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If a user asks the question of why some game element is the way it is, but the user is not specifically looking for designer reasons and there's a reasonable expectation of an in-materials answer as to why, is the question off-topic just because that expectation was incorrect?

This meta question is a general one inspired by the original state of this main-site question- the user asked why orcs changed default alignments between D&D 2e and 5e. To me, this is something that potentially could have an in-book/in-lore explanation I'm unaware of and is a reasonable thing to ask here, but it was voted closed as off-topic under the assumption that it was a designer-reasons question.

This vote felt off to me in this case- the question might have an in-book answer. If it doesn't, I also don't feel like a hypothetical answer that states "This alignment change occurred between X edition and Y edition's DMG, but an explanation for the change is not provided within the latter's text. For further information, you'd need to seek out designer insights, which is outside the scope of this site" would be inappropriate, avoiding us having to delve into the designer insights themselves.

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    \$\begingroup\$ (I'm not against closing the linked question as unclear while waiting for clarification of 'did you mean designer reasons or in-universe reasons?', but closing for specifically off-topic reasons sparked this question in my head and I was unsure what our policy for this general scenario would be.) \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jul 20 at 22:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I find it hard to imagine an answer that isn't designer reasons for this question. Technically there could be a lore reason, it feels like that is more of a loophole. I am against having people reword questions to fit the vernacular when they are understandable, but it doesn't feel like they were asking about lore. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Jul 21 at 5:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae And that's why we really shouldn't edit questions for querents to fit our site. If the querent agrees that the altered version is their question, then we can. I personally don't like putting words in people's mouths (or fingers). \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 21 at 14:57
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Users are not required to know the answer to their question in order to ask it.

This is a fundamental, doesn’t-even-need-to-be-stated, tenet of a Q&A site—any Q&A site. Questions cannot be closed based on what the answer is. Note that designer-reasons questions aren’t—they are closed because of the kinds of bad-and-wrong answers they tend to draw. The actual answer—that is, an answer that can properly back up their claims—wouldn’t be a reason to close them. It’s all the other answers we tend to get.

Editing such questions—to avoid “why?” to focus on history or context, or on the lore, or whatever—is fine and good, and probably worth doing. But especially with questions like this, we should avoid knee-jerk implementations of our policy. Don’t vote to close—just edit it.

We’re an “edit-happy community;” there’s even a fairly popular push to define ourselves that way on one of our main help pages in another Meta discussion currently going on (I don’t think it’s the right place for it, but it is—and should be—true). So use it. Editing questions like this takes a bit of finesse—wouldn’t expect a new user to get it—but if you’re familiar with these sorts of questions, often it isn’t hard to edit them into shape. We should do that more.

(At least, for could-totally-be-legit questions like this; thinly-disguised rants about rules the OP doesn’t like can and should just be closed and ignored.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to clarify, if you have a 5 second time limit, you see this question, all you can do in that time is close it or leave a comment or leave it (no time to edit/rework it), what would you advise? There seems to be a community preference for closing, which I think stems from the time/difficulty of editing, so it would be worth addressing that. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Jul 21 at 6:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Community moderation is not really performed on a 5 second time limit so that hypothetical doesn't seem relevant to our day-to-day. But sometimes we do close something, then edit it, then reopen it, if we're not sure what the change needs to be but we know we need one. We'll do that to limit the number of answers that might get hit by changes and need downvoting/deletion because that happening always makes lots of people unhappy & we want to mitigate the damage. If we can just edit on the spot without needing to close & reopen, that's the best case. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 21 at 10:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae If you have 5 seconds, don’t do anything at all. That’s absurd—moderation decisions should be far more considered than that. If all you have is 5 seconds, let someone else handle it. We don’t want anyone making snap decisions like that. There’s a whole community of people here that handle these things well and efficiently all the time; missing out on any one person’s input isn’t going to make or break anything. And if you have a minute, you can probably edit the question. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 21 at 12:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae What I imagine you meant to ask with your hypothetical time limit is whether, when push comes to shove, it’s better to close such a question, or leave it open as-is. And the answer is “it depends.” You aren’t going to get a simple, rote, mechanical rule to apply. You have to exercise judgment and consideration. (And again, that takes at least a little time.) Whether you decide to vote to close or not is on you: your choice, your responsibility. Whatever you decide, we expect you to come to that decision responsibly and with care. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 21 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Both of you seem to have latched onto 5 seconds. I'm not sure if it's an idiom in your respective cultures, but "5 seconds" is not to be taken literally where I am from, eg someone will say "gotta use the loo, give me 5 seconds" - clearly they aren't going to take just 5 seconds! Close and edit is the paradigm that I am most comfortable with, I agree with doppelgreener. Just wanted to here some thoughts on the pragmatic side of policy. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Jul 22 at 0:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The best way to get the information you might want is first to ask "WHEN" and then to look into "What was the general trend/policy in RPGs/This Game in YYYY?", which can pull from what was published and sold. \$\endgroup\$ – Trish Aug 6 at 10:03
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don't ask why

It's a simple change, but simply asking for how the alignment of orcs have changed over the editions is probably fine.

Asking why it's changed seems pretty clearly to be a designer question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And the 'pretty clearly' here doesn't so much go at what the querent is intending to ask for (that should be clarified), but main problem with designer intent is the answers they tend to draw and they'll be going of the word 'why'. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 20 at 23:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess I'm surprised by the assumption that 'why' infers '...did the designers change it?' as opposed to '...is the world in this state now?' for questions that may reasonably have lore answers. Like, if these 4e and 5e succubi ?s were phrased along the lines of "Why did the creature type of succubi change between X edition and the next?" I would've expected the same lore-focused answers/wouldn't have batted an eye at the question. "How'd the world get in this state?" is less ambiguous, though. \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jul 21 at 1:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @CTWind I also interpreted it as being about designer reasons rather than lore. I think that "why" is less appropriate, and "how" is better - "how did orcs change from LE to CE" \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Jul 21 at 6:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gszavae Right, I get that "how" would be less ambiguous as to wanting a lore answer, just I can also picture an appropriate answer to "Why was the Orc alignment changed?" being "Well, according to NonExistentLorebook p.102, Gruumsh developed a crush on Lolth and changed alignments to try and woo her, so he ordered the orcs worshipping him to follow suit to make it more convincing". \$\endgroup\$ – CTWind Jul 21 at 6:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CTWind Absolutely, I agree, and that's why the question is on-topic to me. \$\endgroup\$ – user-024673 Jul 22 at 1:03
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"Why ..." doesn't necessarily mean "Why did the designers ..."

Possibly I've spent too much time adjudicating legal disputes but I find the answer to "What happened?" is far more useful in determining the "why" than "What did X say was the reason that something happened?" X is always an unreliable witness.

It's a perfectly solid question that can be answered (as it has been) by a solidly researched and supported timeline of events from which inferences can be drawn. If that research turns up designer statements, so much the better.

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