Are general Statistics questions on topic here? Even if they are tangentially related to RP games?

What about general Dice questions?

I realize both of these questions are tangentially related to RPGs, but are they really on topic?


Having mulled this over for a night or two, I would say that the taxonomy of this question is not useful. Making a "yes, all statistics questions are okay" or "no, all statistics questions are off topic" decision is unlikely to be useful to the site (or even particularly correct).

As a counter to the two examples you brought up, consider these statistics questions:

3d6 vs a d20: What is the effect of a different probability curve?

Are Earthdawn's dice mechanics as unfair and wonky as my player claims?

What is the formula for average damage for an Avenger against an Oath target?

Also consider questions in the and tags.

As mentioned in the comments elsewhere, certain types of statistics (mostly those involving dice) are important to playing and running RPGs. These statistical questions are also essential to the design of new RPG systems (a topic area which we currently support).

Unlike physics, players of RPGs have to deal with actual statistics. It can't be "rule of cool" -ed away... There is a specific target number at which my thief breaks even on pick pocketing, and that number can't be changed by fiat.

I suspect that if the questions cited are to be considered off-topic, it is more likely a reaction to one of these areas:

  • Should questions about superstitions, traditions, and other meta-elements of the role playing hobby be allowed?

  • How tolerant do we want to remain of "list of tools" questions? We have a long history of allowing them... But how useful are they?

Do not misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that all stats questions are reasonable. I only believe that the small subset of statistics that deal with the randomizers used in RPGs are on-topic.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree, I think. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jul 8 '11 at 0:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ I concur, and better put than I would have ... \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jul 9 '11 at 17:51

As this is the wild-west of meta, I'm going to break this response out into a new answer to give myself access to formatting (and paragraphs). This answer is in response to @Cthos's comment here: Are general statistics or dice questions on topic?

However, I don't think that in practice the line exists at all. Line keeps coming back to "Did you phrase the question in such a way as that it seems relevant?". The 'question which shall not be named' actually came up in a game, but the author did not mention that it did. When he did, the reaction seemed to be "Oh. Whoops...well, we can't reopen it now because its causing bad blood." We also seem to be going the "I'll know it when I see it route", while the criteria remains amorphous. Though I'll note I did +1 your answer on the Off topic question and this one.

The first layer is that you're right... The line doesn't really exist yet. The site was created with the mandate to be "a StackExchange about RPGs." That gives a rough framework (no videogames, no board games, general guidelines for good and bad questions, etc.) but it left a lot undefined. Those undefined areas become defined through discussions in meta, chat, comments, and the overall history of opening and closing questions.

I've given what I feel to be the best place to draw the line. Some folks like it. Some don't. Over time people will be won over to one way or the other. Some people will have to agree to disagree (although stating a clear case for what you want and why you want it is generally better than pointing out the faults in the arguments of others).

Another layer is that no matter how much we debate this, the line will never be 100% reliable. Whether a site is community moderated or governed by administrators, judgement calls around the proximity of the line will always be necessary. We have neither the time nor the know-how to create an iron-clad classification of every possible question (even actual justice systems, developed by lawyers over centuries still often come down to judgement calls). And even if we did, this simply isn't a worthwhile place to spend the effort.

As judgement calls, there will always be cases where slightly off-topic questions that are stated very well are allowed to stay. And there will always be cases where barely on-topic questions are squelched because they were ugly, poorly phrased, or awkward fits for the format. This is unavoidable. The solution is to accept it, and try to improve the questions that are on-topic, and to strive to evaluate questions as they are rather than how they were. This also means that readers need to be willing to make big changes to a question to help it fit, and that askers need to take a light hand in fighting back against this.

For what it's worth, I found the statistics behind Sardathion's post to be acceptable (albeit on the edge), which is why I didn't vote to close it. But I didn't think it was very well suited to the format... It felt too much like a request for a list of software, which is why I didn't vote to reopen it.

I'm not sure which question we're not supposed to name (the goblin with the coat of many pockets?), but I'll conclude by reiterating this: when you ask a question, clearly state why you want to know and give the question some context. Not only does this help clarify decisions and avoid "oops, I guess we shouldn't have mod-closed that" situations, it also allows people to answer the question you meant to ask, rather than being stuck with the question you actually did ask.

Expecting people to suss out an idle wondering unconnected to RPGs from a directly game related question on psychic powers alone is only going to lead to failure.

  • \$\begingroup\$ No doubt it will never be 100%, try to get a group of people to accurately define "terrorism" or "smut", and you'll never come to a consensus. I'll spend some time processing your comments here, I don't really have a better answer, but I do know that without some kind of framework from which to make judgement calls (that isn't entirely based on phrasing) is necessary to prevent the whole thing looking like a charade. \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Jul 11 '11 at 19:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Also yes, the goblin question was the one I was specifically referencing, in the comments here: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/992/…) \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Jul 11 '11 at 19:50

I would say yes, they are off-topic.

The reasoning for this is the same reason why physics questions are considered off-topic. They are first and foremost about physics with a very tenuous connection to gaming in general.

The dice question was primarily about gamer superstition and the statistics of dice question was a fairly common stat question.

To expand, this question at its core is about gamer superstitions, with superstitions being the focus. As it is written, it is a bad question, and at it's core it is a "just for fun let's talk about gamer superstitions" question without any clear-cut answer to it. While it would be fun to discuss, there is no clear answer here and is more of a discussion point. Because of that fact, according to the SE faq, it is considered off-topic. There is no discernible merit to it for the RPG.SE website.

On there other hand, there is this question, which is admittedly a better question. It has sense been reworded to help direct it's focus, but at it's core it is still a statistics question. It makes reference to the Rolemaster system, but that's where the tenuous connection to gaming ends. It is a simple statistics or mathematics question that does have a direct answer, but isn't a gaming question. Now, if the stats/math question was directly related to a system, such as figuring out the average to-hit for system r or the average damage from dice rolls with modifier included for system x, it would have a relevant link to a specific system that would not make sense on a straight statistics or mathematics site.

(The above mentioned question has sense been edited and reworded by SevenSidedDie and is no longer a statistics question and is instead looking for a system/spreadsheet/program to figure out statistics. I still think the example is relevant, so I am leaving it in my response.)

Now, is there merit to these questions? Absolutely! But they are more suited for a forum discussion where answers are broad and more suited to an open-ended discussion. Conversely, RPG.SE by nature is a beast of specificity with concrete, set answers.

I don't want to demean the questions in question, as I'd love to discuss them in a forum-type setting or around my gaming table, but as such, there is a precedence with other types of questions that these are off-topic.

The precedence in question are referenced in this question as well as this one.

NB: Not trying to bring up any bad blood or old wounds, just using the two linked controversial meta questions to establish precedence for my reasoning.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know that I really agree with your precedents here. Neither question is particularly discussiony (although the statistics one is phrased in such a way that it generates a list :(). In addition, statistics is much more closely tied to RPGs than any of the physics questions presented to date... It's important for the GM and players when determining target numbers and actions, and is a critical component to RPG design. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 6 '11 at 19:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think that same argument could be used for physics as well. How will x power, or x item effect game play or battle? That said, good points. Personally, I like both and would discuss them in a forum, but I feel they are inappropriate here. \$\endgroup\$ – Sorcerer Blob Jul 6 '11 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Statistics is an order of magnitude more important than physics, though. We emulate physics in RPGs, but we experience real statistics. We can override physics with the "rule of cool" at will, but you cannot cheat, kludge, bargain with, or ignore statistics as long as dice are involved in the game. It is statistics that say what target number my thief will break even at when pick pocketing during downtime... And nothing can change that number. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 6 '11 at 20:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ (also: I'm a little unclear on your distinction between "off topic" and "should be on a forum..." At any rate, it doesn't match my intuition) \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 6 '11 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ Off-Topic for SE sites, by FAQ, have clear answers, not discussions. The "How to remove bad rolls from dice" superstition question was just a bad question. It's very much a "just for fun let's talk about gamer superstitions" in which there is no clear answer. Would it be fun to talk about? Sure, but not as an SE question. Is it off-topic according to SE? Yes. The other question directly addressing stats is a better question, admittedly, than the other one, but at the end of the day it is asking about specific dice stats not in relation to any system. It is a stats question, not a gaming one. \$\endgroup\$ – Sorcerer Blob Jul 6 '11 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ (ran out of characters..) Now, if it was a stats question related to a specific game? Awesome, that's on-topic. Want to figure out average damage for x system or average to-hit for system r? Yes, there is a defined, clear answer for those type of questions. This was a broad statistics question with a very tenuous connection to gaming. The question references the Rolemaster system, but that's where the connection ends. This is something that is best figured out reworded as a statistics or mathematics question and left at that. \$\endgroup\$ – Sorcerer Blob Jul 6 '11 at 20:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see. I think that distinction is worth integrating into your answer. (for the record: we see eye to eye on the platform distinction, we just interpret the questions a bit differently in that framework. I look at the superstition question as "Do past rolls impact future rolls?" "No. Because..." which is a straight-forward SE question, although potentially off-topic). \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 6 '11 at 20:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reworded and integrated my comments into my response to the meta q. Part of my argument was invalidated by the rewording of the stats question, and now I think it's a good question/on topic. For the record: I do agree that some stats questions are on topic, such as the ones listed! \$\endgroup\$ – Sorcerer Blob Jul 6 '11 at 20:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dice questions are only relevant if they mention Denver. \$\endgroup\$ – ExTSR Jul 6 '11 at 21:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree. Dice and Stats are of vital importance to 99% of RPGs that are played. \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Jul 7 '11 at 8:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidAllanFinch so is reading English, but I don't want to see questions on it. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 7 '11 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nope. Because it is, you see, directly gaming related. See, this isn't all that hard. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 8 '11 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ Splitting hairs then, I guess I could say, "I'm designing a game, and I need a dice statistics machine." and that would make it "Directly Gaming Related". But if I didn't, it wouldn't be? Perhaps we should be trying to define what is "Directly Gaming Related" then, no? \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Jul 8 '11 at 3:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk: that is a straw-man, this question was about dice and stats not about English. \$\endgroup\$ – David Allan Finch Jul 8 '11 at 8:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Further, when you reference "specifically about RPGs" it isn't an actual guideline, it's a phrase that is being interpreted very differently by different people. \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Jul 13 '11 at 13:59

As the original poster I was quiet surprised that the question had been closed so longer after it had been answered... And both answers where good and useful. From the above I see this argument breaking into two:

  1. Asking about statistics/mathematics is off topic.
  2. Asking about specific RPG system statistics is on topic.

This is fine but to me, it sounds like squabbling over semantics. Would the following questions be on or off topic?

  • "I am designing a RPG system and want to know if someone had done some statistics on a wide range of dice rolls?"

  • "I does anyone know if someone had done some statistics on a wide range of dice rolls?"

In my opinion, they are the same question, phrased differently. However, the first one would be on topic, the second not.

Am I right?

  • \$\begingroup\$ "I am designing a RPG system and want to know if someone had done some statistics on a wide range of dice rolls?" sounds on topic, though too broad to be usefully answered, to me. I'd want to know what dire rolling mechanics, and what classes of outcomes are in use, and interesting to the questioner. \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Withers Jul 10 '11 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Simon Withers: So, it is a question of semantics and not content. Fine. \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Jul 11 '11 at 13:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ In principle, the line exists independently of how the question is phrased. In practice, we are a semi-community moderated site, and a certain degree of perception is to be expected. In my experience, it is always good practice to include the purpose and/or context of the question along with the question itself... Both to get good answers independently of the phrasing of the question, and to help the community decide on the relevance of the question. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 11 '11 at 15:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AceCalhoon - However, I don't think that in practice the line exists at all. Line keeps coming back to "Did you phrase the question in such a way as that it seems relevant?". The 'question which shall not be named' actually came up in a game, but the author did not mention that it did. When he did, the reaction seemed to be "Oh. Whoops...well, we can't reopen it now because its causing bad blood." We also seem to be going the "I'll know it when I see it route", while the criteria remains amorphous. Though I'll note I did +1 your answer on the Off topic question and this one. \$\endgroup\$ – Cthos Jul 11 '11 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cthos A response containing more text than you can shake a stick at can be found here: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1028/… \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jul 11 '11 at 19:30

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