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This question comes out of a discussion of the following question:

In Dopplgreener's answer he states

'...designer reasons only demonstrably failed for D&D and similar. There's some history for designer reasons questions working fine for Fate, but those work specifically because the authors write in enormous volumes and detail about their thought processes and philosophies, often within the pages of the very same books, or within their personal blogs. Other games are yet unknown on that front.'

If this is the case, why is there a blanket ban on designer-reasons questions? Is it simply a matter of the amount of time it took moderators to sort out questions that were asked?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe this meta post describes the Stack's current thoughts on the subject. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Dec 19 '18 at 21:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I'm aware of that question, but as far as I can see it doesn't really focus on the fact that the issue with designer intent stuff is limited to a relatively small number of systems (that admittedly make up a large portion of the questions on the site) \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Dec 19 '18 at 21:57
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The ban should stand for all games.

First of all, we don't need to make the rules more complex around here. "You can't talk about X only for D&D" is both complex and will be (rightly) seen as pretty discriminatory against players of that game.

Furthermore, we don't have a good sample set of designer-reasons questions outside D&D but we have no reason to believe they suffer less from this problem. While there are a handful of games where there's lots of explicit designer commentary, in 2018 there's a metric ton of D&D designer commentary as well.

It's not that it's impossible to answer a designer-reasons question with citations for whatever game, or to not answer it. It's that experience has shown us that people don't. As with game-rec questions, I'd love a world in which people would "act right" and answer them constructively - but they don't. And they don't with designer-reasons. They just can't resist answering with their own opinions, then the community rightfully downvotes and VtC's and votes to delete and edits, and then all those people get their nose out of joint, and then there's conflict. Which is why the community said "these aren't worth the hassle, let's stop it."

Scoping that down to just D&D, while I understand the noble sentiment, is wrong-headed; the same problems will appear at the same rate and making rules "just against this for D&D" is something we have not ever done and absolutely do not ever want to do on this stack. We don't want to open the Pandora's box of "well, you can't discuss RAW or shopping or reasons or whatever just for THESE games..." I would resist this with a great degree of vigor and believe that sober reflection on the likely long term ramifications will allow you to come to the same conclusion.

In response to the charge that this is speculation, let's look at the few existing non-D&D/PF designer reasons questions. There's Why is a sniper rifle wealth 4 in open legend rpg? which gets answered by a developer tweet, which is good. There's Why don't we find out what the Frost Shepherds are? which gets answered by emailing the designer but also had to have an answer deleted as speculation. Then there's What reason have the designers said for why they spelled "Rötschreck" with an Umlaut? where community and mods had to delete 8 answers and close the question, and there's Why did the designers move Vengeance of Samiel (Valeren •••••) to level 6 in V20 Dark Ages? where the accepted answer begs the question and when in a comment someone says "but why" they reply "ask the developers."

It is a smaller sample set but it seems just as diseased as the large D&D sample sets. In conjunction with the difficulty of enforcing a selective ban, I see nothing but wishful thinking in favor of this change.

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    \$\begingroup\$ “the same problems will appear at the same rate” — We make policy based on actual problems not speculation, and the actual problems were in D&D questions. I'd like to see if that would really happen. “and making rules "just against this for D&D" is something we have not ever done and absolutely do not ever want to do on this stack.” — There is nothing wrong with applying rules only where they're needed. Using one-size-fits-all for all games based only on evidence for one of them seems an incorrect way to form policy. "If D&D can't do it nobody gets to do it" isn't a reasonable result. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 20 '18 at 9:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I think the extra couple of paragraphs added to the end of this answer addresses those concerns. D&D is just a bigger sample set, so there are more examples to pick on, but it's clear to me from this answer why the type of question is a problem, regardless of system (i.e. whether it's D&D or not). \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Dec 21 '18 at 10:22
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The blanket ban should apply to all systems because [designer-reasons] is equally unhelpful to all systems.

The extra moderation effort on designer reasons is a good reason to ban them on it's own, but the tag in general isn't useful to the site, and encourages question-asking behaviour that is specifically called out in the Help Center as bad.

I don't feel that there's any practical use in asking about the designer's intent directly in a question. Our overall goal here is to help solve people's RPG problems, and outside of "I'm curious about the reasons for this", there's no problem statement that requires designer reasons to answer. What the designers thought about a rule isn't really relevant to solving a problem, how to solve the problem is. Like it says in the Help Center, curiosity isn't a problem that we solve here. Also, as we established in the meta question about how to handle designer quotes, authoritative sources on their own are just sources, and not answers in themselves.

To illustrate this, I'm going to grab a couple well-rated [designer-reasons] questions at random from the tag.

Why is there a saving throw for each ability score?

This question is asking about how the Str, Cha, and Int ability score saving throws can be used in 5e. Quotes from the designers are relevant to the solution, since they can explain future plans for the edition, but the question isn't inherently about the designer reasoning. When asking the question, an equally-valid answer could have been "Oh, on such-and-such a page, this is all explained", without ever referring to the designer's reasoning. Since tags are not intended to restrict answers, applying the designer-reasons tag here didn't add anything to the question.

Have the developers of D&D 5e explained why they made Opportunity Attacks work the way they do?

This question explains a few issues that the querent sees with OAs in 5e, but really only asks about why the designers chose to implement them that way. This doesn't propose a problem to be solved, it just posits a complaint and asks people to explain why things are the way they are. As it says in the Help Center, “I’m curious if other people feel like I do.” is explicitly off-topic. If the querent flipped this around and proposed a 3.5-like homebrew instead, with a question on how that would affect 5e in general, that could be on-topic for the site.

I've looked through a number of other questions in this tag, and the pattern I've described here continues for all the ones that I've seen. There's the core of a solvable problem, but asking about the designer's reasoning doesn't actually help solve the problem.

It's not helpful to the site to have questions that ask us to solve the non-problem of curiosity, rather than asking us to help the actual problem of the game not working the way that people would like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Point of order: ”Our overall goal here is to help solve people's RPG problems, and outside of "I'm curious about the reasons for this", there's no problem statement that requires designer reasons to answer.” Game design is itself on topic, so it isn’t necessarily only end-user curiosity that would require information on design reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Dec 28 '18 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree that information about designer reasons can be a useful part of an answer, but even considering RPG design, I don't think it's a useful restriction for a question to place on it's answers. "How did the 5e devs solve such-and-such problem" is on topic and might be helped by quoting designers, but it's not helpful for the question asker to claim before answers come in that only designer quotes will help them. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Dec 28 '18 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Complaining and asking why things are the way they are is a valid question here; that's 'explain X to me' not 'do you feel the same?'. We do use discretion to tell when a 'can you explain X?' question is secretly just 'validate my feelings!!!!' in disguise. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jan 2 at 4:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer ...yes? I don't think I understand your point, because I don't see the difference between what I posted and your comment. I agree that complaining about a feature of the game in order to have it explained is on-topic. I'm only claiming that restricting answers to only allow designer quotes is not helpful to the site. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Jan 2 at 5:34
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I was speaking personally there and I'll speak personally here too:

Other games just didn't get looked at. I don't know whether it was on anyone's mind to see whether the practice was viable in other game systems. Almost all the discourse was focused on things happening in D&D designer reasons questions, citing D&D designer reasons questions.

There are 63 questions in but only six outside D&D tags. (And two of those are about Planescape and Starfinder respectively, so four if we also skip those.)

Meanwhile there's been a handful of questions about "why are things this way" I've come across in Fate that received successful answers from one of the many places the designers talk about why they do the things they do, which as I mentioned they do at length all the time: in their blogs, in public discussion groups, in the text of Fate Core or various other editions, or in the Fate System Toolkit which is entirely about the philosophy and changing things. D&D doesn't really do that, its designers aren't readily available for asking, an awful lot of decisions get made because that's how things were in an earlier edition, etc.

Since we get to apply our judgement and common sense to applying the rules, I've just chosen not to act on any of those questions in other games where things worked out OK, and I don't think there's any evidence or reason they need to be shut down there.

I'm not speaking for the entire moderation team here, just myself. But I saw some games handling this perfectly fine and not experience any demonstrable failure, so I voiced this as a point against adding the ban to the tour—I don't want to make that statement that would deprive other games of the opportunity to explore this where it's not failing, and see whether it'll be fine for them or not.

It's nothing to do with diamond moderator workload. Ordinary community members were advocating for the ban and voted for it, that's all it took to become a thing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ ....which I believe to be a problem the the DnD-centric nature of the majority of questions, answers and users of the site \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Dec 19 '18 at 22:05
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I’d be fine tightening the off-topic ban to where the problem reared its head: D&D and its relatives (e.g. Pathfinder, Starfinder, D20 Modern…). This wouldn’t create any real burden or substantial practical change.


As a point of order, I think we should always be more concerned about the percentage of questions that cause problems (and their “velocity” of problem spread) than whether it’s “just one game.” The site is dominated by D&D, so it’s fair to make policies to protect the site from widespread problems that just so happen to arise from one game that accounts for an overwhelming percentage of daily posts.

That’s just an aside though, not an argument for maintaining a blanket ban. In this case I think it works to tighten the ban to D&D &co. I just don’t think we should believe there’s a new standard to scope policy by game or always globally — policy should always fit the needs involved rather than blind precedent.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I find this all pretty agreeable. I don't mean to imply policies are scoped per game, but in this instance the matter just unfolded around "this game family" vs all the other games we handle. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 19 '18 at 23:58

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