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I'd like us to revisit the discussion had here: Should we have a canonical "Can the Wish spell do X?" question? This is not a duplicate because I think a change of landscape, so to speak, warrants a revisit, and I am seeking input about what to do about that if we decide not to close any questions.

First, let me reintroduce the types of questions we're talking about here. We have numerous questions about the D&D 5e spell wish that all follow the same basic formula:

Q: Can wish do this thing?

A: Yes, but the spell description says its entirely up to the DM how it works out, if at all. [And sometimes these answers include a list of ways the DM can twist the wording].

These questions follow this basic formula:

Some of these questions have attracted a fair bit of noise, and the good answers are invariably meditations on the answer formula I described above: "Yes, but the spell description says its entirely up to the DM how it works out, if at all. [And sometimes these answers include a list of ways the DM can twist the wording]." At the time of the original discussion, even the best answers to choose from generally followed this formula, and no one answer stood out as being a good candidate for a canonical answer.

I would like to suggest that this is no longer the case. On May 17th, 2021, another one of these questions was asked: Is this an ironclad wish?: "I wish for just my body to be young again but to keep all of my physical, mental and magical prowess". I wrote an answer that would go on to be the highest scoring answer in the tag and is currently the highest scoring answer of 2021. My answer there deviates from the typical formula by providing concrete guidance for working wish into the campaign as a cooperative worldbuilding effort rather than playing into the "player vs. DM" dynamic that these questions usually dance around. I don't mean to toot my own horn too much here, but I really think that, in general, this is the answer everyone with this type of question should be reading.

So I would like to seek input on the idea of closing some of these questions as duplicates of the one with my answer. Of course, some of them likely have some distinguishing nuance about them that merits leaving them open, but I think a fair few of them really are just variations on the common theme described above, and of course, it would be up for discussion and review which of these questions would be well served by this, and which would not. I did make this proposal on the original meta discussion on this topic, but that was as an answer, and it did not attract any discussion at all.

So, is this a good candidate for a canonical question for this question type?


With that out of the way, this question is a bit of a two-part question. As I mentioned before, my answer is broadly applicable to most, if not all, questions of this type, but not only applicable, the best answer to most, if not all, questions of this type. This leaves me with a question begging for an answer: if we opt not to close any of these as duplicates, is there a reason I shouldn't post my answer to more of these questions?

This would likely have the effect of generating a bit of rep points and Necromancer badges, but the real reason for doing this is that I think people who find these questions should be pointed to the best available guidance. If we aren't closing anything as duplicates, just posting the answer where appropriate seems to make more sense than leaving a comment to the effect of "There is a good answer to your question over on this other question". It seems to me one of the utilities of duplicate closure is so that we don't do this.

That said, if you are in favor of not duping any of these, why shouldn't I farm Necromancer badges by posting my answer to these questions where it applies? Hypothetically, if I were to do this, I would space them out considerably, weeks or more, I'm certainly not asking "why shouldn't I post my answer ten times in one day?". I know why I shouldn't do that.

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I Don't Think Anything Has Changed

I want to say up front that I have no quarrel or qualm with your answer. I think it's a fine answer which deserves its upvotes, and is similar to how I would handle the situation myself. I hadn't seen it before, but I just upvoted it myself.

But my understanding of canonical answers or canonical duplicate-target questions is that they work best (when, indeed, they work at all, which is rarely!) when attached to questions that are fairly simple and mechanical in nature, such as these that were brought up in previous discussion:

Attack-action vs attack: But note that even for a simple question there are three answers.

Multiclass Spell Prep: More clearcut with only one answer, and also very mechanical.

But this question is much less mechanical because of the explicit dependence of the results on the will of the GM. And, crucially, your proposed-canonical answer is also much less mechanical. So much so that I would classify it under "GM-ing and group interaction advice."

It's good advice. It's advice that I agree with. But what seems to have changed is, you have a well-received answer that you believe is good enough to achieve canonical status. Where my heartburn comes into play is that I don't think "GM-ing and group interaction advice," questions or answers should be elevated to canonical status. That is a little too close to the stack itself having a canonical opinion or endorsement of something in this category, and that's generally not the business I think we should be in.

Further, on scanning your list of similar-looking questions, how many of them are asked from the player perspective vs the GM perspective is debatable. Not all of them specify or are clearly written from one perspective or the other. For players worried about the limits of weasel wording their wishes, this is good advice but not necessarily practicable if their GMs are not interested in having that conversation. On the other hand, GMs asking about the limits of wishes can put this into practice at their own tables but may also (I'd go so far as presume 'probably are') interested in game balance advice about whatever specific scenario they're asking about. I do not regard many of them, if any, as duplicates, even though they are similar.

This is still, in my opinion, a poor target for a canonical question.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this, you've made some really great points. This answer has me leaning toward "just leave it all alone". \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not so sure I agree. The reason wish keeps coming up is that askers can ask a simple mechanical question about it, and by RAW the answer to that question is explicitly "ask the GM". And people don't want to ask the GM, they want to use the mechanics to get what they want without the GM getting involved. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Mar 5 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage but what about when it is a GM asking the question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    Mar 5 at 20:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Novak That's a different enough case that I think it should be excluded from a canonical question. Really, it's two different cases: "one of my players made a crazy wish for X, what should I do?" and "I'm thinking about having a villain wish for Y, will that work?" and they need answers that are different from each other and from a hypothetical canonical player-asked wish question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Mar 5 at 21:12
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We’ve historically had just about zero luck with “canonical” questions

Just saying, they’re rarely satisfying to querents, and often get missed by moderators and answerers. Often querents just fail to engage with the canonical question—because the kinds of basic things that justify canonical questions are often asked by people very unfamiliar with the domain. If you do not address their specific misunderstandings—and, often, idiosyncratic terminology—you’ll lose them. They don’t understand things well enough to understand how the canonical question applies to theirs. You’ll often wind up trying to answer their question in comments by explaining how the canonical answer applies.

That’s been my experience, and what I’ve observed, anyway. I’ve got nothing against canonical questions, and sure, wish seems like a good candidate for one. I just don’t expect it to work.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What about posting the answer on each new wish question? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 3:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage That seems needlessly passive-aggressive and rude, to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 4 at 3:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Posting my answer to a new question of this type would be passive aggressive and rude? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 5:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov Copying and pasting the same answer to several questions? Yes, absolutely. If they’re the same question, close as a duplicate. If they’re not, give them individualized attention. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 4 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov - Posting the whole answer verbatim, yes (as KRyan said). But posting a small piece of it, relating it to the question, and then linking to the full answer "for more information" seems perfectly reasonable to me, since you're still addressing the specific question being asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – Bobson
    Mar 15 at 13:40
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You should, as always, act in good faith

Some of the other answers here make reference to the specifics of the questions and answers Thomas Markov cites. My response is entirely forward-looking and should be taken as a guide to future behavior, applicable to anyone in a similar situation. Nothing should be inferred about what has or has not already been done, as I trust that Thomas Markov knows those details far better than I.

If you think all the other wish questions are duplicates of the one you answered, you should use the means available to you to suggest them as duplicates of the one your high-rated answer is on.

If you think one of the other questions is even more canonical than the one you answered, you should post your answer to that question, and suggest all the other wish questions as duplicates of it, including the one you originally answered.

For any questions that are ultimately not determined to be duplicates, you should post your answer if you feel it is a good answer to the question. Copy-pasting it would not show due deference to either the question or the other answers. You should take the time to modify your answer in each case to specifically address the nuances of each particular question. As a late-arriving answer, you should also respect the other answers already there, by recognizing those that are particularly insightful, and explaining why those that have high positive counts but are wrong, are wrong.

Copy-pasting your answer to multiple questions in a short amount of time would not help the community much, because it would not provide the best answer you could to each of those questions. It would also be unlikely to generate you much reputation when you flood the queue with similar questions.

Copy-pasting your answer to multiple questions but deliberately spreading it out over time would maximize your reputation harvest, and would benefit the community in the sense of not flooding the first page, but would still not help the community by providing your best work.

Taking the time to re-edit your answer and address the nuances of each question in turn would be the best contribution to the community and result in the maximal reputation gain. That would be a win-win.

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    \$\begingroup\$ And finally, though this is more an aside, or perhaps just a shift in culture, it's interesting to see people call for the pasted answer to address each question's nuance when the already existing answers to these questions don't \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 19:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Exempt-Medic If the already existing answers don't address the nuances of the specific question, that is all the more reason for the pasted answer to do so: we should post to old questions when we think our answer is better than the ones that are already there. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Mar 4 at 19:17
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No, you shouldn't farm necromancy badges...

I'd up vote those answers every time, and it would end up as a mess when we realised what was happening. It's backwards that you'd have to do that.

I feel like this is more evidence to the fact that...

...we should be closing them as duplicates.

The only time you shouldn't post them, is if your proposed canonical dupe doesn't match the question, but you've already stated you wouldn't have closed them as dupes in that case either.

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The highest scoring answer of a category is not what people search for.

Experts can take a general rule and apply it to a specific situation. That is one of the major definitions of an expert.

Laymen can't.

A lack of understanding of the processes of applying a general rule to a specific situation - when, how, where, and what - are all consequences of a lack of experience and expertise.

Stack exchange is website that provides answers to questions from people with experience in a situation and sifts those answers to provide the best ones at the top of the list of answers. Generic answers to generic questions does not make use of the searchability of a digital archive and it does not make use of the gathering of a variety of questions by a variety of questioners to better represent the types of queries people will naturally have and allow them to find an answer to the situation they are facing instead of not knowing the 'correct' term and thus not finding any answer at all.

If you want to provide canonical answers to categories of questions, then you want to write a guide. Not a stack exchange.

Collapsing sets of questions into single questions with broad-as-possible (and, having read your answer, rather vague) answers will remove significant utility for anyone with lower levels of expertise, which is especially worrying as those are the people who are the intended beneficiaries of the process.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not clear if you're answering this question or the previous one. This one is saying "if we don't close the duplicate questions, what's stopping me from posting the canonical answer to each?". Your answer is seems to be saying "don't mark specific questions as duplicates of a general answer." Which was already asked elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 9:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Separately, if the question was "My player wants to do this with Wish, what happens if I let them?" That is a different question to the one previously, which the op had suggested should be closed. That question needs a specific answer. The one talked about is "Can I do X with a spell" and the answer is always "Speak to your GM". \$\endgroup\$ Mar 4 at 9:10
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Yeah, why shouldn't you?

If it's a great answer, it's a great answer. The other questions are not all the same question; they ask for different things, so they are not duplicates, even if the best answer may be the same answer.

Just be careful not to post 40 answers in a single day.

OK, let's add a bit of more seriousness:

There are boatloads of questions on this site that in the end all boil down the same Canonical Answer: 5e is rules light, and the DM is expected to fill the gaps with rulings. What your are asking is not covered conclusively in the rules. Ask you DM.

What I am saying here is a bit tongue-in-cheek but why not create a well written meta-answer citing the DMG with this explanation, and close down a quarter of the questions? The logic is the same, just taken to a more extreme conclusion.

Secondly and even more somber:

I feel that even if we all think the answer you came up with is very good (I do), it is just one answer among many. What gives us the right to effectively invalidate the other answers that have been given, and declare this the one true answer?

The proposed answer has 107 votes. Unless I am miscounting, there is a total of 3,313 votes on the 223 other positive answers to the various wish questions. Do these all count less? Even if we are not closing all those questions, does all the thought and effort and nuance that their authors put into them to answer the specific color of wish question not count either?

It feels quite creepy to me that a handful of people voting on meta would go and decide they know better what everyone needs than the users themselves.

If the answer is as good as you propose, what would be wrong about adding it to those questions where it fits, and letting the readers decide if they want to upvote it or not?

As you say, you'll likely get a boatload more reputation and tags, but isn't that a nice thing? I don't see where that hurts, whereas closing these existing questions and associated answers seems to do a lot more harm.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "The other questions are not all the same question, they ask for different things" While this may be the case, I would need to see a more thorough explanation before I buy it. For example, this question and this question might seem like they're asking different things, but I think they're the exact same question: "Can I use wish to change game mechanics?", and the answer to that question is the same as every other can-wish-do question. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it makes a difference, in that peope search for different terms. And in spite of the wisdom of your overall answer, they may want to hava a specific answer of the exact question they are asking, beause they look for support in arguing their point with their player or DM. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I think it makes a difference, in that people search for different terms." I don't understand what you're saying here. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean the answers are worded differently. If someone wants an answer to eternal youth via wish, he will look for a quesstion about that, using such terms. (Of course they also could find the question that has been closed as duplicate, but it feels as if the big fat banner at the top discourages actually reading those). Also weird to call somehting a duplicate that has a long and storied answer chain -- should not what came after it be the duplicate? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Which came first" is generally that last and least important criteria we consider when closing things as duplicates. Yes, 99% of the time it works out that the earlier question is the target, but the point of closing things as dupes is to point readers to where the best answers to their question are. When two dupes are of equal quality, we'll defer to the oldest one as the target, but when the newer question is clearly the better Q&A, we close the older one. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, why don't you let the voters decide wich answer is of better quality, by adding yours, instead of ordaining that this one answer is the best and everyone else can go home? Isn't this a community driven Q&A site? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ "the highest scoring answer of the year could be copied to these questions" seemed like a good reason for us to at least consider if some of these would be well served by duplicate closure. Since this is a community driven site, I asked the question here for the community to discuss instead closing them all myself, which no one would have noticed unless they stumbled across one by accident. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 21:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don’t recall proposing the closure of every wish question…so I’m not sure why your discussion includes the downsides of doing so. I think there is a lot of nuance around this discussion that your answer fails to consider and capture. But I’ll leave it there for now unless you have any further questions for me. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I'll amend to reflect that. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3 at 23:14

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