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A comment discussion recently started on this answer about whether answers should link to their sources. In case the comments get deleted, here is a summary:

Bob: Links to citations please.
Joe: Nobody else does, so I don't need to. Plus, any links to the rules will quickly be outdated.

We cite rules often on Board and Card Games. Rarely do we mention the source1, and even more rarely do we link to that source. Some would say that this is acceptable because we all know that it came from the comprehensive rules.

Remember, a large portion of the people who see our content are not registered users. They do not know how we do things here. Please make sure that your answer considers Magic: the Gathering answers and the unusually common references to the comprehensive rules.

1. Speaking from experience with mostly Magic: the Gathering questions, but there is something to be said here for all games that have rules.

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  • @Jefromi Since I took your suggestion, I'm going to delete my comments now. If you have any other concerns, let me know. – Rainbolt Jun 30 '15 at 16:35
  • I'm a little concerned about the fact that I had to make the same point in so many different ways before you ultimately concluded that only half of the last version of it was fair. But the question is fine, yes. – Cascabel Jun 30 '15 at 18:16
  • @Jefromi Just to be clear, your first comment was a bunch of questions, and every single one of them was a subset of mine. It wasn't until many comments later that I discovered that you wanted me to tack on a reminder so that answers don't accidentally miss something. I'm not usually in the habit of reminding people to write good answers, so forgive me for not understanding what you were trying to accomplish. I usually focus on writing a good question, and I just let the voters decide what a good answer is. – Rainbolt Jun 30 '15 at 18:34
  • Part of writing a good question is making sure that people writing answers understand what they need to address. When someone starts asking questions and pointing out things that should be part of answers, it's a good bet that there's something you want to add to your question to make sure you get those good answers. – Cascabel Jun 30 '15 at 18:52
  • @Jefromi Your comment actually asked a question. When people ask me a question, I assume they want me to answer it. You should have just suggested that I add your question to my question, as you finally did (four comments later). – Rainbolt Jun 30 '15 at 18:59
10

Yes...

...in general, when possible, when it adds something to the answer, when something significant is taken from a source.

Keep in mind, the really important thing is citing the source, making it clear where the information came from. Linking to it is an additional helpful thing to do in many cases. For example:

  • a link to a forum thread containing a response from the game designer is pretty much required. It's unique, and might be hard to find otherwise.
  • a link to the Arkham Horror FAQ is good. It's not obvious that it exists if all you have is the game. Similarly, if you're citing the errata from the Dunwich Horror rules, it's good link to them. Readers might only have the base game.
  • a link to the Arkham Horror rules is nice, but optional. I'd generally do it, because it's easy, and it might save someone the time of getting the rules out of the box to see. But if it's missing, it's not a huge deal; the OP does have a copy of the rules with the game, and they have Google to find them online if they want.
  • If you only used the rules incidentally, and most of the answer is about something else, don't worry about it.
  • If you can't find the rules online at all, don't worry about it.

As for Magic, I don't think it's really worth it to make any kind of policy. It's similar to the "nice, but optional" case in the list above. True, the rules are only available online, but that generally means that people already know how to find them, especially the kind of people actually interested in reading the comprehensive rules.

It's incredibly rare that someone asks for a source; most people are happy to either read what's quoted in the answer or use Google to find more. If someone really can't figure it out, they can ask a question. (That has happened, once.) So the potential upside is pretty low, not enough to warrant spending our time editing links into answers or commenting asking everyone to include them.

It's also a case of diminishing returns. If even 1/10 of the answers to Magic questions have a link to the rules, the odds are pretty low that anyone hasn't seen one yet. The more links there are, the less important it is that we bother adding them to more answers.

So, sure, link if you like. It certainly doesn't hurt. But I definitely don't want to see anyone getting badgered to include links.

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7

I think that, in general, people should link to sources when quoting game rules if possible. However, I also think that Magic: the Gathering is a special case, though it is not necessarily unique

I think that answers that quote the Comprehensive Rules should not be required to link to those rules, as long as they say that they are quoting them and give the exact rule number that they are quoting. It's interesting that you mention MLA citations, because Comprehensive Rules references can be very similar The name "Comprehensive Rules" is like an author/title combination in an MLA citation, and the specific section reference (like "302.6") is like the page number reference in an MLA inline citation. Together, those are sufficient for anyone to find the quoted text themselves and verify it. And that, I think, is what's important: that anyone reading the answer can easily verify the quotation.

While I say that answer authors should not be required to give a link to the Comprehensive Rules, I also think that such a link is never detrimental to an answer, and that it would always be appropriate to edit such a link into the answer.

I think that how much that applies to any other game depends on how discoverible that game's rules are online. The MTG comprehensive rules are easy to find with the obvious Google search. If a game's rules are difficult to find, then it would be more valuable to provide a link, so that verifying a quotation does not require an inordinate amount of work. And if the game rules are not available online at all, then obviously a reference to a paper manual is all an answer can be reasonably expected to provide.

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3

Links are not necessary, but answers should generally mention the name of their sources, so that less knowledgeable users can search for it. As some rules are only available in paper form, simply mentioning the name of the document it came from should be acceptable. I'm not saying that we need MLA or APA style citations on every post, but there should be some indication of where the quote came from.

Magic is no exception. If a comprehensive rule is quoted, then the author should state that it came from the Comprehensive Rules. For example:

Rule 46.1b from the Comprehensive Rules tells us that:

Foo fah fie [...]

Finally, if a user specifically asks for a link for a citation, that probably means that they can't find it. We should always be willing to help these users.

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