The question: Is 'what is the rationale behind the design of X' a proper question for rpg.se?

To elaborate: The question is motivated by my current predicament: D&D 3 and 3.5 have certainly shown that some features are better designed than others. Some are completely, obviously, irredeemably broken and should be just banned by GM. Others are not beyond repair, with some goodwill and work can be made functional and balanced.

But after reading D&D 5 warlock three times and failing confusion saving throw three times, I find myself beyond confused. Stupefied. This... what is that supposed to even be? What was the designer even thinking? How is that even SUPPOSED to work? <- these are important questions, because how would I fix something if I don't even know how it was supposed to work in a first place.

The idea is that while certainly we cannot know what exactly was the developer thinking at the moment of writing the feature X, with both practical experience in using the feature and through quotes and talks with the developers we should, in principle, be able to get a pretty good approximation of the thought that was standing behind the design of the feature X.

Thus, I ask here if this sort of question is allowed on rpg.se

  • \$\begingroup\$ What don't you understand about the Warlock? I am not sure what it is that you are seeking to fix. (If you can visit us in RPG.SE chat, maybe some detail will emerge that helps? ) Beyond that, if you go to youtube and insert the search terms Jeremy Crawford Warlock and Mike Mearls Warlock, and possibly even Christopher Perkins Warlock you may find some youtube summaries about their feelings on the class. And James Wyatt Warlock. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Relevant main site question that was answered with quotes: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/41089/… \$\endgroup\$
    – DuckTapeAl
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 4:03

3 Answers 3


This type of question is OK, but will not be allowed to receive speculation, so you should consider strongly whether asking “what's the rationale for why it is this way?” will actually give you the answers you're looking for.

We can easily tell you what it does, and whether it really means you can do a specific thing, according to what the text there says. If you're wondering if it's supposed to do that, what you're going to be asking about here is the designer's intent: you want to know why they did what they did. This type of question is usually tagged .

Per multiple previous discussions, questions about a designer's intent, reasoning, etc, has only one acceptable type of answer: an answer that cites explicit designer statements demonstrating conclusively what they were thinking or what their intent or reasoning was, because they are saying so and we are quoting them saying so — or something very close to equally convincing. Answers not providing citation of this level get deleted.(note)

These rules exist because otherwise we get a lot of answers containing pure speculation on what somebody thinks the designer might have been thinking. Sometimes these answers also attempt to reverse engineer conclusions from some limited amount of related output in the game, but that doesn't make the speculation any more correct — it just means it now has truthiness. It's making guesses either way. Those answers aren't OK, and get removed.

The alternative to having these rules right now is that these questions just get closed as primarily opinion-based, since they just invite tons of opinion on “here's why I think things are this way” and then the question gets five different answers all providing different contradictory speculation on why things are this way, not all of which can be true and all of which have no conclusive evidence whatsoever.

That means:

The idea is that while certainly we cannot know what exactly was the developer thinking at the moment of writing the feature X, with both practical experience in using the feature and through quotes and talks with the developers we should, in principle, be able to get a pretty good approximation of the thought that was standing behind the design of the feature X.

The only kinds of answers that we'll accept are those that do know, and show you they know, because they are quoting the developer saying so. We won't accept answers that just try to get a sort of good approximation.

If there are no such quotes available, you may get no answers, or you may get speculation (which we'll delete).

Note: These special rules are frequently attributed to a magical attribute of the [designer-reasons] tag, that exist if and when that tag exists, but it's nothing to do with the tag. It's the class of questions that has these rules — that class of question just usually coexists with this tag. Tags don't apply rules, they just describe the content of the question.

  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ My favorite example of the havok that would be caused without this policy is this question. It gathered 7 (now all deleted) answers that tried to infer designer intent from the existing text and came to ~7 different conclusions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 5, 2018 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I greatly appreciate the effort put into Your rather full, exhausting answer. Given that few days have gone and there haven't been any new developments, I think it is fair to accept it. Still I cannot stop myself from expressing my... let's call it 'disappointment'. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maciej
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Empischon I'm of two minds about it. One is disappointed we have to have such tight constraints. The other isn't: we're not losing anything of value. We're only losing people tossing out wild guesses & extrapolations, with no evidence they're right, but presenting it as fact anyway, which misleads us and gives us a false sense of security we have the right answer—but it might be completely wrong: authors make mistakes, editors change words, features get dropped/added/changed during development which changes what the words mean but the words don't get updated. We don't know what they meant. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, instead... we just require people only say what intentions were when they actually know what the person meant, because there's clear evidence of what they meant, because someone's saying what they meant. Anything short of that is, historically, probably a 100% wrong guess, and just as wrong as all the other 5 guesses the question will gather, all contradicting that one and each other. We'd only know it's a correct guess if it's not a guess at all: they cite the person saying what they mean. Working through that, it's not worthwhile to require anything less than actual clear statements. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 9:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I have a lot on my mind with this topic, but I'll throw just one thing: what is lost is a capability to ask questions and seek knowledge about game design and game theory. These are very, very solid topics, to the point where the game theory is an active field of research of importance both to biology and mathematics, one can objectively talk about them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maciej
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Empischon You can still ask about game design and game theory; that's totally separate and doesn't incur these restrictions. You can also ask about why a designer chose X—all we do is require that answers actually provide you with a conclusively correct answer ("their reason was Y, here's them saying so"). We don't accept people giving you wild guesses/speculation they pretend/think are correct; why would we want that anyway? We might want that because of discussion value, but we don't do discussions on Stack Exchange anyway: forums do that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 11:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it intended that some of these questions remain unanswered indefinitely as we all know that designers don't share their reasons the majority of the time or it is simply because "it was that way in a previous version" or that it was an error? \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 20:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth It's intended they remain unanswered until they get a proper answer. No answers is better than bad answers. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 16, 2018 at 20:27

What you want is a question about

It will give you the rationale from the perspective of the designers as far as that is available. Answers that don't cite sources can get deleted when you frame your question accordingly. Just be sure to explicitly state what part you are interested in. A broad "How is the Warlock class supposed to work?" is far more difficult than a "What did designers say why they wanted to have Warlocks regenerate all of their spell slots after each short rest?".


You might want to ask specific questions about the things you want to change. So don't ask about designers intent, ask about Homebrew.

"Would it unbalance the game/have unintended sideeffects if I changed X".

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, we can't always actually tell you why something is the way it is (if quotes aren't available), but we can often tell you the impact of changing something since we can legitimately draw that from expertise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, not that it matters much, but You missed the rationale behind the question. I do not have, I CANNOT have an idea what to change and into what if I first don't have a vision of how a given thing was supposed to work in the first place. There are two possible ways to get that vision - either directly from the author or attempt to 'decompile', infer the idea from the broken machine itself. This lead to the question itself as it was phrased - is it okay on rpg.se. Doppelgreener explains that the former thing is okay, but the latter is not. What You mention is ten steps later ahead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maciej
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ yes that is true. You may want to check a forum for that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 13:23

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