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Several of my players also peruse this resource.

How can I ensure that questions I ask here regarding plot-specific campaign details don’t spoil things for those players?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure which tags where best for this \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Sep 21 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I went ahead and migrated this meta, as this is a question about how to use the site, not about RPGs themselves. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Sep 21 at 20:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would disagree as this is a roleplay specific question happy to rephrase but I am specifically asking other DMs how they go about asking campaign specific questions without creating potential spoilers. \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Sep 21 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil It's a weird hybrid. Yeah, it's about how to use the site, but at the same time, answers may seek to deal with the DM's relationship with their players, which is a main site concern. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Sep 21 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question is literally [gm-techniques] about how to use the site, so I think it could fit in both. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Sep 21 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Regardless of whether it belongs on RPG.SE mainsite or meta (personally, it doesn't feel like a great fit for either one), a general request for "any suggestions or advice" on the topic may be a bit too broad to be meaningfully answerable. Is this regarding questions about published adventures? Questions about general GM techniques? What kind of "spoilers" do you mean? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 21 at 20:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean spoilers for my own campaign based on questions I ask. For instance I just asked a question about the mechanics for the main antagonist of my campaign, reading that question would then lead a player to know that an NPC is probably the big bad from day 1 \$\endgroup\$ – Richard C Sep 21 at 20:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm... would "How do I prevent my players from getting spoiled from questions I ask elsewhere/on a hobby site?" be a better (mainsite?) frame? (I ask the room) \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Sep 21 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ And you think your players know your handle on this site such that they can browse your questions to accidentally discover the nature of your BBEG? Could you rename your handle to hide yourself and prevent this possibility? \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Sep 21 at 21:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm almost positive we've had others do something similar and it's generally just spoiler text and a note asking their players not read. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Sep 21 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe this is a meta question. @Someone_Evil "How to prevent spoilers in online forums?" or a version of it would be too broad. Focusing on our site is a good scope and makes it a clear meta question. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Sep 21 at 23:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's almost the definition of meta: rpg.meta.stack is for discussions about rpg.stack. The question is about rpg.stack ("how do I use rpg.stack and avoid spoilers to my players?") so it's clearly meta in that broad sense. Rpg.meta.stack is also where we discuss policy, and there's a non-zero chance that a discussion will touch on policy like, "Use spoiler cuts in the question," and "preserve them in your answers." \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Sep 22 at 0:12
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What I suggest, and which mirrors practice on the (possibly quite non-representative) slice of discussion fora I have participated in over the years is:

  1. Clearly label sensitive information. In other fora, this often involves linking your username to some real world information-- I'm thinking of old timey mailing lists, or fora where people just sign with their real world e-mail addresses. This is clearly not the norm here, and while it does not violate any policy I know of to (say) put a website or an e-mail in your user profile, I am very carefully not suggesting this as a policy or requirement here. I am simply noting it as an issue to work through with the actual policy suggestion being, "Do your best to provide enough information to help your players honor your request."

  2. Use spoiler cuts to protect sensitive information. Spoiler cuts are similar in syntax to blockquotes, but with an extra ! symbol. I will put an example of both below, so people can see what they look like.

     > This is blockquote syntax
    
     >! This is spoiler cut syntax
    
  3. Answers should respect and honor spoiler requests, and use spoiler cuts as necessary to preserve that. Comments should be phrased carefully, as spoiler cuts do not work there.

  4. Understand that there is no guarantee. You pays your money, you takes your chances-- there is no way of actually preventing your players from reading anything on this site. There is a real tension between the policy suggestion that you, in a sense, advertise your campaign in order to protect it, vs the insatiable curiosity and competitiveness of some players.

An example of something I would write in another forum (yes, I actually name my games) would be something like:

(example of blockquote)

This post is about Star Wars: 500 Years Later, an Everway PBEM I am planning to run in the near future. My players should please avoid this question and its answers. Xerxes, this means you....

(example of spoiler cut)

So anyway, I've re-mapped Everway's four-element model from Fire, Earth, Air, and Water to (mostly respectively) Body, Machine, Mind, and Spirit/Soul, but I'm having this problem....

I welcome comments on the first point especially, since I think it is the biggest issue we'll have, due to norms clash with other environments.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I mostly agree with the answer, but the bolded line in #1 doesn't seem to obviously correspond to the following sentences, or at least it's not clear to me how providing personal info about yourself correlates to "labeling sensitive information" or to "provid[ing] enough information to help your players honor your request". Your example blockquote at the bottom is the only way I've ever seen people warn players when making a public post that there'll be spoilers for that particular group/campaign (i.e. calling them/their characters out by name); I don't see how personal info helps with that. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 22 at 1:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @v2blast, I may edit later because I was thinking in the context of spoilers for a personal campaign, say, as opposed to a published module. In that context, and in this specific place, my point was this: If you just say "spoilers!" then, unless your players know your username, that's not enough help (and they might not see the username until after the read the spoilers anyway.) I always name my campaigns and make sure my players know the name, and in this fictitious example I put a fictitious player name in so that any reasonable player would know, "Oh, that must be Novak's game." \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Sep 22 at 2:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @v2blast Put another way, when you label something as a spoiler, you have to give enough identifying information about something-- you, your game, something-- that your players can identify it as relevant to them specifically if you want them to heed the request. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Sep 22 at 2:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, I've just never seen people use such personal info for that - as addressing the full group by name (player names or character names) is almost always sufficient, even without further details. But then "old timey mailing lists, or fora where people just sign with their real world e-mail addresses" are sort of before my time in general (well, I've been on forums, just never seen anyone sign them with their real names/personal email addresses to begin with, since every post's already associated with your username). :P \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 22 at 3:41
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Talk to your players

Tell them that you are asking these sorts of questions and ask them to avoid looking at those while enjoying the site.

Also, follow @Novak’s advice in case the players trip over it without looking for it. As for point 1 of that answer, just tell them your username.

Ultimately, if they want to spoil their dinner, you’re not their mother.

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It depends mainly on one question: If your players detect a potential spoiler, do you think they will stop reading? If yes, then Novak's answer is the way to go. Maybe even tell your players your username. Definitely talk with the players about your worries.

On the contrary, if you think your players might spoil themselves after seeing "spoiler warning signs", a different strategy is beneficial. I want to emphasize, that this paragraph does not assume maleficent players. Players might read a spoiler because they can't resist the temptation or might just forget about your warnings.

Anyway, the suggested strategy is:

Obscure your question

To obscure your question, you can change something (e.g. place of scenes), which is irrelevant to your plot. Even a simple change, such as a short statement like "I'm playing a campaign with 3 players for 2 years" where both numbers are wrong, can work as obscuring. But don't make changes that reduce the question quality; as pointed out by SirTechSpec details that are relevant to the question should be correct, and adding details that are irrelevant to the question but falsified might cause confusion about exactly what your problem is.

Additionally, you can make sure to use a username that is unknown to your players.


Lastly, if the question is about official book material, players anyway have the potential to spoil themselves, if they want to.

In the end, either be as open as possible or as secretive as possible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hard disagree on your first point. If your players just happen to be browsing RPG.SE and see your question, they could very easily be spoiled for when the situation comes up in your game, even if they had no idea it was you posting. Besides, details that are relevant to the question should be correct if you want good answers, and adding details that are irrelevant to the question but falsified to mislead specific readers seems liable to cause confusion about exactly what your problem is. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Oct 1 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ The unkown username is an additional countermeasure and most likely not enough if taken alone - I did not suggest to only do that. I meant to change details without reducing the question quality; I don't think my example sentence makes a question liable to confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – Rayllum Oct 1 at 22:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Security through obscurity does not best practice make. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Oct 2 at 9:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know, but nevertheless it can be valuable. Consider 4. of Novak's answer: There are various reasons why players might stumble upon your question - maybe just accidentally. While relying on obfuscation alone is not best practice, obfuscation is still widely used (e.g. code obfuscation). It's always a question of how much effort an "attacker" will spend to retrieve the secret information. If a player stumbles on your question by accident, then presumably no effort at all => Then it's better to have the question obfuscated than not to. \$\endgroup\$ – Rayllum Oct 2 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rayllum My point is that it's better NOT to. If your players are honest and stumble on the question accidentally, and it's identifiable as being about your group, they can avoid spoilers. If it's not, they have no reason to think the spoiler warning is relevant to them, and might click through and get spoiled accidentally. \$\endgroup\$ – SirTechSpec Oct 2 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec Thanks for explaining, now I understand your point. Yes, depending on how honest and also disciplined they are, obscuring or not-obscuring is better. I still prefer obscuring. If they don't automatically relate the question to your campaign they might not connect the dots - or are at least not 100% sure. In the next days I'll edit the main points of the discussion into the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Rayllum Oct 2 at 19:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec I aimed to improve the answer with the feedback posted here. Do you see any more possible improvements? \$\endgroup\$ – Rayllum Oct 9 at 23:10

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