the end. Leave clarifying and answering questions to the players of that game.

  • \$\begingroup\$ A very succinct summary of how I feel on the subject. \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Apr 12, 2015 at 18:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely agree with this answer - but would like to add that sometimes asking the OP to quote the rules they're confused by is a specific way of asking them to clarify the nature of their problem so as to make the question answerable, and that's something that comes up a lot. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 16, 2015 at 1:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe Yeah, that's a useful tool to keep. It's one to resist using for unfamiliar games though (and I suspect that's where we sometimes go astray using it), since what's unclear to someone who doesn't know the game could be just fine to someone who does. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 16, 2015 at 2:27

Yes, this is perfectly appropriate under certain circumstances:

There are times where a proper answer is dependent on specific wording that may not be universally available to the answerers, but is otherwise the only information needed to answer the question that is not readily available.

More importantly, if there are errata or version concerns, it can be helpful to make sure that you are looking at the same piece of text.


Questions about feats in 5e. While it is preferable that a person answering a question about a feat in 5e have a PHB in front of them, it's perfectly plausible that in many scenarios the person best equipped to answer that question simply is not somewhere where a PHB is available (I know I'm often answering from work where I don't have my books). It seems pretty reasonable to me to ask the OP to quote the specific text they are having trouble with in order for the answerers to all be working from the proper source material in order to give a correct answer. In this case it's not a lack of familiarity with the source material, it's a desire to be precise.

Massive errata such as in 4e between the PHB and Essentials. There are plenty of times when answering a 4e question where it becomes quickly obvious from reading the question that the OP is working off of old source material. In these cases it can be helpful to ask them to quote the exact wording (though more often it's helpful for them to mention the book they are looking at). But, ultimately, the exact wording that they are using for their game matters more than what the rules are.

Basically, my guidance here would be: if you're asking because your completely unfamiliar with the source material, you shouldn't be answering the question in the first place. However, if you're asking to make sure you know the precise wording so that you can give a correct answer, then you're just fine and should continue.

Unilaterally and universally banning these requests is not a good idea.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This part needs bold and stars and I think an animated GIF rainbow background: "if you're asking because your completely unfamiliar with the source material, you shouldn't be answering the question in the first place, however, if you're asking to make sure you know the precise wording so that you can give a correct answer, then you're just fine and should continue." \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11, 2015 at 3:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you need the wording to answer it, you should wait till you can "get to your books", partial quotes can be deceptive - you're still effectively guessing rather than answering with expertise. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 11, 2015 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk not if you're familiar with a set of rules (e.g. a table) but have forgotten where the exact numbers go (e.g. the OP's stat is near a cut off point). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11, 2015 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would contest that the person who doesn't have a PHB available is not the person best equipped to answer the question. I can answer lots of questions about 4e items and powers if the item or power is quoted, but I won't do the best job unless I have my rules compendium and knowledge of the book that item/power came from, and can reference various parts of it. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2015 at 2:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have some quibbles about the away-from-books part, but the now-bolded stuff is the best statement of first principles I can think of. Asking for quotes to get on same page and make the question 100% clear: good. Asking for quotes as a book replacement: ehhhh… \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2015 at 17:26

Asking for the inclusion of such quotes (or, better yet, links to an SRD entry where one exists), is helpful to people other than the OP who are interested in the question. Our goal is to create expert questions with expert answers. The question should not just be helpful to the OP, it should be helpful to other interested experts as well. If you need to ask for the rules to be quoted or linked to, you are probably not qualified to answer the question (though, as Wax Eagle points out, you might be). That doesn't mean you have no place asking the OP to improve their question.

If I'm following, say, the flight tag and a super-cool question in a system I have no expertise in whatsoever comes up, I might want to know what the rules being discussed are. It is helpful to me, in using the Q&A, if the question contains links or quotes. We aren't just about good answers here, we're about good questions too (or at least we should be).

Indeed, even if I do know the relevant rules and have them in front of me I might consider it a worthwhile use of time to edit the OP's question for them to include said material and then answer. Also, as an incentive to actually do this, there are badges for it if you answer fast enough after editing, but the timing is such that it's not really possible for someone like me to get them. Maybe one of you guys with superhuman typing speed can get 'em though.

So yah, don't answer questions you aren't qualified to answer. But, please, by all means feel free to help improve the quality of existing questions and answers by commenting and/or editing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: "expert". That meta is only about the boilerplate that this meta is "for experts". We consider anyone who plays RPGs to qualify as an expert for the purpose of belonging on this site. That doesn't extend beyond that, to being considered experts in games they're not familiar with. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11, 2015 at 18:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie eh, a discussion for another time, I suppose. I deleted the addendum. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2015 at 17:21

No, this is not appropriate.

In general, this isn't "reading English Stack Exchange." If they just need to paste the rule and have you read it for them, it's not really a good question anyway. It's unlikely that's their problem. If you're not sure which rule they're talking about, that's a different thing, I am talking here about "I don't know about Anima, paste the rules here" or "I don't know about that feat/spell, paste it here."

And usually this request is being made by someone not familiar with the ruleset at hand. You may think you're an expert on any RPG as long as you read a sentence of it... But that's not an expert answer. Don't consider answering a question if you're not familiar with the ruleset.

You should flag comments of that sort for deletion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You should maybe stick a "usually" in that first sentence, to match up with the sense that it can be fine in "you're not sure which rule they're talking about, that's a different thing". Especially since the question is not specific to people asking because they don't even know the RPG involved, the first blanket sentence seems off. I've already +1'd since I know what you're getting at in the question, but as usual the broader question is what people are responding to rather than the "I don't know Anima but can totally answer if you quote the rules!" context. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 12, 2015 at 17:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1, This may not be "reading English Stack Exchange", but it is "reading RPG rulebooks exchange". The language is not always as plain as you're making it out to be, and new players may need a particular phrasing parsed for them the first time they see it. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Apr 14, 2015 at 0:38

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