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What is Precedent?

As part of our quality standards, we assume that the objective of a work of homebrew is to be compatible with the official core book rules content of its given edition of the game. To that end, anything that is being made for the game must be considered in comparison to that core rules content, and nothing else. Obviously, if we were to compare new homebrew to other previously existing homebrew, you can easily begin to slowly drift away from the original mechanical balance of the core rules. This is how you get power creep: when designers stop working within the context of their original system. By requiring content to be considered in the context of only the core rules material, we are ensuring that we do not generate power creep in our homebrew.

Precedent is the system of unwritten standards that core rules content represents. For example, in 5th edition, no simple weapon deals 2d12 damage, so a simple weapon for 5th edition that does deal 2d12 damage would be running contrary to that precedent. Now, that does not mean you are restrained to just replicating the core material, it simply means that the mechanical aspects of your homebrew should be in-tune with it. For example, there are no races that can fly in the core books for 3.5 edition. That does not mean you cannot make a flying race for that edition! However, you will need to find a way to mechanically offset the combat advantage flight offers to ranged PCs, such that it will be mechanically equivalent to the other races of that game.

Also included in precedent are the design standards and guidelines provided by the developers. These standards and guidelines may have been published in a wide variety of forms, including core books, magazines, pamphlets, press releases, interviews, podcasts, web pages, and even twitter posts. This piecemeal release of design standards is done primarily because the developers work for a company, and they need to protect both their copyrights, and their development methods, in order to maintain competitiveness in the market. As a result, it is pretty much impossible to keep track of official design standards, due to their incredibly informal method of release.

That said, where standards are released in an easily accessible form, such as monster design guidelines in a Dungeon Master's Guide, we will make every effort to point those out to you, and even make them available if possible. Regarding those standards which are difficult to access, or were released in a form which nolonger exists, we will make every effort to incorporate those standards into the design guide they are most applicable to.

As a wikian, you have the authority to edit (almost) any page as you see fit. Even if access is barred to normal users on a page, its talk page will always be open for discussion. If you ever see a design guide on this wiki which does not incorporate some element of precedent that you are aware of, edit it in! For example, say one of the developers of 3.5e went on record explaining some of the behind-the-scenes for how they designed spells for that edition, and the design guide for 3.5e spells is not in accord with that; just fix it!

Just understand that, as an absolute baseline of quality, we expect your work to be compatible with the game it was made for. It uses the same rules, and works on the same math. I don't think that's too much to ask: that your work make some sense. It isn't some draconian policy of categorizing balance into some strict system of standardization, nor does it even request your ideas be good in the sense of being original, interesting, or fun!

If you deviate from precedent

It is not the end of the world, nor does it mean your page is unwelcome here! Intentional design decisions have their place. However, it does mean that you need to communicate where it deviates from precedent, and explain that deviation. Basically, you need to put in some extra work to justify that deviation to the rest of us, and to explain the context in which it makes sense and can be used by someone else. The community at large might not necessarily agree with your justification, nor are they expected to. Even within your justification, people may disagree with your execution, and there's really not much of anything anyone can do to stop someone from just editing a page unless we lock it, which is something we like to avoid if we can. (Locking a page is primarily a tool to end vandalism and edit wars.) The best thing to do is to be open, honest, and polite. Talk design theory. Healthy debate is a good thing.

Abnormal/deviant design decisions which may be considered imbalanced due to a wider community disagreement of balance, or due to a playstyle incompatibility, are communicated via the Template:Design Disclaimer which is placed at the top of such a page via

{{Design Disclaimer|# edition|specific details about what is weird}}

Which outputs thus:

Here are some examples of situations which may warrant the use of a design disclaimer.

  • If it doesn't follow the same rules, or follows extra houserules, you need to post the rules it does use, and link to them from it. (No design disclaimer necessary, but can be done through the disclaimer if significant disagreements seem likely.)
  • If it is part of a collection of works which use a different standard of balance, like a campaign setting or a supplement, then that also needs to be communicated, by including the name of the collected works (in the page title) (before its proper categorization). (No design disclaimer necessary, unless significant disagreement without meaningful resolution is evident. There are other rules governing the proper classification of supplement pages.)
  • If it is operating on unusual math, (like a rebalanced fighter to be on-par with a wizard) then it needs a design disclaimer to communicate that to the audience. (See The Same Game Test (DnD Guideline)) The nature of the rebalance mathematics should be explained well enough that another user may deduce how you arrived at your conclusions.
  • If it contains properties which may be complicating to certain players, DMs, or situations, then you should communicate that through a design disclaimer. The disclaimer has templated explanations of the most common hot-topic argument generators, most of which pertain to inhuman movement modes and senses, as these are the things players most often forget/misuse and DMs most often fail to adequately prepare for.
  • The work is intended to be a faithful adaptation of a subject from another medium, (a race from a novel series, a weapon from an anime, etc.) which does not fit within the intended power balance of the edition the adaptation was made for. A good example might be an adaptation of the t-200 terminator as a playable race from the Terminator movies. Any attempt to balance the power of such a thing in any edition would result in an unfaithful representation. Since the objective is a consistent and accurate representation of a pre-existing thing in game terms, the design objectives and meaning of balance will be very different, and therefore require clarification, lest it be incorrectly identified as overpowered silliness. Keep in mind that representations of copyrighted or trademarked media can be legally ambiguous at best, so try and avoid infringing on someone else's licenses, at the very least as a point of ethical courtesy.
  • The content only works within a specific playstyle. For instance, a class with features which assume all challenges a character faces, including social problems, will be handled through checks rather than roleplay. Such a class is nonsense to a DM who resolves all non-combat situations by the quality of the player's performance and hardly ever calls for check throws. These kinds of assumptions which restrict accessibility should be made clear up-front, especially if they deal with contentious playstyles such as MacGuyver-ism or a Called Shot system.

Do note that this template is for pages that deviate from standard design in a planned way, not for tacking on to something to excuse poor or incomplete design. The main goal of sharing content on this wiki is that it should be in a state that is usable to other users, even if a subset of users vehemently believe your idea should be erased or completely remodelled due to an overly narrow definition of balance, and even if a DM would need to run a specific type of campaign in order to make use of your content.

This is the "D&D Wiki". Not the "elitist D&D game design hobbyists wiki". We expect quality workmanship and civil discourse, not theoretical system mastery and snobery. We should work together to improve each others work, not only for the good of the wiki as a whole, but for the good of ourselves and each other as fellow hobbyists and wikians. D&D is an extremely flexible game, and that's a good thing. Above all, promote fun through kindness. Unless someone is actually acting in bad faith, there's no need to get all serious and bent out of shape.

This wiki is our collective table. These people you are interacting with are your allies- maybe even distant friends. Treat them like it.

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