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A brief history of the [rules-as-written] tag (though all the discussion is ~2 years old):

I have noticed the [rules-as-written] tag is becoming extremely common on the site. We are up to 570 uses of it, are getting more than 1 new one a day on average, and it appears to me most of them are using it as a pure synonym of [rules] as in "I'm asking a question about some rules" - which is not useful per the third link above. Of course you're asking about the rules; most questions not about gm-techniques or problem-somethings are. Of course questions about the rules should be answered with rules citations or at worst table-tested rulings that meet Good Subjective, Bad Subjective criteria. Answers that just say "well this is what I might do" should be downvoted and potentially deleted as bad answers, whether there's a rules-as-written tag on the question or not.

The tag is adding nothing to the vast majority of these questions. It's really only useful for fringe questions that intend to say "look I know that this is a pedantic loophole but come on and work the logic puzzle with me won't you"? (e.g. commoner cannons). I'm not sure that's tag-worthy; having any tag starting with "rules" becomes a default thing someone thinks they should add to a question because it's a rules question.

Here's the recent ones.

  1. Clarification of Blink Mechanics, or "Should Someone have Punched in my Sandwich?" - "How does this spell work, there was disagreement at my table?" Slam dunk rules quote answer. No real "RAW" lawyering required.

  2. Can one enter Leomund's Tiny Hut from below? - "How does this spell work, there was disagreement at my table?" As the spell doesn't say, all the answers are supposition and arguing from other perspectives anyway.

  3. Can monsters be summoned to appear in mid-air to drop onto enemies? - "My PCs are trying an exploit is there a rule that says they can't?" Slam dunk rules quote answer. No real "RAW" lawyering required.

  4. Hostage Situation: Do you miss, hit the hostage, or chance of either one? - "We aren't sure if there's a rule." Sadly the answers tend to jibber jabber about related things but a clear answer to the stated question is hard to find in there. Several of the answers are definitely not pure RAW.

  5. Can I use Relentless Endurance after failing the Relentless Rage Constitution saving throw? - Slam dunk rules quote answer. No real "RAW" lawyering required.

  6. Can you take a Squire at 3rd level? - two rules conflict, which way to rule? Almost not RAW by definition, as the RAW is trivially in conflict.

And so on. I don't see what value [rules-as-written] is adding to these questions - zero from a searchability and SEO point of view clearly (it doesn't appear in the search keywords analytics mods have access to, though those are limited), and I don't see any in terms of scoping the question or answers as it's being used. 50% of the RAW-tagged questions above have non-RAW answers and the OP seems fine with it.

If you look at a similar roundup of "just plain rules questions" they seem to be being answered identically. Simple (or even not so simple) rules questions get rules quotes, where there's no clear RAW they get designer tweets, (hopefully tested) table interpretations, etc. I contend if you took the questions tagged RAW off our front page, plus all the rules questions not tagged raw, took off the tags and mixed them up you would not be able to discern any difference.

If we're just tacking it on and the community's not e.g. enforcing no answers that aren't pure RAW on those questions (and there's no indication on any of them the OP objects to the non-pure-RAW answers), I contend the tag has effectively become [rules] and is superfluous and should be burninated and blacklisted.

Your thoughts are welcome.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems like a case where we have a bunch of newer folks who haven't gotten the memo re: how this tag is to be used yet... \$\endgroup\$ – Shalvenay Jan 30 '16 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Re: #2, isn't "The rules don't say you can't, and this other rule says you can except when specified otherwise" half the argument of most rules-lawyering? \$\endgroup\$ – Smurfton Jan 30 '16 at 0:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Put that in an answer as a positive value for the tag, where challenges to questions' assumptions are more productive. Don't invite mxyzplk to fight about it in the comments. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 31 '16 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I figured it would just be an update to the question, but OK. (It was also an attempt to assume good faith and seek honest clarification.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '16 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Honest attempts of such can easily go wrong in delivery when it's a heated topic. :) It doesn't read that way; and besides, there's no real value to clarification if you already know it's wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 31 '16 at 18:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I don’t know that, because I don’t know exactly what was meant by that statement. I think such a clarification would also improve the discussion. But I’ll defer to you on this, since my judgment on what the best way to communicate on this subject is suspect. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '16 at 18:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have to say, the "pedantic" bit is probably not helping the reception of this post. It jumps out at me every time I read it, and I have zero personal attachment to playing RAW or having a tag for it. Because yes, it is a heated topic, and that's pretty darn dismissive. There are plenty of other ways to express the same concept, especially as a mod representing the site, and especially when you're trying to have a dialog with people you're effectively calling pedants. \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Feb 1 '16 at 9:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ On a personal level, I don't think we should support the kind of pedantic bickering that RAW requires anyways. If that is a "playstyle", those tables should be burninated, the tag with it. \$\endgroup\$ – Tritium21 Feb 1 '16 at 14:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tritium21 Sorry, no. That sentiment is unwelcome here, not the playstyle. That comment is undeleted only because it is topical to unambiguously deny it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '16 at 15:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aaand that is why the use of "pedantic" here is a problem. I see the point you're trying to make, @mxyzplk, but it's still insulting and also easily extended to, well, any situation in which the rules must be puzzled out in a literal way. It's your assertion that normal rules questions get answered exactly the same, but others' assertion that RAW questions need to be made distinct. I'm not currently arguing either way on that, only that what's written here can rather easily look like a jab against the latter. \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Feb 1 '16 at 17:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tritium21 What? No it isn't. You might not wish to welcome it, but it's accepted policy to embrace all playstyles equally. You might want to weigh in on the meta involved if you feel that strongly, but there's a lot of weight of community and mod opinion to swim against: Can we affirm that RPG.SE embraces a plurality of playstyles? I can unequivocally say that I can't stand the playstyle personally, but I have and will defend its representation here without hesitation or prejudice, and even work to support it. It belongs here as much as any. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '16 at 21:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie But it is an impossible task to support! If humans could do rules-as-written there would be no judges in the legal.... This needs to be a new answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Tritium21 Feb 1 '16 at 21:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tritium21 “It is foolish to tell a man successfully doing a thing that it is impossible to do.” The playstyle and community exist. Not being able to comprehend its practical daily existence is not a fault that disproves its existence, it merely demonstrates that one doesn't understand that of which one speaks… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '16 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ And on that note, no more “the RAW playstyle should be unwelcome/doesn't make sense/shouldn't exist” will be entertained in these comments, thank you. That's quite enough of that attitude—which is unwelcome here. Overturn the relevant meta policy first, or abide by it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 1 '16 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ That may be so, but like it or not, "pedantic" carries an insulting connotation and is unnecessarily polarizing for a topic that is already super polarized. I am telling you this because I assume you're not trying to insult anyone, but it feels like an insult regardless, thus it's probably not helping communicate your message. It's also pretty easy to run with for people who do want to insult -- see conversation above. (This is not the place to discuss redefining RAW in depth, but FWIW, I don't think it really belongs in our definition, either.) \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Feb 2 '16 at 16:17
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Burning the tag is extreme and would be damaging to the site; other, less drastic methods should be found to alleviate any problem behaviour arising from its over-broad use.

Eliminating the tag would censor RAW questions de facto, though not de jure. The tag focuses the attention of appropriate experts who would otherwise have to sift through many questions they're wholly uninterested in. Getting rid of it would alienate experts from a large and popular category of question, reducing the quality of the site's answers on this topic.

Unfortunately, using in place of also creates noise obscuring RAW questions from RAW experts. If this is really a common practice, it should be dealt with--but removing the tag entirely makes the actual problem (failing to attract experts in the RAW lens) worse, not better.

(I suspect that re-naming the tag would obfuscate the questions from experts almost as much, and should be considered a desperate measure.)

I don't have an answer to how this should accomplished, but that's not what the meta question's asking: it's asking if has outlived its usefulness and should be burned. I say, " is still very useful and should not be burnt."

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    \$\begingroup\$ This I wholly agree with. If the tag is frequently being misused, a drastic measure like a rename may be appropriate. But a rename is a drastic measure, and should be avoided unless we have really compelling evidence that something needs to be done. (Like BESW, I cannot think of any less-drastic options.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Would a banner on RAW-tagged questions like the one that used to accompany game recommendation questions that explains the tag's meaning be an option? Personally, I think that's weird and also extreme, but that is less extreme than renaming or even torching the tag. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 2 '16 at 19:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan For right now, I feel like it’s premature to weigh different options, but if there actually is a problem, that could be a decent solution. The problem with it, to my mind, is that it implies the tag is “special” when it’s really not. But if there’s a problem, that could be a less drastic approach to solving it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 2 '16 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even if the tag is being misused, and even if renaming could fix that, it would only make sense to do so if the cost of renaming it is less than the benefit of slightly cleaner tags. Also, note that he cost is fairly high on the clarity scale—"RAW" is the common and correct term for this thing, changing it will mean that this site has developed its own peculiar jargon. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Feb 3 '16 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fectin Oddly though, changing it to [raw] has been opposed on the grounds that it's not the common or correct term. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 3 '16 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I don't have a strong opinion on whether the phrase or acronym is more correct. I'd guess the phrase would be easier to find, which I think is the point, but either would be better than making up a peculiar term. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Feb 4 '16 at 2:14
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About other uses of tagging

Beyond the inherent scoping and, well, tagging value of the tag, I am also confused by this claim:

zero [value] from a searchability and SEO point of view clearly

This is not clear to me. I don’t explicitly search for [rules-as-written] that often (though it has happened), but I have the tag favorited so that (if things were working correctly) such questions are called to my attention (and I want this feature back, which is why I have attempted to push that bug report as much as I can). If I did not spend as much time on this site as I do, such a search would be more likely.

As for SEO, “rules as written” is a term used in the broader RPG-playing community, at least within D&D. It is not implausible that it could be included in Google searches, though I have no independent knowledge that it actually is.

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I would like to see evidence that the tag is misused.

As far as I can tell, the entirety of the alleged problem with the tag is the idea that it is used by people who don’t know what it means and don’t intend it. Yet in every single one of these discussions, we only get vague comments alluding to this problem, without any evidence. The last time we really dug down to look, someone came up with a list that they claimed were cases of misuse, and yet the majority of those questions that had accepted answers, had accepted the answer that followed the rules as written. Even, in some cases, above higher-rated answers that did not. Which is rather weak evidence.

The new list, in mxyzplk’s question, are all rules questions. As has been stated time and time again, rules questions do not require the RAW tag. However, questions with the RAW tag are pretty much always going to be rules questions. It is applied to rules questions to constrain what is being asked about: the text in the books themselves. Just because it’s a rules question does not make the RAW tag superfluous.

I don't see what value [rules-as-written] is adding to these questions [...] I don't see any in terms of scoping the question or answers as it's being used.

Every single one of those questions is asking about the rules text, and every one of the answers to it cites rules text. The tag indicates that this is not a question of what should be done, or what would you have done, but what the rules actually say. That is how they have been answered. How is this a problem, again?

And, most importantly, what evidence is there that this was not the intent of the author when the question was asked and tagged?

As for the list that mxyzplk offers:

  1. Clarification of Blink Mechanics, or "Should Someone have Punched in my Sandwich?" - "How does this spell work, there was disagreement at my table?" Slam dunk rules quote answer. No real "RAW" lawyering required.

So? The querent did not know the answer when they asked the question (that’s why they asked), so they did not know if would be a “slam dunk rules answer.” It is not necessary to “lawyer” in every rules-as-written answer, only in those where, ya know, it’s necessary. If this question had turned out to have a torturous interaction of rules, then it would have been – and an answer that didn’t, and just went with what they considered sensible without reference to the rules, would be a bad one where otherwise it would be a fine one by the default assumptions of the site.

  1. Can one enter Leomund's Tiny Hut from below? - "How does this spell work, there was disagreement at my table?" As the spell doesn't say, all the answers are supposition and arguing from other perspectives anyway.

Here we have a problem with voting practices (many upvotes on a question that explicitly eschewed the rules as written; I for one have downvoted it), but since there is not yet an accepted answer to the question, we have no evidence that this answer is something that the querent wanted or will accept. The other answers do a better job of trying to work with only what is made available by the rules.

Moreover, challenging the frame is still an option on rules-as-written questions. As noted in that meta, doing so is a risk (I would not have downvoted the answer on a question not tagged rules-as-written), but risks do sometimes pay off. I don’t think it should here, but that’s neither here nor there.

If the OP does accept this answer, then he or she has accepted a non-RAW answer, which definitely suggests that the rules-as-written tag was applied erroneously. It does not, however, make that conclusion absolutely certain: it could have originally been intended, and then the querent was convinced by the frame-challenge. Also possible. But I would support the removal of the rules-as-written tag from the question in that case.

  1. Can monsters be summoned to appear in mid-air to drop onto enemies? - "My PCs are trying an exploit is there a rule that says they can't?" Slam dunk rules quote answer. No real "RAW" lawyering required.

As with #1.

  1. Hostage Situation: Do you miss, hit the hostage, or chance of either one? - "We aren't sure if there's a rule." Sadly the answers tend to jibber jabber about related things but a clear answer to the stated question is hard to find in there. Several of the answers are definitely not pure RAW.

The accepted answer goes through all of the available rules, and only at the end notes that a gap in the rules and suggests a houserule. That is a reasonable frame-challenge in a rules-as-written answer. (On a sidenote, I think that the claim that there is no rule for that is not actually true, and intend to research that topic and either suggest an edit to that answer or offer my own.)

  1. Can I use Relentless Endurance after failing the Relentless Rage Constitution saving throw? - Slam dunk rules quote answer. No real "RAW" lawyering required.

As with #1.

  1. Can you take a Squire at 3rd level? - two rules conflict, which way to rule? Almost not RAW by definition, as the RAW is trivially in conflict.

As with #1.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie On a [rules-as-written]-tagged question, voting should shun the house rules epiphany some dude had over his cornflakes and posted as an answer and favor an answer that's a strict, careful reading of the text by someone with experience with the problem. Without the querent narrowing intent, both are given equal weight. That's not to say the former's bad and the latter's good, but the former's not what the querent wants and the latter is--and that's indicated by the [rules-as-written] tag. Sure, the querent could just say that in the question, but then why have tags at all? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 30 '16 at 22:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW the answer there is to make it more clear to users and question askers what the tag is meant to be for, rather than removing a valuable tool for discussion from the site. \$\endgroup\$ – Forrestfire Jan 31 '16 at 1:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Forrestfire Just as it's reasonable to ask for evidence that the tag is being misused, I think it's also reasonable to ask for evidence that the tag is valuable when used properly: not every quality of a question needs to be tagged, so why is this quality so (apparently) obviously worth of tagging? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jan 31 '16 at 1:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW If there is a better way to be able to say "I am asking about the game itself, not your personal version of it. If you offer houserules instead of rules, your answer is not valid" than a tag that outright says that's what the asker is looking for, then I would support the implementation of that. I don't think there is one, though. A good answer to a question with nonfunctional RAW could have both the RAW (aka the answer that matters) and possibly suggestions on how to handle it, but should never have only the latter. \$\endgroup\$ – Forrestfire Jan 31 '16 at 2:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW It sounds like you want the [rules-as-written] as the default and [house-rules] be exceptional, which I am totally good with but the hobby as a whole isn't. This isn't Magic: The Gathering where folks play for money and for fun but all fun which means opinions on that fun run rampant because nothing's at stake but a good or better time. That some folks--a (vocal?) minority--have their good time by being more legalistic than others is, I thought, why the tag exists: so it cuts out unwanted Make it up yourself answers and the like. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 31 '16 at 2:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie If we’re not going to start assuming that every rules question is from a rules-as-written perspective (which I’m fine with), doesn’t that in itself indicate the purpose of the tag: to indicate and categorize those questions that are? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '16 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I’ve never said nobody does, I’ve said I haven’t seen any clear cases of it. It is obvious that it’s possible, but I do no think it is either obvious that it necessarily does and I do not think it is obvious that this is also necessarily likely. And can you not see how I might get defensive when I see comments that could be read as “a lot of people are using this tag, they couldn’t possibly all really want to be using it!” as an assumption? Some people in this discussion seem to be coming into it with the a priori assumption that only a very small minority wants it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 1 '16 at 4:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I've never disputed that in theory, but your unknown percentage is one that I assume is quite small, quite possibly neat zero. You will never convince me that it is appropriate to assume error in the absence of any evidence aside from its possibility. In fact, you'll never convince me that such an assumption is not extremely rude. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 1 '16 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Is there any evidence that anyone is dissatisfied with the help they received? There are 8 RAW questions without an accepted answer, just over 1%. And is an undiscoverable tag using terminology that we have just made up ourselves a solution to this? You are assuming it’s a problem. Mxyzplk claims 3 of 6 are “clearly” not really RAW questions, except he uses that word a lot and he is self-identified biased. I am not going to accept the assumptions of people who don’t like the concept to begin with as reason to damage the usability of the site for a segment of the community. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 1 '16 at 15:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, this is getting a bit excessive. "If you actually cared [you'd agree with me]" is not the way to do this, and neither is fixating on numbers we don't have. Yes, it is a problem when people confuse [rules-as-written] with [rules]. No, we don't know how often that happens. Is this being treated with bias? Maybe, but there are valid problems with [RAW] that have been brought up and still need to be addressed. They won't be if we keep going back and forth like this. \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Feb 1 '16 at 18:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ That said, @SevenSidedDie, that you care about the site and its users is important. But telling other users that they don't care/suggesting that you are doing a better job of this because you care more is not constructive. It's uncharitable at the least. Maybe you disagree with their methods, but they wouldn't be engaging in this mess if they didn't care. I know I wouldn't. \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Feb 1 '16 at 21:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie You're free to disagree and to persuade and to assert your stance as much as you want. Just do it without passive aggressive, guilt-trippy tactics like telling people if they cared they would agree with you. You don't need to do that. \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Feb 1 '16 at 23:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie No, what you’re doing is turning a “is there a problem?” discussion into a “how do we address the problem that we’re tacitly assuming exists?” (On which point, I’m noticing a trend in how the moderation team approaches subjects it dislikes.) My suggestion that there is no evidence of misuse is still higher rated than any suggestion to do anything. Thus, you lack even a clear consensus that there even is a problem, much less that anything should be done about it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 1 '16 at 23:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Please don't continue with the "superior stance" language. It doesn't help the discussion and comes off as self-serving. Compromise isn't inherently a superior position to take, sometimes it's a crap one that makes nobody happy. Recognise that as citizens of a place that's community-moderated, we also care about and feel responsible for the community, just like you. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 2 '16 at 2:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have never flagged so many comments in a single thread as "rude or offensive" as I have this day. Everyone, I recommend keeping the conversation civil and assuming good faith on the part of those who disagree with you. And yes, current reader, I am talking to you right now, not just the people disagreeing with you. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Feb 2 '16 at 3:31
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Since there seems to be no consensus on anything other than the fact that we have very little data about any supposed issues with because all the data is in comment discussions that are getting cleaned up -- I have an even more radical proposal to share:

We put a hold on cleaning up comments on questions and answers until this situation is firmly resolved.

This would allow us to aggregate the commentary that is being said to provide insight into this issue over space and time, and then analyze it as a body of work instead of as a few, disjointed examples notable only because of their recency.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Mods can already dig up this information if necessary, note. That's a lot of posts though. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 31 '16 at 9:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you can data dump it all into a spread sheet, I can spend a few sessions over coffee analyzing the information available. (My email address I think you have via site info). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 1 '16 at 14:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast It's unfortunately manual digging. :-/ \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 2 '16 at 18:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, that might need some quiet time on the weekend to look into. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 2 '16 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Retrieving and analysing ~800 pages' comments is more like a couple weeks to a month of full workdays. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 '16 at 4:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie As I understand the scope of work, it is find all questions with Rules As Written Tag, examine question and answers for adherence to that tag's avowed purpose, and plot them on a graph/tabulate them. A second task is to get all deleted comments and check them for points and information related to the above. Is that about right? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 5 '16 at 16:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Not answers, just questi0ns. But yes, all comments (including on answers) that could shed light on the asker's meaning in using the tag. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 5 '16 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I have identified 195 questions with the combined tags of 5e and rules as written. I will be reviewing them one at a time and try to classify them. Yes, it is more than a few cups of coffee. But, with the Super bowl on and me being a multitasker, maybe I can make some progress. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 7 '16 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie doppelgreener has identified a year's worth (a bit over a hundred) in the other meta, and that may give us the kind of sample size that becomes usable and large enough to guard against "spikey" occurrences. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 8 '16 at 17:26
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I do think we need a tag for the “let's play around with the literal interactions within this game”. It's significant enough as a playstyle, with its own particular issues and problems and needs, that it is often inherent to the subject of questions. And describing the core subject of questions is what tags are for.

The tag has value for those who invest in a RAW-centric way of playing also because it can be used to filter and highlight questions related to their expertise.

However, I do also think that it's being mistaken as a synonym for by novice RPGers unfamiliar with the particular meaning that “rules as written” has for established RPGers. And we obviously get a lot of novice RPGers interested in D&D 5e.

I have a proposal to fix that problem then:
Rename so that it doesn't contain the substring rules, and don't make a synonym. This will ensure that it's not used by those who are just looking for “the rules tag.”

The only downside is that, without a synonym containing the substring rules it becomes less discoverable. However, someone who deliberately wants answers that approach the question RAW-centrically will either find the correct tag, or failing that will declare this need in their question. Either way, questions truly about RAW will be explicitly so. We have enough tags that aren't discoverable without hanging around the site for a while that it's really not a problem to rename it to solve the “rules tag” problem.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This may be pedantic, but I may be missing something important that you're implying: I don't think RAW is a playstyle; I consider it a critical lens for interpreting a document, not a set of practices and goals for play. By my thinking, calling it a playstyle weakens your argument: would we tag something [kick-in-the-door]? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jan 30 '16 at 0:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Perhaps not a playstyle itself, but a core element of a certain playstyle then? I am at the particular disadvantage here of representing something I have only observed, not experienced, since this way of playing is antithetical to how I play. I expect KRyan, Hey I Can Chan, and a few other regulars may be able to speak more to its status as a playstyle. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '16 at 0:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know about that - I think plenty of people who say "RAW" aren't really sure what it means - that was certainly true for RAI in our recent roundup on that. Maybe if we had something not using a buzzword ([literal-reading-of-the-rules-only])? At this point I kinda feel like "I want a literal interpretation only," like "Only books allowed are PHB and APG", are best added as real words clarifying in the question instead of trying to shortcut it with a "commonly understood" term that ends up not being commonly understood. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 30 '16 at 1:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk That could be, yeah. Personally I would not miss the tag, but I think a “keep” option that also mostly solves the immediate problem (people looking for a [rules] tag) is good to have for voting purposes. (We might still have a problem with people meaning to use a RAW tag and misunderstanding the concept, but I think that's a smaller set that wouldn't rise to the level of site-management headache.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '16 at 1:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think obfuscating the name will do desirable stuff. We can't keep it a special secret if it's used regularly on public questions: people will still see it used, try to learn about it, misunderstand and misuse it, just maybe less than before. OTOH, if we successfully make it an obfuscated secret, isn't that bad? The whole site will still see [raw] questions, and those not in the know will give non-RAW answers and be punished for it: "-1 Didn't you see the [raw] tag?" "Uh, I guess, what's that mean?" We'd just have to write "I want rules as written" in the question like BESW says. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 30 '16 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alternately, since so few people on the site understand that [raw] should mean the answers should be rules-as-written, the not-in-the-know-crowd (the majority) completely ignores the tag and upvotes the non-RAW answers and the tag becomes ineffectual. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jan 30 '16 at 15:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ A name change isn't a bad idea, but for reasons others have noted, I wouldn't go with [raw]. I'd suggest something along the lines of [strict-rules-interpretation], [strict-text-interpretation], [literal-rules-interpretation], or [literal-text-interpretation]. I think those are clear but less likely to be confused with just [rules]. \$\endgroup\$ – Pixie Jan 30 '16 at 17:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem is that the only alternative is [house-rules] which, unfortunately, connotes not playing by the rules and just making up stuff and is often leveled as an accusation. I'd be content with a tag synonym (although I don't think it necessary), but as @Pixie notes, a so-called secret tag seems needlessly obtuse. Maybe something a little more pleasant like [by-the-book] or [just-the-facts]? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 30 '16 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Hum? The main alternative isn't [house-rules], it's just not using a tag. Just like we don't require every question to have a system tag of some kind or [system-agnostic], we don't require every question to flag its relationship to the rules. The no-tag default is “not strict-RAW-focused, but not houseruling either”. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '16 at 21:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pixie I like your suggested alternative names. The aim of renaming is less “hide it from the noobs” and more to make its meaning less likely to be mistaken. I proposed moving it to [raw] because that's a unique terms that needs to be sought deliberately, but a tag name that is just more descriptively clear is even better for this aim, I think. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '16 at 22:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I know that, but the newcomer doesn't know that, which is why having nothing appear automatically when typing in rules to tag a question would be better than [rule-as-written] coming up as the apparently best--and maybe only--option. In other words, I'm agreeing with you about most of this, but I reject a secret tag. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 30 '16 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Cool, I understand what you're getting at. And I think I agree that a kinda-secret tag is less desirable, now that Pixie's given nicer suggestions than [raw]. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 30 '16 at 22:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ This discussion reminds me that I should, at some point, write a main-site Q&A on what RAW is and isn’t and why anyone cares about it. I said I might do so the last time this discussion came up, but never got around to it. It still seems like a thing of value. Unless, @HeyICanChan, you want to take up that torch? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '16 at 18:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan sounds like a great idea - you could even go the whole hog and cover RAI as well :) \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Jan 31 '16 at 19:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie it absolutely is a playstyle, and it's the only way to go unless you like constant arguments. When I play games, I don't want to have arguments over how realistic it is for helicopters to fly, or lasers to make things cold, or for rogues to disable spells. The book says it works that way, can we please just get on with pretending to be oddly cooperative murder-elves? Sure, the results are sometimes a little silly but that's a very small price, and it usually leads to fun results anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin Feb 1 '16 at 6:43
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I think generically having a Rules-As-Written tag makes sense, but I don't think it makes sense to try to insist it mean a specific thing or warrant heavy moderation or deletion of answers.

That is, if it were my site, the tag would just indicate the question is about the rules as written, and would prefer answers in that context.

One of the main reasons I tend to avoid participating in this site very much, is what seems to me like excessive negativity and limiting of discussions for reasons I feel often limits the usefulness of the site even if the intention is to make the content better.

So personally I'd keep the tag but go light on the moderation and downvoting of interesting answers that have non-RAW content.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Moderation isn't about "making people do the rules!" It's about making the site run smoothly. I've personally participated in a number of questions, predominantly new users asking 5e questions, where they don't understand which they should be asking for (either using the RAW tag and then not wanting RAW, or conversely not using it and then complaining about non-RAW) or which to answer. All we want is to either define the tag in a way that helps people or eliminate it, but if we have the tag and questions and answers with it aren't different from ones without it, it's pointless overhead. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 10 '16 at 1:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Seems to me new users won't likely read, or correctly use, or adhere to tag descriptions. That leaves not expecting them to, or a chore to make corrections, and I'd think the correction to make would be to add or remove the RAW tag after it's clear what fits. But, that's just my 2 cents. \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Feb 10 '16 at 5:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Dronz That's generally what we've been doing when it's obvious. However, there is also resistance to asking askers for clarification about what they mean when it's not obvious why they used the tag. Generally, there's resistance to questioning the tag's use, which makes the tag hard to manage and has lead us here. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 10 '16 at 5:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Ah, I see. I don't envy you guys that task. Thanks for the explanation! \$\endgroup\$ – Dronz Feb 10 '16 at 6:09
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[Addendum at the start: In the last few days the overall conversation has moved me toward a more moderate position on this tag's role--specifically I've been convinced of the tag's value in directing experts to their field of specialty, which makes me interested in seeking a less extreme fate for the tag. I will not delete this post however, as it is representing an option and argument that is important to have present in the discussion.]

Yes, the RAW tag is turning into noise, and its signal was never very strong to begin with.

RAW's never been a very useful tag for search-ability, or for connecting experts to questions in their field. The intent the tag is used to convey is just as easily communicated through writing "I'm interested in the written rules with as little interpretation as possible" or something similar in the body of the question.

Looking at RAW questions on the site (including the ones Mxy links above), often the accepted answer deals with intent and best practices. That means many querents who request RAW are also okay with less stringent answers, and the citizens who enforce the tag tend to not be the querents themselves. This indicates to me that in this instance a tag isn't the right tool for indicating the kind of answer you want to get.

Additionally, I've seen some debate over exactly what "rules as written" means outside of the tag use, with some folks feeling that it's actually impossible to entirely avoid interpretation of rules and so the phrase is just a matter of subjective degrees of what interpretations are "acceptable" or "unavoidable." Having querents put their request as a full sentence in the question text will help mitigate this kind of confusion.

If the problem with the tag is simply that new citizens don't know how to use it--well, we aren't consistently enforcing the proper use, which implies citizens who know about it don't care.

Whatever the cause of the tag's decline into noise, I'm not seeing it as a big loss. Put the poor thing out of its misery.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Going by experience on the site, most querents who request RAW are also okay with less stringent answers and the citizens who enforce the tag tend to not be the querents themselves; this indicates to me that in this instance a tag isn't the right tool for indicating the kind of answer you want to get." [Citation Needed] This is asserted without evidence every single time this discussion happens, it is the only complaint ever leveled and it is never backed up. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 30 '16 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan It is very difficult to show this happening because it's something that happens in comments which get deleted afterward. But we can easily see the effect: A quick glance across the site, including the examples Mxy provides in the question, shows accepted answers which hinge on intent. If the RAW tag were being used to mean "only RAW please," querents wouldn't be accepting RAI-focused answers. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jan 30 '16 at 21:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ My problem with this answer, though well stated, is that people asking questions often don't know if there's a rule, or a combination of rules in different volumes that will answer the question. (My question about paladins and their mounts and smite spells is one such: I wasn't sure at that point if an interaction of multiple rules statements would change my understanding of how a mechanic works). I thus cannot find fault in people asking questions with "unknown unknowns." Not as bad in 5e D&D, but in games with lots of of books ... "Do the rules cover this?" is a valid opening position. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 1 '16 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your addendum at the beginning resonates with me. I'm not keen on destroying the tag. (And, well, last time I didn't vote on a large policy discussion, I got burned hard for it, and I'm still not okay with how all of that went down.) So, -1 to this post as a vote against removing the tag. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 2 '16 at 1:58
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TL;DR -- Figure out what to do with existing uses of , then burninate/ban the tag, replacing it with a better tag -- likely

This is a case of people who don't understand how the tag is intended to function -- i.e. splitting:

  • A question about the rules that can be safely answered by a per-table house-rule or even an on-the-spot DM ruling (the "hey, this rule is broken, lets toss it and replace it with something else" answer), or is an "obvious case" -- we will get "obvious case" questions, especially for the larger systems out there, because there's simply so much material that people will not have run across something before and not know where to find it

from

  • A question about the rules that is seeking the rule itself to be interpreted, irrespective of how stupid it may be in anyone's eyes

The new users on this site aren't grasping this difference, and thinking that is a synonym for . Pixie's suggested synonym of is a reasonable one, although I personally prefer Hey I Can Chan's suggestion of .

While both suggestions disentangle the tag from the RAW vs. RAI debate, I feel that is an easier to grasp name for a newcomer -- this is the tag you use when you want a "by the book" answer to your question. On the other hand, Pixie's seems long, and slightly obtuse, in addition to risking more misuse from newbies who see the word "rules" in it and go "oh, this tag is for rules questions" when it really isn't, just like isn't for straightforward rules questions or questions where RAI, rulings, and houserules are OK answers.

I'll leave the problem of what to do with the existing uses of up to you folks, though -- I'm not fully versed in how Stack tags work.

(Also: the intent of is not an issue -- SO has for similar reasons, and it has not given them this much grief as far as I can tell! This is most likely because the SO is derived from a term the community generally agrees upon the meaning of, instead of having a Stack-specific meaning, though.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, [rules-lawyer] would be the parallel tag/term that's in common RPG usage. We removed it in the past but maybe it's a better choice as it indicates that more by the book approach. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 2 '16 at 21:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Here's the discussion on the rules-lawyer removal. It also had some very minor usage in social questions saying "someone's being a rules lawyer, what do I do". I'll note however that rules lawyering isn't strictly analogous - I've seen it used mostly as a pejorative term to describe bad behaviours that bring the game down, like someone who'd look at your awesome homebrew boss and and go "what!? that's not in the books, you can't do that, how dare you." (Even RAW players could find that awesome.) That would make it inappropriate for a RAW tag. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Feb 3 '16 at 0:37

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