This Q&A is out of date - see the new answer (no) in Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited

Many Stack Exchange sites, like the similar gaming.SE, do not allow game recommendation questions (aka shopping questions) because they pose an intractable quality problem. And this is after long, contentious discussion and learning on the topic.

Shopping questions have also been discussed and judged to be largely off-topic by nature SE-wide in this Jeff Atwood Meta.SE blog post.

Should RPG.SE similarly reject game recommendation questions? (aka system-rec, game-rec)? Are they too inherently subjective and low in quality? Will people just always toss out their own favorite system no matter how specific the request for a recommendation?


1 Answer 1


This answer is historical and overturned by:
Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited

This answer has been discussed by the moderation team and reflects our thoughts on this issue.

We believe recommendations should be allowed for the time being. RPG systems, much more than most computer games or board games, are toolkits for creation and not simple products. They are also much more long lived and thus a recommendation for one isn't "out of date" in a year the way a computer game recommendation is. Therefore we believe even though disallowing shopping questions is considered a best practice SE-wide, RPG.SE might be a useful exception to that.

However, there are potential severe quality problems with these questions that one can see affecting the existing game-recommendation questions on RPG.SE.

We propose the following criteria be strictly applied to game recommendation questions on RPG.SE.


Questions should be specific enough that there can be a single or best answer. We will not allow polls or lists or "community wiki" for game rec questions. "What are all the medieval fantasy RPGs" or "What's a fun game" should be immediately closed as "too broad" and/or "primarily opinion-based."

A good question is of the format "I want to try a game that has these specific attributes and use it in this way, who has done this and what would you recommend and why?" Don't just ask about games, add context about your needs. This recent Wild West game question is pretty good, in that it is specific about the kind of game it wants, though it could stand to explain more about the asker's needs and predilections. You want "gritty combat?" Explain what you mean by that exactly. If your question is pulling a list and not a "best," it's a bad question.

Remember the goal of a SE isn't just to fart around, it's to help people with their actual gaming. Quizzing people for the sake of doing it or idle curiosity is likely to generate a poor question that is closed. Only ask for a game-rec when you really plan to use one.

Game recommendation questions should be tagged [game-recommendation].


Answers MUST adhere to the "Back It Up!" principle set forth in the SO blog post Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. To wit, an answer MUST contain:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

You may only answer one of these questions if you have actually done it or seen it done, or if you have a detailed reference from someone who has done it (with details like how and results). "Oh, I'm sure FATE would be great for your ultra gritty combat system needs, of course I've never done that or seen anyone that has, but it is SUCH A GREAT SYSTEM that I'm sure it will do it" should be viciously downvoted and may even be deleted as an invalid answer per these guidelines. If you have never even read the game, you definitely shouldn't be considering answering - anyone else can Google "wild west RPG" and enter the results or put something down they've vaguely heard of. That isn't expert advice for experts. "I know someone put out a Western supplement for game X" is not an appropriate answer. "We played a Wild West game, used system X, and here's how that turned out" is the best kind of answer.

Stay on topic. Nobody wants to hear that you don't like that kind of gaming. If someone asks for gritty combat and you say "oh people don't like gritty combat" - move along. You can make a parenthetical warning about pitfalls as part of an otherwise legitimate answer if you want; otherwise your answer will be deleted.

Answers should be voted up the more specific expertise they demonstrate - someone who played that kind of game for a while should be heavily upvoted, someone who has a game like that and has read it somewhat, someone who just knows about the existence of a game should be downvoted, and someone recommending their pet system with no grounds should be nuked.

If we get a huge load of game recommendation questions and the quality of them stays poor, however, we may change our take on this.


"But what if I just want a anything I could maybe hack to my requirements?" Note the related question How to deal with questions that just don't understand the scope of the RPG landscape? - we get some game-rec (adventure-rec, etc.) questions that try to be "flexible" (e.g. "anything I can conceivably adapt to my goals") and as a result are too broad. When asking your question you should focus it down on the exact thing you want to accomplish - don't worry, people will suggest a bunch of things that don't hit your criteria 100% as it is. So that game-rec questions don't just become a litany of "everyone's favorite game," we require you to narrow down your needs - think about it a while, you probably are assuming some requirements you're not conveying.

"But what if I just lie about having experience with their requirements?" The goal of the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective requirements is so that you can not just recommend a game for the poster's desired use, but explain how using that game for that purpose worked out. So a) just saying "and I did it myself" isn't really sufficient to help the poster and we expect a bit more of an explanation than that, and b) we try to assume good faith here on RPG.SE. If you're a lying dirtbag, well, that's on you I guess. If you think that's helping anyone, you're mistaken.

"How close does my experience need to be to their target requirements?" If the request is well formed, then you don't have to have used a game in the exact specific way they intend to use it, but you should have hit the major points and should address your deviation from any of their requested requirements. So if someone wants a "Wild West game with mechanics that help reinforce the genre, medium crunchy, with Indian magic and stuff, undead, and grey-type aliens," it would be fair to say "I've played a lot of Deadlands and it addresses most of your points (include detail); they don't include grey aliens out of the box but did have an adventure with mi-go, you could easily re-skin them as greys..." The trick is to answer from experience. "I have played GURPS and know they sell a Wild West supplement and supplements for Undead and aliens both too, so I bet you could use it to do that" is not OK because it lacks enough relevancy of experience. The line is a judgement call, but you should be hitting near the bullseye not just somewhere on the target. If you're not addressing at least 2/3 of their requirements then you shouldn't even be considering posting.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is good guidance. A further point is that good game recommendations are often essentially requests for sources of information: Which games describe a world with a complex caste system well? What systems have good rule mechanics for supporting chivalrous role-playing? The game recommendations are really recommendations of ideas about how to model something as anything else. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2011 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ But in that case the better question is "What are good ways to model a complex caste system in a game?", where examples from existing games are of course valid parts of answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 7, 2012 at 13:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzlpk: Maybe. You can't expect that people will follow the advice to prefer such a wording without enforcement. What would the tag be called? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ It depends on the subject at hand, and is probably game-design oriented. It's a completely different use case (or should be) than game-rec. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 14:54

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