(As requested on my answer to a broader question about the tag here, I'm (re-)posting this as a new question.)

The tag has its current name for a good reason: For people who hang out in RPG forums and are familiar with RAW/RAI arguments it precisely describes what it's all about, and I know a lot of our users who follow the tag come from that environment.

Unfortunately, a lot of the new users who wander into RPG.SE don't come from that environment, and aren't actually looking for a strict RAW analysis when they use the tag. They have a question about rules, that's the only major tag with the word "rules" in its name (since, as mentioned, we blacklisted the tag for being both a meta tag and uselessly vague), so they slap it on their question even though their question has nothing to do with how the RPG.SE community would like the tag to be used (or with how the greater RPG Internet community would understand the tag's name).

Renaming the tag has been proposed before and received a somewhat positive response from the community (as of this the post, the proposal is +6/-3). As mentioned above, the phrase "rules as written" has a very distinct meaning in a broad swathe of the community that perfectly encapsulates how the tag is intended to be used, and the tag's adherents would be absolutely correct to say that changing it to anything else will cost it clarity with users coming from those parts of the greater RPG community. But the current phrasing is also causing a lot of misuse (which as mentioned, is the fault of the blacklisted tag rather than the RAW tag itself).

The linked proposal suggested or . Those are both clunky and have the added problem of emphasizing another aspect of the tag that has been the subject of contention (its tendency to restrict answers rather than describing the question). Personally I would prefer something that doesn't contain the word "rules" at all to properly take care of the tag's recurring misuse; at the very least any new tag name shouldn't start with the word "rules".

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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggested the tag [by-the-book] in a comment without knowing such a tag had been previously rejected, but perhaps it's time to revisit that bit of jargon? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 27 '16 at 15:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ There was also a previous proposal to have a [rules-clarification] tag as a honeypot for the untutored which was rejected but we've started to talk about again too. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I suggest we put this on hold briefly until KRyan posts the "what do we mean by a RAW question on rpg.se" question, I think once we have agreement on that tag names, wikis, pro formas, etc. all follow pretty trivially. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 21:31

Unfortunately, a lot of the new users who wander into RPG.SE [...] aren't actually looking for a strict RAW analysis when they use the tag.

As usual, [Citation Needed]

Any renaming of the tag is premature at this point. We do not have the data demonstrating any need to do so.

Since we’re going to be questioning the use of the tag when it’s used without reference to it in the body of the question,

  1. Any misuse will be discovered and fixed anyway

  2. We will be able to actually track how much misuse actually occurs. It makes far more sense to revisit this question after that happens.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That it's premature to treat the problem—as the rest of your post argues—is helpful. But here's the deal about “I don't see a problem”: it's a personal observation. It doesn't trump others' observations who have personally witnessed the problem. In opposing an idea, “I reject your reality and substitute my own” is an admission of defeat, since it's a maneuver you can't successfully achieve—that responsibility and right being exclusively reserved for ♦ mods. You might be correct that it's not a problem, but lacking that ♦ you need to provide evidence, not the other way around. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 27 '16 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie No, I don’t believe that is your right. The fact that you do believe it is, is a very strong sticking point in our relationship, as well as the mods’ relationship with everyone else on this site. “I don’t see a problem” is a statement that you lack the evidence that, as the person proposing a change, need, because the burden of proof is on you to convince the community that a change offers more benefit than harm. Moving forward unilaterally is not something the SE Theory of Moderation calls on moderators to do; it is in fact quite the opposite of what it calls for. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 21:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the mods see a problem, the mods are empowered to do something about it. That's pretty basic mod 101. It's even more important to use that entrusted power when the community is deadlocked and paralysed over an issue—mods are there to break deadlocks, among other things. That's why saying only “I reject! I am a wall!” is admitting defeat; if that's all someone's got, the mods aren't beholden to it at all. (Aside, the Theory of Moderation is something we're already entrusted to fulfill and understand thoroughly; it can't be used to rules-lawyer us or puppetteer our actions.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 27 '16 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie From my latest foray into usage, the assumption of a problem remains just that, an assumption. No further comment as I delve into details. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 28 '16 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm inclined to give some weight to the experience of the folks who are obligated to watch flags and notice problems, and have extra tools for overviewing the site's health and trends. I would like to see some more statistics/examples in order to better understand the problem they're seeing, as that seems useful in getting a handle on a good solution. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Feb 28 '16 at 2:46

No, at least not yet.

As we have not yet put together a data driven basis from which to consider a decision, I'd suggest that the answer is no, at least not yet, since we collectively are still not quite sure if there is a problem that warrants action.

Doppelgreener has already suggested a two month look at current usage and I am working back through the past year to look at how it has been used.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves.

And while I am at it, this question illustrates to me a few of the points in usage of that term that are of interest. There are a number of users who very much use the RAW tag explicitly with a particular goal in mind, one of whom is @Sebkha. This question isn't alone, but a number of querents take the same approach. Look at these comments associated with the non-accepted (but pretty good anyway) answer. @nvoigt wrote the accepted answer on a RAW basis: short, sweet, too the point.

We have users for whom this tag has an explicit value.

I marked the 30/120 answer as accepted since this was tagged as a rules-as-written question, but I completely agree with your appeal to consistency. It'd be 120 at my table. – Sebkha Apr 20 '15 at 2:40

Sebkha and @nvoigt - good to know. I realised I was being a bit more creative than RAW often allow, though looking at the definition on rpg.se I'm not sure if I've actually missed the mark, as the tag definition is "Interpretations and applications of rules that only take into consideration specifically what published game material states," and what I tried to do here was interpret and apply the published rules. I suppose the limits of interpretation and application are also subject to interpretation :-) – harlandski Apr 20 '15 at 5:05

I suppose the limits of interpretation and application are also subject to interpretation

As I sipped my coffee, I chortled. Rule 0 lives IRL. Using judgment is a Good Thing(TM).

  • \$\begingroup\$ While I appreciate your work in the data analysis, I think the fact that issues with the tag keep getting brought up, but different people, again and again over time on meta, and that each time it causes even larger argument and dissatisfaction in the community, is more than adequate to prove beyond any reasonable doubt we need to do something. Now, what exactly we need to do, yes, a characterization of the various failure modes of tagging would be useful. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 28 '16 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk My current batch shows a few things but I want to get a couple of more months to get a sense of how it clusters. Making the tag useful is only party the way ahead, because for some of our users, it is very useful. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 28 '16 at 20:59

The Issue

I do agree that the problem is usually new crops of players (and this is a big deal with 5e getting new players now) that have kinda heard the terms RAW and RAI and decide to use them without really knowing what they mean (@KRyan himself wrote a good meta on how RAI is often used very incorrectly).

The Tag Change

I would propose [rules-as-written-only] as the new tag. It's a very small change, both people familiar with the existing rules-as-written tag and newbs just typing it in will easily find the tag, unlike [raw] or [answer-requires-rules-citation] (the latter of which is about answers and is therefore a meta tag). [raw] as a synonym would be good of course. But I think the "only" would be a marker to new folks to indicate "hey... we don't just mean rules questions, we mean questions strictly about the rules as written." [strictly-rules-as-written] would be similar but less catchy.

If we change it to something without the "common use" phrase ("rules-as-written") in it we may as well just be killing the tag, as tags are properly for findability and collection, not primarily telling you how to answer. Only experienced site people would be able to figure out we have some custom weirdly named tag for rules-as-written, and lack of obviousness is the #1 sin a tag can make - they're not a taxonomy for the site elite, they need to be obvious to newbs and to Google searches. That's fixing the problem in a double wrong way - just killing the tag would be preferable to replacing it with something esoteric.

Plus Some Tag Wiki

I think that, plus maybe some tag wiki editing and a backing post on meta about raw/rai/etc aimed at newbs might solve the problem without moving the tag too far from its obvious naming. The tag under any name can encourage sloppy questions that use the tag as a substitute for the questioner stating what they really want... Even "RAW" often needs more clarification (So, any published work for that game? Or do you mean just first party not third party? Do you accept the Rules Compendium and FAQ or no? What about Dragon Mag/Website/whatever freaky mobile thing it is now? What about designer tweets? etc....) I think in the tag wiki we should say something about "don't use this as a substitute for using your words..."

None of this is a 100% fix, as we know newbs don't always read tags or tag wikis. But neither do they always respond to comments or edit their questions or use coherent English or anything else; the question is will this reduce the incidence of "saying RAW when I mean just rules stuff."

Other Options

[raw] is suboptimal because this problem wouldn't exist if all the newbs knew what RAW really meant in the first place. It will fix class 1 of question (newbs so newb they haven't even heard of RAW but are just looking for any tag with "rules" in it) but not class 2 of question (newbs who have heard the terms RAW and RAI and whatnot but are using them without full knowledge of what's up).

[answer-must-quote-rulebook] or [answer-requires-rules-citation] are actively bad because a) they are meta tags trying to control answers instead of describing the question and b) because they are custom items only usable by the elite of the site, with no SEO value or accessibility to newbs. They also will be used incorrectly - "well sure even if I'm not asking a RAW question I'd like people to cite the rules they do talk about!"

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    \$\begingroup\$ My objection to “only” is that it presupposes that frame challenges are uniquely verboten under that tag—and the same new users who may be unfamiliar with what “rules as written” means are far more likely to be unfamiliar with our meta-rules on that subject or on our “default settings” for rules questions. We have a lot of questions that are “well, I want it to be by the book, but if there really isn’t anything, then I guess something else is OK,” and that is not a desire that matches perfectly with our default expectations of how rules questions can be answered. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ We have a lot of recommendations that our questions be asked as specifically as possible because of the frame-challenge meta, which would make “only” OK, but I think communicating that is both more difficult, and likely to be more often necessary than explaining “rules as written.” \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 15:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't forbid frame challenges - but frame challenge may not mean what you think it means. See meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/3318/… - it's mainly about XY questions et al. I would expect the [*-rules-as-written-*] tag to be used if you want literal RAW only. If you want rules or failing that something else, that's "no tag" - or at worst, using your words and saying “well, I want it to be by the book, but if there really isn’t anything, then I guess something else is OK" in the body of your question. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ As someone answering RAW questions, someone interested in what the book says and only interested in something else if the book has nothing, would be a question I am interested in answering and interested in seeing highlighted (¬_¬). From my perspective, I want to see the RAW tag if, should it be necessary, a torturous analysis of the text will be appreciated. If the asker would prefer to skip that when the rules are bad and just use someone’s recommendation, I’d rather the tag not be there. That is my rule of thumb criterion. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, regarding misunderstanding frame challenge: I would consider “well, here’s what the rules say, but...” to be a frame challenge, and I would also consider “the rules literally have nothing to say, here are the points that touch closest but they don’t quite cover that case, and here are the books I checked for anything that does. Considering that lack, here’s my rec...” to also be a frame challenge. Would you care to address those particular cases? My concern with appending “only” is that users might be under the impression that those answers would be prevented by it. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 15:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ (I will say that I do agree that appending -only to the tag is by-far the best suggestion for a rename that I’ve yet seen, and should it be demonstrated that we need to do something, that would be an approach I’d try. I am merely commenting with concerns that are sufficient, in my mind, to avoid making that change until we have more data.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 15:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure. Well, per that frame-challenge meta, those are usually bad frame challenges (see the last two paragraphs of the other meta's answer). A frame challenge isn't usually something the questioner wants - if they do they should relax their frame. It's usually done because they're missing the point. I imagine a lot of people telling people asking RAW questioners they're missing the point and they should do X instead would anger both of us. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ This circles around a discussion I had with dopplegreener where he basically said "no tag means about 90% about the rules, then rulings and homebrew, [raw] means 99% but enforced by lasers..." a 9% difference is not worthy of a tag and is very confusing to folks. I think r-a-w-o doesn't say anything about "no frame challenge allowed" but I think in the backing tag wiki/meta we'd definitely say "look, use this tag if you want a purely literal rules analysis; if you want a mix of that and experience and other solutions don't tag it in the first place." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 15:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Alright, then not “frame challenge” but... I dunno, “value add”? A user could get the impression that using the tag would prevent commentary or suggestions as supplements to an answer, which is not and should not be the case, and that’s still distinct from the default case. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 15:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think there's a real hard and fast rule but we handle that organically all the time in other contexts. Like if you ask a D&D rules question, there's a certain amount to which a cross-system suggestion from Savage Worlds might help - but if it's more than about 10% of your answer it's actually quite annoying and unhelpful to the questioner. This is about assuming good faith on behalf of the questioner - "no really I want RAW analysis. Please keep your opinions to very peripheral comments." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Because one person's value add is another person's disrespect, especially when they've clearly marked what they want their question to be about. But like with all questions, we want the question to be clear, and signal to people they're going too far outside the bounds with downvotes. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: pushing the envelope: I know that, my concern is that new users not familiar with the site won’t necessarily, and that seems to me both harder to communicate and more likely to need communication than explaining what RAW is. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: value adds: OK, I buy that, but... my primary concern is “how does X happen in game Y?” questions. Not explicitly about any singled out rule, as they don’t know what rules are relevant, but my default expectation in asking such a question would be that an answer would start by addressing any relevant rules (and stop there unless there’s a serious problem or serious lack therein). That is not the site’s default expectation for such questions. I have therefore used rules-as-written for such questions, and I think that is useful. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 27 '16 at 16:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Per the linked chat discussion I think we need a more general "what does raw mean here" question that will get us all one one page and then in turn inform specifics like tag name, tag wiki, pro forma comment, this community enforcement effort, etc. KRyan has agreed to post that soon. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Feb 27 '16 at 21:28

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