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(I ask this as someone who mainly asks dnd5e questions, as such I am using terms like DM, RAI in the official D&D capacity)

Whenever I ask a question I get a lot of replies in the vein of "at my table...", "when I dm...", "in games that I've played...", "a common houserule is...", "most dms...", few replies directly referencing the rule, and often none actually quoting the rules.

I understand that the majority of the questions on this site are about giving opinions, but sometimes I am interested in what the rules say instead. I feel very bad telling people that while their well thought out answer is interesting it isn't what I'm looking for. I think other people feel like they are being disrespected and their extensive experience is being dismissed. It would be great to be able to manager poster's expectations so they know, before making a long post, that I may not be looking for that kind of answer.

I usually try to add "I am asking about RAW/RAI" but that isn't enough, answers with neither RAW/RAI justification nor quotes come to the top. Should I be writing "In RAW does XYZ" in the title?

In the same token but slightly different, often people jump straight to DM fiat as an answer, sometimes giving very lengthy recommendations about how a DM can fiat the situation. The DM can overrule everything, it's a given that in dnd the DM can do anything, I don't want to hear that a DM can modify the rules. Meanwhile after a dozen such replies at the bottom, downvoted, is a succinct reply quoting the rules directly.

If there really are no rules, that's fine. If you first explore the rules then talk about how you play/modify them, that's fine too. That is all welcome and interesting information for after the question is answered. What I don't like is immediately throwing out the rules without even saying what they actually are.

"In RAW, without DM fiat, does XYZ" is getting a little clunky. I would love some advice.

To be clear, the kinds of answers I am looking for are: "In this section the rules say [quote], and in this section they say [quote], therefore XYZ. This is also supported by [quote]" I am not looking for answers like: "most DMs play it like this XYZ" or "XYZ (with no justification)"

Perhaps a better question would be: Should the default answer for dnd5e questions be "RAW/RAI", "the dm decides", or "in my opinion", and when is it appropriate to move to non-default answers.

To put forward my own opinion: RAW/RAI should be first (with quotes from the rules), then DM decides (with quotes from the rules/dmg), then opinions (perhaps supported by experience).

EDIT: An example is this thread: By RAW: when attacking while hidden, what does it mean to "give away your location"? The top answers do not quote the rules. Frustratingly I tried to ask them to support their answers with rules, but a mod deleted the comments and told me to post a reply, and I did so with as many rule quotes as I could but it just gets downvote bombed without anyone commenting. As such the top answers are, while interesting, entirely useless to me since they are not supported by the rules.

EDIT2: I came across a great example of the problem in this thread The first few answers assumed that there are no rules and went straight to houserule. One user even said that they thought the question should be closed as "opinion based". However the accepted answer is supposed by a direct quote from the rules explicitly outlining how to handle the situation. I would consider the other answers to be not only offtopic, but dangerous to anyone who comes to SE with the same question. Unfortunately despite being explicit that I wanted RAW people still upvoted these dangerous houserules that were presented as RAW.

A user coming to the site looking for RAW will see the top answer to a question with houserules and may not investigate enough to realise they are not actual rules.

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Yep, just make it very clear that you are asking a strictly rules-focused question.

We have a culture that encourages answer-writers to approach solving a question’s problem with the answer they think works best, and you’re getting a lot of those. To prevent them, write the question in such a way that it’s obvious those answers are off topic for your question.

It’s not enough to indicate how you’d prefer it be answered, due to that culture. To get answers to focus on rules first and only, make only those topical to the question. That also will realign votes around the on-topic answer that is best.

Often the best way is in the first paragraph. “I’m trying to understand the rules of X as written, before DM judgement gets involved…” and similar things work. It makes the question about something that doesn’t include DM fiat or the results of applying Rule Zero.

The title is good too, but doesn’t always make a good title. When it does, certainly flag a RAW focus in the title. But atill always weave it directly into the body text too, so it’s inseparable from the question, so the reader can’t accidebtally overlook it.

Putting that core aspect of the question first also helps prevent people from forming an off topic answer after only reading part way through the question. Best practice is to read the whole question first, but best is an ideal not everyone manages every day. You want to work with their assumption: nothing critical to the question is placed like an afterthought. Unless the question itself is at the end, a detail like “RAW only” is best put up front.

We have significant experts in the RAW hermeneutic tradition, and you want to get their attention early. You also want to flag the experts who specialise in other interpretation approaches early on that this just isn’t their question.


I say “RAW” here, but the same goes double for “RAI” since it has two different, incompatible meanings: Intended versus Interpreted. Be really clear which you’re asking about: when you think “RAI”, instead just write it out long form.

It’s probably best to keep RAW and RAI separate too: one question about both, asking what is “RAW/RAI” on a topic, is likely to run into problems. The three are distinct enough that both in one post is more likely to be put on hold as too broad.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, but no matter what you do, you will get answers that ignore those constraints. The best you can hope for is that voters will take it into account. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Oct 18 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks SevenSidedDie. Personally I find it a little frustrating, I'm used to StackExchange sites shunning opinions :P Would you recommend me re-asking questions with "by RAW only" or should I edit my questions to make it clear I'm asking about RAW? Also, RAI has a specific meaning in dnd, according to official terminology it means 'Rules as Intended', as opposed to 'Rules as Interpreted' which is actually a synonym for 'Rules as Written' (since you have to interpreting a rule is part of reading it). For dnd should I specify that I am using dnd's RAI or is it assumed? \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 18 at 12:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn As commented above, avoid using the acronym RAI. Just write it out honestly, not much more space. \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 18 at 13:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn RPGs are loaded with opinions and subjective things, and being experienced and expert in that was covered in the first three or four pages of Meta back when this site stood up. This site isn't about computer code. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 18 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ As for edit vs re-ask: that will depend on the current state of a given question. You can figure that out in the comments on a question, and there is more general guidance in some metas. The default is to re-ask, but there are exceptions (link is just one example), so it’s a judgement call that’s sensitive to the situation around a given question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 18 at 14:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn I was shocked when a mod told me that the purpose of this site isn't asking/answering questions, it's about farming reputation Uh, no. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 18 at 16:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ This can only be understood as "helping people is secondary to gaining reputation Actually, you chose to understand it that way. We each see things through our own lenses and filters. Your concern about barriers to entry is something that I share. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 18 at 17:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn First impressions of short communications in comments may be inaccurate or lack necessary nuance. Rep farming is not the culture here. In fact, that mod statement instead reflects the community’s strong opposition to the appearance of rep farming. The Q&A database curation goal is for all SE, and is similar to a Help site in many ways, but is different in some important ones. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 18 at 17:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn The fact is that helping the user asking the question is not our only goal and we are not committed to pursuing that goal at the expense of hurting others for example. In this case, you were pointed that way because you copy and pasted another answer without attribution (and you have since fixed it). You'll find that attribution and citation are very important to us because it is important that the source of the information is specified and gets due credit. I think you'll find that this policy is generally enforced across the network in this manner. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 18 at 18:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn That’s an inference that has inaccurate intermediate steps. Here’s the short version: We’re not a help site: we don’t help at any cost, because helping is a means, not the ends, of this site. Our actual mandate is to curate a Q&A database that solves recurring problems. Helping the individual is not the ends, so cannot be used to justify contravening site rules. The rep is besides the point: the point was a) don’t copy without citing, because that’s a rule, and “but help is better than not helping” is not a valid defense; b) separately, rep as a feedback mechanism may also kick in. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 19 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn That’s again asserting that the point was reputation. I don’t feel like repeating again that it wasn’t and isn’t, or get into a complex discussion of feedback loop social engineering system design. Instead I will just get cranky, point out that I have far more experience with how SE works as both a user and a retired mod, and go do something that is interesting. That aside though, I am also confident that what patient explanation hasn’t accomplished, experience likely will, and these misconceptions don’t actually need personal correcting since they’ll do that naturally with time. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 19 at 2:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn: My comment boiled down to "don't copy others' answers without credit". At no point did I say I agreed with everything stated in the answer to MSE question I linked, nor did the MSE answer I linked say "Reputation is more important than helping people"... and frankly, I don't even see how that's a reasonable reading of that MSE answer, let alone my comment. In any case, given that I (the one who posted the comment) have now disagreed with that reading of my comment or of the linked MSE answer, I don't see what the point of dwelling on that argument is. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 19 at 3:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn We are legally and ethically required to demand the citation and attribution of answers and not doing so opens up this site to problems and drama we don't want to handle. It has nothing to do with reputation and certainly not to do with how easy it is to gain. Additionally, we are committed to curating a high quality QA database. Answers who plagiarise run afoul of our desire for quality and thus are not allowed. A database full of junk answers is worth nothing. Simple as that. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Oct 19 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn You’re going off half-cocked several times a day. There are no smoke and mirrors, just a steep learning curve and you not exercising patience to go through it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 19 at 15:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ To respond more directly to one point: there is a straightforward explanation. It’s just not being accepted. (To address the two latest Wac-A-Moles: deletion serves the goal of curation, so deletion is not proof of your theory on rep [if it’s not obvious how it serves curation, try assuming it’s being said in good faith before assuming it’s wrong and requiring it be proved]; “discarding answers to preserve the value of rep shows…” is inaccurate: nobody said that deletion is to preserve the meaning of rep, that’s your own addition, which your conclusions invalidly depend on.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 19 at 17:20
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Why you can't

If you frame your question as only asking for a RAW reading of the rules, you'll get the same answers, only some of them will be written as

Frame challenge : instead of RAW you should [insert other ruling here]

instead of

Instead of RAW you should [insert other ruling here]

Why you shouldn't

In many cases a strict RAW reading of the rules can lead to a nonsensical ruling, and the best way to move forward is to ignore the rules and do as you like. If you managed to only get RAW answers, you'd risk missing out on some good advice from experienced GMs that could make your game better.

Just ask your question as is and let the stack do the work. Good answers will go up and bad answers down based on their quality, not based on their RAWness, and you might end up pleasantly surprised.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you need to ask about RAW, that means that the rules as written were at best unclear, at worst detrimental. You're already turning to people on the internet to know what you should do. But for some reason you don't trust us to bring up the rules when relevant ? Or to upvote the best-researched best-argued answers ? \$\endgroup\$ – Pierre Cathé Oct 18 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Asking "how does X work" and getting "I houserule Y" isn't helpful for me unfortunately :/ \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 18 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn I quote this observation by BESW with some frequency, but I think it captures what RPGSE is built to do. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 18 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also this comment section is focusing a lot on the "shouldn't" part, but the "can't" part is equally important ! However you frame your question you can get a frame challenge answer saying "actually don't do that" and if many people agree that it's the best answer, then it'll rise to the top and there's not much you can do about it. \$\endgroup\$ – Pierre Cathé Oct 18 at 15:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn they just made up their own house rules because they didn't like RAW Nope. You need to understand 5e a bit better. One of the things that they know which you do not is that in 5e a ruling is not (necessarily) a house rule. Your dismissing of the contributors here is not well done. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 18 at 17:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn All I can say is; hang in there. :-) And please be patient. We are all human here. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 18 at 17:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Thanks, I will try the suggestions put forward by everyone in this thread, and hopefully I can get the kind of answers that I am after! \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 18 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I don’t know about this answer. In regular practice, these questions are asked and answered successfully all the time. The evidence is that it can be done, and that it’s useful, so “can’t” and “shouldn’t” demonstrably cannot be true. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 18 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yeah maybe it's not phrased so well, basically what I mean is that you can't really choose the answers you're going to get \$\endgroup\$ – Pierre Cathé Oct 18 at 21:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn site culture prevents people from getting the answers they request That observation appears to be objectively false. I took a look at stats and find that there are over 24,000 accepted answers, with over 33,000 questions asked. I think that part of the overlap is that when a question is closed as a dupe, one accepted answer will have answered multiple questions. There are a total of 130 questions currently that have either no accepted answer or no upvoted answers. Granted, there are some categories of question that are off topic (currently, tool requests, system recommendation) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 19 at 15:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I should hope that site culture is preventing people from getting the answers they request, personally. (Speaking as a sheep, here, not for the mod-team.) I have come to believe that some of the worst of RPGSE has come from when querents spend ink trying to proscribe the form and content of answers rather than describe their problems/constraints well enough that voters can decide what type of answer really is the best. I may post a meta answer along those lines, if I can pull it together and do it justice. Then again, maybe I won't. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 20 at 2:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn Suggest you read my whole comment. You are demonstrating a willful misunderstanding of what I explained about those numbers. That is not an example of interacting in good faith. if the question is on topic, is not put on hold as unclear or too broad, and isn't a dupe All SE sites have the problem of questions that are not on topic, not well scoped, dupes, and so on. All SE sites have this problem with the Signal to Noise ratio and the system is built to clean out the noise. If you cannot accept that, you might want to spend your time elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 20 at 3:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Some numbers. There are currently only 101 unanswered, on-topic Qs (open, non-duplicate, 0 answers). Of the rest, currently 8,761 have no accepted answer (open, non-dup, >0 answers, none accepted). Of those, only 131 are counted by SE standards as unanswered (have no positive scored answers). \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 20 at 5:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn I am not sure that you are aware that a lot of people will ask a question, some answers will show up, and for (some reason) the green check mark never shows up. You can't force people to vote. Sorry, your statement was objectively false - with 24,600+ accepted answers. your assertion site culture prevents people from getting the answers they request cannot be construed as correct. 131 out of 36,320 looks like a decent ratio to me. (See Seven's comment) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 20 at 11:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn what you attribute to culture is an artifact of structure. This has been explained to you by both SevenSidedDie (in a comment here on Meta) and by BESW in chat; using the SO/SE structure to achieve a particular result means that there are bounds to what questions fit the format. (Your hiding question certainly was well within that framework, and you did initial the kind of initial research that I wish more people would). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 20 at 15:42

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