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There has been some contention recently over the RAW-ness of officially published FAQs for tabletop games. While (as far as I am aware) the D&D 3.5 FAQ is not considered RAW, I'm not aware of any such determination where Pathfinder is concerned. Since the Pathfinder FAQ is written by Paizo and is considered official by the company, can we consider the Pathfinder FAQ to be RAW? If there is a rules clarification in the FAQ that does not conflict with existing rules, is that clarification RAW?

Since this seems to be contentious, please provide answers which are as definitive as possible with officious-looking citations.

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I seriously don't know if the question should be edited to say official instead of officious. –  Hey I Can Chan Apr 17 '14 at 19:57
@HeyICanChan LOL, yeah, I noticed that right off and decided to leave it. It's more accurate. :-) –  mxyzplk Apr 17 '14 at 20:48

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Yes, the Pathfinder FAQ is RAW - inasmuch as RAW is definable.

The Pathfinder FAQ is attached to the relevant product pages, it is written by the game designers, and considered authoritative by the community.

1) The FAQ considers itself official in its text - and it notes explicitly when it is making unofficial pronouncements, e.g.

Technically the item-pricing formula in the Core Rulebook allows for items like that, but officially the game should only have even-numbered enhancement bonuses to ability scores.


Meanwhile, as a house rule (not an official update to the rules), it's fair to allow someone to use the Widen Spell feat on a line spell and actually double its range. You are, after all, increasing the level by +3, and if you're casting lightning bolt as a 6th-level spell, you ought to at least be able to get a 240-foot bolt out of it.

2) The designers consider the FAQ to be official - and that was widely discussed during the entire process of coming up with it; it replaced the previous process of "official declarations" just being made in the messageboards (reference). The Rules FAQ, And How To Use It on the Paizo boards is the official guide to the FAQ itself. It states (emphasis mine):

The FAQ system was built to allow players and GMs to draw attention to unclear, confusing, or incorrect parts of the game rules and get official answers from the designers. It is not intended to create official rulings for every possible corner case or combination of the rules. Paizo firmly believes it is the privilege and responsibility of the GM to make rulings for unusual circumstances or unusual characters.

3) The Pathfinder community considers the FAQ to be official - it is official in Pathfinder Society and other Pathfinder community sources distinguish between the "official FAQ" and other sources. And that's really the most important point - in general real Pathfinder gamers consider it official and therefore people use it for their games. Considering it "not RAW" based on some legalistic argument is your right, but it will go against the expectations of the vast majority of Pathfinder play groups.

4) Furthermore - it's helpful and well reasoned, and is the only channel for any clarifications short of errata worked into the books themselves. Because of page numbering, the amount of change/clarification that can go into a printed book is practically minimal, meaning that this is the most reasonable path for all publishers to use to clarify their rules short of an entirely new edition.

Therefore using the FAQ is a perfectly acceptable way to answer a RAW question. If the asker, or any other voters, don't like a specific FAQ ruling or consider it binding, they may vote their conscience of course. As stated in The Rules FAQ And How To Use It,

I don't like the answer in the FAQ. What can I do?

If you have found rules that appear to override a FAQ, post about it as a reply to the thread and open up the idea for more discussion. What you found might be an exception to the rule, or it might be the evidence to overturn the ruling. If you disagree with a ruling but don’t have any additional evidence to show that the ruling is incorrect, accept the ruling and move on (restating your points from earlier in the discussion is not “additional evidence”). Remember that you can house rule it for your home campaign.

But it's a fuzzy distinction.

What is "official" or "RAW" really? As a given gaming group, you can allow some but not all books. You can not allow parts of books. You can not allow the FAQ, you can disagree with specific rulings from the FAQ, you can not allow whatever you want. You can say "if it's not printed on paper it doesn't count, I don't care what every single person working at Paizo says or what any other player or GM says." The Paizo staff are very up front about saying it's "your game, your rules" and their interest in having a One True Way From Which You May Not Deviate is minimal.

Trying to adhere to "a RAW interpretation" as if there is a single strict such thing is as logically erroneous as claiming there's "one" fundamentalist literal interpretation of the Bible - that's not how human writing and cognition works. The very question that spawned this was over a rule that pretty much everyone finds to be clear and unambiguous, but there's always one or two people who find the wording to not quite gel with them.

It's the same with the claim that the 3.5e FAQ isn't official. It is useful but imperfect, but some people "don't like it" and therefore exclude it even when it doesn't conflict with the rules. And that's fine.

You can try to make a "RAW but not official" distinction - but why? So you can build CharOpped characters on a board that exploit loopholes in the printed text that have already been clarified in intent by the designers? So that you can "put one over" on someone who hasn't read the FAQ? What exactly is the value of trying to artificially distinguish between "rules the designers wrote here" versus "rules the designers wrote there," except if you don't believe you have discretion over the rules in the first place - which Paizo tells you that you do (see the quote above)? In the end, insistence on some legal-type reading of RAW is not appropriate for Pathfinder by explicit declaration of the Pathfinder role-playing game and its designers.

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I don't think it's a necessarily a silly question when taken in the context it is asked, which relates to the use of the 'RAW' phrase on this site. –  Phil Apr 17 '14 at 14:18
It's silly because it leads to the "angels dancing on the head of a pin" arguments like you see here. Common sense says that if the designers issue a ruling or clarification you should take that into account. Further arguing about the "level of officialness" is pointless sophistry. –  mxyzplk Apr 17 '14 at 14:21
This. "RAW" is an meta-textual concept made up by fans. Designers can't make a rule that they wrote "more official" by saying "this rule written here? It's a rule as written." –  SevenSidedDie Apr 17 '14 at 15:35

The FAQ is problematic as RAW

The FAQ is updated without announcement or fanfare, which makes it difficult to track over time. Unless one is actively involved in the Pathfinder community, this means that the rules may change without you knowing about it, and it may do so often.

Official errata is a bigger deal, which gets more attention. It also tends to come out less often. It may be missed for a time, but sooner or later people realize it’s out there.

Thus, I dislike the use of FAQ as errata. The FAQ should just be explanation of how the rules already work. Unfortunately, that’s just not the reality. Paizo has taken the FAQ as an opportunity to do “soft errata” so there’s things in the FAQ that do not match the book’s rules. Expansions, qualifications, that sort of thing.

But Paizo is far more ambiguous about this point than Wizards was, and the community often gives it far more weight than 3.5 did

This is just a fact. The FAQ is referenced often, is included in the PFSRD, and so on. The errata rules do not specify any primacy or conflict-resolution rules, as 3.5’s do. Thus, there is nothing in Pathfinder’s rules that describe what is or isn’t a rule or how to adjudicate between rules sources.

Conclusion: What RAW is for Pathfinder is debatable

There just cannot be a hard-and-fast definition. You could reject the FAQ, you could require its rulings, whatever. In general, I think people wishing to tag questions both and need to spell out what definition of “RAW” they are using. If we want a default definition for the site, that would have to be taken to meta.

Barring that, I think the only appropriate way to handle this is as follows:

  1. Actual published books are RAW. No one’s likely to dispute that.

  2. The FAQ is ambiguous. Any discussion of the rules-as-written must consider the situation both with and without the FAQ. If the books and the FAQ match, it may not be necessary to discuss the FAQ at all, since the books definitely are RAW. As soon as there is disagreement, however, it needs to be addressed. Statements like Taking the FAQ as RAW, ... but without the FAQ, ... need to be used.

This because Paizo does not define what are and are not rules.

To be slightly meta here, there’s a key take-away here for questions: the FAQ cannot be an answer’s only source. Furthermore, if the FAQ contradicts the books, the FAQ cannot be ignored, either. An answer that does either is incomplete, and not in keeping with . If the FAQ agrees with the books’ rules, then that answer could reference the FAQ but need not, but does need to reference the books. With disagreement, both must be considered.

Addressing the Pathfinder Society

The Pathfinder Society defines its own rules. These are distinct from the book-rules that one typically means when one speaks of the rules as written. PFS play includes houserules, banned sources, and so on. It also includes the FAQ. Within the PFS context, the official rules include the FAQ. This may not be true in non-PFS Pathfinder games, and should not be assumed, but should be discussed as an either-or if there is a contradiction.

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I cannot upvote this answer primarily because Paizo's made several statements to the effect that FAQ should be treated as errata. They use their FAQ system to create living revisions for Pathfinder, and while that can (and does) cause headaches and conflicts it's company policy. –  Lord_Gareth Apr 17 '14 at 16:18
@Lord_Gareth If you have citations to that effect, your own answer might be highly appreciated. –  KRyan Apr 17 '14 at 16:45

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