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We, the elected moderators, wanted to take a minute to check in and see how the community feels like things are going on the site.

This community check-in has been done for the last few years (skipping 2020), and it was very helpful. As such, we'd like to share our thoughts and also get your feedback on what is going well and what we could improve. The process is modelled very heavily on last year’s, but for everyone’s benefit:

How this specific Q&A is run so that we get good value out of it

One clear premise per answer

  1. Please share your thoughts on/observations about something you/we have seen or think needs improvement. Make sure to note whether you think the thing you’re writing about is an improvement, a problem, or some mix of the two (one person might see the same change as bad that you see as good, or vice versa)...

  2. Post only one kind of thing per answer, so that when people upvote/downvote based on whether they agree or not, it's more clearly actionable. If you write an essay about 4 different things, it's not going to be clear what part(s) people agree or disagree with and thus it becomes difficult to act on that feedback. You can, of course, contribute multiple answers.

  3. Upvote or downvote the answers based on your agreement with whether you see that thing happening and whether you concur with the answer's premise (that it's good or it's a problem). (In other words, if someone says "We get too many questions about unicorns and I hate them," you would upvote if you agree, and downvote if either you don't think we get too many questions about unicorns or if you don't hate them.)

No long comment threads

  1. This post isn't the place to workshop solutions - if a particular problem gets a lot of votes, we should open a new meta question to do justice to that issue. Solutions hidden in a comment thread on one of these answers can not be clearly vetted and voted on, so they will tend to remain undone.

  2. If you disagree with an answer, use your vote, but limit comment usage. Consider that it’s possible to disagree with an answer’s take, but that it’s possible the issue should still be discussed in full.

  3. If appropriate, give your own answer, though having multiple answers on the same issue here is mostly gonna be hard to follow. If the answer would just be disagreeing with another answer, the effort would probably be better placed towards a dedicated meta.

As usual, the Code of Conduct, which we’d still like to summarise as Be Nice, applies to meta as well as the main site.

You may strongly disagree with other users or with the mods or whoever, but we trust that you can find ways to express what you like or don't like without being hostile or insulting to others. Focus on actions, rather than characterising people, and that extends how how those actions are characterised.

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10 Answers 10

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We don't guess the system but find it very fast

In late 2021 we formally repealed Don't Guess the System, and had massive success. 2022 did not pop up many questions where we didn't figure out the system within at worst a day.

To some degree that is because it is often enough questions that lack their tags or are mistagged as .

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Participation is still declining

The trend of less and less use and engagement continues. Over the last year, compared to the same time frame a year ago, there were 20% fewer questions posed, and 19% fewer answers given, and as far as I can see from the charts (you need over 25,000 rep to be allowed to see them here, although anyone is able to glean this from the data explorer, I believe). This has been trending over time, it is not caused by a steep drop off in the last few weeks or months driven by AI or ChatGPT and its pals, as far as one can see from the chart.

The total number of questions was about 2260 over the last year, or about 6 per day, the total number of answers was about 5150, so on average over the last year, we had about 2.3 answers per question. This ratio is largely unchanged from a year before, where it was 2.2 answers per question. It looks like, what is driving activity is mostly the number of questions being asked.

PS. I personally asked about 90 questions over the last year. Without this, it would be down 22% on questions. I largely stopped asking questions, for reasons I share with others. (I also answered 671 over the last year, and we theoretically would be down 27% on answers without that, but I'm positive someone else would have provided a satisfactory answer in my stead).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Homework problem: how much of the decline in answer rates is explained by my decline in activity over last year? \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2023 at 12:41
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ How many unique users contribute, what groups face a decline, etc? Questions posted/number of answers doesn't make BESW any less of a community contributor. Your post lacks distinctive reflection, even though you make an important observation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 20, 2023 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu The post is an update on this one from Nitsua60 last year. You are cordially invited to edit it with enriching analysis, as is Thomas. \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2023 at 13:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I think that is very hard to answer, as one good answer often stops others, who could give the same good answer, from posting a “me too”. If you do not answer a question, someone else likely will eventually do it. \$\endgroup\$ May 20, 2023 at 13:38
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ <Comments Removed> Ok, hitting the reset switch on a lot of these comments, because clearly something there wasn't working. Reminder that doubly or triply for this kind of a meta post things should be cooperative. There's certainly more stats that may be useful towards taking this forwards, but I think that's better suited for somewhere else (ie. a chat room or new meta question). I'll leave those suggestions up, and say others may be suggested, though I'll ask we make it clear they are things to look at more than things we suggest Groody adds to this. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    May 21, 2023 at 14:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ On that note, my own 2c: total answers decreasing at the same rate as total questions seems expected, if you have fewer questions you're gonna get fewer answers. So I think attesting/checking answers-per-question (votes per post too come to think of it) would be useful for the fuller analysis to run. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil Mod
    May 21, 2023 at 14:29
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, a friendly reminder that comments in this question are not the place for a deep dive into problems; this space is more for workshopping a new meta question. Answers to the "how is the community doing" question are a way to throw issues onto everyone's radar, not the place to actually try to resolve said issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    May 21, 2023 at 14:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage I added some stats on the Q/A ratios, I think your hunch is correct. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2023 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Correct me if I'm wrong, but dnd-5e questions make up a big fraction of the total yearly volume (hmm, even with the recent interesting in non-5e?). New subclasses continue to be published, but the core system hasn't changed, so a lot of the basic questions have already been answered with good canonicals, and it's good that people can find an existing answer instead of having to post a new question. So that can account for some dropoff, although I suppose a big fraction of questions here are about table dynamics, and those will always continue to be unique and hard to find duplicates. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2023 at 13:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think there's a similar decline in engagement happening network-wide, though I'm not sure how this site's stats compare to the overall trends SE-wide. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 24, 2023 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I asked a similar question here, btw, if anyone wants to contribute in a different manner. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 24, 2023 at 20:50
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe if you were less eager to close questions, people would be more inclined to participate? Maybe my questions were not the best - but after a while when questions get closed down without constructive feedback on how to ask them better you tend to not bother infuture. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2023 at 2:32
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @OrionSteel fundamentally I agree, but at the same time slot of question types aren't suited to the stack exchange model. We can't accommodate them well. We need to get better at explaining why, and if they can be made answerable before closing. That's what I think the real problem. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 4, 2023 at 10:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AncientSwordRage Thanks for reply. So I did get feedback to break my question which was deemed unfocused into several questions. I said I would try today. Before I could it was closed. Someone else commented they did split their question into separate questions but they got downvoted then - but at least not closed. Frankly the community seems hostile at this point, and I have no intent to waste time participating or contributing with questions, answers or votes anymore. Bye. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 5, 2023 at 3:05
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @OrionSteel It's worth noting that closure is a temporary way to put questions on hold so they can be improved to meet our standards, not a death sentence for questions. If you edit your question to resolve the issues with it the community will generally reopen it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    Jun 5, 2023 at 3:39
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D&D and Pathfinder continue to lead questions

The D&D pedigree systems together made up about 88% of all system specific questions, same as last year. Here is a breakdown of other systems.

Family Questions (Sum) Questions (Sum)
D&D 1535 72,00 %
Pathfinder 346 16,23 %
WoD 97 4,55 %
Warhammer 15 0,70 %
l5r 11 0,52 %
Mutants and Masterminds 10 0,47 %
GURPS 9 0,42 %
CoC 6 0,28 %
Dungeon World 6 0,28 %
FATE 6 0,28 %
Blades In the Dark 5 0,23 %
Urban Shadows 5 0,23 %
Dune 4 0,19 %
Morphidius 4 0,19 %
PBTA 4 0,19 %
Savage Worlds 4 0,19 %
Numenara 3 0,14 %
Traveller 3 0,14 %
Shadowrun 2 0,09 %
(Other Systems) 57 2,67 %

The tail of other systems has only 1 or 2 questions each.


PS. The count is based on this SEDE query, which I modded to look at the trailing 365 days, and having a lower limit of 1 on tags, instead 5,000. @Trish reported that this does not fit well with manual searches, or searches that use calendar year cut-off dates, for example on Legend of the Five Rings. I don't see where the query might be wrong, but I am not a SEDE expert, and it is possible it is off somewhere. Happy to amend this, in case anyone can identify if something is wrong with it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I wonder how much factors beyond our control contribute to this. I can think of several factors that we can't really influence that could be driving this, but I can also think of at least one element of site design/usage that might be contributing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    May 21, 2023 at 15:00
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We have consistently lost our best users to Moderation

I'm putting this up because it's a trend I've noticed ever since I've joined.

The moderation team aren't the most active visible members, or even very active visible members.

This is a statement of fact, not a judgement for or against the team. Each time there's been an election, some of our active and beloved members have run for a Moderator position. Once elected, the things we loved about them become much more infrequent.

I don't know what causes this, or if it's just the nature of moderation but I think it the way we choose our moderation and the expectations upon them create a problem for the site

By removing active and visible members from the day to day, we lose the people that we actually voted for. They aren't doing the things we liked about them, and we've lost highly active members - and we generally aren't getting new stackizens that replace their input.

From my perpsective, our method of removing our best members from the active queues has cost us.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What an interesting observation. I've reduced my own participation due to life changing a bit. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 1, 2023 at 19:54
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The following is from an answer I submitted to the 2021 Check-in, but it unfortunately remains.

We all understand the difficulty of communicating over text, but we also need to trust that other members are doing what they do because they care.

There is likely a lack of trust within the community

I'm worried about the community in that our pursuit for curatorial agreement is herding us into corners rather than bringing us together.

Each time an issue comes up regarding something that has multiple camps it seems that each camp is only interested in presenting their opinion. Much like elsewhere on the internet, the desire for bridging, compromise, and agreement is less important than being right.

And we have lots of views here about what is right.

Rather than trying to convince others that you are right (or telling other that they are wrong), why don't we start with the basic idea that the vast majority are here and acting in good faith.

We are all trying to curate this stack to the best of our abilities with the beliefs we have to do so. Those beliefs are going to be different, but I think we need to realize that there is also a difference between perceived problems and actual problems. Our primary focus should be on actual problems: when an action by a user causes a real and clear issue that needs to be discussed.

If there isn't an actual problem, then maybe we should just let it slide. The majority of actions here still require more than one user, so if a group of users believe something is helpful, and another disagrees - that's okay. The system is working as normal. If we start complaining about how others are performing their curatorial duties and try to change them because we believe they should be doing something else, then I think that creates divide on the stack where there doesn't need to be one.

It's creating multiple issues like the needs for question closures, answer support, etc. What one person believes is helpful another person believes is wrong. And again, that's okay! What one person does really shouldn't be an issue. And if lots of folks are doing it and we're not seeing harm, then it's likely okay (although lack of visible harm doesn't mean there isn't harm.)

We need to get to a point where we can trust each other. And that if a group overrides another group, that is also okay. And we just need to let it go as the community making a decision that is different from our own.

But that doesn't mean that either side can't try to move the site towards their ideals. If neither side had an ideal that they were striving for the site to achieve, I think that'd be a much bigger problem. We just need to do so respectfully on both sides and also try and understand where they are coming from so we can hopefully find a middle ground where we can work together rather than against. Because I do firmly believe that it is our public disagreements that drive people away - it's just ugly.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you, especially the last paragraph. In my experience, what is quite helpful is to have discussion rooms on questions, instead of having those discussions in the comments. In such rooms, it is easier possible to have some kind of a conversation, and it is not as directly visible, so it allows people to be more open to consider the other side, or explain, instead of trying to safe face in public view. It would be nice to have a simpler way to start a discussion room an a question. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2023 at 19:14
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Because, to be as terse as possible, an assumption of good faith is not the same as an assumption of right or harmless action. \$\endgroup\$
    – Novak
    May 22, 2023 at 4:42
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Our forum index hasn't been updated in over two three2 years.

We have a handy dandy list of forums that we use to direct off topic questions. The last time it was substantially updated was March of 2020 (see revision 10), with the removal of the dead Story Games Forums.

I quite literally know nothing about other RPG forums, so find myself ill equipped for reviewing the list outside of checking for dead links. It would be great if some of y'all1 could give the index a little audit, checking for dead links, URL changes, forum shutdowns, unfortunate changes in attitude toward minority groups, etc. And if you are aware of any good candidates to add to the list, propose them in answer so the community can vet and vote.


1 A contraction meaning "you all", here referring to any reader, not just "you all the mods".
2 I just copied my answer from last year.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess this might warrent a separate meta for updates to the forum list? \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    May 26, 2023 at 21:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the term you're searching for is "all-y'all" =) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    May 28, 2023 at 2:11
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The current moderator group is the least Q&A-active group of moderators we have ever had.

NautArch made the same observation in his answer, so I've put together some visualizations that show the decline in activity of two of our moderator groups (posts-per-month):

enter image description here

enter image description here

The pattern here should be pretty evident: getting elected correlates strongly with a sharp decline in writing questions and answers. Strictly in terms of writing posts on the site, the current moderator group is the least active a group of moderators has ever been, and have continued the trend of vanishing from typical site use after election:

enter image description here

While NautArch's observation is true, that election leads to a decline in activity, the phenomenon of having the entire mod group being largely inactive is a more recent development, starting in the Fall of 2020. Throughout most of our site's history, the moderator group has provided consistent and visible main site content in the form of questions and answers, averaging 27 questions per month from June 2012 to August 2020, nearly one post per day on average. From September 2020 till present, the site's moderators have averaged 5.6 posts per month. This year the mods have averaged 2.2 posts per month as a group, so as individuals are only posting once every two months, on average.

For the first ten years of this site's history, the site's moderators were 12 times as active as they are now.

Are flags getting handled? Sure. They are doing the things that regular members cannot. The duties that are unique to the moderator are being taken care of. But to me, this is the bare minimum that we should expect from a moderator. I think it is okay to wish for more. I don't mean to oblige the team to become more active. I am only saying that I don't think this state of affairs is the best for the health of the site. A world where the people handling flags with their secret sauce are the same people you see regularly engaging with users in the way normal users do is the ideal place for the site to be. And we just aren't there.

Whether you think that is ideal or not is obviously up for debate. But the fact that our moderator team does not act as regular members is indisputable.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I appreciate this reflection, the data is clear, and I broadly agree with your comments on that data. That said, l think this is a pretty tricky thing to get the balance right on. During, at least the earlier part, of my more active period on the site 2017 - 2020, it often felt like a portion of the membership believed the moderator team at the time to be too active! Their being perceived to continue to behave like normal site members while also wielding the moderators powers came in for some criticism (justified or otherwise). A happy medium would be great though! \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiggerous
    May 23, 2023 at 18:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tiggerous Is there any record on meta of that criticism? I’d like to read through those conversations if they still exist. \$\endgroup\$ May 23, 2023 at 18:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ It might be interesting to open a meta on what kind of elected moderator activity is desired by users. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 24, 2023 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might just be my perception, and might be colored by a few recent former mods, but it also feels like once someone leaves a mod position they stay in a reduced posting/interaction pattern, instead of picking back up in activity to pre-mod levels. I have little idea of how to quantify that or fact-check it though. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2023 at 15:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MissMisinformation most of the time when mods leave here, they're mostly gone. Might show up here and there, but definitely no longer visibly. Burnout can a be a thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 25, 2023 at 15:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MissMisinformation just look at the post history of former mods. Your perception is correct. \$\endgroup\$ May 25, 2023 at 15:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov the classic post on the topic Tiggerous brings up might be this one. Now that's explicitly about moderation (but not solely-diamond) actions, but it's the culmination of years of friction occasionally bubbling up. I'm not sure how much of a deep dive anyone wants to do, but there's one starting point. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    May 28, 2023 at 2:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MissMisinformation definitely not just your perception, I'd say. Look at the list of people with the sheriff badge and you'll see a lot of names you don't much recognize, aside from historical posts. Doppelgreener and V2Blast are notable exceptions in this regard. Though V2's cheating--they get paid to do it =D \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    May 28, 2023 at 2:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think another potentially valuable way to look at this data is how each individual moderator's activity has changed over time, ideally noting when they were elected and when they stepped down. For example, my peak activity was during the D&D 4e era, well before I was elected. That is, do users post less because they became mods, or do they become mods after they start posting less? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    May 28, 2023 at 2:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I also wonder how we compare to other stacks with similar numbers of questions/day and active users. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage Mod
    May 28, 2023 at 3:01
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, former mods largely stay away from site participation, too. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    May 28, 2023 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I don't think you'll find that exact sentiment articulated explicitly anywhere. Despite that I believe it a fair reflection of a portion of the community's underlying feelings at that time. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiggerous
    May 29, 2023 at 19:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting insight into my own behaviour. A few thoughts I'd like to add; the current moderation group were elected just prior or during the pandemic, I won't comment on how it impacted others, but I know it changed how I work and spend time online reducing the time and motivation I had to create content outside of moderation activities. In other personal matters I've changed jobs and become a father since being elected further reducing the time I had for writing creating posts.Finally, drop in content creation by mods does correlate with a wider drop in site activity. \$\endgroup\$
    – linksassin Mod
    May 31, 2023 at 5:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin There are always reasons for why something is happening, but it doesn't delegitimize the actual reality of the situation or it's historical reality. I really don't mean to come in hard like "no excuses!", but at the end of the day, the situation is what it is and we can either improve it or accept the new reality. I'd rather try to improve. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 31, 2023 at 14:35
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The community is welcoming to new users

While I'm not new to SE at large, as an 11+ year user on Stack Overflow, I'm new to the RPG group. New to DM'ing a DnD 5e game, I've found this community to be an exceedingly helpful source of information with clear answers linking to authoritative documentation.

Many questions I've had were already expertly answered by this community. I've had two situations where the answer wasn't obvious, and I asked...

One question I asked was definitely more vague but the second one resulted from me just not carefully reading the rules; but in both cases the answers were the same factual statements, without any criticism of my lack of research.

I've also been surprised at the "reach" of my two simple questions with thousands of views in a few days. Regardless of the metrics I've seen in other answers, the visibility of this site as a repository of knowledge is clear.

I'm not sure there's anything actionable about this answer other than a comment that whatever you're currently doing to foster a community were good faith non-duplicate questions are clearly answered is a model that I wish were replicated elsewhere in SE.

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There seems to be little voting on tag synonyms

There are a not a lot of entries on the tag synonym voting page, and those that are there sometimes date back more than a year ago.

Synonyms either become active when reaching a score of 4, or removed when reaching a score of -2.

The vote score between upvote/downvote buttons for tag synonyms does not have the capability to be expanded and show the totals separated, so it is possible that these votes are just hotly contended, and continue to hover around zero, but I doubt it. I think very few people actually care enough to even go there and vote.

The page is also somewhat obscure, to navigate to it, one first has to go to Tags, then click the "Show all tag synonyms" link, and then select the "Pending Approval" box, and as Akixkisu points out, you need to have at least a score of 5 in the tag you want to merge, which can be a show-stopper too.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Many users aren't eligible to vote on them because their expertise and thus voting power is focused on specific tags. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Jun 15, 2023 at 8:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ The issue is getting the right votes too. Like, overcome → actions is actively harmful for Fate questions and inconsistent with even the other three action tags, but anyone can vote on these even without knowing any relevant context. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 16, 2023 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener That one was actually from me, and I was not aware about that side effect. Please downvote it then \$\endgroup\$ Jun 16, 2023 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this is sort of a network-wide issue with the tag synonym system. In many cases, mods end up having to be the ones to actually add tag synonyms (often after the issue is suggested on the site's meta). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jun 16, 2023 at 20:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @NobodytheHobgoblin I did and its score has since only increased regardless. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 17, 2023 at 20:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I did not even know this page is a thing before reading your post, since I've always been told that mods dealt with synonym tags. This page clearly has no visibility, for the better and the worse. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Jun 21, 2023 at 9:45
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Overall, the site works for me for the systems I care about, with the minor caveat that the systems I care about, Planet Mercenary and the various versions of Mutants and Masterminds, don't tend to have all that many questions to answer. I occasionally dip into other questions, mainly to maintain my streak, and upvote likely-looking questions and answers, but my deeper engagement is limited by that I don't really do D&D these days.

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