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It has come up several times in the last couple days that people have told posters not to add or to remove to/from their answers because it would force answerers to only use RAW.

For example (from this question):

Person A: Might I suggest adding the 'rules-as-written' tag, just to make it clear that you are looking for an exact-words reading of the rules based answer

Person B: Might I suggest not adding that [RAW] tag unless you have some specific, explained reason for wanting a RAW answer?

And from this question:

As you point out, the RAW is in conflict with itself. Thus we cannot give a RAW compliant answer. You should remove the [RAW] tag. 

But my reading of the tag description does not read that way at all:

Questions that are about the logical interactions of a game's rules under a strictly literal reading. Not for questions about normal clarifications of the written rules. Answering rules questions with house-rules and opinions will already be restricted by our site's rules.

So, does using the actually restrict answers to using a strictly RAW interpretation? Can you not answer with a well-sourced Rules as Intended answer for example?


Note: I am aware this was a matter of quite a bit of drama on this site historically. My intent is not to dredge this up, but it is clear that there is confusion about the matter and I was not able to find a clear and definitive answer by digging through all the old posts.

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The tag itself means nothing.

Using the tag means and does nothing. It is just a tag. It exists solely to categorise and describe the question based on content already found in the question itself. It introduces no magical rules or restrictions and no new information, and implies nothing whatsoever not already found in the question text.

All of this is true for all tags. Game system tags are the one and only exception where we might introduce altogether new information in tags alone.

This means if the question does not appear to be laying down any requirements for rules-as-written or legalistic interpretations, should not be tagged on the question. If the question is clearly requesting RAW (or otherwise requesting strict legalistic rules interpretation) it should be tagged . Add or remove the tag as necessary so as to meet these guidelines.

These things were not always the case for the rules as written tag: it used to introduce magical rules all on its own by the mere fact of being present, but that did not work very well for us, and we walked that back to this current state (the default state) 2½ years ago in A low-intervention approach [rules-as-written]: back to tagging basics.

Focus on the question content, not on the tag. Tag to describe and categorise based on the question content.

If someone's asking for RAW information, that doesn't mean only RAW is allowed.

Let's be clear: if someone's asking about how the RAW works, they are seeking that information and answers should be telling them how the RAW works. Answers not telling them that are probably unhelpful.

However:

  • It is perfectly OK to talk about RAW, but then also talk about other stuff. It is fairly normal for a RAW answer to explain the RAW itself... then also explain problems with it, introduce Good Subjective expertise to advise how to better handle the situation, or so on. This is common, normal, and good practice when relevant and helpful. We're fine with doing this.
  • Declining to answer with the RAW and instead answering another way is also an option. It's a form of frame challenge. Much like any frame challenge this is risky. The answer might be helpful, but it might not and instead get strongly downvoted. Proceed at your own risk.

Focus on the querent's problem and their situation and provide a helpful response that helps them figure out their problem. Their problem involves wanting to understand RAW, so respect that in your answer and help them find that understanding (or don't at your own risk). This is no different from what we'd do with any other kind of question in any other tag.

On the situations you cited

Person A: Might I suggest adding the 'rules-as-written' tag, just to make it clear that you are looking for an exact-words reading of the rules based answer

Person B: Might I suggest not adding that [RAW] tag unless you have some specific, explained reason for wanting a RAW answer?

Person A is correct to suggest the RAW tag be added, but for the wrong reasons. The question is already clearly requesting RAW. This alone means we should tag it with RAW. That it draws attention to this question being about RAW is a side benefit but isn't the reason to tag in and of itself.

Person B is incorrect to request the tag not be added: we don't need someone to explain their reasoning before a tag gets applied. It's valid to ask for reasoning, but as far as tagging is concerned, we don't care whether or what reasoning is present. The tag fits, so add it. Go ahead and leave a comment requesting clarification about their reasoning if you feel it's material to the question, though.

As you point out, the RAW is in conflict with itself. Thus we cannot give a RAW compliant answer. You should remove the tag.

This line of reasoning is invalid and I've removed this comment. The querent is asking for rules as written information. Also, as stated, the tag doesn't mean anything, so fussing about the tag is pointless.

If the RAW is invalid, answer with that and show that. It's not unusual for RAW to look a bit like nonsense once we scrutinise it legalistically.

Most important takeaway:

is just a tag, nothing else. Focus on the question content. Tag according to question content. Don't focus on the tag this much. It does nothing other than be a tag. It has no rules attached. We wouldn't fuss about like this, we shouldn't fuss about any moreso.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I still believe that on some level all questions are based in RAW, thus using the tag for question content is unnecessary. It should be used when the answers are desired to be pure RAW. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Oct 8 '18 at 8:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega I acknowledge that position, but it's not consistent with our history of discussions nor our actual historical use of the tag, hence the current interpretation of when to use it. Further, if we used it as a "type of answer" tag it would be a meta tag for not describing question content and have to be removed, so our discussions about "what interpretation of the tag can/should we support?" arrived on this version. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 8 '18 at 8:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ I must say I am confused. I read this post and came to the conclusion that you were advocating it to be used when a RAW answer is requested, but your comment to @Szega suggests not? Your takeaway also sounds to me like 'tags are pointless, who cares?' which I am assuming is not your true meaning? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 8 '18 at 10:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Yes, we use it when a RAW answer is being requested, that is entirely correct. If I'm understanding correctly, Szega is suggesting we use it for a much more constrained situation, when not only RAW is requested, but exclusively only RAW is allowed and any other content in an answer is forbidden—and that approach has been brought up before but isn't workable and is inconsistent with past usage and won't be enforced. Also my takeaway isn't intended to be “tags are pointless” but instead “tags are only for categorisation, tags do nothing else, focus on the question content”. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 8 '18 at 10:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ "RAW answer encouraged" would still be ok in my book (instead of "only RAW allowed"), my point is that this tag is useless in describing the question content. All questions not tagged "homebrew" rely on RAW, we do not need two complementary tags. This tag only makes sense in describing the answers sought (even if only specifying a preference, not a strict restriction). \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Oct 8 '18 at 11:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ (1) RAW answers are encouraged: a question with this tag is one that's asking for RAW, and we're encouraged to answer the question asked. (2) If RAW was synonymous with [rules] then that would be a problem, so it's not: instead it's synonymous with heavy focus on literal/legalistic exploration of the rules, per what exactly is the RAW tag for? and its tag warning. (3) Tags cannot describe answers, but it can describe the nature of the question's request. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 8 '18 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Szega It’s not true that all questions not tagged [homebrew] rely on RAW — this is one example among thousands we have that contradict that statement. Not all questions even require identifying a game system. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 10 '18 at 2:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. The only thing I'd like to add to this answer is that, IMO, even game system tags should not be exceptions to the rule that tags are for describing the subject of the question, not for defining it. It should always be possible to tell which system (if any) a question is asking about even without looking at the tags. If it's not, the question really should be clarified. \$\endgroup\$ – Ilmari Karonen Oct 19 '18 at 1:44

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